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Consciousness

Writing To Answer “Who Am I?”

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Fifty or so of us sat around the room, ready to begin a group meditation, which would be followed by a group writing session. Artists, vagabonds, spiritual warriors of all types, from all over the world, sat around me. Gongs, singing bowls, and shamanistic feathers filled the room.

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The bell chimed, I closed my eyes and up our chakras we climbed as we dove inward to sit with the soul and hold hands with the inner self.

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Thirty minutes later, the meditation came to a close and from there the writing session began. Those around me scribbled their thoughts on the page in haste. I sat still: frozen by my inner critic.

As soon as I would start to scribe a sentence in my notebook, I’d feel the eyes of all those behind me: judging me, criticizing me, evaluating my sanity and sense of worth. I felt ashamed to write one authentic sentence and remained clothed in my insecurity.

I didn’t know then, but now I have a closer understanding of what F. Scott Fitzgerald meant when he wrote: “What people are ashamed of usually makes a good story.” We are all full of stories that shed light on the human condition and can help empower another.

Which brings me to my own insecurity as I come closer to experiencing my actualized self. Perhaps by opening up, my story may lead you to your own discoveries.  I’ve always felt a bit insecure when it comes to my own personal writing. To create anything original, writing or otherwise, I’ve always had to lock myself in a room or nuzzle into a nook in the library to be safe to write.

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This is normal, of course. I see it all the time in my students who, when it comes time to write down their memoirs, lean forward in their seats as they write to make sure no one can read their prose.  That’s part of the process, and even the greats like Stephen King have confessed tremendous trepidation in transferring any kind of writing to the reader: fiction, nonfiction, or personal narrative.

Why?

Because writing is an extension of the soul that leaves us bare and exposed. But it’s also a tool for discovery and communicating those discoveries with others.

Personal writing has often been looked at as the writing to keep to ourselves. What I’d like us to consider is that when we share our personal narratives, we empower others to lift the masks we are so often coerced to wear. By sharing authenticity, we spawn authenticity.  

Writing roots you in deeply, and it’s in this connection that we better study the self. Yogis call this study of the self Swadhyaya. It’s the practice to answer the question: “Who Am I?” This study breaks through the masks we have come to wear and connects us all on a deeper level. Specifically, writing binds us together in a grand narrative. It’s the connective quality that makes social media addictive before the world uttered a tweet.

How I Write to Answer “Who Am I?”

Stage One

I stare at a blank page, tune in, and write. I erase half of it and hoard whatever is left, offering it up to a salvage yard to discover its perceived value.

Stage Two

I dig into what other respected authors have said and imagine them as my posse — ready to back me up in a literary showdown should anyone call me out to a duel.

Stage Three

I write and edit. Write and edit. Write and edit. Persuade my wife to edit my work by making her Star Wars pancakes. Edit again.

Then I click publish and my work is out there.

Stage Four

I no longer own my work. What I intended through my words, the relationship I create with my words, is now up to the reader to decide on his/her own.

Now, the text lives on its own.

Stage Five

A reader stumbles upon my writing (perhaps because you were so kind to share it with them) and then creates a relationship with it. The reader interprets the text on his/her own — often in a way that is far different than I intended.

——————————

Not too long ago, my writing took a grand shift. I shifted from the safety of writing about what I knew academically to writing about my own journey and discovery. My source shifted from APA format to DNA.

It’s delectably terrifying: searching out truth through the self.

Why?

Because as I continue to unwrap my authentic self through means like meditation, yoga, right-brain sporadic prose, and dream journaling, I keep finding that all that I thought I had known as my self — my tectonic foundations — actually shift like currents in an ocean.

Words, however, remain fossilized through clicking “publish.” I will continue to evolve throughout my life, but the words I once penned on the Internet will remain concrete and still when in actuality they were just ripples through the tide.

Writing is the window into my heart and yes, of course, I fear the critic.

Such is the essence of what Pema Chodron may have meant when she said, “If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher.”

A personal story I’ve written about, a personal discovery I’ve shared…they are the skin I shed and not the skin I wear today. And tomorrow will bring about a new shedding. And so on. And so on.

Such is the nature of my work. I write about the discovery of the self. That’s my journey on purpose.

Writing helps one discover the authentic self, but I’ve learned that it’s the relationship I build with others through my writing that leads to my greatest discoveries.

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Consciousness

My Thoughts On “Spiritual Narcissism”

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Narcissism, in a nutshell, is self-absorption to the extent that it will adopt any set of rationale to protect the ego which often includes a degree of self-deception. Is this happening to many in spiritual trends?

  • Reflect On:

    There is authentic being, and then there is self-absorption which pretending to be authenticity, are we aware of the difference?

We humans often have a hard time finding middle ground. We may be drowning in lack of self-worth one moment, and trampling over other’s with our own self indulgence the next as we struggle to find balance. Narcissism is not simply about enjoying selfies in our social media-saturated world, it goes deeper than that.

It appears as liberation but is a trap that can ruin relationships, increase personal suffering, and keep a person from their true spiritual aspirations. Not surprisingly, increased mindfulness and compassion for this tricky human quirk is the best way to heal it.

What is Spiritual Narcissism?

The capacity to become overly self-indulgent is within all of us, and it becomes increasingly dangerous when we confuse it with spirituality. In many ways it is easy to see that all of humanity is dealing with a certain degree of self-absorption while we desecrate forests and oceans, causing plants and animals to go extinct on our material quests. In his famous book, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, Chogyam Trungpa gave a good foundation for westerners to navigate the pitfalls of our materialistic abundance.

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The capacity to become overly self-indulgent is within all of us

We do not have to be ashamed of what we are. As sentient beings we have wonderful backgrounds. These backgrounds may not be particularly enlightened or peaceful or intelligent. Nevertheless, we have soil good enough to cultivate; we can plant anything in it. – Chögyam Trungpa, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism

There is a difference between ego-self and the deeper universal soul within us, differentiating the two is important. Sadly, we have spiritual philosophies and religions that have been constructed to feed the ego, inflate self-righteousness, and create division while giving justification for all manner of activities including killing, exploitation, and oppression. Ethical conduct, regardless of spirituality, requires honoring the other and the self as one with each deserving to be respected, heard, and seen with compassion.

No matter what the practice or teaching, ego loves to wait in ambush to appropriate spirituality for its own survival and gain. – Chögyam Trungpa, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism

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There is a difference between ego-self and the deeper universal soul within us

Finding the Antidote to Self-absorption

Narcissism, in a nutshell, is self-absorption to the extent that it will adopt any set of rationale to protect the ego which often includes a degree of self-deception. Ego is an important aspect of our selves, it is part of self-preservation but when it becomes out of balance it actually has the ability to destroy us and harm relationships.

Many spiritual practices seek to increase our ability to witness and bring mindful awareness to ego drives which allow us to master, instead of being enslaved by our ego. When ego gets too big it can be hard to swallow, yet spiritual liberation invites us to expand our sense of self beyond the ego, beyond time and space.

The goal is to find a balance between the inner experience and the outer reality. How do we embody healthy self-love without becoming an ego-maniac and hurting personal relationships? Meanwhile, self-loathing, and low self-esteem are also manifestations of ego out of balance. Selflessness can often be quite selfish, over-engagement can be as problematic as disengagement socially. Luckily we are here to find this balance through living fully, from making mistakes, and evolving our sense of self-awareness. Healthy self-awareness is the only antidote to self-absorption.

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How do we embody healthy self-love without becoming an ego-maniac?

The Story of Narcissus and Echo

One day Narcissus was walking in the woods when Echo, an Oread (mountain nymph) saw him, fell deeply in love, and followed him. Narcissus sensed he was being followed and shouted “Who’s there?”. Echo repeated “Who’s there?”. She eventually revealed her identity and attempted to embrace him. He stepped away and told her to leave him alone. She was heartbroken and spent the rest of her life in lonely glens until nothing but an echo sound remained of her. Nemesis, the goddess of revenge, learned of this story and decided to punish Narcissus. She lured him to a pool where he saw his own reflection. He didn’t realize it was only an image and fell in love with it. He eventually recognized that his love could not be reciprocated and committed suicide. -Wikipedia

Since intention is subjective, a person is often understood within their community by their actions or image. This becomes extra tricky in our age of social media and the materialism that has found it’s way into yoga, meditation, and spirituality. It is possible to put on a good act, to fool those around us and ourselves (temporarily).

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Narcissus mesmerized by his own reflection

We can have the latest yoga clothes, read the right books and hang out with all the “cool” people, but if our actions are not grounded in a deeper spiritual practice, basic consideration for others, and respect, it is still hollow. A common analogy is the guy who everyone likes but then goes home kicks his dog, or is rude and unaccountable to his wife.

Deep spirituality makes us more sensitive to the feeling of others, encouraging an open stance of courage where we can drop our protective shields and accept the vulnerability to be seen as we are. Narcissistic sensitivity, however, is focused solely on the subtle nuances one’s own internality, and resists looking at hard, uncomfortable truths that may upset the self image. One who is narcissistically sensitive is easily offended by the “coarseness” of others, seeks to make his environment change to align with the contours of his needs, and gets angry or offended when this does not happen. -The Allure of Narcissistic Spirituality, Huffington Post

How to Identify Narcissistic Behavior

The ability to identify narcissistic behavior in yourself and others is the best way to heal it. It is not your job to diagnose others or tell them they are narcissistic if they are not interested in hearing it or healing it. However, if you draw appropriate boundaries for them you will protect yourself and encourage them to become more mindful. This is a loving and compassionate way to handle narcissism.

Alt text hereThe ability to identify narcissistic behavior in yourself and others is the best way to heal it

It is always healthy to make boundaries and speak your truth in a loving and compassionate way. Whether the narcissist hears it or not is out of your control. Common responses from narcissists will include belittling your feelings, a hollow apology without effort to modify behavior, or ignoring you altogether. Basically, they will use any excuse they can in order to not look at it, or to make the situation your fault. This is your cue to make appropriate boundaries for yourself.

Within yourself be open and receptive when others tell you that you have been inconsiderate of them. Accepting constructive feedback from loved ones is a great way to keep a balance between internal needs and external relationships. This is also how we grow as individuals.

Common traits of narcissism courtesy of BPD Central.

  • Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
  • Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
  • Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
  • Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
  • Is often envious of others or believes others are envious of him or her
  • Requires excessive admiration
  • Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
  • Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
  • Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
Alt text hereLearning to stop keeping all the love for ourselves

Evolving Unhealthy Patterns

Hopefully, this will help you navigate tough interpersonal relationships and also better yourself. It is a beautiful thing that psychology is allowing us to have terms to identify and evolve unhealthy patterns emotionally. As we learn to live in community, we learn many aspects of love. This is how we help ourselves and those around us grow!

I’m republishing,  for the CE audience, this piece I wrote for Uplift Connect.

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Consciousness

New Moon In Libra: Seeking Balance

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We are having a New Moon in Libra on October 16th throughout most of the world and in the morning of the 17th in the East. This is initiating a 29.5 day lunar cycle and new wave of energy for the coming month; however, the astrological configurations mentioned in this article will be more prominent over the following two weeks. This cycle will include a Full Moon in Taurus on October 31st/November 1st.

This New Moon occurs days after we have reached the halfway point of Mars’ retrograde in Aries which concludes mid-November. It is also days after Mercury began its retrograde which is currently in Scorpio and moving backwards into Libra before it moves forward again post November 3rd. Both of these planets being retrograde at the same time reflects a period of significant adjustments pertaining to how we express these planets, the signs they are in, and how they are configured to our individual astrological blueprints (natal chart).

Generally Mars retrogrades are a period in which the circumstances, developments, and our inner guidance is helping to facilitate a shift in how we apply ourselves and take action in specific areas of our lives. This is something that happens approximately every two years, which is less frequent and usually more significant than Mercury’s retrogrades. I wrote separate articles for each of them, you can read more about Mars Retrograde here and Mercury Retrograde here.

Libra season began on September 22nd/23rd, just over three weeks prior to this Lunation, and will end on October 22nd/23rd when Scorpio season begins. However, this New Moon (along with other planets) will still carry some of its Libra themes into the first week of Scorpio season prior to the Full Moon.

This is a good period of working with and co-creating with the energies of this sign. As an Air sign, Libra is socially and mentally oriented. Ruled by Venus, it is associated with relating, relationships, charm, harmony, compromising, art, creativity, and aesthetics. There is a big focus on others. Libra is also diplomatic as it seeks to find balance, equality, fairness, and common ground.

Negatively, Libra can be overly codependent, passive aggressive, superficial, insincere,  indecisive, vain, and judgemental. Although this sign is about politeness and harmony, retaliation can be triggered when imbalance and unfairness is perceived. Libra is also associated with people-pleasing which can have either positive or negative implications.

New Moon Aligned With Spica, In A Hard T-Square Pattern

This New Moon has an interesting mix of energies. It is tightly aligned with the fixed star Spica which is known to be the most benefic and fortunate star. However, it can be tricky to interpret how a star’s energy can manifest, especially in this case considering other astrological factors that are quite different.

Like Libra, Spica is connected to art and creativity, but also has spiritual, scientific, and inventive qualities. It is associated with harvest season and represents the ‘gifts of harvest’, both metaphorically and literally. However, it can also reflect unfruitfulness (depending on other variables) and injustice to innocence according to legendary astrologer Vivian Robson.

This New Moon is opposite Mars Retrograde in Aries which are both in a T-square with Jupiter, Pluto, and Saturn in Capricorn. The Sun has been in an opposition with Mars in the week before this New Moon (peaking on the 13th/14th) which has been a significant part of the Mars retrograde process in influencing how we assert ourselves.

However, this energy is also configured into this New Moon and can play out as conflicts (internally or externally with others), impulsiveness, aggression, anger, competitiveness, or sexual tension. Mars in Aries wants to assert individuality, ego, personal needs, and self identity while the New Moon in Libra is looking for consideration, common ground, diplomacy, equality, and fairness.

This opposition in a square to Jupiter, Pluto, and Saturn in Capricorn can reflect power struggles, obstacles, and issues pertaining to beliefs, opinions, and perspectives. Saturn has the most power as it is strongly placed in its home sign (ruling Jupiter and Pluto) as the Sun and Moon are also moving towards a square (strong on the 18th/19th) with it while separating from the aspects to the other planets in this configuration. This calls for a need to be realistic, cautious, practical, disciplined, structured, or orderly. The combination of this and all the retrograde energy can call for some sort of refinement.

Venus Opposing Neptune, Trine Planets In Capricorn, and Square The Lunar Nodes

The ruler of this New Moon, Venus, has been in Virgo in the previous two weeks and will be there until October 27th/28th. Venus ruled areas of values, love, relationships, friends, social life, pleasures, money, aesthetics, beauty, art, taste, sensuality, desires, and attractiveness can be expressed in ways that are practical, conscientious, discerning, picky, detailed, organized, analytical, health oriented, productive, efficient, adaptable, or fault finding/surfacing.

At the time of this New Moon, Venus is moving towards an opposition to Neptune and trine to Jupiter which have been in a sextile over the previous weeks. This energy is strong from October 18th-19th and can be good for creative or artistic efforts as well as social interactions that have spiritual, compassionate, broad, or philosophical themes. It can also reflect expansiveness, growth, morals, optimism, idealism, along with confusion, deception, escapism, and delusion affecting Venus areas of life (as mentioned in above paragraph).

Mars retrograde will also be in a square with Jupiter at that time which could also reflect conflicts around beliefs, opinions, and judgements. Excessiveness, overconfidence, and spreading ourselves out too much can also play out. Mercury retrograde will be moving towards an opposition to Uranus (peaks 19th/20th) which can make it harder to focus and can bring disruption, changes to plans, and perhaps communication problems.

Venus approaches a square to the Lunar Nodes on October 20th/21st. We may be reflecting on the past and future, or perhaps at a crossroads, when it comes to relationships and values. Venus is then in a trine with Pluto (October 21st/22nd) which can bring an empowering, deep, intense, or insightful energy to things associated with Venus. Following this, it moves to a trine with Saturn (October 24th/25th) which can have a committing, strengthening, supportive, responsible, practical, or stabilizing effect on these areas.

Making Intentions & Things To Consider

What can you do to improve how you relate with others? Is there a need to compromise, find common ground, or achieve fairness and equality? What has come up for you in the week leading up to this New Moon? Should you change the way you assert your needs or individuality? Are circumstances in your life pushing you to think differently about something? What can you learn from any obstacles that have been coming up in your life? Is there anything that needs to be restrained?

These are just some examples of what to consider or focus your intentions on at this time. However, it is good to reflect on anything else that is coming up for you. It is generally best to make any intentions within the first 24 hours following a New Moon. The exact moment it will occur is 7:31pm Universal Time on October 16th. You can click here to see what that is in your time zone.

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Consciousness

A Guided Meditation To Help Overcome Panic and Anxiety

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    2020 has been filled with more social isolation than most of us would ideally like, and anxiety and panic (among many other mental health challenges) are on the rise.

  • Reflect On:

    How well do you cope with anxiety when it strikes? How often do you meditate to help keep your mind at bay and in a healthy place?

2020 has certainly been quite the year for most of us. From outbreaks to lockdowns to tragedies it should come as no surprise that an increasing number of us find ourselves battling panic and anxiety -and unfortunately in many cases without the in-person support and love of other people.

As most of us prepare for what is likely to be a winter filled with more social isolation than we’d ideally like, I decided to put together a 17 minute guided meditation designed to help overcome both panic and anxiety.

As a former severe anxiety sufferer, I know just how crippling anxiety can be, and it’s often in situations where we are left to ourselves that it can be the most challenging to overcome.

This meditation takes you through a bit of an unconventional yet powerful visualization designed to equip you with a healthier mindset to help beat both panic and anxiety.

While the circumstances of 2020 so far may be less than ideal, when it comes to panic and anxiety I encourage you to look at it as an opportunity to truly master them. If you can find a way to prevent your mind from going down a rabbit hole of unhealthy thoughts amidst this chaos, think of how simple it will feel to accomplish once the world restores itself to some form of normalcy or at least less friction than what currently exists.

While this technique certainly is powerful, it’s definitely not the only thing that I had to equip myself with on my journey to becoming anxiety-free. If you’re ready to put the necessary work in to properly conquer your anxiety for good, I encourage you to check out my online course The Hack Anxiety Toolbox on Udemy. The course is filled with over 3 hours of on-demand video and 20 downloadable resources that all share everything I used to successfully conquer my own anxiety. Take the first lesson for free and get lifetime access to the course for only $12.99 USD ($82 off the regular price) by going to THIS LINK before November 14th, 2020.

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