The Heart of My Own Spiritual Practice

As 2015 comes to a close, I want to share with you what I have found to be the most valuable tool in my own personal awareness tool-box. I practice this daily. It is a simple inquiry in which I ask myself:

"Right now, in this moment, am I feeling love?"

The question itself encourages me to feel what I am experiencing so that I can more clearly distinguish between feeling disconnected, discouraged, worried, agitated, tense, angry, sad, disillusioned, stuck, tight, terrible, low energy, depressed or just neutral ...

... as opposed to feeling love. 

To me, love feels like itself. It’s unique even though it can come with feeling connected, happy, peaceful, energized, empathetic, alive, safe, encouraged. But love, itself, is still the primary experience.  

You might say that you have no difficulty feeling the difference between love and un-love kind of feelings so why is this question so valuable?

Again, for me, the answer is important because once I can identify, face, let in or admit that I am not feeling love, a second question has the opportunity to arise. The second question is quite powerful:

"Can I choose to feel love once I'm aware that I'm clearly feeling depressed, traumatized or agitated? Can I choose to open my heart when my heart feels closed? Am I in control of this or does something else control my own heart experience?"

Here comes the tricky part.

Many spiritual teachers say that being 'awake' is when we realize that we have the power to choose love over 'un-love' in any given moment. Many hold that this is what self-mastery is. And further, they represent themselves as being able to shift from un-love to love so seamlessly that they live in a perpetual state of intentional love 24/7. They are very happy spiritual campers! 

But I'm not so sure that this is what awake is. And being unsure of this may be a sign that I’m not yet awake myself. I accept that. 

At this point in my own opening-awareness, I sense that being awake is more a matter of actively holding these two questions in my consciousness as often as I can: am I feeling love right now and, if not, can I shift into love intentionally? Being with these two questions feels more real than thinking that I can answer them once and for all. 

By being in this ongoing, two-staged inquiry, instead of having a permanently fixed answer, a number of possibilities open up for me:

  1. Sometimes I can actually shift out of un-love to love because I have this glorious insight that I can. So I do. Glory Hallelujah! My heart opens on my own command. It feels exhilarating when I have the insight that this is how awareness works. 

  2. But sometimes I can't shift because I'm just a little too angry, too up tight, too worried, too addicted to whatever or too caught in my own or a collective trauma field to jump the Great Divide. So I have the possibility of letting that be just what it is. I hope for better luck later in the day. As Matt Kahn says, I love what arises, including not being able to love in that given moment.

  3. I have the opportunity to move beyond thinking that I'm a spiritual dunderhead for not being able to switch into love like a dog trained to sit-up on command. I let go of my concept that having this kind of control is what being awake is.  

  4. I then have the opportunity to simply be with my own feelings of disconnect, hopelessness, obsessive thinking, etc.; not trying to get away from them or change them. I get to simply be in them consciously in order to find the frozen wisdom they may (or may not) hold for me. Why would being awake NOT include feeling grief, anger or collective pain? 

  5. Perhaps the grand prize of wrestling with these two questions rather than trying to answer them once and for all is that I never have to present myself to other people as being awake. I never have to think that I am awake and they are not. I don't have to show up knowing anything. Then I can be who I am in the moment and allow everyone else to be whoever they are in the moment.  

Several years ago I wrote a poem that somehow goes well with all of this: 

Down to This

After you’ve done everything you can

After you’ve searched unsuccessfully

As a bug

As a bird

As a good and bad person

For a way out of the maze

And for your ticket to redemption,

Doesn’t it boil down to this?

 

You must be willing

To sit in Hell

As long as it takes

To find the light

And delight

In the Fire. 

2009

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The Storm

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If I want to describe what I think is happening in the world today, saying, “Get ready! Get ready! The storm is coming!” isn’t quite accurate. It’s more accurate to say, “The storm is here! The storm is here! Are you tracking it?”

So what kind of storm do I think is already here? I want to give words to my experience of it. I want to offer you an open-source reality-check so that you can add your experience of life today for you. I want to grapple with all this with you for a moment: “What is this that I’m calling a storm? How do we deal with it? Where is it leading us?”

The storm I’m feeling and marveling at is a multi-layered storm that comes in two flavors: internal and external. It’s hard for me to tell which one is which sometimes. I want to start with the external storm and use random reports in the news this week to paint a picture of what it looks like, not in total, but all around the edges.

A UN report last Monday said that there are now 60 million refugees in the world, more than any other time in history: 60 million people storming one border or another after fleeing their homes!

A white guy walks into a black church and shoots 9 black people on the very same day that another 78 people are murdered in cities across the country: people simply shooting each other for reasons of their own. An average of 87 murders happening every day in the good old USA. This is a storm of bullets and unbelievable trauma.

It’s going to be 109 degrees this weekend where I live here in Ashland, Oregon and it’s not yet even July. Wild fires are already burning in four western states well before fire season begins. We’re poised for a firestorm this summer in many parts of the world.  

It was reported two days ago that more than 60% of US Republicans still think that global warming is a political hoax. That’s a crazy-making storm. Another news report said that now two thirds of all Americans are obese or overweight. Two thirds? How did we come into this super-sized storm so fast? Another little news item reported that one third of the world’s aquifer water is already gone and we simply don’t know what’s left of the rest. What happens when we don’t have water for 7 billion people? What do we name that storm?

These are just a couple of news stories this week. What about last month’s news? How do I remember to care about the 15,000 Nepalese people and the huge chunk of their historical sites that died and crumbled when the mountains shook in May. How do I remember those that boatload of drowning people in China, or that Lebron James got really depressed for several days after losing a basketball game or that there’s a new street drug killing kids around the world that’s 50 times more powerful than pure heroin. 50 times more powerful than pure heroin? I think they call all of this a shit-storm.

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So without a pause, I move right into the internal storm: the storm happening inside us. For me, the most amazing thing about the internal storm is that there is so little external verification that an internal storm within all of us is even happening! It’s as if the external storm with all of its insanity and extinction is not affecting our health, happiness and day-to-day lives. Our big predator animals and our tiny wondrous bees are disappearing. And we feel no grief about this? Our bobcats and bees are woven into us. What happens to the weave of things when they’re gone? 

It’s as if it’s no big deal that all of us are now wired into an enormous electronic grid for the first time in history: it’s no big deal that we’re undergoing exponentially rapid change, with EMF’s radiating us everywhere along with massive over-stimulation of our nervous systems. It’s no big deal that our pain body or trauma field is being activated like some out of control jack-in-the-box telling us it’s time to let go of the past.

It’s as if making the paradigm shift from the finite to the infinite is as easy as pie even though it means leaving behind all the beliefs, habits and conditioned thoughts that we’ve used to prop up our fragile egos for thousands of years. It’s as if we are supposed to know how to keep our marriages together when both partners are transforming into completely new people every year. Happy New Year: who’s this stranger in my bed? Or better yet, who am I today?

The internal storm is a kicker! It’s a wild ride. Put it together with the external storm and potentially we all have a recipe for losing it on any given stressed-out day.

The news is not all bleak, however. Fortunately, inside of this massive storm there’s the fabled eye of the storm: the place where everything’s calm and clear in the midst of swirling cows flying and the suffering people crying. 

The eye of the storm! It could be that the purpose of life is to find our way into the eye of the storm. If this is true then it stands to reason that we’ve got to have a storm to find it.

This is why I love Heart Circles.

Heart Circles are designed so that members feel supported in finding their own individual eye of the storm, their own relatedness to others, their own embodied awareness. Heart Circles are thus intentional circles where we can be with people we trust for a couple of hours each week: a place and a space where we can share our personal storm stories, then remind each other how to shift out of the story into the transpersonal reality where life is seen through the eye of perfection and wonder.

We can’t get to the eye of the storm by ourselves for one obvious reason: our connection to everything and each other IS the eye of the storm! We circle up to realize connection.

As the storm continues to gather ferocious strength, and it will, the sacred circle will keep expanding until we no longer need crisis and storms to bring us together into the heart of connection.

Down To This

Ori

Ori

I studied with a teacher who gave me a perceptual framework for spirituality for which I’m very grateful. He said that we have three primary spiritual quests in life and that all three challenges need to be addressed in order to stay present and heart-centered in life:

One quest is to understand what it is to go into Nothingness, where the small self is united with the Absolute. The Buddhists have developed the most reliable maps for this non-dualist path over the past several thousand years.

The second challenge is to surrender our mind-dominated will by loving or being in service to whatever we experience as Source. The Christians, Muslims and Hindus have all developed pathways to establishing a devotional relationship with whatever our name for God or Source happens to be.

Our third challenge is much less understood or recognized. It is to move though core-unworthiness. Core unworthiness is the deep-seated experience that we are existentially, now and forevermore, unworthy of love. This can also be experienced as never ending self-criticism, a willingness to give love but not receive it, or as a profound sense of being disconnected from life. Modern psychology and its offshoots are laying down the pathways for this quest, but the understanding of core-unworthiness is still in its infancy stages. It has only been around for a mere 100 years rather than several thousand years.

It was this teacher’s opinion that most spiritual teachers and seekers throughout history have bypassed core unworthiness and only focused on one of the other quests of non-dualism or devotion. They didn’t face their own self-hatred or internal split. For an image of this, think of penitent people whipping themselves while praying to God. That’s a core-unworthiness bypass. Closer to home, think of people who can give love to others but who have great difficulty with self-love.

In my own life, I’ve not experienced anything more difficult than feeling and facing core-unworthiness. First of all, core unworthiness is hidden deeply within our subconscious mind. It is much deeper than self-esteem issues, being self-critical or not feeling good enough.

Secondly, it comes with utter terror. If it isn’t terrifying, it’s not core-unworthiness! I personally understand the guy beating himself silly instead of facing core-unworthiness. Physical pain is nothing compared to the psychological pain of self-hatred. Hand me the branch any day, thank you!

The third difficulty in facing my own core unworthiness is that it’s not a one-time deal. As a conditioned belief system, its roots go deep and have many offshoots, more like wild blackberry vines than most trees: I have to remember to return to self-love; literally from moment to moment. 

From my experience, the Christian fixation on Original Sin is a result of the church taking core unworthiness and, in gambling terms, doubling down on it. They took people’s deepest fear; that they were unworthy, and used it to bring them into their organizational program. They proclaimed that we are, in fact, unworthy by nature and that the Only Way out of this unworthiness is to accept that Jesus is the only Son of God. They said that by believing this, whatever made us unworthy is forgiven and we thus become worthy.

The obvious irony here is that, if anything, Jesus was delivering the good news that we’re lovable by nature and that unworthiness is an illusion. He offered his love to those around him as proof that they were lovable. Why would he ask people to believe in him rather than to simply believe him when he told them they were infinitely lovable; that they are now, always have been and always will be loveable: that we made of love? 

This makes perfect sense to me because what he was saying was, in effect, that loving one's self is the only way of dismantling core unworthiness and the illusionary belief that we aren’t lovable. When we are willing to love ourselves, we either have to let go of the belief that we’re unlovable or stay in the hell of thinking that we are unworthy of love. We let love in or we don’t.

But there is a catch to this. In order to dismantle the illusion of core-unworthiness, we have to experience the depth of what feeling unlovable feels like. Then we have to admit to ourselves that we actually think and feel that we are unlovable. This is basically a self-confession as if to say, “Wow, I actually believe that I am unworthy of love! Isn’t that amazing? I’ve been walking around with this misperception all my life without fully realizing it.”  

We don’t confess that we are unworthy. We confess that we mistakenly think that we are unworthy. Big difference here! The more fundamentalist Christians goofed on this one.

Being willing to fully feel the buried terror of unworthiness is the first stage of coming out of core un-worthiness. The second stage is choosing to let self-love or love from others in while feeling fully unloved. This is tricky. Surrendering to love again and again is not that big a deal for a lot us. But surrendering to love while fully in the terror of core unworthiness is another thing altogether! But that is what healing core unworthiness requires! 

This can explain why so many religious and spiritual leaders fall from the lofty ideals that they teach. They may have connected to the higher realms of non-duality or religious devotion but if they haven’t dealt with their own core unworthiness, they will sometimes create some kind of sex, power or money scandal. When their actions are made public, and everyone is saying how terrible they are instead of how great they are, they have easier access to their own hidden thoughts of how terrible they are. If they are willing to learn from their fall and witness their own self-loathing, they have a greater chance of coming into deep, humble, self-love because they are in the bottom of their fall rather than at the top of their game.

On the level of the absolute, there is no core-unworthiness. It’s only conditioned thoughts tied up with intense, deep emotions. On the level of the relative, facing core unworthiness is spectacularly difficult. 

One of the reasons why I love Heart Circle, and Circle work in general, is that the intentional circle of friends is a place where people can deal with this absolute/relative paradox much more openly and easily than dealing with it alone. When a bunch of people are sitting in a circle giving us their undivided attention and loving us consistently over time, our core belief about whether or not we are worthy to be loved will eventually surface. But it will surface in it’s own time, slowly without a need for it to be eliminated or processed. When this resistance to love comes up safely and slowly like this, the resistance to love can, itself be loved. Core unworthiness becomes the portal into love.

Miss Vayla Rose

Miss Vayla Rose

When we love our resistance to self-love the dance truly begins!


To Want or Not To Want: Is That The Question?

At the very center of The Heart Circle Model is being heart-directed. This is not necessarily about being kind or loving, as important as that is, but instead about being guided by what our heart wants next. We’re invited to find out what we truly want rather than follow our conditioned wants. This brings up the age-old debate:

To Want Or Not To Want:  Is That the Question? 

I wrote the following piece several years ago in answer to this question. I love the simplicity of it and want to share it with you:
 
“The term wanting is rather loaded when used in a spiritual context.  For example, in The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle says that to find meaning in life we have to stop wanting. Alternatively, the Abraham-Hicks teachings say that meaning in life begins when we start wanting.  Over centuries of spiritual tradition this contradictory term has led to a vast amount of confusion and suffering. 
 
From my own experience, Tolle and Abraham-Hicks are saying exactly the same thing but using the word wanting very differently.
 
Eckhart Tolle states that living outside the present moment is a result of our having mental and emotional bodies that are vastly over stimulated.  We are constantly wanting something other than what we already have in the present moment because we can't feel what we have: we are thinking too much or we haven’t yet found the way out of our emotional pain bodies into the Now.
 
Tolle is talking about wanting from a reference point of being outside of the present moment.  From this place, our desires and wants stem from our mental or emotional confusion. Focusing on feeling the magic of the moment, quieting our minds and not acting on our conditioned desires leads to awakening and peace. 
 
Abraham-Hicks is using the term wanting from a different reference point.  Their wanting is not about the desires that come from being in the pain body but from the desires that come from being in the heart.  Thus, their reference point for wanting is also being in the present moment. They are referring to the passion and creativity of Love itself. And more than anything else, they are using the term wanting to identify that in any moment we can choose one thing over another.  Given that we are continually choosing everything in life, they encourage us to choose what feels good; what leads to joy or right alignment; what brings us out of our pain bodies and into the present moment. 
 
Hence, being present in the moment of Now and heart-wanting are not oppositional to each other." 

So ... in this moment, the question is: what do you want?

Energetic Fields That Uplift The Individuals In Them

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Greetings from Abadiânia, Brazil!

I'm here with my daughter. She came to see John of God on a quest for healing and I have the privilege of being with her in this place of grace.

From my perspective, all that happens here – the healing, the transformation, the grace, the miracles that people experience – comes from a massively sublime energetic field, a highly charged field of love. It’s palpable. Just coming onto the Casa grounds I feel these strong crystalline currents of pure energy. Meditation for hours here comes easily for many who can’t sit still for a minute at home. 

There are many reasons why the field here is so strong. I want to name a few of them and then illustrate the relationship I see between the field here and the field that’s created within Heart Circles:

  • First, this place of grace rests on a bed of crystal rock. It hums with blue white energy.
  • Second, John of God himself has a magnificent capacity to channel this crystalline energy in his service as a medium for heart-centered entities that heal those who journey here. This is, in part, because he has no self-serving interest that I can detect. Just a pure motivation to serve, heal, and give love to each person he meets.
  • Third, the thousands of people who come here each month themselves participate in creating and sustaining this field. Those coming to be healed bring with them their own mediumship to heal. Everyone adds their own love whether they’re conscious of this or not.
  • Fourth, the entities or non-physical presence of beings that are raising the frequency of love here are breath-givingly powerful. Just writing about this right now brings a surge of gratitude within me.
  • And last, on arrival, people are asked to write down what they want by being here. These deepest desires for health and wholeness are an essential element in creating this magnificent magnetic field.

In a sentence, what does this field do? It raises our own individual field into a high and holy state when we enter into it because the field’s energy is high, whole, and unified. It’s that powerful and pervasive.

The same elements in place here at the Casa are part of Heart Circles:

  • First, while Heart Circles aren’t located on a crystalline rock bed, they do meet mostly in cozy homes that have their own amazing energy source.
  • Second, the motivation for starting Heart Circles is pure; free from personal gain. They work because of the simple sincerity of the people forming and participating in them.
  • Third, in Heart Circle all members participate in holding space for one another. They are purely collaborative. Each person receives attention, the source of healing itself, from the whole and then gives attention to another.
  • Fourth, a strong energetic field by nature has within it access to unlimited information and wisdom. Energy is information. Within each Heart Circle there is always the presence of the unembodied teacher. It’s the wisdom of the Circle itself. The unified field within the Circle is the teacher. That teacher is always there when two or more gather together intentionally in the name of love.
  • And last, in Heart Circle, like here in the Casa, perhaps the most essential elements are the deepest longings for health and transformation of the Circle members. Manifesting these longings is the focus and intention of every Heart Circle.

My own high and happy state after being here has inspired me further to continue developing Heart Circles. I’ve seen more clearly that Heart Circles are important for exactly the same reasons the Casa is so effective. In essence, Heart Circles are social structures that allow any group of people to access this same energetic field that is what life itself is made of. Ultimately, that’s what Heart Circles are for – to create a group energetic field that uplifts the individuals in it.

It’s a privilege to be here. It’s a privilege to share my experience of being here with you.

Deliberate Happiness

If the majority of people in the world knew how to deliberately create their own happiness regardless of their circumstances, how would the world change from the way it is now? We are moving into a new era where we will find out. Just as the last one hundred years have brought us amazing changes in technology and information sharing, the next one hundred years are going to bring us equally amazing changes in our ability to deliberately move into personal joy and connection.

That we are moving into this new era is not being reported in the major news outlets. The people who are pioneering this movement are not the same people running the news organizations of the world. Can you imagine how change will be accelerated when they are?