We All Share a Longing for the Same Thing

Feeling Good

It’s so easy to pick apart someone else’s life and to see where they may have gone wrong, or to point a finger at something they are doing with which we don’t exactly agree.  After being such an incredible f*ck up for so many years, and then bouncing back into myself and following the path of my dreams, I have become humbled in the way that I observe other people.  I mean, who am I to judge?  Seriously.  But I’m certain because of all of my past shenanigans, that a few people still judge me by my past mistakes.  It may take several more years for me to rise up from the ashes in other people’s eyes.  Thank god I don’t worry about what those people are thinking as I move freely about my life these days.  We all have skeletons.  And the one thing I think about quite often is that no one truly knows what it was like to walk in my shoes.  No one knows how deeply I hated myself and how lost I truly was.  No one knows the struggles I faced and how hard I was on myself during that time.  And certainly no one knows WHY I went through that difficult time.  It was all part of my own path, you see.  And it was part of my children’s path too.  Take a little side-step with me for a moment…

If life is merely an experience, and we are all here on a journey of the soul, then why do we get so locked in on how things are supposed to be in the physical realm?  I was talking to someone this weekend about how most people are very controlling (present party included).  It is easy to see this about yourself when you are in a relationship, or parenting children.  We all want things to be a certain way, but why is this?  What is it about getting our way that makes things better?  For me (I’ll speak for myself here), if I’m getting my way or getting what I want, or having things done the way I like them done, it makes everything feel safe for me.  It gives me a feeling of relief.  And the very bottom line is that I feel much happier when things are done my way.  (Ah-ha!)

We all want to feel happy.  Who doesn’t? (Duh).  But when everyone is running around trying to control the surrounding world so that they feel happy (i.e. content, safe, secure, relief), then someone (a lot of people) are going to get their toes stepped on.  This is how arguments are cultivated.  This is how wars begin.  Everyone wants things to be a certain way.  It’s kind of a funny thing if you really think about it.  And this extends outward too.  When we observe other people doing things in a manner that wouldn’t make us happy, we label it as “weird” or “not right” or “strange.”  Why do we put so much emphasis on what other people are doing?  I had to really look at this in myself, and get to the bottom of that judgment of mine.  I discovered that most of the time when I was judging someone else, it was because I was jealous of their life experience.  It would make me feel so much better about myself if that other person would just remain within the margins of my life experiences.  Perhaps for others, people are pushing the boundaries of your own personal limitations and it makes you feel uncomfortable.  This may not be the case for you, but I would still question where the discomfort derives from.  It’s good to know this about yourself, because it paves a path toward self-awareness, which builds a foundation of letting go and being present.  In the present moment, I don’t have a problem with how other people live their lives.  I don’t focus on what my ex-boyfriends are doing.  I don’t get myself twisted in a knot over how amazing other people’s lives are compared to mine.  In fact, when other people are doing what I wish I was doing, I thank the universe for putting them into my experience so that I can get a clear vision of what I want in life.  It is good to have an image to focus on in order to create a path toward our desires.  Knowing people who are “living it up” is like having a animated vision board.  It’s pretty amazing.

If others are doing things in their lives different from how we do them, and they are not causing any harm to themselves or to others, then we should observe their joy, rather than point at their demonstration of that joy.  Or, you can do whatever you want, but what I’m learning in life, is that we all express ourselves in different manners, and we all demonstrate our path toward happiness in very different ways.  The demonstrations of the path toward happiness is like a shell.  When you look inside of that shell, you will see that most people in life are simply trying to feel happy, and we all demonstrate this in so many different ways.  Some of us (like me) who had a very difficult time sustaining that happiness – we end up imploding on ourselves and self-destructing.  But in order to truly find my joy, I had to go through that stuff.  It was all part of my experience.  Some of us take the full swing on life’s pendulum in order to get a full perspective.  And because my children were part of my life experience, they have been given a much broader perspective too.  Perhaps they needed that kind of experience in order to move quickly through things that may have taken them years.  I have no doubt that my two children are very focused human beings now because of the chaos they have endured.  They are stronger, they are wiser and they have learned a lot about forgiveness at a very early age.  They also know exactly what path they do not want to follow.  It is important to know what we don’t want in order to go for what we do want.  No one can look in from the outside of my life with my children and see the whole of the picture.  There is a lot playing out that you cannot fathom from being a mere spectator.

I think it’s beautiful that there are so many ways to demonstrate our experience of joy and happiness.  To look at it from another perspective, think of how there are so many different kinds of sports.  In each sport, the main objective is to win.  There are other reasons we play sports, of course, but we all do it so that we can experience a victory.  If victory is the main objective, then what does it matter what sport we play?  Wouldn’t it be an ignorant thing to say, “Oh, he plays football instead of golf.  What a jerk!”  But we don’t say that because we understand that people are all drawn to different sports.  Same thing with religion.  The objective of religion is to have a closer relationship with God.  Bottom line.  So why do we judge another person’s demonstration of their path toward God?  It’s ludicrous.  And if you are an artist who likes to paint, I doubt that you are making fun of the photographer, or scoffing at the writers in the world.  There are many paths to our passions and joys.  Who are we to say that someone else’s path is wrong?

Likewise, if people are doing things we don’t exactly understand, we can at least agree that whatever they are doing probably brings them joy, which is the main objective.  And if what they are doing is wreaking havoc on their life at the moment, we should understand that this is probably their own personal path to discover sustainable joy in their life.  They may be killing themselves to get there.  They may struggle and harm other people in the meantime, but rather than judge them – pray for them.  For whatever reason, those people that they are causing harm toward, have attracted that kind of “negative” experience into their life as well.  Everything is connected.  We attract experiences and people into our life in order to grow spiritually, and we may have agreed to encounter these experiences prior to even coming into this human form.  When you observe someone who is serving him or herself with temporary pleasures, you must realize that they too, are ultimately desiring happiness, but perhaps they have yet to tap into that sustainable joy (which we all desire). 

We are all having a human experience while we are here.  We all need assistance along the way.  We all want guidance because it’s difficult to see the forest past the trees.  We all want the same exact thing – happiness.  Give people a break.  Live your life the way you enjoy and compassionately allow others their freedom of expression.  Live and let live, man.  It’s a much more joyful and liberating way to be.

https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/JLForbes

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When People Die, We Ask WHY, Instead of Opening a Conscious Eye

Life and Death
Tragedy blusters our entire being. It halts us in our tracks and shoots an expansive ache throughout our body. When the world hears of a tragic death, we all feel it as a whole. We feel it as a body of people. For a few moments in time, the masses share a common pain, but rather than meditate on this sorrow, or acknowledging the sudden mass awareness, we begin to chatter.

I’ve read all sorts of posts about the “suicide” of our beloved Robin Williams. Some of them are generous and loving. Others offer information about depression as education to those who do not understand the darkness of a mental illness, and I’ve read a lot of judgmental posts too. “Suicide is never the right thing to do.” “Suicide is wrong, PERIOD.” “Suicide is the devil getting his way…” Another post I read said that the only thing that Robin Williams needed was Jesus. REALLY? Because I had Jesus my whole life, since I was four. I knew Jesus, prayed to Jesus and loved Jesus. Knowing Jesus never stopped me from drinking myself into oblivion, and loving Jesus didn’t stop me from wanting to kill myself several times when I’d lost all hope in my addiction. In fact, I’d woken up so many times after drinking myself to death, furious that I was still alive. I had Jesus. What I didn’t have was self-love or self-respect. 

A lot of fear and condemnation surrounds the act of suicide, but here’s something to think about – there is not one scripture in the Bible that mentions suicide, nor does Jesus ever bring the topic up. “Thou shall not kill” was one of the commandments, but if I recall correctly, Jesus pretty much blasted through those laws and told his disciples that most important of all the commandments is to “love your neighbor as yourself and to love God with all your heart, your mind and your soul.” Let me stop right here (for those of you who are not exactly Christ followers). Again we circle back to self-love.

Suicide is a demonstration of the act of free-will, which we have all graciously been given. Nobody knows for certain where a soul goes after death. Let’s just get this straight. We have beliefs. We do not KNOW anything. If people are ignorant enough to debate heaven and hell, obviously they have no idea that people like Robin Williams (and me) were already in hell. He was desperate to find a way out of hell and that’s why he decided to take his own life. He was (like me) probably tired of being a burden to his family. He was literally a genie wanting out of the bottle. As a whole, we are focused on his act, instead of understanding the bigger picture here.

A few years ago one of my recovery peers lost her best friend to a sudden heart attack. She spoke to someone wise who told her, “There is always a bigger picture playing out.” This angered my friend because at the time, my friend was focused on the tragedy, but as time has gone on, so many beautiful things have occurred as a result of that death. My friend has bonded with his son more than she would have if he were still alive. My friend has always wanted a child of her own, and hasn’t had the opportunity. Because of her friend’s death, and his son needing extra care, she is getting the chance to know what it’s like to love a child unconditionally. There are several other good things that have risen from the ashes of that tragic death. Death may be the end of one person, but with awareness, it can be the birth of many possibilities.

Likewise, there is a bigger picture playing out with the suicide of Robin Williams. Suicide is “never the answer.” So many people say this, but how do they KNOW this for certain?Obviously for him it was. More often than not we only think of ourselves, and when people die, they are dead. The ones who suffer are the ones who are left behind, and none of us like pain, so we say these things because we don’t ever want to feel the kind of pain that suicide leaves behind. I have news for anyone who says this – THAT PERSON WHO COMMITTED SUICIDE, WAS IN THE WORST KIND OF PAIN.  MORE THAN YOU CAN COMPREHEND. What you feel after someone takes their own life is NOTHING compared to the pain and torture that person was in.

After someone dies, GRIEVE. That’s what death brings us no matter how the death is caused. Grief is part of the human experience. Life and death is part of the human experience. “This could have been prevented.” When things could have been prevented, we tend to focus on that, and then we get lost in the tape of our mind playing the “what-if” song. Well, it wasn’t prevented, so now what? Feel the grief. That’s really all we can do in situations like this, but when it is all said and done, we should be open to receiving whatever comes after that death. Death leaves so much room for open-mindedness. It is a lesson about life. It is a time for reflection. There is so much beyond grief that is very beautiful and fulfilling. There is a generous amount of joy that comes up for us when people we admire pass away. I feel it now when I think of Robin Williams, who has been one of my favorite actors since I can remember.

Love. Love comes up when we think of Robin Williams. Adoration, laughter, chills, joy, saddness. All of these things come up for me when I reflect on his life. He was in pain – in so much pain – yet he brought so many people JOY. How is this even possible? As a unevolved human species, we label everything and point fingers and we tend to look at one aspect of situations, rather than have a human experience when things occur. I would ask you today to really begin to FEEL what comes up for you if you are feeling anything at all over this celebrity death. Feel all of it as it arises in your body. Notice all the emotions and be present with them. Let your thoughts, your judgments and your ideas about suicide go. Just be present with yourself and experience all the emotions that enter into your experience. Reflect on what you’re feeling and take time to meditate on the emotions. Now stay with it as it rolls through you. THIS is the bigger picture. This is what we should be doing no matter what occurs in life. It’s called self-awareness, and when we have it, we receive a lot of clarity. When we have it, we are getting to know ourselves a lot better. When we are aware of ourselves, we are learning to love ourselves, and if we learn to love ourselves, we will stop self-destructing.  Self-love naturally extends out into the world.  You cannot love your neighbor as yourself, if you do not love yourself.

We are not taught to experience life this way (from the inside out), which is why so many of us drown out our emotions, or distract ourselves from how we feel to the point of tragedy. When someone dies, we tend to talk rather than feel. Since I’ve began feeling, my life has begun to blossom. It doesn’t matter what I’m feeling – from embarrassment to happiness, each emotion is a like a flower expanding in my body, brilliantly. Feelings do not last eternally. They are ever-changing. I’m learning that life is an internal journey and that the world outside of me gives me opportunities to feel myself from the inside out. Bad things happen in life. They just do. But when we learn to feel, rather than to try to figure out why, we will evolve.

In the East they teach that we all come here in this human form as an actor with several roles to play while we are alive. We are all here reflecting different things to one another. What one person is to me, is someone else to another person. Robin Williams mastered so many roles in his lifetime, except the one where he played himself.  The question is, what did he reflect for you when you watched him do his thing?  What’s coming up for you now?

People are going to come and go throughout our lives, and sometimes when they go it will come as a shock. Experience the shock. Go through the grief. Experience yourself through the roles of others. You are the only one that you are going to be with for the remainder of your life. You only have YOU. So why not spend your life getting acquainted with you? Why not FEEL your way through life, rather than talk about what’s occurring outside of you? I’m doing it now, and it took me from being an unconscious observer, to being a conscious participant while I’m here. I overcame depression because I learned how to live my life from the inside out. I learned how to feel and how to love what I’m feeling rather than drowning it out. I learned that my emotions are more relevant than the situations occurring. People bring stuff up for us emotionally. Rather than point fingers at them, we should honor our emotion and thank them for pointing us back to ourselves.  If you are judging, you are closing yourself off from feeling and that, my friend, is a tragedy.

Thank you, Robin Williams for being a reflection of joy, of love, of adoration, of brilliance. Because of you I’ve gotten to FEEL a lot this week, which reminds me that I’m very much ALIVE. I’m not here to judge your life experience. I’m merely here to experience mine.

Learning Not to Judge Others

Karma
When you put yourself out there to practice certain principles, the first thing that occurs is that you get several opportunities to practice these principles. It’s a given. While I was learning to practice compassion for myself a few years ago, I kept making mistakes that I probably wouldn’t have made prior to deciding that I wanted to offer myself compassion. Embarrassment and self-disgust came up for me several times until I understood that I was human and that I should learn to give myself a break rather than beat myself up. Over the years, I have learned to move through my mistakes a lot less clumsily without the self-hatred, but in the arrangement of mine to give myself compassion, I’ve had to deal with people who judge me harshly. People judge. It’s what we naturally do. Some people will follow another person and bite at their heels all the way to justice being served, while others hold grudges for years. Some people gossip until they exhaust their own soul, and others are hateful and awful toward the person that “did them wrong.” Life is not that black and white. There is always a backstory to every situation. I don’t think anyone wakes up in the morning and makes the decision to screw someone over. Most of the time people neglect themselves before neglecting another human being. I think the key here is that when someone does you wrong, or won’t listen to your side of the story, you’ve got to set yourself free by simply accepting that more than anything, that other person is human. Take it as an opportunity to practice love and compassion rather than becoming self-righteous.

It’s really interesting to me now to turn this all around and to give other people the same compassion as I give myself. With my children (whom I practice on the most), offering immediate forgiveness and compassion comes pretty naturally, because they are an extension of me, but what about the people in the real world who seem to be separate from me? How do I manage to offer my compassion to total assholes? There are so many of those riding in the middle of the street on their bikes without looking back while I’m in a CAR trying to get to work… (Satire here – I don’t truly think they are assholes). There are grumpy people, petty people, fussy people, people in a hurry, and people who I don’t have the opportunity to offer compassion toward because we pass each other through life so swiftly. I find myself impatient while I’m driving. I always tell my children, “I am a very spiritual person, but none of that applies in the car.” While on our vacation last week, we experienced two bad accidents coming home and two hours of bumper to bumper traffic through San Francisco. As I sat there tired and ready to relax in the comfort of my home, I decided to not get uptight about the whole thing. It was a good opportunity to practice patience and to just be in the moment. I did complain about a few things, like how bad the roads are in California when there are millions of taxpayers here, but overall, I kept my cool for once. Children observe everything, and if I’m not being cool, calm and collected in the car, that’s what they are going to bring up when I try to act like I’m a saint overall.

Regarding judgment of others – lately I’ve made several connections with so many new people and all of them are so dynamic in their own way. Every person I meet has experienced something in life that I haven’t experienced. I used to go into conversations excited to talk about myself, but now I’m finding myself extremely interested in what other people have to say. I love people. I love experiencing energy when I walk into a room full of people who are all there for the same purpose. I’m noticing the more I am accepting of people, the more they are accepting of me. It is true. The world reflects whatever you put out. I used to think of myself as a lone soldier who people didn’t “get.” Instead of thinking this way, I’m putting myself out there to see what I can learn from others, and everything has turned around for me. It feels like there is a lot of love out there for me. I’m not talking romantic love – I’m speaking about acceptance. Now that I am embracing the world and the people in it, the world and the people in it are embracing me.

No one is perfect and it is so easy to judge. What isn’t easy, is to offer love and compassion to everyone you encounter. This is a challenge. I heard it in a movie this week, “You’ve got to see through all the obvious, down into a person’s heart,” bottom line. People put up walls, and act like jerks, but underneath most human beings is a vulnerable soul. We have all been hurt and done wrong and been abused in some way, shape or form. Many of us are grieving for someone we’ve lost. Each one of us has experienced a bad day. I was treated poorly this week by a cashier, but I looked beyond that and saw that there was some frustration behind it. Obviously that guy was having a rough day. We’ve all had those. Instead of making his day worse by telling his boss, or by complaining directly to him, I offered a broad smile and told him I really appreciated him bringing the box of paper to my car. Why waste my energy getting angry when it takes a lot less time to be kind? I could have dwelled on that all day, but instead, I let it go. Let it go. There’s a concept.

Instead of noticing what a person is lacking, I’ve been practicing a new way of thinking. What is their gift in life and what do they know that I don’t know? Probably A LOT. We attract everything that comes our way, so instead of rejecting people by judging them, I’ve decided to be open to them. It’s all part of the flow that I so often talk about. Don’t stop the flow of your life. People come into our experiences in all shapes, forms, sizes and with different belief systems. What are you going to be for them? I no longer put a guard up. I simply open myself up to whatever experience comes my way with each person I encounter. I don’t have to pretend to like them. I simply have to accept who they are. When you accept people for who they are, they automatically open themselves up to you. It’s incredible. People notice when they are accepted. They are drawn to acceptance. I’ve noticed since I’ve been doing this that people are very drawn to me. And I’m not getting a bunch of riff-raff – I’m getting to experience people with their guards down too. People want to be loved. They want friendship. They want acceptance because the world offers a lot of judgment as it is. Everyone has something to teach us about ourselves and about how to be.

Let it go. Let people make mistakes. Allow them to be angry, to be short with you, to be in whatever state of mind they are in at the moment. It takes much less energy to smile than it does to argue. I’m still learning this (especially in the car), but it is liberating. Life is too short to remain angry. Life is too precious to keep a guard up. Life is too generous to be self-righteous and judgmental. I don’t know about you, but I’ve gotten more second chances than I deserved, so I’ve decided to offer that same generousness to others. If you want acceptance, you’ve got to learn to give it first. That’s the golden rule we learned about in Sunday school. It’s karma. It’s not a bitch. It’s kind of beautiful actually.

Good Ole Socrates Knew What He Was Talking About

Know Thyself
Some of us come to this earth out of the womb knowing exactly what we want to be when we grow up. My mom probably has hieroglyphic script scarred into her inner abdomen from my earliest writings. An artist knows her path without much outside influence. And then there are those who are born without direction who may feel like they came here without a purpose. Perhaps a purpose for being here doesn’t even occur to them. I don’t honestly know. I’ve always been a poet, a storyteller, a philosopher of sorts. I knew my purpose early on. I don’t know what it feels like to not have a craft, or if it even matters to those who don’t, but even if you are some artistic prodigy right out of the womb – until you know yourself, your craft may feel a bit unbridled and frivolous.

For those of you who don’t know your purpose in life (and if you even care) – we all have been given one unique thing in life. That one unique thing is yourself. If you spend your whole life trying to figure out who you are through the likes of other people, or by searching outside of yourself for answers, there will always be a sensation of feeling lost. If you feel lost, it is because you have not yet discovered yourself. Trust me, I know. I spent a good majority of my life feeling completely lost although I knew very well that I was a writer. Writing is just a tool that I use to channel my voice, but if I don’t know who I am, then how do I even know what I want to say? More often than not, I wrote from the point of view of other people, and a lot of times I plagiarized (in a sense) because I would read books and try to imitate those author’s writings and voices. My writing did not become organic until I took an interest in myself. When I decided to put down the bottle of booze and began learning to treat myself with respect and love, I discovered that my inner child (my soul) was the one thing I’d been searching for all along. I wasn’t lost simply because I was an alcoholic. I was lost because I detached from my essence when I was twelve. That innocent part of me simply wasn’t “cool” when I was trying to fit in with my peers, so I left her behind and molded myself into what I thought would be acceptable to others. I was a fish out of water trying to breathe in air. It never worked for me, but I spent over twenty years trying to develop lungs in place of the gills. This became incredibly gruesome in my thirties. People began catching on that I was a charade, so through the gift of recovery, I made my way back into my natural environment. Here I am now without a doubt of who I am and what I am doing while I am alive. I got to know myself, you see, which is an ongoing process. Each human being is an entire universe. Explore that universe. Discover your essence. Be a physicist and get to the bottom of yourself where you will discover that you are everything. This is the purpose of your life. This is what we should all be doing.

To “know thyself” is a powerful statement of action. It sounds a bit self-centered, doesn’t it? But truthfully when you come to love yourself in a genuine manner, you learn to practice compassion for your faults. You learn to not take yourself so seriously, and you chuckle instead of condemn yourself for being human. This self-love is a gift to others because once we know who we are, we understand who each human being is and we are able to love our neighbors with the same kind of compassion as we have for ourselves. Jesus knew what he was talking about too, when he gave that one commandment to “Love God with all your mind, your heart and your soul, and love thy neighbor as yourself.” To honor yourself is to honor your Creator, and to love yourself, is to love God. To love yourself is to love others. This statement Jesus made was symbiotic. Love is circular – global actually. The universe was created in love, and everything in the universe is cyclical. On a smaller scale, this love we learn to have for ourselves has a cyclical effect on those around us. It is the ripple effect we so often hear about (one act of kindness extends out unto the world).

What does it mean to “know thyself?” Yes. Continue asking this question and allow it to lead you to the answer. The only thing we all should be doing, is being ourselves. This is the soul purpose of each human being. We come to earth in this body. We leave the body behind when we die. In the meantime, we should know that our body is a temple – the dwelling place of our essence (our soul). The human body should always be searching for its beautiful soul while it is alive. Remember in ‘Finding Nemo’ how Dori forgot who she was, and Marlin was there to remind her. This relationship between Marlin and Dori was a beautiful analogy of the dance between the body and the soul. Keep re-connecting to yourself and discovering who you are. Align with that essence and unify with that inner light. We all have it. That light will lead the way (just like Dori intuitively lead the way for Marlin), and you will never feel lost again. Remember when Dori told Marlin that he just “felt like home?” Yeah, Pixar is pretty deep. Going home has nothing to do with entering heaven upon death. It has everything to do with the soul uniting with the body right now. This is the truth in the words of Socrates, “Know Thyself.” And the message of Christ, “Love Thyself.” More than anything – BE Thyself.

What Exactly is Integrity?

Integrity
In recovery we learn about integrity. They say integrity is what people do when no one is looking. No one is perfect. I mean, come on. Being a mom has given me two little people (well they aren’t exactly little anymore) in my life who call me out on my nonsense. They are like video cameras recording everything I say and do. The good thing about them being like this is that they keep me in check. They see all. It’s pretty incredible. I don’t get away with much, if anything. Most of us are doing our best in life. Others are not. Some people are harmful to the world and others don’t live according to our standards. Integrity may begin with what you do when no one is looking, but it certainly doesn’t end there. It’s more about being rooted.

When I think of the word “integrity,” I get an image of myself as a very solid person – someone who does not waiver. I see myself taking full responsibility for my life, and bringing it all in – a person who stands tall, but doesn’t see themselves as better than anyone else. When I am filled with integrity, I don’t view myself as “right” while thinking others are “wrong.” I just do my best with what I have as I am moving along in the world. If I mess up, I admit it, but I don’t wallow in it, even when others are trying to grind my head into their notions about my life. Integrity to me means that I know who I am and where I am going. I am not too hard on myself, yet I try my hardest to be the best person I can be. I fall short at times, but I keep walking in my strength and helping others along the way. I am kind. I am forgiving. When someone else is struggling, I see myself in them and I offer whatever I have to give because I’ve been there before. I don’t forget where I came from, but I know exactly where I am going.

It doesn’t matter to me much anymore what other people say. Words have become so diluted – as a writer, it makes me kind of sad that we aren’t taught the root of words in school. So what do we have left? We have actions. People babble all the time about what they believe in – about their good deeds – about “the truth” and so forth, yet when the skin meets the pavement, many people falter in their beliefs. They haven’t truly dealt with their fear, you see. When you haven’t walked through your fears, your words paint a nice picture, but they mean absolutely nothing, because your “truth” will come out in the form of really bad behavior when you haven’t put some guts behind what you say you are, no matter how much integrity you try to uphold.

For a really long time I thought I wanted to be a missionary, or some kind of church leader, but I saw the pressure on those that were behind the pulpit, and more often than not, none of those people lived up to the standards of the congregation when it came right down to it. You can go to seminary school all day long and learn the texts and history of religion, but they don’t teach you about facing your fears or facing yourself in the mirror. I never learned how to do that by sitting in a pew. I learned that by going out into the real world and finding out who I was, realizing I was shit, and doing something about it. Not that we are all shit, but when you start facing yourself – instead of idealizing yourself, you realize that you’ve got a lot to work on. Instead of pointing fingers, you begin working vigorously on yourself. That’s integrity. And it doesn’t stop there. You keep doing that. Over and over and over. And when you start seeing yourself pointing your fingers, you haul your hand back down to your side and do another inventory of yourself. It never ends. That’s integrity. When someone does you wrong, you take an inventory of how you feel and at some point thereafter, you automatically forgive them because you see yourself in them. That’s integrity. You keep coming back to yourself through the mirror of other people. You keep marching forward rather than looking back. You are strong in a way that is humble. That’s integrity.

When people are not healthy influences in your life, a person with integrity knows to let go. They know how to move on. They keep marching and continue taking inventory of themselves along the way. They see things for what they are rather than romanticizing life. They are true to themselves, but they always lend a helping hand to others and practice genuine kindness. Integrity is more about being rooted in who you are, rather than talking about what you believe in. It takes work and willingness, and it never ends.

The root of the word “integrity” comes from the Latin adjective “integer” meaning, “whole or complete.” It’s like becoming who you truly are after seeing exactly what you aren’t. Integrity accompanies humility. It requires balance. It means taking action, but that action is internal before it is external. What goes in, must come out. To be a person of integrity you must face the mirror and walk through your fears. The rest is history, and anything else is just talk.

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Are You Aware of the Role That You Play, Or Are You Stinking Up Your Old Costume?

Stage
I’ve been changing it all up lately in the way I view things, including other people’s notions of “right and wrong.” The clarity is coming in strong. I am beginning to see everything in physical reality as a stage, while everything emotional is like the act, and then there are the actual players upon that stage. When everything is said and done and when the curtain rolls closed, everyone takes off their costume and becomes who they truly are – well, not right away. The funny thing is, the players don’t always know that they are actors. They play their role so very well, that they believe they are actually the character on stage. They don’t even see the stage, or the curtain, and they go about their life boasting around in their heavy costume. At some point the seams begin busting and people start seeing right through them, but they don’t want to remove that part of themselves because it has defined them for so long. They have been “right” or “safe” inside that old stinky garment, although the play is over. When people start seeing through the clothes, the actor becomes defensive and scared. They try holding on to the role they have played all these years, but the world won’t allow it any longer. It’s time to get off the stage and step down from being an actor. Their role has been exhausted, and they were brilliant for that time they played that part, but it’s time to move on. It’s time to become a true star, you see.

I’ve watched people in my life who refuse to get out of their costume. Their costumes are full of stench, and people are no longer buying into the act, but they refuse to switch roles to suit the current act. Often I get this overwhelming sense of stagnancy when I am around them, but up until now I couldn’t place my finger on why that was so. I get it now. It’s very clear to me. Then there are those who are in the midst of shedding their costumes, but they are having an extremely difficult time letting it go, so they squirm, and struggle and when I am around them I notice that they are unravelling before me. They are very convinced that someone or some circumstance is causing their discomfort, or their anger, but from my perspective, I only see a person who is resisting change and growth. I want to hug them, but most of the time they see people outside of themselves as the enemy, so I have to stand back and allow them go through their process, no matter how long it takes them. It’s none of my business really. They may figure out a way to keep that darned costume on so that they can continue pointing fingers at the other players because that’s been such a comfort to them all these years. I move on because I know my role in their life has been exhausted – unless they choose to embrace the mirror that I am offering.

Sometimes I see myself as a wanderer who gets a glimpse every now and again into people’s acts. Once in a while I get a role to play, but it doesn’t last very long. Many times I’m just a person in the audience, but even that is an ever-changing role. The one thing I don’t do is get lost as a player any longer. I don’t buy into a belief that I am one thing or another. Each moment offers opportunity to be the star that I am in it’s wholeness, but when I am not able to be the star, I gladly give up the part to whomever shines the brightest in that moment. I have so much to learn, as we all do. We are all stars, often playing small roles. Some of us just haven’t given up those small roles because they are so incredibly comfortable. To take off the costume is a terrific struggle, because at that point, we’ve grown out of them and they are stuck on our personas.

It is good to know what role you are playing in life and not to get caught up in the belief that you are that role. People wonder why God would put us here upon this dense earth to struggle and to suffer. After all, life is very hard, and grief can be excruciating, but what if… just suppose for a moment that God was inside of each living thing, merely playing out a role, forgetting the very essence of him or herself so that God could re-experience the essence over and over and over through different facets. What if God played many roles so that God could struggle and resist, and finally surrender until God came back to him or herself, because that experience (enlightenment) is something you can only feel when you have forgotten who you truly are? Think about it. Meditate upon it. Allow it to consume you. Realize what role you are playing, and then understand what is beneath the layers of costume. Step off the stage once in a while and be the audience. Change is good. Stop resisting. This life is not as serious as we make it. Circumstances are here to offer you a new perspective. That’s all they are, so stop buying into the act. We take ourselves so seriously. PLEASE – It’s all an act. The curtains will open and the show must go on, but once it’s over, you will be reminded of your essence underneath the costume.
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Why Humility? (Because it is So Underrated)!

monk bowing
When I lived in Berkeley for two years, I walked and rode my bike everywhere. There was a photography place I passed on my way downtown, and for those two years there remained a painting so profound that I had to stop each time I walked by the window. The painting was simple. It was a monk in a marigold robe. His hands were clasped together and he was standing while bowing his head before a small flower in the same color as his robe. The monk was honoring the flower with the gentle bow of “Namaste” (“I honor the place within you in which the entire universe dwells. I honor the place within you, which is of Love, of Truth, of Light and of Peace. When you are in that place within you and I am in that place within me, WE ARE ONE”).

If I could have bought that twelve-hundred dollar painting, I would have. It moved me so deeply. After six months of rigorous treatment in a facility in the Berkeley Hills where I was brought down to Earth from my grandiose thinking, that precious painting was a reminder to me of my place in the world, which is not above anyone or anything, or beneath another man’s ego, but a sacred place where I remain aware that every living thing is an extension of the divine. If all living things are an extension of the divine, then there is no living thing above another. We are all a spark of life in the vast wholeness of our creator. For those of you that do not believe in a creator, you can certainly agree that the spark of life dwells in every living thing; therefore, life is delightful, even if for the moment that it is alive. To honor the life we are given, and to be aware of it in another living thing, is humility. There is not one living thing greater than another. Each living thing on the planet has a purpose and each purpose provides for the well-being of all.

Humility has several definitions, but that painting provided me with a quintessential understanding. Whenever I am on a hike in the woods, I spend a few moments honoring the life surrounding me. Often I clasp my hands together in the presence of a deer, or a butterfly and thank the creatures for blessing me with their divine nature (life) and for their part in the ecosystem of the planet. At times when I am annoyed with another human being, I try to remind myself that I am not above that other person. They encompass the same spark of life as I do. The ego doesn’t see things this way, but the heart does. To be humble is to live through the heart center, rather than in the space of the ego. Sometimes (often) I have to remind myself to drop down into my heart because I am way up in the Tower of Babel of myself where my ego has delusions of its own greatness.

Look around you – although one person may have wealth while another is begging on the street, what would happen if neither had water to drink because of the severity of a drought? Both would eventually die of thirst and the one man’s wealth would be of no use. If you drive a nicer car than many other people, this does not make you a greater human being. If there were a sudden natural disaster and everything got swept away (homes, cars, buildings, etc.), the only thing that would matter to you would be your life and the life of your loved ones. Life is all that matters in the end, therefore life should be regarded each day, rather than taken for granted.

Humility is not about being a martyr or seeing yourself as below others. Humility is standing in balance with yourself and knowing your own divinity, as well as being aware of it in others (even when they are not aware of it in themselves). Humility is the shelter that brings us in alignment with who we truly are. It washes away the delusions of the ego and comforts you in the knowing of the heart. It is the only place I want to be, because it is a place of truth. It is the place of ultimate surrender, and the space where I do not get ahead of myself or where I fall behind. It is a place of total clarity.

When you think of the word “humility,” think of the painting of the monk and the flower. It is simply a place of being grounded and centered – where you understand that there is something great in simply being alive. Be alive and know that this is enough. See the life in others and understand that you share a common ground. Honor the life surrounding you in gratitude of its purpose toward your well-being. This is how you remain humble, and to remain humble is to walk in the entire wholeness of yourself, rather than in the fragments of your splintered mind. Humility is so underrated! It is what keeps me sober. It is where I want to spend the remainder of my life. It is where ultimate freedom welcomes me.

Namaste!