Friday, July 05, 2019

What is Spiritual Awakening?


I have been on a “spiritual path” as it is sometimes called, for a dozen years or so. I didn’t choose to be on one. It chose me. When I became what is sometimes called a “seeker” it was not a conscious choice, but something I had to do. I was overcome with the desire to know the ultimate Truth of what we are and why we’re here. The circumstances that led to the birth of the seeker are discussed in another post (LINK) and not relevant to this discussion. Suffice it to say that I received a “wake up call” which could also be called a “call to awaken.” I got the call and I had to answer. At that point, Life began setting things in place that would serve me on this journey. Trey the “Seeker” eventually turned into an “Awakener” (the way I use the terms, a Seeker is one who is looking for fulfillment through a number of spiritual outlets or techniques, while an Awakener has had a glimpse(s) of the Truth and has a more narrowed focus on waking up).

A recent conversation prompted me to answer the question, “What does spiritual awakening mean to you?” In a nutshell, this person I call Trey is not who I really am. What I truly am, is Awareness (aka Consciousness). Some people have heard variations of this sentiment hundreds of times from a wide variety of sages and teachers from around the world. To those who have not heard it before, it may sound rather silly. But the realization that one is actually just Awareness and not a person is what Awakening is all about. Self-realization (aka enlightenment) is the recognition of one’s self as Awareness.

“Why would a person want to realize such a thing?” one might ask. Well, the answer lies in how Life is experienced from the perspective of Awareness. When one stops identifying themselves as a person and begins to identify as Awareness, the limiting beliefs about the individual (and others) fall away, leaving the unclouded essential nature of this moment. From what I’ve seen in spending time with awakened people, the awakened character is loving, compassionate, accepting, non-judgmental, supportive, kind, authentic, empathetic, courageous, and unaffected by negativity. Though it may seem odd on the surface, when we no longer feel identified with the character we’re playing, we become beacons of light and love in the world.

About My Character’s Path
Trey’s path has been one of presence, acceptance and surrender. Some of my greatest early influences were Eckhart Tolle and Byron Katie. Despite resonating deeply with their teachings, I did not blindly adopt that path overnight. It feels as though I (the character) has been in a gradual trust building exercise with Life. I read the works of teachers then applied them to different areas of my life. The outcome was one of reassurance time and time again. I have gone through a number of challenging circumstances, and when applied correctly, this path of accepting all that comes transformed challenges into gifts. I started seeing the silver lining in all the clouds. In fact, challenging situations turned into opportunities to awaken more deeply.

A couple of years ago, Self-inquiry came alive in me. Self-inquiry is simply the act of becoming aware of Awareness. Ramana Maharshi, considered by most to be father of Self-inquiry, told his students to ask, “Who am I?” and then direct attention toward the source to which that question points (Rupert Spira does a great job of explaining it in this short video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JG9WuSk5gTI).  This seemingly simple practice led numerous people to wake up, and many of those who woke up became teachers and began spreading the same Truth they found. Though each teacher has their own personal style, what they are saying is ultimately the same thing: We are all Awareness.

As I practiced Self-inquiry, or redirecting Awareness toward Awareness, it led to the ability to rest in Awareness for short periods, which often times is accompanied by blissful states and feelings of oneness. However, it can also bring up a number of challenging issues that need to be acknowledged. Some say “spiritual bypassing” occurs when someone uses a spiritual path to avoid dealing with negativity, but that’s just like hitting the snooze button on an alarm clock. Whatever it is that needs to be addressed will arise again until it is effectively met. For me, acceptance and surrender have been the tools used to deal with all that arises. Through this process, Life has become my teacher and I trust it completely to show me what I need to see.

As an aside, Ramana has said that the only two paths to Self-realization are Self-inquiry and surrender, and that all other paths eventually lead to one of those two entry points. Self-inquiry is considered the direct path. The complete surrender Ramana spoke about is not easy for most people. The people capable of total surrender are often those who have hit rock bottom and have lost the will to live (as was the case with Eckhart and Katie). One could say that complete surrender, as described by Ramana, leads to awakening, and situational surrender (more like I have been practicing) leads to being at peace with the situation at hand.

In the group sessions I’ve been facilitating for many years now, I see a lot of is people who have learned these various practices and techniques and have used them to lead a more peaceful life. Most of them have had a glimpse of the truth to which spiritual teachers point, which fuels their quest for enlightenment. It can also lead to the creation of what some call the “spiritual ego,” which is the belief that they are a person who is connected to Awareness, rather than just Awareness. I have seen this in myself and others, and it can be a confusing period where we continue to act out our egoic conditioning in our personal relationships while being able to experience blissful states in other areas of our lives. In short, the awakening process is not complete. So what to do?

There’s an old saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” I have seen that proved true many times in my life. The most recent example was a few months ago, when Dan Kelso appeared with what he calls Deep Self Investigation (DSI). After talking with Dan at great length, it became clear that DSI is the antidote for those of us still identified with the character, despite having numerous awakening experiencing confirming that we are in fact Awareness.

DSI is a more fine-tuned version of Self-inquiry designed to root out all of the beliefs we have to support identification with the character. I sometimes call it Self-inquiry 2.0 because it goes deeper than just becoming aware of Awareness. One can merge with Awareness in doing Self-inquiry, but still be identified as the character who is merging with Awareness. When DSI is used, more focused attention is directed toward those beliefs that make us feel limited in any way. We question those beliefs, relying only on our direct experience to verify the answers (not what we have learned or been told by others).

I have had some profound realizations in working with Dan and DSI. In the last session I realized what I have heard numerous teachers say on countless occasions – You are already awake, you just don’t realize it yet. Yes, we have always been aware throughout every moment of our lives. Whether the character was (is) experiencing sorrow or bliss, Awareness was (is) present and noticing. Awareness is always just aware. And I am Awareness. In effect, Awareness has never been lost in identification with Trey, it has just been seeing Trey and Trey has been believing that Trey is only awake during certain states of expansiveness. This is an example of how beliefs about spiritual awakening mask the ever-present Awareness that we already are, and always have been. One must be willing to surrender ALL beliefs, whether they have to do with spiritual awakening or being a person, in order to see what we truly are.

In gratitude,
Trey


* Belief – I like to think that the inventors of the English language deliberately inserted the word “lie” in the middle of the word belief so that we would remember that beliefs are not true. Whether that’s true or not, it has been made clear to me that there are no such things as true beliefs. How do we know if what we think is a belief or fact? According to one teacher I sat with, if anyone on the planet would disagree with the thought, it’s a belief. There is nothing wrong with beliefs. We use them to navigate in this world. However, what we believe shapes how we see the world, so it’s important to question them to make sure they are in fact true in order to ensure we are living in alignment with what is. The Work of Byron Katie is all about questioning beliefs and has helped tens of thousands of people see how their thoughts limit their experience of life - https://thework.com.


Note about Dan Kelso:
One of the great things about Dan is that he is wide awake and is a shining example of what Awakened Living looks like. He radiates happiness, compassion and love, all while being an ordinary, down-to-earth guy who doesn’t want to be looked up to as a teacher. Instead he is just a good friend suggesting that one look deeper. One of the things he likes to point out is that we already are Awareness. We are already the fully awakened consciousness we’re seeking. He just wants to help people see it for themselves, which is where DSI comes in. Each DSI session I have with Dan brings more insight and less identification with the character. You can find out more about DSI at http://deepselfinvestigation.com/about.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

No Mistakes

Have you ever made what you thought was a bad decision? If you think so, then you've probably experienced the frustration of things not working out the way you had hoped they would. However, I would like for you to ponder this: What if there is no such thing as a bad decision? What if there are only decisions? What if it’s impossible to make a mistake in this life? What would happen to this frustration if you dropped the belief that mistakes are possible? Is the idea that things could or should be different than they are actually at the root of frustration?

Each and every move we take has a different set of possible outcomes. We do our best to make the “right” move, but when we decide outcomes are “bad” then we look at what led to them as a mistake, either on our part or the part of others. We will then either seek to blame ourselves or others for unpleasant circumstances. However, from my experience, every apparent “bad” situation always has positive repercussions. It may take a little while for the benefits to be shown, but I can always find several positive outcomes that were brought about by a seemingly negative situation.

This may seem like a “rose colored glasses” approach to viewing life, but I have been in a number of seemingly hopeless situations, and I have seen how life always works out in my favor despite what may seem hopeless. Having been tested over and over again with challenging situations, I have learned to see every circumstance as an opportunity for growth. The gift of stressful situations is in the opportunity to go beyond our beliefs about what should or shouldn’t be. If we operate from the perspective that mistakes are not actually possible, then it frees us to act from a place of fearlessness and integrity, knowing that the outcome will be for our benefit, even if it seems challenging at first. It also alleviates the burden of thinking we know what’s best for us and reduces our attachment to certain outcomes.

When I find myself in a situation where something I did or said seemed to cause someone else distress, I own my role in that and try to see the situation from the other person’s perspective. It’s important to know that their distress is not ultimately caused by us but by their own beliefs on how things should be. But it’s also important not to dismiss the feelings of others, and instead look for the truth in any accusations or blame that comes our way. We gain insights into ourselves and others when we can welcome their criticisms instead of defending against them. The key is not to get caught in judging ourselves negatively because someone else blames us for their frustration. Instead, we can recognize that we did the best we could do, and we did it perfectly. A friend of mine once told me, “You can’t do it wrong, you can only do it Trey.” You could also say that the only mistake is the belief that mistakes are possible.

When we cease to believe in mistakes, challenges can be welcomed as part of what’s necessary for our personal growth, and things can be seen as unfolding in our favor. When the burden of self-doubt and the fear of doing something “wrong” is lifted, each moment is perfectly fine no matter what happens. The past and present are accepted as part of what could not have been avoided, and the present is experienced as one welcome occurrence after another. We can then realize that we are always living in a happy ending that never ends.

I invite you to see what it’s like to release the idea that you, or someone else, could make a mistake. See what happens when you stop labeling things as good and bad. Things always are as they are and nothing anyone can do will change that. Only one thing can be changed and that’s how you see things. Could it be that our happiness is a belief away?

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Mother Nature

Dear friends and family,

I hope your 2018 is off to a good start and that you have enjoyed (and survived) the holidays :) I've been feeling a lot of gratitude recently due to the single digit temperatures we are currently experiencing. I'm so grateful for electricity and central heat. I feel so warm in my house that I just feel blessed, as well as deep compassion for those who are not as warm and comfortable. I'm also in awe of those who lived through tough winters long before the modern conveniences of home life. I can only imagine the effort it took, heating with wood in drafty log homes with no running water or electricity. I'm warm, comfortable and grateful, and I hope where ever you are you are as well :) This leads me to my latest blog post on Mother Nature. I hope you enjoy.

Happy new year!


Almost all of the things you see and touch everyday come up out of our magical Earth. In fact, I can’t think of anything that did not originate in this planet.  Humans have developed this uncanny ability to extract things from the ground and create an unimaginable array of objects. We have learned through modern technology how to take minerals from the dirt and manufacture wonderous things, even generate electricity. I find myself thinking about this sort of thing regularly and it has built up a sense of awe and appreciation for even the most mundane things. I look around and I see the miraculous existence of all things and recognize that everything is brought to us by Nature, then feel the gratitude for its gifts. This is why I would like to invite you to spend a little time and attention contemplating the sacredness of all things.

First, think about how much metal goes into making cars. How many thousands of pounds make up a car or truck? Think about how many cars there are on the highway near you on any given day. There are thousands of cars traveling down the interstate near me on a daily basis, and I live in a relatively small town (i.e. a speck of dust in a planet full of small towns and major cities). So how many cars are there in the world? If you Google that you’ll see that there are well over a billion. Now, think about how they were all made of metal that has been mined from the Earth, then melted, molded and put together in intricate ways. Not just metal, but also the fossil fuels that go into making plastic and rubber, and the minerals that go into making the glass. The natural resources that go into making a car is mind boggling, much less a billion of them.

Pick anything at random and consider where it came from and just how much was needed to make it. For example, think about how many trees it takes to build a house, or an apartment building. How much sand is needed to build a single bridge or make a house full of windows? What about the fabric in your clothes and furniture? Your dishes, your furnishings, your toiletries, your computer, your book, your phone. It all originates in this beautiful Earth and is mass produced by its brilliant inhabitants. I invite you to look around at something, anything, and recognize it as a gift from our planet, brought to you by the ingenuity of human beings just like you.

I just want to say, “Thank you, Mother Earth.” You are like the giving tree, always allowing us to enjoy your living breathing body 😊 And to my fellow planet-mates, thank you for being a crucial part of what makes society work as well as it does.

Much love,

Trey

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Group Discussion (September 18, 2017)

Dear Awakeners,

I've heard from a number of you that you would love to attend the group meetings and can't due to busy schedules, etc. I decided that it might be helpful for me to pass along the things we discuss in the group meetings because people tend to leave the meetings feeling rejuvenated, and dare I say more awake. Everyone in the room is a teacher, and we each contribute to the global awakening just by being present. So here's a brief recap. If you would like to chime in, add your two cents, or provide feedback, you can either email me directly, or post your comment to my blog (I will post this at http://compassion-blog.blogspot.com). 

We had a good talk about acceptance of every aspect of ourselves and our experience (thoughts, emotions, etc.), and I felt like we really deepened our overall acceptance of others and the external world. I have been reading Jeff Foster's new book "The Way of Rest: Finding the Courage to Hold Everything in Love," which has helped me become more accepting of my own "stuff." 

I shared my realization that we are all completely innocent in everything we do, that we are conditioned against our will from the time we are born to think and behave in certain ways. We don't have a choice in how we are raised, what we are taught, and don't have any option to do anything but what we do, until we realize that we do have a choice. This realization has given me the ability to forgive anyone for everything. My forgiveness of the conditioned behavior of others is not a "get out of jail free card" for them. They will suffer the consequences of their actions whether I forgive them or not. But it frees me from the bondage of negativity. Forgiving others is for me and has nothing to do with them.

We talked about the political environment and being able to take action from a place of acceptance and forgiveness. I shared a few opinions about Trump, like he's not a very nice person, I don't think he is a very good president, etc., which are relatively tame compared to the majority of Americans. However, I can hold those opinions with the knowing that he is meant to be the president (for now), and that much good will (has) come from his time as president (just as much good comes out of every disaster). Now I can enjoy the show knowing that my opinions are only stories I've created through my own conditioning and don't really encapsulate the truth. I can see how the conditioning of others is innocently playing out with no one the wiser. Nobody's right and nobody's wrong. I can also see how this political climate is leading more people to question their reality, and that is one of the most important things that is happening as a result of the current situation. For example, one of the members said that she had no idea how much racism there still is in this country. While it is very disturbing to know, it is very good that this has been brought to light so that healing can begin.

We noticed some of our own judgments and started to see first hand how they were shaped by our upbringing. Our opinions and world views are formed by our conditioning. We talked about how the ideas of good and bad were at the core of conflict and that things just ARE the way they are. They aren't good or bad until a conditioned mind puts a label on it and creates division and suffering, something less than perfect. We looked at how we can shape our reality with a simple shift in perspective and an open mind.

We also talked a little bit about the fear in the air surrounding potential nuclear war, etc. This fear is of an unknowable future. The mind takes on a story of doom and gloom and the story becomes real for us. But that impending doom loses its impact when death is seen as an illusion.

Anyway, that's about it in a nutshell. If you were at the group and want to add something I missed, please email me or post a comment to the blog (http://compassion-blog.blogspot.com/).

Our next meeting will be in two weeks, Monday, October 2, 6:30 to 8:30 pm. I will send out a reminder as we get closer. I hope to see you all there.

In gratitude,

Trey

Sunday, January 29, 2017

For or Against

Our family attended the women's rights march in Asheville recently. There were thousands of people from all walks of life there, and it was moving to see so many standing together for a common cause(s). As I stood there reading all of the signs, the idea occurred to me to write about being "for" something or "against" something. I'm for all of the rights these people were marching for, but I'm not against the establishment that poses a threat to those. If you are against another group of people, you become like those who are against your group. You now have something in common -- you're both "againsters." It's quite possible to be for something and take action to support what you're for, without being against anything. You can fight negativity with negativity, but it's a never ending battle without winners, only victims.

There's the old saying, "What you resist persists." It may sound quaint, but it’s true. These things that bother us continue to nag at us until they are dealt with, not just externally but internally. What’s bothering you isn’t out there. It’s what’s in you. You’re projecting it out on the world. In that way, you shape the world you live in. If you want to shape it into a better place, then you need to find that better place inside you. You already have it, but it’s hidden under layers of judgment and conditioning. Those are the only obstacles to peace. Without those, peace can come through you into the world and shape it in ways you can never imagine. To be the peace that you already are, be at peace with what’s going on around you. That won’t change until you do.

I love you,

Trey

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Fear of the Future

Fear seems rampant around the world right now. For some it has to do with the impending rule of the new President of the United States. We have heard a great deal about how wrong things could go under Trump, and a lot of it’s easily believable based on the past. However, this is a prime example of how we create fear in our lives -- We imagine a future. We like predictability and are programmed to use our memory to project a future to help put us at ease (or freak us out). Let’s face it, the future we envision today is not likely to be the reality of the moment when it becomes now. Consequently, when you’re living in fear, you’re believing in an unlikely (more like impossible) future. Seems like a waste of energy, doesn’t it?

Ponder this: What if none of the ideas we have about the future will ever be true? What if we are always going to be wrong? What if no matter how much we think and analyze things, we can’t possibly be right? Ever? Would that be scary? Or would you simply stop trying to know the future? If so, a great deal of our incessant mental noise and worry could finally go away, leaving us more time to focus on what’s real, now.

What’s that you say? “How can we be prepared for what the future may hold if we don’t think about what might happen?” I can see the mind justifying its need to predict and analyze. “I’m here to protect you from bad things,” it says. “Without me, you would be lost.” But is that really true? We can only guess what would have happened in the past if we hadn’t relied on the mind’s attempts to know the future. So we can only guess what might happen in the future if we don’t rely on our mind. Can we open our minds to see what good may come? A lack of trust in the unknown keeps us stuck worrying about a non-existent future. As Eckhart Tolle says, “You can never cope with the future. But you can always cope with the Now.”

What’s the worst that could happen if we threw ideas of the future out the window? When you start to answer that question with the mind, you have re-entered an imaginary future world. Let’s pick one negative thing that seems likely to happen with Trump as President. Take your belief in that possible future, and embrace it, then let it go for a moment. See what it feels like to drop that belief. For me, a space of lightness opens up that was previously concealed by worry. A sense of trust and confidence emerge. This trust does not make us vulnerable. It makes us invincible! Don’t let your mind trick you into believing otherwise. Your thoughts are well meaning. They attempt to protect us from uncertainty, but since everything about the future is uncertain, we get stuck in protective mode. Can you accept uncertainty in your life? Can you hold the knowing that you can handle anything life throws at you, whether you saw it coming or not?

The key to peace isn’t knowing what the future holds, it’s knowing what the present moment holds. When you know this moment fully, you become one with the organic flow of Life. Allow it to carry on the way it does. It will happen however it wants to happen, regardless of your best efforts. Take the effortless way to freedom. Stop believing the hype. Speculation is all fun and games until someone gets hurt, and frustration and worry are painful emotions. So, stop hurting yourself! No future = No fear. Living fearlessly is how real positive change comes about in this world. Be the peace you want to see and see what happens.

Monday, January 02, 2017

Trey's Interview with Jeannie Zandi

I had the great pleasure of interviewing Jeannie Zandi recently (www.jeanniezandi.com). She is a great spiritual teacher that I first met back in 2007. In fact, she was the first teacher I had the opportunity to sit with in satsang (I basically lost my satsang virginity to her ;). It was a very powerful and transformative experience which I wrote about in my post “Tears of Joy” (http://compassion-blog.blogspot.com/2007/12/tears-of-joy.html).

Jeannie emanates heartfelt compassion and love, which she brings to the interview I did with her. It was actually like the two of us sitting together in satsang, rather than an interview. Instead of asking her a bunch of questions, I put forth some issues I have been grappling with recently (feelings of being overwhelmed, inadequate, etc.), and she dove in so we could explore those together. My guess is that many people could benefit from listening to our talk.

InJoy,


Trey

PS - Due to video glitches I have posted the audio version of our interview here.