Let me start off by saying I was born with privilege. I was born into an upper middle class family. My Dad was a Professor and my Mom stayed at home supporting my sisters and I. Before entering school, I had the opportunity to explore, question and wonder. This privilege of wondering, having a voice and time to explore, should be in my mind, accessible to every child. That this is a privilege illustrates the utter dysfunction of our society.
As a young child, I was full of curiosity about the night sky and of all the different species that shared their existence with me. This wonder led me to exploring the wild desert hills behind my Southern California home. This wonder led me to imagine traveling into the stars. This wonder and time to explore led me to see such intelligence in the eyes of the animals I came into contact with. This wonder led me to feel the energy flowing through the trees I climbed. This wonder led me to seeing such mystery and at times I was overwhelmed by this. Without knowing it, I was in love with the world around me.
By the age of 10, things had begun to change. School had become like a prison. I had no choice in what I was to learn. I was being taught that learning had a goal and that my knowledge was judged. I was essentially told that I wasn’t okay in who I was and that I needed to work hard, compete, and push through classes to get the grades that would lead me to some form of societal success. I was graded to measure what I had learned through tests, papers and projects. This judging was subtly telling me whether I was smart enough or how well I compared to my friends and peers. This form of education had nothing to do with learning. It was really about conditioning me and my peers to fit into our violent society, to isolate ourselves, and lead lives of quiet desperation. Over time, our education system destroyed my love of learning. I hated school, but I couldn’t articulate the reasons. I fought with my parents, especially around school. The message was that if I didn’t study hard and earn good grades, I would make a mess out of my life.
I also didn’t like being told what to do. I didn’t like authority. At that time, I also didn’t consciously know why I felt that way. I see now that at a subtle level, I knew that this wasn’t leaning and that authority was no path to truth and love.
I was bullied relentlessly beginning around the age of nine. This had a deep effect on my psyche. I internalized the verbal abuse that the kids were relentlessly attacking me with. I was a mess psychologically. My defense was to internalize their vitriol and to create the belief that I was what they said so that they couldn’t hurt me. My self esteem was shot. Everyday, I felt confused. I was lonely though I had friends. I had no idea who I was. I grasped at many things to try and find some sort of connection, yet, everything seemed to become like ash.
This internal suffering continued until something happened in my future that changed the way I thought and perceived…. It led me on a journey back into my inherent Wholeness. The journey ahead illustrated to me that there is no need for authority and that we can live in joy, love, and sustainably with each other and the earth. It was also in confronting the hierarchical structure and the deep understanding that wealth has nothing to do with joy or true success that helped me see that the psychological issues are a direct result of living within the confines of this culture.
By the time I entered college, I was in a battle of control. I had continued down a path of anxiety and conflict, trying so hard to navigate my life, and sailed down the razor’s edge of conformity and anarchy. I was in a battle of judgment and hate, love and kindness. Confusion dominated my life. Until one day, I finally stopped and listened.
I was slipping off the ledge into a deep depression. I just couldn’t keep going down this path that was exhausting me and filling me with such emptiness. I was stuck in beliefs that I tried to find comfort in, but in actuality it was like trying to bandage a fractured bone. I was deeply suffering. Though I had been living a life upon the upper levels of our class system, I still deeply suffered. I think this is something I came to see so clearly. That no matter what “level” one is in the hierarchy of our culture’s dysfunctional class system, suffering is a part of it. Materialism can never fill the void of disconnect. I felt this deeply. Until I came to the point where I felt like I had nowhere to go, and I finally surrendered. It was the summer after my sophomore year at the University of Oregon, that I stopped fighting, gave up and finally listened. I was 19 and there was no trying to let go. I was done.
I was playing basketball with a few friends on a warm day that summer. After the game, my friend came over and asked me if I wanted to partake in dropping acid with them. I had not heard much about lsd but knew it was a psychedelic. I had no idea that it would be the greatest medicine I could ever take. I didn’t know that research would illustrate how psychedelics had the potential to open one’s mind to seeing oneself and the world in a whole different way and helps people with depression, suicidal ideations, and end of life experiences. What I did know is that a part of me was looking for something to break me open, and that maybe this could be the spark. Little did I know that it would be an inferno that consumed all my illusions and transformed them into dust.
The next morning, the four of us met at the basketball court. My friend gave me a tiny little stamp and said for me to.put it under your tongue, keep it there, and then just wait for it to kick in. It had no flavor, and after a few minutes, it dissolved in my mouth. I had no idea what would happen. We decided to go on a slow walk. After about 30 minutes as we climbed up a hillside, I began to feel a lightness that was spreading through my entire being. It was as if the sun was within me. I realized I needed to be alone. Something was taking place and I didn’t want to talk. I just wanted to sit and be in what was happening. It was the first time in a long time that I just wanted to be present. I told them to keep going, that I was going to sit and be for a while.
I found myself on a bluff looking out over a meandering river. Soft white clouds flowed gently across a cerulean sky. The river was a liquid blue, flowing slowly and steadily, timeless yet always changing. Bird songs burst in color.
Time stood still. All of a sudden, I felt completely absorbed by an ever expanding quiet. As my ego melted away, my thoughts disappeared, and presence removed all barriers. Wholeness entered. A soft lightness of stillness flowed in an indescribable presence. There was no self. I was all that is and was and would ever be. There was no division anywhere. Myself, the earth and Universe melted into an immeasurable oneness. There was an indescribable lightness of being, an energy that couldn’t be contained, yet there was no knowing it for I was it.
Without trying, I had let go of the tiller of control. All was clear. It wasn’t until later that I could describe what had happened. I understood completely that control was an illusion. I saw that I had been playing out societal perpetuated roles. I saw that the hell I was living was created by my own thinking built by my past conditioning and societal influences, especially by my education. I saw that the business of my life kept me in numbness and from feeling alive as I tried to distract myself from my inner pain. I saw that our culture was dissected from nature because of ignorance. I saw that our culture had created a way that was directly opposed to goodness and love for it was born out of separation and fear. I saw that I was living in a dream and that I was now waking up. I directly lived what was always around me…presence, complete presence with no beginning or end, no definitions, no identifications, no beliefs, no inside or outside, no thoughts, but simply complete and utter wholeness — holiness. Holiness… Joy lit up everything like warm golden shafts of sunlight. I knew directly that I was completely okay and beautiful and perfect. I knew that nobody could dictate my life unless I gave them the power to do so. I had let go of my tiller. I had let go of my enculturated self. I had let go of everything. All was and is and will be flowed through an indefinable Wholeness.
I experienced that all was love, that Wholeness was all, and that truth was now and in that presence is timeless quietness, a quietness which can never be perceived or experienced. Presence is the complete unknowable, yet it is the very nature of who one is. This presence is Wholeness — Wholeness for there lies no division, no time, no space. It is complete, perfect, undefined.
I realized that this is the only journey that matters, a journey of slaying away every attachment and belief, a complete letting go, until one is left with nothing but the very essence of all that is, Wholeness. Letting go of all beliefs, all opinions, all thoughts. I understood that letting go comes from directly confronting with awareness the full thinking apparatus. After the acid left my system, my ego reemerged. Yet, I was changed and I now couldn’t help but keep digging in.
What felt like no time at all had actually been 3 hours. My ego came back, yet I was changed. Moving forward, I realized that there was no path, no where to get to. However, at first flowing in the pathless road was challenging, lonely, and sometimes brutal for my ego was built by thought and memory and did not want to lose its grasp and I was aware of this. I began going into the darkest recesses of my self, the tangled mythological forest of my inculturated self traumas, defenses, and attachments. The very act of seeing with awareness is what let go of the attachments.
I guess one could describe this as part of the hero’s journey that Joseph Campbell is talking about. “You enter the forest, at the darkest point, where there is no path. Where there is a way or path, it is someone else’s path. You are not on your own path. If you follow someone else’s way, you are not going to realize your potential.” The ego wanted to hold onto the thought apparatus and attachments. Yet, I also knew deep down that these attachments were nothing more than phantoms. But, along this journey, there came to be more letting go and more moments of insight, and flashes of pure joy. The more I slayed my ignorance, the more I was able to see and find my inner health, and the more I drew into an indescribable quiet.
There is a profound quiet that is Wholeness. Jiddu Krishnamurti described this silence beautifully. “So we are talking of a stillness which is not dependent on anything. And it is only that quality of stillness, that absolute silence of the mind that can see that which is eternal, timeless, nameless. This is meditation….Silence is difficult and arduous, it is not to be played with. It isn’t something that you can experience by reading a book, or by listening to a talk, or by sitting together, or by retiring into a wood or a monastery. I am afraid none of these things will bring about this silence. This silence demands intense psychological work. You have to be burningly aware of your snobbishness, aware of your fears, your anxieties, your sense of guilt. And when you die to all that, then out of that dying comes the beauty of silence.” This is accessible to everyone. And like he points to, it demands diving into listening, listening into our own psyche. Awareness must be present in all our reactions and actions.
Waking up and living in love, truth and compassion was the journey that I had no choice but to embark upon no matter what would be placed upon my path. I leaped, diving into the caves of my ignorance by confronting and fighting the monsters of my fear based mythology who wanted me to stay secure in the known and no journey within. Yet, I understood from the time I transcended the ego, that these fears were nothing more than chimeras, illusions of my own making. With the fire of awareness, I burned through the layers of self, into my attachments and beliefs, to see and incinerate my delusion. Instead of being on the path of greed and violence that our culture prescribes to, I went my own way, one that pointed to what lies within all of us, and how culture imprisons us into a dreamstate that covers up who in fact one is.
There is only one thing, and there has only been one thing that can transform our society. The only thing we can do, the only thing that really matters, the only thing left to do is to take the arduous journey into oneself and discover who one truly is. To wake up and confront our inculturated dysfunction, we must take the journey within, to dig underneath our conditioned thought induced self to directly see it for what it is, and discover the quiet utter stillness beyond knowledge of our inherent essence. This is the only way to wake up from our cultural dreamstate. Nobody can do it for us. Only oneself can take this journey. There can be many pointers and people there to support one on the journey, but essentially, the psychological journey can be only taken by oneself. People, religions and psychedelics can only point the way. In the end, as in the beginning, this heroic journey must be taken alone.
The journey to discover who one is is the greatest journey we could ever embark on for it leads one through the dark hellish world that we have individually and collectively imagined back into the interconnected landscape of awakening. This journey is a shedding of all identifications and beliefs, the things that actually hold us back from meeting our fullest potential. Who we are is beyond anything one can imagine. Who we are isn’t in the pathways of thought. Who we are isn’t in the confines of conditioning. Who we are is beyond the realm of time nor measurement. Who we are is not separate, isolated nor stuck in the pathways of desire, identity or belief. This journey is about being aware, in the quiet listening of our mind. Through inward listening, one shall see that the conditioned self we bring into our daily adventure, is not who we are, but part of the cultural dreamscape that is satiated in sorrow and drama. In listening, we shall see the deepest sense of wholeness, unity, love, that we are all and all is us. We will see inherently that until our minds are quiet, only then will we know what the right action is.
Living in Wholeness and love seems like a difficult task while at first glance, it seems much easier to live in drama. This actually isn’t the case, but here may be the reason so many of us are terrified to sit with ourselves and begin this journey. The journey into oneself seems to be such an arduous undertaking. This journey brings us into the dominion of our unconscious and pain, of the nature of our inculturated self, the self we are attached to and don’t want to let go of. It will bring into question our own beliefs, assumptions and opinions built into us throughout our entire lives, and that our society is not somewhere outside of ourselves, but rather is us. Yet, the irony is that our suffering is always with us no matter how far we push them down and those pains that we think we have covered up impact our actions every step of the way.
As we confront our walls of belief we shall see that those walls do nothing but end up creating more hurt and suffering in the long run. These walls force us into constant conflict for they hide the essence of what it is we truly are.
To be awake means to be in truth. This means being aware of what is not true such as thoughts. It means to look at your beliefs and opinions and to see how they influence your actions. It means to not run away from or even fight difficult feelings but to listen and look at them and see what is false or true. It is to tear away the false, to finally get down to the very core of truth. This can be painful and hence why most like to stay in the known. The known is secure, we think we know what it is we know. There is a false sense of security in this. But it is here that we are enslaved and dead to life. And it is here where we can become the hero within, and slay our ignorance, and open into the light of awakening.
If we can go through the process of cutting away our emotional attachments, confronting head on fear, to begin going further, to touch the very core of truth, we may discover as the chains are thrown out, that life is quite extraordinary. Thoreau put it well. He said, “Let us settle ourselves, and work and wedge our feet downward through the mud and slush of opinion, and prejudice, and tradition, and delusion, and appearance, that alluvium which covers the globe…through church and state, through poetry and philosophy and religion, till we come to a hard bottom and rocks in place, which we can call reality, and say, This is, and no mistake; and then begin…”
What holds us back is our own minds. Scott Forbes said, “It is not so much the things outside the mind that enslaves people, it is the inner attachments.” To look, we need to be honest with ourselves and not run away. By doing so, we can begin trusting in life and in our children. It also means that we begin to see that the world we have existed in is built by the way we think about the world. It is built by our thoughts.
The beautiful thing is that we can wake up whenever we want. Wholeness and love can never be destroyed and always is. Take the journey into the self, and we would see that this is the case. This can happen if we can stop and listen openly and be willing to have the courage to dive into truth and destroy ignorance. In this listening is a tapping into presence. Presence is right here right now, beyond time nor measurement. This is where instead of reacting to thought, we listen and observe and see what thought actually is, unreal.
As we dive into presence, and our minds quiet, Wholeness is tapped into and love flows. In love is true power, a power that is infinitely greater than the artificial power of fear and acquisition. Love isn’t fear. Love is a strength beyond courage. Love can’t be destroyed no matter how hard we try to destroy it. In love, is an all pervading joy and goodness that flows without constraint. In love is authenticity and truth.