Self-Punishment and the Grace of Awareness

Many years ago, I had a severe back injury. I was diagnosed with bulges on four of my five lumbar discs. To make a long story short, after suffering for many years, I was eventually told by my doctor, a neurologist, that I would live in pain for the rest of my life. I was informed that there were no other options except to learn to live with it and manage the pain.

At the time, I could not explain what happened next except to say that I heard a voice. Yes, a voice as clear as if someone was standing next to me that said, do not listen to him, you will find something that will help you. Now I know that that was my first mystical experience.

I left the doctor’s office bewildered, not knowing what the voice was, where it came from, or what it meant, but from that moment forward, I knew I was going to get better. I did not know how, but with a strong belief and unbending intention, divine guidance, and desire to heal, I live practically pain-free, and the journey continues. I have gained so much more than freedom from pain; this healing journey has changed my life forever, and in more ways than I ever thought possible.

In December of 2018, I started having nerve pain in both elbows at the same time. The exact cause is unknown, but I believe it occurred using improper form weightlifting. And once again recently, I was told by a medical professional that the pain I have in my elbows would probably never go away. When I heard him say this, without hesitation, my first thought was, that is not the truth. This time I did not need any encouragement from that voice. Not only did I think it, but I immediately heard the words come out of my mouth, telling the practitioner I understood his thinking, but that I was choosing not to believe it and that my elbows will heal.

What I am pointing to in these stories is an essential lesson for healing and living a life that is aware and awake. Once we identify with and believe what we are told, it becomes our truth. Our life then becomes a living expression of this belief. It does not matter if a medical professional tells you that you will live in pain for the rest of your life, or someone else tells you that you are not worthy.

I am not saying that we should ignore medical advice, far from it. I am saying that we must question what we are told before we accept it as truth. A thought is no different; unsolicited thoughts appear in our minds all the time. If we identify with them without question, then we become the living expression of these thoughts. Our problems begin here and end with the manifestation of anxiety, emotional pain, worry, stress, and suffering.

At some point in your life, you have experienced someone saying something about you that was not true. It was only their perception about you, and if you believed it, it formed how you interacted with others after that point in time, or at least until you were able to rise above their comments. Sometimes when we hear these things, they have no impact all or only for a short time, and then some words or judgments can influence our lives until the day we die.

Only through the grace of awareness can we free ourselves from this self-punishment. Awareness is one of the greatest gifts in our life of personhood because it gives us the ability to observe what is taking place. The mind will always want to blame someone or something else outside of ourselves for our problems. You may have noticed this in your life but have certainly seen it at playout in someone else’s life.

Freedom comes through awareness, not by watching or blaming others, but by observing our behavior and paying attention to our thoughts. We can watch our unsolicited thoughts arise with awareness, hear the conversations that we have in our minds, and wake up to see that what the mind tells us is nonsense and usually, if not always, untrue. The mind is needed and useful. However, there is a big difference in using it and allowing it to use you.

Can you ever recall having conversations with yourself about what might happen if things did not go a certain way? Then, fear arose, and a conversation continued, maybe even a whole story was created around this thought about what was going to happen. Your fear grew, worry and anxiety came, but the story that you created never happened, and in the end, all your worry and stress was for nothing. And because of this, you missed the present moment; you lived in an imaginary future.

A single thought that you believed in misled you down a path of suffering for no real reason. This happens to everyone more than once and continues to happen to us until we notice it occurs through awareness.

Therefore, I encourage you to take the first step, and that is to notice and question just a few thoughts you have each day. Notice when you get pulled into a story about something that is not real. Notice if you find yourself thinking about what somebody said to you that made you mad or upset. Catch yourself having a conversation with your mind about something that is not important or true. Just notice, it is that simple.

Now it may start to become uncomfortable because you might be surprised how often this is occurring. Let this be another opportunity to notice how the mind operates. Notice that it has an opinion about this process and wants you to stop or tries to distract you somehow. Notice if your body is uncomfortable in some way. The uncomfortableness is a clue that you are caught again by your thoughts. Find the signals that alert you to wake up to these thoughts.

Know that this becomes easier as you break down your old habits of identifying with thoughts and building a new habit of using your awareness to catch them before they catch you. This is not about being perfect, so do not beat yourself up if you forget or get distracted by the mind. The mind can be very subtle, even tricky, in its efforts to mislead you. Respect its cunningness but remember you oversee the mind, not the other way around, even though it may feel that way as you begin to bring more awareness into your daily life.

Experience the Resurrection of You

You have a thought, and the thought says that what is happening to me is being forced upon me.

Yet how we choose to experience what we perceive to be being forced upon us is wholly ours. The mind is not the dictator of how we feel about the experience we are having unless we let it. Unless we attach to the thought, give it legitimacy or said another way, identify with it. Because once we identify with it, it becomes real for us, not everyone, just us.

Have you ever experienced a period in your life where nothing had changed, and yet everything was different? Something did change, what was it? It was not something on the outside, but rather something within.

Was it a belief, perception, or some other concept of the mind that changed? When we begin to pay attention at this level by using awareness, nothing has to improve on the outside, and yet everything can be different, how we experience the world shifts.

This shows us the power of awareness and our ability to experience our lives in a new way. Yes, you can dethrone the dictator if you begin to pay more attention to its cunning ways.

The Real Cause of Our Pain and Suffering

The mind and our conditioning tell us that we should never suffer, feel pain, or have difficulties; that the perfect life is problem-free, and this becomes our belief and pursuit. Many religious people think and are taught that if they find God, all their problems will go away, and the spiritual seeker often believes that enlightenment will free them from all of life’s complications.

Is this your experience? Can you tell me that this is true, that you have escaped the challenges of life through these pursuits? Following this concept of freedom, when presented by the mind, will only keep you trapped in an endless quest. You will always feel that you are getting closer to your desired destination, why it’s just one more step, the mind will say. Yet somehow, you never seem to arrive.

If we want to be free, then we must awaken from the mind’s blinding influence. We must be willing to take a step back from what it is saying for a moment because real freedom comes when we allow all of life to flow through us. We cannot continue to follow the false narrative that the mind presents, where there should be no pain or suffering at all.

We must allow and feel whatever arises, to embrace and experience it. Being mindful when resistance appears, because whatever flows will go, be transmuted, or transcended. Whatever we resist will get stuck and persists.

Take a step back, become the observer of your thoughts, and watch how the mind frequently influences your life. Then let your unrest awaken you to the present moment and your True-Self. Let feelings and facts destroy the imagined storytelling of the mind and be open to receiving grace and the guidance of your True-Self that is always available to everyone.

Freedom

Life does not come without challenges, and when we lean into them, we find our greatest teacher. These experiences are not meant to make us small, but allow us to reconnect with our True-Self, to be present with life as it is, and to live fully.

The mind thinks the perfect life is one without problems, and when we think this way we become lost, poor me. The wise person faces his or her problems eyes open, asking for help when needed, knowing that within the pain is an opportunity that will allow them to grow.

Therefore the next time you are faced with a challenge remember there is an opportunity hidden somewhere in the darkness. When you shine the light of awareness on it, your suffering will morph into gratitude. Your pain will melt away, and like the phoenix rising from the ashes, you will be born again.

Living Without Fear, Worry or Stress

The following words are not meant to change your mind in any way. They only point to something that you can experience for yourself. This is important because it is only through direct experience that we can begin to awaken.

Please know that what I am sharing has nothing to do with religion, and is available to anyone interested in waking up to the realization of his or her true nature. Finding the way to where I point is not about traveling any distance, but experiencing your real nature, which has been in you all along.

The life we live in personhood is not stable. We are continually dealing with fluctuating emotions, body sensations, and feelings. The person we see in the mirror, our false sense of self, is constructed by the mind and overlays our true self or true nature.  Anyone who looks with an open heart at his or her life can see the instability. On the other hand, our True-Self is unchanging and eternally stable; having direct experience of your True-Self is life changing. If this is something you are drawn to, then keep reading.

Think of it like this: when clouds cover the sky, we no longer see the sun. Does that mean the sun is not shining? Of course not, it never stops shining, but we do lose sight of it and may wonder if it is still burning bright. Once the sense of self is constructed, like the clouds blocking the sun, we lose sight of our real nature, but it is always there and can be seen anytime we let go of this false sense of self.

It is not difficult to experience your real nature; just know that your mind will challenge you. It wants things to stay the way they are, and it will use your thoughts and senses to carry out this effort. Because of this, anything that feels hard, difficult or challenging means your mind has tricked you, and you have become attached to something the mind created to distract you. Let the feeling of effort or struggle be a sign that you need to let go.

Remember these key insights:

  • You will not lose anything of importance in your life as you know it now.
  • Any fear, anxiety, worry or thought that arises comes from the mind and is nothing more than a distraction to keep you from experiencing your true self.
  • If you do not like where you are going, you can stop at any time.
  • Waking up is not about fulfilling any desire that comes through thought. It is a calling from deep within, something you feel, a soul-full call to be home again and to live through the experience of your true nature.

Have you ever asked yourself?

  • Where do my thoughts originate from anyway?
  • Do I painstakingly create each thought with loving care?
  • Are all of my thoughts important, relevant or even true?
  • Am I aware of my rambling and misguided thoughts that happen all day, every day?
  • Have I noticed how many of my thoughts are repeated daily?

Once you begin to hear your thoughts more clearly by bringing awareness to them, you will see how absurd and untruthful they can be. Notice how they can hypnotize you, and steal the present moment away from you. When you wake up out of these stolen moments, without chastising yourself bring your attention back to noticing them once again, and this is how you begin to break the mind’s hypnotic habit.

As long as your identity is tied to personhood, the body, and the idea that you are separate from everyone and everything, experiencing God or your real nature will seem elusive. Remember this life of personhood that we take to be who we are is nothing more than a vehicle for consciousness to experience itself. To believe this is one thing, and to experience it: life changing.

Deconstructing the self, the identity that began developing at birth, will not happen in the same way your mind tells you. As I said before your mind will find ways to challenge and distract you. It will tell you stories. For example, it might say, you are so close to awakening, I bet this next thing will be the one. Then years pass by of you doing that next thing, and yes, maybe your efforts have changed your personhood experience in positive ways, but you still have not arrived at where you are being called. Surely by now you should be enlightened.

Perhaps your seeking even with all the positive changes has been a distraction from you having a direct experience of your pure self. We can spend our whole lives seeking this experience, being distracted by our thoughts and mind from our intention and our true self. We can even have moments of what we believe to be this experience, something powerful, unique or special only to fall back into personhood because we were tricked by our mind once again. Please do not misunderstand, the mind is useful for our lives, but should it be directing your life, or only engaged with when needed?

In truth, what we seek, we are, and it is only when we let go of the controlling and deceiving thoughts that we can rest in the eternal and infinite space, which is our real nature. This is the only place you will ever experience stability in your life because living only in personhood will never be a stable environment.

We do not have to believe everything we think, and we do not have to follow the endless flow of thoughts that the mind generates. However, we can still live in personhood with all of our experiences and not be attached to the roller coaster of emotions, feeling and uncontrollable changes that come with it. We can experience life as it was intended while residing in the spaciousness of our real nature.

Experiencing your real nature is simple. A good starting point is to notice that you can witness your thoughts, emotions, and feelings. In fact, from this place of observation, you can witness all activity without attachment. Once you see this, notice how it feels and what you experience. Does it feel stable and peaceful? Does it have any boundaries? What can you discern?

When you have experienced this awareness, you will see that even this observer can be witnessed. Ask yourself, am I watching from personhood, from this place the mind will be involved. Or am I watching from a state of presence? From this place, you can still notice that something is watching even though you feel peaceful. The mind may also tell you at first this is it. Finally notice when you watch from pure awareness, your real nature, you will see there is no other watcher.

Remember that I said that the mind would challenge you, so it is important not to attach to anything that arises from the mind; stay as the witness and do not be caught in any thought traps. Always come back to being the witness, notice the activity of the mind. This will help you to begin to break the habit of following your thoughts, emotions, and feelings, which can overwhelm you once you attach to them. Be sure to include all things generated in mind however the mind perceives them to be: good, bad or indifferent. One day attachment to thought and this habit of following your thoughts will be broken, and you will no longer be interested in or distracted by the endless flow of misguided thinking.

If you start to worry, become frustrated or feel out of balance in any way, know that you have been pulled back into personhood by the mind. When you experience your real nature it feels effortless; if it is causing strain, it is because you are attached to something that is leading you astray. Perhaps your thoughts are saying something like, this is hard, I cannot do it, I do not deserve it, or yes, this may be meant for some people, but not for me.

A step toward awakening is to realize that your operating system, which is your current way of thinking and beliefs, may not be your best ally going forward in creating the life and world you want, and this becomes clear once you start observing your thoughts and beliefs.

Below is the middle verse from a poem called “A Great Wagon,” from the Persian poet Rumi:

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,

there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,

the world is too full to talk about.

Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other”

doesn’t make any sense.

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.

Don’t go back to sleep.

You must ask for what you really want.

Don’t go back to sleep.

People are going back and forth across the doorsill

where the two worlds touch.

The door is round and open.

Don’t go back to sleep.

Follow where I have pointed, and I will meet you in the field that lies beyond the ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, where you can live without fear, worry or stress. May you hear the rumbling and let it go to find your way home. Do not go back to sleep, wake-up, wake-up, wake-up and we shall be in the oneness of pure awareness.

Releasing Our Disharmony

All things connected to personhood come and go because this is how our human existence is experienced. Therefore, it is only natural that you understand that your thoughts also come and go.

Disharmony arises when we put too much attention on pointless thoughts, which when noticed flow continuously throughout the day. Once you put your attention on any random thought, it will carry you away from the present moment to some godforsaken place.

Our beliefs, which are created by this habitual thinking, also distract us from remaining in the present. Do not misunderstand; we need some of this mechanical thinking because it releases us from consciously having to think about routine matters. However, to be continuously carried away from the present moment by something that is fruitless only leads to confusion and suffering.

Becoming aware of this useless thinking is the first clue that will lead you to something better and to what is real and true. If you want to be free in life and peaceful, you need to let these thoughts go and stop following them down the rabbit hole.

The way back home is experienced when we remember not to follow the thoughts, then they no longer hypnotize us, and we can experience our original state. Notice that something can observe these thoughts. Have you ever asked from where are you able to watch these thoughts?

When we believe these worthless thoughts continuously and wholeheartedly, they create a delusional story that feeds the ego and keeps us stuck in life.

This is not something you figure out intellectually, and it does not happen through acquiring knowledge as the mind would have you THINK. To come home again, we must enter the silence of our natural state, the place that never comes and goes. You will know this place because it is always stable, unlike your mind. Is it from this place that you are watching the thoughts?

If you begin today to notice how your thoughts carry you away from the present moment, I promise that you will start to break your lifetime habit of falling down the rabbit hole. The practice of noticing alone will begin to break the obsession and one day awakens you to the beauty of your true nature once again.

In the beginning, the mind will struggle with your attempts to stop following this addictive thinking. Just remember that disturbing emotions, misperceptions, and confusions are not in accord with the nature of reality and your true state, they are signposts that you are on the right path. If you continue, eventually the minds fight to remain in dominant control will begin to weaken and at some point, you will no longer need to pick up every thought as it floats by wanting your attention.

Notice I am not telling you the thoughts will stop, only that you will have no interest in them. You do not have to struggle or get somewhere special, have a unique or powerful experience as the mind thinks to awaken. Just follow this simple practice of letting the thoughts go and see for yourself if it is helpful. You have nothing to lose except perhaps some of your disharmony, and maybe one day you will see that what you seek has been here all along waiting for you to wake up.

Experiencing God

You will never find God by looking out into the world or through the path of knowledge. It is not a matter for the mind. You will never find God thinking that you will only meet him, her, or it after you die. Know too that God does not have human characteristics in its natural state. It cannot be described by words it can only be experienced. Furthermore, you do not have to wait until you die to have this experience.

As long as you attach to personhood and your senses, you will be tricked by the mind and your thoughts, making this experience an elusive one. The mind is a master of distraction. Do you already know this fact?

The world is held captive, not by bad people, but by misguided thinking. However, you do not have to stay hostage to this habitual thinking. You can break free when you want and do not let your thoughts tell you otherwise.

Remember, that many of the beliefs and thoughts that arise in the mind have been instilled in you from a very young age. Therefore, know that it may take some practice to be free. Nevertheless, you cannot fail, because how can you fail to become who you already are, you only need to remember this by experiencing your real nature once again.

In your heart, you know the truth. Take some time to be quiet, drop down from the mind and into the heart of God. I assure you that as long as you do not pick up your thoughts and walk away again, you will remember your real nature.

Keep this as a reminder, you will never find God through your thoughts.

Become the observer of the mind, and retire as its playmate. Use it when you need to, but do not let it continue to use you as it has for so many years. Once you do, the experience of God will find you, because God is not separate from you, and has not forsaken you.

The only thing that separates you from God is a thought and your belief in that thought.

Feelings

Do you think that how you feel is based upon what happens to you? Or do you have a choice in how you feel no matter what happens to you?

What would it be like if instead of allowing what happens to you to dictate how you feel, that you could make a choice of how you want to feel about anything that happens to you? I am here to tell you that this is not only possible, but that is how things are supposed to be. Your feelings do not control you unless you let them.

In truth, you can change your feelings any time you want with a little desire, some intention, and a keenly developed awareness. The next time you find your feelings taking control or out of control take a deep breath and remember that you can feel different if you choose too.

Release Your Suffering

Our resistance to yesterday’s pain and the unwillingness to feel it is why we suffer today. Facing our fear and feeling the hurt, frees the body and mind from the prison of our own making. Finally, we can connect to the oneness of all things and reveal the eternal beauty of our spirit to those around us, and the world.

The Key to Freedom

“USE AWARENESS AND NOT YOUR THOUGHTS TO UNCOVER YOUR TRUE-SELF.”

Why, because the False-Self, which is the person you have become through conditioning will use your thoughts to keep you stuck in life. It often lies when telling you who you are. It will talk down to you making you feel less than or embellish the truth to make you think you are better than the next person.

It uses your thoughts to control you and keep you subservient. However, with awareness, you can expose this liar to the light of truth; once again connecting with who you really are, the True-Self.

When the False-Self is observed or brought into the light, it loses its covert and deceptive grasp on your life, and then you will experience the genuine freedom that is possible by releasing the authentic you back into the world.