Just before the opening of the event we walked on the beach. It felt so good to just feel the sun and begin to get in a space that welcomes new experiences. We strolled for a bit before I decided to sit down and take it all in. My partner continued on.
Once seated, I discovered what had energetically pulled me; why I had stopped walking. There was a lone seal. It had recently suffered significant injuries and appeared thin. He struggled to move along on the sand. The water was slowly coming in. The seal worked hard to stay ahead of the rising tide.
More people stopped. Someone put a call into a marine life rescue center. The dark gray and white water neared the seal as we made eye contact . This image has stayed with me.
As we progress on the spiritual path, we gradually learn that sacred Source energy is present in every single experience. It’s in the goose bumps and tears of blissful connection to something greater as well as in the sudden harsh twist of fate that stops you in your tracks and diverts you to a new destination. It’s the hard stuff as well as the celestial celebration. It’s all divinely orchestrated Grace, designed to move you ever closer to complete alignment with your soul. It opens you to seeing that God/dess is present in absolutely every situation and scenario, in every person and event.
When you take birth, you are extremely vulnerable. You’re at the whim of all the forces around you, so what you develop through socialization are techniques for your own survival as a separate entity. That survival comes from creating boundaries so that you don’t just get wiped out. Those boundaries as a little person, as a child, are enlarged by being a member of your family, where you have allies, and are now a part of a group. It becomes, “I have people that are gonna help me. We’ve agreed to help one another.” You know, not all the time, but I’m thinking more in physical proximity than in a psychological sense.
So we grow up feeling that our identity groups gives us power, while it’s also securing our separateness. You can see this within the bigger system of nation-states where there are these huge egos. What’s very interesting historically at the moment we’re living in, is that the sometimes multicultural economic structures are becoming more powerful than the nation-states. The nation-states are in deep doodoo economically, and the industries are doing great. So that the reference to, “I am an American,” while it’s great, is no longer absolute salvation for you, because there’s a whole other ball game playing here.
Now, the more insecure people get, the more they’re frightened by existing conditions.
You have been given a great luxury in this society. You don’t have a fixed identity that you’re locked into, because of caste or because of economics or because of anything. You’re free to ask the question, “What do I want to do?” At first, what people do is they say, “Oh, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna…” and then after a while, you realize that perhaps what the game is about is listening and tuning into who you are on a deeper level, and what this birth is about, and your work of life.
Most people in most societies in the history of the world have never had that option to ask, “What do I want to do?” They’ve gone through their life with the feeling of, “If only I didn’t have this, I could be free.” Then you are free, and now it has to come from a different place in you…how to find the way in your life and you go through the period of, “What do I want? What do I desire?” and then you begin to see the kind of hollowness of it. It doesn’t quite resonate deeply enough in your being.
A lot of very wealthy people in this society, that’s where they live; desperately wanting to have something that will justify their existence.
I was raised by a Jewish middle class woman, my mother, who was very busy being just that, very concerned with propriety, and the appropriate food and the way to raise her children and I reacted as an appropriately neurotic Jewish son. And then my mother died and I met my guru, Maharaji. He spoke about my mother and he said, “You know, she’s a great saint.” At the moment that he said that, my entire conception of her shifted and I saw the few moments when she and I had met as spiritual entities, and suddenly the whole way we had interacted as mother and son in this particular round fell into the background, a reversal.
Your daily life is full of this and that, it’s full of pulls and pushes, it’s full of clinging of mind. You are literally at the mercy of your senses and your thoughts. And those senses and thoughts just keep recreating your mold or model or view of the reality.
It keeps reassuring you that you’ve got it all pegged, that’s just the way it is. But every one of you had moments when you broke through, as if you stuck your nose through the veil and you saw that wasn’t who you were at all. But then because most of you had no context in which to put it, you pulled back out of fear. You reassured yourself that the world was the way it was and you referred to those experiences as hallucinations, “I went crazy, it was far out,” as something discontinuous with your daily life.
In the beginning, when I used to sit by the bed of dying AIDS patients, I’d come to their door in my usual, “Aren’t I holy” disguise to see this person. I was visiting the moribund, you know, but then I realized that I was depriving them of what human hearts can do for one another. So then I became like Superman going into the telephone booth as I grasped the doorknob of their room, galumphing along. Now when I put my hand on their doorknob I immediately become a soul. I start to shift my identity, or perspective in myself, into the soul.
You see, I have learned that you can’t see a soul until you can be one.
At this time in our conscious evolution and spiritual/physical/Cosmic alchemy, we stand on the event horizon of Truth, mystery and deep fusion of great possibility that is embedded within our cellular and DNA already. There is no striving or manifesting of such for it is who we are and part of us inextricably.
When the Buddha was dying, he gave a final message to his beloved attendant Ananda, and to generations to come: “Be a lamp unto yourself, be a refuge to yourself. Take yourself to no external refuge.”
In his last words, the Buddha was urging us to see this truth: although you may search the world over trying to find it, your ultimate refuge is none other than your own being.
There’s a bright light of awareness that shines through each of us and guides us home, and we’re never separated from this luminous awareness, any more than waves are separated from ocean. Even when we feel most ashamed or lonely, reactive or confused, we’re never actually apart from the awakened state of our heart-mind.
This is a powerful and beautiful teaching. The Buddha was essentially saying: I’m not the only one with this light; all ordinary humans have this essential wakefulness, too. In fact, this open, loving awareness is our deepest nature. We don’t need to get somewhere or change ourselves: our true refuge is what we are. Trusting this opens us to the blessings of freedom.
Buddhist monk, Sayadaw U. Pandita describes these blessings in a wonderful way: A heart that is ready for anything. When we trust that we are the ocean, we are not afraid of the waves. We have confidence that whatever arises is workable. We don’t have to lose our life in preparation. We don’t have to defend against what’s next. We are free to live fully with what is here, and to respond wisely.
At any time you can look at a thought form and get involved in the content of the thought. In therapy you start to get psycho-dynamic. You can say, “Ok, now I’m gonna look at the mechanics of my mind,” in which case every thought is just another thought. It’s not some special thought or the deepest thought. So I would take the kind of internalized feeling and thought, and I would bring my awareness back to my breath, and then the thought would come again, and I would go back to my breath, and then the thought would come again, and again I would come back to my breath, until eventually I started to appreciate it as just another thought, because at this point I am treating it like that, rather than like it is ‘real’ or ‘solid.’
Those of us who have been on a spiritual path for twenty or thirty years know firsthand that there is no fast track to enlightenment. No door that can be forced open by sheer will power, on the other side of which God sits waiting. No treasure chest that a special secret code can spring open. Detective work and safe-cracking tools will get you nowhere, except back to where you started from, learning again and again to sit quietly and open your heart to the God within. Our lifetime search brings us home to ourselves, realizing at last that God is everywhere and everything, including us.
The ego is the aspect of the mind that feels personal. It emanates the boundary of "me" and "I." We can observe in a newborn child that the personal sense of "me" has not yet crystallized. A newborn may be crying loudly one moment and perfectly content the next. States of mind seem to come and go without a central identity holding on to experiences.
By the age of two, toddlers start to use words like "me." "Mine" can become a favorite word in this stage. This is a sign of the ego crystallizing. The greater mind is creating a demarcation within itself, a sub-identity, which we have given a first and last name.
Guess who came to dinner last week? Oprah Winfrey.
When I was at Oprah’s estate in Montecito to film my Super Soul Sunday show, I told Oprah that I wanted to introduce her to some other people who lived in the Santa Barbara area.
She gave me her phone number and said, “Great. Invite me to dinner.”
As each one of my three daughters comes home for the Thanksgiving vacation holiday, my heart expands and I am overcome by all of the amazing gifts that I have in my life. As I wrote on the dedication page of my new book The Integrity Advantage, I am blessed to have amazing women in my life to learn from, laugh with, and lean on. In particular, I publicly acknowledged my mother, my three daughters, and of course Debbie Ford. A woman of courage, brilliance, and faith, Debbie radically shifted so many people's lives - especially mine. Through her teachings, wisdom, honesty, and vision, Debbie gave and keeps giving me - and all of us - the gift of liberation.
As we enter the holiday season and this sacred time of introspection, Debbie's words ring in my ear. Especially around this time of year, she used to remind us that:
"When you're in the presence of your gifts,
you naturally feel gratitude."
If you want to live a life beyond your wildest dreams, if you want to turn the ordinary into extraordinary and find the miracles that are dancing in front of you in every moment then start with the practice of cultivating gratitude.
So as we enter this week of Thanksgiving, I want to share with you a powerful Gratitude Ritual Debbie created. (See below.) I hope you take the time to do it. Especially during this season when we all literally and figuratively have so much on our plates, it is important to go within and connect with your blessings.
And as I turn my attention to what I am most appreciative for this week, I want you to know that I am grateful for YOU. I know that there is no greater honor than to be welcomed into your life and share in your emotional and spiritual evolution. I appreciate your openness and willingness to let me be a part of your process!
At a public lecture, a psychology professor was reported to say, “Until you are fifty, you won’t know who you are.” This seems overly optimistic, because much more than maturity is involved in discovering who we are; in fact, much more than psychology is involved. To answer, “Who am I?” requires us to take a stand about reality itself, in every possible aspect.
In high school and college English classes it’s popular to assign an essay on the theme of appearance versus reality, which can be applied to any piece of literature. As applied to Hamlet, for example, almost the whole play is about figuring out what is real and what is illusory. Is the ghost of Hamlet’s father real, and if so, is he telling the truth about his murder? The new king, Claudius, who has married Hamlet’s mother, appears friendly and caring about his stepson’s welfare at the beginning, but this sham is uncovered as guilt and revenge take their course. There are more tangles of appearance versus reality around every corner, such as the critical question of whether Hamlet is mad or sane.
“Souls are begging to come here,” Panache Desai has said, “this is the Las Vegas of the Universe.”
A lot of people don’t feel that way, but it’s a perspective worth noting because it directs us straight to Joy.
Despite how today is going, you cannot deny the evidence of how lucky - fortuitous, destined - you are to be here at all. For that perspective I’ll mention a couple of aspects of our Divine Luck.
“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive - to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” ---Marcus Aurelius
I spend way too many hours juggling mountains of perceived responsibilities that I willingly place on my own shoulders in an all-out effort to be the good wife, a compassionate and nurturing mother, a healthy, thriving woman, a loyal and trustworthy best friend, a voracious student of life and an ever-evolving spiritual being. It’s a big job with many hats and one that I needlessly complicate with an outdated belief that I have to “do it all” in order to be worthy of the love of myself, my family and the life that I’m living.
There are more nights than I care to admit when I wake up at 3 am under the crushing shame, regret and sadness that I fell short of these lofty responsibilities. I yelled at the kids again… I avoided paying the bills... I neglected my spiritual practice… I forgot to return my friends call for the third time…I was too tired to make my husband dinner… I was so distracted that I ran the car into the stone gate as I pulled into the house. (I used to tell my husband that the car was hit at the store while I was buying groceries, but after the third time, he suggested I update my story or find a safer place to do the shopping!)
I struggle to reconcile the qualities that I need to hone in order to “be love, evolve spiritually and be the best that I can be.” After all, I’m 60 now, and the sands in the hourglass of my life are hauntingly deeper and I so want to get it right while there is still time.
But then I was deeply struck with shattering clarity by author, Anita Moorjani’s newest book, “What if THIS is Heaven?” an exploration of how our cultural myths prevent us from experiencing Heaven on Earth. Moorjani is the New York Times best-selling author of Dying to Be Me, an inspiring account of her nearly four-year battle with cancer that culminated in a moving near-death experience which vastly changed her perspective on life.
Many, perhaps most, people would like to change their lives. They’d like the good parts to get better and the bad parts to go away. How you define these good and bad parts are entirely individual, reflecting the infinite diversity of human life. But consider yourself and take stock of where you are now. No one can do this realistically without wanting something to change. Yet after a certain point most people realize that change is difficult, and the path to finding a better life is twisted and rocky. A certain percentage will simply decide that “people don’t change” is a fact of life. If you are a hard realist, you give up trying to change yourself, much less anyone else.
With this background, it seems strange that so many people hold out the goal of total transformation, and in fact every spiritual tradition supports this, whether through redemption, salvation, the promise of heaven, enlightenment, or Nirvana. Total transformation goes far beyond making some changes in your life. If limited change is difficult, isn’t it folly to hold out for complete change?
Yes and no. The way that people struggle to break bad habits, improve their relationships, stop feeling anxious and insecure, and hoping to stay afloat financially is where change often proves futile. The mind struggling with itself can’t help but wind up with more struggle. In the world’s wisdom traditions, there is also a deep analysis of the ego, the isolated individual “I,” which by its nature is constantly presenting demands that never get satisfied, not to mention that the isolated “I” is by its very nature small and insecure. So relying on your ego or the restless mind doesn’t lead to meaningful personal change.
My mother died in very early February of 1967, and I was at her hospital bedside. I had been sitting there quietly while she was sort of resting, I was just being spacious and aware, and noticing what was happening. As the relatives, doctors, and nurses came into the hospital room, one woman came in and said, “The doctors just told me there’s a new medication that we think will help,” and I just listened to the cheery tone of the nurse, realizing my mother was being surrounded by a conspiracy of denial.
At one point after this, when nobody was in the room, my mother turned to me and she said, “Rich, I think I’m gonna die,” and I said, “Yeah, I think so too.”
Can you imagine what that must have been for her to have somebody just affirming what she knew, but couldn’t get anybody in the whole situation to validate for her?
She asked, “What do you think it’s gonna be like, Rich?”
To be enlightened has many positive connotations and no negative ones. Therefore, you’d think that more people would pursue it—but they don’t. The first obstacle is the lack of a clear definition. What does it actually mean to be enlightened? The simplest definition, which would clear away a lot of confusion is “waking up.” To become enlightened is to move out of a state of confusion and conflict, anxiety and depression, or simply dull routine—whatever you associate with “being asleep.”
Waking up is a metaphor, since most people already consider themselves awake in the ordinary sense of not being asleep in bed. But it’s a powerful metaphor, pointing toward a state of awareness better than what we usually experience. Also, the metaphor is simple. It implies that you don’t have to be a monk sitting in a Himalayan cave practicing intense spiritual practices. Waking up sounds a lot like enlightenment for all. This in fact is true.
When you are learning to tap into your intuition and the Spirit world around you, it is important to understand how the messages will show up. Spirit will send you a message, and your mind and body will begin to experience mental impressions: visions, sounds, feelings, thoughts, and even smells. These are collectively referred to as “the Clairs”:
You’re probably going to notice that your psychic information is delivered in one or two ways most often. To help you determine what your dominant Clairs are, let’s begin by explaining what they are and how they might show up in psychics or mediums, and of course your own life.