When I left Park City 2 mornings ago, the snow crystals glittered. There was a giant sundog hovering in the air. The winter sky looked like an aura belonging to the mountains. I love the wintertime so much. And nothing is better than December. Christmas used to be Saturnalia. Usually, when holidays are taken over by evolving culture and big business, I am sad at what was lost. The old ways of celebrating are often preferable to the new. But I love what has been done with Christmas. I prefer it to the pagan holiday in fact. I love the way the cold air greets the cinnamon and pine scent in the newly decorated shops that line the streets. I love that I can blast Christmas music all day for a month. I love the sentimental way the familiar songs make me feel. I love the way the Christmas lights bring warmth to everything they touch. I am in love with Christmas.
I wish I didn’t have to leave the snow and the Christmas spirit of my little mountain town. But this week, I have things to do here in San Diego, California. I have been to San Diego several times before, but never to hold a workshop like I did on this trip. I do not have another one of these workshops (or any public appearances for that matter) scheduled until I go to New York on the first weekend of March. At that time, I am co hosting a workshop at Kripalu with fellow speakers Gabrielle Bernstein and Laura Berman. I wanted to give myself some time with nothing scheduled between now and then as a kind of open canvass so that I can feel the artistic energy flow through me into new creations during that time. I’m in sore need of it. An artist, like myself, needs ‘empty space’ to create. My life over the last year has allowed for no space. All my energies have been dedicated to details and external requirements. All of the empty space that I usually create into has been filled with other things.
Right next to the Mexican Border, nearly 2 hours drive south of Los Angeles, San Diego dominates the southernmost Californian coast line. The city itself is a sprawl across several hills and mesas. The canyons between them feel like crooked dividers, organizing the city into various sections, each one with its own unique feel. The chaparral gives the land an arid vibration in stark contrast to the ocean itself.
I am tempted to say that the dominant negative vibration of San Diego is: false depth. But I think false depth is in fact the collective dominant negative vibration of California as a state in general… A shallowness that is covert because it belongs to people who are in a kind of denial about being ‘deep’, when they are not. I love California. It’s one of my favorite states in the nation. But here, awareness does not run deep for most people. Spiritual practice is treated more like a pair of lulu lemon pants. Here, it is a trend that serves to decorate the ego.
As for San Diego itself, the dominant negative vibration is: Scheme. A scheme is essentially a devious tactic (plan) with an aim that is irreverent to conscience. In San Diego, this vibration influences everything from corporations to individuals. Walking around here, it is impossible to escape the incredible presence of military here. In San Diego, the military is not necessarily visible everywhere. It is not a like an “occupied” country where soldiers roam the streets with machine guns. Instead, it is like they are omnipresent. You can feel them like a looming, unseen presence in the air and deep underground and underneath the surface of the water. It is not comforting. It has the exact same energy as a coup. I find it very hard to sleep at night with this energy going on.
It is the military omnipresence that originally created the dominant vibration of scheme here. But like anything, those who settled here were influenced by that energetic atmosphere and began creating tactics for business. Bathing in this vibration, a corporation or a person is influenced to begin scheming. And in San Diego, it often feels like an interaction is nothing more than an opportunity for someone to use you as part of their strategy to achieve a specific end that they have in mind.
Dovetailing off of the dominant negative vibration in San Diego, The dominant positive vibration is: Self Enterprise. The people of San Diego are obsessed with feeling successful and with being seen as a success. This drives them to figure out how to make a personal success out of themselves. Also, because of the dominant negative vibration of scheming, they often figure out very creative ways to do it. For the sake of self-success, many here dedicate themselves to an undertaking, project or venture regardless of the difficulty and effort it may take to do so. Because of this, they are full of life and forward movement.
Entrepreneurship is one of my favorite vibrations. But a genuine entrepreneur is someone who lives for the feeling of designing, launching and running a new venture. Thus, once a venture ceases to feel new, a genuine entrepreneur will feel empty and decide to start up a brand new venture. In San Diego, the entrepreneurship has a different aim than new venture for the sake of new venture. It is new venture for the sake of personal success. And that personal success is all about what you have that others don’t, what you can do that others can’t, accomplishments you can wear like medals and what elite people you know that other people don't know.
Still, self-enterprise is inspired. I love a demographic of people who are determined to be limited by nothing and no one. In many parts of the globe, people are in the prison of their own circumstances. They are resigned to the jail bars of them. Silently resenting their lives as they begrudgingly take the only opportunity they think is available to them. But in San Diego in general, even those who are displeased with the circumstances of their lives, are not resigned to them. They use opportunities as a springboard to the next opportunity and you can feel all of their effort going into whatever undertaking they have in their lives.
I love California audiences. For some reason, they are the most engaged. You can feel them fully invested in what is happening on stage and it is wonderful to be on stage with that kind of focus being offered to what is happening. I had fun on stage yesterday. It felt like a genuine co-creation. But looking at the audience, I could feel the collective dread about the upcoming holiday.
This time of year, with so much holiday emphasis on ‘family’, some people are lucky to feel that they belong. Others of us on the other hand (most Teal Tribers) struggle to feel belonging. The holidays are more of a reminder in fact about how we don’t belong and about how different we are to everyone. The holidays make us feel more separate and alone than we already do feel. For that reason, I want to remind you that in order to be able to comprehend of yourself as a unique thing within any system, you have to perceive yourself and then define yourself as different to other things within that system. You cannot conceptualize of what you are unless you conceptualize of what you are not. When you conceive of yourself as a separate self, you are immediately not a part of anything that you define as “other”. This is the true origin of loneliness.
Have mercy on yourself because your mind naturally spends its time comparing. All of our minds do this. There’s nothing wrong with yours. It’s just that the mind is often at the mercy of the ego and the ego will not sop doing this all day every day because if it does, it will die. The ego (self) exists only in comparison to something it sees as “other”. The ego leads us only towards things that it identifies with and pushes against things it does not identify with.
What happens when you have this sense of identity that exists only because of comparison and so many of the things that you compare yourself to around you, you see as “not you” or “different from you”? Belonging goes right out the window. And eventually, if the ego identifies with being different to everyone around you, the ego has nothing else to identify with other than not belonging in and of itself. Not belonging becomes part of your identity.
Essentially, your ability to feel belonging and oneness and unity is dependent upon your capacity to perceive similarities. So, this Christmas season, here is the antidote to the feeling of not belonging:
Notice that without even trying, your mind is scanning your reality for differences all day every day. This takes no effort. It is a subconscious process. Consciously switch your focus from noticing the differences to looking for and acknowledging the similarities between yourself and other things. You have probably heard that if you really want to dissolve the ego, all you need do is to drop comparing. But that is easier said than done and you will be working against your ego to do it. So instead, I suggest using your ego to your advantage. Use it as the comparison tool that it is to seek and find similarities.
Pretend to be a scientist that is intensely engaged in a project. Find as many similarities as you can with everything in existence. For example, find similarities between yourself and inanimate objects; find similarities between yourself and your friends. Find similarities between one animal and another. Find similarities between yourself and your food. Find similarities between one person and another person. Find similarities between yourself and the things and people that you feel different from. When you feel ready, find the similarities between yourself and the people you hate the most… The people you feel you do not belong with. Pay attention to the way you feel. Notice that you start to feel like you belong. Notice that the resistance melts away and notice how life begins to feel connected and ‘right’. Live life with the mantra “How am I the same as X?”
To feel separate is to suffer. The ego thinks this is survival, but we really must ask ourselves if the survival of a sense of self is worth the suffering that comes with it. If not, our practice must be consciously looking for similarities.