The bitter sting of autumn mist graced the beaches of Northern California. Against my feet the course gray sand was wetted by the unpredictable rhythm of crashing waves. The icy cold seawater engulfed my ankles, leaving a film of white foam on my skin. Thirty meters away, a seal bobbed beyond the wave break, staring intently as if to close the gap between ocean and land. For a moment, I forgot my life and what I knew about myself. I was just a being in a foreign landscape with nowhere to be but there.
This weekend, I took the first vacation I have taken since I launched my career five years ago. The coastline gave me ample energy to reflect. This year has been a real challenge to my authenticity movement. As many of you know, when I started into this public role, I vowed to tear down the velvet curtain separating my public image as a spiritual teacher from my private life. I knew that doing this would demolish the pedestal that spiritual teachers sit on in people’s minds. I also knew that this pedestal separates people from their own divinity and so it should be torn down. If you cannot relate to a spiritual teacher because their public façade reflects only enlightenment, suddenly that teacher is better than you, different to you and “more spiritual”. This prevents you from recognizing your own divinity and also encourages you to deny, reject and disown your humanity. Privacy, when it is done to hide aspects of your life from view is a painful state that perpetuates shame. So, I knew I would have to expose both the humanity and the divinity in me. And it has worked. It has done exactly what I knew it would. But it has also brought me conflict.
Some people still want a “perfect guru” to follow. Some people see my humanity and forget who I really am. I certainly do not enjoy the same degree of reverence and respect that has been afforded to other spiritual teachers as a result of it. Some people find it impossible to embrace my material because they cannot rectify the humanity with the divinity in me. Some people even use the information I willingly give, against me. What I am doing is highly controversial. I was married to a man who thought it did not serve me at all. It was a constant source of contention between us. He called me an exhibitionist and told me it was an embarrassing aspect of me. I had to keep everything related to my relationship with him private. I felt shamed for what I felt deep in every cell of my body was right. I kept running into other spiritual teachers who would commend me on my bravery. They instantly ‘got’ what I was doing but then they’d say they didn’t know if it was wise in the long run and that they were unwilling to do the same. They explained that they were committed to their message and so anything that could potentially undermine the message or peoples ability/willingness to take in that message was to be avoided… including transparency. In the face of all of this, I really started to doubt myself. I thought to myself, “either I am a pioneer who is creating a new paradigm or I am actively committing career suicide”.
I do not live in an ashram. I have not taken myself out of the world. I live in the world, with all of its drama and all of its unconsciousness. As such, my life is not always peaceful. There is no way to know beyond a shadow of a doubt if what I am doing and why I am doing it will be understood by people. Not all people are ready for the sacrifice of the guru image. Not all gurus are ready for it either. It is a challenging task for the guru’s ego (including my own) to lose idolization, respect and reverence and still try to teach as an expert in the public sphere. I can feel my own ego react when people feel free to come up to me at workshops to give me personal advice. At my last workshop, a woman came up to me and said in a mothering tone, “I hope you take some time to get to know this new guy you’re with and don’t get married right away again. These things take time.” I said nothing, but internally I thought to myself, “This is the unfortunate consequence of the authenticity movement, people completely forget they are talking to a spiritual teacher”. Think about it… This is something no one would dare think about or much less say to a traditional guru or spiritual teacher who only exposes their divinity to disciples and thus is perceived as being perfect.
But upon reflection, I find I am still committed to my original mission and movement. I am still willing to face the consequences of tearing down the velvet curtain between my public image and private life so that they may be one and the same. This is the ultimate integration. I still believe in transparency. I still feel that this transparency will show people how to bridge the gap between their own spirituality and humanity. And so I’m going to continue to be transparent. This will force those who are ready for it, to embrace both my humanity and my divinity. And this in turn will enable them to embrace both the humanity and the divinity in themselves. The authenticity movement is alive and well. So… on to transparency.
This weekend made me think...
Children are not born knowing how a relationship or marriage SHOULD go. They naturally embrace situations or reject them according to the reaction of their parents. We are the ones that set them up to think that divorce means they are losing something or that marriage should last forever or that there is something wrong about being with someone new. We create the duress they experience in such situations. We think their negative reaction to the situation has to do with them, when it has to do with us and the picture we are painting for them (in other words the meaning we are teaching them to assign to the experience). This is not the way it has to go.
I lead a very non-traditional life. I lead it by choice. Part of this non-traditional life is that I still live with an ex fiancé (Blake) and have a vey close friendship with my ex husband (Mark) and the two of them are now so close, after 8 years of living together, that they see each other as brothers.
The ego does not have to rule relationships. It takes a high degree of consciousness and willingness to face painful emotions but I believe humanity is ready to evolve beyond the limits of the ego and what the ego says is normal. It may be normal to hate your ex spouse and normal to separate for good and not be friends. But ‘normal’ is no measure of healthy.
My ex husband, Mark was the child of a nasty divorce where his parents put all the kids in the middle and vented about one another to him and his 4 sisters. When Mark and I divorced, we both agreed that the most important thing was for our son, Winter to not feel like he was loosing anything. And neither of us wanted to trade our son back and forth. So, Mark decided to stay on as part of the community. We both faced our shadows together instead of apart. Believe it or not, we actually supported each other through the divorce. And now, three years later, we get along even better than when we were married. Contrary to some people’s assumptions about me and my ex parters, I do not continue to have sex with ex partners once we split up. I am not sexually polyamorous (nor is anyone else in the intentional community for that matter). I am sexually monogamous. But Mark and I play beach volleyball together and consider each other family and our son has not felt the impact of the divorce. We wanted to teach him that love does not have to turn to hate. Now, we are both full of gratitude that we chose each other to have a child with because we can rely 100 percent on the fact that we will be aligned when it comes to our son. Mark is now in love with one of my best friends. I couldn’t have hand selected someone more perfect for him and more beloved by me if I tried. We have shown our son that love can naturally evolve and even if you’re not romantically involved anymore, you don’t have to get rid of someone; they can simply play a different role in your life. If you try everything to make it work as partners and it doesn’t work long term, there is no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Love is about inclusion. Inclusion is the key to making relationships between people work. If people are willing and inclusion is the creed, it is possible to embrace new partners and new lifestyle arrangements.
If I could go back in time to when I was young to give myself advice, I’d tell myself that life is messy and that the cleaner you try to make it, the messier it gets. It seems like the older you get, the more baggage comes with relationships. Part of me longs for the fantasy we’re sold in fairy tales where the prince meets the princess and lives happily ever after. Snow white never had to worry about the prince’s ex wife and children accepting or rejecting her. She certainly wasn’t bringing her own son from a previous marriage and 4 other intentional community members to the castle when she moved in. That being said, if we weren’t trying to make it all perfect according to the way we think it ‘should be’ in our heads, life wouldn’t feel so impossibly complex. We wouldn’t feel like we’ve made all kinds of mistakes so the shame would not follow us like a shadow everywhere we go. There wouldn’t be regrets.
Anyway, we I spent the weekend at a small farm in Napa Valley. I was awoken by the sound of roosters crowing at the dawn, just like they used to in my childhood. We slept in the top of a barn that had been converted into an apartment with the smell of hay lingering on the wood siding. We drove to the coastline to sit in the sunshine and breathe in the smell of the ocean. We had a couple’s massage at a spa. We drove through vineyards. We ate amazing food. We listened to sad songs, the kind that give you permission to feel the way you really feel. We didn’t force ourselves out of bed according to a schedule. Both of us just let go… Together. It was total reprieve.
I am feeling particularly called to teach people how to consciously allow relationships to evolve. I want to end the old paradigm of how we deal with relationships. I want to help people to release their attachments to the idea of how relationships should be. I want to expand people’s consciousness so that they may have access to the possibility of inclusion.
My life has been blessed by the fact that many of my romantic relationships have evolved into deep, lifelong friendships. My life has been blessed by the fact that I have embraced many of my partner’s ex partners. My life has been blessed by the fact that I understand that love is about inclusion and that inclusion dispels jealousy. I want to give that blessing to other people. Divorce does not have to mean two people are separated from one another. Separation is unnatural in a universe that is innately one. Once you love someone, you include them as yourself. To separate from them is to try to separate from part of yourself. This is why it hurts so bad. It’s as if you’re cutting part of yourself off. And you feel the severing of the separation in your heart. This is not necessary. Given enough desire and conscious intention on both sides, it does not need to happen at all. I want people to experience what this new form of relationships is like. I want to help people to have conscious relationships. I can feel that in the future, a whole section of my teachings will be about this specifically. If I did not experience the pitfalls and pain of relationships firsthand and if I did not experience the ‘problems’ firsthand, I’d never have recognized this aspect of my purpose here on earth. This is a genuine need within society. A need I plan to meet. We need to learn how to have conscious relationships. But to do this, we have to let go of our pre-conception of how relationships should be.
When a child is born, the child has no thoughts of suppressing itself. The child has no secrets from the world. The child does not seclude itself or exclude people from its heart. The child is honest. The child is like this because it is the most natural way to be. The child follows it’s emotional guidance system up until the point where it is taught not to. When you follow your emotional guidance system, what you find is that the state of constriction is painful and therefore, it is not natural. What you find is that the state of openness feels emotionally good and therefore, it is our natural state.
We can think of constriction as the opposite of openness. But a whole range of things fall under the category of constriction. We are constricted when we keep secrets. We are constricted when we “tone ourselves down” in order to be accepted by others. We are constricted when we do things we do not want to do. We are constricted when we close our minds and are no longer open to new ideas and new possibilities of truth. We are constricted when we are not honest. We are constricted when we do not share. We are constricted when we isolate ourselves, we are constricted when we see love in terms of finite quantity and so we reserve it for only some people and not others. We are constricted when we do not allow ourselves to admit to and go after our needs and our wants. We are constricted when we do not express our emotions. We are constricted when we try to fit ourselves into a life dictated by society, instead of carving out a life to fit ourselves. These are just a few examples of thousands of examples of constriction. To live in a state of constriction, is to not let the light of your being shine through your life. A person cannot live like that for long. In fact, living in any way that is constrictive, gives rise to illness quickly. First, your emotions will suffer. Your life will cease to be enjoyable. Then, your body will suffer. The part of the body that perhaps suffers the most from constriction is the heart and lungs. Many of the heart and breathing problems that we experience, are ultimately the result of restricting the self. But constriction can also give rise to a whole host of other ailments such as, stomach disorders, acne, allergies, eating disorders, arthritis, baldness, blood pressure problems, bowel problems, yeast infections, varicose veins, cancers and tumors, speech problems, prostate problems, ovarian problems, and joint problems to name a few.
At some point in our lives, we begin to think that there are consequences for being ourselves and that there are consequences for being open. We begin to fear exposure. We start to feel like victims and the only power we feel we possess, is the power called “self containment”. We feel powerless to just about everything in our lives except for our own choice to hide or expose ourselves. We chose to hide ourselves instead of expose ourselves and sometimes we hide ourselves from ourselves. Doing this allows us to exercise our own sense of free will and it helps us to feel like we are not powerless victims. But it is a decision that will kill us in the end. You came to this earth with the intention of becoming the full expression of your true self, unrestricted. You came here specifically to expose all of yourself. To contain yourself and not expose yourself is to defy and deny the purpose for your life. And so, we must learn to exercise our free will by choosing to expose ourselves and be open instead.
When we keep secrets, we feel powerful instead of powerless. But to be secretive is to be exclusionary in a universe that is more than all-inclusive; it is a universe that is ONE. Your secrets do not actually belong to you in a universe that is all one. Your life is everyone’s life. Your stories are everyone’s stories. Your pain is everyone’s pain; your joy is everyone’s joy. To be exclusive, is to go against the flow of this universe that we live in. When we are not open, and honest and do not share, it makes us feel safe instead of unsafe. People think they are safe when they are invisible. But to live your life at the mercy of fear is no kind of life. It is a half-life. We may find that we fear what others will think of us or we may fear that what we tell others will be used against us. But if you were comfortable with being yourself fully, you would not care what they think about you. It would not be possible to be embarrassed if you had not first been indoctrinated with the idea that there is a good way to be and a bad way to be. People, who fear exposing themselves, without exception, were raised in environments where there was a heavy atmosphere of shame. It would be impossible to be embarrassed if you had not first become ashamed of yourself. And a person only becomes ashamed of himself or herself if someone gives them the idea that they should be. As our spiritual practice progresses, we become more aware that anything other people could do to us as a result of us being open is not as bad as the pain and consequence of constriction we impose on ourselves
Some people feel as if being open and sharing themselves with the world completely, is a tasteless form of public exhibitionism and deeper than that, it is a form of narcissism. This is a profoundly out of alignment point of view from source perspective seeing as how, you came to this planet in the first place to uniquely express yourself fully. The only way we can achieve self-awareness, is if we are open with ourselves and if we open ourselves to the world. What’s more than that, our only way to learn from one another is to express ourselves. People who hold this belief, were raised in environments where the only socially acceptable way of being was conformity to a social ideal. Social etiquette often calls for extreme measures of self-constriction. But we need to understand that if we have an idea of how someone should behave, we are letting our standards be dictated by someone who came before us. Someone who had power over others and who decided that if others behaved in a certain way, it would make them feel happier. It is a form of social control that we have bought into and that we now reinforce. We need to ask ourselves, who decided what was tasteful and what was tasteless? And why? Why is public exhibitionism not ok, especially in a universe where we came into physical life specifically to be the unrestricted expression of our true selves? Why should we act in a certain way? And who decides what that certain acceptable way to act is?
The idea that sharing oneself completely is a form of narcissism is especially sad. You came into this life as one person, and that is you. In physical life, you are restricted to that one perspective. And the only relationship that is guaranteed for the rest of your life is your relationship with yourself. You will be with you until your dying day. This means, you are the love of your life. Most of us just don’t know it yet. The idea that it is virtuous to forget yourself and that it is selfish to care about yourself and to think highly enough of yourself enough to be driven to show yourself off to others, is an idea that is not backed by source itself. It is an idea that was imposed on us by other people who believed in the virtue of selflessness and who rejected us for who we were. These people believed in humility. A kind of humility called lethal humility. They spent a good deal of time trying to make us believe that to be selfish was to be bad and that to be bad was to not deserve love. So our only way to get love was to deny ourselves and restrict ourselves and to become constricted. The bottom line is, to live a life that is in alignment; that enables us to stay emotionally and physically healthy and to love ourselves, openness is the order of the day.
We have a choice at all moments of the day; the choice is to be open or to be closed. This is why one of the most beneficial exercises you can do is to ask yourself throughout the day “How am I being closed right now? How am I constricting myself or letting myself be constricted?” and make the necessary changes in favor of openness based on the answer you receive. A state of openness is the real state of freedom. Everything we do is a creative expression of our inner selves. To be constricted in any way, is to prevent the energy of our being from flowing through our bodies and into our lives. If we are committed to the spiritual path, we will eventually be challenged to commit ourselves to the state of openness. I for one am willing to take on that challenge… Are you?