Be Alive as Gifting

I am sitting in my home this weekend, facing myself. I’m uncomfortable, I’m tired, and I’m in pain. I wanted to say that I am hiding from the world – but the more accurate statement is that I am hiding from myself.  

David Deida summarizes this well in the final chapter of his book Blue Truth, Be Alive as Gifting:

If your true gifts have become lost in the struggle with life’s demands, then you are in pain. Ungiven gifts hurt. Unoffered love sears the heart. Unexpressed insight sucks the strength from your bones.

I know I write this not just for myself but also for many of us. I have been sharing my personal journey with many of you, and I keep hearing –  yes, me too. The world has shifted – more so in the last two years than in any two years of my life. Politically – call it what you will: the great reset, wealth transfer, rise of authoritarianism – yet I view these changes as a painful gift at a personal level. We are being prompted even more strongly – WHAT ARE MY VALUES? WHAT DO I STAND FOR IN THIS WORLD? WHAT ARE PURPOSEFUL AND MEANINGFUL WAYS TO LIVE?

These past two years have coincided with me entering my forties and surviving a cancer diagnosis and treatment. Life is finite. We all know this from an early age, but I didn’t live as though it was finite in my twenties and thirties. There’s always more time, another opportunity. Now I have a different perspective – this may be the only opportunity, and there may not be much time. The world may be getting better or worse, but that is no excuse not to work on my relationship with it and with myself, right now.

Two timely books have crossed my path recently that I have recently finished:

Letting Go by David Hawkins and the Untethered Soul by Jefferson Singer

The pathway of surrender was something I learned about and slowly began understanding a decade ago through my teachers of yoga and specifically Sahajananda at Hridaya Yoga. However, I realize now that I have not fully grasped its potential or true meaning. There are layers upon layers of letting go and surrender. From letting go of being overcharged a few dollars at the store, letting go of the frustration at oneself for missing a flight. To forgive others who may have harmed us significantly. To forgive ourselves for our misdeeds. And the most significant surrender may be letting go of one’s life, accepting that we have very little control and choice in the grand scheme of things. The only legitimate choice may be to resist or not to resist the constant change of life.

“When you meet a person of greater openness, your closure stands in stark relief.”

Deida writes about this specifically in terms of how when we are in the company of someone more open than us, we naturally receive an invitation to open ourselves – masculine openness being clear, intentional, and integral action, feminine openness being radiance, and flow. In this sentence, what comes up for me is the importance of community, specifically sangha, where people are committed to understanding and living these questions. And the remembrance that while I am constantly being inspired by my teachers and guides, I’m simultaneously inspiring those that I have walked the path ahead of. I notice the tendency of myself and others to surround ourselves with those at a similar level of openness – as the presence of those with much more openness can feel confronting and dangerous to our egos.

And again, this theme of not being alone in this. Knowing that as I write this, my habit energy is the deeply stoic approach of figuring this all out on my own, solving the problem, and finding the solution. Yet, I am trying to soften into the actualization of the interdependent life that we exist in. I have written before about the crux of finding purpose before or after a partnership, seeing that these may not be linear, they may be complementary – as well as trusting the shared experiences of close friends, strangers, or guides that may appear in my life, ever so briefly.

“Feeling the choices you have made of security and self-guardedness, acutely aware of your yearning heart, lost time, and ungiven gifts, you can either surrender open and embrace the force of superior openness or fortify your closure. Suffering is only your refusal to open. You are alive as gifting

This feeling of those choices made for self-preservation and safety are the source of the pain. I see the tendency and energy while in this painful place, wanting to leap forward with:  Here are my gifts, world. Receive them and me! I also see the necessity of the slow reckoning with myself, the painful process of building up the pressure of this yearning heart, lost time, and ungiven gifts such that the actual gifting comes from a place that includes and acknowledges the pain rather than as a means of avoiding it.

Thank you all for being with me this morning.

From Loneliness to Unity

From Loneliness to Unity

I am feeling a ton of appreciation and gratitude for the profoundly touching, thoughtful, and insightful comments and responses to my last post. My heart vibrates with the knowledge of our deep connectivity, with a feeling of sacredness for our impact on others, no matter how well we know each other, due to the similarity of this human experience.

I find it interesting how different people resonated with various aspects – for some, the broken heart. For others, the alcohol, loneliness, or illness. The inspiration to write what came from a conversation with a friend who expressed that this sense of loneliness and isolation was something she was feeling strongly in the past months and aware of it in many individuals who she would have never imagined in such a way position. We are all human, and we are certainly amidst a strong collective process. As a result, I am inspired to write more. I have been guided and fully believe that my heart expresses itself strongly through the written word.

Returning to last week – As I stewed in what I was calling my story of isolation and aloneness, I noticed some cracks in the foundation. I was in rich connection with so many incredible souls throughout the holidays. I had developed new relationships here at Lake Atitlan and nurtured many long distant connections that have evolved with time. I even connected with an ex-partner, and we spent time reviewing, healing, forgiving, and getting to know the current human on the other side, not the fixed image of a person from ten years ago. And despite all of this, I was clinging to some idea that I was alone and separate. When I took an honest account of this contradiction, a few things emerged. First, not being in contact with my mother over the holidays seemed to impact me significantly. And second, lacking an intimate relationship shortly after a breakup seemingly cast a large shadow over my entire relational field. I am happy to report that my mother and I have spoken and started healing a recent would between us. As for the shadow of no intimate relationship, this has been a deeper and more subtle dive into me, asking myself why such a relationship (or lack thereof) carries such an inordinate amount of weight on my well-being.

I wrote about this recently in a post called the Eden Project. Despite articulating this process and even understanding the source, it’s much harder to shift the habit. In the days after writing this, I made a conscious decision to be utterly sovereign in my sexuality and approach to relationships for a while. And how fleeting that was! Probably within a day or two, I had found myself in some situation where the inner self was asking, what about this one, it’s different, she’s different? Is this the one that may complete the Eden project for me? What a comedy of errors and contradictions I am!

 And what does completion even mean? I was joking with a group of men recently that this desire is like wanting to rest my head on a woman’s chest, have her put her arms around me, tell me I’m perfect, and never have to do anything strenuous for the rest of my life. A return to infancy! Obviously, that is not going to work as a full-time strategy (even though on occasion and at the right moment, that’s one of the best feelings in the world!).

Why am I even writing about any of this? 

I’m noticing how much loneliness is a perception, an idea, a concept that is not often grounded in present moment reality. Some are genuinely isolated and alone due to choices, external conditions, or myriad factors. And they may not feel loneliness! Many do, I am sure. Yet this is not me, nor many of you who are reading this. There are probably 50 people out there, you included who I could text right now asking if we could connect and speak, and within 24 hours, you would be there for me.

As I contemplated this theme, I was also uncovering Richard Rudd’s recordings and serendipitously found and listened to a playlist where he explores how we can transform many of the shadow energies into something lighter, loneliness being one of them. Combining his and my words: When we feel loneliness, we feel cut off from everything from our life source. It doesn’t matter who we are surrounded by or what our life consists of; a part of us believes we are alone in this world. The answer to this dilemma is in the heart. In the heart is warmth. And warmth melts the ice of isolation. So the way to transform loneliness is to go within your own heart, chipping away at the ice every day. When there is enough warmth in the heart, when you are alone geographically, you don’t need to feel alone energetically.

You can go outside, under the stars, see the moon, and see them as alive. The moon is not just a dead rock but has a being-ness. This warm heart and knowing connect us into a unified field, and you can realize that when the heart is open, we can never feel alone. We can be alone but not feel lonely. We feel alone only when the seat has folded in on itself.

Loneliness is an invitation to Unity.

Comments, please:  How do you proceed along the path from Loneliness to Unity?

Tinder Profile

You are beautiful, youthful, radiant. Each time we meet, my wide smile is a testament to your effect on me.

There is an intensity in your eyes, in your words and in your life. A touch, a whisper or a small glance sends shivers up my spine.

A seemingly unending reservoir of power, your myriad emanations continually grace me.

Your insatiable sexual desire is quenched only through our union; seeking the ineffable, the elevated, the eternal through the merging of our interlaced bodies, hearts and minds. Dancing in the sublime, we discover endless, transcendent time.

You have contemplated your mortality, you have gazed at your shadows, you seek to discover your unknown potentiality.

In this empowering presence you invite me to meet you from my own masculine centeredness. My heart exposed, my vulnerabilities laid bare, you invite my trust, if I so dare.

You see relationship as a deep dialogue, not a lifeless contract easily abdicated. Monogamy and polyamory are just words to you – you flow easily where you need to.

Blonde or brunette, tall or short, herbivore or carnivore – just minor details in a love that is based on so much more.

If this is you, please swipe right.

Tinder

Blogging Evolved

Daily life tends to fluctuate between inward and outward patterns, sometimes moment by moment. On a deeper level, one’s life generally follows patterns of entering and pulling back from engagement with the world. After a long period of such pulling back, I’ve stared writing publicly again. I spent most of the past 15 months in practice environments. This time was split between my Zen Monastery in Crestone, Colorado and the Meditation/Yoga schools of Hridaya and Agama based in Koh Phangan, Thailand and Mazunte, Mexico. This time was focused very much on self-discovery, intimate relationship and seeking a truer way of life. While this inward journey continues, I find myself longing more and more for engagement – in a creative sense.  With and through others, developing a community of individuals seeking to come together around one of the most important questions – Who am I ?

My current writing is focused on my day to day experiences, re-developing a habit of writing and articulating inward experience to others. I find writing incredibly nourishing in the sense that it provides me the opportunity to pause and reflect in this world of ceaseless activity. These pauses enable me to more closely examine my life and make adjustments of my relationships to others and the world with a greater sense of clarity then simply going with the flow and relaying on a more frantic mind to make such decisions.

Regarding the title of this post, I want to share my greater vision for this blog and my writing. Speaking in a pure business sense, all of my writing and ideas are in a sense creating something like a brand. Just as one is identified in the world via their personality, their actions and words, a blog is an extension of this. So this Keith brand, what exactly do I want it to be about? I’m not necessarily talking about turning my blog into a business or something that generates income (although that would be nice!), but something that is an extension of who I am.  Well who am I then? This is where the blog evolves. As I continue to hold deeply to the question of Who am I? while engaging in the world, the evolution occurs.

As I see it right now, there are four themes that my life continuously engages in and that I would like to more deeply explore for myself and others:

  1. Meditation (and Yoga)
  2. Masculinity (and intimate relationship)
  3. Personal finance
  4. ~TBD

The forth category is quite broad at the moment and I need help refining it. It revolves around lifestyle and some of its main components:

  1. Simple Living
  2. Alternative lifestyles (Escaping the 9-5)
  3. Health
  4. a few more random topics

Somehow I want to create a place where these themes weave together in a way that will help me continue to evolve in my own life, intermingling the fundamental topics of meditation and spirituality along with the more conventional topics of finance, relationship and day to day life.

As a reader, I would really appreciate some feedback on this one – does it make sense to focus on these themes? Are they too broad/disparate? What areas would you individually like to read about?  Thanks in advance for your feedback!

Return to Blogging

Its late summer and I find myself in Boulder, with no intention of leaving anytime soon. In May 2011 I traveled to Thailand, and in the 15 months between then and now, I’ve had a lifetime of experiences – living in a Zen Monastery, traveling, falling in love to name a few. The details of which will all emerge slowly.

Today I simply want to explore my intention to make writing a focus of my life again, to continue a conversation that I think is worth having and sharing with others. I plan to begin as I left off, writing about personal experiences, sharing with those close to me and those who for better or worse stumble upon my blog. I do have longer-term ambitions to widen the conversation, to dive much deeper into topics such as meditation, masculinity, relationships and personal finance. Yet for now, I simply want to dust the cobwebs off of my keyboard and see if my passion for blogging is still there.

I’ve by no means stopped writing- I have filled several notebooks with personal reflections this past year. Living in the Zen Monastery, with limited access to the Internet and a specific focus on turning away from the world, it made good sense to put blogging on hold.  Additionally, many of my experiences this past year have been intensely personal and often quite subtle. These experiences are hard to articulate and frankly I’m not sure how interesting they would be to others. Yet, it is exactly in the effort of articulation that I feel most invigorated, most connected to that which is most important to me.  So here I go again.

Let’s have some fun. 

I’m not afraid to die, I’m afraid I haven’t lived enough. It should be written on every school chalkboard, ‘Life is a playground or nothing.’  ~Mr. Nobody (2009)

The Story Only I Can Tell

This weekend I culminated an 8 week series of writing classes with an all-day workshop titled “The Story Only You Can Tell”. Led by Shari Caudron, it was a nice capstone to a more formal attempt at developing myself as a writer this year.

My friend Val, who is pursuing his MFA in writing at Naropa University recommended that I look into a group called Lighthouse Writers Workshop, an organization of writers based in Denver. He said I would get university level instruction for a fraction of cost – which ended up being absolutely true!

I took two 4-week introductory based courses (they are considered introductory when you don’t have to do in-class critiquing), called Writing 101 and The Write Mind.  Both of these focused more on writing as a craft, developing a daily practice and overcoming gremlins to your writing. I highly recommend Doug Kurtz’s Write Mind – despite only 8 hours of class time, Doug managed to pack in an incredible amount of material and was an inspiring and motivating instructor.

This weekend’s workshop was a great complement to the prior courses. Rather than focusing on the craft of writing, it was trying to pull out the actual story that needs to be written.  The day progressed through a large number of free-writing prompts that examined ones life, passions, memories and obsessions, determining whether fiction or nonfiction was the better platform developing and introducing the main character and ultimately reducing things to the final question:

    Why do I need to write this story now?

My answer: I must right this story now because I am desperately seeking creative expression of my human experience.  My days are filled with time playing in this gray space between the known and the unknown that constantly unfolds in my experience, the world, my mind. I seek to bring some of these unknowns into light. Although this yearning for light begins with myself, there exists a strong sense that I am not alone, that this pursuit is a fundamental aspect of the human experience.

While writing this, I was reminded of a beautiful poem by Gary Snyder, Beat Poet and Zen Student:

How Poetry Comes to Me

It comes blundering over the

Boulders at night, it stays

Frightened outside the

Range of my campfire

I go to meet it at the

Edge of the light

One of the most profound insights that came to me was that my story may best be told through fiction, whereas prior to this weekend I had never given it a thought. Something like a modern day Siddhartha by Herman Hesse… However, I reminded myself that my focus now is my blog, finding my daily writing practice and niche in this spiritual blogging community.

My writing will clearly come from a Buddhist perspective and will continue to be about about spirituality, travel, yoga, mind, life, simple living, well-being.

My subject is spiritual evolution and my theme is something like: expanding consciousness, love and compassion. The process of self-realization, embodiment of truth, learning how to be alive.

As I just mentioned above, I am in a place in my life where I am examining my experience, the world, my mind. I have a sense that others have inklings of these experiences or passions and I want to express the sometimes inexpressible through language. Its through language that we develop a conceptual framework of the world, and these concepts can be than be analyzed and destroyed to make room for more or just pure, empty space, being, or Self.

The Buddhist theme makes sense, because ultimately I believe Buddha’s basic teachings: The first of the 4 Noble Truths: Life is filled with discontent. This truth is prevalent for EVERYONE and we are running around like hamsters on a wheel trying to find a way off by going faster. But what we really need to do is simply step off the wheel. Most of us don’t even know we’re on a wheel and are scared senseless of not being on it. Ironically this is the only way to end this discontent and start to be alive.

Other aspects of my writing will continue to be around travel, social critique, life. These are lighter topics but ones that can be infused with more spiritual presence in a way that may allow others, if not completely to step off the hamster wheel, to at least slow down a little to a walk and catch a breath.

We looked at fears, at things that prevent us from really going for it. One of my big ones is “Nobody wants to read this stuff”.  And while I have a good idea about a subject and a theme, I start to get stuck in the story.  I know I want it to be about profound inner transformation, yet what is that really? How does one write about it?  It’s this story that must evoke emotions in people to be interesting. I wonder what emotions my writing does evoke? Sometimes I see a set of opposites: Peace, stillness, joy AND Longing, frustration, self-judgment. These are often the feelings I personally have while writing.

I want to evoke the feeling that I get when I read or meet great teachers. A sense of a guide helping me navigate the world that calls on deep human mythology. A desire to answer life’s highest calling, returning to the source or Self. Its hard to say the kind of reaction that might occur, as for some it will cause disgust, pushing their carefully erected boundaries of safety. For others it might be an answer, an opportunity for self-evolution and development. But if I want to evoke anything, it is definitely a questioning of everything one perceives as real.

There you have it. More questions than answers. But what would life be if you had all of the answers? Please comment on this one. As a reader of this blog, why do you read it? What type of topics and discussions would you like to see?