What I Was

Preface: This has been an incredibly pivotal season of life for me, and I have been going through a time of radical self-realization. Tonight I took my blanket and candles to the shore for the supermoon blood lunar eclipse, and I wrote the following in reflection (Mainly) on the later part of my twenties. As I have certainly published TMI before, revealing my past flaws – flaws which others around me likely already saw clearly – is not something I am afraid of.

What I was:

Neurotic
Stuck in my head
Compulsive
Emotional
Depressed
Self-pitying
Unsuccessful
Irresponsible
Anxious
Uncertain
Socially undiscerning
Judgemental
Insecure
Feeling driven
Mentally passive
Unhealthy
Overly effeminate / feminine dominate
Unhealthy
Obsessed with the past
Too emotionly empathetic and vulnerable
Easily influenced
Scared of life
Insecure with women
Spiritually uncertain
Nervous / afraid
Unsure of myself
Hard on myself
On edge / jumpy
Approval seeking
Stuck in my story
Trapped in a bad feeling
Ignorant to how life works
Weak willed
Unaware of my potential
Unhappy with life, uncomfortable w life
Easily manipulated
Responsible for other people’s feelings
A victim
Bitter
Sorry for myself
Worried
Reliant on others, dependent
Unexcited about life
Closed minded
Unmotivated
Unhappy
Small minded
Ungrateful
Did not define happiness
At the mercy of my feelings
Resentful of exes
Unable to understand extrinsic motivators / others
Distrustful of the universe
A passive partipant in life
Addicted to the past
Disconnected to others
Uncomfortable with silence
Felt responsible to lead conversations
Down about life
Poor self-image / externally defined
Defined by my past / confined to who I was
Irresponsible
Defined by experiences (past perspectives)
Resentful of my childhood
Uncompassionate to myself
My own worst enemy
Unwilling to take responsibility
Blameful of others
Easily influenced by ideas and concepts i.e., “I’m a writer”
Unforgivng of myself
Concerned with people’s judgements but not healthy approval
Unable to let go
Uncomfortable with discomfort
Afraid of confrontation, discomfort
Resigned, ignorant to the power of will, unable to “change” / stuck in my experience
A passenger in life
Stuck in my perspective, did not take responsibility for it
Not at home in the world
Desiring for a “home” but unwilling to take responsibility for it
Afraid to confront my emotions
Concerned w having all the answers to unimportant questions
Unaware of my biases and assumptions
Not aware that my experience was nothing more than my perspective, my processing computer
Unwilling to let people down
Afraid of bad things happening
Poverty mindset
Overly sensitive
Unable to interpret people
A product of family society
Ignorant to the oaktree in the acorn
Quick to fall in love
Full of sorrowful, pity laden, excuses
Poor boundaries, wanted to be loved by everyone, friends w everyone
Wanted every girl to like me
Too open too soon
Unwiling / afraid to examine the past, the deeper reasons behind my decisions
Unprepared, backwards – rather than forward thinking
Selfish in the wrong ways, not sensitive of others
Ill prepared, poor at prepearing
Impulsive
Did not view myself as lovable
Did not understand why people liked or did not like me
A follower of the wrong minds
Unwilling to say no to people
Note: need to go back through life story I wrote and learn, resee things
Was not objective of things, life, decisions, limited to my own head
Victim rather than hero mindset
Could not contain my feelings to myself
Indecisive
Unable to see past present feelings, to a larger narrative
Did not define my own disposition
Egocentric instead of reality centered
Way too impartial due to emotions, did not fault ex girlfriends
Unable to set a plan and stick to it, afraid to pen in my dreams
Needed people to believe in me in order to believe in myself
Unaware of my flaws
Felt I needed the girl of my dreams to dream
Unaware of the limits of my dominating paradigms ex: “The purpose of love is to dream…”
Note: the purpose of love is to share happiness
Unable to move on, to adopt a healthy outlook
Unable to discern other people’s values,
Not concerned enough with them
I lived inconsistent w my own (values) – as a result, I had mixed/poor priorities
Emotionally masochistic
Nothing, including my happiness and wellbeing (nor the happiness of those I loved) was sacred
Did not understand what people wanted for – or from – me
Did not have healthy / confident / worthy expectations of myself
Conformed to the desires of others without taking my own into account
Not at peace with myself and with life
I created struggles in order to justify my story, the pain of my past
Did not define or understand what I needed in the day to week to week living of life
Did not give myself healthy credit for the things I did right, or even just for trying
Did not love or even like myself
Made promises I could not fulfill or did not plan to
Did not apologize when I should have, forgave when I should have not
I looked for the bad and I missed the good
Did not have the compassion to understand who I am
Said the wrong things and sometimes left the right things unsaid
Thought in absolutes, did not understand the perfection of balance, tension between opposites
Let other people’s emotions effect me too much, was not grounded in my own calm masculine energy
Drifted through life, was conquered by my weaknesses, rather than finding victory in my strengths
Attracted the wrong kind of attention to myself
Did not have healthy, mature boundaries
Did not understand people are a product of the times, as was I
Did not understand what I was so desperate to escape from
Did not think about the consequences of my actions
Did not know any better
Did my best

“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.” – William Blake, The Marraige of Heaven and Hell, (From which Aldous Huxley took the title for his book, ‘The Doors of Perception’, detailing his experience with Mescaline).

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Freeing Myself from My Twenties

I’m beginning to hear the teachings of my blood pulsing within me. My story isn’t pleasant, it’s not sweet and harmonious like the invented stories; it tastes of folly and bewilderment, of madness and dream, like the life of all people who no longer want to lie to themselves

Herman Hesse

It’s no coincidence Hesse wrote this north of thirty: no twenty-two-year-old could write this. Realizations of this depth remain beyond reach until you’ve lived long enough to make a mess of your dreams. Only adults, those over thirty, know what it is to see a dream in decay and no longer want to lie to themselves about it.

For maturity arises not from years but from the myriad of inescapable truths about oneself and the world, which can either be accepted, thus furthering your maturity – or denied, thus retarding it. However at a certain point, you may find that, like me, you’ve passed through some invisible threshold, after which it is simply no longer possible to continue averting your eyes from the most base and inglorious truths. Truths which are, in fact, the bane of your existence for their weight binds like chains, locking you in a personal prison from which your only chance of freedom is to be had in confessing and confronting the truths you’ve buried. So it is: man is his own jailer.

Most people don’t knowingly engage in self-deception but all unknowingly do. This cunning defense mechanism is usually employed to cover up something we feel unable to admit or accept; so, instead, we live in denial. This amounts to treason; although, no traitor sees himself as such. Treason is always justified as better, or at least easier, than allegiance to the alternative, which we almost always undeservedly betray. In the case of denial, it is the self, the soul, whom we play Judas to.

Betraying ones soul is always a toxic and destructive thing. Eventually the body demands palliatives to bury the pain and cognitive dissonance created by the lie you have chosen to live. People then turn to vice: sex, pills, booze, food, and any other anodyne which masks the pain of their secret betrayal. However if you are lucky, the masks simply stop working on some fateful day and the blissless ignorance you suffered so greatly to maintain all at once loses it’s function.

Actor Bradley Cooper, at age twenty-nine, had this to say on his own coming to truth with himself:

“I realized I wasn’t going to live up to my potential, and that scared the hell out of me. I thought, ‘Wow, I’m actually gonna ruin my life; I’m really gonna ruin it.'”

Note: Bradley cooper subsequently got sober and went on to become one of the most sought after actors in Hollywood.

It’s not easy to admit you’re going to ruin your life or that you’re not being true to your soul; however, shedding denial is about ushering in the unsexy feelings you need in order to make a beautiful life. It’s about being honest with yourself rather than being enslaved to the illusions of your ego, which cares naught for the truths of the soul.

Once the long buried truths of the soul come to the light of day, they are forever exiled from the darkness. Addressing them, fixing them, repairing them then becomes your personal crusade; the goal to become happy and whole as never before. With the possibility in sight the prospect takes possession of you, using you as a means to an end. The end: a more peaceful heart than you have known in all your years.

At thirty I have such a deepened sense of myself, of my place in time – headed all the way to the end. At thirty you come to realize you are amidst your destiny and this shitshow is, indeed, your life. It’s all at once a comfort and a horror. A comfort to know you survived your twenties and a horror to know your current life is the result. While every twenty year old thinks the coming decade the best, every thirty year old knows better.

In my twenties I made mistakes equal in magnitude to victories. However, the only real mistake is not learning from your missteps. Continuing to live the same destructive actions of your past reveals the deficiency of your character, whereas taking ownership of your life and learning from the past repairs it. Remember that whatever you may view as a mistake ceases to be one the moment you learn something from it.

I intend my thirties to be a time of leveraging my mistakes, of reaping the fruits of my life experience.

I could not look out before me with the ambition and optimism I do had I not lived the past decade of my life exactly as it was: flaws, heartache, angst and all. Frankly, I’m thrilled my twenties are over. My twenties were a decade of thinking I knew more than I did and operating from that supreme, arrogant ignorance.

It’s nearly impossible for a modern man to go though his twenties and not be, for a time, an asshole; however, by thirty a man usually finds calm resignation toward the world’s capacity for coldness, rather than meeting it with his own. He realizes fate is indifferent to his dreams and if they [his dreams] are to be, it is up solely to him. He learns you cannot compartmentalize life; that success in one facet of life, e.g., health, spirituality, is intertwined with every other facet. This holistic approach to life is the only logical response to having settled on so many parts of life at times in our twenties in order to succeed in others – only to later realize that to settle is to suffer.

At thirty a man either wants it all, or nothing at all; thirty can be the beginning of a man’s life or the end of it. The difference is in whether he leaves his dreams buried in his twenties or whether he resurrects them with a definiteness of purpose unlike he has before shown.

Of course this is all based on my mindset at thirty, bolstered by my beliefs, among them the notions: good men get better with age, and a man’s thirties are his time for making hay.

While I made hay for a time in my twenties I was too full of excuses to yet attain everlasting success. These excuses ranged from “I’m heartbroken”, to “I’m a writer”, to “This is just a phase”, but they all served a singular function: to justify me not giving my all or not trying at all. Every excuse was nothing but a way of deluding myself into believing that either the wrong thing or the easy thing was the right thing. As is said, the easy thing and the right thing are seldom the same.

Now that I can see the errors of my ways in the excuses lies I told myself, I can’t help but think, what the hell was I thinking?

Because the truth is, most people don’t know why they do the things they do – they only think they do based on what they’ve told themselves. And so it is, your twenties are a time of rationalizing your existence, whereas your thirties are a time of living from your innermost truths. However to make that shift, you have to become completely honest with yourself. You have to burn all the masks and shed all the excuses.

I have held onto the past for a long time. I’ve for a long time carried torches of my past loves into the night. Tonight I’m casting those torches into the sea where they belong. I’m grateful for my past but it’s nothing compared to where I am going.

Greek philosopher Heraclitus wrote, “Character is destiny,” so it is, I intend my thirties to be a decade of great character and great destiny.

I never want to lie to myself again; not about my happiness, not about my past, not about my future, not about my present. I never want to see the world through the eyes of my past again. I never want to betray my own soul again. I never want to feel the need to wear a mask again. Never again will I trust someone more than I trust the voice of my soul and the teachings of my blood.

Note: I wrote this over the course of three or four days during which I had the flu. Stylistically, I’m not in love with it, and it feels even perhaps a bit pedantic, but sometimes you just have to declare something.

The Storm

Wow. What a year it has been. It’s as if I am back in the good graces of the angels.

I can’t fathom what I must have done to deserve this. This year felt like remembering.

All that I have been, all that counted – all that I am; everything that matters in my heart has crystallized, and I feel better than I have in a long time.

2013 and part of 2014 would prove to be a very neurotic time for me – just a period of trying to think my way out of things. There were bleak times, times dim enough to only be seen in hindsight. At one point there was so little light entering the aperture of my soul I was spiritually dead. You see, I was trying to solve matters of the heart with my head. Of course all that came of that approach was angst – existential masturbation, the thinking man’s enemy.

Consider the preceding paragraph a compressed version of events. The ultimate outcome however, having been that I underwent a kind of rare quantum change that only occurs once or twice in a lifetime – if at all. My chrysalis – a great unscrambling of an egg, consciousness untangling itself, brand new neural networks – biodigital jazz. Like putting my soul in a cosmic rock tumblr: in goes a Jackson Pollack, out comes a Monet. From Tom Odell’s Another Love, to Ed Sheeran’s Kiss Me – angst to romance – I fell back in love with life and my heart grew.

My heart grew.

I can’t elucidate beyond those three words, because no other metaphor can do it justice. So here I sit, big eyed and dumb, knowing that numb is the new deep.

And it’s blissful, but I’m frightened.

It’s the fright of discovering that seemingly eternal island of inner peace within yourself but fearing the tide might rise and you’ll find yourself underwater again.

You see, I’ve never said I’d never go back there – but now I’m ready to look back and declare that I’ve been to a place I don’t ever wish to return to. I’m still scared because I am still scarred. But I’m following my intuition now, something I haven’t consciously – or rather, something I haven’t bravely done for about four years. That hurts to admit, but it’s true – I spent about four years brooding – complex and angry and all alone, even when I wasn’t. It was a hell of a cave. Deep and dark as fuck.

So tonight I’m writing because I am scared of my intuition letting me down. That’s probably my deepest fear. I don’t ever want to go back there – to that magicless place – zemblanity. Total fucking suffering, unbelievable mediocrity.

Despite the fear, I am reminding myself, my intuition has never been wrong. Of course, there are times where I have made errors in judgement (also known as lessons learned), but as far as relying purely on intuition, I can’t ever recall an outcome that wasn’t opaquely intuited beforehand – that’s why it’s called intuition.

You see my dear reader, life is really like one of those choose your own adventure books. Follow your intuition and you can’t go wrong. Follow fear, and doubt, and all things unholy and you will end up fighting giants, playing the game of life on hard mode. But, unlike in the choose your own adventure books where you can take a mulligan on a bad shot, in real life, you don’t get to turn back the pages and do things differently. There is no second time around. Gatsby was wrong. So, you either learn to write the story of your life with great care – with a conscious awareness and an attention to the process, or you simply never wake up, never realizing that this is your story.

And I have awoken, I know this is my story. Infinite possibility. So that’s what I’m doing, I’m trusting the process, learning to sail it one horizon’s tack at a time.

I’m trusting that a fresh dawn will follow the darkest nights and this is a self-fulfilling prophecy. My thoughts and attachments are no more than clouds in this sky, and the squalls come and go, but the sun shines eternal behind it all. It’s a beautiful thing to trust in the power of a new day, because when you really do, you realize that each moment is a new dawn. As is said in one of my favorite movies – “Every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around”.

It’s just that when you do find yourself in that dark night of the soul, you don’t ever think the sun is going to rise again. As F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in The Crack Up, “In a real dark night of the soul, it is always three o’clock in the morning, day after day.” And so it was.

But I never saw the ‘transformation’ (for lack of a better word) that would come of it. I had hoped for a comeback of sorts, and I held fast to the belief that things would one day be better, but I eventually forgot what hoping felt like. And as forgetting goes – I didn’t know that I had forgotten, I just eventually ended up holding onto a semblance of ambition, a thread of destiny hanging before me. I clung to it without knowing what lie on the other end of this thread, I just … well – frankly, I don’t even wish to recall what it was like. (I’ve spent months pushing out the kind of existential diarrhea that only befalls writers and creatives.) Let’s just say I didn’t see the man I could be. I didn’t see myself capable of transcending what felt like all of existence.

But I did; I came out of the storm a changed man. Not a different person – just different, more true to who I am. Vastly more aware of what that is.

“Once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” – Haruki Murakami

The storm is a humbling yet empowering experience. I just wish I could have said to myself at the time, Don’t worry man, you’ll make it out of this, but I can’t tell you how many times I just closed my eyes and imagined going deep underwater to a place that felt separate from my experience.  That kind of attempt to escape presence – there are no words for what that is. It’s what I did though. I closed my eyes and imagined going deep into a blue underwater cave. Perhaps a kind of waking dream of sorts – going beneath the surface to escape the storm. Whatever it was, it was all I could do at times to be with myself.

But now I am here.

storm

I’ll let the beautiful poetry of Seinabo Sey close me out.

There’s a conclusion to my illusion
I assure you this
There’s no end to this confusion if you let it wish you well
-Soul to sell
Highest bidders, can’t you tell what you’re getting?
There is a light to all this darkness, I will tell you this
There’s redemption in you asking them just why it is
Some answers are better left unspoken when you know you ain’t getting any younger

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee: On Suffering, Fear, And The Shadow

“We are afraid of our shadows. We are afraid of the darkness inside of us so, and so we project it outside and we have to go and fight these monsters that we project it onto outside. We are afraid of the dark; we are like children, and again, part of the mystical journey is to face that darkness. Also you need the sword of your own aspiration to go into the darkness inside yourself and to face that darkness, and then you discover that it isn’t that dark after all – the fears that you had – things change, and then you begin to discover the light that is hidden in the darkness. This is one of the great alchemical secrets, this is one of the great secrets of human transformation – that you go into the darkness, and it is terrifying at first, and then you discover this light of your own divine nature that is hidden in the darkness. It is called the pearl of great price that is at the bottom of the ocean, it is in the depths of darkness, there is something so beautiful, but most people are afraid of it, because there is a price to pay to confront your own fears, your own anxieties, and to go deep within yourself. It is much easier to project it and to have enemies outside, people you dislike. Then you can project your problems and it is somebody else’s fault. For the mystic it is always us.”

– Llewelyn Vaughan-Lee

We are afraid of the darkness inside of us so, and so we project it outside and we have to go and fight these monsters that we project it onto.

Background

I’m quite taken by the mind of Sufi mystic, lecturer, and author Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee.

Being that I am awakened on a spiritual path, I enjoy exploring numerous teachers from across nearly every era and doctrine. That being said, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee blows me away. And not just because he is a quote-unquote true mystic, but because he has a PhD in Jungian Psychology and is a truly bright intellectual. This lends an incredible depth to his knowledge of the human interior world and his keen sense of understanding on psychology, myth, and symbolism is evident within his lectures.

To hear a spiritual teacher reference Joseph Campbell and Rumi in the same span is nothing short of wholly refreshing. Eckhart, I have grown fond of you, and this isn’t goodbye, but Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee is like you on the limitless drug. Ironically, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee was recently hanging out with Exkhart’s good friend Oprah.

Introduction

The arrival of Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee in my life could not have come at a better time, as I am growing increasingly interested in the shadow after having recently had an experience where I faced certain aspects of my shadow for perhaps the first time. I understand innately that I am intrinsically afraid of the shadow, and I don’t like fear – I desperately wish to overcome it, and this has been a relatively consistent focus of mine this year, but I’ve lacked a deep enough understanding on the mechanics of fear to truly dispel the underlying fear that exists in my psyche. It’s one thing to have a transcendental experience of fear where fear is overcome, but it’s another to get to the root of it, where fear is effectively dissolved.

In listening to Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee speak on the human psyche in a spiritual context, I knew that I had happened on something that was the next piece in my journey to facing the inner dragons, which occupy a seat in all of our souls.

In a nearly hour-long interview, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee faces a myriad of what are often borderline sophomoric questions (i.e., “if you had one wish what would it be?”), but nonetheless manages to deliver answers with great grace and timeless wisdom. Integrating the topics of the psyche, the shadow, and fear into a cohesive narrative on spirituality, Llewelyn Vaughan-Lee provides a rare glimpse into the keys to unlocking the inner world.

On Suffering as a Process of Purification

And if you look at it [suffering] from a spiritual point of view, anyone who has begun the spiritual journey knows that suffering is a process of purification, where we clean out the debris that we have accumulated inside of us, the denseness, the darkness within the psyche, and that suffering – that purification, the Sufis call it polishing the mirror of the heart. 

Note: I recently dreampt I was pulling dead branches down from a tree [clearing debris], an experience I wrote of here.

Problems as Essential Paths to Growth

In this world of duality, nothing is perfect, nothing is pure, it is part of our dynamic of life; Carl Jung, the great psychologist, he said you should never take somebody’s problems away from them because it’s through their problems that they grow, it is through this friction of light and dark that we grow.

On The Divine Spark Within Us All

We have in us a divine spark, you can see it – it’s a light that shines in the human being. It’s our direct access to truth, our direct access to God, and the purpose of all the spiritual practices that exits are to awaken that spark, to give it life, to give it energy – so that it can transform you. 

On What Keeps Most People From Living Their Full Potential

Fear – it stops them stepping into the light of the of their own self. And there is this saying that ‘people are not so much afraid of the darkness as of the light’ – of their own power, of their own potential, because then you have to become a responsible adult, and most people prefer to be children and to blame somebody else, but it is never anybody else’s fault. Once you take full responsibility for your life – it is your destiny – it is your life. Nobody else can live it for you.


jungs


Bonus: Free Audios – Mystical Life and the Inner Worlds

From the description: These talks explore the inner worlds of the mystical journey, focusing on the symbolic, archetypal world and the interior dimension of the Self. The symbolic world is an intermediate dimension whose archetypal images have a powerfully determining influence on our outer life. The Self belongs to a world beyond time and space that exists within the heart of each of us. The mystical journey gives us a direct experience of these interior realities.

Download them here.

Shadow Work and Reading List

Jung defined the shadow as: “The Shadow describes the part of the psyche that an individual would rather not acknowledge. It contains the denied parts of the self. Since the self contains these aspects, they surface in one way or another. Bringing Shadow material into consciousness drains its dark power, and can even recover valuable resources from it. The greatest power, however, comes from having accepted your shadow parts and integrated them as components of your Self.”

Shadow Work is the work of the heart-warrior – C.G. Jung

I’m assuming if you read the quote in this entry on The Shadow you are likely interested in learning more about this hidden, yet vital aspect of your psyche. The following books are on my reading list for future study / self-work.

Remember, as Joseph Campbell said, the cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.

Read this next, The Heroes Journey: Sensing and Shaping Your Destiny Through Personal Mythology and Personal Myths