My Ex is My Guru

rage

I just got off the phone with my ex. Or, more accurately, she just hung up on me.

Now a phone call from my “baby mama” is never a pleasant experience, not by any stretch of the imagination. With all the lies, threats and accusations, there’s not a whole lot of actual communication that goes on. She mostly just yells over the top of everything I say. But more often than not, I am able to let it roll off my shoulders and stay Zen.

Today, not so much.

Today I’m gritting my teeth. Today I take the phone and hurl it across the room (toward the sofa, of course—I’m pissed-off, but not so much that I’m gonna destroy my phone). I feel a roiling in the pit of my stomach; a bitter emotional stew, the primary ingredients of which are frustration, anger, helplessness and hate.

Yeah, I said it. Hate.

The realization of it shocks me. I’m feeling hate right now. I didn’t even know I was capable of that.

In spiritual circles, even the more open-minded ones where we talk about “allowing all of our feelings,” hatred is still pretty taboo. No one talks about it, except of course when they are talking about terrorists, or racists, or religious fanatics. You know, “Them.” The other guys. The bad guys.

Well I’ve discovered hatred in me. And I’m allowing it. I’m accepting it. I’m sitting with it, listening to it, and seeing what it has to teach me…

You may not know it from looking at me, but I’m a “bad guy.”

I’m a bad guy because I walked out of a toxic relationship with the mother of my child. Or, as she puts it, “I abandoned her.” I’m a bad guy because I filed for full-custody as she bounced in and out of jail and rehab, and at least five different homes. “I took her child away from her.”

I have ceased to be a human being in her eyes. I have become an enemy, a villain, a scapegoat; the monster that “ruined her life.”

And as I sit with this hatred that I’m feeling, it becomes clear to me that I have done the exact same thing. I look at her and I see a face twisted with rage. I see a maelstrom of hurt, anger, addiction and violence; I see the pain and turmoil that it has caused my little boy.

What I often fail to see is a human being, a living soul, a child of the universe, just like me.

This is how racism happens. This is how rape happens. This is how hate crimes, gang violence and church bombings happen. As I look at this drama, this dance of pain between my ex and I, I can see the root and the seed of all war, terrorism, slavery and suffering.

There is no “them.” There are no bad guys. There’s just us. All of us together, living, loving and hurting as one. Learning and growing, slipping and falling, and finding our way back home.

Maybe my ex is my guru.

She’s not enlightened. She doesn’t wear monk’s robes or have a Sanskrit name—but nobody attacks my ego so effectively, so relentlessly. She doesn’t study the dharma or practice meditation—but she is a clear and perfect mirror for all of my anger, resentment and frustration.

She is showing me my attachments, my defenses, my illusions. She is teaching me to let go of my stories, my self-image. You know, stuff like I am wise, I am peaceful, I am “spiritual,” I am a good person, a good father, all that jazz.

Looking into the inner darkness takes me beyond good and bad, right and wrong; beyond the concept of self to the reality of Self. I Am That I Am.

My ex is my guru. So is my son, and my beloved. So are my friends and family, my neighbors, and all the people I work with, worship with, drink with, laugh with, talk with and cross paths with. As are the authors I have read, many long dead. And you, my readers and friends. And everyone who has touched my life in any way.

You have taught me. You have molded me. You are a part of me.

I’m sorry if I’ve hurt you. Please forgive me.

Thank you for being the doorway through which I come to know the whole spectrum of love, sadness, fear, ecstasy, and yes—even hate. My experience of human life would not be complete without you.

I love you.

Namaste.

~ Ben

Free Fall

free falling

Have you ever been in love?

I mean really, deeply, head-over-heels in love; so absorbed and lost in your lover that you can’t sleep, you forget to eat, you can’t focus on work or have a conversation, you can’t even think about anything else?

If you have, then you have tasted one of the most awesome and profound experiences a human being can ever have. If you haven’t, then nothing I can say or write can convey to you even a fraction of that mystery…

A lover lost in love knows what it means to surrender – to be completely open, absolutely vulnerable, and totally abandoned to something greater than oneself. We call it “falling in love,” and rightly so… to abandon yourself to love can feel like flinging yourself off of a cliff!

The God experience is like that. The mystic falls in love with Nature, with the universe, with the whole of Creation and everything in it… so absorbed in the Beloved that all else is forgotten.

That experience is what we all crave! We long to fall in love with the Divine, and every love affair we have is just another way of reaching out to reconnect with the Infinite, to feel that eternal wholeness and completion. God is the lover that hides inside all of your lovers…

Intimacy with another can be a gateway to mystic union, to the Cosmic Love that annihilates all sense of self and other. If you are in a romantic relationship, don’t hold back! You cannot know the depths of love while playing it safe, being cool and detached. Give in and open up in total surrender. Be radically vulnerable and trusting. Abandon yourself to love! This is the only way to find out what life and love really have to offer.

And if you find that you cannot enter into this kind of surrender with your current partner, keep looking.

Sex (honest, consensual, responsible sex) can be one of the most profound experiences of Oneness. As you give and receive pleasure, as you and your partner are moaning and sweating, lost in the throes of ecstasy – that is the bliss of the Divine! That is the dance of Krishna and Radhe. That is love, loving! Look deep into the eyes of your beloved and you will see none other than your own Holy Self.

And if you do not have a lover, the chances are you have a friend, a parent, a brother or sister, a son or a daughter – even a pet – someone whom you love very dearly. This too is intimacy. This too can be a doorway to Divine Love. Whenever we care for another, we enter into the heart of God. And when we embrace that connection and give in to it completely, then we are surrendered in love, and we dissolve…

There are countless ways to enter the inner chamber. Maybe you feel the Presence when you are alone in Nature, hiking through the hills and forests… or when you are totally absorbed in chanting your mantra, your prayer beads sliding gracefully through your fingers… when you are out in your community, engaged in loving service and charitable work… when your paint brush is dancing over the canvas, your soul expressing itself in vibrant color… or when holding your most cherished instrument, and melting into the endless beauty of sound and music…

So many have tasted the Divine in all of these flavors and more. I encourage each of you, my dear friends and readers, to find your gateway, your passion, your path. All love is God’s love. So whatever it is you love – be it meditation, music, art, sex, nature, gardening, community service, raising a family – embrace it, explore it, abandon yourself to it!

Don’t hold back, don’t play it safe – surrender to your passion. Find the path that takes you beyond yourself, and follow it to the end and beyond!

Allow yourself to fall in love with God, with mystery, with Life itself. Let go into the endless free fall of existence… and dissolve.

~ Ben

Something Real

streets of chicago

This is to you, America.

To my friends and countrymen,

You who live and work alongside me,

Who walk the same streets

Through the same four seasons.

To you, tending the bar

Or the cash register;

You who drive the trucks and stock the shelves,

Or scrub the floors and bathroom stalls.

To you with whom I share so many fleeting moments

And casual conversations.

To you my poem, my plea…

What do you see when you look at me?

A hippie, a liberal, a loser, a fag?

Can you see past my age, my hair, my clothes,

The color of my skin?

Can you see that there is a soul in here,

The same as you?

I too have flesh that feels, that hurts and bleeds;

A heart that loves, and longs to be loved;

A head full of hopes and dreams…

I can relate to you,

With where you’ve been and what you’ve been through.

Why don’t you take a chance today,

And open up a little bit?

Tell me something real.

Enough about the weather.

I don’t care about last night’s game.

And for God’s sake

I don’t give a damn who won American Idol!

Tell me something real!

Tell me about your family, your children.

Tell me about your dreams, your passions.

I want to see your eyes light up!

What makes you smile?

What makes your heart ache?

What do you love? What do you fear?

What do you think about when you’re all alone?

America, please…

I’m desperate.

I’m sick of the shallow and the superficial.

I can’t stand anymore fake, scripted encounters.

I’m asking you to forget what’s ‘normal’,

What’s safe, what’s expected,

And open up!

Please – just once – forget about your schedule,

Where you’re going and what’s next,

Long enough to be here, now.

I’m begging you to pause for just one second,

Put down your fuckin’ iPhone,

And look at me.

Look around you!

Feel this moment, this connectedness,

This space we share.

For God’s sake feel something!

America, please…

I’m begging you…

Show me your soul, if you have one.

Open up and feel…

Show me something real.

~ Ben

Listen, God is Speaking

How does Spirit speak to us?

Through every open channel!

 

The Guru hides inside every person

Who crosses your path…

 

Listen to what he has to say.

 

Do not listen only with your ears,

But with your eyes, and your heart

Listen with every pore of your skin,

And with the very marrow of your bones.

 

Real listening requires your whole mind,

Your whole being.

 

Can you see in every man, woman and child

The soul, the mirror,

Your own holy self?

 

Can you see in every bird, and every tree,

And every breathing thing,

The Living God?

 

Every person deserves your love and attention.

They just want you to listen,

They just want you to care.

 

When they speak, God is speaking.

 

Listen to what He has to say.

 

~ Ben

You Make a Difference

In the short time that has passed since I began to sincerely devote myself to this blog, and involve myself in the WordPress community, I have connected with so many amazing people. When I began to publish my poems and my thoughts, I did so from a need to write, to create, to express myself. I had no idea what would come of it.

I never expected that so many would find and read my words, much less relate. I never expected to find so many people who share my thoughts, who feel like I feel. I never expected to discover so many talented and creative writers, poets, artists and philosophers out there with whom I resonate so deeply. I have been pleasantly surprised on all fronts!

I am in perpetual awe at how many people all around the world are waking up and speaking out. My life has been filled with unexpected encounters and unlikely friendships with others who walk the spiritual path. And here in cyberspace I continue to connect with enlightened souls who are exploring the spiritual dimensions of life, discovering the infinite potential of human consciousness, and sharing their wisdom, compassion and creativity with the world.

Check out my blogroll (which just keeps growing!) and see what I mean. These links will connect you with some of the most beautiful minds I have ever had the pleasure to know. The writings, photos, insights and information that they share inspires me and feeds my soul each day.

One interesting thing I have noticed is that nearly every one of these blogs has been started recently. Just within the last several months, so many awakening (and awakened) people have been inspired to reach out to the world, in this digital space where we are all interconnected.

Coincidence? I think not.

It is further evidence pointing to the mass awakening which is spreading like wildfire around the globe. People are turning within, discovering their unique voice, their creativity – their divinity. And now that turning within is coming full circle, and people are no longer content to just seek their own inner peace and joy. Increasingly we are feeling an urge to reach out to each other – to connect, to heal, to teach and inspire; to love and learn and grow together; to bring peace, joy and beauty to the world at large.

Blogging is in many ways the new frontier of communication. No censorship, no corporate sponsors – nothing to keep us separate from one another. We can use this medium to serve a holy purpose – to build a new network and create a new way of sharing information and inspiration. We have already begun – but this is just the beginning. Who knows where it could go from here?

We are here. We are awake. We will be heard. We are One, and the time has come to make that mystical, transcendent Oneness a living reality on this planet.

I extend to each of you my deepest love and appreciation, for who you are and all that you do. If you are reading this – thank you! I love you! You are amazing and beautiful! Yes, I mean you!

Each one of us has a song to sing, and a gift to bring into this world. Each one us has a part to play in the healing and Awakening of Mother Earth. Every heart matters. Every soul is limitless fountain of love, wisdom and creativity.

Look within, find your voice – and sing! Sing out so all the world can hear you! You make a difference!

~ Ben

Being Authentic

At Unity of Independence this Sunday, our teen ministry had the chance to lead the worship service – and they were great! They gave a wonderful presentation entitled “The Masks We Wear,” a metaphysical interpretation of “Alice in Wonderland” that encouraged us all to be aware of the way we show up in the world. I was inspired not only by the message, but especially by their courage in stepping up and taking charge.

Now I have spoken on this subject before and probably will again, so please forgive me any repetition. But there is so much to say on this topic! Not just Sunday talks but nearly all of the experiences of my life seem to point back to this Truth: that there is untold power in just being yourself and being authentic in all that you do.

From day to day, moment to moment, we are called upon to play so many different roles. We behave one way at work and another way at home; we are one way with our family and quite another with our friends. Each person and each situation calls forth a different response from us, a different aspect of our personality.

So as we go about the business of life, adapting to the demands of each moment, how do we stay true to ourselves amidst constant change? Which one of the roles that you play is the “real you?” What is the sense of “I” and “me” that seems to stay the same throughout it all?

Well, there is only one Self, the great I AM, the Spirit of the universe; that is the True Self of each and every one of us. Beneath the personality, underlying all our ideas of who and what we are, Spirit is our true nature – formless and ineffable. The Buddha referred to this mysterious aspect of Spirit when he called our true nature emptiness. So if our true nature is formless and “empty,” what does it mean to be yourself?

What if there is no “I” or “me” that is separate from the world around us? What if the masks that we wear and the roles that we play are the truth of us, in that moment? What if the ways that we interact with others, our roles and relationships, are the ways that formless Spirit expresses itself, in this world of form?

What if we could give ourselves completely to the present moment, whatever the situation might be? What if we could forget about who we have been, and who we think we are, and just let ourselves be what we are called to be?

I have found this to be the essence of authenticity – to surrender myself wholly to whatever it is I might be doing, to whatever role I might be playing.

I have always been an introvert, given to solitude and contemplation – maybe even a bit withdrawn. But life has called me to be a son, a father, a brother, a friend, and often a counselor, or a teacher, a performer, etc. Now I don’t always feel like any of these things. Often I feel more like an observer, an outsider. Often I would just as soon be left alone.

But when I accept what life has to offer me, and give myself to the opportunities and the people in front of me, then something magic happens! If I forget about myself and just surrender to the moment, I find within me whatever is needed to meet the needs of that moment. I find the patience and the wisdom to be a good listener, and to say the right words. I find that I am a good friend, or counselor, or whatever it is I need to be (and when the occasion calls for it, I can put on a damn good show!).

My point is this: we are not separate from what we experience. We are what we choose to be, and we are capable of doing all that we decide to do. To be authentic simply means to commit to our decisions, our relationships, our lives – to abandon ourselves fully to the roles that we play. So don’t limit yourself! Forget “I don’t… I can’t… I don’t know how…” and seize the opportunities in your life! Don’t approach the challenges of your life half-heartedly, and with hesitation – but give yourself entirely, and courageously, to all that you say and do. For as a wise man once said, “Give, and it shall be given unto you.”

Thanks for reading!

~ Ben

Waves

My fist attempt to capture water drops.

Have you ever had your whole day turned around because of a kind word from a stranger, or a phone call from a friend? Have you ever experienced how a single act of kindness can call us back from the depths of sadness and frustration, and remind us of the joy that is our true nature?

You can’t begin to know the countless times and the many different ways you have made that kind of difference for someone else. We don’t know the power of a smile, a hug, or a compliment. We cannot see all of the subtle and far-reaching implications of our actions – a seemingly insignificant act of kindness can go a long way.

Consider this: we are vibrational beings, and Love is the primal vibration of this universe. Love is one of the eternal and enduring qualities of God, and of existence – Love is our true nature. So when we act from a place of compassion we align with the Truth of our being, and we tune-in to that universal vibration of Cosmic Love that is infinitely patient, kind, and generous. And that energy goes forth and touches the hearts and minds of those around us, in ways that we cannot see or measure.

Even the smallest gesture of patience and understanding towards another calls out the Truth within you both. Every conversation, every chance encounter can be a divine communion. Every moment we are given the opportunity to tune-in to Source, to be the hands, the voice, the face of God.

So what if you woke up late today, you’re running a little behind? What does it matter if you had an argument this morning, or you got some bad news? So what if you’re short on cash, or you’re hair just won’t do what you want it to do? Compared to the radiant light, the boundless love that is our true reality, our daily little disappointments don’t mean much.

When we live from that Truth, from our spiritual wholeness, we bring the power of Divine Love to bear in our lives, healing and harmonizing every situation. Every kind word, every gentle touch, every genuine smile, every loving thought, sends forth waves of Love – who knows how far they travel, or what works they accomplish. (Ever hear of ‘the butterfly effect’?)

So, dear reader, try to be a little more patient today. Smile at the cashier. Share a joke with a stranger. Forgive those who are irritable. Go out of your way for someone, if you get the chance. You are a mighty channel of God’s love – go forth and make waves!

~ Ben

Self Acceptance

Recently, a dear friend posed me an interesting question:“How do you overcome the fear of rejection? How do you overcome the feelings of being unwanted, unlovable?”

My first thought: Wow, that’s a good one…

This friend of mine has a real knack for asking these kinds of BIG, earth shaking questions. It made me stop and think: Am I even qualified to answer that? Have I overcome these issues in my own life?

So rather than give a shallow answer, I took it into prayer. I spent many days contemplating this question, observing what feelings came up within me. I listened closely for the guidance of Spirit – from books that I read, songs that I heard, conversations with friends. Now I believe the time has come to address this issue. Now I believe I am ready.

As I asked myself whether or not I had overcome these issues, it became immediately clear: No, I have not. Feelings of insecurity, inadequacy, loneliness, and fear began to surface as soon as I approached the subject!

As I asked myself what was the best way to overcome these feelings, there was no clear or immediate answer. In fact, in attempting to answer this innocent question I seemed to have opened an emotional Pandora’s box! Every attempt to rid myself of these thoughts and  feelings only brought them more and more to the surface of my awareness. Although intellectually I know the truth of my own divinity, my own worth, it does not stop me from having doubts and fears – it does not change the reality of my experience.

That’s when it hit me: reality does not need to changed or fixed. It is not my feelings or my experience that needs to be changed, but my expectations. If Man is created in the image and likeness of God – divine, whole, and perfect – then I believe that holds true for every part of me, every level of my being, and the full spectrum of my feelings and emotions.

So the answer came to me in the form of self acceptance.

As soon as I opened my heart to embrace these feelings, I felt whole once more. When we accept ourselves just the way we are, then we are no longer divided, no longer resisting our own inner nature. No matter how ugly or painful our inner experience can sometimes be, all the fears, the wounds, the secret doubts and judgments are a part of being fully human.

Why do we expect ourselves to go through life without any fear or insecurity? Why should we resist any part of ourselves, or our feelings? It is this resistance itself that causes us to suffer most of all. We fear rejection because we reject ourselves! We feel unwanted, and unlovable, because we do not love ourselves. And perhaps we are judged and rejected by others to the extent that we treat ourselves in this fashion (for if we are all One, who else is there to judge or reject us?).

You cannot love without being open, without being vulnerable. It is being open and vulnerable stirs up these kinds of doubts and fears. And often our first reaction to these feelings is of course to withdraw, to close up! This can lead to a vicious circle that prevents any deep relationship with others. This is the kind of paradox that seems to be woven right into the very fabric of individual, ego consciousness.

It is when we surrender to the process that miracles happen. When we stop trying to protect ourselves, when we stop trying to fix and control everything, then our divine nature is allowed to flow freely and spontaneously. If we let ourselves be, and let ourselves feel, then we learn from all of our experiences, even the painful ones. We go through our negative feelings, and we grow, we blossom, opening up to others and to the world.

Fear, rejection, pain, self-doubt – these are a natural part of the process of human relationships. Trust your inner wisdom, embrace your darkest feelings, and let fear run it’s course. It is Spirit expressing! It is all part of the flow of nature, the flow of Tao.

As divine human beings we are expansive – we have room within our consciousness for all emotions and experiences. We have within us love and hate, joy and pain, freedom and fear and everything in between. As we embrace and allow our feelings, we are allowing our wholeness and our divinity. So accept yourself, and be accepted! Be yourself, and be amazed!

Thanks for reading. Peace and love,

~ Ben