The Paradox of Change

Nothing changes, until it does.

I’m about to rock your world…

Things change, but you never change things. What I mean is that it is not you doing the changing of anything. So I want to stress to you that you are not changing anything, but I also want to stress to you that you will never believe my words. Now that we’ve established a relationship of mutual distrust, let me continue.

You may believe it intellectually, but deep down in your soul you will continue to believe that you have sway over your reality. This is the fundamental paradox of our time here. If you’re reading this blog, you probably think you are an open minded person. Well I have news for you: you are human – subject to flaws, prejudices, and other kinds of limitations. If you say, “you’re wrong about me!” you might go to great lengths to prove that you are in fact open-minded and furthermore, that you don’t need to change anything.

But here is where the trap happens. The fact that you need to prove to me (or yourself, or god, or whoever) that you don’t need to change, is you trying to change something. I’ll say it again. Wanting to not change (or detach, or surrender, or whatever) is wanting to change that you want change. In fact, wanting things to stay the same, is wanting them to change underneath. Go as far as you can underneath your own internal drives and see if you don’t want some little aspect of your life to be different.

Ok, let’s stop with the torture. The only thing you can do with this paradox is embrace it.

You cannot solve a paradox – just as you cannot change anything in your life. You cannot get out of a paradox, for that is not what a paradox is for. I do not mean to instill helplessness in you. I do not mean to tell you to stop trying. I mean only to tell you the truth as I know it.

It is your role to make things better, but doing so is fundamentally futile. I know it doesn’t seem so. If you could, why wouldn’t you make more money, attract better relationships, travel more, and do more more more? If you were to boil down exactly what the human game is at its root it is the fundamental relationship between you and the world. Specifically, that you try to change the world. And  the tricky thing is that sometimes it looks like the world has changed, but that’s all part of the game. That’s what keeps you emotionally invested in your life.

Do you understand? You may understand intellectually and you may never get it a gut level . There is nothing particularly to get here anyway. The irony is that as I’m writing I’m living the game right now, banging my head against a computer screen trying to get you to understand. But not long ago I realized that I can’t change that I want to change my life. So I’m doing the only thing I can do – embracing it.

I recommend that you too do this. But it doesn’t matter what you should or should not do, you are going to do what you’re going to do anyway regardless of what I say. If what I say compels you to do something different, that was the story you wrote out for yourself. I did not change it for you. Change happens to you and within you – nothing more. Nothing less.

Are you having trouble dealing with it emotionally? That is because you hold on the idea that you are in control of your life. You may have read Busting Loose from the Money Game and thought “wow this is my ticket to happiness.” Indeed the book lays out step by step what you can expect in your brand new life. But this is the genius of your experience here. Hidden within that book is the message that awareness has no path and the change you burn for is unnecessary. Yet the form of the book offers you progress and results: The same kind of progress and results that you’ve been chasing your entire life in spiritual and non-spiritual ways.

So what is different? Some would say awareness is the only thing that changes. Others would say everything changes. I would say both are true. If my words sound hollow it’s because at a certain point, that’s what words do. You have to take it from there.

Robert Scheinfeld previously said that, on your journey, you will eventually let go of trying to change, fix, or improve your life. Yet recently Robert said that he no longer believes you shouldn’t try to change the hologram. He is tapping into a fundamental truth. Like the ocean, your world is forever changing. And the rules themselves are forever changing. But for now the rules seem set.

It is as simple as this:

  1. There’s you and there’s your reality.
  2. You will forever try to change your reality to fit what seems to be in your mind. What you want will change, but you will not change that you want.
  3. Reality will push and pull against you.
  4. If you change that you want, the game will end.

Such a simple game but infinitely complex in its variations. Do you see? You are so amazed by this game that you would never want to stop playing.

Play on!

Awareness is Change

Whatever you believe, if you have an open mind, your spiritual journey boils down to awareness. You might call it increased awareness, but as you’ll see (both in this article and in your experience) the idea of accumulation is one of the central concepts that leads to awareness being misunderstood. In fact, the very idea of saying “spiritual journey” implies that there is a spiritual destination, and thinking this way also tends to fog up awareness.

By the way, this concept is murderously difficult to communicate in words.

And indeed as I move in Phase 2, I realize just how unfit my mind is to grapple with or communicate Truth.

But dammit I’m going to try anyway.

What is Awareness?

Lets strip this word of its metaphysical and new-age connotations. Simply put, awareness is the state of being aware. For the sake of this article, I define awareness as the non-judgmental state of observing absolutely everything in your experience. I believe that “achieving” this state (or practicing this concept) is the only way to really experience truth beyond the machinations of thought. This truth is the goal of any spiritual endeavor, perhaps the root of all goals.

This concept may seem simple, but start to grapple with the idea of “absolutely everything” for a little while and you’ll see that there are infinite layers of your experience to be aware of.

An Exercise

Let’s do a simple thought exercise, and for the sake of explanation I’m going to number the layers of my own experience as I become aware of them. The numbers will correspond roughly to “depths” of awareness, going from “lower” to “higher”

1. I’m typing this blog post. I’m listening to songs in Pandora. My feet are slightly cold.

2. I’m thinking about what I want to write. I want to make sure that what I’m writing makes sense. I have a particular intention for this piece. Ironically, one of my intentions is to, “just let the writing flow.” Yet I also desire this communication to be clever and well received.

3. I’m feeling afraid of diving deeper into my own intentions and awareness, because of deep rooted anxieties about my own self worth.

4. I’m trying as hard to be aware as I can of these layers but in doing so I realize that trying is not really being aware, at least not the awareness that I’m seeking. Too, I’m aware that seeking awareness makes that awareness an illusion because there is a goal.

5. I’m aware that in saying this I’m merely regurgitating Total Freedom: The Essential Krishnamurti.

6. I now recognize I’ve gone in my lifelong cycle of moving towards and away from enlightenment at the same time, remaining in a kind of stasis that breeds frustration through the spinning of the only wheel I’ve ever known. The impetus for moving towards enlightenment is the fear of not being enlightened. I.E. having no purpose or amounting to nothing.

7. And as I’m aware of that, I see the workings of my own experience clearly. I see that there is nothing that I can do to change this. That as long as I’m seeking awareness then I am locked into my own cycle of frustration and perceived progress. Not only that, but the whole point of experience is to be locked in this cycle.

8. And as I realize this, I realize that being aware of the futility and beauty that is this dominant defining characteristic of who I am, I realize that the process of awareness itself is the only thing that can really change my experience.

9. And yet as I move to this oasis, a mini-transcendent moment, in a desert of thoughts, desires, habits, and emotion, I realize that this too is a repeated cycle. That real transcendence, if it can ever “be achieved”, is a part of the whole of human experience, not an escape from it. That this whole exercise is itself another brick in the wall of our shared hallucination. That there can be no feeling of transcendence without its opposite to spring from, and that really, it’s all good exactly as it is.

10. This is perhaps as far as I can go with this exercise. Can you go farther? I’d love to see you try this.

Why does Awareness Beget Change?

Back from the rabbit hole, let me give you a simple metaphor. Have you ever cut yourself but didn’t know it? Did you feel pain? Usually I don’t feel the pain until I see the blood. Yet once I know, I can’t not know. The pain stays with me even if I’m not looking directly at the cut. Usually a strong desire results from this to take care of the cut by cleaning it, bandaging it, etc.

To rephrase the previous example in more useful terms, you could say that only when I became aware that the cut existed did I act, not before. But if you are frustrated in your life, then you often put the blame on the difficulty of enacting change – whether internally or externally. For instance who doesn’t want more money, but can’t seem to find a way to make more of it? You might blame equally the economy for being in a bad place or yourself for not being motivated enough to do the things you need to do. Often, you blame the fact that you just don’t know “how” to make it happen.

But to apply this logic to the example, you would say, “I can’t clean or heal my cut because there isn’t the opportunity”, “I”m just not motivated to not feel the pain”, or, “I’m cut, but I just don’t know what to do about it.” Don’t these sentiments sound absurd in this context? When you are cut, what to do is obvious. However, figuring out what to do is impossible if you don’t know about the injury in the first place.

Especially in western society we put a lot of focus on doing without being aware of what it its we’re doing or why. And yet we wonder why we don’t get anywhere. If you are truly aware, what to do is obvious.

If you become aware of this concept in your own life you’ll see that awareness and understanding come at the same time as the change that they imply. It is for this reason that I find them inseparable. Awareness is change, you just perceive them as two different things.

So if you are wondering what to do in your life, know that the change you may be contemplating is not real change, but a projection of something else – your fears, insecurities, conditioning – doesn’t matter. If you really needed more money then it would be obvious to you how to get it. That there is not a simple direct path implies that your level of awareness does not immediately enact the change of you having more money. More likely the desire to have more money is a signal to you that there is an opportunity for you to become more aware of why you believe you need more money in the first place.

This awareness is the key to everything you desire. And you can read that line with an accumulative mindset wherein you believe that being aware will bring you everything you desire. If you do this, you miss the point entirely. I’d like you to read with the mindset that awareness is the key to freeing you from your desires. Not because you get rid of them, for therein obviously lies a further desire to get rid of desire – but to understand them and perceive them without judgement of what they should be.

You are human for a reason. There was no failure in the plan. It is not wrong to desire to change. It is not wrong to reject everything I’ve said. Like I said, it’s all good. Conversely, it is not right to believe this. You don’t get a bigger cookie than the spiritually lost person. But it’s my intention to poke a hole in your tiny bubble of awareness so that you can see that there is so much more there.

The fact is real change is as unstoppable as the movement of water, and you’ll know when it appears in your life. There will be no mixed signals, searching for truth, or waiting for a sign. Change is within as without.

And it all begins with awareness.

How Video Game Properties will Take over the Movie Industry

Bob Chipman, writer for the Escapist, believes that Scott Pilgrim is a Game changer for the industry. Not because of its merit or money, but because it uses video game tropes to inject new life into tired narrative cliches. The example he uses is how a 1up becomes the modern retelling of an age old narrative rebirth cycle that started in narrative form with jesus himself.

And I believe that not only is he right, but that this is part of a much bigger trend.

The Search for The Magic Formula

To paraphrase Inception, an idea is the most persistent virus in the world. Ideas began every movie that any of us have seen, and ideas (even in this faschist remake obsessed movie culture we live in) will ultimate reign supreme, not popularity or box office. Annie Hall, a movie that began many ideas like breaking the 4th wall, didn’t make much money. Sure it won an Oscar, but are movies taking notes from A Beautiful Mind? No.

Here’s what I think is going on long term.

When it comes to movies, the people with the money are trying (and have been trying) to make videogames the new comic books for a long time. What I mean by that is they are optioning video game properties in wait for that opportune time when videogames become truly mainstream in cinema. And when they do, every single game worth knowing about will be made into a movie. This is obvious.

But they haven’t hit that point yet. Why? Because the people making the movies (not just the creative people) are trying to find that magic formula. You can argue that the formula hasn’t been found for comic book movies either, but based on the sheer amount of resources devoted to finding that magic formula, comic books have become the number one industry in Hollywood. But this can’t go on forever, can it? What I mean is that the fever pitch of comic book movie making can’t possible sustain itself. So what’s next?

An idea, a true game changer, only needs to find the right person to realize it. It doesn’t matter where that idea comes from. Hollywood understands this. One only need look back to the bidding war over El Mariachi for evidence of that.

But right now they are looking for the magic formula. They seem to think it’s talent + money + adaption of creative work in a different medium = good (a.k.a profitable) movie. Hey, it worked for the Dark Knight right? (I’ll concede Superman Returns on this one. Luck plays a huge factor in moviemaking.) Hell it even worked for a theme park ride! So obviously, it’ll work just fine for adapting a video game property. Like say, Prince of Persia? That can’t lose. Talent behind Harry Potter ($$$) + established property (aka creatively ripped off from mythology) + more $$$ = “eh.”

Why is it so, “eh?”

The Problem

The problem is that comic books/novels/theme park rides and movies have linearity and lack of interaction in common. This is huge. Adapting one to the other is sometimes as easy as cut and paste. Videogames on the other hand, while looking similar (similar enough to attract the $$) are a completely different beast that eats this whole easy formula alive.

And generally people enjoy each medium, but no one equates them. Ebert claims that games are not art. While that’s up for debate, the more cinematic a game gets the more boring (or skippable) it generally gets. And the more game-like a movie gets the more ludicrous it becomes. If you haven’t yet, watch the 1st person action scene in Doom.

Let’s take an example: Final Fantasy the Spirits Within. This was an absolute sure bet. A game that sold millions coming to your theatre for you to watch in all its “photorealistic” glory. Yet in translation they ditched everything that was remarkable about the game and replaced the plot with an Aliens ripoff. This made neither a good movie or game-like experience, and ended up pissing off both audiences. The Square Hollywood division promptly folded and now lives vicariously through the insane amount of cutscenes in FF13.

A Paradox

Here’s the real problem – in adapting video games, movies in the past have lost the very magic that made them so beloved in the first place. Yahtzee made that point. Really videogame narratives have always been totally incomprehensible or forgettable knockoffs of movies, so obviously adapting the narrative of a video game is a dead end.

The Missing Part of the Formula is in Scott Pilgrim

What Bob Chipman pointed out and Scott Pilgrim does right is it adapts the style and tropes of a video game to tell a compelling story, and it’s not even a video game adaption. Why is Avatar the highest grossing film of all time? It’s not hard to see how videogame are conceptually linked to that movie. Videogames have embedded themselves so deeply in culture that the time is ripe for a golden age of video game movies.

It’s only a matter of time before this kernel of an idea gets in the right hands of a director on a hot game property with money behind them. And I for one, can’t wait. And not just because I’m sick of comic book movies.

The Path – Part 2 – What is The Path?

The path is an allegorical concept that has real world practicality.

Have you ever felt like everything was firing on all cyclinders? Things were going your way? You could do no wrong? You’re in the zone.

That is what it’s like when you walk the path.

Others call it aligning with god (Christianity or other monotheistic religions), matching the frequencies of your desires (Law of attraction or other new age philosophies), playing in the sunshine of your expanded self (Busting Loose from the Money game), or channeling a source of creative power (artists, mystics, and psychics) What lies in common between all of these interpretations is the idea that you are linking up with some greater force, and by combining your power, you create, expand, and experience effortlessly.

The idea of walking a path implies destiny, purpose, and power. And don’t tell me you don’t love to feel those feelings.

Yet, if there are so many interpretations of this phenomenon, then why believe in this one? For me at least, it is helpful to understand life in terms of myself and the path, and in terms of walking and trying to walk the path. This is because I myself and the path that I seek have two fundamentally different natures – let’s call them planning and unpredictability – and understanding these natures allows for a greater awareness and a richer experience of life.

What you need to know is, like the Tao, the path has a slightly irregular nature about it that makes it quite elusive both to understand or connect with on any practical level. Take this reading from the Tao Te Ching,

“It can’t be approached or withdrawn from, benefited or harmed, honored or brought into disgrace. It gives itself up continually. That is why it endures.”

This sort of language is relentlessly obtuse and often seem like it’s just messing with you. Here’s my version:

You are always trying to find the path or walk the path and when you do all is right in your world. However, once you believe you are on the path you are now on your way off the path. And yet it is all good.

Damn, that didn’t make a hell of a lot of sense though it sounded cool. In this enigmatic form is an oft-misunderstood truth about reality: you are not the path, you strive to walk the path, and in that striving you fall away from the path.

Ok screw it, other far wiser figures have tried and failed to do in history what I am trying to communicate to you now. Let’s try it in picture form.

An Example

See this line?

Figure 2.1: A line moving from right to left.

If the line is moving from left to right, can you predict where it is likely to go?

It’s not rocket science. Here, I’ll help you.

Figure 2.2: The prediction of where the line will go.

Congratulations! You just engaged in one of the most deeply ingrained mechanisms of your mind, so habitual it is most likely beyond your awareness that there is anything special about it at all.

This exact phenomenon is the most universal filter for how you organize your experience. But it is not how experience itself, or “The Path” is organized.

Not at all.

Now imagine that you have a slight change in perspective. Imagine you found out that the line you projected from is actually a very slight curve. Now if you continue to extrapolate with linear thinking, eventually where you believe the line will go will actually diverge more and more from the curve.

Figure 2.3: The Initial Line is now a curve, changing how it interacts with the Projected Line

To add some real world significance, lets say that these lines moving from left to right represents experience through time. If you live your life as if the experience you believe will happen, and thus project, will happen, then eventually you move out of alignment with what the experience of life itself is. How many times has this happened to you? A business deal or relationship fell through “suddenly”? Or more simply, traffic “unexpectedly” became far worse thus making you late for work?

These figures are meant to visually aid your understanding of this phenomenon. Try going back and substituting “Real experience” for “Initial Line” and “Expectation” for “Projected Line.” Or to stick with the nouns describing their natures, “Planning” and “Unpredictability” I like to see it as “The Path” and “The Projected Path” respectively. Ironically, it’s trying to walk the path that causes you to create the projected path. More on that later.

What does this unpredictable nature matter then? Well nothing, unless your projection is more valuable to you than where the Path is actually taking you. That’s not that bad, you think. Until you bring goals into the picture and then you realize this phenomenon happens all the time and when it does happen it is a big deal.

Figure 2.4: The reason why so few goals are ever met.

The truth is that you don’t control where the Path leads and thus, using linear thinking, are doomed to feel like you continually fail at “willing” your goals into existence. You can’t will yourself off the Path for very long because the farther you stray from the path, the harder it is to continue, until eventually you meet the point of intervention.

This concept isn’t terribly hard to grasp on a conceptual level, although it is murder to integrate into practical thinking and there is a reason for that. With this new information, you might think you have all the knowledge required to walk the path and set your life straight.

But here’s the thing, in thinking that right now are you walking the path or trying to walk the path? Are you experiencing or projecting? What exactly is the difference, and what can you do about it?

Find out next time.

Part 1

The Path – Understand the Nature of Planning and Unpredictability – Part 1

How often do your plans fail?

For me it happens all the time. I’ve combated this by making more and more specifically tailored plans, by trying to reduce interference in the execution of plans, and even rejecting the idea of planning altogether. Yet it seemed that no matter what I thought, believed, or did, my plans were doomed to failure.

This is a big deal. Most likely if you’re reading this blog, you were brought up in a society that rewards the achievement of goals be they monetary, physical, emotional, or other. Or maybe it’s more insidious. Maybe you were raised and conditioned to believe that not only were goals rewarding, but they were fundamentally linked to your success as a person. So goals and achievement are not just icing on the cake – they are the cake.

Ergo, if you don’t achieve your goals you have failed as a person. Is there any worse feeling than that of total and utter irreversible failure? For me, this fear of failure and not achieving is one of the great motivators of my life. Any ability I have to plan, execute, and acquire results is itself the result of paralyzing fear for what it would mean to have the opposite.

What do you think about structure? Does it make you feel warm and fuzzy? Do you think it’s mandatory to stem the chaos of life? Do you think it’s stifling? Do you think people who don’t have it are undisciplined bums who are a leech on society? When you see a flowchart, does it make you suddenly very comfortable? I’d raise my hand on the last one. If there was a flowcharts anonymous, I’d be there.

The point I’m trying to make here is that while goal setting and planning are very abstract concepts, you have a very real emotional attachment to them. This emotion makes you forever locked in a cycle that has a sole goal to make your life better in some way. And make no mistakes, the stakes are very high. If you win and achieve what you want, then you get the ticker tape and champaigne, and if you lose then you retreat to a shell of a half-life, where the only thing you can hold in your mind is regret.

And the clock is ticking.

So what to do? That was a trick question, because there is nothing especially to do. You already do all that you can to win this particularly painful game. You already plan to the absolute best of your intelligence and predict with the best of your wisdom. Your ability to do is just fine, so rest easy you amazing results-generating machine. You may not know this yet, but what you are seeking for is an understanding, something to free you from this prison of cause and effect, deadlines, (real or imaginary) and results.

What you’re looking for is The Path.

Part 2

What’s the Big Deal with Jed McKenna?

Jed McKenna is a fascinating creation. If you get his newsletters, you know Robert Scheinfeld recommends his book, Spiritual Enlightenment: The Damnedest Thing, when he recommends almost no one else. Yet if you read him or know someone who has, you know about what a strong reaction – often negative – he gives. I must confess that after being in Phase 2 for over a year and a half I don’t find much motivation to read self help or new age books. They seem silly, like trying to learn how to count when you already know algebra. Every now and then one offers a piece of the truth, but mostly they are forgettable teflon ideas that have no bearing on the truth that I directly experience. They slide right away but Jed McKenna sticks.

If you’ve read Spiritual Enlightenment: The Damnedest Thing, you may be inclined to agree with the title. Friends who’ve read it have either rejected it out right, like there was so much falsehood they had to vomit his theories and purge the poison, or they’ve been driven slowly mad, like they were afflicted with a mind virus that threatened to destroy everything the cared about, loved, or truly knew. In fact, I experienced firsthand the latter. The feeling was not unlike falling down the proverbial (Is Alice and Wonderland a book of proverbs? hmm) rabbit hole. Yes the stakes feel that high.

So what’s the big deal with Jed Mckenna? Potentially everything. And if you haven’t read his book, I’ll touch on a few concepts he outlines but this isn’t a review. In fact, if you haven’t read his book I strongly recommend it but not for the reasons you may think.

For the sake of argument, if we assume a dialectical (that is, opposing but ultimately cross-fertilizing) relationship between McKenna and Scheinfeld then they both have a say in the subject called non-dualism.

What is Non-Dualism?

The highest form of spirituality (that is the one that is closest to the truth) is called non-dualism. Put simply, it is the embracing of the oneness of the universe. Chances are that unless you’ve been hiding under a rock (or reading your Bible to the exclusion of everything else) you are familiar with this concept. We are all one. Yes, that means you and that bastard who cut you off. Yes it means you and the parent who didn’t love you. Yes that means you and Hitler and all the terrorists who make the world a living hell.

You can see already that it is near impossible to assume the perspective of one-ness in every day life. However, this is what Jed McKenna calls enlightenment. He defines it as “abiding non-dual awareness.” So enlightenment for him is sitting back from the drama of life constantly and appreciating the experience of it. This conforms perfectly to the Busting Loose model outline by Scheinfeld, who claims that Busting Loose is about living in true joy while experiencing that range from good to bad. I haven’t asked him, but I assume if you were to ask Scheinfeld he would agree that both mean the same thing. These models are – and watch out the words get tricky – dualistic interpretations of non-duality.

Ok let me explain that one a little bit. The problem with understanding through human thought and language the idea of non-dualism is that human thought and language are fundamentally dualistic. Go right ahead and try explain a non-dualistic world in descriptive words. You most likely can’t. It’s as hard as describing what nothing looks like without using the word nothing. The philosopher Alan Watts, in The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are puts it like trying to describe the surface of a mirror in terms of the objects reflected in the mirror. That one melts my brain a bit.

The point is that it is, for the sake of argument, impossible to impart knowledge directly about non-dualism through thought, language, visuals, or any other possible communicative media we have access to in our reality. Scheinfeld claims that the whole consciousnes-field-energizes-the-hologram-model is not the truth, but it’s as close as dualistic words can come to explaining it. And he furthermore emphasizes direct experience over knowledge in Phase 2. This is really the only way to live in True Joy, and Robert’s path to doing so is “the process.” Jed Mckenna’s path, on the other hand, is a total mental breakdown.

Are Scheinfeld and McKenna in Conflict?

Yes and no.

If you’re astute, then you probably noticed the inherent dualism in the last sentence. It’s ok, and furthermore it’s the entire point of this article. But first let’s talk about Jed McKenna. If I were to cartoonize the two spiritual figures, I would say Robert is the benevolent, endlessly patient teacher that says it will all be ok, and Jed is the anachronistic rebel who you worry may actually be right even as you wonder at what cost. Or for the more comic book inclined, Robert is Batman (but more mellow and less parent issues) and Jed is the Joker.

And this is the fundamental difference in McKenna’s viewpoint. He believes that you must pay a hefty price for spirituality and not doing so leaves you locked in the holographic prison (McKenna loves using extreme language to elicit your emotions.) Robert, first of all, doesn’t believe in paying a price. He believes in expressing appreciation and expanding. You, the persona of all consciousness most likely want to believe in the fairytale of the latter but secretly fear the all-or-nothing sobering “truth” of the former. This is perhaps why you want to give Robert a hug and burn Jed at the stake.

So are they in conflict? Obviously they have two completely different ways of communicating what can’t be communicated and two different processes for getting you to experience what can’t be communicated for yourself. And obviously in your dualistic understanding of the world, you would think it abundantly obvious that the two cannot coexist. They seem toxic to each other. No wonder Robert recommends Jed’s book and Jed says that anyone who doesn’t do what he does is living in a fucking dream world. No wonder Robert’s path to enlightenment is full of self-realization and magnificent expansion and Jed’s path is one of literally spiritually digesting one’s self. (He calls it spiritual autolysis)

I haven’t read his third book, Spiritual Warfare, but if this conflict isn’t it then I don’t know what is. But the warfare isn’t physical by any means. Robert and Jed aren’t grudge matching in a cage. But the warfare is inside you. If you read Busting Loose and then Spritual Enlightenment prepare yourself for the cold war of your psyche – but with more paranoia, second guessing, questioning what really is real, if you want to be enlightened, and just how much you would give up to achieve it.

And after going on that journey you may hate me for saying that this was the point all along.

It’s all Part of the Plan

Contrary to what you may think, both writers agree on a very important point which is the key to ending your spiritual cold war. Jed McKenna calls it “killing the Buddha.” Robert Scheinfeld simply makes a disclaimer (and I’m paraphrasing) that, “this was my experience, it may not be yours.” What they are both trying to say is that you – or more specifically your consciousness which your persona is linked to – are the only thing that is real. And as such your consciousness has the ultimate direct experience of the truth. Jed mean that at some point you will to come to terms with the fact that you are the teacher as well as the student and that you will eventually outgrow the wisdom of someone as wise as the Buddha if you stay on your spiritual path. Robert always claims that you should thank yourself as well as him, since you created him in the first place.

So you see, since you are the ultimate decider of what the true path is, you are the ultimate creator of this conflict in the first place. The catalyst for your spiritual downward spiral after McKenna, is predicated on your (false) belief that McKenna is outside and thus more authoritative about your experience than you. Just as the catalyst for doing the Phase 2 work was your belief that Robert Scheinfeld was more authoritative about your path to enlightenment than you. Is it any wonder that Robert is disappearing from your hologram as the teacher? Is it any wonder that there is controversy as to whether or not Jed Mckenna is real or a phony? At least you created Robert to say that following his model to the exclusion of your own direct experience is a crock of shit.

So your opportunity right now is to realize that giving up everything – your loved ones, your dreams, and your very identity – for the goal of enlightenment is every fear and insecurity you’ve ever had about this hologram wrapped into one giant devestating and magnificent piece of writing. That in fact, if you have determined the Process to be the way to enlightenment (which for the moment and the record, I have) then you have one amazing and brilliant piece of pulsating discomfort to process in the form of Spiritual Enlightenment: The Damnedest Thing And after you realize that this is just another step in the journey, not the shattering of Busting Loose and all you hold dear, your appreciation for the incendiaries of the world will skyrocket.

And this is why they aren’t in conflict. And this is why this is mandatory reading for you if you feel supported. Jed McKenna says he loves soap operas because he sees life as one. He must be tickled pink.

What Happens When You Give up Goals in the Expansion Phase of Phase 2?

Here follows a preview of what happens in the expansion Phase.

Goals are the bane of my existence.

I believed they gave me my power, what with my abililty to think long term, to plan, and to bring to fruition the kind of life I’ve always wanted. But they are also the sharpest of all double edged swords. Not achieving goals is a feeling akin to heartbreak. The longing feeling of great emptiness, of living a life unfinished. Of not achieving all that I can be.

And I was raised in a world where goals were everything.

I was raised in a world where the worth you have is the direct corrolation of what you have done. Not what you have – as in TVs, cars, houses, and all other manner of shiny objects, because that only serves as a trophy for what you’ve done. The great paycheck that paid for all those things is the reward for what you do.

As Batman himself says, “it’s not who I am, but what I do that defines me.”

This is the game I came here to play. The game that won’t allow me to quit because at heart I don’t want to quit. Yet failing the game is an all too scary idea. Sitting at the edge of a great void, thinking of what could have been. The world is the greatest sandbox game – an infinitely more varied and immersive experience than Grand Theft Auto.

And the game you came here to play is the game of goals. Goals then, not suffering, hold the real power. For suffering, like the trophy that goals give, is just a byproduct – this time of “losing.” Yet both are illusions, just as the game, the goal, and the player are illusions.

I find myself torn between this understanding and the constant pull of the dream world of goals, success, and “making something of myself.” This hides my next big expansion. Because this is simply the zen koan of the goose and the bottle all over again.

It’s quite simple. You have two options. Do you pursue your goals and the inherent drudgery that comes with it or do you abandon them and leave all of life to chaos?

Option #1

Do you pursue your goals, and play the game you set forth even if it brings great resistance?

Think about that book you always wanted to write. But that  book you always wanted to write has you getting up at 5am every day. Do you really want to get up at 5am every day to write the book? Was the idea of writing the book what gave you pleasure? If so, is writing a book what you really want to do? Well you think, “I don’t want to work at Starbucks anymore” (starbucks here is a surrogate for any do-shit-you-dont -want-to-do-for-money job. Is fear of working at Starbucks forever really a good enough motivator for getting up at 5am EVERY DAY for years to work on this amazing book your want to write that two weeks in you lose all interest for anyway?

Maybe you just wan’t to deal with your issues surrounding a topic, and writing is great for that. Maybe you just want to write half the book and call it done.  Maybe you don’t want to write at all, but you’re just fucking unhappy and blogging on a beach in the Bahamas is a glamorous escapist fantasy.

The point is, you have to write. But you don’t necessarily want to. Writing here is a surrogate for any do-what-you-love-in-a-systematic-enough-way-to-make-a-career-out-of-it diversion. Maybe you want to play video games for a living, maybe write music,  maybe garden, maybe read to children.

But here’s the point. Because you signed on the dotted line to live in Phase 1, you will both write and work at Starbucks. Because this is one of the greatest games ever played.

Its deceptively simple. Do what you want. Do what you love. Build it and they will come. But here’s where it gets infinitely complex. Do you really know what you want? Does what you love stay consistent enough to just do it? Build “what” exactly and who will come? And why do you want them coming in the first place?

This option was meant to hold resistance. Because at heart, you don’t want to break the bottle.

Your creativity is your spark – it is your very creative manifestations of your expanded self encapsulated into a thing. And yet in trying to encapsulate it in any one pursuit – in taking the infinite and making it finite, you destroy it. It’s delicate. Creation for me is liking giving myself to something. If I were a woman, I suppose it would be like losing my virginity.

So I really want my naked and taken self to be the source of my money, my happiness, and the achievement of these elusive “goals”? Do I really want my pure expressed self to be what satisfies the goals of the masses?Do I want the private made public? Do I want to, as they say, sell out?

So then, the great game of d0-what-you-love includes the game of do-what-you-don’t-want-to-do or more accurately, do-what-you-believe-you-don’t-want-to-do. The win condition for this game is the rewarding feeling of accomplishing and the social reward of accomplishing. I absolutely love it when people comment on this blog, for instance.

The lose condition, though, is feeling like an absolute failure.

Option #2

So you play the game, because you must, and somewhere along the way you run into a great tactic to make the game eaiser for you – the prospect of stopping playing the game altogether.

That is – abandoning goals, not caring if you win or lose, or redefining success to be what you already have. This too, is deceptive, because it seems easy. But it’s not, because that’s not the way it was designed to be. To truly abandon your real goals you would have to be someone else, which is not yet possible in this reality.

Do you really want to never experience a fulfilling relationship, fortune, fame, or travelling the world? Yes you are truly infinite but not in this game you decided to play. Do you really want to die knowing that you never wrote that book? Do you want to dive into that pain of regret so deeply as to lose yourself? Do you want to spend years burying that regret only to live life as a soulless emotional cypher?

To paraphrase Jed Mckenna, the price of enlightenment is setting fire to your dreams, beliefs, and goals.

High stakes indeed. All because of a simple game you came here to play.

So What do you Do?

You must do something. There is no not doing. Even not doing is doing, as long as you’re bound by time and space. This paradox is just the point, the field of gameplay if you will, and chances are you find yourself closer to taking one option or the other. Or maybe you find yourself careening wildly from one option to another.

In my life, I feel like a Phase 2 player masquerading as a Phase 1 player. I go through all the same motions of a Phase 1 player – including a job I don’t love, a girlfriend, and hobbies – but there is a growing disconnect from one reality to another. The game for me, as a player in the expansion phase, is to find the infinite in the finite and to embrace the limitation as a form of perfection in itself, even as I engage in the limitation fully.

The closest thing to the truth I can write right right now is that I have absolutely no real idea where this is taking me. In the past few days I’ve realized that I have no idea what I want – only wild speculation. It is impossible for me, the player, to predict what I will find most joyful and thus it is impossible for me to have real and lasting goals at this point in time.

Looking back at my hardcore goal setting ways, it’s easy for me only to get a picture of my false beliefs – nothing more. The future then, though it doesn’t really exist, is clear. The truth about reality is there is no certainty and that predictable patterns exists only so that they can later be refuted in another shocking twist to the ever more intricate story.

You read my blog because you are compelled to find the truth in it. But the reality is, there is no truth that I can speak for sure – there are simply models of truth. And the idea of setting goals based on a reality that doesn’t exist is just as silly as believing in that reality in the first place. I’ve spent my life planning and executing, insuring against catastrophe and ultimately sabotaging it – ending up at square one again and again and again.

Goals and planning are ways to intellectually satisfy the need for security, but that insecurity is just the point. And I would say the fight is all for naught, but for the very reason that all is perfect. Even now as I write, I shuttle back and forth between what I know to be true, and what I believe to be true (in this case the false illusions of this hologram) I feel as though I’m being torn in two, as I try to give some solace to those who are experiencing or soon will be experiencing the expansion phase.

But the truth is there is no solace, as there is no pain, and the pain you may feel as you watch your future crumble will be in the perfect amount to the support you feel from your expanded self. I’m cold right now, but not so cold that I can’t type. Cold enough that it echoes the sobering experience of watching dreams burn.

Yet this is how it must be. The truth is, whatever you were meant to experience, you will. There is no true missed opportunity, only the false belief in one. The only goal is to play the game the way you were meant to play it, including figuring out how you were meant to play it in the first place. Expansion is the beautiful process of truly changing, or more accurately, realizing that true change is accepting who you really are.

I got where I am in life not because of my goals, but despite them. I know what it feels like to be truly happy, even if it looks nothing like I thought it would, and I got here seemingly by accident. The only thing goals gave me were a world of pain, and for that I sincerely thank them.

But in this acceptance I realize that I may find myself in the wee hours of the night, hatching some new scheme, or drawing a detailed flowchart of the next five years. And in this, I am not wrong. Reactive mode is not one thing, and so it is incredibly hard to communicate with words. But it includes all things, even those that seemed like good and bad experiences in the past. Expansion takes the shape of all your hopes and dreams and failures and regrets and asks you to walk down those tear-soaked steps one more time. This is the most courageous thing you could ever do.

To those who want to know what it’s like when you get to the play phase, I can’t tell you because I haven’t gotten to that chapter in my story yet. But for those looking for an honest understanding of what real transformation looks like – this is it.

Why Knowledge Isn’t as Important as You Think

You already know everything you need to know, you just forgot you knew it. Learning then, is not really learning – it’s remembering.

There’s no greater power outside dynamic than the piece of truth. That is, if you think that you just need one more puzzle piece and then you’ll be all good, and life in your hologram will go swimmingly, then you are under the spell of the piece of truth. It feels like “I’m almost there,” “just a little more studying,” “I know it’s here somewhere.”

The Secret

Of course it’s not here. It’s not anywhere else. You are the whole hologram.

Ergo, you already know everything. What you are doing is playing a fun game of hide and seek with yourself. First of all, you already know everything so there  is really nothing to learn. Second of all, this thing you want to learn, whether it be something about quantum physics, painting, running a business, or driving a manual transmission, is only arbitrarily going to give you the feeling of learning that crucial piece of truth, because your expanded self set it up that way. You could just as easily learn from watching grass grow, going out for a beer, watching TV, or other such “boring or useless” things. There is no cause and effect in the hologram. That’s right, you could learn calculus from making love.

Here’s why you’re most likely experiencing the “piece of truth” paradox. Brace yourself, your knowledge paradigm is breaking down.

You need and love the discomfort of “not knowing something very crucial”, something that makes you feel incomplete.

This discomfort  exists to be processed of course. Meanwhile, you in your hard cause-and-effect physical reality are thinking that you are stuck, when the exact opposite is true. The real lesson is that you don’t need to know anything in particular and that the real value in this life comes from experience, not arbitrary goals of knowing this or having that.

So ironically, the piece of truth (why you might be on this blog in the first place) is a complete and utter illusion. No wait, don’t go!

Your opportunity then, is to play the learning game as a game. What does this mean? Learn and experience in this great sandbox called physical reality because it’s fun to do so. And why have you been searching all your life for the answer that would make it all ok only to discover that the answer was a red herring and you had the answer all along? – cause it’s FUN!

Look back at all the things you did on that unending quest for truth. Weren’t they fun? Wasn’t it fun to pour through books searching for puzzle pieces, to meditate looking “within”, to travel trying to find “yourself”? You are so fortunate that you are smack dab in the middle of the most elaborately custom tailored game to your spiritual and intellectual strengths.

Only you could make a game so incredibly multi faceted and engaging.

So you know what’s even more fun? When you start recognizing this more in more, in the most mundane things. Then your focus moves from achieving a particular state of mind to experiencing your perfect minute to minute custom tailored reality, no matter how boring, confounding, or wonderful-beyond words it is.

Even as I write this, I find myself less concerned with writing a certain message and more engaged in the act of writing itself. Certainly I thought I would write a huge post today on so many other things, but this feels just right.

Who knew “not getting it” could be so good?

What piece of knowledge are you looking for? What puzzle piece has eluded you your whole life? Can you see it differently?

3 Ways to Improve Creative Writing

Creative writing often seems like a big bad task that’s impossible to scale. Especially if you have ambitions to “be a writer” (whatever that means), you may sit down and get the chills when facing a blank screen, thinking about doing something – anything else.

Creative writing can be whatever you want it to be, and in general I like the things I do to be rewarding, be relatively simple, and create meaning in my life.

Sound good? Here are three simple ways to face down the fear of that abyss of unblinking whiteness and let your creative juices flow…

1. Create More Clarity

Often times when I’m in what my girlfriend calls “thinking mode” – a semi-present state where you can literally see the steam coming from the gears turning in my brain – I’m high on the inspiration and low on the specifics.

High inspiration = “I’ll make a low budget movie underwater! How often has that happened? This is gonna be so great. I’ll set myself apart on youtube, use tried and true love stories in 5 minute clips (to appeal to the lowest common denominator) and market it as and then I’ll be rich!”

Low specifics = “Umm, what kind of camera, how am I going to get people to be underwater with me, how can I improve visibility underwater, will I need lights, what exactly is my motivation (besides money) for doing this anyway?”

While something is kicking around in my brain causing a pleasing friction it can seem perfect, limitless, amazing. However, it can seem really fuzzy. Once I commit it to paper then I have to create it within the guidelines of the external world. All of a sudden really obvious questions come up.

How long is the project? What format to shoot it on? What kind of stories do I want to tell? Is the domain available? Is it really the best domain name for this kind of movie? Does the concept hold water? (Pun #1!)

While you might think about a concept all day, 5 minutes of writing out why you want to do it, the pros and cons, and a rough outline of how you might achieve it (or even what exactly is meaningful to you) can give you a fair assessment of the ideas value, both to you and your potential audience (even if that’s again, you.)

Once you get it all out on paper, you also clear up the brain space to remember groceries, your doctor’s visit and other annoying real world logistical stuff.

2. Write for New Insight

Writing isn’t just about recording information that’s in your brain. Like when you use your friend as a sounding board, writing can create new offshoots or interesting revisions of your original idea. Whether you’re writing a to do list or your life’s magnum opus, all writing is creative, not just transcriptive.

Not to sound schizophrenic, but it’s like having another persons’ input.

Try this. Take some idea that’s been kicking around in your head for a while but you haven’t written about. Try to write it down every part of it (doesn’t have to be much) that you’re thinking about as closely as possible to what the thought process is like.

Your novel about super intelligent cats? The writing might go something like this:

Cats that can talk and organize into groups.

Cats persuading the animal shelter not to take them.

Cats running for mayor.

But yet as you write you think, hmm, what about dogs? In your mind, you didn’t even think that, but that becomes the obvious question to you. Maybe dogs are super intelligent too? What if the novel was from alternating perspectives of feline and canine? Maybe you like it better if it’s ferrets? Maybe you think of a great band called the Ferrets of Funk?

A simple writing exercise like this can help deepen the idea that otherwise would stay shallow in your brain.

3. Cheap Therapy

There’s a reason almost every self help method out there includes the process of journaling, or writing out how you feel about a certain subject whether it be the day, how often you think about when your goldfish died, or that cute girl in class. The reason is that writing gives voice to the things you care about most deeply in life, simultaneously validating you and allowing you to let those feelings flow out of you.

And best of all, you don’t have to pay a hundred bucks an hour or stare at your shrink’s unattractive mole.

You may be saying to yourself, “whoa this isn’t creative writing. I didn’t read this post to explore my deep throbbing emotional wounds.”

But here’s the thing, your deep throbbing emotional wounds are the source of your creativity, not the blocker of it. In fact, writer’s block appears when you stay in the “safe” writing zone too long.

So with all this writing, aren’t you itching to put a pen to the paper or a finger to the keys?

How do you get the juices flowing?

P.S. This is my absolute favorite book on writing. It’s not like many how to books where there is a formula to follow, but it conjures the feeling of being in the warm presence of a great mentor who wants more than anything for you to express your wonderful unique voice.

Phase 2 Players Retreat: Your Story Separates You

There is much to say about the Phase 2 players retreat that took place in March 2010 at the Chaminade in Santa Cruz. This is first of several posts I will be making about the topic.

So let’s talk about separation.

Separation is very good. It allows for the structure of day and night, sound and silence, and you and me. The idea of “you and me” allows for us to have roles wherein you know something I don’t, or vice versa.

I began the weekend by recreating a very familiar Phase 1 role for myself: the student. As, the me who “doesn’t know,” I enter a room set up with round tables and office chairs, business stationary and bottles of water. Everything about the environment screams for me “lets workshop this!”, whatever this is. But I roll with it (especially cause there are rolly chairs!) And it feels comfortable. Most of the time if a Phase 1 pattern is comfortable, it means it’s time to get real uncomfortable.

I meet Robert in the very first moments of being at the retreat. Instead of feeling like an equal, like we actually are, I feel like a very special student allowed to be in the presence of a guru. The student/teacher paradigm is wonderfully intact. He gives me a hug. Ok, so maybe he’s a new agey guru, but a guru nonetheless. My perception of him before this was as an anal-retentive, logic-minded, straight shooting businessman. Yet in this moment, confronted with his unique separate entity, I see cracks in that perception already beginning to emerge.

For one thing, he’s incredibly laid back. For another he has almost no plan for this entire three day retreat.

The Introductions

“We’re going to start with introductions,” he says. Seems right. I should get to know all these strange people who all separately felt compelled to be here this weekend.

(I’m paraphrasing here) “Tell us as little (ha) or as much about yourself. Your name, where you’re from, and how you discovered the busting loose work.”

Simple right? Of a 3 day retreat, the introductions took almost 2 full days.

Each day lasted about 10 hours (9am-7pm) with maybe 2 hours of breaks each day (give or take.) The “introductions” were then 8 hours the first day, and about 6 hours the second. Or 14 hours, or watching the extended versions of Lord of the Rings with ample snack and bathroom breaks. What I’m trying to say is that they were epic.

And not just epic in length, they were epic in emotion, in intimacy, in meaning, in transformation.

One by one people laid bare their souls in the form of their storylines about money, rejection, their search for meaning in life, and imagined octopus’ clinging to their heads.

That last one wasn’t a joke.

The Truth

While I listened to stories about visions quests, law of attraction, and losing everything, I started to really get something.

Firstly, I started to get that the introductions were not really introductions, but one of the main points of the entire retreat. As I said before Robert hadn’t planned this, but If these were introductions, your entire life is a prologue.

Having my expectations for this retreat completely dashed, I started to let the truth of it seep in – that listening to these sometimes completely irrelevant and rambling personal biographies held many nuggets of direct experience.

Furthermore, that every one of these people were me, and everyone was telling the same story. You who are reading this, are living the same story. You can’t not, because you came here to do exactly that.

Sure, the details are different, but slowly distinct patterns begin to emerge.

  1. You comes across the book in an inconsequential manner – a friend recommends it to you, or you idly picked it up from a bookstore one day.
  2. If it is meaningful, you most likely learn the wrong thing from it first, especially if you’re steeped in the more more more, bigger bigger bigger, mindset (which you can’t not be in Phase 1)
  3. The book in many of your stories sits on a desk for months, unread.
  4. You eventually read it, and sure enough, your life as you know it falls apart.

Some were telling this from the perspective of the initial “falling apart” and some were telling it from the new expanded perspective that inevitably comes like a rebirth from the ashes of their old life. But as the hours passed equal parts boring and riveting, mundane and completely fantastical, I realized I was watching my story in a hundred different permutations.

Like a prism of truth with colors in infinite varieties.

During “break times” I had the privelege of talking to myself dressed up as old wise women, fit and ambitious men, gorgeous younger women, clueless and depressed older men, and every other kind of person you can imagine. I met myself as a porn star, an energy healer, a lawyer, a disillusioned wanderer, and as a guru.

The Retreat

If you’ve been playing in Phase 2 for a while, you know (or atleast you try to understand intellectually) that everyone is you. Yet, most of the time this fact does not stay in my awareness. An absolute gift of this retreat was that I allowed my persona to see the truth more easily in everyone else. As it went on the truth felt more and more obvious.

That is one of the reasons I highly recommend a retreat like this – if nothing else than to be in a room with a hundred other people who hold a significant piece of truth. The feeling of expansion happens tenfold in this environment.

For the first time ever, I felt home. Not the home in the story where my parents raised me and I lived (though ironically Santa Cruz where the retreat took place is that.) The home outside the story, where nothing is seperate, and where we each play dress up for the fun of it.

Though I met many people for the first time, I felt like I’d known them all my life. And Robert too, played a role for me to support the cast and crew of the story I want to play. He was obviously in on that understanding, since when someone asked if they would sign his book, he replied “you should sign it too.”

The Feeling of Separation

Yet this was all the details of my particular story.

Not everyone in my hologram had this same feeling. Some were frustrated, some pained. Some were absolutely delighted, and some were quietly contemplative. Many left the meeting room because they didn’t see the point if Robert wasn’t going to do Q&A (which he eventually did quite a bit of.) This was not a bad thing by the way, as it was established we could come and go as we pleased.

Separation is necessary so that coming back to your natural state of infinite abundance feels like a journey. In reality there is nowhere to go, no one else to be, and no knowledge to gain. You just pretend you aren’t there, you aren’t them, and you don’t have “it.” Many people at the retreat did wonderful jobs of pretending these exact things.

So a curious thing happened. It became obvious in my story that there were those who saw the separation for the game it was and those who didn’t – both as beautiful as those who watch the movie and those who made the movie. Both ideas must exist for this human game to be played.

And though I’m the only thing that is real, as I sat amongst a myriad of other beautiful stories, I couldn’t imagine playing this game in an empty room.

If you came to the retreat I would love to hear your story. What did you think of the “introductions”? What “new knowledge” did you “gain”?

If you didn’t go, what is your story now? Are you “in the know”? Do you want to be?

Next Post

I realized during a Q&A session that though I’d been waiting for years to be in the presence of a spiritual leader or someone “in the know” (where the know is the answer to life the universe and everything) that now that I was here, I had no questions left that I couldn’t answer myself. I was witnessing the breakdown of the teacher-student paradigm.

The work of Chris Tomasso, writer and law of attraction enthusiast.