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End of the road

I stole this from Cortney:

Click to view my Personality Profile page

We turned in our thesis tonight! Woo! And had a good dress rehearsal for the presentation. A few tweaks and I think it will be really hot. And then I will be really hot in Hawaii!

I told you there'd be more

One of the things I’ve been thinking about lately is a woman in a film that one of my professors showed us. She had advanced leprosy, had lost facial features and limbs, but when someone asked her how her life was, she said she was full of joy because life was beautiful and God was with her. At the time it was incomprehensible to me, I saw it as delusional – a defense mechanism against the harshness of reality.

But now I think something else entirely. Life can be physically and emotionally ecstatic when we’re connected to ourselves and to our source, and I think that we are capable of remaining connected even when we’re in terrible physical, emotional, or mental pain. Even if my foot is aching, the rest of my body can still feel good. Breathing feels good. My aching foot doesn’t nullify that experience. Some pain is probably more insistent, but I think it’s amazing that this woman whose life was unbelievably terrible by most “standards”, had an ecstatic experience of life.

I think that pain is most frightening when we are cut off from our source (which I can only reach from within myself) and feel totally alone. Some people find that suffering strips them of belief – if God loves them, why do the innocent suffer?

Innocent or not, I have experienced emotional and mental pain, all the more because I didn’t believe in anything beyond my awareness. For me the key word is “believe”. I did not reach this different place in my spiritual journey by changing my beliefs. My experience of existence changed. I don’t believe in God, I am experiencing God. For me, experience is not contingent upon a belief or lack of belief. Hopefully this means that as my awareness expands, I don’t have to fight my own self-imposed boundaries. I don’t believe, I experience. That means I also don’t have to argue with anyone else about the validity of my experience, since it’s entirely subjective. If I share my experience, some people will find it interesting, some will label me deluded, and with others it will resonate. This doesn’t change my experience, and it is not meant to change anyone else’s.

All the same, I wonder if belief is easier to maintain during difficult times. I’m finding that when I’m stressed out or depressed, my connection to spirit is tenuous at best. I find myself grasping, trying to re-capture the sense of happiness and peace I’ve experienced lately. It turns out that a shift in my perspective does not obliterate all of my baggage in one fell swoop. Damn.

Instead of grasping, I’m trying to remember a few basic things: I can only find peace within myself, it does not come from externalities. I don’t have to cling to suffering, I can let it go when it’s told me whatever it’s there to convey. I can let go of the illusion that I can control things that I cannot. The ego is a tricky thing — it sneaks back into the equation when you’re not looking, and convinces you that your limited awareness is the sum of reality.

Last week I got into Baylor Law School for the spring. My ego, tricky little bastard that it is, told me that this meant I was destined to go there, and that everything was working out because of my newfound spiritual resonance. Silly rabbit. Then I found out that Baylor was giving me exactly nothing in scholarships, and to pay for it I would have to max out my student loans for thee years and take out additional supplemental loans. The degree would cost me 90k. Suddenly Baylor did not look like my pre-destined path. And my ego decided that it must be because I did something wrong – didn’t study for the LSAT enough, got over-confident. It felt like my fate was rejecting me, and it stung.

But here’s the thing: it’s always a trap when you think good things happen to you because you’re good, and bad things happen to you (or someone else) because you (or they) are bad. If the Universe is guiding us through multiple incarnations to enlightenment, as the Upanishads say, or God has a plan, as many Christians believe, the point is we’re really not going to see the point when we’re up close to it. Our egos like to feel like they understand, that they’re in some kind of control, but they’re not. My ego wanted to believe that Baylor was the plan, because my ego really dislikes the unknown, but the flip side of that over simplification is the emotional smackdown I end up taking when things do not go as I desire them to. I feel that, as the Upanishads say, God or Self is beyond duality, and our egos are all about duality. Something I need to remember the next time I convince myself that suffering=punishment and pleasure=reward.

Pema Chodron says that life is a big, smelly, interesting mess of experiences, and that none of them, whether they are pleasant or painful, are intrinsically bad. They’re just the stuff of life. Literally.

Current Addictions


Things I am thankful for today:

  1. David and his lovely family
  2. Great friends
  3. Loki (in spite of the fact that he spent most of the day hiding under the bed)
  4. Cooking my first turkey and having it come out YUMMY.
  5. Iron and Wine
  6. Helpful motherly Thanksgiving cooking advice from Nancy and Anna-Marie
  7. A really excellent couple of weeks

Coming Out

I’ve been experiencing something very new recently, and I’ve been unsure about whether or not to discuss it/blog about it. Spirituality is controversial at best, and people tend to have very powerful feelings about it, for good or ill.

I find that I’ve always linked spirituality and religion, and assumed that if I believed in God, I would be joining the unenlightened masses that believe in a male, humanoid, capricious, cruel, often discriminatory, and all-powerful deity (this secular perspective of religion, while terribly reductionist and judgmental, is not uncommon). In spite of this, I have been spiritually seeking for a long time, for the last ten years or so at least.

What have I been seeking? Insight, truth, some sense of belonging, justice, kindness, peace. It is a very long list. But I have never felt the presence of God, nor have I felt any real connection to most of the religious texts I’ve read or rituals I’ve witnessed. I often experienced it as empty, cryptic, contradictory, and conformist. My belief system has been largely agnostic, humanistic, and rationalistic. While I’ve felt some sense of resonance with the work of Jung and Campbell on archetypes, myths, and the collective unconscious, and an affinity for Buddhist practices and principals, I have always felt very much cosmically alone.

As I’ve gotten older, that sense of being alone has become harder to ignore, and harder to tolerate. As we age, the inevitability of our own death (scary) and of those we love (scarier) becomes inescapable. Buddhist principals say we should neither cling to pleasure or run from pain, but this is incredibly difficult when what lies beneath the clinging and running is emptiness, fear, and often in my case, despair. Easier to be caught in the karmic wheel than face the abyss. Anxiety and depression have been the periodic result of this struggle.

Recently my perspective has shifted dramatically. I have experienced a spiritual awakening. I don’t know a better way to describe it. I have become aware, from deep in my being, that we are not alone. I have begun to experience God or Atman/Self or God-Consciousness (call it what you want) in a way that is very immediate and tangible. It is a mental, emotional, and physical experience.

I’ve been reading a whole lot of stuff to try and help me understand what I’m experiencing. Deepak Chopra, The Upanishads (pre-Hindu texts), Rumi, Hildegard von Bingen, the Thomas Gospel (this is one of the Gnostic texts – concurrent with the bible but not associated with the church), and a stack of other books. I’ve had to re-evaluate my fairly ignorant opinions of people with religious or spiritual beliefs. I’m realizing that strict rationalism or humanism that excludes the validity of others’ spiritual experiences is just as dogmatic as any religion that does not allow for a personal experience of God.

My beliefs are no longer secular, but they are also not strictly religious either. I think that all of the universe and what lies beyond is some form of consciousness, and that I am part of that consciousness. It feels as if I am a cell in a body that exists to experience itself – my life is a vital part of that consciousness’ awareness. This leads me to feel as if the difference between myself and other beings is not as substantial as it once seemed. It also gives me a profound sense of the ecstatic quality of life, something I have had difficulty accessing in the past. I find it easier to forgive myself and others, and easier to let go of fear and shame, emotions that have been very difficult to release in the past.

Strangely, I have been drawing mandalas for years, mostly because I thought they looked cool. Now I think perhaps my higher conciousness was struggling to express itself.

I decided to write about this because I really like to blog about my thoughts and feelings, what I’ve been reading, and my personal reflections. This is a big shift, and has brought on quite a bit of obsessive book reading, so I’m sure there will be more about it in the future. I am a little worried about the reaction of some of the people I know read this blog, but I think it’s worth it to stay authentic in a forum where that’s kind of the point, you know?

Parallel Universe

I swear, job hunting in this town is just like dating in this town. You post your online personal/resume and inquire about interesting people/positions. Prospective dates/employers contact you and you begin conversation/flirting/negotiations. You have a phone conversation/interview. You have a first date/on site interview. You wear your nicest clothes and try not to seem too slutty/desperate (even if you are). You try to keep you wits about you by not drinking too much tequila/coffee. You want to come across as witty/intelligent and attractive/a good investment.

Then the date/interview is over. You wait by the phone. You check your email constantly. You try and predict whether or not your date/possible future boss liked you, how long it will take them to contact you, whether or not you should contact them. You imagine possible future scenarios, both good and bad. You come up with wild theories for why they haven’t called you yet.

And of course, you face the inevitable rejections that come with dating/job hunting. Your date/interviewer says, “I really enjoyed our dinner/interview, I’ll be contacting you very soon. When are you free/what is your availability next week?” And then… crickets. Or the classic lame excuses: “I couldn’t call, my cell phone died and my toilet overflowed.”/ “I got swamped and we decided to go with someone else (so I didn’t bother to tell you I’d canceled your interview or given the contract to someone else).”

The emotions that go along with these two scenarios are about the same. One is about the hope of future happiness, while the other is about future paying of bills, but both tend to affect how I feel about myself, at least temporarily. Both also take a certain amount of resilience, and a good sense of humor.

More fun with technology

Though I am a self-professed brand whore, Apple is really starting to piss me off.

I had backed up all my TV shows purchased through iTunes on my external hard drive. Smart, right? So after the big crash, I copied everything down to my new computer, and then synched it to my iPod. Oh, but first, I had to get a third party program to grab stuff from my iPod and put it on my Mac, because Apple doesn’t like you using your iPod as a hard drive – you might be using it for naughty pirate activity or something. Whatever. So I got all my data on my new computer, and then synched to my iPod. Then I deleted off my computer the stuff I don’t need – namely $200 worth of television shows that suck up enormous amounts of space.

Guess what happened? The next time I plugged in my iPod, it removed it all. Yep. No more TV shows, anywhere. Lovely.

At a friend’s urging, I emailed Apple (let me say, finding a customer service email on that website is no mean feat, and don’t even get me started on Adobe) and said my stuff had been eaten.

I got an email back saying I could re-download everything I’d ever bought, and chiding me for losing my data. Obviously they didn’t read my original email where I said I had backed up everything, but then freaking iTunes ate it all.

So now I’m re-downloading about 50 gigs worth of stuff. Why am I downloading all of it, rather than just the stuff I want, you ask? Well, I tried that, but iTunes freaks out and starts re-downloading the stuff again anyway. So I’m going through all my files (again) and trashing the old ones, which I will delete when all this crap is done re-downloading.

Not the most efficient system ever created. And I guess I’m going to burn my library to DVDs or something, since there’s no way to sync your iPod without it removing stuff you’ve deleted from your hard drive.

Microsoft is looking pretty sweet right about now.