All posts by Gary Z McGee

The Romantic Trilemma: An Existential Inquiry Into Modern Romance

“You disappoint me, Gwendolyn. I hoped you might have a watt or two more light in your bulb than those poor toads that look on romance as an investment like waterfront property or municipal bonds. Would you complain because a beautiful sunset doesn’t have a future or a shooting star a payoff? And why should romance ‘lead anywhere’? Passion isn’t a path through the woods. Passion is the woods. It’s the deepest, wildest part of the forest. Everybody but the most dried up and dysfunctional is drawn to the grove and enchanted by its mysteries, but then they can’t wait to bring in the chain saws and bulldozers and replace it with a family-style restaurant or a new S and L. That’s the payoff, I guess. Safety. Security. Certainty. Yes, indeed. Well, remember this, pussy latte: we are not involved in a ‘relationship,’ you and I, we are involved in a collision. Collisions don’t much lend themselves to secure futures, but the act of colliding is hard to beat for interest. Correct me if I’m wrong.” –Tom Robbins, Half Asleep in Frogs Pajamas

A lot of people seem to be confused over what the concept “hopeless romantic” really means. It’s one of those things; like how most people disproportionately imagine they’re a “good driver,” or “smarter than most people.” It’s a particularly fascinating cognitive bias known as “illusory superiority,” whereby individuals overestimate their own qualities and abilities, relative to others. The same thing applies to the concept of being a hopeless romantic.

In order to understand what a hopeless romantic is, we first need to understand what it is not. Let’s break it down using a trifecta: between the hopeful romantic, the hope-fool romantic, and the hopeless romantic. Just remember to look through the scope of high humor, and let rest your scope of self-seriousness. And remember what Rumi said, “Love is the whole thing. We are only pieces.”

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The Hope-fool Romantic:

“A man asks, “God, why did you make woman so beautiful?” God responded, “So you would love her.” The man asks, “But God, why did you make her so dumb?” God replied, “So she would love you.”” –Unknown

A great many people are hope-fool romantics because they imagine they are hopeless romantics when really they are hopeful romantics. Allow me to explain.

A hope-fool romantic is typically naïve, impressionable, and thoroughly conditioned by their particular culture’s sense of what romance means. They are taught to be invulnerable and meekly me-centered (codependent). They are unable to even fathom being vulnerable and we-centered (interdependent). Besieged by the onslaught of romance movies and Disney movies, and beleaguered by the gauntlet of love songs and sexy videos they grew up watching, these young romancers imagine they’re cool, hopeless romantics. When really they’re just conditioned to view love in extremely marginalizing, materialistic, and possessive ways.

If, as the French poet Paul Valery satirically opined, “Love is being stupid together” then hope-fool romantics have taken that advice and ran with it. In their innocence they have fallen victim to the notion that love is something that they must win, or that they must seek and eventually possess, tame, or contain. But, as Osho articulated, “Love is not about possession. Love is about appreciation.” Love is not a destination. Love is a journey. Appreciation can only come when we allow ourselves to become vulnerable enough to feel it. And that means delving into some pretty scary waters. As Rumi said, “Love is the bridge between you and everything.” But he can only show us the bridge. We’re the ones who have to walk over it.

The first scary step is learning to love yourself. Not your image. Not your reputation. Not what you imagine people think about you. But your deepest, wildest, most vulnerable self. Your inner-most core, where primordial love resides. Seek that. Love that. Start there. Then work your way up to loving everything else. Love is the medium through which courage can flow, after all. Like Lao Tzu said, “Being deeply loved gives you strength; while loving deeply gives you courage.” Indeed. Love can solve almost any problem. An act of love, the defeat of the conditional by the unconditional, overcomes everything.

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The Hopeful Romantic:

“Drop the idea that attachment and love is one thing. They are enemies. It is attachment that destroys all love. If you feed, if you nourish attachment, love will be destroyed; if you feed and nourish love, attachment will fall away by itself. They are not one; they are two separate entities, and antagonistic to each other.” –Osho

Hopeful romantics make up the greater majority of romantics. They have overcome the naiveté of being a hope-fool, but only to fall into another level of innocence altogether: willful hope. They utter such platitudes as “Mr. Right” and “the one” and “knight and shining armor” and “soul mate” and “happily ever after”. They want so terribly bad that their love be a magical experience of two people meeting and spending the rest of their lives together, that they obsess about it to no end, thereby killing the magic. And yet, ironically, they still imagine themselves to be hopeless romantics. But they are so busy trying to possess love that they forget to be possessed by love. Obsession tends to lead to possession, after all. And they are all too often disappointed, typically becoming inadvertent serial monogamists along the way. Granted, there are always exceptions to the rule. But even in those cases, as the Bard said, “The course of true love never did run smooth.”

If hope-fool romantics are inhibited by the past, then hopeful romantics are inhibited by the future. They are so intent upon finding the “other half of themselves” that they forget they are already a whole person. A whole person who has yet to figure out what they’re made of. Love, if genuinely felt, is more of a fracturing anyway.  Love cracks us open. It breaks open our heart. It makes us vulnerable so that another person, who is also fractured and vulnerable, can help co-create a unique love dynamic. Love tests our mettle by shattering our metal and then softening it in order to see if it can be adapted to, and then pieced together with, the shattered and softened aspects of another.

But hopeful romantics don’t understand this. They are locked in. They are dead-set on finding their “other half.” They have the cart of their longing firmly in front of the horse of their love, and then they wonder why they cannot get anywhere. Our longing should only ever trail behind us, like a cape, lest it blind the road ahead of us, like a horse cart. A road that leads to a refreshing new perspective, and a shedding of the too-heavy burden of willful hope. Like Mark Booth cryptically articulated, “Deep inside us there is a self-loathing that prevents us from living wholly in the moment, from living life to the full. We cannot truly love or be loved until the insect-like carapace is cut open by the agonizing process of initiation. Until we reach this point we don’t know what life is meant to be like.”

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The Hopeless Romantic:

“The only way of loving a person is to love them without hope.” –Walter Benjamin

Being a hopeless romantic is a quality, a way of being in the world with an equal parts mindful/no-mind disposition toward life. A way of appreciating what we have, balanced with the counterintuitive ability to let it go. Hopeless romantics understand that the only viable option for love is for it to be in a state of creative non-attachment, holding on sufficiently enough to not fall apart, but letting go enough to allow space for human flourishing. Love must not obsessively attach and it must not obsessively detach, but it must do both if it would live forever. Like Dawna Markova said, “I choose to risk my significance; to live so that which came to me as seed, goes to the next as blossom, and that which came to me as blossom, goes on as fruit.” And so it is with hopeless romantics. They are not bound up in the hope of love, rather they are unbounded by the freedom of love being what it is meant to be. Indeed. As anywhere else in the universe, the hopeless romance trumps the hopeful one.

Being a hopeless romantic is embracing the Apocalyptic Love Story. It’s being all in, filled to bursting with the beautiful tragedies as well as the ugly joys of life. It’s riding the hurricane of love like the beautiful wild beast that she is. It’s embracing vicissitude. It’s falling in love with love itself. The highest to which mankind can attain is love. And so a hopeless romantic contents themselves to be in love with love. They are love. They understand that true love is the absence of striving for love; it’s the presence of being Love. It’s a deep, all-consuming cosmic love that subsumes the slings and arrows of unexpected change. Like E.E. Cummings said, “Love is the voice under all silences. The hope which has no opposite in fear; the strength so strong mere force is feebleness: the truth more first than sun, more last than star.”Hopeless romantics are the ones dancing the wonderfully-terrible and tragically-beautiful dance between “first sun” and “last star.” Their love shrinks or expands in proportion to their ability to let it be free. And so let it be free they must, riding it without hope, without expectation, without dogmatic belief or a self-serious disposition. On bated breath they surf, rolling with the tragic pounding of the waves, but rising with the romantic sounding of the Phoenix’s courageous call.

The hopeless romantic is the Never Not Broken Goddess within us all, shattering in order to feel more, courageously breaking apart in order to become absolutely vulnerable, and then piecing herself back together again in order to become spiritually and existentially robust. Like David Whyte beautifully articulated, “I want to know if you are willing to live, day by day, with the consequence of love and the bitter unwanted passion of your sure defeat. I have read, in that fierce embrace, even the gods speak of God.

Thank you for reading,

Love and Light,

Gary Z McGee

The Interdependent Ego And The Power Of Holistic Consciousness

“All your restlessness is out of your desire for stillness.” –Rumi.
When we consider anything in life as permanent and separate, we generate dissatisfaction, suffering and anguish. Our attachments to people, things, and ideas are ultimately futile, because everything changes, everything is in a constant state of impermanence. No matter how much we wish things could remain permanent, impermanence will always remain the only true permanent. The good thing: there is more to being human than choice, there’s vicissitude. The bad thing: vicissitude can be a cruel bitch.

Vicissitude and unexpected moments of transformation are conveyer belts of creativity and mystery, shaking up the mind, body, and soul in creative throes of existential ecstasy, and pumping out adventure after adventure for those who are aware enough that “the journey is the thing.”

The more aware we become about the evolution of the self, the more capable we are of learning how to love, how to let love, and ultimately, how to let love go. Thereby achieving a state of holistic consciousness, of flexible, adaptable self-mastery, that is guided by an interdependent ego.

But first: the counterintuitive process of individuation, of distinguishing the individual from the general or universal, must unfold.

The Ontological Plane is crashing into the Existential Black Hole. The oxygen masks have just been deployed. What do you do?

The individuated ego:

“One of the least discussed issues of individuation is that as one shines light into the dark of the psyche as strongly as one can, the shadows, where the light is not, grow even darker.” –Clarissa Pinkola Estes.

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“Individuation does not remove the individual from the social sphere but enlarges one’s connection to it… No one can individuate on Everest.”

As Carl Jung intuited, “Individuation does not remove the individual from the social sphere but enlarges one’s connection to it… No one can individuate on Everest.” Human beings are extremely social creatures. Individuation occurs in a social maelstrom. But in order to discover a healthy sense of who we are, in order to get down deep into our unique soul-signature, we need to discover a sense of who we are as individuals relating to a social environment. In short: Our co-dependence needs to give way to independence.

Understand: The ego is not the enemy. It’s actually the soul’s greatest ally when it is healthy. It’s a very important tool for soul work. In fact, it’s the most important tool in the spiritual seeker’s toolkit. Not even humor, courage, and love can be actualized without it. A robust ego, as it pertains to self-transformation and spiritual development, seeks a healthy transformation, and individuation, from codependent ego into independent ego. The problem with the majority of people in our egocentric culture is that they have become tools of their ego, codependent constructs within a codependent system, instead of using their ego as a tool toward self-overcoming and holistic enlightenment.

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The ego is not the enemy. It’s actually the soul’s greatest ally when it is healthy.

A healthy ego is an ego that has been leveraged into a state of perpetual self-overcoming, resulting in the continuous individuation of the ego. A robust ego separates and unites, separates and unites, like breathing. And then lets it all go in healthy non-attachment. All while being open to vicissitude and adapting to unexpected change with selfless, humorous, ego-moral non-attachment to the journey being the thing.

Beware the ego that operates within selfish, humorless, ego-centric attachment to an agenda. Like Lewis Hyde wrote in Trickster Makes This World, “It’s better to operate with detachment, then; better to have a way but infuse it with a little humor; best, to have no way at all but to have instead the wit constantly to make one’s way anew from the materials at hand.”

When the codependent self begins to individuate, divisive boundaries dissolve and horizons expand, there is a broadening of scope that unravels and absolves the self into a permeable, flexible, “wave” of infinite possibilities. Self-actualization is at hand.

The self-actualized ego:

“If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.” –Joseph Campbell

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Self-actualization is the realization of our full potentialities, especially considered as a drive present within everyone.

Kurt Goldstein originally presented self-actualization as “the tendency to actualize, as much as possible, the organism’s individual capacities in the world.” Here, the ego has been completely individuated and its peak potentialities are capable of being expressed. Boundaries have been dissolved into horizons and the path becomes open-ended, pivoting around the eternal “now” of the flexible and robust self.

Actualizing is symbolizing. When we self-actualize we are creating a symbolic sense of self, we are epitomizing the self through the process of our own unique mind-body-soul development through a constantly changing cosmos. In short: self-actualizing is creating a canvas out of the self, and then giving ourselves the freedom to create with the “materials” (psychological, social, cultural, physiological, existential, etc.) at hand. Our individuated ego is a giant. The ladder we climb up to reach the giants shoulder is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Our self-actualized ego stands on the shoulder of this giant seeing how everything is connected. It is the aspect of ourselves that can see further and farther than the giant ever could by itself.

Through the “breathing in and out” of individuation (attaching and then non-attaching), and through consistent self-overcoming (not allowing the self to become too inert or stagnate), an artistry of self emerges that can be called self-actualization, and peak experiences become more common. The bridge from independence to interdependence becomes clearer. We begin to see how we are not just artists going through the motions of creating art, we are the world going through the motions of creating a self. Self-development becomes universal entanglement. We see how everything is connected and moving, and we begin to see how we can be the spearhead of that movement.

Self-actualization is the realization of our full potentialities, especially considered as a drive present within everyone.

The interdependent ego:

“Contemplation is the keen awareness of the interdependence of all things.” –Thomas Merton
The interdependent ego is that aspect of ourselves with the awareness and actualization of the world-as-self and self-as-world. It’s the dynamic process of being a changing being within a changing universe. It is the cosmic self, the deep-down-self, the “wave” of the self which emerges, infinitely connected and self-similar, from the cosmic ocean.  Like Alan Watts said, “What you do is what the whole universe is doing at the place you call here and now. You are something the whole universe is doing in the same way that the wave is something that the whole ocean is doing. The real you is not a puppet that life pushes around. The real deep-down you is the whole universe.”

“What you do is what the whole universe is doing at the place you call here and now.
“What you do is what the whole universe is doing at the place you call here and now.

The interdependent ego is personification of The First Law of Thermodynamics. The ovaries-to-marrow (balls-to-bones) understanding that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, but can, will, and must change form. So it is with the self.

From this awareness a holistic consciousness emerges, a deeply profound realization that all things are connected and that infinity is the rule and finitude is the illusion. A kind of cosmic humor envelops us, and we go from being the butt-end of the cosmic joke to being the one who laughs: the enlightened jokester, the almighty tongue-in-cheek trickster of the existential enigma, the super-anthropic quantum-entangled catalyst toward evolutionary and revolutionary progress.

“To be a catalyst is the ambition most appropriate for those who see the world as being constant change, and who, without thinking that they can control it, wish to influence its direction.” –Theodore Zeldin
Indeed, the individual who has individuated (escaped codependency), self-actualized (made an art out of self-overcoming) and become an interdependent force (accepted that all things are connected), is the individual most capable of enacting healthy progressive change.

Try not to look at it hierarchically. The individuated ego is the self-actualized ego is the interdependent ego. It’s all connected. It always has been. It was always the case that these were all aspects of who you are. It’s precisely our awareness that changes. It just so happens that most of us are simply unaware, to a dizzying degree. Labeling the process is merely a tool for leveraging awareness. The more aware we become, the more likely we are to individuate, to self-actualize, and to become more interdependent in the way we perceive and engage the cosmos, the world, and each other. And the more interdependent we become, the more likely we are to discover a sense of stillness amidst all the restlessness.

Featured Images by Luke Brown, Andy Kalin, Larry Carlson

Thank you for reading,

Love and Light,

Gary Z McGee

Wielding The Double-edged Sword Of Guilt And Courage: A second-person Inquiry

“Earthly things must be known to be loved. Divine things must be loved to be known.” –Blaise Pascal

Above you, the stars boil in their blacks. Below you, the city lights blink like fists. There is the scent of concrete and oil, and too-much flesh. Your juxtaposition is sensitive, but at least it is not completely dissociated. Or is it? On the one side, the cosmos hugs you like a mother.

On the other side, the cattle-like actions of your fellow man rejects that cosmos, suffering from a nature-deprivation of the first order. Peer pressure is thick as syrup, as cognitive dissonance pushes in on you from all angles with a ruthless social anxiety that might as well be a cultural straightjacket. You resist, but you’re just one person within a shared maelstrom of unhealthy dispositions and psychosocial anxiety.

From the balcony of civilization, high up in the foothills of unsustainable humanity, you look on, perhaps imagining ways to smash camels through the eyes of needles. But probably just setting your alarm clock for the next day’s nine-to-five grind. Meanwhile, the man-machine is going through the motions of crippling itself below you.

Perhaps you’re planning ways to transcend the aggrandized tautology of it all; the clockwork of blood and bone misbalanced with oil and steel. But you’re probably just packing your lunch and dwelling on all the mistakes you made at work today. Meanwhile, Mankind is going through the motions of being a too-fat God atop a too-high mountain wanting nothing less than everything, dragging you behind it, fumbling and stumbling, as you try to detach yourself from an overly-attached umbilical cord. You’ve detachment, but you’re a social creature. The risks are too high. Loneliness is a fiery abyss. Ostracism is a menacing chasm. Exclusion is tantamount to an existential black hole. Your soul buckles and bends, warbling in its sheath.

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But perhaps you’ve walked the path of knowledge for too long, inflicted by the pricks and stings of experience. Perhaps you have achieved some sort of healthy separation. Some sort of Buddhist-like non-attachment. And maybe you realize that there is no turning back to ignorance, that there can be no convenient forgetting. You cannot unlearn what you have learned. You cannot un-see what you’ve seen. And really, why would you want to? You understand: in the sense that it is possible to be willfully ignorant, it is cowardly. Krishnamurti’s words carve a maze through your thoughts: “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” But where is a true measure of health to be found?

“Maybe you are searching among the branches for what only appears in the roots.” –Rumi.
The Eternal Reoccurrence of it all vibrates in your bones, even if you’re not aware of it. Perhaps you are. Perhaps your self-overcoming has leapt through so many hoops of itself that it has become an infinite loop. But probably not. More than likely the hoop was too scary to jump through in the first place. More than likely the conditioning you received from a fundamentally unhealthy, unsustainable, unjust, unfair, and immoral system of human governance has not been reconditioned yet. More than likely your preconditioning is very much your current condition. But maybe not. Maybe you have questioned to the nth degree. Maybe you have practiced the art of self-interrogation. Maybe you have turned the tables on your own hypocrisy. Maybe, just maybe, you have discovered the holy grail of truth: impermanence.

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Your breath stretches and drags through the cold air like smoke. There is a splinter in your heart that you may or may not recognize as Providence. It’s a familiar pang that’s been resonating within you for years. You’ve always felt like you were a stranger in a strange land, an alien that never really grasped the full extent of the native language, because the deepest healthiest part of yourself realized that the language spoken was an extremely unhealthy one. And when the language spoken is unhealthy, maybe it is better not to learn it at all. Maybe relearning what Derrick Jensen calls “a language older than words” is a more important endeavor.

You feel the pressure of the universe like a vice of stars, and the gravity of your ribcage is like prison bars. All of it is a giant cocoon transforming you. And it’s all so laughable. And so you do precisely that: you laugh. Laughter becomes your meditation. With it you slip between the bars. You slither out and around the ribcage of the cosmos. You laugh at the money-mongrels with their head up the wolf’s ass on Wall Street. You laugh at the kowtowing sheep and myopic sycophants hoarding the blind alleys of Father Capitalism. You laugh at the polluted sky, and the wormwood in the proliferated waters caused by Fukushima, and the desertification of the plant’s green spaces, and the wasteland of the human condition. But most importantly, you laugh at God, realizing that such high humor is the glue that binds all things. Indeed, as it turns out, laughter at God is more God than God. Your high humor thus resolves the equation through a fearless forgiveness of all things so that you can finally get the horse back in front of the cart, moderation back in front of gratification, courage back in front of fear, compassion back in front of disdain.

Hidden behind the army of false gods inside you, is this sacred blaze of high humor. Your cocoon is hidden by our armor. Your wings are hidden by your cocoon. And your freedom is all coiled up in your wings just waiting to fly. Human beings have an innate need to expand consciousness and to experience direct relationship with the divine, and you’ve felt this your entire life. You realize that the West’s spiritual impoverishment is directly related to its nature-deprivation and its profound misunderstanding of the fundamental interconnectedness of all things. But still you quibble with the fire you’ve stolen: sacred knowledge. Still you vacillate between fear and courage.

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You feel how Prometheus must have felt after stealing fire from the gods. Primal knowledge bashing its way through the soft shell of an outdated armor hiding a parochial ignorance. Your heart no longer a compass pointing True North, but a broken clock pointing lopsided inside a vacuum of shattered stars calling itself light. It is two gods wrestling in a maelstrom, ad nauseum, ad hominem: the attaché of attached, equal parts fist and pact. You drink the spark just as voraciously as you eat the dark. But it’s not enough. It’s never enough.

Meanwhile, the alarm clock is set. The lunch is packed. There are too many things things things cluttering the periphery. There is too much gas in your too-big car. There are too many streets in your too-big city. There is too much unsustainable oil filling in the cracks between here and there, between now and tomorrow, between tainted ocean and blackened beachfront, between living for life and living to keep a dead thing moving.
But, ad nauseum can indeed have an addendum; one that can be written under a new light. One that you know you can write, or at least help write. One that can include holistic resonance, interconnectivity, and interdependent moderation. One that can begin the process of changing the world for the better and bring nature and the human soul back into sacred alignment. One that has the spearhead of your soul pointed True North, despite the blunted plowshares of the unsustainable man-machine outflanking you. Your soul flaps behind you like a cape. All your god-parts piece together and coalesce: Heidegger-esc. Your self-overcoming is fast becoming a Nietzschean perpetual motion, an authentic process of continuous rebirth. You know the sacrifices you must take in order to bring water to the wasteland. The time has come. It’s time to transform “their” way into “our” way.

Thank you for reading,

Love and Light,

Gary Z McGee

The Freedom Of Fearless Forgiveness

“You must forgive those who hurt you, even if whatever they did to you is unforgivable in your mind. You will forgive them not because they deserve to be forgiven, but because you don’t want to suffer and hurt yourself every time you remember what they did to you. It doesn’t matter what others did to you, you are going to forgive them because you don’t want to feel sick all the time. Forgiveness is for your own mental healing. You will forgive because you feel compassion for yourself. Forgiveness is an act of self-love.” –Don Miguel Ruiz

Forgive all things, not because all things are worthy of forgiveness, but because you are worthy of peace.

Forgiveness is first and foremost an act of self-love. In a world where the majority of people are using people and loving things instead of loving people and using things, self-love is all the more important an ability. Self-love is having the wherewithal to put the oxygen mask on ourselves first upon realizing that we’re all living within a “crashing plane.”

Indeed, the “crashing plane” that is our human condition hitherto, is a disaster situation screaming for its inflicted members to learn the much needed ability of self-forgiveness. If it can be taught, and it can, then self-love might finally be able to triumph over the scourge of narcissism that has been plaguing our species, and systematically destroying the world, for a millennium.

Pay attention! The pathetic, and now grossly cliché, excuse of “it’s just the way things are; there’s nothing we can do about it,” doesn’t fly anymore. And really it never has. The oxygen masks have been deployed, and we are all of us being held responsible for our actions. There is no wiggle room here. Either we get busy placing the much needed oxygen mask on ourselves (fearless forgiveness), or we get busy dying (cowardice cognitive dissonance). The choice is yours, and it begins with forgiving yourself.

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Sincere forgiveness tears down the prison bars of our own expectations:

It turns the tables on the petty, small-mindedness of the ego. It exonerates us from the existential burden of mortal guilt, even as it frees our soul to be a force beyond the ego, a force to be reckoned with. Like Lewis B Smedes said, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”

Indeed, deep, visceral forgiveness is accepting – balls-to-bones, ovaries-to-marrow – that though we were once prisoners, victims, or slaves to an immoral system, through the sacred practice of daily soulful emancipation, we can become liberated spirit warriors with the ability to turn the tables on the very notion of slavery itself, be it mental, physical or spiritual.

When the ego rules, one cannot forgive. The ego is too busy with its whiny, woe-is-me disposition toward a world that “owes” it something, to even fathom the concept of forgiveness. The reason why authentic forgiveness is so rare in the world is precisely because the majority of people in the world are operating under outdated, parochial, and ego-centric programming. Under such programming, even the concept of forgiveness itself is seen as something outside of our power, as something that is only in the hands of a higher power. When, really, it can only ever be within our own power, and within our own hands.

Deep forgiveness keeps the ego in check. It subjugates the ego, making it a pawn to the truer power of the soul. This is because genuine forgiveness forces one to take responsibility for our individual humanity in regards to the humanity of others and the interconnectedness of all things. Through authentic forgiveness true liberation is within reach.

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Fearless forgiveness is courageous vulnerability:

Self-forgiveness is taking personal responsibility for the burden of having a paradoxical self in an interdependent cosmos. It is the full-on acceptance that we are each fallible, hypocritical, prone-to-mistakes, fumbling, stumbling apes who will make exceptional mistakes. Fearless forgiveness is declaring to the universe how this is absolutely okay. It must be okay, lest we shoot our own progressive evolution in the foot. Like Mark Twain eloquently said, “Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” But we are the heel and that which gets crushed. With fearless forgiveness we transcend both the heel and the crushing, launching ourselves into courageous vulnerability, where we have the capacity to learn from our mistakes, have fun with our hypocrisy, and have a good sense of humor in regards to our fallibility.

“But the worst enemy you can meet will always be yourself; you lie in wait for yourself in caverns and forests. Lonely one, you are going the way to yourself! And your way goes past yourself, and past your seven devils! You will be a heretic to yourself and witch and soothsayer and fool and doubter and unholy one and villain. You must be ready to burn yourself in your own flame: how could you become new, if you had not first become ashes?” –Friedrich Nietzsche

Yes! Nietzsche hits the nail on the head. He speaks directly to the power of self-forgiveness, and even further to the power of fearless forgiveness. In order to escape the prison of the self (to become new again) we must be able to forgive ourselves our prisons (burn in our own flame). Then, and only then, do we self-overcome, and finally transcend the prison (become ashes and rise again as a phoenix).

But first we have to declare to the universe, to the gods, to the so-called powers that be, that we are no longer a prisoner. That we will no longer make the mistake of playing the victim. That we will liberate ourselves from all forms of slavery. That we will forgive ourselves our unexceptional nature (individuation), so that we might liberate our exceptional nature (self-actualization). As Laurence Sterne said, “Only the brave know how to forgive. A coward never forgives; it is not in his nature.” So let’s be brave. Let’s personify courage itself. In such a state of fearless forgiveness, not even fear itself need be feared.

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Forgiveness is existential liberation:

Forgiveness is one of the most difficult abilities that a human being can master precisely because it is a self-overcoming into newer, hopefully healthier, versions of the self. Genuine forgiveness frees us from our desperate need for things to be a certain way. It emancipates us from our slavery to things that are out of our control. It is equal parts letting things go and letting things be what they need to be in order to adapt and overcome. Like Jack Kornfield said, “Forgiveness is giving up all hope for a better past.” The past is what it is. Forgiveness is a moving on, a getting-back-into-flow, a getting-out-of-our-own-way, while allowing for a better future to be a possibility.

It gets us back into flow by parting the waters of historical guilt. It places us in the forefront, in the vanguard of our own life’s developing adventure. We are suddenly allowed to be the champion we always knew we could be, starting small with the all-powerful blessing of self-forgiveness, and then moving forward with it as a daily practice. Before we know it, an artistry, a skillfulness, begins to form, and we become the empty canvas upon which that artistry becomes its own mastery.

Remember: forgiveness is never a forgetting. It is in fact only ever a deep remembering, and an even deeper letting go. It is a sacred reminiscence, and an even more sacred release. Forgiveness begins at home. If you can forgive yourself again and again, you might earn the right to forgive the rest of us. It takes unwavering strength to forgive so deeply. It takes resolute bravery, sometime in the face of stanch anger and absolute villainy. But as Khalil Gibran profoundly opined, “And God said “love your enemy,” and I obeyed him and loved myself.” So it is also with forgiveness: And God said “forgive your enemy,” and I obeyed him and forgave myself.

Thank you for reading,

Love and Light,

Gary Z McGee

(Cover image by Cameron Gray)

Inside All Of Us Is A Wild Thing: Reuniting Nature And The Human Heart

“We are all as much extraordinary phenomena of nature as trees, clouds, the patterns in running water, the flickering of fire, the arrangement of the stars, and the form of a galaxy.” –Alan Watts

Let’s admit it: the daily grind is an excruciatingly obnoxious bore. It’s a pain in the “you only live once” ass. It’s a major drag when you’re trying to live life to the nth degree. Sure, we all know perfectly well that we need to keep on grinding the hours at the old J.O.B. in order to keep the man-machine churning: to keep gas in our tanks, food in our kid’s bellies, and entertainment in our heads, but sweet ungodly goddess! There has got to be a way to break away from it all other than stiff-arming the boss, or burning the timestamp card, or taking our printers to the desert and bashing them to hell Office Space style. There’s got to be a healthier escape other than myopia-ridden television and high-school-esc Facebook. Doesn’t there?

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Escaping to our core,inner reality

There is. And it’s the greatest thing ever. But it will take courage. It will take surrender. It will take deep vulnerability. It will take being fully present. It will take being alone, truly alone.

The problem is we’re always trying to do too much at once. Especially when it comes to getting healthier. We’re constantly putting the cart in front of the horse, and then we wonder why the horse won’t go anywhere. So we give up. Too soon, we give up. And then it’s back to the daily grind, where we’re forced to grind our spirit into minced-soul. All for an illusory, cartoon-in-the-brain, abstraction of an abstraction, made-out-of-thin-air, lousy buck.

The key is to start small. Start with your heart. Yeah, that tiny redball of hungry fire in your chest trapped behind the prison of your ribs that you probably haven’t considered in a long time. Start there. Find a quiet space. Meditate on your heart. Feel it. Really feel it. Feel the rhythm. Then listen. Listen deeply, hungrily, like what it has to say is going to save your life, because it will. Like what it has to say is the last drop of precious water on this earth, because, as far as you’re concerned, it is.

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Connect to your heart it will save your life

“The way to maintain one’s connection to the wild is to ask yourself what it is that you want. This is the sorting of the seed from the dirt. One of the most important discriminations we can make in this matter is the difference between things that beckon to us and things that call from our souls.” –Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Then dare to have a discussion. The heart is more than pulse and rhythm. It speaks a language older than words. It speaks the same language as the cosmos. It speaks in the same sacred dialect as the trees, as the ocean, as thunder. Find that quiet space every day, even if only for a few precious minutes. Meditate. Be so present in those few minutes that your heart has no choice but to divulge its secrets.

But, heart-opener beware, it won’t all be soft whispers and soothing murmurs. There will be primordial howls. There will be primeval wails. There will be existential angst. A cracked open heart is multifarious, manifold with both dark and light mysteries. Some of which only nature can translate. Which means eventually we’ll have to get away. Eventually, even our sacred space at home won’t be big enough for our heart’s exploration. The call of the wild is on the wind. The call to adventure is at hand. We have a terribly important decision to make: get busy liberating the heart, or continue imprisoning it.

Again the secret is to start small. Take a day off and explore a nearby wood, desert, beach, mountain, away from the things of man. Go alone. Solitude is extremely important! Go with your heart on your sleeve, like the pulsing red compass that it is. Let it lead the way into the wild. Discover a sacred place: a place that calls to you, pulls your soul toward it, beckons you to rest. Then fully devote yourself to that place. Be fully present. Integrate mind, body and soul. Get intimately involved with yourself as world, and the world as yourself. Meditate in the moment. Feel, taste, hear, smell, and perceive it all in the here-and-now, and then let it all go with a deep, sacred release of your breath. Then listen with the ears of your soul.

Listen with the ears of your soul

Your heart will buckle with the sudden jolt of connection. As years and years of nature deprivation slide away like too-thick layers of skin, your soul will emerge despite your ego, vibrating at a frequency you’ve never felt before. Be there with that frequency. It’s the music of all things. Harmonize with it by fully embracing the absolute wisdom of your hearts connection to Cosmos. There is no better compass. There is no finer teleprompter. Not even Google can rival the search engine of your heart. Use it to the nth degree while in this sacred place. Practice asking soul-centric, as opposed to ego-centric, questions about life.

There will be many enemies on the path toward the reunion of your heart with the wild, but they will all be yourself. They will take the guise of fear, grief, denial, discomfort, and cognitive dissonance. They are defeated by practicing courage, love, curiosity, adventure, and self-interrogation. Have the courage to be vulnerable. Fall in love again with always being in love, like when you were a child. Dive into wonder and awe and inquisitive passion. Look at all things, even setbacks, as an adventure. Question yourself and all things to the nth degree.

Up the ante. Rewild yourself twice a week. Three times a week. Take full-on vacations of meditation and solitude. Keep practicing. Keep meditating. Keep showing up. Keep being fully engaged, fully present. Keep daring yourself to be vulnerable. Bear witness as years and years of cultural conditioning slide off like an outdated snakeskin. Observe as your nature deprivation is transformed into nature revitalization; as your heart grows and grows, magnanimous and appreciative of its freedom; as your comfort zone stretches more and more until it subsumes your sacred place, all of nature, the world, the universe, until one day you realize that you are no longer just a lonely speck in the universe, you are the entire universe inside a lonely speck. And suddenly you are not so alone. You discover, amazingly, counterintuitively, that it’s only when you’re alone, that you realize you are never alone.

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In deep solitude you will find you are never alone

But soul-opener beware! It won’t all be rainbow bridges and divine connections. There will be unresolved demons to wrestle with, and suppressed shadows to self-actualize. There will be buckling abysses and bent roads with impossible forks. There will be a plethora of existential blackholes to outmaneuver. The way forward will sometimes be the darkest darkness you can’t even fathom. But it will be worth it, for your heart will have been freed. Your heart will have survived the terrible annihilation within the cocoon. It will have cracked the carapace of comfort, stretched all boundaries into horizons, and transcended the hyper-reality of the Matrix. You will have become a force to be reckoned with: your authentic, natural, genuine, wild, vulnerable, courageous, individuated and self-actualized heart holds all the answers toward healthy transformation.You have only to genuinely ask it.

Or you can just keep doing what you’re doing. Going through the motions of conserving the daily grind of the cultural clock like a good little cog. Maintaining the unsustainable chessboard like a good little pawn. Preserving the dog-eat-dog monetary system like a good little debt slave. Being codependent upon an unhealthy state of human governance that calls itself democracy but is secretly a plutocracy. Holding up the untenable man-machine with its impossible mechanizations and intractable propensity to transform you into a thing that loves money and uses people, instead of a person who loves people and uses things.

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Are you a thing that loves money and uses people?

The fork in the road is now. The existential crossroads is on fire, waiting for the water of your decision to extinguish it. Get busy liberating the heart, or continue imprisoning it. You are the prisoner, the warden and the executioner. You hold the key. The choice is yours. Just ask yourself, as Rumi did, “Why do you stay in prison when the door is wide open?”

Thank you for reading,

Love and Light,

Gary Z McGee