Sunday, March 30, 2014

Two Ways of "Making Stuff Happen," or How To Keep Away From Bears

So I’m telling my roommate Charlene how I’ll be crying my eyes out in an empty house this whole weekend, as both she and my other roommate, Rachel, will be up in the mountains visiting friends.

Charlene, who is a blue-eyed brunette of Hungarian origin, has very beautiful and dramatic eyebrows.  She raises one skeptically in my general direction.

“I doubt that very highly,” she says.  “I think it’s much more likely you’ll be reading, watching the final season of Lost, and probably spending a lot of time lying on the couch looking at the ceiling.”

Charlene is one of those charmed individuals who is happiest when she is getting things done, producing results, making things happen, and generally achieving big dreams.  It’s not that she doesn’t know how to relax or have fun.  It’s just that her idea of a fun, relaxing time is painting an accent wall in the living room, or making a four-course home-cooked meal for twelve people who don’t know each other very well.

I, on the other hand, am one of those “differently-abled” individuals who is happiest when lying around, shooting the shit, going for walks that lead nowhere, and swinging on swings. 

When I go on vacation to the beach, I really enjoy watching other people do things like parasailing or scuba-diving—I can admire their industry while thinking that perhaps I’ll try tomorrow.  But not right now.  Cause the sun is warm, the sand is sandy, and frankly, that looks like a lot of effort.

For this general tendency to entropy, I blame both my natural temperament (the politest adjective for which might be “relaxed”) and my older sister, who raised me on the belief that the best thing one can do with one’s time is to pick up interesting sticks, or to roll down appetizingly green hills if the grass looks really fluffy.

I told Charlene before we moved in together that one of my favorite things to do was lie on a couch and look at the ceiling, but I don’t think she really believed me until she walked in on me one day.

“Holy shit! You really ARE just lying there doing nothing, aren’t you?”


If you’ve been playing in any spiritual, self-help, success-driven, transformational, or metaphysical circles in the past few years, chances you’ve heard quite a bit about the place of “action” in making stuff happen in your life.

Depending on where you’ve been hanging out, you may have heard either that action is A) Good, or B) Bad, if Not Inspired.

You may have heard (or observed from your own experience) that either:

A)   Getting into action is the best way to make something real, to demonstrate actual change or transformation, to know oneself as a powerful agent of creation.  You should get into action even if you don’t feel very great about it, because once you put that feeling aside and DO, you will feel differently about yourself as a result.


B)   Getting into action without FIRST reaching for inspired Being, alignment, energy, vibration, etc., is the best way to waste a lot of time and energy doing stuff that’s just going to produce pretty much the identical results you already have.  You should not get into action if you don’t feel very great about it, because your action will simply result in more of the same feeling.

When I look at this apparent paradox from a place of heart, I can sort of make these two viewpoints reconcile.

But whenever I try to figure out this dichotomy of recommendations from my head, all it reminds me of is contrasting advice about bears.

Twenty years ago, when I moved from Chicago and first began to hike and camp in Colorado and other surrounding states where there are bears, I heard many suggestions about what to do if you encountered an angry bear.

“Whatever you do,” one park ranger told me, “the most important thing is to appear big.  Take off your jacket or sweater and hold it spread out over your head so you look bigger and the bear will be intimidated and go away.”

“Whatever else you do,” an experienced back-country camper told me, “you want to look small.  Keep your body language small, don’t make eye contact, walk away slowly.  If you don’t upset the bear further, it will leave you alone."

“The best thing to do if you see a bear is climb a tree, fast!” An old-timer in a bar tells me.  “No, that’s a terrible idea!” His friend snorts.  “Bears can climb trees way faster than we can.”

“Bears want to stay out your way just like you want to stay out of theirs,” I read in a state park pamphlet.  “One great way to let them know you’re coming is to whistle while you’re walking the trail.”

“Don’t listen to that crap,” says the guys who takes my money for a camping spot. “Actually, bears are attracted to whistling, so whatever you do, don’t whistle!”

As a result, the first few years I hiked and camped in Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, I was really scared about running into a bear by accident.  

True, I did not want to be mauled and eaten, but even worse (I thought) would be the knowledge that I was being mauled and eaten because I had tried to be both big and small at the same time, or attempted to whistle and not whistle in even intervals, and thus, attracted a bear who I had earlier, somehow, repelled.

As it’s turned out so far, whatever I’m doing seems to be working, in that I have never run into a bear in two decades.  Perhaps they see me coming (all that putting on or pulling off of sweaters) or hear me coming (intermittent whistling and climbing of trees) and say, “You know, that one just seems like a lot of effort. Let’s wait for someone more cost-effective.”

When it comes to the first quandary of Action vs. Being, however, things are less clear.

I have stepped into empowered action and seen great results, and I have stepped into what I thought was inspired action and gotten years and years and years of the same old not very interesting thing.

I have “done nothing” on couches, beaches, and grassy hills around the world, and some of my very best ideas have come to meet me there.  Some amazing people who had just what I needed appeared out of nowhere.  

Yet at other times, absolutely “nothing” happened out of my doing nothing—I didn’t even feel rested or refreshed, just vaguely guilty for being such a low-energy bum.

Yes, yes, I know that “it’s all energy.” It's not the doing or the not-doing, so much as the energy that propels it.  I get that.  In my heart I get that, in my gut I get that, but my head’s still trying to make all this make sense.

What IS the best way to “make stuff happen”?  I would love to hear your thoughts. But I still don't want to meet any bears.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Controversial Spiritual Paths, or My Friend Marcus Likes Porn

So I’m talking to my friend Marcus about how, on an energetic level, we are completely unlimited in our choices. Which is both exhilarating and confusing. Life in this realm, I am starting to discover—well, despite all our cultural baggage and inherited constraints—it’s all pretty much just one big expanding holodeck.
And if you don’t know what a holodeck is, then shame on you for neglecting your teenage responsibilities—why didn’t you spend your youth smoking pot and watching Star Trek Next Generation? It’s not going to watch itself, you know.
But I digress.
In essence, we live in a world that is continually shaped by our beliefs. You may not believe this, in which case, your experiences will confirm that belief too. The Universe really doesn’t mind if you choose to believe that your thoughts have little or nothing to do with the world that takes shape around you.
That’s why you gotta love the Universe. It’s always like, “No problem. We can do that. Here’s your completely random grab bag of mixed unrelated events that confirm your belief there’s no point to the whole thing. Have a nice day!”
One of my confused core beliefs has been that I have to work hard in order to make money. Somehow, money doesn’t seem to come to me unless I am, on some level, earning it (usually in pitiful quantities) through my attempts to do things which I'm not very good at. 
On the other hand, to go with this fairly common Puritan Ethic problem, I also have another confused core belief, which is pretty much the completely opposite impulse: a vague feeling that I should be getting paid to lie on a chaise-lounge watching other people dig a garden. I’m not proud of what some would call these entitlement issues, but there you have it. 
I just feel like this whole earning-huge-amount-of-money-while-I-do-something-I-like shouldn’t be so hard and so complicated.
So I’m talking to my friend Marcus how I want to be done with all this nonsense. “From now on,” I tell him, “I want to lie in a hammock and make money.”
“How are you going to make money in a hammock?” He asks.
“The people will come to me.” I say. “I will lie in my hammock and the people will come. They will ask questions. I will dispense wisdom. Then they will weep with heartfelt gratitude, shower me with golden coins, and leave to go make improvements in their lives, based on my insightful suggestions. Meanwhile, I will remain in my hammock.”
“I want to make money in a hammock,” Marcus says.
“You can lie next to me. In your own hammock. You can help me dispense wisdom.”
“I really want a flat screen television,” Marcus says, “If I’m going to be lying around in a hammock. And to be realistic, probably a lot of porn. Is that going to interfere with your dispensing of wisdom?”
“Ummm, well, you know that watching porn is a very low vibration activity, right? Like energetically, it's a low vibration of consciousness.”
Marcus gives me his patient look.  “I don’t really know what that means. There’s not going to be any kind of vibrators involved.  I’m a dude.”
“Well, just so you know, you are demeaning women and poisoning your own sensuality with all that crap. And besides, I feel like it’s going to be kind of distracting for people who are trying to receive wisdom, with all that heavy breathing and emphatic moaning in the background.”
“I’ll keep the volume real low,” Says Marcus. “The sound’s not that important to me anyway.”
“I’m still not sure it’s a good idea, but there’s a point we’re trying to make here, so I guess it’s okay. Can it just be fairly mainstream porn? I feel that the people might be even more distracted by a lot of transvestites. Or sodomy.”
“How much money do you think I can earn each day lying in a hammock watching porn?”
I think about this for a moment. “Hmmmm. I honestly don’t know. Will you be masturbating?” 
He gives me another look. 
“Okay, so that’s a yes. Well, that’s going to put even more people off our wisdom-dispensing. Still. I guess it’s the principle of the thing. So, depending on our intake of golden coins, I will pay you one thousand dollars a day to lie in a hammock next to mine, watching porn on your flat screen t.v. and, doing, you know, what feels right to you. But please try to be discreet. Although disgusting on so many levels, this might be good for the people. You could be helping us out spiritually, big time.”
“How’s that?”
“We could say to the people: ‘Behold, look upon this man and see how free you truly are. For he imagined a life in which he watched pornography from a hammock, and got paid to enjoy it, and lo, he had faith, and it has come to pass.'
'Think of this man when next you complain of your limited options, your meager talents, your troubled past. For who among you dared to dream like this man—this man of no discernible skills or abilities whatsoever, this man of no taste, sensitivity, or discretion--and still, he is nurtured by Divine Source. Still, he gets to live his dream.’ And the people will look upon you and realize that it is true.”
“You know, if I had realized you were going to make such a big deal out of this, I would never have mentioned porn,” Marcus says.  “We could just watch HBO’s True Detective. I love that show.”
“I think that might be best,” I say.  “In fact, could you watch something a little less sexy and murdery?  Something a little less provocative? Like ABC Family?”
“I thought the whole point of this wisdom-dispensing was to show the people that we each can have and enjoy anything we want!” Marcus complains. “I hate ABC Family.  It makes me want to throw up in my mouth.”
“I’m going to throw up in your mouth if you don’t shut up.  This isn’t about you and your stupid TV.  This is about the people and letting them see that we each can follow our own bliss.”
“But you’re interfering with my bliss right now just so you’ll be more commercially viable. Why don’t you just market to people who want to receive spiritual wisdom but who also like watching artificially attractive people having sex?”
“Why don’t YOU go get your own crowd of wisdom seekers to come pay you money to dispense wisdom while you watch dirty movies, you Big Perv.”
“I can’t. I don’t have any wisdom to dispense.  I’m just the example of fulfilled happiness without any special gifts except my gift for watching porn.  You said so yourself.”
I sigh.
Marcus is wrong, of course, just like porn. But he’s also right on some weird level.  How quick most of us are to denigrate others who do things that are unpleasing to us.
In the meantime, while me and Marcus sort this out, feel free to imagine and claim your own freaky goodness—even if it in no way resembles what other people perceive as good. 
Even if other people think it is lowbrow or stupid or lame. It certainly doesn’t have to be as controversial as pornography, but it might be just as weirdly unappealing to others.
 I used to have a roommate who collected porcelain baby angel naked cupid dolls. I believe she even belonged to a club that sent a new one every month. This did not make sense to me. But it made sense to her.
The Source of All Things, say wisdom teachers Abraham Hicks, delights in our differences. It doesn’t prefer some of us to others because of our habits. That’s hard for us to believe, hard for me to believe, but I can’t help feeling that it’s true, nonetheless.
So really, one could say that it’s our spiritual responsibility to get out there and start enjoying our unique pleasures and preferences.
It could be Star Trek. Or collecting baby angel naked cupid dolls. It could be baking cookies for all the neighbors on your street that you haven’t yet met. Or being the teacher, the guru, the leader, the listener, the hero you are meant to be.
Even if you’re ahead of your time and other people don’t quite get it yet.
I can’t tell you what to choose. But I can tell you, that at least in theory, your perfect unique choice adds to the expansion of the Universe. And that would seem to be a good thing.
I myself like hammocks. And flat-screen televisions. But, just for the record, not porn.