Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Pros And Cons Of My Eastern Spirituality (Nonduality) Path

When I was a kid, I focused on nothing but on getting my immediate needs met from my environment. At times I succeeded and at times I failed. When I succeeded I was happy, when I failed, I was hurt. And boy was I a sensitive and stubborn little one.

When I became a teenager, I focused on nothing more than on my list of endless disappointments through my childhood. All my happy memories had disappeared and all my unhappy ones had become the focal point of my angry teen-aged existence. I blamed people, I pointed fingers, I held grudges and I was eternally disappointed.

It was then when I decided "fuck them," I'm going to detach from everyone and make my own life the way I want it. I promised myself that I would become the next international super star, conquering both the Spanish and English speaking parts of the globe. I was the best singer in the world, so it wasn't going to be that difficult. All I had to do was believe hard enough and work on it until I got discovered. So I went to college for singing. LOL.

When I saw how little success I was having at getting all the leading roles in school, my confidence (or should I say arrogance) started to break. By the time I was in my junior year, the list of failures at being the star of a small private college was starting to show me that maybe I wasn't going to break through in the way I had previously envisioned.

That's when all my work at personal development (back then called self-help) was not the whole key to my liberation. And that's when I stumbled across eastern spirituality teachings that focused on living in the now and becoming enlightened.

"This whole being a super star that's going to conquer the whole world is not working out so well, let me give this spiritual enlightenment thing a shot" my ego thought.

And so I did. I gave the enlightenment thing a shot and pretty much ditched the whole personal development thing altogether. Now, my life wasn't about self-improvement, it was about spiritual enlightenment.

This switch confused everyone around me. "What happened? Gabriel was so driven and determined and now he's given up. What the heck is going on?"

I stopped going to the gym, I stopped going to therapy, I stopped caring about how I looked, I stopped working, I stopped tending to my relationships, I stopped setting and pursuing goals, I stopped everything.

All I focused on was on self-inquiry, spirituality and enlightenment.

I did it so hard that I precipitated an awakening experience that took place in my basement apartment in the summer of 2007. It went something like this:

I was laying in my bed and I was thinking to myself: "How do I know that I am thinking?" to which I answered, "Who just asked that question?" to which I answered "Who just asked who asked that question?" and so on.

Apparently, the intensity and depth of my self-inquiry triggered a cataclysmic experience in which awareness became aware of itself. And since this was seemingly my first time experiencing that consciously, my whole world shifted in an instant. Since then I have never been able to be anywhere near the guy I used to be.

As you could imagine, this awakening was another pivotal turning point for me. Now, I have "awakened." Now, I am "enlightened." And boy was this a trip. Ten years later, I sit here and am shocked at how intensely deluded I became after that life-changing experience.

I wish I could say that every day after that experience I was a much better person, but I am sad to say that this was not the case. If anything I became more arrogant, more deluded and more insane than I had ever been before.

It hasn’t been until 7 psychotic breaks later, multiple hospitalizations, years of therapy and a LOT of servings of humble pie that I have been able to catch up with the massive whirlwind that all of this transformation has put my poor psyche through.

And here's where I think I got super confused and why I think it took that long to get to some sanity since then...

Clearly stated, I fell for the trap of stubbornly and exclusively attaching myself with the notions and teachings offered by ancient eastern spirituality.

Things like: - You are not the body (so why exercise?) - You are not the mind (so why do therapy?) - You are not your emotions (so why apologize?) - You are not the self (so why work?) - There is only now (so why save?) - The past is an illusion (so why study?) - All is well (so why bother?)
On and on...

And here's what I was missing: These are merely pointers and teachings. They have their uses, origins, their reasons and their intents. But none of them are total truth. As the wise spiritual adage goes: “The finger pointing to the moon is not the moon.”

A lot of these teachings come from India, Japan and many other places. But let's look at India. In India, the country runs in a great state of chaos, the body isn't seen as sacred or holy. The sage Nisargadatta Maharaj, who was one of my favorites was a chain-smoking, body denying, screaming sage. Ramana Maharshi, who is credited a lot for popularizing the self-inquiry that I was engaging in, in my basement apartment, only wore a rag around his groin and lived on a mountain and refused to go to his father's funeral. These people have a different culture, a different set of conditioning and a different set of values than we do here. And that was precisely what I loved about their teaching. The "Neti Neti" (not this, not that) or “Via Negativa” (way of negating) approach to awakening. An approach based in denial of everything except consciousness.

In India, I probably would have been an enlightenment success story. I would have sat under a tree and became a sadhu. But I was in Long Island, New York. So that didn't go over too well.

About Japanese Zen, another one of the philosophies that I found extremely attractive (mostly because of the exotic appeal that it had to the heavily materialistic and insecure American boy that I was) contains these teachings of "Chop wood and carry water” and simple teachings like “When you’re hungry, eat. When you’re tired, sleep.” Which even though I understood to be metaphors, I still attempted to cram these pointers in my daily millennial existence by denying my talents, gifts and abilities as well as suppressing my western boy desires and overall humanness. All by living in an unconscious vow of poverty and dependence on credit cards, my Dad and banks that provided school loans. I was just trying to “keep it simple.”

Having a job, being engaged and being a dutiful and responsible citizen seemed ridiculous. Ridiculous being a code word for absolutely terrifying.

One of the things that helped loosen my denial was when my teacher of the time, Adyashanti said in many of his talks: "The spiritual personality type is more afraid of life than he is afraid of death" (I'm paraphrasing, but that was pretty much it.) When I heard that, something deep inside of me knew that what he was saying was true. Somehow I knew that I was only half awake.

What saved me and got me out of it? A LOT of grace. A LOT of grace in the form of help, perseverance, tenacity, sincerity and love.

Mostly what did it for me, where my voice teacher, Mark Baxter, my spiritual teacher, Adyashanti, and later in life my zen teacher, Cheri Huber and the sangha that she guides. Somehow, seeing these people doing what I want to do and seemingly having all of the things that I desire, gave me hope that it is possible to integrate all these things and actually have a life that I want to live. They're all teaching, writing, have homes that they love and are "in the world but not of it."

Which by the way reminds me of another thing that helped me greatly: embracing Christianity and the dualistic religions.

Non-duality gave me the distance through denial of myself, my family, my relationships, my heritage, my desires, my individuality and my humanity as a whole. And even though it gave me a ton of awareness and stability, in the end left me dry and bored.

Duality gave me the embrace, the love, the inclusion and the acceptance and compassion to admit myself, my family, my relationships, my heritage, my desires, my individuality and my humanity as a whole. And even though it can give me a lot of stress and overwhelm, I has also given me a lot of devotion, compassion, aliveness and a willingness to engage and participate.

Because of both of these approaches, along with an unbelievable amount of grace, I can say that I am proud to be who I am and I am happy to be alive and well today.

Today, the edge of my practice is to keep these two approaches in balance. I do that through ongoing spiritual practice and through ongoing engagement in life.

Thank you for reading my story and I hope it's of some use to you.


Saturday, September 23, 2017

An Exercise In Transparent Vulnerability

Here's another long one. I've been going through it... again. I am recent out of getting really good care from a hospital in which I had to be admitted for psycho-emotional difficulties. If you know me intimately at all, you know that that has been one of the children that I've been given to tend to for most of my life. And as many of you know, this unsettled, hurt and crying inner child is not the easiest to learn to tend to.

Being a teacher and feeling the need to be a model of possibility, hope, light and love can come with a tremendous amount of challenge when the wounded child within is flaring up. Ironically, the very same model/mentor aspect of my being (a.k.a the "well adjusted adult") is both, the savior and the tormentor of this beautiful crying inner infant.

And as anybody who's signed up for the task of true healing will attest to, it is not easy. It is not for the faint of heart.

I post this to keep modeling what it is like to be open, honest and vulnerable as I have been doing for as long as I've been able to. And if you're wondering where such a cooky decision came from, I'll tell you that it comes from how alone and hurt I've personally felt due to a lifetime of lacking people in my immediate life that know how to consistently model what healthy, honest and undefended transparency and vulnerability look like. Truth be told, the culture of secrecy, shame and extreme emotional privacy (in conjunction with the idealization of putting out an image of indestructible happiness, success and pride) has not only not worked for me. And I can unequivocally state that it has sincerely been the single most painful aspect of society that I have had to experience as a human in this world we all share.

As someone who currently is and has been in a handful of intimate relationships and as someone who is serving in the roles of private voice teacher, acting coach and self-esteem mentor, I know full well that I am not alone in my feelings. I know that, although most of us are afraid to publicly open up about it, many of us are deeply crying inside. Sadly, we sensitive types feel like unlovable freaks for being the only ones openly hurting. All while many others are masterfully pretending to have a completely wound-free life. And even though I understand that being private is everyone's prerogative, I know how isolating and invalidating this chosen privacy can feel for us highly sensitive people. And even though I know people have their valid reasons to hide their pain, I feel that somebody's gotta do the dirty work and come forward. Let that fool be me.

Also, none of this is new, it seems it has always been this way. In fact, it is rumored that the Buddha (whom I deeply admire and love) stated thousands of years ago that life is suffering (the first noble truth). And I suppose that as humans we're each karmically hooked up to suffer more or less over different things. I in particular, have suffered a lot because of people's understandable tendency to project and present and image that is not consistent with their truth. I wasn't always as conscious about this as I am today, but this has truly been the bane of my relational existence.

As a child, what I always wanted more than anything else was for things to line up. I wanted English teachers to have good spelling and grammar, I wanted priests to be loving and compassionate, I wanted presidents to be wise and lead their countries with great sincerity, love and intelligence. I tightly associated what I saw that I heard people say they were with what their job description was. I anticipated no negative surprises. I expected consistency and honesty. Or at least honesty and transparency alone. Little did I know that I was in for the ride of my life. Little did I know, that I had incarnated in a dimension of reality where more than commonplace, hypocrisy happens to be absolutely normal and the standard of our social living.

In line with all of this, those of you who know me intimately are probably aware of my attribution to a lot of my inner conflict to the broken marriage that I was an offspring of. And again, I know I am not alone in that. In fact, I know so well that I am not alone in that, that I know for a fact that more people suffer for this very reason than people themselves are aware of. I grew up hearing my mom and my dad saying how much they loved each other, but although initially I was naive and buying it, it didn't take long before I ended up feeling deeply confused due to the fact that this love was not becoming manifest in a way that made sense to me. For most of my childhood my parents had a long distance relationship. A very long distance relationship, with an ocean and 1,553 miles of distance in between, to be more specific.

But love conquers everything, doesn't it? Well it does and it doesn't. Although my parents did have great love for each other, they had what I understand to be very little capacity to make their marriage work. And love didn't conquer that. Avoidance did. It took a long time for all of this to surface and become as clear as it is now, and a lot of difficult shit went down in between. I, for one feel quite traumatized and battered by it, and although my siblings claim to be over it, I am not.

I write this to reach for support as I have in the past, with good results. I don't ask for prayers because, at least for the time being, I'm not too hooked up to be a prayer type. But in spite of that, if a prayer is all you can offer, I will gladly take it.

I also write this because I don't want to be one more of the bunch that copes and bottles this stuff up inside. That has not worked for me at all in the past and it doesn't seem to be working for other people. No matter how much they pretend to be fine. But who knows, maybe it's more than I'm higher maintenance than most and have high standards. Funny, my original intent was to write something like: "Nothing angers me more than privileged people who take credit for their privilege by claiming that their privilege was something they created through their hard work." (Think Donald Trump who seems to believe everything he's ever accomplished is all due to HIM.) Instead, all this other stuff came out. And I'm glad it did.

Your words of empathy and support would be deeply appreciated. The retreat helped all of this beautiful expression of an honest crying heart to emerge. And I am so grateful for it.

I trust that you will handle this tenderly. And if you don't, it's your loss and not mine. That last line I just wrote for those who would be concerned about me for publishing my heart on this sleeve called Blogspot.

With great love, Gabriel

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Feeling Good All The Time

I completely understand the longing and desire to feel good all the time. After all, we are wired to pursue feeling good and avoid feeling bad as a mechanism of survival. Of course we will choose comfort, safety and feeling good over discomfort, unsafety and feeling bad. It's the only reason why we are still around - because instead of choosing to stay in the freezing cold, we chose to seek temperatures that allow us to remain alive. Instead of choosing foods that taste awful and are poisonous, we chose to eat nourishing foods that taste delicious. Instead of choosing... well, we all get the point.

Fast forward a couple thousand of years and here we are. In a world were all of our past choices as a species led to the present times. A time when our desires and drives have remained the same, just that are completely different in content. Now, it's not a choice between staying in the freezing winter that will kill us due to hypothermia, now it's a choice of whether we want it to be 70 or 74 degrees according to our heating unit or air conditioner. Which will it be? Now it's not a choice of whether to go for that suspicious looking berry and that tried-and-true apple. Now it's whether we want a chocolate chip cookie or a slice of tiramisu. Our choices have changed a ton, wouldn't you say?

The answer is an obvious yes, and the irony is that studies have shown that the more choices we have, the more overwhelmed our brains get and the more stress we experience. Things were definitely simpler and easier when our choices were two and one was the obvious right one and one was the obvious wrong one. When we have hundreds of choices, our brain panics a bit and freezes a little. "What should I choose?" "What do you think?" "Which one is the best?" Questions we have all been asked by friends. 

But, shouldn't we be experts at choosing? Shouldn't we just KNOW what we want? Especially now that we have all this generational and collective practice? Seems like not. And THIS is EXACTLY WHY I love the ancient tradition of Zen. Because it brings me back to the beginning of time, where no phrase is wiser than something as simple as "Chop wood, carry water."

A very different message from the promises of spiritual enlightenment that I imagined as a tween that was just beginning to dive into spirituality. Back then, if someone tried to sell me Zen, I would have rejected it as quickly as I would have rejected anything that made any sense back when I was in my twenties. "Screw anything logical, rational, reasonable and true," covertly said the resistant and self-centered voice in my head. Why have Zen when I can have infinite bliss and happiness?

And here's the answer: because there is no such thing as feeling good all the time. Because that simplistic and reductionist view of what is possible in life is nothing more than a pipe dream and an utter fantasy. And although I can completely understand the innocent belief in its possibility, I can completely see that it's just not true or possible.

Now, spirituality is not about seeking to feel good all the time. Now, spirituality for me is about acceptance of the reality of life. Now, spirituality is about paying attention to everything and believing nothing. Now, spirituality is about allowing life to be what it is and has always been. Now, spirituality is about embracing and being intimate with. Now, spirituality is about letting life speak to me and dictate to me rather than the other way around. Now, spirituality is about surrender and not about control. Now, spirituality is about taking responsibility and not about dreaming and hoping that magic will save me. Now, spirituality is about saying saying thank you for all blessings rather than asking for more. Now, spirituality is about receiving my life openly rather than resisting and fighting the love that I am.


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Being Alone

It's funny how often, when I write, I have this silly illusion that I am possibly writing for somebody else. It's never true, yet I often fall for it. Why? Probably because I want to believe that someone out there will keep me company as I write. I imagine myself and the reader, both together, happily ever after.

What's actually happening, however is that I'm leaving breadcrumbs for my lost soul to follow. And I feel a good little trail about to make itself on the way to the screen.

Being lonely and being alone are two completely different things. Being lonely is another way of saying being empty of awareness of one's majesty. Being alone is another way of saying being completely whole and at peace within oneself. Being alone is like being all one. Yes, all one in the sense that there is no referencing a supposed second or third within one's being. There's no looking for a reflection of one's image, there's no attachment to being accepted, loved, embraced or any of that. There's no ATTACHMENT to it. Read that slowly, my imaginary reader. There's no ATTACHMENT to being accepted, loved, embraced or any of that. Again, read that slowly, my imaginary second.

Human life has its way, its game, its rules, its modus operandi. And regardless of what those parameters are, freedom lies in not being ATTACHED to any of it. Yes, I know this may get annoying and even worse completely incomprehensible, but perhaps you can sense what I mean. It's the relinquishing of ATTACHMENT that solves the mystery of human suffering. And when we relinquish ATTACHMENT, we discover what being alone means. We discover what being all one means.

I know how annoying reading something, connecting deeply with it, sensing it and even deeply understanding it, can be. But it's only annoying when we feel so close and yet so far from what our deepest essence registered. That so close but yet so far can be a tiny split, but it's enough of a split to cause one to go insane. Yes, especially when we try to push and force, like this guy that's writing this karmically tends to do. It must be all the zeal.

Luckily the thirties have arrived. There's less naivete, less immature energy and less confusion. And that can be a saving grace.

Maybe aging is all about coming to terms with our inherent aloneness. Maybe aging is all about making peace with a truth that we're conditioned to not see, even though it's blatantly obvious. Maybe aging is all about growing into sensing the great alone that we are. And maybe that doesn't mean that we have to be lonely and maybe that doesn't mean that we have to be alone. Maybe that just means that we relinquish our ATTACHMENT to not wanting to be alone and to wanting to be alone. Maybe this is a great part of the letting go that humans have to go through in order to arrive at peace. Letting go of ATTACHMENT.

And what is attachment anyway? The obvious answer is fear. Fear of loss, fear of life, fear of death, fear of fear. Fear of not having control. And what is fear? Confusion. And what is confusion? A lack of insight. And what is insight? Seeing what is. And what is? You're it.

Funny, I'm alone while I write this and you're alone while you read it. And even though there's someone a few feet away from me, that still holds true. And even though there may be a bunch of co-workers or whoever around you, you're still alone. How do you react to that? It's a good question because it's a good measure for how at peace with yourself you are. How being alone makes you feel is probably the way you really feel most of the time - except for those moments when you trick yourself into believing you're not alone. Because the fact is that you are alone. You are alone with your thoughts, emotions, feelings, ideas, beliefs, opinions, notions and all the rest. And this is why those of us who do not enjoy our inherent aloneness become ATTACHED to any of these - because if we don't, we'll discover the truth that we irrationally fear so much. It's just the way we've trained ourselves for whatever reason - and so what? It's not a problem if we're not ATTACHED to it. Right?

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Giving Thanks

I feel so much gratitude, it is literally killing my ego and triggering tears of healing.


To God and all celestial benevolent beings, who have been keeping me safe and sound. I feel you every instant because I believe in you.

To my beautiful self, Gabriel Weiner, for being infinitely curious, inquisitive, sincere, honest and consistent in his love of truth.

To my strong and beautiful mother and father, Angela Jáquez and Paul Weiner, for having brought me into the world and for not letting me die (and for not killing me) when I was under their care.

To my siblings, Fannette Guillen, Benjamin Weiner, Aaron Weiner and Andres Weiner, for having made my childhood and beyond so rich and interesting. For being such great teachers in my life.

To all my teachers and professors, for tackling such an incredibly challenging and underrated task and for giving me more than any store ever has.

To my great, great timeless friend Susana Dominguez, for being an incredible partner on the journey.

To my amazing voice teacher, Mark Baxter for being an unbelievable possibility model.

To my wonderful exes, Lindsay Majewski, Phil Bonnachi, Anabel Valdez, Marcelo Dotel & Sandro Morales for having been such amazing teachers and companions along the way.

To my extremely clear main spiritual guides, Adyashanti, Cheri Huber and Mukti. I always come back to you for a reason.

To my amazing fiancé Dariusz Kulesza for being loyal, humble, dependable, reliable, loving and strong... not to mention, cute and sexy. I love you.

To Daniel Sullivan, Moises Dominguez, Ana Dominguez, Vivian Sullivan and Isabelle Dominguez for making my Saturday nights so special.

To Rossanna, Leylanie and Baby Paul for being amazing additions to the family.

To all of my students, for trusting me and giving me more than I could ever give them.

To all my friends.

To Boaz Givon, Mor Givon, Emma Givon, Romy Givon for making my Tuesdays and Thursdays so joyful.

Thank you and I love you all from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for giving me so much. Thank you.


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Way of The Ego

Think of egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate as a pernicious program that has been installed in the head of every human being. It operates much like a virus on a computer.

Now, when your computer slows down due to a virus, do you say "Darn it! This computer has a virus that is slowing it down" or do you say "Darn it! This computer is so slow!"?

If you're like most people, you probably say it the second way. But language really matters.

If you say  "this computer is slow," there's really not much you could do. Yet if you say "this computer is being slowed down by a virus," you have the option of installing an anti-virus and making your computer run efficiently again.

Does that make sense?

Now, if you had a really clever and highly effective virus in your computer - this virus would be installed and operating in a way where it literally blends in and gets concealed extremely well into the essence of your computer. This way, you really wouldn't stand a chance of seeing that the problem isn't really with your computer.

And that's exactly how egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate is.

Let me give you a example of something that just happened for me, so you can get a sense of what I'm talking about...

Normally I work by myself, but today I had someone working really close to me making phone calls and doing some work on the computer.

It didn't take long before I started to feel annoyed and frustrated that this person was here and I started thinking of this person as an "annoying weirdo who needs to calm down and learn how to behave like a normal human being."

By grace (and thanks to a lot of spiritual practice) I was able to see almost immediately after having that thought, that this thought was put into my system by the ego. And rather than going along with ego and thinking that it was actually me that thought that, I said to myself "Oh! There's ego doing what it's done for most of my childhood, teenage and adult life. There it is trying to ruin my experience of life again. There it is doing all it can to confuse me."

Then I thought, "Wow, it's amazing how the ego wants me to be alone and un-triggered and unchallenged for all of my life, so that it can be alone with me acting like it's the supreme ruler of my life." And then I wondered "Is there ANYTHING that isn't wrong for the ego?" Answer: No. For ego EVERYTHING is a little TOO much this or TOO little that. Everything and everyone SHOULD this or SHOULD that. (Hint: when you hear TOO or SHOULD in your head, become very, very alert and notice ego is judging and trying to control your life!)

To ego there is something wrong with EVERYTHING and EVERYBODY. Nobody or nothing is 100% adequate and exactly as it should be. To ego EVERYTHING and EVERYBODY should be different, even if just a little. To ego I need to change, my fiancé needs to change, my parents need to change, my siblings need to change, my friends need to change, my boss needs to change, my life needs to change, the government needs to change, the world needs to change. And of course, according to ego, if I stop thinking like this, I am in SERIOUS trouble. If I don't want things to change, I am dead, I won't make progress, I won't succeed in life and I won't get ANYWHERE.

To ego, there is a SOMEWHERE to get to and that somewhere certainly is NOT here!

Of course, once the ego reads something this and immediately says "So you think there is something wrong with change?" Answer: nope, but not everything needs to! Ego also says: "So you think there's something wrong with having goals and going somewhere?" Answer: nope, but it's not something that needs to go on neurotic, insane, auto-pilot, gotta-have-it, hyper anxious mode.

The point is that to ego this, right here, right now is always lacking. And the only time when this, right here, right now is okay is when the ego says so. And ego only says so if it has me completely to itself. When it has me indulging in some deadening behavior that leads to numbness and what the ego calls "relaxation" ego is quiet. When it has me indulged in some form of entertainment and short-lived pleasure ego is quiet. Ego only shuts up and when it being 100% fed by my system. Ego always has a problem when things aren't being done its way. Ego only likes the people who line up with its world. Ego cares about itself. And worst of all, ego has found a way to tell us, that ego is who we are!

What a travesty! UNTIL you install the anti-virus of spiritual practice. Only with it, do we stand a chance at reclaiming our lives from this nasty tyrant that drains us of most of our life force.

The incredible power and cleverness of ego is really not to be underestimated. I'll share another little bit to illustrate what I mean by its power:

In previous stages of my life, ego had me convinced there was something wrong with me and that I was worthless and useless. When I started doing spiritual practice in earnest, I slowly took away the ability of ego to convince me that any of that was true. I woke up out of that amazingly tricky and compelling evil trick of ego and freed myself from believing any awful thing about myself. But EGO CAME BACK! Because ego is just like the bad guy in Terminator. When you think you've defeated it, it doesn't take long before it pieces itself back together and comes back a completely new form to fool you. How it came back for me? It came back telling me that I was wonderful, better than everyone else, special and amazingly indispensable and talented! What it lead to: arrogance, wanting people to give me credit and appreciate the gift that I am, anger when someone else was complimented and I wasn't (jealousy), competitiveness, center-of-the-universe thinking and a sense of being the only one on the planet who knew what I knew. And yes, initially this inflated sense of self felt way better than all those years of deflation and depression, but honestly, it wasn't really long before I started to suffer just as much for believing I was better than for believing I was worse. They're both lies of ego. And what I've found is that ALL EGO LIES HURT AND CREATE SUFFERING FOR MYSELF AND FOR OTHERS.


Friday, October 23, 2015

Relationships As Spiritual Practice - Part 1

I still want the same exact things I wanted when I was a kid, I want to be loved exactly as I am and I want to be loved well. I want attention, affection, appreciation and respect. I want to be seen as perfect and incapable of doing anything wrong. I want to be treated with kindness, warmth and admiration. I want to be seen as a miracle and as a gift. I want to be seen as a genius, I want to be treated like a king. That's sort of how it went for me as a kid. Perhaps when I was younger it was as simple as when I started the paragraph, and as things went on, things escalated a bit. I don't know.

Today I'm in a beautiful relationship with a lovely person who, like all my previous partners, challenges me in ways that really bring me to the edge of my relational capabilities. So for this and many other reasons, I consider relationships, one of my main forms of spiritual practice. A spiritual practice, that I must say has afforded me with the greatest opportunities for growth and healing to date.

For whatever reason, I find myself in a deeply committed relationship with a person who drives the mightily spiritual and righteous ego that started to control me a very long time ago. And according to such spiritual ego, the reason why my sweetheart drives me nuts is because spirituality and self-development aren't at the top of his list of priorities. So when he is eating a bunch of cookies, watching "reality" TV shows for hours, drinking his third beer and saying that it would be really nice if he had a cigarette, spiritual ego tells me that it's time to go nuts. Because all of this is certainly a sign that there is something terribly wrong with him and with our relationship. Of course.

If only he were like ME, the spiritual, sensitive and enlightened master that I am, I would have no problems and our relationship would be perfect. Of course it would.

Now, in case it's not blatantly clear, I am being sarcastic. Not towards you, but towards this ginormous spiritual ego that has run the show for the better part of my 31 years of life in this particular incarnation. It's a tragedy really, what this clever mastermind ego has done.

If you're like most people, after reading the small vignette I have shared about my sweetheart, you would think that he's a monster. And the truth is, he is not a monster at all. Like him, I have my vices and ridiculous habits too (marijuana, video games, computer, chips and so on... also did I mention I was a smoker?). Thing is, of course the spiritual ego doesn't point those out to me. All the ego tells me is that I'm pretty much flawless or at least in the process and on track to being that way and my sweetie is not. And best of all, the spiritual ego "knows" that for a fact.

See why relationships are great spiritual practice? When you're really, really paying close attention, and when you're being really, really honest, you can start to see the painful problem. If spirituality becomes at all about being righteous, we have completely missed the point. And that's why a close, intimate, committed relationship can be so good for a serious spiritual person.

You get to see things like just how much the ego exaggerates and demonizes people's traits. Especially the people you are closest to and love the most (my sweetie is not a heavy smoker, drinker or lazy fat person). You get to see how ego works full time to take all the beautiful things away from you. You get to see how to ego there is something wrong with EVERYTHING. You get to see how ego throws projections on the screen of your awareness that are designed to make you suffer and that couldn't be farther from the truth. You start to get to see how ego is doing all it can to bamboozle you. You start to see how black or white ego thinking really is. You start to see how an empowered spiritual ego is the most evil force on the planet. And I mean that for real.

Righteously judging your partner hurts and creates serious suffering, righteously judging your partner is a very cruel and seriously damaging practice. One that can only be stopped once we see it for what it really is. And here's what I found...

I didn't get what I wanted when I was a kid. I didn't get it at all. I wasn't treated well, I wasn't unconditionally loved and I wasn't embraced and seen as a beautiful gem. And I am pissed about it. Because I am so pissed, I refuse to give it to my love and I refuse to give it to anyone else. Fuck them. If no one loved me, why should I love anyone? If I was righteously judged for wanting more toys, loving video games, eating junk food and sneaking out of the house to see soap operas - why the fuck should I give my fiancé a pass? Fuck him and fuck everyone, if I suffered for being who and how I am, so should he and everybody else in this world. If there is something wrong with me, there is also something wrong with everybody. My job is to pass on my pain, to pass on my hurt, to get even, to seek revenge and to hate the world. That's what I need to do. That's my function as an ego, that's my mission as a spiritual ego... but of course I'll call it "tough love," of course I'll say my intention is "good." Of course I'll claim I'm doing it to protect you. Of course I will. I'll do that so I can go on. I'll do that so that with my "good" intentions I can continue on building my road to hell and seeking retribution. I'm the spiritual ego, that's just what I do.

So psychotic and so illuminating. Wouldn't you say?

The point is that I want to get, and I don't want to give. I want my love to listen to me, accept me as I am and praise my every effort. But I don't want to do that for him at all. I want him to give me what I wanted as a child, but I don't want to give him any of that. He should go first, and MAYBE I'll go second... if he's lucky and knows how to ask in the perfect way.

Ego is a lunatic. Enlightened ego is even worse.

I feel so blessed to be able to see it for what it is and not indulge it. I feel so blessed to be able to recognize what my partner wants. What he wants is what I wanted and still want. To be loved and accepted exactly as I am. To be trusted. To be heard, to be seen and to be cherished and valued. And that's where the edge of my practice lies right now.