This is my personal journey of meditation, spirituality, and self-realization. This has been an ongoing process that I felt I should document in hopes that I can help myself and others. It all started about 5 years ago. Lots of things were going on in my life at that time. My mother had passed away about a year prior; my twin sister was battling breast cancer and I was not happy at my job. To cope with all of this I started to rely on drinking. I used drinking as a coping mechanism to shut down my mind and emotions. This process worked for a little while until I woke up many mornings tried and hungover. I knew deep down inside that this was not a healthy way to live my life. I had always used some type of substance to ease my mind and anxiety throughout the course of my life – alcohol, pot, or cigarettes. All of these substances never allowed me to deal with the core route of my problems. They just subdued or masked things temporarily until the bad thoughts and feelings resurfaced again.
I knew that this dysfunctional way of dealing with life was not working. It was not until I prayed to my deceased mother for help and guidance when things started to change. Not long after that Eckhart Tolle’s book The Power of Now found its way into my life. This book changed my life. It showed me that I was not just a bundle of emotions, feelings, and thoughts. I was essentially not my mind. I was something deeper or beyond the mind. I was the silent awareness or the observer watching. This newfound realization opened up a whole new way to look at life. I wanted to know more so I began reading books on Yoga and meditation. This soon led to books on spirituality. I watched countless videos on YouTube. I wanted to realize my true nature, so this led me to practice meditation. Meditation allowed me to see how my mind worked. It helped me slow down my thought process and regulated my feelings and anxiety. It also revealed how heavily my mind and body were conditioned with fear. Meditation became a part of my daily life.
Soon after the desire to drink just disappeared, I knew that I never wanted to live my life like that again. I haven’t had an urge since. It was like there was a conscious shift. I had found a new way to deal with my mind, emotions, and fear. It was quite a revelation. I remember one afternoon doing Yoga that it hit me. I could not stop crying. To essentially know that you are not your mind, consisting of clusters of thoughts, feelings, or emotions, you are awareness or consciousness. To not totally identify with one’s mind was very liberating. I knew I did not have to live the rest of my life living in my thoughts and fears. Looking back, I guess I had a mini awaking or self-realization. That moment had a profound effect on me.
I had several more impactful moments in my spiritual life. I like to go hiking and spend time in nature. One particular time I hiked out to my favorite spot in the reservoir. It was a great rocky area the let you seen the whole lake. I would often spend hours watching nature and meditate. All the ducks, loons, and wildlife would just come and go from the lake. There was such stillness on that lake. It was then that I felt this overwhelming sense of peace. It filled my whole body. I had never felt anything like that before. The feeling that everything in the world was good, perfect, and just as it should be. I think Eckhart Tolle said it best. “In the Bible, it says that God created the world and saw that it was good. That is what you see when you look from stillness without thought.” That peaceful feeling stuck with me for several days and then disappeared. Sometimes it would come back from time to time when I spent time in nature. I realize now I was looking at nature without the screen of thought and watching as pure awareness.
Ever since those experiences, I have been on the seeker’s path. I was so excited about my discovery that I started this website to hopefully help others. I began reading more and more about meditation and spirituality. I watched countless videos on YouTube and the Internet. I read books and did many guided meditations from Jon Kabat Zinn, Deepak Chopra, and Joseph Goldstein. These gave me a greater understanding of meditation and help me in my practice.
Many spiritual teachers have helped me along the way. Each one has given me greater insight into the fallacy of the ego and self. All of these teachers give you pointers to realizing your true nature. Here is a list of teachers that have helped me.
Eckhart Tolle was the first teacher to help me understand how the mind works. He spoke about the randomness of thought and how thoughts come and go. We essentially have no control of thoughts. He taught me how to stay present and not follow every thought that comes into my head. Eckhart also taught me how to be more present and in the moment. One big understanding was realizing the illusion of time and space. Time is man-made. Nature has no concept of time. Does a bird know what time it is, the time is always in the now or present moment.
J.Krishnamurti’s teachings opened my mind to a whole new way of looking at the world. J.Krishnamurti addresses the falseness of the ego or the self. He looks at how fear runs our lives. We are heavily conditioned beings through our thoughts and society. Ultimately it is through awareness that freedom and change can happen. He helped me to discover that true meditation is not a process to get somewhere. To some, state of mind or feeling, it is to find your true nature, awareness, or consciousness. Then let all actions come through awareness. He also taught me that thought is based on time. A thought is either based on past or future projections and never in the present. Any emotion thought or feeling is just a movement that can be observed.
Adyashanti is a spiritual teacher that comes from the Zen tradition. He has a calm and easy-going demeanor. His talks and teachings also point to the mind and the ego’s cunning ways that allow us to believe our thoughts and feelings. How we often get seduced by the mind. Adyashanti helps guide those interested in greater self-realization or enlightenment. His meditations are structured to allow one to sit in stillness and observe. Not through some effort or a process, true meditation should be effortless. He also uses self-inquiry to expose the ego. One of my favorite quotes of his is “Don’t believe the mind, don’t believe the mind, don’t believe the mind”. He has many great books, retreats, and YouTube videos with lots of excellent dialogue, teachings, and talks. As I am writing this I am participating in a 3-month online retreat that he is giving. So far it has been very helpful. I am planning to write an article about it after the retreat is done.
Mooji is a teacher I found on YouTube. He offers many live Satsangs that are available to watch online. Satsangs are gatherings with like-minded people. He also has a great understanding of the human mind. He likes to use self-inquiry by asking yourself “Who am I?”. Not what you ‘think’ you are because of your beliefs or thoughts, but by stripping down the layers to see yourself at the deepest level.
Rupert Spira has many books on understanding consciousness and the nature of reality. His teachings are based on non-duality and the Advaita Vedanta traditions. Many of his meditations are contemplative with lots of self-reflection. He teaches the “direct path method”. Rupert Spira looks at the true nature of experience from the knowledge that “I am”. Then using your direct experience you can find out your true nature. As he puts it “Be aware of being aware”. He really dissects the nature of the mind and methodically exposes the fallacy of the self.
Things were going great for a few years. I was feeling good about my life with my wife and our dog. I started simplifying my life. Making conscious choices to improve the quality of my life. Then I had a series of setbacks. My twin sister’s cancer came back and she died soon after. It was the most difficult thing I ever went through. I stayed with my brother-in-law for a month helping him take care of her and their kids. As her health deteriorated, she went from the hospital to home hospice to full-time hospice care. It was heartbreaking to see someone you love just wither away. She fought all the way to the end, but cancer just took over her body. I still have not fully healed from that loss and I am not sure if I ever will.
Then not long after that, we had to put our dog down. We had her for 12 years. She was 15 years old and just did not want to eat anymore. You could see that the spark was no longer in her eyes. She was pulling out the hair on her leg out of pain and frustration. We tried everything to get her to eat. She just got skinnier and skinnier. We knew it was time and did not want to see her suffer anymore. We had someone come to the house to put her down. She went peacefully. The house is very lonely without her. I miss her every day.
Throughout all of this, I have tried to stay grounded in spirituality and meditation. It has helped me through it all. I have noticed that I have questioned life a lot these days. Many of my passions have also disappeared. I am not sure if it is depression or some type of process I am going through. I keep looking for answers. I know life can have challenges and losses. Setbacks and loss can be a doorway to finding out what is true. Everyone has their own path in life and in realization. It seems like I am still finding mine.
I am not sure where to go from here. I guess I will continue with this process. I feel there is something changing inside of me and wants to emerge. Often times I feel like I have taken a step back and reverted back to many of my conditioned mind behaviors like they have come back with a vengeance. Now I can see them as patterns, before this I would have never recognized them. Many spiritual teachers say this can happen this internal struggle. Maybe the ego or the self is trying hard to not let go. I need to let life be and realize that I am not in control. Stop fighting it. Trust this process and see where it goes. This video below feels like what I am going through.
Main image courtesy of Photos4africa at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Life is full of challenges and change. One thing is for certain, nothing stays the same for very long. I find myself in some type of limbo state, not quite sure where things will end up. I hope that by talking about this, I can help others. Seeking out spiritual guidance just seemed like a natural path for me. It has been an enlightening and confusing process.