As we grow more aware of who we are, we naturally notice that we are connected to all of life. We stop feeling separate, we stop feeling better than someone else, we stop our old patterns of “pushing through” life. Life itself becomes a song of love with its tenderness – because we ourselves have become softer, kinder, and more peaceful. This awakened life is naturally more gentle – like a whisper, like a butterfly kiss, like a pleasant cool breeze on a hot summer day.
I’ve never actively chased awakening or enlightenment. I never thought much about it. The first awakening happened by accident through an accident 10 years ago. Thinking back, I guess I’ve always known something BIG would happen in my life and I would die at a young age. I was okay with it. I was forced to have my hand read by old Chinese gypsies and wise monks when I was a child by my mother. Some of them warned my mother that my life line disconnects and there’s a strong chance I would not make it past my 28th year. The number 28 in I-Ching symbolizes a significant test in one’s life where the pressure of karma accumulates into a pinnacle.
Needless to say, the younger me was not at all gentle. I think there were many reasons why. Growing up, I was a “Tom Boy” and I climbed up trees and got mud all over my face. I think my mother guided me into being a “Tom Boy” because I was always afraid. The first time I got a cut on my knee and saw blood, I thought I was going to die. In order to toughen me up, my mother had me play with the boys and be one of the boys. It did help me to have more confidence in my own ability to survive. I was also a slow learner. My father was the orchestra conductor of Xi’an Academy of Music and he was surrounded by over-achieving excellence. And I was not excellent. So I had to be shaped into excellence. I did enjoy music, but I was terrible at following instructions. I found reading music sheets a form of torture. But I had to push through it with two hours of practice per night after school and after homework. I learned early on that life is a constant struggle, and that there’s only work with no joy. Perhaps it is also in the genetics of the Chinese culture that emphasized the survival of the fittest. Since I wasn’t physically strong, then I must become book smart and emotionally strong. Therefore I must adopt the type A personality structure in order to make it in this lifetime.
Yes, a type A over-achieving “Tom Boy” is definitely not a gentle being. But it was the way things were. It got me far in my career but it was exactly the sword that nearly killed me. This type-A-pushing-through-life attitude masked my true emotions and physical exhaustion during a half iron-man race – giving me the perfect opportunity to experience the accumulative pressure of karma.
Karma refers to the spiritual principle of cause and effect where intent and actions of an individual influence the future outcome of that individual’s life. Karma means it was my doing that resulted in my own misfortune or it could also mean it was my doing that resulted in the wonderful fruits of my labor.
It was my karma that caused my cycling accident 10 years ago. It was this drive to do more, be better, achieve more in me that pushed me off that bike going fast down a hill. Karma is a bitch. And the person that created the bitch was ME.
Today, a bit over 10 years since my accident that nearly killed me, I am able to revisit some of the painful memories. In a way Life spared me so I can re-do my life. The old wounds of karma still hurt. But looking at the outcome as I was the one who caused my own pain is enlightening.
Today, the day after I trimmed the trees and flowers in my garden, the sunlight seeps through in the morning on my patio to greet the butterflies, hummingbirds, and snails alike. I opened my eyes after meditation to find Love – sitting – right there – within me.
Years ago before Realization took root in me, I searched for a romantic love that holds the power to my happiness. At an early age, I had read about the power of a soulmate who can transform one’s whole entire life for the better. And the beautiful tales always ended with “they lived happily ever after.” I believed. I believed that someday someone will love me enough to transform my sadness into “happily ever after”.
Life didn’t happen for me the way I believed.
My first boyfriend from high school was athletically talented, academically brilliant, and a sweetheart who cared for my happiness. He always told me that “you belong to me”. I did feel a sense of security yet at the same time I felt as if I were just an object of his affection. It didn’t feel quite right. Later on, his jealousy pushed us further and further apart from one another. Eventually he couldn’t stand the fact I talked to other guys so he decided to go out with one of his female friends before I could get a chance to hurt him. I was heartbroken and didn’t understand how this could ever happen to me.
Year after year I ended up in relationships that echoed my first love. Eventually things hit rock bottom when my last romantic relationship ended in a pregnancy and miscarriage from rape. I found myself unable to speak of the abuse I endured. On the surface things seemed just fine as he accompanied me everywhere. But no one knew he watched my every move because “his girl” needs his protection. Whenever he was not happy with the way I interacted with another man, he would force me to have sex with him that same night until I was unable to move. I would cry myself to sleep quietly on the edge of the bed hoping he would not notice and place control over me again. On the day I stood up for myself regardless of possible danger, I took back my life.
A few days ago I met up with an old friend who I have not talked to in several years. She asked about my last relationship. In her eyes she thought he could have been the one for me. Over a cup of steaming coffee, I looked up at her upbeat anticipation and told her calmly that I am single. She seemed shocked at first but soon understood that I would rather be alone then be treated like an object to possess. Because an object can only be used, possessed, then tossed away. I told her nowadays I am strong and secure enough within myself that I no longer require the ownership of a man in order to feel fulfilled.
I often hear stories of domestic abuse and the hopelessness the abused feels towards one’s situation and the power to overcome the abuser’s control. Walking down the street, I can see the hopeless eyes in countless women. On this day – November 25th 2014 – International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, I want to speak up of the pain I endured and so many other women from all over the world are still enduring. According to The Independent “two women are killed every week in England and Wales by a current or former partner and more than a third of women will be sexually or physically abused in their lifetimes.” Figures from the UN show 35 per cent of women and girls globally experience some form of physical and or sexual violence in their lifetime.
I read another article by the Isha Foundation published today about the underlying cause of such violence being a “fundamental mistake [that] somewhere in the minds of the youth, the male youth, we have put the idea that the female is an object, a thing that you can possess.” From the same article I found the following words to hold profound truth.
The fundamental thing is that one wants to possess, humiliate, and subjugate another human being. This is happening because of a certain level of inadequacy, a certain level of incompleteness from within – that only by possessing something will you feel a little better. Whether to fulfill this possession you go shopping or you go raping, it’s the same thing. Something is inadequate, you want to fulfill this by getting something. This will find all kinds of ugly expressions. It will not stop at one thing.
As women, are we powerless and hopeless from protecting ourselves against such violence? No! We as women have the ability to stand up for ourselves to make difference choices and find a way out.
In my journey, I have found I must begin to search for inadequacies within myself. Initially I found a false belief that I am not good enough – and only if I have the perfect body, a Gucci purse, a killer job, and a good man then I will therefore be good enough to be loved. I felt as if I NEED a man by my side to be worthy. At one point I even thought if I can be a trophy wife someday then I will finally be worthy. With all that in my subconscious system, I was broadcasting the signal it is OK for a man to use me and possess me. From my younger days the main male characters changed, yet I remained the same. When I did not change from within at a foundational level, I still attracted the same violence that escalated over time. I had to let go the idea that in order to survive in this world, I need a man by my side. Once I looked within myself, I found that sense of underlying inadequacy came from a false sense of who and what I am. It came from my disbelieving in my own capabilities. It came from my belief that only a prince charming will save me.
I could not be freed while placing the key to freedom in someone else’s hands. I had to dig through the gutters in my own mind to uncover all the untruth I sheltered myself from. With the assistance of meditation, I was able to face my internal lies and recognize the capability within myself to transform my own life. I had to be brave enough to further examine my behaviors, choices, and eventual consequences with a gentle, none-judgmental heart. Once I took on the responsibility that I held the key to my own freedom, and that my unconscious behaviors and choices created the painful episodes in my life, I begin to move in a different direction.
Over coffee, my old friend asked me if I had given up on love all together. “No! Not at all. But I did stop believing that being possessed means being loved.” I laughed, “and the rest of the story is still unwritten…”
If I die today, then let me die.
I have lived well, loved well;
None will be missed as I take All.
My soul swells with joy!
Throbbing love with the pulse of my heart,
The whole universe resides within me – dancing, singing, laughing, and watching.
Love flows in my veins,
If I die I shall let all of me melt away,
Dissolving into the thin air you breath.
Breath in me,
behold me as yourself,
I am your Eternal Lover,
In light, in dark, in heat, in cold, in wetness and dry-land –
I shall never leave.
As I am a part of you, not apart.
As I dissolve away,
I will be Nothing but All of You.
Throbbing love with the pulse of my heart,
The whole universe resides within me – dancing, singing, laughing, and watching.
If I die I shall let all of me melt away,
Dissolving into the thin air you breath.
behold me as yourself,
I am your Eternal Lover,
In light, in dark, in heat, in cold, in wetness and dry-land –
I shall never leave.
As I dissolve away,
I will be Nothing but All of You.
Last Sunday I had the privilege of being in Gankashu training with an aikido master Utada shihan. 学習 (gankashū) in Japanese means learning or actively studying a subject. In aikido, we emphasize 修学 (shūgaku) which is beyond the superficial intellectual understanding and as a way to commit to the depth of true knowledge. 修学 (shūgaku) is similar to 修行 (shūgyō) or 修道 (shūdō) which is often used in martial arts training to describe one’s lifetime devotion to the path.
The path prior to awakening is similar to the path prior to attaining a black belt. We often aim our direction in such a way in order to achieve, to conquer, and to make the ego successful. It is not to say there’s no value in such an aim. It is just that the path after awakening is substantially different even though the outward expression of the path might hold certain similarities.
A few months into my aikido training years ago, I asked both of my senseis how long it would take for me to obtain a black belt. Back then, that was my aim. I thought if I made it to a black belt then I have made it onto the ladder of success. I remember clearly the older sensei just laughed while the younger sensei smiled and sincerely answered me in such a way that was fit for my level of understanding at the time. I could sense that I was blind to a greater knowing. I saw it on their faces that for me to even ask such a question I must only have had superficial understanding but really was essentially ignorant.
Life worked out in such a way that my sustained awakening synchronized with my training for my shodan (first degree black belt). My training partner invested in aikido mats for a home dojo where he aimed to obtain his black belt no matter what. We trained during normal class times as well as in his home dojo and by ourselves. He held a purpose to obtain just as I lost my obsession to obtain. I didn’t know what was really happening within me at the time. All I knew for certain was that I had lost the drive to ace the test, yet I still trained and trained with every ounce of my heart not at all concerned with the outcome. The interesting sensation was that I felt more truly devoted to my path without holding any agenda at all.
Utada shihan told us a story of a samurai’s search for Enlightenment. This samurai set his course to be the best. He did end up conquering and defeating even the best samurais around him yet he did not find what he was looking for. He decided that a warrior’s path cannot lead to Enlightenment so he switched his path to become a farmer. Years later still not able to find what he was looking for, he then switched his path again to become solitary and lived in a cave no one would ever find. Legends told that he never found what he was looking for.
Stories of samurais or warriors in search of one’s true path are often told in great detail and variation in many cultures. They are all the same story in essence – a hero’s journey. Initially the hero wants to obtain skills for a grand purpose. There is much hardship and resistance internally and externally. This is symbolized as the fight, often times a duel to the death. Death is also symbolic where an old way must completely end in order for the hero to truly discover oneself. We project out our own inferior qualities onto others in the world and in such stories these inferior qualities must be “killed” in a duel so only one True warrior can live on. Unfortunately for some stories like our story of the unfound samurai, even winning the duel cannot bring a deeper understanding of Truth, Self, and Life. Fortunately for some others, we dig deeper than just the superficial appearance and find a whole new world of being. There does come a death, more dramatic than the physical death is the death of the old, the death of our tinted beliefs, and the death of the psyche. In the physical death, the energy of the old way of being will still carry on and the psychological death does not allow any old parts to carry on – EVERYTHING must go, must be cleaned out.
The moment of awakening is the realization of “oh, I now know what I am.” Just because this realization takes place it does not mean all of our cellular memories, hardwired beliefs and reactions will shift in a single moment. The clearing out process takes time. The new neuronal network takes time to disengage and rebuild. And the new DNA transcription and new protein expression also takes time to re-educate. And these times of the post-awakening can sometimes be very clear while all of a sudden we sink into the mud again of confusion. This is because our system is rebuilding, readjusting, and relearning. Anything that no longer fits the new system will be brought to the surface, examined, and evaluated. There are times of blissful oneness followed by unshakable darkness. The path after awakening is that of purification. It does not happen by us, but it happens to us. Grace takes care of the majority of the work, we just are just along for the ride – hence 道 is written as a the “one who emerges” riding a “carriage”. Like my 初段 (shodan) is written as the beginning of a path – the road after awakening is where the journey truly begins. This path is 修道 (shūdō) – the path of complete devotion to the life after realization.
Utada shihan shared several points through aikido to help one orient the focus in a constructive manner. These points will help aikidokas and freshly realized beings alike.
I) 道場とわ (dojo to wa)
“how to conduct oneself in the dojo environment”
In aikido, one must start from the self, once our inner space is cleaned then extend that onto our gi and into a cleansed and open space we call the dojo. This is also true for our spiritual journey. First we must hold what is realized, then embody what is realized and be what is realized. We take the realization into the world.
II) 心技体の稽古 (shin gi tai no kei ko)
“the importance of the body and mind/heart training”
In aikido, the enemy is the constantly changing and wavering mind. The wavering mind unbalances the body. A unbalanced wavering body is already defeated. In aikido, we train to unify. In our spiritual path after realization, the mind can still try to take center stage and take along the body, emotions and energy with it. The training is to become “no mind”, where movements are simple expressions from spirit not thought.
III) 二つの目付き (futatsu no me tsuke)
“two ways of witnessing”
There are two ways to witness, one way is 見 and the second way is 観. The first way is to view something with sight. It is only a superficially physical way to witness. The second way is to deeply see and intuit the completeness of something. It is often said 観 is a deeper way of truly seeing with one closing one’s two eyes but opening the third eye and turning it inward. It is the first word in the Heart Sutra – the beginning of truly seeing. Life after awakening demands us to no longer rely on 見 but we must look inward and view life by its completeness with our own depth through 観.
IV) 伝統と継承 (dento to keishou)
“tradition and succession [of the art]”
In any type of martial arts, we base our training in the grounded-ness of tradition. Aikido is an evolved form from the way of the sword, jujutsu, and other forms of martial arts. Because of tradition there is training. Yet it does not become capped but a life-form that keeps evolving to higher and higher levels. O sensei said in an interview: “In my opinion, [aikido] can be said to be the true martial art. The reason for this is that it is a martial art based on universal truth. This universe is composed of many different parts, and yet the universe as a whole is united as a family and symbolizes the ultimate state of peace. Holding such a view of the universe, Aikido cannot be anything but a martial art of love. It cannot be a martial art of violence. For this reason Aikido can be said to be another manifestation of the Creator of the universe.”
And that too, is the path after realization.
It was a cold winter night when the snow was coming down hard and quickly covered the streets. I was very happy to have returned home from pre-school and curled myself up indoors to stay out of the blasting wind that was cutting through my skin. It had been one of those days everything was going well and I was overjoyed to see mom after being away in pre-school all day long. I followed her everywhere and all I wanted was to be near her. She smiled at me and told me how helpful I have been just being around her. I hugged her tightly and was basking in tender love.
Within minutes mom had returned to her busy activities. Nevertheless I followed her everywhere. As she gathered a bucket to fill a mixture of cold and hot water while adding drops of liquid soap, she told me that I can help her to soak grandma’s feet. Excited, I ran to the door and picked up grandma’s heavy winter “feet” and ran back to the bucket and dropped them in…
I stood still and waited for mom to praise me for a job-well-done. Instead, she screamed and glared into me with razor-sharp criticism to tell me that I was being a bad child. I was in shock. My tears rushed down uncontrollably as I could not understand why I was faulted for giving her all of my love. I could not understand why my love would make her so angry. And I hated myself for making her angry. I ran to the door, turned to look at her one last time, then kicked the door open with everything I’ve got and raced out into the dark snowy night. I ran and ran, down the cobblestone stairs covered in slippery snow with my bare feet. The tears were still burning on my cheeks when the frigid wind cut through my thin layer of pajamas – just as painful as mom’s sharp glare. I couldn’t stand it. I had to get away and take myself away from mom. Not for my sake but for her sake. I don’t ever want to make her angry again. I ran and ran, headed to the frozen river so I can just float away…
As I matured from 3 to 35, I have learned the different between feet and shoes. Yet whenever I think of that story I still find an old numbing pain in my chest.
Back in October 2008, I met this amazing man. We both shyly tried to approach each other in the next several months. We shared a mutual intimacy with one another that was both exciting and intimidating. He was working on a project that could use some positive marketing so I brought in Dave who I have adopted as a little brother for many years to do some video marketing. Instead of being full of appreciation, my amazing man quickly backed off from me and gave me the cold shoulder. I felt that same pain in my chest. Dumbfounded, I couldn’t understand what I did wrong to make him so angry. He ended up breaking our date and asked the whole group of video production out to lunch instead. I didn’t even have a chance to explain to him that Dave is my little brother before he wrote me off. Somehow I pushed him away and into the arms of another girl.
This morning as I finished my walk with my dog and ran into a neighbor. This neighbor is an elder wise-man who cared for me like a father. And I have always respected his perspectives. We casually chatted and he asked me how I’m doing. “Great!” I told him as I have been feeling good and it feels like my life is in a really good place. My garden is blooming beautifully this year, I have found a greater inner strength, and I find myself able to love unconditionally. Like a father, he searched for more, so he curiously asked me if I was dating this young man who came to visit me a week ago. I was surprised and asked, “you mean Dave? He is my little brother! And I haven’t dated anyone for years…” The elder nodded and apologized for jumping to conclusions. Suddenly I found a tear sneaking down my cheek. Unknowingly I was remembering the last time someone mistook Dave (who is 13 years my junior) for my romantic partner. The tears started streaming down my cheeks. The elder padded me on the back and invited me into his home for coffee so I can tell my tale.
I did. Word for word. Tear for tear. I told him that I thought I had come to peace with that incident and I can be happy for that amazing man and his amazing girl. I thought I was able to love them both unconditionally and expect nothing in return. “But, that is not the point,” he sincerely looked into my eyes, “you are beating yourself up for a misunderstanding. It is your pain you must gaze into.”
My pain? I am fine, I thought…
Yet I was still holding onto the pain that I messed up and think if I could only have explained to him what was really going on then we wouldn’t have fought this silent battle for the past few years. I hate being misunderstood. I hate the pain of being misunderstood by someone I love. I quietly went home after my coffee to look within for the source of that old chest pain which resurfaced suddenly this morning. I knew it wasn’t just about that misunderstanding that occurred several years ago. That incident was only a messenger to alert me to a deeper pain that needed healing. As I sat quietly in stillness, I touched upon that old pain in my chest again as tears rushed upward from the depth of me. I saw that little girl, who was me, at the age of 3, crying in the night of howling snow – that was the first time she felt misunderstood. She cried and cried. She couldn’t understand why the abundance of her love would hurt mom so much. And she never forgave herself for the perceived pain she caused. With my eyes closed, I held her, and we both cried and cried until our tears ran dry.
An hour ago I called mom. Told her the story of our first misunderstanding and how much pain I was still holding on. She and I had a good laugh, and a good cry – together. We rewrote the ending of the story. This time, I tossed grandma’s “feet” into the water and waited for mom’s approval. Instead, both mom and grandma looked shocked for a moment, then they laughed until we were all rolling on the ground. She then hugged me tightly and showed me the difference between shoes and feet. Then mom, grandma, and I all put our shoes aside and soaked a total of six feet into that bucket of soothing warm water as we laughed while sipped on hot chocolate. The door was never opened that night. The snow was howling out there, but inside the house, we were basking in love.
Unlike how I’ve imagined, after awakening, our identification and attachments don’t melt into thin air in the snap of a finger. I’ve heard incidences that a few people can work through their karma load easily and quickly, but for most, it takes dedication and the help of grace to clear out all the remaining untruth. Once we’ve witnessed the truth and know in the depth of our being that we are consciousness itself, anything that is untrue tends to float to the surface so we can take a closer look with an open heart.
Last year I found myself unable to lie. This happened right after my explosive weeks of awakening. I walked down the street and saw how people pretend to be asleep and they soak themselves in the lies they created. It is almost like a fantasy bubble – each and every one of them protects themselves in it. People are attached to their stories and like to tell their stories – in a way they define themselves with their past and what they believe in. For a while, it was very difficult for me to relate as if I were a newborn and I didn’t have a past. My senses could only be rooted in what is happening now that I didn’t have a story even if I searched for one. I didn’t mind listening to other people’s stories as I deeply felt what they were going through. When it was time for me to share something about myself I couldn’t conjure up anything at all. My past seemed insignificant in comparison to the present. To me there is only the present and nothing else. Yet nearly everyone around me lived in the past or was aiming for a fantasy future. At the time I thought if people truly become intimate with one another based on their attachments, beliefs, or even their shared hopes for the future, I will no longer be able to experience intimacy with people on that level again. There were moments of grief. For a while, I tried to push myself back in the game of pretending again, unsuccessfully. Every time I would say something out of alignment with the truth of the moment my body would feel so twisted up inside with nausea that I had to admit my mistake and move back to complete honesty again.
It has been one year now. What I’ve noticed is our body and our energy are all affected by the untruth we tell ourselves on one level or another. If I were to believe that I am not well, my body would shrink down, I would slouch a bit, and react in such a way to match my belief. This identification with the belief actually comes even before the appearance of a thought. In a way, any identification system formed the structure that allowed us to grow up in an environment safely. Early in life when we had to navigate our environment it served a purpose – kept us safe. As we progress on our spiritual path these structures might become too constricting or ill-fitted altogether. Like a big fish in a small pond, as the fish grows in size, it needs to find a bigger pond – a more suitable environment. The same goes for us. As we grow physically, emotionally, spiritually to our full potential, our old structures might no longer fit. This is when struggles or internal conflicts might occur. In a way, like the ever expanding universe, we are growing beyond old dimensions, so somehow, with awareness, we need to uncover the structure we need to let go, and melt into the new truth of NOW.
When we speak of untruth, it really refers to a false identification of our past belief structure that’s outdated. This is where psychology and spirituality can co-exist as we bring awareness to see what is not true that is creating discomfort within us. I have a beautiful fuchsia plant. She is tall, beautiful, slightly timid in full pale pink blossoms. Because she grew up within a structure that limited her upward growth, she twisted herself around the obstacle in order to get a glimpse of the sun. She had to bend her spine in order to survive. One day, I gently moved her away from that confining structure and give her a much bigger home with plenty of sun, food, shade, and water. Within a few days, she had miraculously straightened her spine and opened up herself to new heights. She no longer looked timid, but instead, she enjoyed her newly found freedom.
We too are as such. We are also just a part of nature with an innate ability to adjust to each moment anew. Yet, it is our attachment to old identifications that holds us in our old patterns unable to fully express our wholeness. Some might call it ego-identification, egoic nature, false beliefs, etc. Either way, as we progress we must reassess our current state without the clutter of old definitions that hold us back. Whenever we find ourselves contracting or shrinking down physically or energetically, we can use this opportunity to examine what we are still holding onto that is no longer true. Often times by seeing our identifications without judgement we can remember why that particular structure served us once upon a time. And how it was useful at the time. By seeing it with compassion we can then move into a more clear space of the now, with clarity to let go if that is the truth of the moment.
Some spiritual paths help us to strengthen our inner truth to push out any untruth. Other spiritual paths help us uncover untruth and polish clean ourselves to surface one’s true nature. For me, it has been extremely helpful to do both at various times. For a while, life took me onto a path with incredible grace as if the whole core of my body is filled with strength and light that is growing in size, pushing outward. Other times I feel uncourageous and small, yet with the awareness to sense the origin of these feelings, I was able to find and let go untruth – and to fully breathe again.
Many years ago I was a slave to science as I believed only science can solve life’s mysteries so I can uncover what life truly is. I laughed at the people who called themselves devotees as they blindly followed the idea that God is the force behind all existence. I didn’t know God. But I did know I could find amazing answers in a test tube. My friends shared a similar view. I remember one day I was searching in scientific medical journeys online and somehow stumbled upon a journal about near-death experiences. At first I was extremely offended how such a publication could find its way to be categorized as scientific without proper documentation of truthful measurements. As I glimpsed into a few articles I was shocked to know what the scientists called data were nothing more than people’s recollection of bodily sensations and perception of events. I questioned the validity of such recalls since the biological functions of the body during such a time cannot be trusted let alone the brain’s ability to process information. I called up a friend and we continued to make fun of these so-called scientists who did not follow the proper path of science.
Did I believe science and spirituality were exclusively separate? Logically yes. Intuitively I had an inkling that all things might somehow be intimately connected.
A month later – May 6th, 2006, I was given the opportunity to experience the naked truth myself.
I had no instruments with me to collect data during the actual event but I did remember every bit of my near-death experience like it was yesterday. If I knew then what I know now, I would’ve never made fun of this instrument I call myself, my feelings, and my sensations. It was lucid and extremely real – at the time it was more real than anything I’ve ever experienced in my whole entire life. It was out of this world and into a different dimension I could not measure or even try to explain logically. When I met my doctor in the ER I was high on bliss and somehow he seemed to understand how I felt. Yes, I could say I was lacking oxygen which could cause hypoxia, ischemia, temporal lobe trauma and dysfunction and neurotransmitter imbalance, yet the visceral conviction at the time gave me more certainty than any data I’ve ever analyzed. Family and friends who came to visit me felt extremely sorry for my state of being, yet somehow my doctor just stood with me and trusted my decisions without question. The way he looked into me was like we’d known each other since the beginning of time. Back then I thought it was good healthcare and plain caring. Later on I realized he too had experienced something profound but never talked to anyone about it.
When I came back to my scientific research in biotech and carefully shared my experience with a selected few, my intellectual friends rolled their eyes and talked behind my back that I am no longer normal. I learned quickly not to speak my experience of the truth. I kept what I went through to myself. Within a year the structure in my old scientific community became suffocating. I had to move on and search deeper. I had to conduct my own experiments even when a gold standard of collecting data cannot be created. I became an outcast of the scientific community. I didn’t care. I only cared about my search for truth.
The next year I went to MBA school and found several professors who would talk to me about intuitive decision-making in their classrooms. A few of them invited me to their office and behind closed doors they shared with me they too have experienced profound mystical moments beyond the construct of the logic processor. They called themselves “closet spirituals”. The seasoned professor did not want to risk his image to deviate from his beaming intellect. The associate professor must not be too modern in her thinking in order to be on track for her tenure. One brave professor suggested to me that he had seen profound shifts in people going through holistic therapies when he worked in the office of a prestigious psychiatrist.
I followed his map and found myself immersed in psychology and psychotherapy. At that time my new job consisted of embedding a glucose monitor within a cell phone to collect data for the pharmacy and health care professional’s ease of integration into the patient’s everyday well-being. During our market research we found the hardest part was not building the instrument nor an app for the cell phone, instead, the challenge to bring success to our product is how to change people’s behavior – how to make a fundamental shift in someone’s core belief, their thinking – to eventually affect the choices they make in an everyday situation. Type II diabetes is a global epidemic and there was much money to be made in this investment. I didn’t care about making the rich company richer, I only cared about truth – what makes us who we are, and if we are dissatisfied with who we are how do we change ourselves at the core level. The following year I spent all of my money on exclusive personal development classes that promised to give me answers to truth as well as solve the problem of my defective self. Soon enough using the model of men as machines gave me hope of temporary relief but didn’t take me closer to truth. I had to move on, I was in no-man’s land. Fewer and fewer people had answers for me. Those who did offer answers like the personal development experts could no longer provide the next stage of depth I needed for my journey.
Another year has passed and my quest for truth lead me to meditation, yoga, and aikido. When I found peace within, I noticed that the human body is a sensitive instrument that can be calibrated to even greater precision and take meaningful data. I cannot call myself a woman of faith. I am not. I question everything. I distrust everything until I can conduct my own experiment leading to new discoveries. One thing about being a scientist is we devote ourselves to the discovery of truth, we don’t fake data to fit our own agenda. We remain pure as the observer of truth. We remain pure as the witness of nature. The more I worked to fine-tune my internal instrument the more I could become a better scientist – staying pure to what is, staying pure to witness the truth as it is. My quest for truth has led me to discover a bigger Truth and a bigger Me outside of myself by looking within. My quest has led me down a path I could’ve never imagined nor ever expected. There is no point of return. I’m no longer afraid that my view does not fit into the limits and boundaries of popular consensus. I no longer care someone else out there like the old Flo who will be offended by my scientific process. I don’t care to “fix” my data so I will be accepted. I only care about truth – as it was witnessed – in my own journey of discovery.
Here I shall share the result of my finding. I hope you will not take me experience as your own but instead stay pure, fine tune your instrument, conduct your own experiments, and stay true to what is.
My Original Hypothesis: there is no God, no higher power than the power of our intellect
My Instrument: myself (thoughts, sensations, emotions, movement of energy)
Experimental Method: devotion to the discovery of truth; devotion to the clearing of untruth; not taking answers given by others as truth, conduct your own experiments, repeat; toss out lies but pay attention to outliers, etc…
My Conclusion: I was wrong. God does exist. God is in everything, everyone, and that is the higher power – the power of nature, the power behind all of life.
Like many of you, my first taste of awakening was in my early childhood. In a moment of clean stillness, I closed my eyes, looked within, and touched upon an eternal empty space. Intrigued, I went back to it again and discovered this presence spanned all of time and space. I didn’t tell anyone, as a child, I was afraid this powerful immeasurable presence might engulf me if I looked too long. It was even more unsettling to sense this presence has complete awareness of me. Terrified, I pulled back and talked myself into believing if I just close myself to it then it will no longer to be able to “spy” on me, and if I just close myself to it then it will not be able to engulf me.
That was my first memorable encounter with fear of the void.
For a human being, fear always appears uninvited during a burst of spiritual growth. The mind is comfortable with the past or what it knows. However when it encounters a completely unknown territory, it feels anxiety, fear, or even terror as the body tightens, heart rate and respiration increase. Regardless if a potential threat is real or imagined, the hypothalamus will produce corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) that triggers the production of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). In a series of unconscious physiological response, fear can quickly take control of the body. During the event of a spiritual growth the mind will undoubtedly enter a space of unknown causing fear in your body, without your consultation whatsoever.
Recently I went to a sathsang hosted by one of my favorite Zen teachers Adyashanti. There was one girl in particular when she voiced her fear, the body trembled. She described facing her fear is like facing a cliff where she must jump off of to find her freedom yet she was terrified what might not be on the other side. She is not alone. An Isha Yoga meditator I spoke to also wrote to me about his fear of the darkness when he looked within. Because he didn’t know what was in the dark empty space he refused to enter that space. As for myself, when I fall into extremely love and intimacy, my mind and body often encounter terror that quickly pulls me out of the experience.
Fear is natural. Fear often is a signpost to indicate that you are arriving at yet another point of exponential transformation. Well, tell that to the mind, it still isn’t very comforting. So what to do in the face of fear?
A lot of people will tell you that you must combat fear with courage. This strategy often worked when the ego was in tight control. In that stage, you can use your will to power through anything. In fact, you don’t even have to see the face of fear as you run your four-wheeler down the highway and kill any fear that might have stood in the way. As we progress in our spiritual development, we will begin to notice that the will is only an illusion. The fear we thought we had destroyed will come back in another form. With more awareness, we realize that we have no choice but to come face-to-face with our fear. We cannot fight it, yet we cannot turn the other way. We have to meet it. We have to talk to it. We have to be willing to understand it from the deepest level.
The only thing that is standing between you and your freedom is that little voice telling you to run away from or fight fear. The real courage is not to fight but the willingness to relax in the face of fear. Only from a relaxed place you can then allow yourself to dig digger into what thought might be the trigger of that fear. And next what belief you planted a long time ago supported such a thought. This is the willingness to relax and meet your fear face-to-face. This is the true expression of courage.
A few months prior to my big awakening I started to notice that everything I did and all the choices I made were being contaminated by fear. I didn’t write because I was afraid of writing an incoherent article. I didn’t do my ukemi in Aikido fearful of injuring my body. I didn’t let any cars drive near me afraid someone might change lanes and run into me. These were just the superficial fears. As I was digging deeper I found that same fear of the void never left me… In fact it had held me captive so I only pretended to meditate when I knew I was resistant to the state of yoga. I didn’t allow myself the opportunity for a deeper experience into God. What a prison I have built for myself. I finally started to become fully conscious of every single one of these fears and somehow once I know my “enemy”, it turned into a friend.
After talking to several of you on the topic of fear I decided we can revisit this old friend often. Fear is nature. It is a signpost that you are ready for the next stage of your spiritual growth. No matter what part of the path you are on, honor your fear, meet it face-to-face and know that “All is Well”. On the flip side one day, you might look back and laugh to yourself and say “what’s the fuzz?”