Oh, so life just isn’t that personal?

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 I had a reading done by a Vedic Astrologer last week, and after the session I really started to wonder if anything in life, the life that I proudly call MINE, is personal? Am I making choices or am I merely walking down the path that I’ve always been destined to follow? Is it worth trying to change my ‘defects’ or should I just acknowledge that are meant to be there?

On the one hand I felt so reassured and comforted by what he said, but on the other hand it made me wonder ‘what’s the point?’. For example, he told me that I’m very prone to saying ‘yes’ to things. I think he said that I have a ‘yes gate’ which means that my first impulse when asked a question is to say ‘yes’ to it. This might sound like a really good, life embracing kind of thing. But as I experience it, I end agreeing to stay late at work/help people with essays/run errands/generally do things I don’t want to do.

The astrologer told me that what I need to do is to give myself time to make decisions, to say ‘let me think about it and I’ll get back to you’. At no point did he say this was a problem, that I should work on it, that I should try and do anything about it. It was so matter of fact, like a stylist saying ‘you have pale skin so this colour suits you more than that one’.

I now feel a bit stuck between working on issues, dissecting them and seeing through, and shrugging my shoulders, checking my chart and saying ‘ah yeah, look, it says here that this is what I’m like’.

Another strange aspect of the reading was being told things that I thought really personal choices, opinions and tastes, were actually written in the stars. I lived in Spain for about 6 months, in Seville and Madrid. I wasn’t a massive fan of Madrid, but loved Seville. Since being back in England, I can’t get Seville out of my head. I feel the city’s presence, like it‘s following me, and then disappears just when I turn around.

 

I thought that this was a really personal thing. That I liked my friends there, that I liked the food, I enjoyed being warm, the people were friendly and so on. Mais non. The astrologer did an astro-location reading, looking for the best places in the world for me to live and, yup you guessed it, Seville (along with Goa, whoowhoo!) is the best place for me to live. Something to do with my rising star being in Seville at the time I was born, meaning that I feel most like myself there.  So this affinity that I feel to Seville is less of a choice and more just an inevitable fact.

On and on he went with things that I thought were just ideas or personal preferences. This was both reassuring and disconcerting. I simultaneously felt a deep feeling of relief that I was on the right track and the feeling that ‘I’ wasn’t on a track at all, there was merely a dance unfolding that matched up to a certain time of birth or set of dance moves.

 The main thing that this reading showed me was to trust my instincts. I can’t say that I was told anything that I didn’t know, but having an objective observer spell it out in black and white made me feel more sure of what I felt. The point is, when something’s right for us, we know it. We feel it. We feel inexplicably pulled towards it. We feel the connection, or pulsation towards it first, and then we try and find logical reasons to justify and explain something that we can never know.

Our feelings are there to guide us. They come from a place beyond the mind, beyond logic, beyond clearly laid out arguments. They are the way that we find our way around. That feeling of ‘yes’ and forward movement that comes over us when something is for us, and that feeling of ‘no’ and contraction that we feel when something isn’t. This isn’t the same feeling as wanting something, or liking something. These impulses are not personal in the sense of belonging to someone, or being based on opinion or personality. They are the force that, if left to its own devices, would effortlessly guide and allow life to express itself in the way it wishes to. It takes practise to learn how to subtly read our feelings, but if we can listen to ourselves we don’t have to spend so much time and wasted effort  trying to mentally work everything out.

We all have an internal navigation system, we may as well use it.

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Listening to the Silence

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A little while ago I was on a plane, listening to some music, and really wished that I had a track called ‘Silence’, which would just play Silence into my ears. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the sound of children’s laughter, but sometimes nothing sounds better than Silence.

In the Silence, I can hear myself. I can hear the bit that knows, but that gets drowned out by the bit that thinks. We have to be still and quiet to listen to that part of ourselves, and often it’s really difficult when we’re surrounded by noise, even if it’s enjoyable noise, all the time.

I’m the classic person who likes to play music all the time. Be it Beyonce or Krishna Das, Run the World (GIRLS!) or Om Namah Shivaya, I like to have music on. When walking, when pottering around, when getting dressed, even when showering. I love to cover up the infinite Silence with pretty sounds.

Sometimes this is great, losing yourself in music is amazing. But sometimes, I use it as a distraction. There’s something a bit intimidating about deep and expansive Silence. Yet, Silence is something that we all need.

In the Silence we can just be. We can relax. Thoughts can arise, and then disappear like figures on a screen. We can hear ourselves, we can hear what we want, what we need, what’s bothering us, what we’re moved to do.

Silence is the mother of sound. It’s always there, just underneath the noise. All sound arises from and then returns to Silence. When it’s too noisy, we feel that the Silence has been lost. But it’s always there. In the same way that the sky can be covered by clouds, Silence can be covered by noise, but none the less remains a constant presence.

We’re a lot like the sky. Can you imagine the sky thinking it’s a cloud? It sounds absurd that the huge, vast sky would believe itself to be a tiny, transitory cloud.  We are the sky, or the Silence that thinks it’s a cloud or some noise, forgetting that the cloud and noise exist within what we are.

Thoughts will come and go. Some are more persistent, or recognised than others. But they all arise within something far vaster and more real than they are. If we can stay with the Silence, or be the sky, then thoughts become clouds that just come and go.

We might not want them to be there, but we know that we are not them. And that makes it easier to address them. We know that we are not this thought, and therefore have lose nothing when we let go of it.

It has less charge, less pull. It becomes an occurrence, rather than we are. We perceive it, rather than identifying with it.

What we hear, and how we perceive Life, depends on where we put our attention. If we put our attention into the noise, of course that’s what we’ll hear. We’ll hear babies crying, alarms going off, people having animated conversations and the world will feel like a noisy and overwhelming place, full of thoughts and issues that all demand our immediate attention.

But if we can put, and keep, our attention in the Silence, then we can hear ourselves as we truly are. We can see Life arising and then returning. We can relax. We can be.

Living Softly

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‘Life is hard’, we are told. ‘I like to work hard, play hard’ we proudly declare. ‘Nothing great was ever achieved without hard work’ is something I’ve been told by everyone from teachers to postcards. But what’s so great about ‘hard’? What’s our obsession with the demanding, difficult, tiring nature of ‘hard’?

Life really shouldn’t be hard. Our bodies pretty much take care of themselves, we’ve got to help them out but they breathe, pump and regenerate without us having to tell them to do so.

The Earth is (or should I say was) a naturally abundant place. When you sit back and look at the majesty of the Earth it leaves you speechless. Sunsets, mountains, trees, seas, rainbows, blossom, breezes; the Earth can delight and tickle the senses like no other. If we just left the Earth to its own devices and stopped trying to impose our hard logic on its soft wildness, I’m pretty sure the Earth would take care of us too.

Even Spirituality doesn’t need to be done in a ‘hard’ way. My greatest desire is experience life with as few filters as possible. To move, laugh and cry spontaneously without judgment or expectation, and that can only happen by being soft and allowing myself to be vulnerable.

Being soft and gentle is one of the greatest gifts we can give to ourselves. This doesn’t mean being wimpy and passive, there is definitely a strength that comes with softness, with vulnerability, with allowing yourself to open.

One of my favorite things ever is seeing men with babies. Nothing makes my knees melt and my ovaries jump like seeing a man lovingly holding his child. There’s a tenderness and truth that comes with this that I think is both irresistible and heartwarming. A gentle strength that is far more powerful than loud shouting or fighting.

It’s great testament to man’s ability to deceive and believe, that we think that life is, and should be, hard. If something is easy we don’t feel like we’ve achieved anything. If an opportunity just lands in our laps we think we don’t deserve it, or conversely that it’s not worth anything.

But as the Great Bear Baloo said, ‘you’re trying too hard’. There’s skill and effort involved with living an effortless life. I often work with children and was surprised to notice that I sometimes leave feeling that the day’s been too easy, or that I didn’t work hard enough. Then I realized I’d gotten better at working with kids, and therefore didn’t need to work hard, and that I could enjoy this ease rather than trying to find more ways to make my life hard.

When something is right for you, it’s easy. When it’s too hard, it’s worth taking a step back and looking at why. It’s not necessarily that it’s the wrong path or opportunity, but at least one piece in the puzzle is out of place.

I think that if we could change our expectation of life being hard and difficult to being soft and easy, we’d be so much happier. Difficulties would be an aberration that showed that we had an issue to look at, rather than the norm.

We’d live the lives that we truly want, not the lives that come with grinding our knuckles to the ground. We still might do a lot of work, but it wouldn’t be hard. A singer who loves singing and sings for 10 hours a day doesn’t feel like they’re working hard, they’re just doing what they love. For one who hates singing, 2 hours of singing is going to feel hard and difficult.

Let’s soften up, let’s let the strength, power and wisdom that comes with that softness have a chance to be in the driving seat. Because I don’t know about you, but working hard certainly isn’t getting me anywhere.

Honouring the Feminine…at a football match

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A Turkish football team played a football match in front of a crowd that was solely made up of women and children. All together now, awwww!

They were going to have to play the match with no fans after an incident last season where spectators stormed onto the pitch and caused a fight. But instead, they were able to give tickets away for free and let thousands of women enjoy the match.

Firstly, this is really cute and warms my heart. Little girls at a football match with their grandmas. Love it!

And secondly, it adds a whole different dimension to sport and cheering. We don’t really have a forum for men to express their emotions in, so it all comes out at football matches. Joy, sorrow, elation and despair can all pass through in the 90 minutes of a match.

Unfortunately, this emotion often ends up being expressed as hate and aggression. For those of you who haven’t been to a football match, the fans generally shout abuse at players of the opposite team, insulting the player, their family and often their race. Not cool, right?

Instead of boos and jeers, the women just cheered and enjoyed themselves. Both teams were applauded, they sang their team’s songs with a smile and must have created a really nice atmosphere to play in.

Imagine if this continued. Imagine if all aspects of society had a bit more femininity in them. If business wasn’t all about making loads of money, but creating companies that benefit the Earth, if politics was a bit softer and nurturing rather than being about world domination.

I think there’s an idea that femininity is all well and good at home but in the real world? Nah. It wouldn’t work.

When we talk about sexual equality in society it’s often in terms of numbers. How many female CEOs there are, how many women there are in Government and so on. But most of these women, in order to succeed in a masculine environment, have to be quite masculine. Of course they’re women, with wombs and the like, but they don’t get to act or feel like women.

Maybe, instead of talking about how many females their are in high ranking positions, we should talk about bringing a feminine approach to our institutions.

I think it’s really nice to see women supporting their football team in a feminine way. Doing what men do, but in a way that is more feminine, that’s softer. Women don’t have to leave their femininity at the gate and start swearing at the players, they can support in a different way.

Perhaps we could all learn a thing or two from the women of Fernabace FC. That of course men and women can do the same things, but that it’s likely that they’ll do them in a different way. That the tried and tested masculine way isn’t the only way.

Satsang or Therapy?

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Hi All!

I just spent the weekend at Satsang with Mooji  (http://www.mooji.org/index.html) and whilst Mooji was awesome (such a dude!) this particular Satsang raised an issue for me via my brother.

You see, this was my brother’s first Satsang. He’s one of those people who seem like they’re really superficial, but underneath have a wealth of wisdom, understanding and stillness that puts most ‘seekers’ to shame.

He left Satsang disappointed with the questions that were being asked, saying that it was more like therapy than a gathering of Truth. I’m so proud of him, only his first Satsang and he’s already judging people! But he had a point. I guess I’m used to it, I try to look beyond the words and take what I can from a question, but for a deep newcomer, I can see that the questions would have been boring.

 

Mooji. What a dude!

Person after person got up and talked about their lives, their pain, how they felt, how obsessive they are about their girlfriend, how their grandson’s in trouble, on and on with problem after problem. It did feel more like ‘Ask Uncle Mooji’ than Guru meets disciple. I half expected someone to ask Mooji for a lift to airport!

Which leads me to the point of this rant/well articulated article. Satsang is not therapy. Spirituality is not a substitute for therapy or a way out of your problems. Of course most people come to spirituality, yoga and healing with some problems. If we had no problems there’d be no incentive to look behind the problems and see who we really are.

But when someone gets up and starts talking to a Master about how they are obsessive about their girlfriend, how they slept outside her door, that they want to possess her and that what their Self desires is more sex, asking them ‘who witnesses these thoughts? And who is aware of the witness’ could easily (and perhaps should be) be replaced by ‘man up and grow a pair! You’re a bit creepy’

For me, spirituality is about a love of something. Be it a love of Truth, of Freedom, of Emptyness. It’s not a hatred of anything; it’s not a hatred of the body, of Life, of suffering. To me it feels like a pull that can’t be ignored, rather than a saviour from the crapness of the world. It’s a positive movement towards, rather than a negative movement away from.

Any situation that gives people a forum to share their story without interruptions is going to lead to lot of ‘me me me-ing’. I find it a shame when this is done with a Master like a Mooji. You’re with this Enlightened Guru, you’re sitting next to him, he’s looking at you with the firey stare of truth and you want him to help you shag more?! Really?!

That’s like being with The Rolling Stones and talking about GuitarHero. Bit of a waste of time of you ask me.

So, what’s your take on this? Does it bother you when people moan about their lives when they could be tasting the Truth? Are you able to see behind the questions and enjoy the presence of Enlightenment? Or, are you maybe one of the ‘over sharers’ I’ve moaned about and could tell the other side of the story?

 

Why do we hate our bodies so much?

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Seriously, why? I don’t just mean in the ‘I hate my bum/legs/boobs/stomach/arms’ kind of hate, the hate I’m thinking of goes much deeper than ‘this is too big, that’s too saggy and that’s too small’. I mean the deep resentment, discomfort and hatred that a lot of us seem to feel towards our little physical bodies.

Society teaches us that we are our bodies, and that they aren’t good enough. Not to worry, just buy this, do that or have those changed and you’ll be temporarily better. Sometimes I see adverts for products promising to correct things which I had no idea could even be wrong. Like eye colour, what could possibly be wrong with the colour eyes you have?

Conversely, religion and spirituality teach us that we aren’t our bodies, and that the physical world isn’t real or important. Not to worry, just pray to this god, say that mantra, sit in these positions and you can (temporarily) transcend and escape your body, or be rewarded once you die. For me, there’s a general underlying implication that the body and the physical world sucks, that the goal is to transcend and leave it behind.

Why then, would we bother having bodies? Whether God created the world in 6 days and had a rest on the 7th, whether we evolved from sludge, whether Shaki was feeling playful and brought the Universe into being, a lot of effort has gone into making this physical world that we’re so keen to judge, criticise and want to leave behind. Even the 9 months of effort that our mum’s put into being pregnant warrants an appreciation for being alive. If the physical world was shitty and rubbish, surely Life wouldn’t have bothered with it. Either there’d be nothing and nothing would exist or we’d all be chilling out in the formless Oneness of undivided consciousness.

I must confess, I’m really not very good at being ‘here’ and don’t feel particularly at peace with the physical world. I’m all good ‘up there’ in the ethers and in my mind; I totes ‘get’ everything. But here, on Earth, in a body and as a person, I’m not great. I berate my body for how it looks; too much leg and bum fat, stubby hands, stupid short, curly hair and so on. I also feel restricted by it on a more existential level, and use the idea that ‘I’m not my body’ as an excuse to not engage with it. I ignore my body on the grounds that it’s not who I am, and then suddenly get all attached to it and get pissed off at how it looks and operates after not being looked after.

Not the best relationship, eh?

In my more enlightened and aware moments, I can see my body as the densest manifestation of me, or of Life expressing itself as the person referred to as Jade Liana Doherty. That’s cool. Densest physical manifestation works for me. It’s an aspect of who I am, I am my body, but I’m also more than my body. However, I find that so easy to forget, or to not really ‘get’ and embody. I could write a whole article on bodies as the densest manifestations, all the while being totally disassociated from mine, mindlessly smoking, eating and drinking and not really being here.

I remember the first time I became aware of not being my body. I was in Amsterdam and had taken mushrooms, and caught sight of myself in the mirror. I cracked up laughing. ‘People think this is me’ I thought, ‘this isn’t me. I just live here’. I promptly forgot about any deeper meaning that that might have, and carried on fretting about my body, only referring to that experience as a funny thing that happened while I was all cool and shit taking drugs in the Red Light District.

I think a lot us find it difficult to be ‘here’ because there is trauma, pain and unpleasant experiences stored or remembered in our body. My body and I were best buds until I hit puberty, and then suddenly (like literally, overnight) I closed down on my body, I didn’t want to be here. Before then, I felt immense freedom in my body. I loved using it, be it playing football as often as I could, pushing myself in gruelling karate lessons, climbing trees and seeing how far it could bend and twist.

Suddenly, my body wasn’t a tool or a joy, it was something to be judged and hidden. I gained weight, in hindsight not that much but enough to make my formerly wiry and coltish body feel heavy and slow. I stopped enjoying moving and jumping and climbing and running. Instead I felt like my body was bad. It was big and clumpy, it bled, it hurt. It should look like this, it shouldn’t do that. Suddenly it wasn’t my friend anymore, it was something public to be judged, it was an enemy to overcome, it was an obstacle to transcend.

For me, puberty, sexuality and becoming a woman triggered my dis-ease with the physical world. It all felt scary, and grotty and difficult. I felt like my body was no longer there for my enjoyment, it was somehow public. Whether that was others or myself judging it and it’s suitability, or feeling like people wanted it and would take it, I no longer felt connected to my body. I did, and do, my best to hide it, to cover it up, all the while thinking it’s not quite good enough and feel like it’s outing all the things I internally feel. You can lie about how you feel, but my body bears the physical evidence of how I truly feel and how I treat it. You eat too much or not enough, your body will show it. You cut yourself or make yourself sick, your body will show it. You feel you’re not good enough, your body will show it.

How can my body not be good enough? It does everything a body should do. It breathes, it beats and pumps, it converts food into energy, it heals itself, it’s a pretty good body. It supports my life, it gives me a physical expression of who I am. Yeah okay, it’s a bit fat in places, but that’s not only changeable but my fault not my body’s.

I’m sure we all carry issues in our bodies. But we need to embrace them, accept them, love them and say ‘yes’ to them. It’s like having a messy room in your house. Yeah it’s messy, broken, dirty and unloved. But sort it out! Go in there, get to know it, clean it up and bring it into alignment with the rest of the house. Otherwise, it limits our movement. Certain rooms become off limits. We don’t venture into that room or part of ourselves, yet it’s affects are felt all the time. If there’s a bad smell in one room, chances are it’ll waft over into the other rooms. Or, so much effort will have to be put into keeping that smell confined to its room, that it would probably be easier to just clean it up! I find it really hard to address my issues on a physical level, but I’m getting the sense that I really don’t have a choice. They are there, and the longer I ignore them the more extreme they’ll get.

If you think about the things that society dislikes and finds disgusting, it’s generally to do with the body and physicality. Poo is disgusting. Sick is disgusting. Death is disgusting. Aging is disgusting and must be resisted. Blood, snot, bones, decay, mould, dirt; disgusting. Sex, birth and death are the most gross things to us. Sex is bad, birth is messy and death is nasty. The horror stories of women pooing a bit whilst giving birth; eww. The placenta and blood; vom. It’s funny that given how messy and earthy life is, that we are generally born and die in the most sterile of conditions that bear no semblance to the life we will live, or have lived.

I’m not quite sure where I’m heading with this, so thank you for your curiosity and patience! I’m just becoming more and more aware of my own, and other people’s beef with physical life. Like it’s somehow not good enough, from the most superficial of levels to the deepest. We deny our bodies, the functions that come with them, the world they operate on. I’m aware of how vacant both myself and other people are. Without our consciousness in our bodies, we’re a bit like zombies. Our bodies keep themselves alive, they go through the motions, they laugh and they cry, but we’re not truly alive.

I think everyone has certain ways in which they can come into and embrace their bodies. For me, playing football was so joyful and I loved being there doing it. Now, maybe dancing and raving gives me that feeling. I’m sure you all have your own mediums in which you feel comfortable being physically alive and present.

And we like it when we’re here. I always feel like life is a bit much, a bit too intense, a bit too lifey for my fearful and austere likings. But when I’m really, really here, it isn’t too much. If anything it’s not enough, I want more life, more noise, more people, more intensity!

I lived and taught English in Spain for a while and lived in the Seville, in the hot, fiery, passionate, flamenco loving South. The people were loud, they shouted, they stomped and clapped, niceties gave way to genuine outbursts and expressions. At first, I was a bit intimidated. It would take me ages to get served in cafes as all the sevillanos would shout over me. Then, I ‘Seville-ed up’, I got louder and pushier, I met life head on, I shouted and pushed and stomped and clapped. And I liked it! There was something to push against, in me and in other people. I met people, not in a ‘hello, I’m Jade nice to meet you’ way. I really met them, and they met me. From Santos in my fave café, to people in bars, to students, to the teachers I worked with, to dogs I shouted at, to the trees, places and the river; I met them.

I was there. I liked it. So why don’t I do it more often. Why wait for Seville to invite me to be present, why not invite myself to be fully here?

In football, there’s an understanding that if you go into a tough challenge, a ‘50/50 challenge’ as it’s known in the biz, and wimp out; you’ll get hurt. If you go into the same challenge with everything you have; you won’t. I’m thinking that the same is true of life. Go in with only 40% and the 60% (or more!) that life will bring will be too much, it will hurt and you’ll ‘lose’. Match life, or even better go in with more, and it won’t hurt or be too much. You won’t get hurt and you’ll get the ball; result!

If I could live my life with even 50% intensity and presence, I’m pretty sure that it wouldn’t feel like too much. I wouldn’t want to transcend it, it would be fun. Sure it’s not ‘real’ in the ultimate sense, the physical world is transient, things seemingly live and die. Just because it’s not the ultimate reality, doesn’t capture all of who and what we are and will end, doesn’t mean it’s not worth living and fully participating in. Imagine if a sports person said in their post match interview that they lost because ‘the match isn’t the ultimate reality, there’s more to them then playing the sport, and the match will end’. We’d be like ‘Huh?! But you were playing, so what if it’s not real, or all of who you are and will end. You’re there, you wanted to play, so play!’

What I’m really doing is saying all of this stuff to myself. Chances are, you’re better on the physical level than I am. Maybe you’re happier with how you look than I am, maybe you find it easier to be here and get stuff done and make things happen, maybe you don’t hide behind transcending your physical form in favour of a formless, ultimate reality.

What I really want to say myself is be here! Look after yourself, bring the awareness that you have ‘up there’ down here. Live with your body and in the physical world. You don’t like something, change it. You want to make something happen, do it. You find life a bit icky, man up. You are in form, you have a body. Other people have bodies. The earth is muddy, there are bugs. You will die, you might get sick. You will probably get hurt, be it physically or emotionally. But you decided to be here. You wanted a body, you wanted to experience life in its dualistic form. You signed up to play the game and the clock is ticking, so play!

Spiritual Indulgence; weaning myself off over sharing!

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We’ve all been there. We’ve all had an experience, thought or idea that we thought was amazing. Too good to just share in conversion. So good, in fact, that we must orate it to our lucky audience.

No one else could possibly have had this experience; we alone must bear the burden of passing this amazing insight on to the world. Maybe we saw a special kind of light, perhaps a wonderful being spoke to us, we might have been given a special mission to fulfill or seen a particularly spectacular past life.

This makes us special, right? Wrong.

It was just an experience, it probably didn’t mean much and it might have included a generous dosage of imagination. No one’s immune to the Great Spiritual Experience (GSE). I once closed my eyes at night to go to sleep and saw flashes so blindingly bright that I thought one of my flatmates was taking the piss and taking photos of me in my sleep. Or the time I saw myself as a Victorian chimney sweep dying a sad and sooty death. Nice little story, not worth preaching about.

Also, don’t be intimidated by people who have these big experiences, or think that they’re better or more evolved than you. People get information in different ways, most generally in the way that they will notice and listen to. What for one person might be include flashes of light, beautiful beings emerging from said light and singing a piece of information, might for you just look like a thought popping into your head. Not better, not worse, just different.

If you, or one of your friends, have a GSE acknowledge it, enjoy it, but don’t believe in it. There’s a very thin line between getting fantastic information in a mediation that would help people, and demanding a stage and crowd to watch you spirituality masturbate.

You’re probably not The Messiah, nor Jesus reincarnated, nor Kali in human form. Most likely you’re a nice, normal little person, with nice, normal (not so) little issues. Enjoy your GSEs, they’re fun. They can be insightful, entertaining and useful. But if you’re telling a ‘spiritual’ story where you say ‘I’, ‘me’ or ‘my’ more than twice per sentence, check that your ego isn’t hijacking the experience.

*What have been your most ‘OMG, I am the Messiah, better go tell everyone’ moments?*