Another Way
    It's been a year since I committed to the work of Busting Loose, and now I can honestly say I have experienced what that really means.
    In the essay that appears on my home page, I stated that I had reached a point where I had no choice but to live my life another way. When I made my vow of transformation, I wasn't really thinking about losing everything dear to me, like money, relationships, friends, health insurance, places to live or my identity. I was beyond naive.
    The last two months, in particular, have revealed the terrifying answer to the question, what would it look like if you got what you wished for?
    Because as it turns out, my Expanded Self has rabbit ears, an elephant's memory and a trickster's sense of theater.
    I know, I know. Robert Scheinfeld warned me. He repeatedly said that Busting Loose is a tumultuous journey, in which nothing is solid, stable or predictable. I had to learn it for myself. But I get it now. It's a question of how far down the rabbit hole I wanted to go.
    I'm happy to report that I have gone through the rabbit  hole and am now in a coal mine, deep beneath the surface. For right now, that seems to be home, and as my eyes adjust to the lack of light, I'm becoming more comfortable there.
    What's it like in here?
    Let's start with Robert's contention that you can't slip back into Phase 1 after you've entered Phase 2. On a number of occasions, I have questioned that assertion. Of course I can backslide, I do it on a daily basis.
    Expanded Self, in fact, will not let me relapse. It has shown me that emphatically -- with everything and everyone in my hologram.
    That crashing sound you just heard? That was a cave-in. Can't go back that way.
    Life accelerates like a NASCAR driver on the back stretch. The lessons that once took days, weeks, months, years to learn, are now coming by the hour. I can only assume that means I'm finally ready to receive them. Take my weekend, please.
    Friday night, I went on a date with a lovely woman I have known for some time. The date went well. We talked about getting together again soon. Sunday morning, I wake up to read on Facebook that's she's back in a relationship with her former fiance. Why I created Facebook and that stupid relationship status app, I'll never know. The point is, there is still something for me to clean up about my relationship to relationships, and instead of breakfast in bed, Expanded Self spilled hot coffee on my agenda. Why waste time?
    I cite this example simply because it is the freshest of a month of relationship disappointments that Expanded Self felt I needed to experience, a hallway full of doors closing to my past.
    Then there's that thing about joy and things disguised as joy. As I was whipsawed between the heights of ecstasy and depths of insensitivity, indifference, disappointment and fear, I began questioning my consciousness. If the hologram is a reflection of our consciousness, was mine in need of some thorazine?
    My friend, Vickie, gently reminded me of another Truth, that everything is something disguised as joy. It's all helpful and supportive, no matter what it looks or feels like.
    What a relief. Being the wise creation that she is, she also reminded me not to dismiss the hurt, pain and anger part of the equation, so I have sat with that and processed as necessary. And isn't that the point?
    Robert also notes that people will act totally out of character sometimes when you're in Phase 2. I will say he is a master of understatement. I have created a number of people I believed I was close to to act in some insensitive ways while delivering their message of joy.
    And you know what I have to say to all of you? No, not screw you. Thank you for letting me know how much digging I still need to do to get out of the coal mine. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for supporting me. I don't really want to go to coffee with any of you any time soon, but thanks.
    I have also experienced some profound connections with my creations and birthed some absolutely joyful circumstances in rapid succession, too. People that I have had troublesome relationships within the hologram have extended a hand of peace. I have manifested money from consciousness. I've created a second residence.
    Which all led me strangely enough to a classic intro to the song "Better Off Without a Wife" done by Tom Waits on his live album "Nighthawks At the Diner," where he details the experience of taking himself out on a date. It is pure genius on many levels, not the least of which is the nature of reality.
    Because no matter who shows up on my arm, I really am just taking myself out on a date, right? Next time, I'll try not to take advantage of myself.    
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    The news broke this week that former major league slugger Mark McGwire finally admitted to using steroids. To the sports-challenged among you, McGwire made his mark as the hitter of prodigious homeruns for the Oakland As and the St. Louis Cardinals baseball teams, and in 1998, shattered the long-held homerun record of 61 in a season by hitting 70.
    It was long suspected that the bulked-up McGwire -- an Incredible Hulk in a baseball uniform -- doped to achieve what he did, and so when he finally broke his silence, it was no big surprise. But it did further damage his chances to get into the Baseball Hall of Fame and destroyed much of the good will he had built up during that historic season.
    What was more disturbing were his excuses for "juicing." In various interviews, he's blamed it on the sports culture he was part of, he's suggested he only did it for his health, that the doping did not improve his performance or give him a competitive edge, and that he only used illegal substances in small doses, which somehow makes it okay. Lastly, he contends, he would have hit all those homeruns anyway, regardless of the steroids.
    Now aside from the fact that baseball and steroid use is one big illusion inside the bigger illusion of life, there is a larger point --  -- that our illusions are more resistant than a yeast infection.
    Perhaps that is why this story has resonated with me so much.
    I'm not a major league slugger. I was a pro in the relationship game. But it was only in the past few weeks that I came to understand the breadth and depth of illusion I have energized around relationships, and around one in particular, with my most recent ex, Liz. She is the female "aspect" I created and became romantically involved with for five years, before breaking up more than a year ago.
    I realize that like McGwire what I've succeeded in doing is building bigger and stronger illusions, because that is part of the game of denying who we really are.
    I didn't just one day wake up and start this pattern. It took years. I went from being a heartsick and depressed victim of breakups, to understanding and addressing the co-dependence beneath it all, to experiencing these events as important spiritual lessons. In my mind, it's been an interesting, healthy and natural progression.
    Then a strange thing happened. Busting Loose came into my life -- via Liz -- and suddenly I was hooked on performance-enhancing spirituality.
    I would like to tell you that I only did Busting Loose for my emotional health. But I would be fabricating. i was able to twist the spiritual principles of Busting Loose around to justify continuing a relationship with Liz, long after I probably should have gone on my merry way. (To all my friends, you can stop snickering now.)
    I want to be clear. I am in full support of Busting Loose. It's not the fault of Robert Scheinfeld that I took the path I did. It has transformed my life in many positive ways. But as we know, anything can be used for good or bad purposes -- except maybe chicken-fried steak. I still haven't discovered the upside for that one.    
    That said, I don't regret any aspect of our relationship or the fact that I forced it to continue well after its expiration date. I just have a different perspective on what it was all about. I'm glad it helped me discover eggs and begin to drain them.  I know that confronting the fears reflected by Liz moved me through this transition in a more transformative way. Many things really have changed for me, including losing the need to actually be in a relationship.
    And to be honest, there were some fun times in the aftermath. But I realize I also expended a lot of effort injecting myself with rationalizations to bulk up my illusions.     
    I reached my Alcoholic's Anonymous epiphany around Christmas. I had visited Liz over the holidays and it became painfully clear that I was not having fun being with this aspect and the well of discomfort was seemingly without bottom. In other words, she continued to perfectly perform the role my Expanded Self had scripted for her, namely that of reflecting something I thought or felt about myself (I'll take self-loathing for $100, Alex), giving me a gift of insight, and setting something in motion that supports me on my journey.
    I won't bore you with what I think about myself and I have no idea exactly what has been set in motion, but I do have some insight into my illusions and illusory beliefs. So that's where I'll start.
    I created the belief that we must remain friends. I created the beIief that remaining friends would be the noble and spiritual thing to do and that it was important to see myself that way.  I created the illusion at various times that there was some interest on her part in becoming "involved" again. I created the belief that no matter what, we were spiritual companions and always would be. I created the illusion that she was wiser than I was when it came to spiritual issues and that no one could ever replace her as my spiritual guide.  
    I created the belief that only by going back again and again to experience the discomfort of being with her would I ever drain this relationship egg -- and that I wasn't really Busting Loose if I didn't bring on the discomfort.
    To further pervert the intent of Busting Loose, I created the belief that if I changed my consciousness, she would fall in love with me again. Ouch.
    In other words, instead of simply processing, I focused on a lot of things that were none of my damned business as a human player in Phase 2.
    Talk about a McGwire moment. I get it, though. That's the difference between me and Mark. So, I'm fessin' up. I still love her to death and appreciate her tremendous support, and Liz and I, are in truth, one in consciousness. I imagine some day when I'm firmly ensconced in Phase 2, we will create a lovely, unconditionally loving and joyful experience of relationship. Or neither of us will exist in the other's hologram. Until then, who knows?
    Either way, I accept the possibility that I may not get accepted into the Relationship Hall of Fame.  But today, I am clear, and so is the purpose of Busting Loose.
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True Bromance


    Many years ago before the term "bromance" came into vogue, I manifested a best buddy, a guy named Josh.
    We met shortly after I moved to Albuquerque in 1978 to help launch a bi-weekly newspaper. Josh approached me with a story, which I recall never saw the printed page of our august rag. But Josh was funny, cool and a talented writer. We were a good match.
    We shared our tastes in popular music, the adventure of discovering hole-in-the-wall restaurants, our predilection for exotic alcoholic drinks, our love of offbeat films and the usual guy stuff revolving around sex, sports, politics, cars and barbecue. We shared some of those things with our significant others at the time, but mostly it was about Josh and me.
    Less than two years after we met, I took a job at the big morning daily where I settled in as the weekend police reporter.  Several months later, I was bumped up to full-time police reporter.
    Josh was working as a paralegal, but his ambition was to become a journalist. He was dying to break into the business and when I got the promotion, he asked if there was any chance he could get the weekend cop job.
    Although I knew he could write, I imagined his lack of journalistic credentials would eliminate him. But my editor took my recommendation and offered him the job. He quickly became a golden boy at the paper, even though his habit of dressing as a Sandinista guerrilla was directly responsible for a dress code being instituted.
    Even after I married and became a father, we stayed close. But by the mid-80s, he was ready to move on and went off to Columbia to get his masters in journalism and work on the east coast. It was the beginning of his long and successful ascent in the business.
    He returned to Albuquerque a few times after graduation and once tried to return the favor I had done for him by getting him his first break.
    I had a number of reasons for turning down the opportunity he offered (the main one being that I would have to move to New Jersey).  He became exasperated, my wife became pissed at me, and I became defensive. That night, the bromance officially ended.
    For my part, I never thought Josh owed me anything, and I guess I was taken aback at his insistence I accept the favor.
    In the intervening years, Expanded Self decided that getting divorced and immersing myself in intense relationships with a series of women was the path to enlightenment. Josh, and guys in general, became an afterthought.
    Sometime in the early 2000s, I met Gene.
    We shared a love for writing, road-tripped together and engaged in marathon discussions on subjects ranging from his beloved Red Sox to economic development. Gene installed a beautiful tile floor in a condo I once owned, for free. I helped Gene get a job as a television host. We worked together on a film festival I had helped start. We even dated and broke up with the same woman at different times.
    I thought maybe, I'd found a new Josh.
    But over the last two or three years we got together less and less.  Sometimes we went months between contacts. Nothing went obviously wrong, as with Josh. The buddy-ness of our relationship just faded.
    Then this fall, we re-connected via a Facebook chat while I was in Japan. Out of the blue, he offered me a place to live when I returned.
     After creating much anxiety around my return to New Mexico and "reality," this seemed like a nice Busting Loose cookie.
     But I still had plenty to process, as I soon found out.
     After arriving in Albuquerque, I met Gene at his place near downtown. I'll admit, I had some judgment about it. It was small, old, worn, drafty and grungy. Breakfast nooks and jacuzzis were not part of the deal.
     I told myself to get over the ingratitude. I would get a chance to re-connect with Gene. I had always wanted to live near downtown. I had a roof over my head, even if it had a hole in it. But it would take more than a pep talk. The situation I had created forced me to look at some of my deepest insecurities and do some serious processing. I know I had long ago decided to do things "another way," but this was not exactly how I had envisioned it.
     Here's the cool part. I told Gene I had little money. No big deal, you're welcome. Don't worry about the rent.
     When it got cold, Gene said, crank up the heat. My bill is practically nothing.
     No Christmas presents this year? Well, Gene got me one.
     A couple nights later, he brought groceries home for me. I hadn't asked.
     We've renewed our marathon gab sessions. His girlfriend now gracefully exits when we get started, since she knows she won't be able to wedge a complete sentence in for a couple of hours.
     In his spare time, he doubles as my muse, (although I am still open to the idea of Penelope Cruz filling that role), not only supporting me in my starving artist game by providing me a place to live, but serving as a dread-locked sounding board for documentary movie themes, screenplay plot points and writing ideas.
     I hadn't asked for any favors. Yet there they were.
     I have heard that Gene is just as generous in the holograms of other people. I'm happy for them, too. All I know is that I've gotten another glimpse of what appreciation and gratitude are all about.
     It's good to be home again, and all I can say is, I love you, man.
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