Another Way
     Pure love emanates from God, from the One, from universal consciousness. Once it passes into human hands and hearts, it gets degraded. I don't say that in a mean way. We all do our best as humans to love one another and maybe someone succeeds every few millenia. But the impurities most of us add to the formula -- conditions, expectations, good feelings, the need for security -- are the problem. The best we can do is to try to stand out of the way and let love through.
    It is why I have my doubts about "romantic" relationships. There's a reason this illusion is so persistent and why we tend to glom on to such relationships whenever possible. But the reason is not necessarily to express true love.
    It's often because we're focused on an image of a person created just for the hologram. We're not focused on the truth behind the image. The love we expect to receive from the image is just a reflection of real love. The love one image expresses to another image can never be totally satisfying. It is not the real thing, either. For most of my life, anyway, that has sufficed.
    To introduce yet another metaphor, the love we experience as humans is sort of like copying a photograph. Every time it's copied, there is a loss of resolution. The graininess becomes more apparent. The image becomes a little less sharp.
    Even reprinting directly from the negative (or digital file) is a loss of generation from the original vision we had when looking through the viewfinder into the infinite.
    Yet we persist in taking the representation, running it through our personal Photoshop program, lightening up the dark spaces, cropping, color correcting, until we have the perfect image. Again, it is only an image.
    The thing is, the best representations can still carry a lot of emotional impact, and that's where we fool ourselves. I can still look at an old picture of an ex-girlfriend, or my son, or another close to me, and feel a twinge of something in my heart or gut. But it is a reaction based on an image, on a memory of something that doesn't actually exist any more.
    Which brings me to the hoariest of spiritual maxims -- love yourself and everything else will take care of itself. That's a tricky one.
    My persona is as much of a constructed image as that of any other aspect I've created to populate my hologram, and unfortunately, it's run by as big an ego as anyone's, an entity that thrives on the vapor of thoughts, beliefs and illusions, like a cockroach that can live on the glue from a single postage stamp for two years.
    So simply to say I love myself, is usually my ego playing off an image of myself and what I'd like to see or experience. Even to do something in the hologram to show that I love myself -- a hot bath with candles and Yanni on the IPod --  is a poor imitation of the real thing.
    The only way to experience pure unconditional love is to tap directly into the source of it. Not through your children, not through your significant other, not through sex (although if you're going to experiment in the hologram, what the hell).    
    Going into silence is one practice that may open up the channels. But some of us are hard of hearing from attending too many AC/DC concerts, and the little voice of love may not be heard. Maybe heartbreak or some other form of disillusionment will do it for you, finally, like it did for me. Only you can figure that out.
    Now how that loves come through the pipeline and manifests in your hologram is a whole different story. Diligent observation is required to check for impurities. If there is a cause for your love in the hologram, then it's probably impure. To love someone because they are handsome, funny and talented -- that would be me for illustrative purposes -- implies that the love is not pure.
    To love someone because they are gorgeous, sexy and spiritual -- that would be some of my past girlfriends, again for illustrative purposes -- implies that the love is not pure.
    To love a child is close. But as with the significant others, it's hard to separate the personal affection for a specific being from the true loving kindness for everyone we encounter.
    If we do something because it makes us feel good -- give bum a quarter, drop off a couch at the thrift shop, give money to save babies in Africa -- it's probably not true love. I'm not saying don't do these things, just be aware that feeling good or useful or worthy or god forbid, spiritual, does not necessarily equate to love.
    What I'm talking about is the jumping-on-a-live-grenade love, that is thoughtless and complete and without agenda. Most of us may never have that experience. I think the best we can do as humans is show compassion.
    In practical terms, that means you realize at a heart level that we are all on difficult journeys. That is the truth of being human. Whatever pain you are going through, it is the same pain being experienced by six billion other aspects on this planet. The people and situations are different, but the struggle is the same. You are not special. When we truly grasp that, then maybe we are getting close to love.    

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    I created an event in my hologram this weekend that I would have liked to have been invited to, involving some people I am close to or used to be, or perhaps only imagined I was. As I scripted the story, however, an invitation was not forthcoming.  
    I'm getting really good at this Phase 2 thing, and I could not have created more brilliant support. This experience was designed to provoke discomfort and inquiry and processing and it's worked marvelously, not to mention it provided the added benefit of inspiring a blog entry. Yet, when I first realized I wasn't invited, I couldn't resist trying to fill in the blanks -- just like you're probably doing right now.
     Who were they? What was the event? Why wouldn't they have invited you? Did your invitation get lost in the mail? Were they real friends or Facebook friends?
    But as a favor to all of us with OCD, I'll stop with the speculation. Let's solve the more pressing questions of the Kennedy assassination, Bigfoot and where UFOs come from first.
    Because as we like to say in Busting Loose, the details aren't really important, and in the largest sense, they aren't. The discomfort, and the processing of it, are paramount.
    And perhaps just as importantly, I realized that focus on what my other aspects did or did not do was about power outside of me, and focusing on that would distract me from embracing the disappointment and hurt I felt (which, of course, I created), and questioning the illusory nature of relationships.
    Regardless, this experience has served to illustrate to me one of the biggest challenges in Busting Loose, or practicing any other spiritual path.
    From the time some doctor writes your name on the birth certificate, we are conditioned to fill in the blanks.
    That's what our eyes do. That's what our brains do. That's what our ears do. That's what our memories do. That's what our spiritual quests do. That's what we are programmed to do. If something is missing, we automatically fill it in. Otherwise, the hologram might appear to be incomplete. We would see it for its inherent falseness -- and then the game would be over. That's no fun.
    I got the first hint of this phenomenon back in my journalism days, after I began recording all my interviews, then comparing the actual transcripts to the notes and quotes I had scribbled in my note pad. The differences were amazing and to me, a reporter with a pretty good record of accuracy, appalling. I had literally been filling in words that were not spoken so that I could create a story.
    Science has revealed numerous instances of how filling in the blanks helps us survive. Our brains, for instance, automatically fill in holes in our field of our vision -- just create it out of nothing but neural connections.  Otherwise, like one woman described in the book "Phantoms in the Brain," cartoon characters might show up in the blank spots in your peripheral vision. If texting didn't get you killed while driving, watching re-runs of "The Simpsons" during rush hour traffic surely would.
    Can't actually see? No problem. Scientists have documented something called "blindsight," wherein some people who are blind because of brain damage respond to objects, images, even facial expressions they cannot consciously see.
    It's also well documented that many amputees feel real pain from phantom limbs. Imagine trying to fix that hangnail.
    From an emotional and psychological standpoint, we fill in the blanks every second of our waking lives with thoughts, sentiments, assumptions, expectations, judgments and interpretations about our families, our friends, our lovers, our jobs, our aspirations, our politics and our choice of imported bottled waters.
    Hell, I'm filling up this page, because I was uncomfortable with it being blank.
    But no matter how many blanks we consciously try to fill in, we never have the whole picture really, and even if we did, what would it matter? We know by now we can't think our way out of the "problems" we create for ourselves in the hologram.
    Journalism also taught me a simple, but interesting interviewing trick --  just shut up after someone answers a question. Nine times out of ten, three to five seconds of my silence would prompt the interviewee to resume talking. Some of the best responses resulted from the fact my subjects were uncomfortable with the silence. But one out of ten had the awareness and discipline to just sit there, waiting for the next question.
    That's probably not a bad way to live, instead of pretending life is a game of Madlibs.
    Truth is in the silence, in the emptiness. How you get there -- meditation, a hot cup of chamomile, bungee jumping -- is your choice.
    But by not rushing to fill in the blanks, you are just beginning to find the truth.
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    You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, well you just might find, you get what you need.

    I never thought of the Rolling Stones as the purveyors of any sort of metaphysical message, although Sympathy for the Devil and Soul Survivor are pretty cool songs.
    But the refrain from You Can't Always Get What You Want  was ringing in my ears the other night after a conversation with Busting Loose buddies. (Seriously, if Mick Jagger can't get what he wants, that's probably all you need to know) As I was explaining some "problem" in my hologram, I created my friend Terrence to point out that I was deeply mired in the belief that "I will never get what I want."
    And then the cloud lifted. I'm not even sure that I can explain what happened. As readers of this blog know, I've confessed to a lot of self-defeating beliefs that I've accumulated and given power to and turned into monster eggs during my lifetime.
    But as I kept repeating the mantra, I will never get what I want, it became apparent how that has overlaid my entire worldview and hologram. There was not a single issue in my life that couldn't be traced to that simple root cause -- and it made me happy to know that.
    It was sort of the grand unified theory of Busting Loose, at least for me. Every egg in my holographic universe was hatched from that belief.
    Seriously, try it. Think of anything in your hologram that creates discomfort. Then see if that phrase doesn't cover it.
    Busy? Well, I'll do it for you. Got a relationship, but it's just not working? Repeat after me: It's because I will never get what I want.
    Continuously creating exciting job or business opportunities that never seem to pan out? It's because I will never get what I want.
    Illusory bank account a little too low for comfort? Guess what? It's because I will never get what I want.
    Your immensely talented rock band never got the big break? It's because I will never get what I want.
    Can't seem to lose that last 20 pounds of fat? It's because I will never get what I want, namely, the body of an Olympic swimmer.
    Still struggling towards enlightenment? Fuhgeddaboutit. I will never get what I want.
    Now some of you might misinterpret this as just casual sarcasm, or sincere cynicism on my part, and you would be most wrong. I don't repeat this wisdom simply to prepare myself for failure. That's a Phase 1 methodology. Assume the worst, and then be happy when you're right? That's not what I'm getting at. For me, it's the daily double of practicality and spirituality.
    Busting Loose calls on us to embrace our discomfort. When your mantra is I will never get what I want, you can pass Go and collect as much discomfort as you want. In my role as Mr. Efficiency, I figure there is no reason to waste time wallowing in the whys and wherefores of each particular reminder of our self-imposed limitations. Nope, just get to the point. To immediately remind myself that it's all an unobtainable illusion, and be able to get right to the discomfort, is strangely comforting.
    Secondly, as Busting Loose students, we know that what our personas want is not necessarily what's best for us. But with Expanded Self, we get what we need to support us in playing the Human Game.
    It's also important here to stress that the stress is on the wanting, not on the thing wanted.
    I will never get what I want, because want implies personal will, which implies the need to change what is. Want is the end result of the accumulation of beliefs, desires, memories, social conditioning, thoughts -- all the pillars that hold up our flimsy circus tent of illusion.
    I will never get what I want reminds me to surrender my will at every opportunity and be with what is.
    Now, what makes the game fun, of course, is that while you can't always get what you want, occasionally the desires of our persona and our Expanded Self will line up perfectly, like cherries on a slot machine, and it will appear that you got what you wanted. It might even appear that you made it happen. That would be foolish to believe, of course, like believing that the hot blonde who blew on your lucky nickel before you inserted it into the machine caused you to hit the jackpot. But it's understandable. For that, I have no answer except to do the process and acknowledge that whatever it was that happened was just an illusion. You can get too much of a good thing, if it makes you forget.
    Of course, the truth is that the real me has everything already. Whatever it is that I will never get, is already mine. And by actually processing the discomfort around whatever it appears I lack, I may actually create it from my consciousness. I just forgot.
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    Once when I was a teen working a summer job at a factory, some co-workers decided to play a prank. They dropped a lit packet of firecrackers behind me and waited for me to jump.
    For whatever reason, I did not react to the initial big bang or any of the rest of their lightweight attempt at pyrotechnics. I continued to do whatever I was doing. When the last firecracker exploded, I glanced over briefly to note their crestfallen faces.
    I relate this story to let you know that most of the time, I'm pretty laid back -- and naturally lazy -- so when certain spiritual practices advise that I need do nothing, it's not such a stretch. That's my fall back position all the time. It's also probably why I haven't written a blog entry in nearly three months. Or why it takes me 50 or so shots at the romantic relationships game to realize I might have some limiting patterns in that regard.
    Believe me, I've created myself to be provoked to do something several times in the last few months. I've created an unsteady stream of appreciation that I sometimes thought needed to be steadied by actually looking for work, composed a nasty note from a friend detailing some of my most heinous shortcomings, conjured several crazy business partners to test my patience and caused extreme resistance by "others" to my master plan for happiness and occasional sex.
    And then there was the spiritual cattle prod to the genitals that I created in the writings of Jed McKenna.
    But to paraphrase that famous line, whenever I get the urge to exorcise the demons I've created in the hologram, I just lie down until the urge passes. Then I do the Busting Loose process.
    I simply cannot get that exercised about anything any more. It's not that I've withdrawn from the hologram. I'm playing more than ever and enjoying it more than ever. The difference is that I used to just not play. Instead of simply ignoring or trying to transcend "shit" now, I'm actually playing in it and embracing it.
    So I still feel discomfort, but I'm rarely moved to respond in the hologram. Not that there's anything wrong with that if that's what you choose to do. But for me, any response beyond processing is a belief that the situation is real and that I can actually change something outside of me. Whether it's responding to some perceived slight, or having a "meaningful" talk with a friend to straighten things out, it's just an exercise. It means nothing, and will mean even less tomorrow. In some ways, talking is the easy way out. It's time better spent processing as far as I'm concerned.
    It also means I've tired of stories, most especially mine. I don't want to hear the reasons why my life or "your" life is the way it is.
    What I am interested in is the joy and surprise and insight you might have gleaned from your story and how it might take you closer to Busting Loose. I'm interested in the happiness you find in, and the credit you take for, the creation of even your most challenging stories. But I'm not interested in an explanation.
    We are genetically programmed to tell stories. Try not telling one when something happens.
    But my point is that I realize that doing or saying nothing sometimes takes a lot more discipline and energy than doing something.
    With acknowledgments to another of my spiritual mentors, Marianne Williamson and A Course in Miracles, here's what doing nothing means to me.
    It means I will resist the urge to create an agenda or purpose where there is none. I am willing to surrender to the wisdom and guidance of my higher self.
    It means I will not defend or explain myself, since there is nothing to defend or explain, and defenses and explanations are merely there to distract us from awakening from the illusion.
    It means I disavow anything that reeks of conscious intention. That is simply spiritualese for "I don't have a fucking clue as to what the truth is," i.e. we are not in control. As Robert Scheinfeld notes, do the process and let the power go where the power goes. It's not up to your persona.
    It means my only duty is to show up with the knowledge that I don't know what anything means, but I'm willing to be shown.
    I'll end this column with a quote from writer Robert K. Johnson about an aspect who represents much of what I aspire to be, who instinctively knows that doing nothing is often the highest form of consciousness.
    "Despite the decadence of his surroundings, he lives above it, seeking to respond with kindness and generosity of spirit..Even when (he) is time and again beaten up, doped, hit on the head, and verbally berated because of his sense of right(eous)-ness, (he) rolls with the punches, remaining true to himself and others.
    "Rather than seek gain at all cost, rather than give in to the materialism, selfishness, and decadence of his surroundings, rather than join the rat race, (he) chooses instead to simply enjoy life. Anything else is futility!"
    As you might have guessed, I'm not talking about the Dalai Lama. The man I refer to as one of my great spiritual mentors is, of course, Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski, from the movie "The Big Lebowski."
    Because, well, you know, The Dude abides.


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    It's ain't over 'til it's over. The great Yogi, Lawrence Peter Berra, uttered those immortal words, and it has never felt truer to me than this month.
    Yogi was referring, of course, to the fact that until a baseball game is completely over -- the last out is recorded and the game's in the record books -- anything can happen.
    This, of course, tracks well with Robert Scheinfeld's Busting Loose metaphor of playing the Human Game. Anything can happen in Phase 2, and usually does.
    As a corollary to that, I would add, even if you think it's over, it might not be.
    I explain this as the latest introduction to my ongoing saga with Liz, the woman I lived and loved with for five years. We have been separated for well over a year now, but our paths continue to cross in a variety of ways.
    Regular readers of this column may recall my post in early January where I felt I had turned a corner in my consciousness about that relationship and big changes were occurring in my hologram. I went through some bumpy times as I sorted out my connection to Liz/me. But I felt some resolution.
    Then, I ran into her at an event a couple of weeks ago, and it triggered some discomfort that I can't really explain, something that weighed on me for several days.
    I finally asked her to go for a walk. The conversation that evening was deep and honest and for me, somewhat upsetting. The details are not important, because it's not about the details, really. But one of the questions I had was about the amazing persistence of our relationship. Why wasn't it over, at least in the hologram?
    I wrote her the next day, explaining what had come up for me, and  tried to summarize and interpret what I had created her say to me. Interpretation, a more genteel and insidious form of judgment, is the subject of another column for another day. Her response was kind and informative and proof that I was off the mark in many ways.
    She suggested we might need another walk, and I agreed.
    Then it got interesting.
    I woke up Saturday morning, the day before our walk, to a radio program featuring Susan Piver, the author of "The WIsdom of a Broken Heart."
    She was already two-thirds through the show, but the part I needed to hear, I heard. In the course of the interview, she said that what underlies all relationship is the awareness, or lack of it, that it is going to end -- it not in life, then in death. Even the most loving, long-lasting relationship in this hologram will end, at least in the physical sense, when one of the partners dies. That, I think, is the essence of heartbreak, the deep realization that life is a series of transitions.
    Secondly, she talked about what a great spiritual opportunity a broken heart presents -- how a really broken heart shatters all our illusions about who we are, who the other person is, what relationship is. When we come through it, if we want to come through it, all is possible again.
    I've sort of avoided self-help stuff since starting Busting Loose, and what she was talking about may sound Phase 1 in some ways, but Busting Loose is about shattering illusions if nothing else. It's also about seeing the kernel of truth in even the most Phase 1 illusions and beliefs.
    What Expanded Self presented to me was that Liz came in to my hologram to break my heart open, fully and completely. The more I loved her, the more she loved me, the more complete the heartbreak.
    I realized that the heart is like a piñata, you have to beat it with a stick sometimes for all the goodies to come out, like wisdom, compassion and love, the things that make the Human Game so awe-inspiring.
    Secondly, it showed me that I still needed some work on the discomfort of endings, and that Liz was, in fact, the Angel of Death. I'd created some pretty traumatic "endings" in previous relationships, but I still had patterns about them, that are with me to this day. I still had lessons to learn.
    So Saturday afternoon, I felt moved to ask her to watch "Wings of Desire" with me. It's about a guardian angel who after centuries of watching over troubled souls decides to take the leap and fall to earth, for the sake of experiencing the human game -- smoking a cigarette, savoring a hot cup of coffee, falling in love.
    To me, the movie represented the miracle that is daily life, and how even the most mundane activities, thoughts and feelings have a great resonance, if we are sensitive enough, and raw enough in my case, to experience them.
    Liz was, in fact, acquainted with the movie. She had just never been able to sit through the whole thing. But I instinctively knew that she would resonate this time. You see, Liz had long had a thing about angels. Her home was filled with images and statues of angels.
    As it turns out, the movie and the message moved her.
    The next day we met for breakfast and our walk. During the course of our walk, I was compelled to tell her what I had discovered the day before. I just couldn't figure out how to politely tell her she was the Angel of Death.
    But I did. And she laughed. It fit her exactly, she said. She was in the process of destroying every pattern in her hologram. Then it struck both of us just how truly funny this was. You see, Liz was dressed all in black, with a top that was sort of like a cape. As we walked the path along the Rio Grande, she began flapping her cape like wings.
    If you've read this far, hoping that we have gotten back together and plan to live happily ever after, sorry to disappoint you. That wasn't what this was about.
    It was simply a matter of me trusting in Expanded Self to take a leap of self-discovery, to be utterly vulnerable, and receiving the support of a loving companion willing to go along.
    Now, if she ends up running off with the bass player, I may be singing a different tune. But for now, this is as good as it gets.
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    For the first time in my life, I'm comfortable in my dry, acne-scarred, liver-spotted skin.
    That would, of course, refer to the invisible skin surrounding my emotional body, the one that presented obstacle after obstacle to ever feeling just right.
    I think the process began in earnest six years ago, when I left my chosen profession of journalism after 25 years in the business. In a metaphoric sense, I was leaving the sidelines to play on the field. Sure, there was a certain level of rough and tumble in the news game. Despite my pretense of unbiased professionalism, it got nasty sometimes. At various times, I was threatened with jail time for protecting sources (ironically, the sources were at the jail), stared down by militant Hispanic geriatrics upset with a story of mine, berated by angry county commissioners for catching them with their hands in the till, and almost arrested for sneaking into a hospital to get a story after a plane crash. And I took pleasure occasionally in ruining someone else's reputation.
    But mostly, being in journalism was an excuse not to get engaged. I did not get involved with causes. I assiduously remained a political independent, never declaring a party affiliation. (Now, for various other reasons related to Busting Loose, I will still never declare a party affiliation. In fact, I may have cast my last vote. But that's another column.) I declined to join any groups that wanted to take a stand on anything. It was easier to observe and report, then to actually have to do something, and engage in the hologram.
    In some respects, nothing has changed. I still am not a big joiner. (So for all my friends on Facebook, you can stop asking.) But on a personal level, I feel I am more connected to my expanded self than ever. I now value my own opinions to the point where I'll will give them, whether requested or not. I still get that they don't really mean anything, but it's fun to express myself. I am no longer afraid of offending any of my other aspects. In fact, I feel this pent up energy sometimes to reach out and offend other aspects just for kicks. Because it's fun and it's not real anyway.
    If I do support a cause or charity, I feel as if it's much more fun and the effort emanates directly from my heart, not my head. I was explaining to a friend recently that I helped pull off a benefit concert for Haiti in February, not because I felt anything for the perceived suffering of the people in Haiti --they're not real anyway --  but because I thought it would be exciting to produce the concert. Even though I felt a little weird expressing that to someone who is not a Busting Loose player, and even though it appeared she was not buying it, I was okay with it. That's a big step for me.
    During that same conversation, another player, a filmmaker, expressed the need to create movies that had a positive message and helped people. No, I don't do that, I said. I want to tell good stories through movies. If they happen to entertain, and god forbid, help someone, great. But helping "others" is not my intent.
    I attribute a good part of this shift in my consciousness to the Busting Loose practice of embracing discomfort. Being comfortable in my skin is being comfortable with discomfort. It can be about something barely noticeable, or something I've imbued with great importance. It's why I can now grow facial hair that makes me look older -- think Col. Sanders here -- because I have no compulsion any more to create the illusion of appearing younger and sexier simply to attract a mate. It's why I also no longer waste energy chasing after the illusion of attractive women simply to relieve my perceived loneliness. It's why I can wear the same pair of black jeans from Thrift Town 27 days in a row without worrying about the illusion of fashion, or what my friends think of my wardrobe deficiencies.
    But it's not about accepting "myself" on a Phase 1 level as it is about remembering who I really am, the abundant being residing in consciousness. I theorize that the longer I am immersed in Phase 2, the illusion of gray hair will disappear, my prostate will shrink, my gut will disappear and super abs will magically appear. I can jump into a "cause," work my ass off, and then leave when it's not fun any more, because I know it does not define who I am and the only thing I am obligated to is following my path.
    Now some readers might say, well, for chrissake, you're 53 years old. It's about damned time you were comfortable with yourself. I have no defense for that one. All I can say is that this is a process, my unique process, and it took exactly this long, because it had to.
    Ultimately, as boundaries dissolve in consciousness, my "skin" will disappear, along with the notion of a body. I can only hope this happens before I need liposuction.

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    I was recently listening to a discussion with Arnold Patent, Robert Scheinfeld's mentor, who said that if you have conceived of it, it has already happened. It's just a matter of whether you can manifest it in the physical world.
    Long before I was exposed to Busting Loose, I understood that everything begins with a thought. Not necessarily even an intention. Just an idea.
    In 1999, I was invited to lunch with some friends to discuss starting a film festival in Albuquerque. During the course of the four-hour, iced tea-fueled discussion, I suggested that they might consider a unique format. Instead of watching other people's movies, we would conduct a script competition for short film scripts, select a few, and then shoot, edit and premiere our movies, in one crazy week.
    Despite our initial naivete about what we were getting into, and our best attempts to sabotage the festival over the years, we ended up producing 65 short films in nine years, until we called it quits in 2008. (Strangely enough, a new group of naifs is trying to revive the festival this year, which just goes to prove it's hard to kill a good idea.)
    In 2004, I left my job at the Albuquerque Journal to pursue the exciting world of freelancing, or legalized prostitution as it's known around here. A year later I was hired by the City of Albuquerque Public Art Program to shape a positive message about the program, which had been plagued by controversy -- much of it stirred up by my reporting on various projects over the years.
    I jumped in and created a multi-media campaign that I knew would make the Public Art program as popular as videos of cats in bathtubs. The ideas flowed like liquor at a VFW meeting. The arts board was enthralled. Alas, I also created an interim director of the program to find disfavor with my campaign and my brilliant strategies. Her reason for firing me? "All you do is come up with ideas."
    Apparently, she was unaware that some people are rewarded handsomely for their creativity. Even stranger considering this was the Public Art program, and her main job was soliciting great ideas from artists for works of public art.
    I recall these stories because as I embrace Phase 2 of Busting Loose, the important lessons of intention and ideas continue to surface. I think it began a year ago, when I decided to end my self-imposed exile from writing. I decided I wanted to write and be appreciated for it. Within two weeks, I got a call from a friend in the movie business who had landed a job adapting a screenplay. He wanted me to help -- and we would get paid for the first draft. For those of you not in the business, two unknowns getting paid to write a spec screenplay is as likely as the Jonas Brothers landing on Mars next month.
    The next step in my plan for world domination would be to get paid just to sit around thinking great thoughts all day, like the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz. Perhaps it was out of spite for the woman who fired me from the Public Art Program. But it felt like a great idea.
    I think that Expanded Self had gone to fix itself a drink when I made that request, because everything stopped flowing. After I returned from my trip to Japan in mid-November, I was greeted by what appeared to be a total lack of pretty much everything. In the depths of my anxiety, I began casting about for jobs like a newbie freelancer. One of the jobs was  substitute teaching in high school for $11 an hour.
    I continued to process my discomfort over the illusion of lack of money and of lacking a fun way to have it flow into my life. Then, just days away from being chased down school hallways by hordes of surly teens, I was unexpectedly asked to again come to the aid of the public art program.
    That was startling enough. But this time, the enlightened being running the program was very clear about what she wanted -- a series of videos, short documentaries, commercials and a new marketing campaign extolling the virtues of the public art program. I didn't even have to produce them. I just had to come up with ideas and messages.
    I don't know which was more powerful, creating a new flow of money/appreciation, or reinforcing the understanding that my ideas had value.
    As I absorbed that, I found out a couple of weeks later I had been referred by a friend to a couple of producers who needed a director for a huge documentary project they were launching in New Mexico.
    Without knowing a lot of details, I began figuring the angles, who I would pull in for production, budgets, etc.
    Then I met the gentlemen last week and they laid out a simple plan. Interview three people a month with a set list of questions that would go into an archive. Take one day to follow each of them around and get footage of them in their everyday lives, and come up with an idea for a three-minute video. Then receive a huge check for doing it.
    I could do this in my sleep and it sounded like fun, but what was the catch?
    There had to want a longer version, right?
    And I have to pay a crew out of the fee?
    No, we supply the studio for the interviews and the crews to film your on-location videos.
    When I began suggesting subjects for the documentaries, they became really interested. They suggested they might make me associate producer in charge of coming up with ideas of people to interview.     I'm waiting to hear if I will be hired, but now that I get I'm creating all this -- i.e., two cool jobs that rely on my ideas and creativity -- I'm going full throttle.
    For the first time, I have seen a glimpse of the play phase of Busting Loose.
    My next intention is for my writing partner and me to sell our script for a new TV show. The production company will throw large amounts of money at us for the rights to it. They will then make us head of the writing team. We won't actually have to write. We'll just sit around and think of ideas. Sweet.     
    Now, if i could just get someone to write my blog, I'd have it made.
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    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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Cookie Monsters


    Last time I wrote, I was adamant that upon setting foot in the United States after spending two months in Japan, I was not going to return to reality -- at least as defined by others. My hope was to bring my expanded consciousness back with me and perhaps rearrange the terrain.
    I guess the universe was listening to the first part, because what I stepped into upon my return was more surreal than real.
    As for the second part, that's still up for discussion. My predominant feeling has been one of disconnection from everything, including my true self and my upgraded consciousness. Busting Loose seems a distant memory. Somewhere on the flight across the Pacific, I entered the Twilight Zone and accidentally landed in someone else's hologram, and I don't know what I'm doing here. So if your hologram seems a little crowded, I apologize.
    That person in Japan who was wowed every day with sights and sounds and filled with gratitude for the experience is now questioning and judging creations, instead of appreciating them. My discomfort is rampant. My processing less so. Nothing seems quite right, whether it's my bank account, relationships or housing situation. This was not exactly the souvenir I wanted to return from Japan with.
    Of course, this is a judgment about what is right, judgment about an illusion, and judgment is the mother of disappointment.
    But for the first time since I embarked on the Busting Loose journey nearly a year ago, I've felt lost and doubting at times.
    Now from past experience, I know this is usually a necessary step -- the breakdown before the breakthrough, as a friend put it. Yet I still feel unsettled.
    As I told some friends recently, it's as if I went to spiritual rehab in Japan for two months. I got to see what it was like to be clean and sober. But upon returning to my previous environment, I was tempted to fall back into my same old junkie habits, patterns and limitations that frustrated me in the first place.
    From a Busting Loose perspective, I never really went anywhere. The true me was always here, I just rearranged the furniture in the hologram to make it look like I went somewhere. At the same time, whatever eggs I didn't drain there, are still with me.
    The thing is, I know my consciousness changed, and I understand now that I was hoping that would be reflected in my environment, and by implication, it would be good. Instead, I feel as if I've relapsed, although as Robert Scheinfeld tells us, that is not possible.
    While house-sitting the other day, I was watching a show on cable called "Hoarders." It's about people who refuse to let go of anything, whether it be old magazines, candy bar wrappers or stray cats. Their homes overflow with rubbish and filth, to the detriment of their health or well-being. It often gets to the point where personal relationships are threatened. One divorced woman, in fact, could not bring herself to clean up her home, even though leaving it cluttered meant she would not be able to get custody of her children.
    These are extreme cases, obviously. But it did cause me to reflect on all the clutter I refuse to let go of, all those boxes of beliefs that I am sure will be of use some day, in some situation, no matter how useless they truly are. That is what the Busting Loose process is there to address.
    The tricky thing is that our egos can turn anything around on us, even Busting Loose. I realized that the stream of cookies I had been receiving, the "signs" that I was on the right path since starting the process, have dried up since I returned.  
    The point is I am just as hooked on the cookies as I am on old patterns. I was hoarding them. When the cookies didn't continue to materialize, let alone get bigger and tastier, I got pissed. I began judging myself again, because of my inability to produce them.
    The lack of cookies began eating away at my identity, which is probably what my Expanded Self has intended all along.
    What this also says to me is that I am not being present. The signs of Busting Loose that appeared in my past mean nothing at this moment. They are sort of like sports trophies displayed in the rec room. They're nice to show off to friends, but only a reminder of the glory days. They have nothing to do with the present state of consciousness.
    As Robert says, you just do the process to reclaim the power and where it goes, it goes. It's not your choice. If it doesn't produce cookies, then so be it. The lack thereof may mean nothing more than that the Keebler elves are on vacation.

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