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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Getting Fresh


    Several years ago while filming an interview for my documentary film "The Language of Spirituality," I interviewed a Native American elder from one of the local pueblos.
    As we were talking about things metaphysical -- which in Native America is part of every day life -- he told me about the meaning of the word "tomorrow" in his native language, Tewa.
    "Tomorrow is the time when we will take something that is whole and shatter it so that we can be in tomorrow without today, or without the future so that we can then sing and be present," he explained.
    I asked him what he meant.
    "You have to shatter what you think that you think that yesterday was, so that you give tomorrow its own gift and not be cluttered by what happened yesterday," he remarked.
    It has stuck with these many years if only as an ideal that would not be achieved in this lifetime.
    But the metaphor resonated a little more loudly this week after I immersed myself in the writings of Jiddu Krishnamurti, the late, great Indian sage.
    Like the latest wunderkind in the spirituality biz, Jed McKenna, Krishnamurti pledged no allegiance to any particular creed or philosophy. In fact, he said "truth is the pathless land." Like McKenna, he warned people away from gurus and teachers, including himself. And like McKenna, he advocated radical inquiry into one's self in the quest to realize the truth of existence.
    But imagine Jed McKenna with more compassion and insight and depth and rigor. In short, Krishnamurti was a spiritual badass.
    How badass? Well, in 1929, after years of being groomed by the Order of the Star in the East to accept the mantle of "World Teacher,"  Krishnamurti promptly disbanded the organization in front of 3,000 members at an annual gathering in Holland.
    Here was an unadulterated example of shattering the mold.
    My reception of this Krishnamurtian and Native American wisdom happened to coincide with my current obsession with relationships -- with people, with the world, with ex-girlfriends, with the legless guy at the post office, with the woman who keeps parking in "my" parking spot and finally with myself.
    Thus, I was curious to see what the sage had to say about relationships and I was not disappointed, although I am still quite perplexed.
    In one breath, Krishnamurti says relationships are the basis of existence and something we must understand before we move on to the weightier matter of Truth. But in the next breath, he suggests humans as constructed, cannot experience pure relationship, at least at the level of thought, because thought, or consciousness, is the sum of all memories, projections, expectations, fears, ideals, experiences, pleasures, judgments, attachments and beliefs we hold.
    In other words, we can never really connect with the essence of another person, or ourselves, and realize our one-ness, no matter how we dress up the relationship -- unless we shatter consciousness and start fresh. Again and again.
    "To have real human relationship is to have no image whatsoever, no picture, no conclusion. And it is quite complex, because you have memories. Can you be free of memories of yesterday's incidents? All that is implied. Then what is the relationship between two human beings who have no images? You will find out if you have no image. That may be love."
    I'm also guessing it's either the definition of enlightenment, or it's a prescient description of the the Guy Pierce character in the movie "Memento," whose anterograde amnesia renders him unable to form new memories. So assuming we go with this for the time being, what would it be like not only to encounter the world fresh each day, but to know someone, yet experience them as a new person at every encounter?
    Hell if I know and Krishnamurti will only point you in the general direction of where that place lies. So, sorry if you were expecting an answer.
     I know that I am not enlightened or entirely Busted Loose as I write this, so I can only play with this idea in the hologram, while I continue to process and inquire.
    But Krishnamurti has at least shown me that my current way of relating to "others" is limited. Sometimes that's okay. Sometimes, it seems a pointless, tedious struggle, depending on what other aspect I'm dealing with. But at least that brings me discomfort, so it's not all "bad." Perhaps the answer is simply processing, until  the relationship transforms and we see it through new eyes.
    In the meantime, I'm curious. I know this doesn't sound practical. But is it obtainable?


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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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    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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    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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                                            On Dissolving the I (inspired by Adyashanti)
    I am not the accretion that becomes incarnate.
    I don't mean I haven't done it, or been it, or created it, or possessed it. I don't mean I am not deserving of it. I just mean I don't want it any more.   
    I am not a father. I am not a son. I am not an ex-husband. I am not a divorcé. I'm not a single guy. I am not a cousin. I am not a nephew. I am not a first cousin once removed. I am.
    I am not a writer. I am not a filmmaker. I am not a storyteller. I am not a screenwriter. I am not a producer. I am not a house-sitter. I am not a founder. I am not a teacher. I am not a student.  I am not a former journalist. I am not a college graduate. I am not the firstborn or the most special sibling in my family. I am not the teacher's pet. I am not the smartest kid in class. I am not from a long line of anything. I am not an ex-Catholic. I'm not an ex-Buddhist. I am not an entrepreneur. I'm not an artist.  I am not a visionary. I am not my resumé. I am.
    I say this with complete love. I am not your friend. I am not your long lost friend. I am not your buddy. I am not your lover. I am not your boyfriend. I am not your former boyfriend. I am not your future boyfriend. I am not your acquaintance. I am not your Facebook friend. I am not your uncle. I am not your brother. I am not your cousin. I am not your son. I am not your father. I am not your business partner. I am not your employee. I am not your boss. I am not somebody who knows somebody. I am not somebody who could help you. I'm not somebody who could hire you. I am.
    I am not my wit. I am not my sarcasm. I am not cynicism. I am not my wealth. I am not my poverty. I am not my knowledge. I am not my compassion. I am not my blessings. I am not my fate. I am not my sun sign. I am not too good for this. I am.
    I am not my full head of hair. I am not my jump shot. I am not the legendary over-the-shoulder catch to win the game. I am not my horrendous slice. I am not my back pain. I am not my old shoes. I am not my special socks. I am not my laptop. I am not the cute kid in the home movies. I'm not the school spelling bee champ. I am not my bank account. I am not the house I live in. I am not my next project.  I am not Steven King's lookalike, so just stop that shit. I am.
    I am not my car. I am not my journals. I am not my knick knacks, gewgaws or tchotches. I am not my art collection. I am not the lover of Guided by Voices. I am not my record collection. I am not the songs on my Ipod. I am not my clothes. I am.
    I am not my seeking.  I am not my fear. I am not my confidence. I am not my example.  I am not my victimhood. I am not my victimizing. I am not the stand up guy. I am not the chump. I am not my spirituality. I am not my reliability.  I'm not my authenticity. I'm not my falseness. I'm not my helpfulness. I'm not my indispensability.  I'm not my bitterness. I'm not my elation. I am not my drinking. I'm not my sobriety. I am not my exquisite taste in music. I am not my opinions. I am not my judgment. I am.
    I am not that funny story about visiting Europe. I am not that tragic story about dozens of romantic breakups. I'm not that blog about my amazing trip to Japan. I'm not my memories of sexual experiences. I'm not my memories of getting kicked in the ass. I'm not a book I read. I am not my friends. I am not my enemies.
    I am not my sense of obligation, my sense of duty, my sense of right, my sense of wrong, my sense of justice, my sense of betrayal, my sense of fairness. I am not my sense of humor. I am not my sense of anything. I am.
    I am not responsible for anything. I am responsible for everything. I am neither and both. I am only a passing thought. I am transparent. Can you still recognize me?
    I'll leave the keys under the mat. It's all yours if you want it. But I am out of here.
    The truth is I was drinking coffee from a yellow mug when I wrote this. I was sitting on a leather couch in a living room in a house in Placitas. I was wearing jeans and a pullover shirt. The sun was shining through the windows.
    The Truth is I am empty. I am light. I am one with.
    Now we're getting somewhere.
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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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    With my two-month Japan sojourn at an end, I'm in Los Angeles preparing for my re-entry into New Mexico. One of the things I've created is comments from friends about "returning to reality," as if what I was doing in Japan wasn't real.
    I understand that none of it is real in the hologram -- the only reality is my consciousness -- but for the sake of discussion, I am interested in examining what is being reflected back.
    The underlying message seems to be, "Gee, isn't that nice you got to screw around on vacation for two months and visit a bunch of cool places and eat a lot of great food and hang with your wonderful son and have an inspiring adventure, but...." The "but" is, "it's time to get real, get back to business, find a place to live, settle down and conform to the 'reality' you left before, because you just can't do that. What you really want is back here."
    It's not really about jealousy, at least I don't think so.
    It's an unsettling feeling I have that I've done something wrong, like the slutty cheerleader in a horror movie who has sex with the quarterback and then 15 minutes later is chainsawed by the killer with the not-so-subtle implication being that you don't get something -- pleasure, and a letter jacket, in this case -- for nothing, and thus, she merits dismemberment.
    I'm happy to report that I have not even heard a chainsaw, let alone been threatened with one, and that I'm processing my way through all the discomfort. Yes, I intend to return "home" for a time, look for work, get a place to live that has a street address and not a license plate number -- unless something else presents itself. I have no idea what that's going to look like or feel like, and at this point, I'll wait to be surprised. But as for returning to the generic reality envisioned by some aspects, I'm not so sold on that idea.
     One thing I came to realize is that I didn't deserve the richly abundant life I've lived for the past two months, and I mean that in a good way. The origin of the word means to be entitled to something because of good service. Now good service can be interpreted in a lot of ways, depending on whether you're talking about a geisha or a gas station attendant. But lets just say there's a lot of room for interpretation of service and deserving.  
    It can be as simple as, I deserve a chocolate donut because I biked 10 miles yesterday. I deserve an afternoon of watching football because I pruned the mulberry bush this morning. I deserve to go on a Caribbean cruise because I worked overtime at the car wash for two years to pay for it. You've got to pay to play.
    In Phase 1, returning to reality seems to be the payment or service I owe someone for enjoying myself for a few weeks in paradise.
    But I find that "deserving" something is just another b.s. belief in the hologram. I don't have to "do" anything to merit a joyful life. The only qualification for experiencing my abundance is the fact that I'm a conscious being. It comes with the entry fee.
     It feels different in another way, something more subtle. I've occasionally splurged on myself -- we all have -- with the implicit understanding that the new X-Box or BMW will bring us joy, or at least make us feel better -- and I deserve to feel good. But it's usually about putting power in things or people outside of ourselves to try to affect the hologram, and that, you don't deserve. You just open to receive what you already have. It's all just joy disguised as something else anyway.
    So I don't plan to spend any time justifying why I came to Japan, or why I returned to the states when I did. I will simply focus on appreciating the great gift I created and gave myself and watch the time-released transformation and expansion that will be apparent over the coming weeks, months and years.  
         When I went to Japan, I told myself I wanted the trip to be disorienting to an extent, to shake up everything, re-order my world. It worked.
      Learning to negotiate my way around a new city, trying to grasp a new language, eating strange (and wonderful) food, seeing only new sights, has given me new eyes (for about the same cost as laser surgery).
    Now, I can't wait to see just what "reality" looks like back in familiar territory,  
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