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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    Warning: this is not really a Busting Loose blog post, per se, although it may contain some of those elements.

    Over the past few months, I've created my dream world to be populated with people, myself included, going through hard times, struggles and depression; spiritual people who have the tools to work through these obstacles and the knowledge that they're just creations founded on false beliefs. Yet, we, I continue to struggle in some aspect of our lives.
    I used to think that processing my way into Phase 2, (now Phase 3, I guess) into a place of transcendence or bliss was the answer to relationship problems. Once I was at peace, and truly remembered that I was an infinite being, nothing in the dream world would matter. All relationships would be fine, no matter what they looked like in the hologram. All situations would be perfect, no matter what it might look like through my human eyes. That is the Truth as far as I know. Of course, achieving that awakening was a whole other matter, and it became apparent that I was leaving something out.
    Fortunately, my ex-partner, Liz, set something in motion that allowed me to find the missing piece.
    I am deeply embarrassed to admit that more than two years after we separated, and in spite of our best and loving intentions to be different, to not just walk in opposite directions, but to give ourselves time to work through the many lies, beliefs and illusions raised by the separation (and I'd say that was my need mostly, not hers), I realized I was stuck.
    I had created a relationship that had fallen into what for me was a disturbing, uncomfortable and often painful pattern, sprinkled with occasional moments of fun. But because I had convinced myself that our relationship was happening at a higher level, and that two such amazingly spiritual people as ourselves had to be able to resolve this, I soldiered on.
    I do not consciously believe in the axiom of "fake it until you make it," but it is apparent I still had some learning to do around that. I realize that I was doing that all the time, just rationalizing my struggles by putting a spiritual overlay on them. Instead of embracing my discomfort fully, I would swiftly extract the great and wise lesson from it, dress it up in some nifty spiritual/intellectual clothes, and convince myself that I had expanded. I was not really absorbing the lessons at a soul level. I was just making myself think I did and trying to make her think the same thing.
    Liz and I reconnected recently, after several weeks apart and spent an afternoon together absorbing the grounded wisdom of Adyashanti. What happened that afternoon stirred me.
    Afterwards I wrote her an email detailing some of what appears above. Then I went into silence. It was in that space I realized that the missing piece/peace was healing.
    You see, as I mentioned in a previous column, I'm not good at doing endings. But it hadn't occurred to me until that moment why. I was practiced at eventually forgetting the pain and suffering of separation caused by the end of relationship. I'd had "closure." I'd had "resolution." One time I even got a call from a friend telling me he was dating my girlfriend a few days after we separated. But I could not recall the experience of ever having truly healed, because time does not truly heal, it only lulls us to sleep and gives us a false sense of hope. As long as there's a future, things can always get better, right?
    The root of the word healing means to become whole, sound and well. It means in spiritual terms to erase the illusion of a gap between you and God, or the universe or Expanded Self or your own divinity or whatever metaphor you choose. (Great Mysteriousing, a Cheyenne description, is my favorite.)
    Healing, as opposed to forgetting, means cleansing the wound with forgiveness, dressing it with love and accepting the scar that was left behind as a joyous memento of life here on earth.
    That sounds suspiciously like enlightenment to me.
    Now my first impulse, my egoic impulse, is to explain to Liz how we could heal together. But my gut says not so fast. Sucking poor Liz into yet another step of my enlightenment is too much to ask. It could become mechanical and grasping and yet another attempt by my ego to re-create our relationship in my image. Perhaps healing can only come from within. But to tell you the truth, I don't have a frickin' clue. I haven't done it before.
    So I believe I'll just sit a spell and wait to see what the healing might look like and how it might happen. 
    In the meantime, Liz and I appear ready for anything, from creating a new form of relationship to splitting for good. The dynamic has already changed between us. In responding to my email, she said she no longer wanted the role of being my teacher. I guess that leaves it up to me.

    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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    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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    We often say or do things that we seem to understand at the time, but only realize later what it was really all about. Marriage and divorce and the fling with the waitress that precipitated the divorce would be prime examples.
    Then there's this blog. While I'm glad that "others" have appreciated what I'm doing, I'm mostly writing so that I can understand things myself.
    Which is funny in retrospect, because I think I may have missed the point of my own writing recently. I typed a piece  about why the promise of internet sales and multi-level marketing programs did not appeal to me. As long as I'm going to play the Human Game, I noted, I felt I should follow my heart and focus on my writing, blogging and filmmaking, because that is what I'm inspired to do.
    And it's true as far as it goes. But something kept nagging at me. I awoke a couple days later and on a whim, turned on my Ipod and randomly chose a section from a program by Adyashanti, and not coincidentally, there was my answer.
    Listening to Adyashanti made it clear to me what is at the essence of this impulse.
    We do not live to imitate others, he said. The people who inspire us are those who didn't do it the way everybody else did. That's at the heart of my disinterest in my creations of organized religion or multi-level marketing plans or anything that says follow my formula and you've got it made. And I will repeat, this is simply me in my hologram. I have no problem with any path that my creations follow, and I understand that limitations are part of the game. But it explains why I love iconoclasts like Robert Pollard , Dave Eggers, David Lynch and Steve Jobs
    As Adyashanti points out, what has made Jesus or Buddha such compelling figures for thousands of years is that like Frank Sinatra, they did it their way, and they were unlike anybody else. They bucked the illusory beliefs we are all subject to and found their own path to the Truth. By trying to do what Jesus would do, (especially the hanging on the cross part) or meditate like the Buddha, we are missing the point.
    "They were pure undistorted expressions of life itself," Adyashanti said. "Each person has a gift. It's like reality or life is just waiting to express itself through each being in a totally unique way. Totally unique expressions of the one."
    Thus, anything that reeks of following the herd (literary cliches included) is by definition not part of my unique mission and purpose, as Robert Scheinfeld calls it in Busting Loose.
    Now, I'm a big believer in guidance. God knows I've sought enough of it in the last 30 years, whether it was the Sunday horoscope or reading chicken entrails or consuming the work of self-help authors like a crack addict.
    But I immediately recoil when someone tells me they have the "answer." It's depriving me of the exquisite pleasure of beating my head against the wall until I get it.
    That goes for Robert and Busting Loose. I admire Robert as one of the most important aspects I've ever created in this illusion. The wisdom he has imparted has changed my life. But I have no desire to live his life, or be too concerned about following his every suggestion to a T.
    Guidance can only point us in the right direction, or to use a diving analogy, Busting Loose is the springboard, but only I can perform the reverse 3 1/2 somersault in pike position that is my life.
    Busting Loose is a useful tool, an important stepping stone on my journey to awakening, nothing more, nothing less. But ultimately, I have no desire but to awaken to the truth of who I am. Whether I'm judged, or judge myself, to be faithful to the principles of Busting Loose is ultimately irrelevant, and I know Robert would be the first to agree.  
    I do not claim to be an authority on any of this subject matter, just an observer. I hope you will read something here that gives you an insight, or at least a good laugh. But if not, that's fine by me. If I stray from what you/me believe is the correct path, feel free to tell me, but more importantly, just be happy that in my "mistakenness," I've once again helped you clarify your own understanding.  
    A Native American friend once told me of an experience in a rez town. He was walking with another friend when they noticed a tribal elder passed out from drinking. My friend remarked what a shame it was that the elder was an alcoholic. His companion replied that the elder was just being a really good example to others of how dangerous alcohol can be.
    So if it helps to think of me as that alcoholic elder, please do so. At this point in my blogging career -- and the rest of my illusory life -- I value the authentic expression of what I'm experiencing in Phase 2 more than whether I'm doing it right. I think I'll drink to that.
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    For the last few days I've had an ongoing dialogue with friends and relatives about what keeps us from experiencing our innate abundance.
    I've come to the conclusion it's all in the water.
    Actually, it's in the glass.
    I realized the age old question "Is the glass half empty or half full?" is emblematic of the problem. It's a tired Phase 1 question, pitting two meaningless answers against one another.
    The correct answer is, the glass is always full, we just made up a story about spilling some on the carpet. (Or the more correct answer is, neither the glass or the water or the carpet exists. But then I wouldn't have anything to write about, would I?)
    This goes back to the fundamental principle of Robert Scheinfeld's Busting Loose. The choice is not to substitute one false perception with another false perception. It's to exchange limiting beliefs for the Truth. The Truth is the glass is always full, overflowing in fact, with joy and abundance.
    This little nugget arrived courtesy of conversations I had with my friend, Vickie, and my son Teo about intention and visualization. As we have learned, intention and visualization are not all they're cracked up to be. That's why practices like the Law of Attraction and voodoo don't work for most people.
    One, they're usually focused on changing the hologram, the home of all that is illusory. Two, the intention behind it all usually originates with the ego, or the Player, and not from Expanded Self -- and I, at least, rarely know what I really want. There's a chance your ego could be aligned with Expanded Self, just as there is a chance that hell will freeze over and Neiman-Marcus will build a store there.
    Three, it means that somewhere inside, we are not accepting what is. We have to visualize something "better," or at least different. That is, if not denying the Truth, then twisting it like a French braid and yanking on it.
    But not to despair, visualizing and intentioning have their place. As Vickie points out, these practices can be used wisely. So go ahead, envision the beachfront balcony in your $10 million home and the beautiful wife/husband/cohabitator and the travels to exotic places, and the successful business. (For those of you for which this is not an issue, you are free to duck out for a minute and have a cold one on the balcony.)
    Then sit back in your La-Z-Boy and watch the thoughts and listen to the tiny voices tell you why you're going to blow it again, why you are unworthy of such things, and then process the discomfort.
    Whether you achieve your intentions or visualizations is irrelevant, just as whether the glass is half full or half empty is irrelevant. What's important is to identify the beliefs holding you back and exchange them for the Truth. (See my recent column about that.)
    My son is experiencing this on a visceral level. He has created some great stories about relationships, Japanese women and the half-formed intention of finding a wife here in Japan. He related the experience of meeting an attractive young woman and her colleague in a taxicab recently, and listening to the cacophony that rattled his brain pan. In the course of a brief ride, one voice had them married and settled down with kids. The other had him rejected by the woman, who was probably already married and/or had a boyfriend. Of course, he recognized later that both alternatives were equally false.  
    But while that opera of intention, worthiness and doubt was playing on an endless loop, the fact is, he never got a word in edgewise, never got her name, and before he could exit the cab, she was gone. His beliefs ran over the experience of the Truth.
    Nevertheless, it was a great lesson in changing consciousness and not just changing cabs or listening to a different opera. When the internal roadblocks surface and cause us discomfort, do the process. Or as my son's guru suggests, take on the presence of that dissenting voice and become it for a while until you're laughing your butt off at the ludicrousness of it all.
    When you have Busted Loose, you may still have intentions, but it won't matter. At that point, money, partners, relationships, happiness and love will be flowing into your hologram. You won't have to ask and you won't even have to plan. At least that's my theory.
    I think that's what playing in Phase 2 is all about. You don't question your life circumstances any more. Things are arising so fast and you're having so much fun that it doesn't matter what any of it looks like.
    You're in alignment with your Expanded Self. You don't have to reach out for anything. You reach in.
    And while we're on the topic of glassware and the fluids that fill them, I have a question. Why is it always water? In my Phase 2 world, it might be rum-spiked egg nog one night, Yoohoo the next, Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1789 the next. Why settle for water? C'mon people, let's be creative.
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    During my time in Japan, I have come to a much deeper appreciation of gratitude.
    I'm now getting the survival stuff, the gratitude for a roof, and a bed, and a shower and food. The precious-time-spent-with-my-son stuff. The once-in-a-lifetime chance to see places I've never seen before.
    There's also the usual stuff to appreciate, which is most often something we've judged as "good" -- a beautiful sunset, a sumptuous meal, a Jimi Hendrix solo, a discreet mistress or a reliable pot connection.
    That's easy. In fact, there's way too much of that stuff going around as I mentioned in a previous column. Not that we shouldn't acknowledge these things, but we're overloaded with easy and obvious things to express gratitude for.
    No, the true message of Busting Loose for me, as it continues to sink in, is that appreciation goes for everything we've created. So the other day I began making a list of the many things I now appreciate about my life, beginning with the catalogue of personal traits that used to make me uncomfortable. Bear with me.
    As Robert Scheinfeld notes in "Busting Loose From the Business Game," we're here to exchange beliefs and illusions for the Truth, not just different beliefs and illusions. So for me, the key is acknowledging exactly what those beliefs about myself are, so they can be processed and taken to the return department in Phase 2 and exchanged for my big, bad, abundant essence.
    Again, the idea here is not to turn my "negatives" into positives, like you're trained to do in job interviews. Q: "What's your biggest weakness?" A: "Uh, I work too hard." Nah, none of that crap.
    This is an exercise in recognizing our judgment about what is, and embracing these things we perceive about ourselves and our lives as part of the human game we've created. So here goes.
    I appreciate my laziness and willingness to take short cuts when it suits my purposes. I appreciate my ability to avoid serious introspection. I appreciate my ability to spot character flaws in others. I appreciate the way I over-think things. I appreciate my obsessiveness. I appreciate my carelessness.
    I appreciate my lack of blog ideas and my occasional bouts of writers block. I appreciate my insomnia and my snoring (though maybe not as much as others). I appreciate my ability to not do anything "meaningful," and waste hours online watching Youtube and searching for naked pictures of celebrities.
    I appreciate watching my bank account drain down to nothing and the great concern this causes me. I appreciate my consternation about having no permanent residence. I appreciate my envy of those creations that appear to have more than I do.
    I appreciate my skepticism and my gullibility. I appreciate the many doubts I have about myself and my abilities. I appreciate that I don't try hard enough. I appreciate that I'll always let you talk me into letting you pay for lunch.
    I appreciate my fear -- my fear of confrontation, my fear of making mistakes, my pathological avoidance of yoga and skydiving, my fear of imposing on others, my fear of being taken advantage of, my fear of not being able to finish the job.
    I appreciate the shape and weight of my body, the fitness and tone or the lack thereof, the ingrown toenail, the sore knees, the fallen arches, the bad eyesight, the pinched nerve in my shoulder. I appreciate my lower back pain and the times when my prostate acts up.
     I have gratitude for the ways in which I sabotage myself and my goals and resist the guidance of my Expanded Self. I appreciate my amazing ability to justify or rationalize anything -- from having unprotected sex to eating Original Recipe Kentucky Fried Chicken (two of the most hazardous things known to man.)
    I appreciate how I freely give power to things outside of me. I appreciate my ability to be authentic and phony, often at the same time. I appreciate my ability to be honest and lie, often at the same time.
    I appreciate my tendency to avoid talking about the elephant in the room, whatever it is, and then bring it up later at the most inappropriate time.
    I appreciate how easily I can be talked into giving money to organizations I've never heard of, for things I don't really care about, and how rude and confrontational I can become over a mistake on my phone bill.
    I appreciate how easily I give up some times. I appreciate how dogged I can be about some things, especially when they're leading to a dead end.
    I have much appreciation for the amazing illusions and stories I am able to spin about romantic breakups, and the ungodly amount of suffering I was willing to submit myself to.
    I appreciate how I still occasionally embrace the role of victim.
    I appreciate my belief that I've never been a good enough father, son, brother, husband, friend or boyfriend.
    I appreciate my self-absorption and my total lack of concern for tsunami victims in Southeast Asia. I appreciate my mean-spiritedness. I appreciate my attitude of not giving a shit sometimes. I appreciate my complete lack of interest in politics and my pity for those who believe politics can change anything. I appreciate my super cautious nature and my willingness to take risks based on whims and/or faulty intelligence.
    I appreciate the gnawing thought that my life has been a waste of time. I appreciate that I don't listen to my inner guidance as much as I'd like to. I appreciate that I have no desire to save the world. I appreciate that I'm probably not going to be the guy to help you move into your new apartment.
    This is by no means a comprehensive list, and I don't necessarily recommend this exercise for everyone. But God, that felt good.

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    Even before I left for Japan, I learned my first lesson. Obsessive-compulsive disorder and trip preparations do not necessarily mix.    
    It was apparently a huge lesson that my Expanded Self felt I needed to learn.
    It began the week before, when I attempted to liquidate my IRA to help finance the trip. (I'll give myself some credit, at least I'm not obsessing about retirement, huh?) I completed all the paper work for my broker, we talked about the exciting adventure I was about to go on and I left with instructions to email the routing number so the money could be deposited into my bank account the same week. That was Tuesday, a good week before I was to leave. Smart, right?
    Over the next few days, I did things like spend 30 minutes trying to figure out how to split up my travelers checks into different pieces of luggage and money belts, because I knew someone would go through my socks if I hid some of the money there.
    I worried about whether I should wear a back brace through check in at the airport, since under a shirt it looks like I could be a terrorist with a bomb strapped to me. I'd be detained interminably, miss my flight, be rendered to a dark hole somewhere in Eastern Europe and generally have my trip disrupted.
    Were the jars of salsa intended as presents for my Japanese hosts going to shatter in my luggage if they weren't triple bubble-wrapped, enclosed in a bag and nestled in a bed of styrofoam peanuts?
    It got crazier.
    The money still hadn't shown up in my bank account by Friday. My broker emailed, saying there had been some kind of delay within the banking system, so wait for Monday. I'm leaving Wednesday, no problem.
    Monday came and my broker called to say she had forgotten to submit the routing number I had e-mailed her, and the deposit had been denied. I re-sent it. The money arrived Tuesday. But the fun was just starting.
    Wednesday morning -- departure day -- with 99 percent of my preparations finished, about to drop off my car and get a ride to the airport from friends,  I worked on the coup de grace -- laptop computer security. For the first time since I've owned a computer, I decided it would be good to set up my laptop so that a user had to type in my secret password to use it. In the possible event that my laptop was stolen while abroad, (insert wailing and screaming here) at least the bastards wouldn't be able to log in and steal all my passwords and information.
    I was actually going to wait until the next day in Los Angeles when I had more time to mess with it and some help from someone who knew what they were doing. All this despite the fact that my laptop would be surgically attached to my hip the entire time, and that my son had told me on several occasions that Japan was the last place in the world my computer would be hijacked. In fact, if someone did steal it, they'd probably leave a better one in its place.
    But no. All I could envision was some young cyber-thug running down an airport terminal with my life in his hands. Besides, all I had to do was follow a simple procedure, and voila, the final protection would be finished.
    So I did it.
    Then I re-started the computer. I typed in my name and password. The little screen just jiggled and spit the words back at me. I tried, 30, 40 times. Nothing. I called my techie friend, Blaise, who had recently upgraded my computer.
    I told Blaise what had happened. We tried a few more things. Nothing. He knew the name and passwords were correct because he had just used them to do the upgrade.
    Blaise, who was just returning de-planing at the airport from a trip,  suggested he could look at it if I could meet him on the other side of town. He was waiting to be picked up and taken somewhere by his brother, though, and would call me back when he knew exactly where he was going to go.
    I still had to drive from the far reaches of Albuquerque to a bank to cash a check for the trip. and get to my friends' house. All in about one hour and a half.
    I borrowed a friend's laptop to search for possible solutions, but nothing looked remotely good.
    I'd either have to leave the laptop with Blaise and let him figure it out then FedEx it to me at some exorbitant cost, or have him burn a start-up disk for me and mail it to Japan, hope it arrived at the remote town where I'd be staying with my son, then have him walk me through the fix via phone.  For me, that's the equivalent of performing brain surgery on a fellow astronaut at the space station, with House giving me instructions on the phone. Did I mention, I'm not a surgeon?
    My blog posts, my internet businesses, my writing assignments and most of all, my presence on Facebook would all be horribly impacted. Double shit.
    I took off in my car, hit the bank, then did the Busting Loose process twice, as I raced across town to meet Blaise, who was in a cigar shop with his brother and a bunch of other people milling around.
    I immediately started up the computer and let Blaise take a look as thought of doom filled my head. We chatted nervously as I envisioned my Japan trip in ruins -- all because of me and my fear.
    As one attempt by Blaise after another to log in failed, I began my next OCD routine. I gathered the address where I would be in Japan, and other contact information. I calculated shipping costs. Blaise slaved away, typing in password combinations and checking instructions on his IPhone. After half an hour, even he was frustrated. I must admit, it's fun to hear geeks curse.
    Then Blaise let out an exclamation. "I'm not sure what I did, but I'm in." As we back engineered a solution, we realized he had accidentally typed in two spaces between my first and last name when entering them, instead of one. It was a mistake I had made when setting up my name and password upon purchasing the laptop several years earlier. A simple mistake we would have probably never would have figured out in a million years.
    Happy I was.
    Never mind that I subsequently misplaced my boarding pass and some other papers while driving to the airport. No big deal.
    The whole Japan trip has been an interesting mix of letting go and grasping. Living in reactive mode, then torturing myself over my decisions.
    The past few days have given me enough fodder for a few years of process and contemplation, so already the trip's a success.
    It was just one more exhilarating lesson about the fact that I'm still operating under the illusion that I -- the player -- have any control of anything. I still think I can foresee, and subsequently plan and scheme my way around any problem that arises. It's a good lesson and one that obviously needs to be reinforced frequently by my Expanded Self, because going on 53 years now, planning has not necessarily been my best friend.
    So today, I'm going to get out of bed, and that's all I'm committing to. Sayonara until tomorrow.

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    The Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said "You can not step twice into the same river." The river is different every time. At least that's one interpretation.
    In mathematical terms, a late friend once explained to me that Heraclitus' statement could be translated as "A" never equals "A," which is the opposite of the foundation for most of our mathematics and western civilization. Start with A never equals A, and where would we be today?
    I would offer that "I" never equals "I" either, because we as humans are always changing. We are never exactly the same person from minute to minute, and that change appears to accelerate when we enter the playground of Phase 2 in Busting Loose.
    In linguistic terms, our shape-shifting selves are striving to be verbs and not nouns.
    Instead of saying "I am a writer," to be more accurate and dynamic, I might say "I write," or  "I make symbolic marks in certain patterns that some people take the time to decipher." Instead of saying "I'm a filmmaker," I'd say  "I arrange sound and images and create packets of digital information to be viewed by others."  Instead of saying "I'm an entrepreneur," I might say "I create ways to make money flow."
    Granted, some people would think writer, filmmaker and entrepreneur are pretty sexy nouns, and I've taken great pride over the years in being able to hand the words out like dollar bills or stick them on business cards. But do they tell who I really am, in the hologram or as an infinite being? They're all an illusion, just like the other terms I might use for myself, like unemployed bum or spiritual surfer.
    The difference is that each noun comes with its own baggage. Each verb comes with a possibility. In quantum physics, nouns are the collapsed wave form. Verbs are the zero field itself.
    To integrate the metaphors, nouns tend to dam the river of life, while verbs tend to move it along.
    "I write" means I do that thing when I am moved to do so, and implies I can do other things like make homemade sauerkraut. "I am a writer" crystallizes whatever image and expectations of being a writer that you or I might have. That expectation might incidentally include actual writing, but most days may be just about wearing a tweed jacket, thinking great thoughts and smoking a pipe in my library while I stare at the books on the shelves hoping to release my writer's block.
    All the energy I put into being a writer that does not include the actual writing, is time taken away from the possibility of growing rutabagas, climbing Mt. Everest or playing with a puppy.
    I know a minor filmmaker with a famous name, which I won't mention here. But you've heard of the family.
    The kindest thing I can say about this person is that as a filmmaker, he's a great chef. But I've actually felt pity for him/me. Not only is he a noun-y filmmaker, he's got the extra added weight of the family name attached. What might have initially seemed like a crown is probably more like a ball and chain.
    I watched this person spend a lot of time creating an image of being a renegade filmmaker, dressing like an extra from "Easy Rider" and bossing people around as if his world was a real movie set, as if this type of behavior confirmed he was a filmmaker.
    This, instead of actually making films.
    He obviously feels compelled to follow in the footsteps of his family heritage and he occasionally has made a film, but as I said, his future is in cuisine. Maybe chef just doesn't sound as sexy as filmmaker.
    I understand that this is his life path and there's nothing wrong with it. I do hope he gets to open his own restaurant some day. But he is an interesting reflection to me about how we get caught up in meaningless roles.     
    I relate this all with a great deal more compassion now than I felt then because I see all my nouns being sucked into the black hole of meaninglessness as Phase 2 continues and I come face to face with all my discomfort and illusions. At this moment in time, what do the terms filmmaker, father, writer, lover, journalist, radio host, brother, son, SOB, TV producer, sports junkie, ex-husband really have to do with anything?
    Not much, as far as I can tell. They were simply nouns that I placed my power in for a time. I'm reclaiming my power from them -- even as I battle the tyranny of adjectives. But don't get me start on the judgment of adjectives.
    Living the "verb life" means living free, living reactively, living without the burden of expectation and letting others do the same thing. I'm liking the fact that I'm learning I'm not who I thought I was all this time.    


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    For me, Robert Scheinfeld's theory that we come to earth to play the Human Game because we like playing games didn't ring true.
    Sure, playing and winning challenging games is always fun. But why would we deprive ourselves of our power, wisdom and joy in the name of playing a game? Then, assuming we willingly jump to the physical world, why do we have a compulsion to struggle or make ourselves miserable? That just didn't make sense to me.
     But as I listened to the history of storytelling the other day from a screenwriting instructor, Robert's "Busting Loose" game metaphor started to come into focus.
    The instructor, Chris Soth, detailed the history of storytelling, from the first grunts around the campfire to the high art of such contemporary films as "Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector." It's so amazing to see how far we've come, huh?
    A key point in storytelling theory was Sigmund Freud's "Pleasure Principle." According to Freud, we are always seeking pleasure in the most broad sense, and pleasure comes from the release of tension. We eat to relieve hunger. We sleep to relieve fatigue. We have sex to, well, if I need to explain that one, maybe you shouldn't be reading this.
    Sure, we say we go bowling for the camaraderie of our beer-drinking buds and the chance to wear those really hip bowling shoes, but Freud would say it's really for the primal pleasure of waiting in anticipation as the ball rolls down the alley, then crashes in to the pins, knocking them flying. Secondarily, it's to whip the nacho-breath nerds from accounting.
    That's just how we humans are hardwired, or have created ourselves to appear hardwired.
    It's the same with screenwriting. In telling a cinematic story, you have to build the tension to make the climax worth experiencing.  
    In Chris' formula, tension equals hope vs. fear. We're hoping x happens, but we fear y will happen. Throw in some limits and restrictions. Repeat over and over and you've got a movie.
    So the challenge to the screenwriter is to ratchet up the tension by setting the expectations high and the consequences of failure even higher.
    "Will the boy get the girl?" "Will the career criminal pull off one last heist?" Will Arnold get save the planet?" (We'll settle for California at this point) "Will the slutty cheerleaders escape the axe murderer"
    Yet as compelling as the movies are, they obviously have nothing on our own stories in terms of tension, complexity, resolution and way too many sequels.
    I was reminded of just how talented a screenwriter our Expanded Self is while reading the Sunday newspaper recently.
    There was an article about a Nebraska man who stole a valuable painting of the Virgin Mary to finance an abortion in predominantly Catholic Mexico for a teen he raped. That has more layers than the late Tammy Faye's foundation makeup.
    In an even more tragic story, a man killed his swimsuit model wife and dumped her body in a suitcase, minus her teeth and fingers. He apparently assumed that police would never be able to identify his wife, thus he would not be caught.
    And except for the serial numbers they found on her breast implants, he might have gotten away with it.  
    Neither a million monkeys or a studio full of writers would have ever come up with those stories, and Expanded Self churns them out by the billions on a daily basis, all for our edification.
    So when it comes to the Human Game, the more interesting the game, the more at stake, the more tension, the more the pleasure when it's released. That's why I believe we Infinite Beings choose to play the game of limitation and restriction here as humans, at least until we get our fill and return to pure consciousness.
    It also makes sense when Robert says that Phase 2 is not about logic or planning, but about feeling and experience. If we repress emotion, chances are there won't be much feeling or experience. Thus, no tension, no release and no pleasure.
    I've been thinking about this a lot because my Expanded Self has concocted a suspenseful plot for the total immersion movie I'm starring in, one that's been building tension for a while and now is starting to get scary in one respect. It's also one that many of you are apparently playing a variation of now.
    Widely respected, multi-talented and extremely humble middle-aged writer, media producer and entrepreneur has created a hologram seemingly devoid of incoming appreciation (money), and is living on savings, which are quickly evaporating. He's lucky to have a roof over his head and he may not have a car by the end of the year. He thinks often about the embarrassment of standing in line at the soup kitchen with the other writers.
    At a loss as to how to overcome his predicament, he continues to do the Process to see what arises. The answer?
    A road trip to Las Vega$, of course.
    You see where this is going?
    A little fear, a little hope. And that's just Act 1.
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