God and I have always had something of an up-and-down relationship. I really like Him (or is it a Her or an It? I’ve never been quite sure) a lot. I mean A LOT. More than anything else.  But still, we’ve had our struggles.

My grandmother was my very favorite relative, complete with a friendly dog and a friendly cat, closets which smelled of mothballs, and an endless supply of wonderful desserts. She went to church every Sunday and prayed, and she taught me to do the same.  I picked it up pretty easy.

“God, this is Nicholas here.” (That was my name when I was a kid, Nicholas.) “God, thank you very, very much for making me captain of the cricket team. That was very nice of you. And thank you for the B grade in English. I was wondering if you could help me out with Biology, and maybe get me a B in that too? Oh and by the way, you know that girl with the blond pigtails, Molly Smithers? Well God, I’d really like to kiss her.   God..?   God..?   Are you there, God..?    Hello..?”

I was quite conscientious about my praying back then, but I was never quite sure if anyone was listening. Seemed there was a lot of static on the line, and I wasn’t quite sure if my mail was getting read, or if my phone calls were being listened to. (more…)

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If you’ve been reading my stuff here for a while, you probably remember that back in the summer of 2009, I started to conduct interviews for a new publication with some very interesting people. I’ve been busy with that ever since. Finally, it’s come to some sort of completion.

In almost every tradition, there has been a split between spiritual awakening and worldly life. A sadhu in India renounces money, sexuality, and even clothes to discover “moksha.” In the Christian tradition, priests have generally been single and celibate, or even living in a monastery, secluded from the world. This remained true even 30 or 40 years ago when it was still quite popular to take a vow of celibacy or poverty, or to live away from the world in a spiritual community. But things have changed dramatically in the last few decades.

I regularly attend large conferences and events, and I’ve enjoyed conducting my own little amateur sociological project. When I get a crowd of a few hundred people, I like to ask, “How many people have a current vow of celibacy?” It’s very rare, these days, to see even one or two hands go up. Then I ask, “How many people would celebrate bringing your heart’s deepest awakening into your sexuality?” The crowd becomes a sea of hands. I can ask the same question about parenting, family, social and political action, but the most interesting to me is money and material success. “How many people,” I ask, “are living with a current vow of poverty? You’ve renounced money and material possessions?” Again, it’s rare to see a single hand. “And who,” I continue, “is interested in bringing awakening into your business life — to have a more conscious and awakened relationship to the flow of money?” Again, it’s a sea of hands. (more…)

Back in the late 80’s, Jacquelyn Small wrote a fantastic book called Transformers. It was a revolutionary book that influenced me more than anything else I can remember at the time. This was long before Eckhart Tolle came out with The Power of Now, long before Byron Katie developed The Work, and long before Satsang became popular. And in that wonderful book, there’s one particularly wonderful sentence that stands out among the rest.

“You don’t have to be ‘perfectly enlightened’ in order to be an agent of enlightening.”

It’s really worth savoring the taste of that statement like a good wine. Sip it. Let it linger on your taste buds for a few moments. That little sentence dispels so many myths and so many reasons we give ourselves to hold back our true gifts. (more…)

Sometimes it seems like all we hear these days is talk of the tough economy. I actually conducted a little sociological experiment this weekend, and counted up how many times I heard people refer to the economy, and therefore current times in general, in a negative way. I got 43 hits, even though I stayed home quite a bit.

There is, of course, some objective measurable truth to all of this depressing talk. If you own a house, it’s probably worth considerably less than it was five years ago. If you own a business, you may be making less money than you were, and you may have even been faced with the difficult decision of laying off some of your employees. If you’re an investor in the stock market, you may have seen your portfolio go down in value.

But not everybody these days is having a terrible time. I’ve conducted another little amateur sociological experiment over the last several weeks. I asked a lot of my colleagues: writers, teachers, seminar leaders, how they would evaluate their year so far, not just financially, but according to a broader spectrum of measurement. How are your relationships? How’s your creativity? How’s your health? How much are you living your deepest vision? I’m a member of two extraordinary mens’ groups, one where I live in Nevada City, and another that I travel to in Marin County, and I also asked this question at the recent meeting of the Transformational Leadership Council. More than half the people I asked told me that 2010 was proving to be their best year ever, myself included.

I hear people ask a lot on the blogosphere and in the media, “How long is this recession going to last? When are we going to go back to where we were?” Well, here’s a shocking question for you now. What if we never, ever, ever go back to where we were?  What if the old game is now coming to an end, and a whole different way of relating with each other financially and energetically is emerging? (more…)

“I love you.”

“I hate you.”

“I need you.”

“I want space from you.”

“I resent you.”

“I’m curious about you.

We make statements similar to these all the time in all types of relationships. When we speak in this way, it makes it sound as if there are fixed things called an “I” and  a “you.” The statement defines the relationship between these two entities. As long as it appears to be that way, all of our attempts to become more intimate, to improve the quality of relationship, are restricted to changing the verb that goes between the “I” and the “you.” If we can shift from “I resent you” to “I forgive you,” it feels like a big win. If we shift from “I hate you” to “I trust you,” it seems like greater intimacy.

When Chameli and I started to develop the Deeper Love work eight years ago, we both came together in a spirit of discovery. We had realized that trying to change the relationship between the “I” and the “you” didn’t work very well. It’s rather like two people sitting on either side of the Grand Canyon, wanting to experience love together. One throws a missive across the canyon, perhaps a rock with a note tied to it, saying “I love you.” It arrives at the other side. The recipient unwraps it, experiences warm, fuzzy, feelings, and sends back another missive, maybe pink and wrapped in lace, saying “I love you too.” They’ve now entered a Hallmark world together, but the vastness of the canyon between them is a more significant cause of the feeling of separation than the content of the notes that they send back and forth.

For my wife, Chameli, and me, the journey into a deeper intimacy began with an investigation of this thing called “I.” You don’t have to look very deeply into the sense of a me to discover that it’s not really a thing at all, but rather a collection of voices. That’s why our relationships are so often characterized by mixed messages and shifting dynamics. At one moment the “I” is the victim, and in the next moment the “I” has become the playful child, the next moment the loving parent, the next moment the horny lover.   There are thousands of voices like this.  Just scratch the surface a little bit, and we discover that we don’t have just one personality, but everybody has multiple personalities. (more…)

Imagine this.

Do you have small children in your life? Perhaps you have your own children, or nieces or nephews, or grandchildren, or maybe the children of friends or neighbors.

Imagine that you go to the toy store and buy the gift that would make one of these children incredibly happy. When my kids were young, it was the latest Lego set, so they could build a pirate ship or a Star Wars space craft. It could be tickets to Disneyland, or a beautiful doll house.

Now imagine that you buy that gift for this special child. You have it wrapped in shiny, silver paper with wide red ribbons and a bow. And now imagine that you take this gift home and hide it in the closet behind your clothes.

Now imagine that you never give this gift. It remains hidden behind your clothes in the closet…

Forever.

Oh come on, Arjuna, enough of the emotional manipulation, what’s your point?

My point is that, sad and twisted as this story may be, it bears a tragic resemblance to the way many of us have led our lives, not just in relationship to one child, but in relationship to everyone you know. I’m sure that at peak moments – when feeling deeply in love, or inspired, or at the beginning of some new endeavor, or after a vacation – the clouds part and you absolutely know your own deep potential and what you have to give. Suddenly it’s clear: the movie you could make, the novel you could write, or maybe it’s the way you could be raising your children, or the meals you could be cooking, or the garden you could be growing. In these moments of great insight, you realize how you could be treating people, how you could be treating your own body, the gifts you would be pouring into the world if not for…

That’s right. Just as everyone has a unique gift to give, for most of us it is also buried behind the clothes in the closet. And, tragically, for many people, the deeper gift never gets given. (more…)

mountain topWhenever a group of people get together and become more honest with each other, one of the first thing to happen is that they realize how much we all want the same thing.  It happens in marriage guidance counseling, we come to the recognition that we both want love, we both want to be seen and acknowledged.  It happens in any kind of business intervention: we come together as a team and realize we all want and need the business to succeed, we want the workplace to be inspiring and relaxed.  Ultimately it happens politically, when the leaders of nations recognize that they are more likely to get their own needs met when they can also recognize the need of the other.

The greatest area of split and misunderstanding, which I discover among my friends and other writers and teachers is the split between the longing of the spirit and material desire.  To paint the picture in broad strokes, I am aware of two categories of people I know.  On one hand, I’ve spend a lot of my life in “spiritual circles.”  I lived with Poonjaji in India, I’ve lived in community in other parts of my life.  When we make our home in this camp life is about liberation.  We mediate.  We do Yoga.  We chant.  We disassemble the structures in the mind because we have fallen in love with a deep sense of spaciousness and peace.  When you live exclusively in this camp the desire for money becomes a hinderance to be avoided, not a goal to be pursued.  Relationships are okay-ish, as long as they don’t get too co-dependent.  Frequently, our relationship with our parents is something to be “completed” and “resolved” rather than celebrated.  When you live in this camp, wanting to make it in the world is the greatest symptom of ego-entrapment.

But there is also another camp, where I equally enjoy setting up my tent from time to time.  This camp is much better decorated, has better food, and everyone has an i-phone.  In this camp the emphasis is on worldly success of every kind.  Making money is a good thing.  So is having great relationships, great sex, better health and, in fact, having better anything is good.  When you hang out a while in this camp and look back to the other side, the spiritual people look like a bunch of losers. Meditating on their navels and letting go of attachments, you can see from here that they can’t pay the rent, their relationships are often messy, and they often have health problems to boot.

(more…)