Have you ever felt like that? Life feels really good on paper, but there are no heart pangs of deep feeling; that a numbness has crawled in. As a birthday present to myself, I decided to jump into the Seattle Path of Love, to rekindle my passionate fire and wake up to my life. Again. I wanted to feel it all, the sadness, the happiness, the presence, whatever could be there as part of being human. Somewhere I fell asleep to the depths of feeling and the fire was building again to clear the dust on my own life.
In my day to day of school, work, play, business, and friendship, every aspect was going well, but still something essential felt missing. Path of Love is the strongest, most precise method by which I know how to wake up to more. It works every time, on everyone, and each successive time you participate you get even more. In the foothills of Mt. Vernon, on 250 lush acres, lies the TreacyLevine retreat center. 50 years of interfaith community building to form brothers and sisters among all people on the planet is a pretty ideal setting for our work. Beautiful scenery, sunsets, animal life including coyotes, plus all the stars that come out at night.
I had a goal, as most do coming to The Path Of Love, I wanted to wake up to all of my emotions and really feel life, deeply, authentically, passionately; with an intensity that I had forgotten, but once knew many times over. The beginning of the process started off with a bang. There was a controlled burn of a house on the property as we began our first meditation, quite symbolic of burning down the old structures so the new can have space. The intensity level during that first meditation really set the pace for the week. What took me a few days to feel comfortable doing in Costa Rica last year, exploded out of me within minutes. Perhaps it is getting easier, perhaps 5 planets retrograde helped expose what was hidden, perhaps the energy dynamics of this group helped; no matter the reason, I jumped with a sincere intensity into the work that would change my life again.
In my exploration of my feelings, a few keys needed to be returned to me. I knew these keys, I even wrote them down, and yet I still forgot the experiential essence of them. First and foremost is the presence of the superego, otherwise known as the Judge. This is the voice in our head that tells us we are not good enough. It comes in many ways, many subtle disguises, directed at others, but mostly at the self. It has a purpose, it keeps you safe, but as we grow up and become stronger, we don’t need this voice so strongly anymore, but who has ever trained us to lesson its power over us? Flexing the muscle of control over the superego is a moment to moment practice. Becoming even slightly more free of its masks of deception provides a profound sense of well being and trust in life.
My superego tells me many things, mostly how to keep myself small, but it also tells me how I should feel. Like others, it confused me by ‘telling’ me how I feel rather than allowing me to feel how I feel. This is the beginning of moving from the head to the heart. My superego told me I needed to feel a certain way and when I did not, it exerted its control over me by saying “look, see, your heart is closed, you don’t feel anything.” As tears were streaming down my face, having been touched by the deep gratitude and love of many people, I could only conclude that I was overflowing with feeling and I needed to change my ideas about what an open heart feels like. I was feeling everything, wonderfully everything, but still the Judge was there trying to tell me I was wrong, that I wasn’t feeling enough, well superego I caught you in your lies and now you can leave this mind once again.
Once I caught my superego, the real work of stepping into my power began. This week was about feeling and power; masculine power. As many who know me can attest, I hang out in the feminine, intuitive energies because I am most comfortable there. This has formed a pattern through my life of people being confused about my sexuality. Metro sexual, bi-sexual, homosexual, no one can quite pin down a male body, with feminine energy, who is interested in women and can love everyone, male and female. What I discovered this week was the core of masculine power. This is not the aggressive warrior archetype, although that is an aspect, but it came down to one mantra for me “Strong enough to be changed by love”. The feminine is a river being held by the masculine banks. The bank stays strong in what it is, while allowing its edges to be constantly changed by the love of the feminine. No more controlling life, no lack of trust, a constant dialogue between the masculine and the feminine for without both there would be no river and no bank, just a swamp land.
My experience of this wonderful dynamic came in an unexpected way; her name is Julie. From the start I took a risk to be more outgoing and assertive, this led to a lot of hilarity in witty verbal exchanges, as well as pushing the boundaries with all people. I was thankful and fulfilled by just this verbal exchange of asserting who I was and how I felt, but the universe always brings more than you ask for. In the weeks leading up to PoL the universe saw fit to bring me many examples of male/female relationships to help me better define what my inner landscape looks like. I changed my internal compass from finding a partner who I can work on my inner issues with to someone with whom I enjoy life each day immensely with. This means someone in whom I feel relaxed and comfortable, someone to laugh with all the time, someone who can meet my intensity and then keep pushing the boundaries of what is possible. This has become my new working definition and highest priority: connection. To say that I found a connection in Julie would be an understatement.
The transforming experience came in a quiet moment after dinner, sitting in a deck chair looking at the landscape. I was feeling centered and complete with everything. Julie came by, sat in the chair next to mine and laid her head simply on my shoulder. The world turned and stayed incredibly still. Like the river banks, somehow I had found my center. No voice arose, no impulse to do anything, in fact I sunk deeper into myself having the feminine drape itself across me. Normally I would have gotten excited, started wondering how do I need to engage this person, what do I need to do to make this better, more, or somehow mesh with this person. Instead I stayed in my masculine center, right where I was and what I was doing, while my edges were changed. The feeling was incredible and will stay with me forever; of being myself and needing not change anything, that I was enough as myself. My hardest aspect of relationships has always been integrating this with women, and here at my deepest opening was Julie, pushing on my edges asking me if I could hold myself as a man. What an incredibly powerful and subtle experience. Perhaps true wisdom comes silently on the evening breeze, not in some flash of sunrise on the horizon.
After that experience, our energies coalesced and exploded. The connection generated was felt by all and mentioned by many. I was able to practice my new masculine power center in many ways and found that living life from this place is so rewarding. I can be soft and feminine and present while maintaining my solid masculine core of grounded-ness and commitment. It is this power center that fuels the passion of life and is a core principal experienced on the Path of Love. To be able to integrate this deeply and practice it at the same time is what made this experience so powerful.
I was touched in many ways during this process, tears falling in rivers down my cheeks from extreme gratitude, witnessing beauty, connecting with people: their pain and pleasure, and being present to the wonderful space opening in me as I continued such transformative work. Osho certainly showed up for me personally again, reaching out across the years with his presence and power. It was during this process that I received the name of my heart and that connection was not lost on me. Standing next to beautiful new friends who lived many years with Osho himself, we wept for all the gifts that have been brought to us through his life; we wept for the longing in our hearts of wanting to connect to such a beautiful presence, we wept for the courageous people at that moment who were passionately digging to find and awaken their own hearts. It takes a community of people to hold the space of the heart and to help it trust to open. I was so happy to wake up every day to meet each and every one of these people and share some connection no matter what it was. It is a strange fact of life that everyone desires this connection and security, yet we rarely live in such a way as to promote it daily.
Wrapping up such a deeply changing process is always difficult. Having built such a powerful and connected community through sharing emotions, love, laughter, and tears is hard to walk away from. Perhaps one day we can all just live together and share life in such a way, but for today we all go our separate ways and reintegrate into our societal lives. The pain of separation has always been an unexpressed surface emotion for me, but I know it affects me deeply. I put extra intention into parting with Julie; and our departure was filled with longing and tears, but also pierced by a connection that runs deep with a love mutually shared and experienced. It was a beautiful letting go into the unknown. Hugs and laughter were shared with everyone else and promises to see each other again soon. We all were deeply touched by the experiences shared in this week and I long for a way of living in which everyone can come and go as they please, but still hold this sense of connection through community. I had a reason to wake up everyday that wasn’t work; either a morning meditation or to share breakfast with friends and connect. This aspect of community and being seen continues to fuel my love of creating community. To have people around who can hold space for you, is such a beautiful gift that so many are longing for, I wonder why we struggle as a society to form lasting community.
In this sense the divine enters into the Path of Love. Through our own hearts longing, and the grace of the divine, we reach all that we desire. Bring an intensity to the search, and the divine will take over and give blessings. Osho certainly found me and brought me to this work. Through what he left behind, I was able to find myself. The deep gratitude I feel for him and all his people is beyond words and a debt beyond repaying. I am so thankful for this life and this community discovered on the Path of Love.
Find out more at www.pathoflove.net
I have something to share with you
I am a self-critical, judgmental, angry, emotionally repressed, pretender. I have lived my life with a mask of being a good boy, peaceful, spiritual, grown up, with an air of having it all together in an effort to keep everyone happy and slightly removed so I would not have to feel any real emotion, commitment, or fear; to live life all on my own without any support. I lived as if this was the truth, that my mind had all the answers, that I didn’t need to change and I conveniently pushed all this to the side and kept it hidden from my consciousness. Until now; the ego can’t live forever after all.
Stepping back in time a moment, we can watch a beautiful process unfold of the universe stepping into my life to shine light on these wonderfully true aspects of myself, then stepping into the space of love, and being reborn into the beautiful essence I have always been, while dropping this mask of a personality.
I find myself once again in India, at the Osho International Meditation Resort, working as part of the staff to extend my visit. I am struggling again slightly with the money and bureaucracy issues while enjoying tremendously the meditation community of people and self-development. I am having special difficulty and insights about this thing called mind. For the first time I can clearly see the mind as a separate entity, completely it’s own thing, and wildly the most insane, ADD child, I have ever met. It picks up anything it can get its hands on, plays with it for two seconds and throws it in the corner the instant it sees something new. Not only is this really annoying, it is getting in the way of everything I love because I have no control over this tiny monkey.
Flash forward a month and a half into my experience here: I am in a high stress job, feeling burnt out on working, missing out on connecting with many friends due to no time, missing out on opportunities, and I am putting a smile on everything because that’s what I do. Suddenly, Sambhavo walks into my office, a group facilitator and friend who says:
Sambhavo: “I’ve been looking for you”
Me: “I know, you need to pay for your program”
S: “No, no, no, I am holding a spot for you in the Path of Love”
M: shocked a bit
M: “Why did you just say that to me?”
S: “I don’t know why, it just came out!”
My mind was absent, or in shock, and suddenly there were just a few steps before me. The universe just quietly pushed me along without any resistance; check the program costs, check the requirements, see if they will let me off work, fill out the paperwork, have an interview, pack up my room, find a new place to live, get cash, pay, take a breath and jump into a 7 day intensive, super secretive, most money I’ve ever spent on myself in one go process called The Path of Love.
*That’s what commitment looks like
Leading up to this huge, yet deceptively easy decision were many friends approaching me and sharing their own stories about Path of Love. I hadn’t been inquiring mind you, but many people in just a few days told me how transforming and wonderful the process was. A few good friends of mine were also going to staff on this PoL and shared their input. Somehow the universe just prepared me, without my awareness, so that when the moment came I couldn’t think about it, but rather just act out of instinct. It became the most important decision of my life and I didn’t really have to decide very much.
When you look back at your life, all the most important decisions and events aren’t planned; they just happen. It’s hard to see it at the time, but hindsight is pretty good. I felt in the moment that if I thought about what I was doing I would talk myself out of it. Instead I just walked the path laid before me with trust and knowing it felt right. 7 days later I walked out into the sunlight a new person, quite literally.
While I cannot talk about the process itself, I can share all of my realizations; the biggest being the birth of my heart centered self. Through the work I came quickly to the understanding that I have been wearing a mask my whole life. A pretenders mask of being the “good boy”, so that I might hide my authentic emotions of being angry or sad, for fear of upsetting others and not knowing their reactions. A mask aimed to keep the status quo and people at an emotionally safe distance so that I wouldn’t have to feel any pain of separation, aloneness or any of my self judgement/criticism. My biggest question going into this process was a distinction between non attachment and being shut off emotionally. I could never find a concrete answer to this difference until this course. I realized that I have lived my whole life without awareness of the depth of my emotions. Surely they exist and I experience them as I am not a robot, but my experience of them, being overpowered by them, using them, allowing them to the surface, really tasting each emotion, was completely shut down. This started as my coping mechanism from 6 years old when my parents divorced. I decided right then and there to be a grown up, to solve any problems that arose, to be a good boy and cause no trouble, not to ask for anything, and to take care of myself. Well all those things are backwards, as no child or even adult knows how to do all that, and yet I lived with this belief and strategy for 24 years, strengthening it each moment.
There came an experience in this process where after accepting these facts at a deep level and understanding how and why I behave like I do, the mask suddenly dropped. I saw myself for the first time without pretending to be something. My face was radiantly alive with joy and tears. My tension was gone. I felt as if I finally saw myself like God sees me; as a perfect creation, alive, good, full of love and peace, and that there has never been anything wrong with me ever. In that moment I knew the mask known as Torey was finished and my pure essence had begun it’s new life. I jumped into a state of newborn ecstacy, where every look, touch, taste, and thought was new. I explored everything with an aliveness and newness I’ve never known. It was so beautiful and transforming to know this energy exists in me always, along with every range of emotion, and that this is what it means to be embodied and what a gift that truly is.
Through a deep sense of longing and prayer, I also knew it was time to dedicate myself to walking this path of truth. Before, being spiritual was easy, a few meditations, reading some books, acting good and nice, and spouting off whatever lessons I had learned. Walking the path is much more difficult actually. It is a constant re-commitment to truth. To finding out who you are and how to let the divine into you. It is so much effort and courage, to burn with a passion and longing to always know the truth. The mind’s whole effort is to make life easy by putting us into the sleep of comfort. Walking the path is a constant stirring of the pot so that in fact no comfort exists for the mind, no room to take control and become master again. The heart, feeling, and pure essence are king here and the mind a tool to be used surely, but not ruler of the kingdom. To recommit yourself everyday is a true effort, using the intensity of your physical, emotional, and spiritual practices, but one I am happy to make now that I have seen the difference.
For this reason I decided to take and was given sannyas on the last day of this process to anchor this knowing. Sannyas for me was always a dedication to walking the path of truth, mediation, and awareness, but contained a special emphasis on letting go of the old and starting a new commitment. PoL gave me exactly that experience, as the personality I had carried for so long died, and my essence was born as Premraj. This new name, meaning “king of love” or “ruled by love”, serves as a constant reminder of my true essence, a guide post that will always be a reminder when I do fall asleep, to keep my heart awake, alive, and full of love. To feel the radiant spectrum of emotions that exists in me and keep digging deeper and deeper to awaken the Buddha in me. Both prem, meaning love, and raj, meaning king, would never have been names I took for myself. When I was given this name though, it was like music being played on my heart. I was given this name by someone who could see into my essence and called forth what I am. A wise and just leader, who is strong yet merciful, one who has great treasures to share, and is able to balance himself and the kingdom he overlooks with ease and with love.
*Pre Path of Love photo
After being out of the process for a few weeks I came to a new understanding of what I really gained. I’ll have to be honest first; coming back to the world from this depth of being with oneself was at once explosively amazing and slightly crushing. I exited my silence and confinement into a world of friends and loved ones who immediately saw a deep transformation in me. My presence, feeling, hugs, power, sexual energy, masculine energy, and open eyes blew everyone away. Sometimes it was too much for them, and sometimes too much for me to take a whole person so totally into my being. The very next day I had my sannyas celebration before the whole community. The crowd to hug and support me was the most anyone has seen in a long while. I had to be lifted onto the shoulders of my dear friend Adam and really feeling like a king, accept all this love and joy, to honor who I have become. This was the high followed by the low of retreating back into myself and my own space. With each new encounter, I was able to explore how I responded to the world and people. What I found, what changed in me, turned out to be only one thing. I learned how to trust myself. Suddenly I found that the fear of living life was gone. Situations where I normally would have avoided, or shut off emotionally, I could face head on without feeling scared. I could step into that space with my power and emotions intact and experience it. All my pretending and avoidance was gone and each time I kept surprising myself by doing something new.
*Post Path of Love photo
This truly was the gift I received. To trust myself, trust the guidance of the universe, to trust love and the support of all human beings who want only my highest good. A strong realization came to me during PoL, we all have fears, hurts, longings, desires, hopes, needs and while the story might be a little different we really are all the same in essence. The fact that as a species we aren’t openly talking about how we really feel is perhaps the saddest thing I have ever come to know. Such a simple, yet terrifying effort to expose ones true self, and the whole world would come to know that your neighbor is the same as you. That everyone is just as scared as you, as hurt as you, as hopeful as you, as longing for love and support as you. I look now at everyone with such compassion because I know everyone has a deep wound that they carry, and they may not know anything about it, but I do, and I can interact with them in such a way as to share great love and caring and hold a space of compassion for their being.
To be seen is what every human being really wants. To be seen with eyes of truth and be accepted for who you really are is a foundation of love. To see a person at their core and accept them for their humanness and in turn be accepted, contains all the spiritual effort one needs to practice. I saw into people and ended up making lasting friendships because nothing can shake the truth of what was witnessed. We may all slip back into being the personality we have carried for our lives, but nothing can take away the truth of seeing another clearly.
The depth of being that was experienced, the limitless amount of energy, the overwhelming support of the staff and growth in love was enough to turn me in a new direction. Understanding that this inner place of truth can be called out and touched, I want to dedicate my work to helping bring it out in myself and others. This is what holds value between human beings and has touched me as it touches every PoL participant. The effort is ongoing and once the taste of the possibilities are known, your life is changed forever. May clear communication and love flower amongst the hearts of all, until we realize we are all one essence. Love and blessings on your personal journey.
Check out the Path of Love for yourself:
I am such a good meditator! Look how easy it is to sit for hours on end and be such a good example to all the new meditators sitting behind me.
Says my ego.
3 days into my second vipassana meditation I am tooting my own horn. Of course I am speaking only to myself, in my head, as we are in noble silence. My daily practice has paid off and I am sliding back into the routine with great ease and pleasure. I even get to practice my language skills while here in the French country side. Of course, my ego is here to be worked on, and after this little vacation comes the heavy blows.
I know from the last experience that the second half of the week is where the real work begins. On day five I feel slightly sick. Many people are coughing and sniffiling as the weather is cold and rainy or snowy. I am losing energy and a bit afraid of coming down with something being trapped in here with all these people. I never get physically sick, but I feel the energy of the room is totally in Blah mode. The next day I speak up and get my temperature checked. Ive decided if I have a temperature, all the achy sensations in my body are because I am fighting off some infection and will take the proper steps to manage that, or its simply ive gone deep into myself and something nasty is coming out. Explaining in pantomime and my simple French I finally get a thermometer and skip the drugs they want to give me for free. I am perfectly the right temperature; Shit. Ok mind, this is for real, we are going to war. As Rumi would say:
“Are you dazed from too much meat and wine? Or are you a soldier on the field of battle?”
Time to own up and stop prattling away excuses that I am sick or the energy in the room is low. This sensation is inside me, laying in wait in the dark, obscured behind pain and confusion. No amount of mind chatter is going to solve this for me. I have to buckle down and face the reality of this sensation that has arisen.
By the end of day six I want to die. No energy, depressed, and no hope, I curl up into a ball and have a good cry. The discourse as always saves me and gives me the courage to go on the next day. On day seven I hit the wall. I have reached a place in me that I do not know. This scares me so completly I run in the other direction, but I cannot escape. A ball of energy the size of a grapefruit sits right on the bridge of my nose and temple. No matter what I do, think, rationalize, or try to energetically heal with every trick in my bag I cannot do a thing about this. It is simultaniously intriguing and confusing. Intriguing I can handle, confusing makes me crazy. I spend countless hours of my meditation trying to figure out what it is and in the end I can only say one thing; I dont know what this is. To steal a line from Osho,
“If you are confused, be confused, at least that will be the first clear cut thing about you.”
So I resolve to be confused, to let go of the need to know, figure out, solve, and fix this crazy new thing happening to me and stealing my attention from meditating. Of course, that was probably the purpose of my mind the whole time. To distract me from meditating and doing the real work of healing and moving forward. I am so exhaused at the end of the day and drained from the mental circles I ran around my mind that I just pray the next day will be better and less scary.
Day eight I relax and back off from trying to figure out this place of confusion and focus again on meditation. A slight repreve as it is a hard day, but doing better. Day 9 I get a little gift of being totally in my morning meditation and feeling quite buzzed throughout my body. Yes! I made it through and today is going to be great and blissful like last time. Wrong. The fear and the energy come back in full force stealing my attention again, but I manage to face it and go deeper, no further than day 7, which leaves me feeling a bit of a failure at the end, but at least I found something in me that was new. A place that was dark and sad. A place where I could honestly say I dont know who I am. For that alone, all the trouble was worth it.
Despite the personal struggle I faced, I was really blown away during this course with an abundance of thoughts about appreciating the people in my life. I am always wanting to give more compliments and do special things for people, but in the moment it never occurs to me; only afterwards or in periods of meditation where I cant do a thing about it. For some reason the Christmas season came up a lot in my feelings. The desire to be in that place of warmth and let go with family and friends really kindled the fire in me to find a way to appreciate my loved ones on a daily basis. It is important to understand that when we are unaware and unmindful every moment slips past us uncounted. When there is some occasion to be more mindful, such as holidays, we are provided an opportunity to be present and really enjoy the richness of life. When you are really present and aware the memories you make fill you with happiness and can be recalled later. Therefor resolve to share wonderful company, to put loving and creative effort into your dress and foods, and to cultivate the awe and joy of remembering that you belong to something greater than yourself. All the memories that surfaced were not moments of something planned or daily tasks, but the simple moments of consciousness when you felt something special, that magic that is really the touch of existence. Of course, this sensation is available every moment and that is the work of meditation to bring it forward to the surface.
I struggled a bit with the idea and performance of being a meditator. I have spent the last two years going inside myself, while also retreating from the world. I was trying to follow the ultimate truths shared by many enlightened persons. I am having to face the fact that I probably missed something important. Vipassana and all meditations are meant to be techniques to be used in the world; in your daily life. As a friend reminded me, in the ultimate truth we are existence itself, but until you reach that point, face the reality in front of you; that you experience it as a seperate being. It does no good to hide away in a cave and practice meditation only to find out as soon as you get back to the commotion of life that your silence and inner peace was false. Meditating by yourself (in caves too) has its purposes for deepening into yourself, but ultimately learning to meditate in the middle of the marketplace is the true test of progress. When all of lifes struggles spring up before you, and still you remain aware and equanimous, then you have found inner peace. I struggled with the idea of needing to become a monk to find the buddha and remembering to actually be in existence and celebrate it. Thankfully I am headed to Osho’s Resort in Pune India next, and although I have no idea what to expect, I do know that Osho is all about celebrating life and bringing meditation to every moment of your life. Often through dance and more dynamic active meditations he brings people to their senses and at least livens up the place.
I am on the path and have learned more about myself. May your journey be blessed and may all being be liberated.