50 pieces of advice
notes to self from self
2023 has been one of the most difficult and fruitful years of my life. I’ve learned about surrender experientially in life, love, spirit, play and work. I’ve traversed to the most painful and exiled parts of my psyche, as well as the most transcendent and beautiful realms of my heart. And in that lurching and slippery unfolding, I’ve learned to trust myself, for the first time, in a way that feels unconditional. In the past it often felt like I was struggling to ascend up a flipped over bowl, before sliding down ungracefully. Now the bowl has flipped over. I may sometimes clamor to get to the edge, but eventually, I fall back into a basin of truth and goodness that cocoons me. From this place, I may stray, but its essence is eternal, a tipping point into naturalness vs. effort. Following this naturalness has materialized in ways I couldn’t have predicted (capturing beauty, spaces for meaning-making, and creating them for others), all mirrors leading me back to myself as others as myself. The journey feels primordial yet fresh. Like I have ended, and I have also begun. Here are small curdles of insight, in no particular order, that I've accumulated along the way - some from guides, some from my own experience. I hope they spark something for you as well.
There are only 3 ways to be truly happy: expressing awareness through your art, helping others become more aware, resting and being in awareness. You can replace awareness with words like God, the universe, source, and love.
Everything we do is an attempt to go back to wholeness, no matter how ignorant or abstracted the attempt. “Man is like an infinite spring coiled up in a small box, and that spring is trying to unfold itself. All struggles, individual or social, are the result of this attempt to unfold. When the struggle becomes a conscious effort, it is spiritual”. - Vivekananda
Waking up is the process of not just transcending the content, but transcending the mechanism itself. Content: the shoulds and conditioning of the ego. Mechanism: the movement towards the external for wholeness.
All roads ultimately lead to the same place: Reality is one of ultimate unconditional boundless unwavering love. That is what you already are. The work is in seeing through the obstructions that cloud that truth.
Get to a place where you feel all emotions fully, but they have no grab. “Tears that have no roots”, “A rainbow that is insubstantial & intangible, yet still occurs with vivid colors”. - Tibetan Buddhism
Every emotion has a powerful intelligence when you let them metabolize without turning away. Letting them show cleanly without suffering. “What often emerges is a cleaner emotion that is trying to protect you. From there you can take skillful action to cause the least amount of suffering.” - Diperna
We need people and the world. You can’t just ruminate by yourself, you have to experience things, see how the world reacts around you, how you react. To sit in the rawness of that and feel into its resonance with your soul and heart, not your mind. Are you going more towards goodness, love, expansion, and truth?
Wrap your exiled and protector parts in a warm blanket of compassion.
When you feel like you’re losing control, stay with it for a few moments longer. You’ll see there is a groundless ground of awareness always there to catch you.
Awareness feels like a primordial falling back into the time before no time.
Recurring trauma / "getting triggered" is actually nature's attempt to heal itself. They are precious opportunities to rewire ingrained neural pathways: 1. go back to old traumas through our younger parts and give them love and acceptance instead of exiling them (i.e. IFS). 2. live out a trauma/pattern again and have the opposite of what happened back then happen now. 3. meditate & develop self-awareness to build space around the pattern or identity, instead of merging with it.
Knowing conceptually requires effort. Knowing experientially requires surrender.
You can still have a compassionate heart and set boundaries. You can deliver bad news even in connection. Ethical conduct is balancing your needs with the needs of others, as we have a tendency to either leave ourselves completely or go completely into others.
What’s the point of duality? The universe is inherently playful and wants to cover and uncover itself in an infinite number of ways. An unending loop of no beginning and no end. There is no point.
The point of life is to stay open. Your task isn’t to seek love but to remove the barriers by which you resist it.
You must work hard and apply effort in the beginning. From there momentum is created. You then use that energy to dissolve the vehicle itself. “All hands point to the moon, but are not the moon”.
“The Self isn’t going to awaken. It’s Awareness recognizing itself.” “what is enlightenment?”. “Enlightenment is whoever who is trying for enlightenment, he/she must disappear. That is enlightenment.”
The core of spirituality is to live from the heart. To carefully wield the knife of the mind, in order to make it a servant to the soul. To claw through acquired identities and should, and arrive back to the place that existed before time, when our heart was the most brilliant. As Albert Einstein once said: “We should take care not to make the intellect our god; it has, of course, powerful muscles, but no personality. It cannot lead; it can only serve.”
You don’t need to take psychedelics to wake up, you need to be taking more risks where you put everything at stake. Where you die before you die.
Perhaps the reason why you have a hard time saying “no” to others, is because you don’t have a strong enough “yes” to say to yourself.
Our deepest want is to have no wants. We think we want choice, but our hearts secretly desire for absolute surrender, unraveling towards a single direction.
No matter what your religion, philosophy, or theory of truth is - are you happier and more equanimous because of it? are you more loving? In other words, is it working? That’s the bottom line.
The point is not to destroy the ego. Understand the ego and how it forms, be aware of it, loosen its power when it comes from lower energy states, magnify its power when higher energy states illuminate it, let it be a tool to achieve Love's aims. Let life use life.
“The self is just a self-organizing principle. A rubber band ball that feels solid but made of individual rubber bands and not solid.”
The Four Aims of Atisha: 1) Aim your mind at the Dharma. 2) Aim your Dharma practice at simple living. 3) Aim at simple living all your life. 4) At death be in solitude.
Religions, philosophies, all kinds of value systems are solid maps. However, you ultimately need to validate their veracity through the feedback loop of your own subjective experience. What feels deeply good, beautiful, and true long-term - not short-term.
Intention is more important than action. You can go through the motions of being virtuous, devotional, and altruistic but it is yourself that knows your deepest intention. You cannot run away from yourself.
Change yourself, and you’ll change the world as a byproduct. Therefore, to benefit the world, it is necessary to change not the world but oneself, for what one becomes is influential by virtue of its essence (nonlinear) and not its action (limited and linear).
People set out to change the world, but what they actually want is to be changed by the world. The sand castles we build ultimately serve as vehicles for self-purification and transcendence at best. Changing others and the world is a by-product beyond our control.
If someone annoys or hurts you, just remember this: every human being in the world just wants to feel safe and happy, in the ways they know how. Our "hows" aren't necessarily the same person to person, but we all have the same base desires. How can meet each other there and not the ways in which our "hows" manifest? This process gets easier to the extent that we ourselves recognize how everything we do is a direct or indirect way to feel safe and happy. It gets easier when we forgive ourselves for previous misguided “hows” and let go of shame. The saying goes that you must love yourself to love others. But why wait when you can reverse engineer this? By loving and forgiving others unconditionally - you show yourself that you can love and forgive yourself too.
People often feel that meditation will cause them to "lose their edge". However, if early deficits in love are not met, all worldly work is actually work that is for social acceptance. The pool of energy fueling this is finite & often leads to burn-out. Alternatively, when you meditate for long enough - you tap into something beyond the ego. an endless source of love without external dependencies and always accessible. from this place, deeply aligned worldly work can then flow.
May we all evolve towards childlike suppleness massaged by the texture of time and life.
Are you writing the essay, or is it writing you? are you playing the cello, or is it playing you? are you painting the canvas, or is it painting you? are you building the product, or is it building you? align your sails to the universe, & let it pull you limply by the wrist.
Heal yourself then raise the ceiling. Too much inner-work and past rumination can be counter-productive. Eventually you have to expose yourself to high stakes situations: falling in love, doing risky things, manifesting brighter futures. In this way you experientially teach your “parts/stories” to trust and surrender to your “Higher Self/ a new story”.
For things like love and the things they pour into (career, another person, a child, a dream) there’s no going halfway. Because love is about blind faith. You have to just send it. There’s no consolation prize for going halfway. It will not happen. You have to fully go into it.
You commit to someone. Not because there’s something less better out there. But because you want them, your history together, how you are together, and your future together. That is something that can never be duplicated anywhere else.
We think it is the person who is love. Actually they help us open to love that already exists within us.
True love in any friendship or relationship is guarding one another’s solitude and freedom in a world that wants to take.
Overcoming our fear of death is about fully going into life.
Are you living in a world of abstractions? Strawberry milk vs. strawberries? Don’t you want the real thing? Do you actually love truth? Or have you created an identity of a person who strives to seek truth?
The real talent of ours is to not bullshit ourselves.
“I wish that life should not be cheap, but sacred. I wish the days to be centuries, loaded, fragrant.” - Emerson
I am a lover of beauty. Beauty not in the sense of pleasurable sights, though that may be a byproduct. I’m talking about beauty that is accurate. That comes as close to what seems to be real.
Donohue: “Where beauty is, I think, is — beauty isn’t all about just nice loveliness, like. Beauty is about more rounded, substantial becoming. And I think when we cross a new threshold, that if we cross worthily, what we do is we heal the patterns of repetition that were in us that had us caught somewhere. And in our crossing, then, we cross onto new ground where we just don’t repeat what we’ve been through in the last place we were. So I think beauty in that sense is about an emerging fullness, a greater sense of grace and elegance, a deeper sense of depth, and also a kind of homecoming for the enriched memory of your unfolding life.”
Art is the experience of what you’ve felt inside.
The gradual and slow build of something beautiful and substantial interests me more than suddenly giving into what feels convenient or pleasurable in one slice of a moment in time.
My happiest days are always when I spend time creating in the morning, using the mind to follow the heart through intellectual explorations, consuming beauty, and spending time adventuring and truth-seeking with friends. “An old friend of mine, a journalist, once said that paradise on earth was to work all day alone in anticipation of an evening in interesting company.” ― Ian McEwan
I used to think about life as a narrative culminating along a plot line. Now I see it as: an artwork of unraveling self-expression, that lurches forward & back, a quilt of beautifully dynamic and disjointed human experiences, an opportunity to live as many lives as possible, an unfolding process of surrender to the core.
“The purpose of human life is not to win or lose, but to learn who you are. To look around and say what is this about, what can I learn from this, and why have I allowed it to come into my life? Everything without exception in the human world is an educational tool to recognize that in every given moment in your life you have not only the right but the responsibility to perceive where there is fear and when there is love. And to choose love. Until you know your own holiness you cannot love another. What is the indicator that you are truly in love with who you are? Allowing your life to be what it is without force. The moment you recognize that you are worthy of the garden of eden, you are worthy. And so is everyone else. You cannot push people into the garden of eden from the outside. You can only open the gate and invite them. So you must get there first.” - unknown
The purpose of my life is to stay present and alive in every moment, and then do the best I can to transmute that realization into art and acts which can then illuminate the path of others back to themselves. “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.” - Tagore
to 2024 and onwards.
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