Aquarian Entrepreneurship

“It is your work that is making many people in the world of business to rethink what business and development is all about and today we see that business is not just profit, but profit plus and it is the emphasis on the plus that is changing today the world of business and I believe that essentially we know that many people are looking for the business entrepreneur. That entrepreneur knows markets, finance, cost, strategy but essentially the world is moving now one notch further, which is the social entrepreneur. The entrepreneur that really understand that business is people and people is business…”Yogi Bhajan, June 16, 2001[1]

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This Aquarian economy is a labyrinth of possibilities if only we can circumnavigate our doubts!

The economic crash of 2008 was more than a geopolitical crisis; it was a global insignia that the curtain was closing on the Age of Pisces.  There is no greater signifier for the denouement of an era defined by institutions and hierarchy than when that era’s financial systems collapse. Harrowing as the years that followed were for many people, from the ash-heap of institutional failures arose an inspiration of personal ingenuity, or as I like to call it “Aquarian Entrepreneurship”.  No longer could we rely on traditional means to earn an income so we inventoried our passions, rallied our talents and found ways to make money doings things on our own terms.

What was actually happening was beyond anything anyone could have imagined at the time, and perhaps is outside the current reality of many still today. The economic crash that toppled our financial establishments a decade ago was a callous harbinger for, ironically, a finer state of living: the full-scale emancipation of humanity’s potential. When frameworks collapse and leaders fail to create new boundaries in which we can operate, the onus is on each individual to figure out how to push forward. Liberation doesn’t come easy and often we’re less than graceful in claiming our own freedom. But it’s the pursuit that matters most!

A lot of us kicked the 9-to-5 and forewent comforts like healthcare and a 401-K to do something downright dicey: start a business or pursue a creative faculty. At least that’s what I did. Literally 3 months after the crash I quit my long-held job in politics and helped start a community-focused organization that promoted music, art and culture in Wichita, KS—and I started writing for some print and online publications. It was awesome! My life rocked (fitting since the organization was called ROKICT!)  I was living my passion and pursuing my dreams. I was at the epicenter of this collective creative shift that was happening in my city as others were equally drawn toward harnessing their talents to push through uncertain times. I wasn’t making a lot of money, but I was really happy, and I felt like I was part of something larger than myself. This was the first time I sipped the nectar of the Age of Aquarius. I didn’t have this astrology lexicon at the time (or knowledge of kundalini yoga and the teachings of Yogi Bhajan), but I knew there was some sort of shift happening that was beyond a single place or moment.

We all want to be free, but the truth is that most of us resent having to create our destiny. It’s easier if someone else just tells us what to do and gives us a paycheck for doing it!  Motivating ourselves and earning an income from our own drive is a lot harder. Hence the staggering employment woes and extreme financial hardship many faced (and still face) in the aftermath of that decade ago catalyst.

That turbulence was palpable in my life as the anxiety of these shifts have defined the last 10 years of my own journey in ways I’m just now starting to appreciate. It’s always exciting to be a pioneer. I certainly dove enthusiastically into the unknown reservoir of Aquarian entrepreneurship when I created my own job as ROKICT’s Director of Community Development. My role was connecting community, business, government, and activist leaders with artists, musicians, and other movers and shakers in the arts world. The idea was to infuse within the consciousness of the leader class the intrinsic value that original music and local art add to a city. People were really into it, too! Within a few months we’d organized a successful monthly music crawl downtown, convinced venues to showcase more live music, and populated a high-traffic website with a calendar full of creative events happening in the city. Our organization was all over the news, and more importantly the idea that local music and art mattered seemed to be at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Ever venue wanted to showcase local art and host a music night. Every city council member and county commissioner knew what ROKICT was all about. Wichita was on the map as an arts city. Big shifts were happening and we were all having a lot of fun.  There was just one problem: myself and my business partners were basically working for free and all going broke!

There was ton of passion behind what we were doing, but no business plan guiding a model for sustainability. We did have generous people who donated or supported us with advertisement dollars, but it was difficult to scrape together enough funding to cover even minimal business expenses, let alone full-time positions. I was naïve in thinking earnesty would equate to getting financed. There was something deeper though that was the true root cause of the financial situation I was manifesting: I felt incredibly guilty doing a job I loved!

I found myself wholly uncomfortable in a self-created role without boundaries. I woke up every day with this lingering suspicion that I was doing something wrong by eschewing a “regular job” for a purpose-driven life. That guilt led me to believe that what I was doing wasn’t really “work” because I enjoyed doing it and since it wasn’t “work” I didn’t deserve to get paid for it. Therein lies a fallacy I wouldn’t discover until many years later: none of us should be “working” at all! We should all be actively engaged in our missions. The energy we bring to any dynamic effects the outcome. If we doubt that our talents are worth being paid for, we will struggle financially until we begin to truly value the gifts the universe gives us!

There’s a great deal of uncertainty that comes with being an Aquarian entrepreneur; it’s self-employment on steroids. Not only are you your own boss, setting your own pace and flow, but you’re often initiating an entirely new industry. With that comes the challenge of creating revenue streams for non-traditional services or products. Imbued into the ethos of Aquarian entrepreneurship is the truth that our individual talents are meant to serve a larger and collective common good. Therein lies the often paralyzing disconnect between the potential of expansion and the reality of finances: far too often we equate “serving the collective” with “giving away our gifts” and “common good” with “free.”

ROKICT ultimately folded due in no small part to finances. I ended up having to get a “regular” job again, but I never found satisfaction in that 9-to-5 lifestyle. Later on, I would get a chance to revisit Aquarian entrepreneurship and make good with my own lack mentality. I’ll write about that soon—and give some of the tools I use daily that power my self-guided life.

In the meantime, I hope you’ll inventory your own life and see where you aren’t giving yourself enough credit. Just as an economy drunk on excess and greed couldn’t sustain itself, a dysfunctional relationship with finances is equally untenable. It’s no surprise that it took a global crash to shake many of us to our core and reconsider how it is we make money. Your passions and gifts are needed in this emerging Aquarian economy where social capital eclipses currency. I think that’s what Yogi Bhajan was seeing when he spoke about the “social entrepreneur.”

I have made (and continue to make) a lot of mistakes in my own pursuit of being an Aquarian entrepreneur. But I don’t undercut my value anymore and I ask for what I need financially. Oddly enough that’s been working quite well for me these past several years :-). When we decide that what we have to offer this world is valuable, we are rewarded with an abundant life.

[1] https://libraryofteachings.com/lecture.xqy?q=%20Entrepreneur%20sort:relevance&id=72c9ea14-ba87-5e41-3cc5-236b10ffb053&title=Peace-Prayer-Day-16

I am Thine: Fork-lift for the Mind

Humee Hum, Tumee Tum, Wahe Guru.  I am Thine, in Mine, Myself, Wahe Guru.


 

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I am Thine; We are all one. Simple phrases, massive impact.

A lot of thoughts run through our mind on any given day. If we’re being honest, most of those thoughts aren’t particularly helpful. There’s a lot of pointless inner-chatter and meaningless fantasizing that competes with space for imagined arguments you want to have with someone. Those evolve into grandiose tellings-off you want to give to that person vexing you which often leads to a rage-induced verbal mind brawl. As soon as your inner-anger has extinguished your adversary-of-the-moment, negative self-talk creeps in to cut you down even lower with a parade of mind-marchers picketing your very existence. These mental abstractions are jeering at you in Fred Phelps-fashion holding signs that read “you’re ugly”, “you’re not good enough”, “you’ll never succeed”, and “just give up.” Then maybe you’ll remind yourself that none of it is true. A loving thought will creep in. You’ll have a spark of inspiration, a tiny jolt to do something meaningful and productive. Then that guy who stiffed you money enters into your mind, and you’re cutting him down with your thoughts. You forget to act on whatever glimmer of positivity bubbled up to the surface. And that’s just the first few minutes of the day…

Sound familiar?

Overcoming the negativity of the mind is nothing new. It’s a challenge that technology exacerbates, though. Our human faculties give us enough mental challenges, but each time we pick up our electronic devises those challenges are amplified by text messages we have to respond to, Facebook posts that upset us, business e-mails we have to deal with, and drama from our friends and family. Then of course there’s the news and whatever Trump did that day.  So how do we reclaim our own power so that we aren’t at the effects of our screens—and more importantly our negative mind?

It’s simple: we have to change the soundtrack. We must stop listening to our own thoughts and start reprogramming our brain with a loving sound current. In Kundalini Yoga and Meditation, we have these helpful sonic devises called mantras that help us. Mantras are words, phrases, and sounds infused with specific meanings and energies that often form a song-like track. When we listen to or chant them we begin to change our brain—we literally clear away the negativity with the sound.

You might think this sounds weird, woo-woo, and New Agey. It totally is. But hey, we’re shifting into the Aquarian Age so some of our activities are going to be very peculiar, at least at first! The first time I heard one of my teachers say that just chanting mantras can transform your life I thought they were loony. But then I went along and chanted the mantra “Har” and I felt this incredible weight lifted. If this is was it meant to be crazy, I was totally fine with that. Five years later, I live a life colored by thousands of small miracles each day that were painted by mantras.

Today was one of those days that could have gone either way: really good or really crummy. I woke up this morning angry and pissed off at someone who I perceive as having deeply wronged me. Then I had drama with an Airbnb reservation and ended up on the phone with customer service for an hour. That’s never fun. In the middle of all that I downloaded a version of the mantra I posted at the top of this article and I started playing it in the background. After I got off the phone with customer service, a guest called me wanting to cancel her reservation that starts tomorrow for no real reason and expected a full refund (not our cancellation policy). As I was talking to her I saw the latest Trump/Russia news. Usually that would have been enough to set me off into a fit of rage! Granted I am sophisticated enough not to take that out directly or so harshly on people most of the time, but the inner-indignation usually sends me into a spiral of defeat where I nag at myself all day over how terrible the world and everyone in it is (including me). As I spoke to the woman, though, I heard her voice and stopped listening my own chatter. I felt justified in sticking to our refund policy, but something inside queued me toward compassion. For a brief moment I saw her as me and myself as her.  I agreed to let her out of the reservation and issued her a refund. Her dates later re-booked for what turned out to be a better reservation financially. It was a happy outcome for us both.

I’m been singing that mantra all day since! Let me tell you it does wonders in traffic! If there’s anything that pissed me off more than Airbnb customer service it’s driving in Venice. Narrow streets congested with drivers WAZEing their vehicles around parked cars, bicycles in the middle of the road, dog-walkers staring at their iPhone, and those helmetless BIRD scooter riders who think they’re invincible is enough to give the most zen of Swamis road rage. Normally I find myself in a swirl of stress and quickly get bogged down by the anxiety of the obstacle-course nature of it all.

Today was different, though. 

Humee Hum, Tumee Tum, Wahe Guru. I am Thine, in Mine, Myself, Wahe Guru.

Humee Hum connects us with our own consciousness, the force that’s “us” beyond our mind Tumee Tum links us to the truth that we are one with the other person’s consciousness. Wahe Guru is an expression of universal connectedness. It’s sort of like Buddha, Jesus, and Allah toasting their glasses and taking a shot of love together.

As I belted out those words line after line, moment after moment, I felt this incredible connection to everything around me. I saw all the people and their varied ways of traversing not as obstacles to overcome but as manifestations of a grand creation I’m privileged to be part of. I typically absorb frenetic energy, but today with this mantra on my tongue I literally felt like I was several feet above everything on the road. Those words elevated me.  And that person who I woke up so angry about? I was able to sing the words and send good energy their way. Sometimes we don’t have to change how we feel about a situation to change how we handle its effects.

Somewhere in the cosmos is the innocence in each of us. This mantra taps us into the idea that we are not separate. It cuts through the chaos of the mind and tempers the some of the negative effects of our phones! I am you. You are me. We are each other. Each time we recognize this, we reclaim our power by tapping into our true essence of love and compassion.

Old Touchtones, New Touch-screens

Electronic technology will only bring us more information, more choices, more contacts, and more complexity. It will push us beyond all the old frontiers of identity—home, neighborhood, country, values, and the natural rhythms of nature. Our old touchstones for forming an identity will fail and we will have a pervasive identity crisis.

-Yogi Bhajan, April 1995

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As a self-employeed “Aquarian entrepreneur” who runs a gig-economy business, my iPhone has become an extension of me. I’m not alone.


There’s no definitive date for when the Aquarian shift began, though I suspect it was the release of the first iPhone in June of 2007 that jolted the transition. People had been carrying handheld computers in their pockets for many years, but it was this technological milestone that truly began the steady march toward a digitally-focused existence. The existing social order accepted that technology was a tool to augment reality, and at first cell phone etiquette reinforced this notion. In the early days of the iPhone, it was quite common to be invited to interact with a person’s new device. I’d run into a friend at a coffee shop, and she would gleeful show me all of her new pictures and explain the latest app she had downloaded. The phone was an entry point into her world, a way for us to better relate to teach other. It was a conversation starter as much as a connector. It could be put away as easily as it could be picked up. A face-to-face chat over java with full focus from both parties was the norm, such rendezvous uninhibited by incessant dings, pings, and rings. At first, that is.

It all changed so quickly. Syncing easily with the emerging phenomena of social media, these shiny devices were how we were going to say connected. Every time something new happened on Facebook, we’d get a notification and have to see what was going on—right then and there! It was rude not to respond right away, ruder than only half-listening or outright ignoring whatever the person in front of you was saying. Whatever was going on inside the glass of our devise gradually became more important than what was happening in front of us. We never spoke about this or decided this was true, but our collective actions affirmed a new order. Eventually, we stopped sharing our phones with each other and developed an increasingly intimate relationship with a glass screen that was constantly transfixed before our eyes, the auto-lock blackness constantly showing us our own reflection. It was the people we knew who had always had the most profound impact on our development. Now that was changing. These phones were a signifier that we would soon be called to go within to grow.

Pisces is symbolized by two circling fish biting at each other’s ends. In the final days of the Piscean era, we unconsciously decided that we’d chased our tails long enough.  Human connections are fraught with drama and give way to distractions. Most of us weren’t starting relationships to evolve; we just had needs to be satisfied. We looked to others to make us less lonely, feel validated, be sexually satisfied, and escape whatever insanity was going on in our minds. In the Aquarian age, we won’t relate to each other like that. There will be more ownership of one’s purpose and more thoughtfulness to how we engage with others. We won’t see people as extensions of ourselves or vessels for our own satisfaction. Rather we will appreciate the unique faculty that is the individual, accepting people as they are and celebrating their purpose on the planet. Knowing people authentically is how we will grow. We will bring our best selves to interactions because we will understand that lower emotions like anger, jealousy, and guilt come from the insanity of our mind and are not the fault of others. We will live by the ethos that we are 100% responsible for our own understanding.

Clearly, we have a long way to go. If the Golden Age is only 16 years away, though, we’re in for some rapid changes. Maybe that’s why shit is going to hit the fan in a big way. It’s always messy when we are forced to change. Every time the screen of our phone goes dark, a force beyond us is beckoning the way forward; we are shown ourselves so that we can go inside to receive the answers. Yet we constantly queue up our home screens to call up literally thousands of distractions each day that keep us as far away from our authentic selves as possible. It’s hard to know who you are or what you are here to do when you are lost inside a peep-hole of someone else’s drama. It’s easier to read the post about your friend’s lunch or watch the news about Trump’s latest Twitter tirade than it is to drop in to what’s actually going on inside you. These phones and the unspoken order of compulsory real-time availability they come with are perhaps the last great distraction. I say last because I am not sure we could become any more disconnected from reality than we are now. Surely new iterations of “smart-devises” will come, but they will all just add depth to the phenomena that is already here and affirm the inevitable. Everything we know is fading away. I wonder if this is how it was in the last days of Atlantis: the pervading sense that there had never been so much advancement and opportunity quietly colliding with a disaster that would wash away this evolution from the annals of history.

If we are to survive this next shift, we must get honest about how technology has affected us on the individual level. We aren’t going back to the way it used to be, but surely we can show up better for the way it is now. The fundamental questions we must answer are: how is our identity being maimed by these so-called advancements and how do we reclaim our power so that we are not at the effects of our screens?

Next week I’ll share some of my own experiences with these questions and I hope everyone who reads this will do their own introspection and sharing as well!

When the Time is On You…

When the time is on you, start, and the pressure will be off.

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What if we never climbed that mountain whose trunk invited us to reach its pinnacle?

That’s one of the 5 sutras for the Aquarian Age that Yogi Bhajan gave us, axioms for how we could live successfully in uncertain times. As exciting as it sounds to be alive during the time of a great shift, it’s also downright confusing and a bit scary. These words were given to us as a map for how to survive, but also to thrive. After all, we aren’t here to just buckle up for whatever bumpy ride someone else wants to take us on. We can and we should be writing our own destiny.

But there’s the second season of Making a Murder on Netflix, the new iPhone we need to stand in line for 4 hours to buy, that guy on Tinder who wants to meet up, this psychedelically immersive 4-D art show to check out, and the new vegan soul food place downtown. All of that must be done first…

Sound familiar? Your proclivities may be different from mine and perhaps you find other distractions, but most of us really aren’t living up to the full capacity of who we came here to be. That must change.

Perhaps the greatest promise of the Aquarian Age is the notion that we are in control of what happens to us. We are the masters of our own fortune. No longer do we have to be at the effects of others nor are we held back by a lack of access to information.  We are free, if we want.

At least that’s what my friend said it one of his rock songs. I think he’s spot on. We have to decide that we want to start living up to our potential. When we aren’t, we feel a lot of weight.

I’ve been thinking about this particular sutra a lot lately, mostly because I feel a lot of pressure and I haven’t exactly been in “start” mode. I moved to Los Angeles 5 years ago, a driving force behind my relocation being the promise of living in a city full of creatives. I’d long wanted to write a novel, but I felt I didn’t have the experience to do so. I figured I needed to take writing classes, learn more about the craft, surround myself with fellow writers, and be close to the proximity of power players in Hollywood to be successful at writing.  Eventually, I found my way to all of that. The one thing I didn’t do though was the only action that really matters: actually START WRITING.

I had lot of excuses…really good excuses. Exciting excuses!

At first, I got bogged down by the office politics of my day job and decompressed with a glass or four of Merlot after work. I told myself that I’d write once things got more stable in my department. A year and a half later, I was successful in my role of being an event manager, but massively failing at being a writer—simply because I was drinking wine when I could have been writing! Or going on hikes, or going to museums, or seeing my favorite indie band at a concert, or sun bathing at the beach, or binge-watching  Scandal or whatever fill in the blank distraction I’d pursue every hour I wasn’t at working. I was having loads of fun, but something inside me was festering.

At first there was this lingering suspicion that I should be writing instead of whatever I was doing. Then I started to wonder if I would ever write again. That created within me a gnawing thought that perhaps I would not, which soon turned into a constant worry that I would be forced to always work jobs I hated. I saw my writing talent as a golden ticket out of being a slave to the 9-to-5 life.

While I wasn’t showing up to write, I was showing up to kundalini yoga class—5 or 6 times a week! I learned early on in my practice that the technology of kundalini yoga and meditation allow us to re-write our destiny, both how we experience the moment of the day and what we can attract on a larger scale. That first year in Los Angeles, kundalini is what anchored me into my potential. I wasn’t showing up fully yet, but each time I’d go to class I was growing in ways I didn’t totally comprehend. All that kundalini yoga eventually gave me the gall to quit my job to pursue something more in line with my passions: working at a spiritual community center.

When I started this new adventure, I thought that my new business partner and I were going to write a book and get a TV show made. Finally, I could be creative! Then came the obstacles…

My first day on the job all but one person on our staff quit and I realized the organization was in debt up to its ears. We were in serious jeopardy of being shut down within a few months. Suddenly I had to summon all the experience I’d garnered in the political and non-profit world to create revenue streams, organization charts, job descriptions, cash flow spreadsheets, and budget forecasts. In an 80 hour-work week, there truly was no time to write, or so I told myself. I soon figured out how to make ends meet for the business, and the team we built was rock-solid at running the place. Under the most challenging and daunting of circumstances, we were persisting with success. Yet I was angry inside—viscerally upset at myself for not figuring out how to do all that was on my plate and write. The silver lining for my desire to create was that the TV show we were working on was inching toward becoming a reality. That didn’t quite satisfy me, though, because the show would never be my creation. When you’re a writer you know that you have a responsibility to bring forward your own words to light up the world you see. You can’t find true satisfaction within the framework of someone else’s vision.

That realization gnawed insistently, coaxing me to START, inviting me to ease the pressure. But instead I kept on not writing.

For the next two years, I was the executive director of the organization and also ran several Airbnb rentals. I maybe wrote like 2 blog posts during that time. The rest of my words were for delicately crafted e-mails, intricately thought-through job roles, and explaining to Airbnb guests how to turn on the lights. There was a lot of forward momentum in my life and the work I was doing.

Then it all stopped.

The TV show didn’t get picked up, though we did get one Real Housewife away from a network season! Soon thereafter it became apparent that our organization was going to close. When we did finally shutter, this strange quiet took hold. I had other sources of income by that time that didn’t require my fulltime focus, and for the first time ever I had no excuse not to write. The time was on me and I needed to start. This Aquarian sutra apparently doesn’t know how to quit me.

Well, 18 months later I still haven’t started. I’ve tried. I created elaborate outlines for multiple books. I even wrote entire chapters. I started on concepts, scrapped them altogether, and then began something different. But I haven’t written a novel yet, and I’m not anywhere close. I run a successful business today, but I feel like I massively suck at being self-employed because I should have used this time to write my book. On a more fundamental level, I feel like I massively suck at being alive because I’m not putting my energy toward the reality I know I need to create.

Looking back, I can see that I actually expended a lot of energy over the past 5 years NOT working on what I knew I needed to start. All of the circumstances that arose to “prevent” me from writing were really just manifestations of self-doubt that I called in. When we don’t do what we are here to accomplish, we create something else in its place. Usually that something will hold us back as powerfully as fulfilling our mission could propel us forward.

My creation is a massive complex of anxiety and social-phobia. For the past 18 months I’ve been crippled with nervousness, worry, and unease. The slightest obstacle becomes a mountain of distress. I still go to class all the time, I go to the gym daily, and I hike a lot, but I avoid social situations as much as possible. I have this weird phobia of interacting with people. I go out in public all the time, but I do so in this impenetrable bubble. I wear an energetic cloak that puts out this gnarly “don’t talk to me” energy. I use my iPhone as a shield of having to engage with anyone. I get out of conversation as quickly as possible. It’s a strange dystopia for someone who ran a political party and 8 years ago had ambitions to be mayor of a large city. For the longest time I wondered why I had retreated so far into my own shadow. Then during a meditation recently, it hit me right in my third-eye: I avoid being around people because I have nothing of worth to say. I’m not doing anything creative with my life and so I don’t have anything of value to bring to a connection or a conversation. That has to stop and it needs to stop by STARTING something worth talking about.

There was a partial eclipse this past weekend that amplified any actions we took. So, I wrote. I still can’t get into writing a novel, but I got into writing this. I am really into writing about how we can successfully circumnavigate these strange times. I’m taking at least a small step toward “starting” something by putting together this simple Tumblr blog where I’ll muse about what I learn as we collectively navigate this Aquarian shift. I already made one post before writing this and the plan is to do a few a week. I’m fortunate enough to live in a city where I can easily find the teachings of kundalini yoga and where conscious community is basically mainstream. This blog is a bridge to the rest of the world, and hopefully a way for me to learn more about the energies and activities that are happening in other places as we all level-up!

Besides, Tumblr banned porn last month so I figured it was a good time to fill up this space with something more productive J.

No matter where you are, stasis is our worst enemy; so too is stasis’ best friend, elliptical motion. We never really want to grow or change anything, but every now and then we’ll eke out a victory by kicking a habit or starting a new routine. In my own life I’ve noticed that overtime I get comfortable in familiarity, though, and activities that were once growth become a circle of the sameness rather than a climb to a higher level. Right now, I know that the time is on me to write. That must become my new pattern—the action of each day doing something to advance my writing. I hope the pressure is soon off!

More than that, though, I hope these words serve you. What aren’t you starting? What pressure are you feeling? Do you think that if you stopped making excuses or creating distractions that the pressure could soon be off?

We’re in this Aquarian shift together so let’s START acting like we’re in charge of our own destiny so we can all be there more fully for each other!

Aquarian Woke

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There’s a lot of serious shi(f)t happening. It’s not all yoga at the beach.

 

We expend a lot of energy not growing. We create ridiculous obstacles so that we can’t focus. We eat the best food, imbibe the finest wine, and seek out the trendiest eateries in a quest to feel alive. We binge on digital content as an excuse to find creative inspiration, sacrificing “doing” for “watching just one more”; we never quite get around to voicing our own thoughts. We form friendships so that we can involve ourselves in the stories of others while never living out our own narrative. We swipe to find random people to chat with about sex so that we have some outlet for that persisting libido, the release that comes from the fantasy of an online hookup overruling any intention of a real-time connection. We read self-help books, attend meditation classes, and spend enormous sums of money on consciousness-raising workshops that are supposed to elevate us to our highest potential and yet somehow, we remain permanently grounded in our mediocrity. We go to elaborate lengths to evade our destiny.

If the purpose of any given lifetime is to progress, a tempting cocktail of ego insanity and cultural capitulation, mixed with a splash of technology over-load and garnished with our own self-doubt will do its best to make alcoholics out of all of us. The soul cannot develop when the mind is drunk on its own absurdity. Yet most of us spend lifetimes in a drunken stupor, even if we never ingest an ounce of liquor. At no point in the history of human development has it been more critical to advance, and yet at no point have so many roadblocks been erected. The most dangerous obstructions are those we believe augment our existing, yet in reality are holding us back.

These are gilded times, more urgent than the shifts in American life at the dawning of the 20th Century, but somehow far less assuming. Everyone knows something is not right; yet, it’s less clear as to what exactly is wrong. So, we numb ourselves with whatever distraction that fancies us, hoping everything will just be OK again. If there is an ethos to the opening quarter of the 21st Century it’s that distractions create reality.

We are not alive in the Golden Age. Tej, my kundalini yoga teacher, says shit is about the hit the fan. Big time. She tells us this at least once a week. It’s a byproduct of the shift out of the Piscean Age and into the Age of Aquarius. Things will get better in 2025, and the Golden Age will dawn in 2034. Chaos will rule until then. Everything around us will change, she says. I really hope that doesn’t mean there will be a second term of Donald Trump as President. We have 16 more years. We have to survive.

Tej says that we can’t get distracted. We have to grow if we want to get to the Golden Age of Aquarius. The way we grow is through our practice of yoga and meditation. Every morning at 9:00 a.m. we gather at her class inside a Kung-Fu studio that faces the Hollywood Hills. It’s the one thing that keeps us from going insane. There’s at least 50 of us every day, often as many as 100. There are tens of thousands of people in the city who practice Kundalini yoga. It’s different from other types of yoga. Movement and exercise aren’t the focus; it’s the calming of the mind that matters foremost. We do yogic postures, but it’s the meditations that are the crux of the practice. We use songs called mantras to open channels for receiving relief and healing. Energy moves up the base of our spine and to the crown of our head along 7 chakras to activate and open up certain parts of our body. Through Kundalini yoga, we can overcome stress, anxiety, depression, and addiction. We can heal ourselves physically as well as emotionally. We can attract prosperity (yes, money!) and open up our hearts to receive love (yes, a lover!). Most importantly, we can grow in the way our soul needs to and advance on the spiritual path with the assistance of this technology.

Our Nine Treasures community is one of many Kundalini hubs in Los Angeles. It’s an eclectic mix of industry power-professionals, self-employed new age hipsters, retired baby-boomer seekers, B-list celebrities, and wannabe Hollywood success seekers. Sometimes people come who are nearly homeless; sometimes Courtney Love shows up. The room is large with big blue mats laid out over the floor. The smell of sweat mixes with embers of sage. An altar of large crystals and giant amethysts blend with cartoons of a karate-kicking Goku. Gurmukhi Mantras of “Wahe Guru” and “Ek Ong Kar Sat Nam” find harmony with the chaotic chorus of rush-hour traffic that can be heard from outside. We dress in white, the color of all colors so that the energy of the teachings can be fully experienced. We unfold our yoga mats and crawl onto sheepskin fabrics. We sit in odd postures, twist ourselves into crazy-looking movements, and chant strange words. We calm our thoughts and empty our minds. When it’s over, we lay out still and flat as a corpse for “shavasana.” A gong is played, the sounds washing over us. You can feel anxieties dissolve and the stress we create wash away. I want to live in that sound current. For 90 minutes during class nothing makes sense and everything is clear all at once. Then we roll up our mats and are released back into the real world: the one where beautiful distractions mask ratcheting tensions.

Anxious uncertainty and an awkward ambling into the known: this is what it means to be alive as one age ends and another begins. But to be aware when most have been scared into tuning out, ostritching their heads in a quicksand of infinite content via Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, etc.? That’s what it means to be truly woke, Aquarian woke!

How do we find our way in these daunting and uncertain times? There are no big or easy answers. Instead there are thousands of small actions we must take every day. The sum of those actions is how to survive an Aquarian Shift.

Total Eclipse of the Smart

Version 2We live in the age of information, with finger-ready access to data and facts on any subject. Most of us carry a portal to the world in our pockets, our cell phones the entry point to knowledge once housed in grand facilities and available only to those privileged with admittance.  Smart phones have somewhat democratized information access, yet they’ve also dumbed us down.  Overloaded with text messages, e-mails, breaking news updates, Insta-pics, and Facebook feeds, we simultaneously see everything while knowing nothing. It’s an accomplishment just to clear out our in-boxes and read through our feeds, and those digital demands can siphon energy away from more natural pursuits. In the information age, we’ve traded action for access, reflexively severing the most dynamic parts of ourselves onto an onyx screen.

Yet even in the most diluted of circumstances, each of us knows who we really are. There’s a deep knowing and understand that cuts through the distractions of any age to connect us to our higher, most authentic self. The time is upon us to remember who we really are and start acting on our own instincts!

I’m sitting outside right now at the La Brea Tar Pits writing this column as the solar eclipse is happening. I forgot the buy the glasses, and yes, I have peaked up a few times for a brief second at the sun; hopefully I won’t go blind! While I’m not privy to the solar views the dozens of excited people around me are seeing, I am very much connected to the energy of this moment. I’m in the sunlight soaking up the deepest possible meaning of what is happening right now on our planet, and in particular in our country. This total eclipse is all about examining what we’ve been hiding, uncovering the brightest parts of ourselves we’ve allowed to be eclipsed by the demands of the day and of this age. It’s a moment of collective and individual accountability.

Collectively, there’s no doubt that the United States is in the midst of a dark chapter as a country. We’ve seen an ideology of racism, sexism, and xenophobia emerge from shadows many of us thought were banished decades ago.  We’ve seen greed as a guiding force in nearly every institution. Corruption is now a primary characteristic of many of our leaders. Our new President is a narcissist, uninterested in facts, insecure about his own abilities, and powered only by the accolades of others. It’s easy to be upset at Donald Trump, and while we have every right to be outraged, this moment demands that we ask ourselves how we got here.

We’ve spent the past decade staring at ourselves, our eyes transfixed by an electronic screen that ultimately reflects back to us whatever we want to see. When the Narcissus of Greek mythology looked at his reflection in the water, he became so enthralled by what he saw that he couldn’t pull himself away, surrendering his will to live to an image that eventually killed him because he couldn’t pry himself up from his own beauty. Our smart phones are a 21st century pool, and the world we’ve created inside them has every bit as much power over us as Narcissus’ reflection! Energy knows no ideology; all stripes of thought have been part of what lead us to this moment. While Trump appeals to only a segment of the population, and while the majority of us voted to have a different leader, collectively we’ve been unconsciously culling a dark, self-motivated energy that merely manifested physically in the form of President Trump.

On an individual level, each of us knows how we’ve been playing it small. For myself, I know that I’ve spent WAY too much time obsessing over the latest “breaking news” and listening to echoes of political commentary and not enough time taking action on issue I care about. I’ve wasted hours reading mindless political articles and not enough time writing about higher truths and deeper concepts. For all the time I’ve spent as a political spectator over the past year, I could have written a book and been a novelist by now! I’ve played it small socially, too. I’ve mindlessly surfed my Facebook feed instead of connecting with actual people and deepening friendships. I’ve chatted up strangers on Grindr I never had any intension of actually meeting instead of attempting to connect with guys in a real and authentic way. In short, I’ve allowed technology to dim my own light as much as this eclipse has darkened part of our world today. I have a feeling I’m not alone.

I’m determined to make this moment count, though, and for this eclipse to be the end of the shade I throw on my own light!

This morning I was doing a kundalini meditation to align with my creative flow. It’s a specific kriya for breaking free from that which holds you back so that you can take positive steps forward to live out what you instinctively know is your mission in life. It’s the perfect action for the moment! With eyes closed and arms stretched out at the heart center, right hand placed flat over left, I recited the mantra Hari Nam Sat Nam Hari Nam Hari Hari Nam Sat Nam Sat Nam Hari. According to the teacher Gurucharan Singh Khalsa, “The first part of this mantra aligns the powerful creative flow of life (Hari Nam) with your personal identity and destiny.  The second line aligns your intuitions with your intention so the unseen hand of spirit supports your fulfillment.”

It’s a simple mantra really, but over the course of 11 minutes my mind started to wander. Every time I would think about what I was having for lunch, how much my arms hurt, what I needed to do later in the day, etc. I would lose focus and mess up the chanting, getting frustrated and feeling like a failure. As soon as I would calm my mind and focus on the words, though, I could seamlessly recite the mantra and feel a powerful energy envelop me. In this moments, I felt unstoppable. I went in and out of this dance of alignment and misalignment for several minutes before having a realization: when we focus on the work we know we’re here to do, we ARE unstoppable. When we get distracted by our own thoughts—the Narcissus within us— we lose sight of our true power and purpose and it can often feel as though we’re drowning in our own frustration. I understood in that moment that our truth lies in taking action on what we intuitively know we’re here to do, and that in doing so happiness and harmony flows naturally to us.

ig_20987021_1920377438236866_6799378810950123520_n-1503327834_600It’s a lot easier to just dive into our smart phones than it is to use our talents to serve the highest good. Too many of us have dimmed our light at a time when we’re being called on to shine bright. We can see where that’s gotten us. This total eclipse moment is an opportunity for all of us to examine our lives and decide what shifts we’re going to take.  We need to all take a moment to get very clear about what our mission is—what do we need to be doing in this moment to best serve the world? What talents do we have, what skills do we possess that we need to hone? What seeds are we going to plant and what work are we going to do over the next several months?

The time is upon us to stop staring at our smart phones and start doing something more dynamic with our lives! With each of us committing to small, right actions daily, we can emerge from this collective dark shadow just as the sun emerged after the brief moment of darkness today!

PS) I highly recommend trying the meditation I mentioned above! Click here for details and instructions.

Ego-Friendly Wines

14125689_10101021973399372_6531290440239798060_oTwo things happened when I moved to California that I wasn’t expecting: I started meditating every day and red wine became my favorite drink.  For the last few years, I’ve navigated this odd dance between two diabolical forces: one a practice of calming the mind to go deep in order to mine intuitive knowledge, and the other a tasty indulgence that numbs the mind.  There have been days when I have had extremely powerful kundalini yoga classes where I could literally feel knots being untied in my stomach and heavy burdens lifted; then I’d come home blissed out and celebrate this liberation with a glass coastal Pinot Noir or mountainous Argentinian Malbec.

Somewhere in the mix of the pallet, bliss would morph into fog. What started as a spiritually-induced high turned into a chemically-inflicted (though extremely delicious!) haze that would usually see me passed out asleep early, and up in the morning with a mild to semi-splitting headache. Nothing that a bold cup of coffee couldn’t cure, and not what I would consider to be an addiction, but it was a pattern that began to have a rather unhealthy grip over me.

Be careful of patterns—they have a way of surreptitiously arresting your advancement! It wasn’t until recently that I understood the connection between spiritual development and alcohol craving: the unabashed ability of the ego to quickly trick us into thinking we’re making progress on our journey when, really, we’re just running in place!  When we start to grow, our ego (our limited, separated self that’s body-identified) gets scared. As a natural defense, the ego finds a way to contain our progress.  It finds distractions, often pleasant and harmless in their benign form, that keep us from making real transformation. You can change your activity, but until you’re ready to fully embrace an entire new way of seeing yourself and your place in the world, you’re not really making any huge personal shift. I don’t see the ego as being the conscious-minded answer to “the devil”, but rather the very natural defenses all of us put up when we’re confronted with uncomfortability. Change is hard. When you’re in a practice of meditation, mindfulness, or any personal growth, you will learn things about yourself that are often difficult to own up to. For me, that’s when the cork-screw would come out.

This isn’t a post about alcoholism; I’ve never considered myself an alcoholic. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with responsible drinking. I think you can be a conscious, spiritual person who is growing and evolving and also reasonably enjoy wine and other libations. There’s a line, though, when enjoyment crosses over into escape. While I don’t hold any particular judgments about the fact that for about 2 years I was drinking 2-4 glasses of wine almost every night at home after what were often rough and stressful days, I do now see how that action was limiting my growth and getting in the way of fully embodying my purpose.

My biggest fear has always been that I won’t do anything significant with me life. So gripped by this anxiety that I’ll never make a meaningful contribution, I fell into the clutches of inaction without even knowing I was being held. I have certainly done a good amount of meaningful work over the past few years, but it’s my writing that suffered each time I’d pop open a bottle. When I drink, I tire easily, and I lose the ability to access any higher form of articulation. Since moving to LA, I have learned so much in all of my kundalini classes, and even more in the “off-the-mat meditation” that was my job as executive director of a spiritual center. Often, I’ve had bursts of thoughts that I felt would be useful to share. I’d intend to write a blog post based on what I was seeing and learning, but when I got home, and after I’d do my nightly meditation, I’d hit the wine instead of the keyboard. My ego convinced me that I needed to reward myself, but looking back I see four years of missed opportunities to share in a meaningful way and also significantly develop my portfolio as a writer. That was selfish.

When you’ve been given the privilege of knowing something useful, you have an energetic obligation to share so that others can also benefit. And that’s exactly what I am going to start doing with this post.

Last night during my evening kriya, I was chanting a mantra for self-healing: Guru Guru Wahe Guru Guru Ram Das Guru, a repetition that projects the mind to the infinite and brings in finite guidance. Somewhere in the intonation of those 11 minutes, I saw exactly how I’d been playing it small.

I have a gift and I haven’t been using it. Instead, I have used red wine to relax away the tensions I’ve been experiencing, indulging out the larger lessons the universe has been trying to teach me. Instead of drinking away my stress, I need to transmute what I perceive as strain by writing about it.

I then saw beyond myself and into a collective conscious that I am a small part of within the broader LGBT community. As a collective, we’ve also been playing it small! Those of us who incarnated as LGBT beings did so for very specific reasons: we are ushering in new paradigms around love, sex, and gender, forging new understandings that are expanding what is possible or everyone. Many have stepped up to meet this moment, but many others in the community are dimming their lights with addictions to drugs, alcohol, sex, and other substances. At a time when people are literally dying in the streets because of hate, it’s never been more important for all of us to wake up to our missions in life!

This fall I’m taking the kundalini yoga and meditation teacher’s training. I decided to do this because I’m ready to step up and share what I’m learning in hopes it can help others heal and transform. I won’t be the perfect yogi. I have limited flexibility, abysmal mind/body coordination, I drink coffee, and turbans really aren’t my thing.  I’m not going to stop drinking red wine just yet, but I am going to drink much less and be much more mindful of my actions. When I feel I have something that needs to be shared, I’m going to write that out before I uncork that really delicious red blend from Paso Robles!

The ego isn’t our enemy: it’s a stubborn barometer of our stasis. We’re here to learn, grow, and share. That’s how we keep the ego in check and our true selves powering forward.

So, cheers to less wine and more written words!

Creative: Who Am I Not to Be

17990210_10101263858354982_3911944009933736439_oI moved to Los Angeles four years ago from Kansas. That doesn’t make me special. It’s actually quite cliché: the gay guy from the Midwest who escapes the doldrums of small town life to chase the allure of the big city lights. I live in a locale where people arrive every day from all over the world, their dreams and ambitions powering their journey for a different life. Like so many here, I fancy myself a creative: a believer that I have some sort of artistic magic that needs to be shared with the world; entrenched in the mindset that I have intrinsic talent that needs to be read; and motivated by an urgent sense that my words can have some sort of positive effect.

Or so I did. Somewhere along the way my identity as a creative faded and lately I’ve been wondering exactly what it is I am.

I’m a writer, or at least I used to be. In Kansas, I had a popular column called “Homo on the Range” and I wrote for the Wichita Eagle about art, music, and local entertainment. I understood what it meant to be a creative in a place like Wichita. In HotR, my words were helping to further a much-needed dialogue about LGBT equality. When I wrote for the Eagle, those bylines were either illuminating emerging, unsung, or often-times celebrated artistry or they were spotlighting unique cultural happenings. I saw the value in using my ability to write as a vehicle for enticing people into an interactive experience with art. I understood that stories can change minds and that words can shift hearts. In short, I knew what it meant to be a creative force. On that understanding, I was certain that I’d be able to power forward in a new city.

A funny thing happened when I moved to LA, though: my creative spark flat-lined.

It was all a rush of newness at first: hiking in scenic mountains overlooking a metropolis full of billions of lights; miles long walks along the roaring ocean; an endless buffet of colorful vegan food; literally millions of people from every culture around the world. I didn’t have the desire to write because I just wanted to experience life—and I did! Newness eventually fades into normalcy, though. After a while anything becomes routine. Once the luster wore off and I settled into a state of static contentment, I found that when I would try to write, that spark just wasn’t there. Accessing that part of me had always been innate, but suddenly, it was a struggle. It didn’t take me long to realize why.

Inferiority: a massive case of self-doubt and an all-consuming feeling that I’m not good enough.

It’s easy to think that you have talent when you live in a mid-sized city with a largely manufacturing economy where creatives usually bolt for urban and more densely-populated locales after high school. Yet, when you move to the entertainment capital of the world, there are thousands of new people arriving everyday who are more accomplished, more ambitious, better educated, and better looking than you. They’re not afraid to say that to your face, either! It’s also easy to think you’re special when conformity is the predominant culture. In Kansas, my brand was being a progressive gay activist in a red state who was unashamed of being myself and who embraced funkier tastes in fashion, food, and art. Which means that in Los Angeles, I’m basically invisible! When I moved here I realized there was literally nothing special about me. I had nothing to offer that wasn’t already being done. I had no words to say that would be of any use to anyone. I used to think I had books, movies, and TV shows inside of me that just needed the space to be written and birthed to the world. I quickly found out that there’s a hundred-thousand people in front of me, though, who are all better developed and better connected. So I just surrendered to that feeling of inferiority.

Then I started working at a spiritual community center in Venice Beach: something that is even a little weird for Los Angeles! In a temple full of painters, musicians, visionaries, and entrepreneurs I was certain I would rekindle that creative spark. The opposite happened. I found myself charged with the responsibility of bringing needed order and structure to a free-flowing concept that, while beautiful in its pure state, needed parameters to grow.  Organizational charts, budget tracking, revenue forecasting, and staff job descriptions became my life. Sure, there’s a certain spark of creativity in every venture—but this wasn’t the creative mission I was looking for.

I did somehow manage to fashion a unique brand, though it wasn’t exactly one I anticipated or relished embracing: while still flashy, colorful, and very gay I was also a Hillary Clinton-supporting Democrat in a community full of largely anarchist-minded Bernie Sanders voters. I value common sense and hard work, and found myself less interested in “vision-boarding” and “manifesting” than I was eager to just get shit done. Once branded “a militant liberal” by a state lawmaker in Kansas, I was suddenly a conservative! It was the beliefs I had about my own power that proved to be the most limiting, though. With rotating life-coaches, healers, celebrities, and rock stars who had no problem asserting their voice and talents, I found myself constantly struggling to get a word in. Every person I’d meet seemed more charming, better looking, and far more gifted that me. Over time I just gave up. I conceded my creative talents to what I internalized as being the superior artistic gifts those around me possessed. I quietly decided to let the creatives do their world-changing thing, and I’d stay in my organized, practical corner getting shit done. Or, as set up by this mindset, getting shit on. Ironically by the time our center closed its doors, I felt as out of place in ultra-liberal, avant-hipster Venice as I did in conservative, Republican Wichita—and I meditate with crystals and practice kundalini yoga every day!

This is usually the point where I would blame someone else for my experience or go further down the line of attack on myself. The one great thing about being “invisible” in Los Angeles is that it’s given me a lot of space for personal growth. Now I know better. It was a gift that I moved here and had my identity completely stripped away. When you let go of who you think you are you can allow in all that you didn’t even know you could become.

During my first weeks in LA, I attended a Marianne Williamson lecture. The celebrate author and spiritual teacher gives regular talks about a metaphysical text call A Course In Miracles. She said something that night I’ll never forget. Reading from her first book, A Return to Love, her words were a jolt to a lifetime of self-doubt:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

12970883_10100910347882802_3382417353157470810_oMy fear has always been that I’m not good enough and that because of this I’ll never succeed or do anything significant with my life. It’s why so many times I’ve gotten close to achieving something I deeply desired and then gave up or saw it fade away. What I experience has never had anything to do with anybody else; every occurrence has been 100% self-perpetuated.  You can change your location, you can shift your vocation, you can alter your look, you can dabble in different practices, and you can surround yourself with a whole new tribe; but until you’re ready to fully own the responsibility that comes with being who you are in any given lifetime, you’ll never really be satisfied. Hence why I felt the same in Venice as I did in Wichita—in this specific area, while I was living in two different locations at two very different points of my life, I was mentally in exactly the same space!

So yes, I am a creative. It’s my essence. Not because I’ve created anything significant lately, but because intrinsically I know it’s part of what I came here to do. I can’t say that I have that “spark” back just yet, but I do feel as though there’s been a shift in my own perception. I don’t need to be like anyone else or have the status, recognition, fame, or following of another writer or creative. I just need to write from a place of authenticity, and trust that my words will be useful to whoever needs to read them. Accepting that actually takes a lot of the pressure off. Something about that spurs me to get typing again!

 

Body Statement

16836133_10101197956173482_3950070170977463591_o

We have the power to pick the lock of our own suffering!

Our bodies.

There is perhaps no greater manifestation of anxiety than that which we place upon our physical form. We spend so much of our time in an elliptical of judgement, comparing ourselves to others. In a marathon of attack thoughts, we obsess over pounds we have yet to shed, muscles we haven’t developed, and physiques we may never attain.  It’s more exhausting beating ourselves up over our perceived imperfections than it is actually going to the gym!

Anyone who has known me for a while knows that I’ve had a turbulent relationship with my body. I’ve been obese, anorexic, and everything in between. I’ve carried the shame of being overweight, and I’ve known the pains of starving for perfection. At every weight, from a high of 240 lbs. to a low of 155; in lifestyles variances, a completely sedentary video gamer in my adolescence to a hyper active 7-days a week, twice a day gym goer by my mid-twenties; and in every diet, from processed fast foods to organically vegan, the feeling has always been the same: I’m not good enough.

That’s my life’s F.E.A.R. maxim, and by fear I mean “false evidence appearing real.” And indeed, it’s a pretty terrifying refrain!

Recently I started re-reading Gabby Bernstein’s May Cause Miracles. It’s a 40-day guidebook for manifesting a radically happy life. Four years ago, when I was living in Kansas and only dreaming of California, a friend randomly suggested it to me. What I thought would be another dust collecting Amazon purchase ended up being THE catalyst for a new and amazing life. I’m positive I would still be stuck in Wichita if I had not read that book and done the work that allowed me to attract the life I have today in Los Angeles. Three years later, everything about my life has changed! Well everything but one…

The sunset photos on the beach, selfies with colorful friends, inspirational meditation quotes, and vegan food porn pics have all been posted with that same “I’m not good enough” refrain lodged into my subconscious. That’s called the ego–the part of you that wants to cling to the familiar, playing it small so you never step into the uncomfortability  of the unknown. A positive statement about my body is what my ego fears the most.

So, of course, in reading May Causes Miracles again, one miraculous shift under my belt, it’s fitting that this longstanding ritual of body hating would surface. I’m so thankful that it did because in doing the course work this past week which was focused on the relationship we have with our body, I have finally come to not just know but truly feel a massive shift: You can either identify with the physique that is your body or you can vibrate with the grander purpose of what it is you are meant to do with the physical form you were given.

I’ve spent the last few days really meditating on exactly what it is that I, Jason Aaron Dilts, was put on this planet to do. Once the fog of attack thoughts cleared, it was so obvious. I am here to create community. I am here to bring people together as an activist under banners that collectively bring forward meaningful progress. I am  also here to use my gift of writing to articulate in spoken and written words messages that will resonate for positive cultural shifts and deep healing. When we let go of negative dialogue and limiting beliefs we allow in the freedom to receive everything those limitations have been blocking. Instead of the fear maxim of “I’m not good enough” I now have the mantra of “I am not my body. I am free.”

I know I am not the only person who is handicapped by body image issues. I am sharing this post because I hope if you too are gripped by negative perceptions about your body that you’ll be so bold as to step outside this limiting belief. Sit for a moment and think about YOU–not your body but your essence. What is it you were born to do? What brings tears of joy to your eyes when you think about doing it? What do you know you were put on this earth to do?

When you know the answer to that, you have the power to write your own body statement! And I want you to write it out. Sit in stillness and listen to a song that uplifts you. I listened to Donna DeLory’s “Sanctuary” while I wrote mine and I’m happy to recommend some otherbeautiful mantras. As the song plays, breathe in the feeling of joy that living this purpose will give you. Breathe out the any anxieties that arise.

Write it out.

There’s something powerful about putting down in words the essence of who you are.  Those words are your body!

I’ll start by pasting my statement in the comments. Share yours in the comments below if you feel called to. Or place it somewhere at home where you’ll be able to see it regularly to remind  yourself that our purpose is our body!

PS) Read May Cause Miracles–I’ll even buy you a copy if you can’t afford one yourself (serious, private message me!).

Our Stories Matter

12088224_10100781798975842_1426083380258562527_nOur stories matter. Where we go, who we meet, what we learn, what we do, and how we do it aren’t just matters of personal chronology—they’re part of a collective tapestry. Our stories are experiences lived within a body that’d distinct to us, yet only put into motion by effects greater than us.

So at 33—likely well over 1/3 of my life already lived—what is my story? More importantly, why does it matter? My life is no more or less significant than anyone else’s, though like everyone else, I have a distinct mission. Part of my life’s purpose is sharing so that others may learn and grow from the experiences I’ve had. I know this to be true because I’ve seen the effects.

The moniker of this blog—Homo on the Range—was a monthly column published in a local arts/lifestyle magazine in Wichita, Kansas from 2009-2012 and later in a regional Midwest LGBT publication until the end of 2013. These were formative years as it relates to equality because it was during this timeframe that public opinion in the US on same-sex marriage and homosexuality in general began to shift dramatically. Most HotR readers were straight, and many of them were Republicans who were somewhat traditional in their mindset.

Over the course of 60+ columns, I learned that an authentic voice can have a real effect—anywhere! There’s a reason why public opinion on LGBT rights shifted so fast—so many of us were telling our stories in our own unique ways. With the advent of social media, those once ignorant or resistant saw that our lives and our love weren’t all that different from their own. Homo on the Range was one person in one place; there were many far more significant voices that got us to where we are today. If you’re honest about who you are, your message with resonate with the audience that it’s meant to reach, and it will have a ripple effect!

It’s now 2016 and I’m not in Kansas anymore. I live in Los Angeles and work at a spiritual community center in avant-hippie Venice Beach. I practice Kundalini yoga, eat vegan food, and frequently partake in sound healings. My life literally couldn’t be any less “Homo on the Range.” And just like there was a story about the gay guy who once ran the Democratic Party in Kansas, there’s a story in what I’m experiencing now—several actually!

I’ve resisted writing much about my life in California, partly because it’s been such an inside-out experience, but also because what I do now seemingly has nothing to do with what I did before. How does one go from being an agitated, agonist political activist to a peace-seeking, meditating spirit junkie? I had to trace the evolution of who I’ve been to understand it myself…and it goes something like this:

  • Political Activist: I realized I was gay when I was 14. The same day I understood this about myself I also knew there could be no congruence between who I am and what I was raised to believe. I grew up baptized in fundamentalist Christianity; I had to choose between my sexuality and my spirituality. I embraced the former and stuck a big middle finger to the imaginary man in the sky. Coming out of the closet also meant going to war with those who wanted to keep me inside. I got politically active at 17 during the 2000 election because I didn’t want George W. Bush picking the Supreme Court justices who would define what my legal rights would be. Two years later, President Bush was fighting a “war on terror” and I was named the executive director of the Democratic Party in Wichita, KS—while I was still a teenager and very much out —a bold thing back in those days! I ran the Democratic Party for 8 years, fixated on turning Kansas blue. Most of the candidates I worked with lost, but in the process we built a robust party organization of progressive activists in the middle of a very conservative state. During my tenure, we elected the first Latina to the KS House, the first black woman to the KS Senate, and sent the first Indian-American to the Kansas Legislature. Most importantly, we made our community stronger by connecting with each other over shared values.
  • Arts Advocate: Politics was only able to give me an outlet for my outrage; there was nothing to cultivate my creativity or nurture my soul. I found a fresh energy in art: going to film festivals, being transfixed by canvasses at galleries, and getting lost in the sounds of local bands playing in refashioned warehouses. Needing a change of my own, I left my post as ED of the Democratic Party after the Obama election. I got involved with a local group called ROKICT whose mission was to promote art and culture in Wichita, and with the same gusto and passion I had poured into politics, I made advocating for art my mission. It was a fun romp that also allowed me to start freelance writing—which is how Homo on the Range was born!
  • City Council Candidate: So maybe I wasn’t quite done with politics. Simultaneous to the “ROKICT days” was my quest to win a seat on the Wichita City Council. It was rooted in a deep desire to develop Wichita’s downtown and have the arts community be at the center of that revitalization. I hoped to unit the Democratic Party with an emerging coalition of artists and musicians to pull off what would have been historic: the election of the first openly gay official to a major city office. The trouble was all in the timing—and the intention. I realized that if I won a seat on the city council I’d likely be anchored in Wichita well into my 40’s. I’d barely left Kansas at that point and I wanted to experience so much more in life. The truth is that I found politics to be a constant stress and a draining burden, especially with the ridiculous amount of money one needs to raise in order to be viable. I was fundamentally unhappy, and was really only in the race because I felt obligated to all the people who supported me—and there was many! So with broad support, impressive fundraising numbers, and the wind at my back I pulled the plug on my own campaign at the end of 2010. It was the hardest decision I’ve ever made, simultaneously liberating and absolutely frightening.
  • Lost Wanderer: What happens when you abruptly leave public life, 12188907_10100795921993202_2558272347108691660_ndetonating your own career for reasons most people don’t understand? You get a job at a non-profit that has nothing to do with the work you once did, get out of town as much as possible, drink lots of alcohol, and find a random person on the Internet to be your best friend! Or at least that’s what I did. I found myself having to constantly explain my decision to people whenever I’d run in to someone while out (and it was Wichita, which meant it wasn’t hard to run into someone you know). This got annoying so every chance I got, I’d get out of town, going to Kansas City, Lawrence, Austin, NYC, San Francisco, and just about anywhere I could afford to travel on my modest salary as a non-profit events manager. This wasn’t often enough for my liking, and since most of my friends didn’t really understand my decisions, vodka, tequila, rum, and red wine became great companions! I found conversations with libations less than enthralling, though, and decided to make a person who had randomly friended me on Facebook my new best friend. For two years, about the only person I shared much of my life with was a guy named Amir. He lived on the East Coast and knew nothing about my prior life, so it was easy to just lose myself in him. Amir had a lot of issues, though, which is probably why I was attracted to him. Gay, Muslim, and mentally anguished, he was everything that we collectively are afraid of. It was too much for him. He killed himself at the end of 2011 in a very harrowing experience that I’m not going to detail here. More alcohol—and this time loud blaring of Nirvana music and an obsession with Kurt Cobain followed…for like six months. I dreamed about suicide everyday and did some really risk shit for the next few months. After I discovered mold in my apartment, my naturopathic doctor friend and his very wise cat took me in. It’s there that I began to heal.
  • Change Manifester: By the time I moved in with the doctor and the 18518_938299313952_980317045_ncat, I was taking antidepressants and generally resigned to living unhappily ever after in Wichita for the rest of my life. I tried to find jobs to hire me out of Wichita, but to no avail…I was stuck, or so I felt. At the start of 2012, I did make two positive changes: to be completely vegan and to start exploring my long shelved spiritual side. Omar’s death shook me to my core and made me realize that we’re all souls traveling on a plane. My mother opened my mind to more eastern philosophies and I found comfort in the idea of reincarnation—that our journey on this earth in this body is one of many we’ll experience as part of a beautiful cycle of lives. The doctor taught me how to meditate, the cat reminded me what it feels like to be loved, and by fall I had a renewed sense of optimism when I visited Los Angeles for the first time. It was a formative trip: I hiked to the top of mountains, saw the Pacific ocean for the first time, ate amazing vegan food all day, and enjoyed wearing a tank top in WeHo on Halloween. When I saw the sunset at the top of Runyon Canyon for the first time and looked out at the sprawling city below, I heard a clear message. “Somewhere down there in the midst of all those buildings there’s a place for you. There are people you need to meet, work you need to do, and a life you need to live. Get yourself here and you will live a life more full and more happy than you could ever imagine.” I flushed the antidepressants down the toilet that night and went back to Kansas the next day with “Change Your Life” as my ethos. I checked myself in to a 10-day silent Vipassna meditation retreat at year’s end and spent all of 2013 working a plan to get me to LA within 12 months. It included working 4 jobs, doing Gabby Bernstein’s May Cause Miracles course, letting go of a lot of old shit, and also getting a giant tattoo with the words “Change Your Life” etched onto my torso just to ensure I didn’t back out of this contract I had made with myself. Yeah maybe that was extreme, but it worked! I ended up saving enough money to live in LA without a job for a year, but got hired into a job that brought me to my new home a month earlier than planned. It was clear that LA was where I needed to be.

It wasn’t until I got to LA that I understood what anything I’d done had meant. The timeline of events, jobs, and identities that I enumerate above seemed like fragments of a fractured existence. Yet once I started doing some serious self-examination, everything began to make sense. It’s that journey that I want to start sharing—what I’ve learned since I moved to LA and what I’ve come to understand is important for us to realize collectively. It’s an inner journey with serious outward effect!

Our stories matter because all of us are connected; I hope you’ll join me for the next chapter in this wide-open range! More to come soon, I promise!!

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