A Pornvasive Identity Crisis

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

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? Here’s one very personal (and to be honest, uncomfortable) admission…

12068474_10100780672233842_5515505154571984726_oI didn’t’ realize how much I had sunk into the sea of technology until I was nearly drowned by my own abuse of its excess. I was born in 1982, which makes me just barely a millennial. I was the last generation to be born before the internet and the first to feel its effects on my sexual development. I got dial-up when I was 16, which meant that like most horny teenagers I was consuming digital porn before I was dating. Unique to my age cohort is that for many of us, off-line and on-line sexualities were interchangeable. Looking at web-porn or sex-chatting with strangers was often a small piece of a larger sexual development that included plenty of real-time interactions with people you met “in real life” like good old-fashioned dinner and a movie or awkward blow jobs in the back seat of the car you borrowed from your parents. That wasn’t my experience, though; my sexuality was developed entirely online. How I have related to nearly every intimate or sexual experience was cradled wholly by web-browsers and imitated fully from porn-stars.

I was an awkward, shy, and overweight teenager with excruciating acne and crippling self-doubt. I came out as gay in 1998 while living in Gastonia, North Carolina. It had not gotten better yet. I was more afraid of rejection for being ugly than I was being homosexual, though. Coming out was rough, but coming into my own skin would prove to be even more vexing. There’s a stigma that only a certain kind of people look at porn—bad people! I see it as more morally neutral. It’s one of many distractions that can stunt our growth if we let it. Unknowingly, that’s what I did. Today I’m 36 years old and have yet to have a true relationship with another man who is attracted to me. I’ve had a string of odd non-sexual relationships with men, gay and straight, but any romantic or sexual feelings I harbored were not mutual. I’ve had plenty of sex, but never with anyone I was intimately connected to—at least at the time we were physical. There’s never been reciprocity in any of these encounters, a dynamic similar to the one-sided gratification of porn.

Pornography had its purpose, though. The first time I ever saw myself represented in another person was when I watched a gay porno online. It was the year before Ellen DeGeneres came out. Bob Dole was running for President and lots of people were doing the Macarena, but there weren’t many openly gay roles models. Ricky Martin was “Living La Vida Loca” in the closet. I was 14 and spending part of the summer at a friend’s house. One day, we found a hetero porn video in his older brother’s room. I was totally disinterested, except for the rare moments when the camera would pan onto the guy. That’s when I knew this lingering attracting I’d always had to boys was more than a phase. My friend had the internet on his computer downstairs; that night I typed “gay sex” into a search engine. Within minutes (well more like 20 minutes…this was the dial-up era after all!) I was seeing a tall, dark, svelte hunk of a man artfully penetrate the backside of a slender blonde lad. That was my introduction to what it meant to be gay: witnessing two anonymous and nameless men fucking for 5 minutes. I knew nothing about them; they knew nothing about me. Yet, with a powerful intensity, I ejaculated into a tissue with my eyes transfixed on their figures. I’d been masturbating for years, but somehow this was different. There was a rush of something that happened simultaneously, something more than just a sexual release; I felt this magnanimous energy flowing out of my body. It was magic and bliss all at once, laced with a lingering desire for something more, an aching to stay in this state of satisfaction for as long as possible, a yearning to transcend to a level of pure ecstasy. All of that from a shoddy video on a random Geocities website. This is how my sexual identity was born.

Eventually I got my own computer, Bob Dole lost in landslide, Ellen became the world’s most famous lesbian, and high-speed internet made jacking off to porn a whole lot easier.  For the next 22 years, I spent on average at least 20 minutes a day looking at porn, sometimes much longer, often going hours on an endless chase for satisfaction. I kept thinking that eventually I would meet someone who I’d enjoy being around, someone I could exchange this sexual ecstasy and energy of desire with in the flesh. That never happened. There were plenty of guys and plenty of sex. Some of it I enjoyed, some I encounters I just suffered through. Nothing I experienced in the flesh compared to how I could satisfy myself online, though. Somehow my sexuality, this intrinsic part of what it means to be human, was trapped inside a screen, never to blossom outside the contours of a seedy virtual reality. It never made any sense. It drove me mad. I hated my body for not resembling those models I’d see in the videos. I dismissed as boring or substandard any man I’d sleep with who couldn’t hold my fascination. I developed fixations on men who would never be attracted to me; I resented them for this strange and unrequited relationship I developed in my mind.

What I didn’t know is that my individual machinations were part of a larger a crisis unfolding. The old hallmarks of how we previously related sexually were rapidly deteriorating. Sex was no longer something two people did with each other. It became a product one consumed.  Sex was also no longer confined to intercourse, with sexual release found through images and videos that we could pull out of our pocket on our phones any time of the day. Sexual partners were not people we met—sex chatting with a stranger’s screen name on Skype or in a chat room often replacing the need for person-to-person interaction.  How we negotiated sex in the past clearly had not served us, yet how we were navigating this pervasive identity crisis was not exactly a bridge to enlightenment.

Something interesting happens when you start to awaken to higher consciousness: you can’t get away with continuing to perpetuate patterns that no longer serve you. You can continue the action, but you’ll start to feel a very different effect. Overtime, the consequences amplify. It’s not that the action has some new adverse outcome; you were just anesthetized to how low you were taking yourself.  When you’re on the path of growth, though, it’s part of the contract not to be stuck. For me, I had to physically feel the effects before I considered the uncomfortable shift of expanding my sexuality beyond the purview of a screen.

Not long after I started practicing kundalini yoga, I started to notice some distinct physical changes when I would look at porn. I would get this aching sensation behind my eyes that would develop into a throbbing pain in my forehead. When I ejaculated, I felt this instant depletion of energy. I was left with a raw and empty exhaustion that slowed me down for the rest of the day. Overtime that slowdown turned into completely being worn out. There were times I would get flu-like sick for days (and eventually weeks) for no apparent reason. I knew this was my body urging me to shift. At a certain point I just couldn’t ignore the reality I was experiencing: I could feel porn’s arresting effect each time I gazed at a screen. Yet, I found myself unable to escape its grasp. It was as though some force was drawing me in and taking with it my free will. Somehow these machines had become a high-tech jailer.

Kicking a porn addiction was about more than changing a habit.  Pornography was the foundation of my sexuality. I fundamentally didn’t have the framework to experience organic satisfaction. Yogi Bhajan talked about technology brining on a pervasive identify crisis; well, I was having a pornvasive crisis! How exactly do you rewire one of your most personal underpinnings? How do you grow into something authentic after a lifetime of understanding sex to be a manufactured commodity? How do you get to the other side of a crisis when electronic technology itself has become the touchstone by which you experience sex?

You recode your brain, and in doing so you set yourself free! There’s a meditation for overcoming addiction that will literally change whatever programming you have around compulsive habits. My teacher Harijiwan gave this meditation on my first day of teacher’s training. He said that if we did this for 40 days, whatever patterns or addictions we have that are holding us back will fade. If we did this every morning for just 5 minutes we could conquer our darkest haunting forces.

It took a while, but I finally committed to doing it. He was right—the patterns were changing, though not in the instant and easy way I had hoped. Meditation isn’t magic; it’s work. Mediations aren’t pills; they’re pathways. I continued to look at porn after I started the meditation, but there were noticeable physical changes. Within a week of practicing it, I couldn’t get hard looking at porn. I’d see the images and feel the desire but what was happening in my brain wasn’t connecting with my body anymore. I could only ejaculate when my eyes were off it, which made the whole practice rather futile. As I notched on more days with the practice, I started to experience sharp pain in my groin any time I ejaculated after consuming porn (that did not happen with an organic fantasy). As I approached the 120th day, which in daily kundalini practice is the point at which a new habit of consciousness is confirmed, the potency pornography once had was largely extinguished. I assumed it would take years of therapy and addiction counseling to kick this habit, but it turns out all I needed to do was stick my thumbs in my forehead and gnaw my molars silently chanting Sa Ta Na Ma for 5 minutes a day! We don’t get to the light through an endless analysis of darkness. It’s fitting that a simple meditation would be the key to liberation.

The habit has been kicked, but I can’t say I have exactly solved this particular identify crisis. I still have no idea what real intimacy is nor do I even really know how to go on a simple date. I suppose that’s the next step: determining how to grow in a new direction that involves actual connection!  It’s time for some new touchstones.

Whatever happens to me is ultimately unimportant. What is important, though, is that everyone figures out how to overcome any limiting pattern or behavior that’s holding them back. We all have the power to heal ourselves. Just with this simple meditation you can overcome so much! I share this post because I know I’m not the only man to experience this particular addiction. I hope that in offering these words, I can offer a tool to help at least one person find some light!

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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.