A Quick Story

 

As someone who enjoys the act of writing, I must admit that there are people who are infinitely better at it than I am. I heard this story recently by the amazing Portia Nelson and it stuck with me. I’ll let the words speak for themselves. Take from it what you will, and if it strikes you, please pick up the book from the link below to support her.

 

The words are from the book There’s a Hole in my Sidewalk, by Portia Nelson, and is copyright (c) 1993 Portia Nelson and published by Beyond Words Publishing, reproduced without permission.

 

I

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in.
I am lost … I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes me forever to find a way out.

 

II

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place
but, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

 

III

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in … it’s a habit.
my eyes are open
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

 

IV

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

 

V

I walk down another street.

 

 

 

Namaste.

Tommy

 

Tommy Heiden is a family photographer based out of Maple Ridge who, when he’s not caring for his amazing wife and two beautiful children, is occasionally found taking pictures of other peoples’ wives and children, and even more often, speaking and blogging about how to add more love to your life.

On Charlottesville and Spirituality

 

This is the story of the two travellers. The first, looking for a place to live, arrived in a small town, and wanting to get a feel for the place, went to an old local man for advice.

 

“I’m thinking of settling here,” he said to the old man. “What type of people live in this town?”

 

“What type of people live where you come from?” replied the old man.

 

“Well, that’s why I want to move. They’re all cheats and liars. They’ll con you as soon as look at you. They sing loudly and off key (usually while drunk), and it seems that many of them don’t bathe!”

 

The old man smiled and said, “You will find the same people live here.”

 

A while later, another traveller came upon the town and approached the same old man.

 

“I’m thinking of settling here,” he said to the old man. “What type of people live in this town?”

 

“What type of people live where you come from?” replied the old man.

 

“Well, that’s why I hate to move. They’re wonderful. They’re kind and considerate, they sing loving songs to each other. They dance and celebrate every occasion.”

 

The old man smiled and said, “You will find the same people live here.”

 

As is the case when recent events bring a lot of focus to my mind, I find that writing about it seems cathartic. The events in the last week in Charlottesville have been weighing heavily, so some catharsis is needed, I think.

 

I freely admit that I haven’t watched any of the videos. I find videos of angry mobs wielding torches and chanting racist slogans distasteful, and videos of people getting hit by cars to be antithetical to my peace of mind, so my information is limited.

 

What I do know, however, is that there was a white power rally, and a group of counter protesters, and a white supremacist (allegedly) hopped in his car and drove it into a crowd of people, killing one, and injuring 19.

 

I’ve heard reports that some of the counter protesters were charging the white nationalists with clubs, or that they were throwing rocks. If that’s true, then let me state that I’m also against violence of any kind, in all but the most extreme and necessary circumstances (what exactly those circumstances would be, I don’t know, as I haven’t encountered them yet, but I like to leave myself a little room in case there was no other option).

 

Again, if true, that doesn’t excuse murder and attempted murder, and it doesn’t address the underlying cause of racism, bigotry, and white supremacy. A large part of me (again, ignorant of the full facts of the case) says that it’s the same as when a woman gets raped, and people say, “Yes, but you were drunk, and dressed slutty, so what did you expect?” Even if you feel someone is “asking for it,” you still need to be accountable for your own actions. If someone’s throwing rocks at you, you have the right to defend yourself, but you don’t have the right to murder and attempt to murder a group of people.

 

So, since I have a lot of thoughts going through my head, let’s address this from two angles: the spiritual, and the real world, because both thoughts are present, and both lead me in different directions.

 

From a spiritual perspective, I understand and can see that everything is divinely perfect just the way it is. This glorious planet of ours gives us the opportunity to move between the lowest depths of humanity, all the way up to enlightenment, and as the Buddha said, it’s a great blessing to be born human. But you can’t tell that to the wounded.

 

I also know that we are all eternal beings and that while the physical you can be killed, the larger you, the spiritual self, cannot be. As the Gita says, you were never born, you will never die. But you can’t tell that to a mother who’s just lost her child.

 

So there’s a part of me that’s at peace with it, and is willing to let it go and chalk it up to human foolishness, the combined illusions of separateness and superiority that creates most of the discord and violence in our societies.

 

And then the other part of me is the part that lives in the real world, that sees the pain and hurt and wants to do something about it. I grew up idolizing Superman. He was the first, the best, he was the one that always knew what to do. He fought for truth, and justice, and — as I remember it — the good of all mankind.

 

And then I get hear the President of the United States of America, a country I always looked up to as — despite its flaws — a beacon of light upon the world, say that both sides are equally at fault, that there’s some really nice people inside this gang of white supremacists who call for ethnic cleansing and a white state no matter the cost. This was supposed to be a government of the people, by the people, and for the people; a country where, despite being founded by slave owners, was dedicated to the proposition that all men were created equal. The ideal was commendable, despite the hypocrisy.

 

And then I had conversations with people where they defended the white supremacists and said that the counter protesters were coming at them with clubs so what were they supposed to do?

 

Again, part of me takes the spiritual perspective, and says that it’s all just human foolishness. But then there’s the part of me that wants to help end human suffering. Whether I do or not, I figure it’s a worthy goal.

 

The other part of me, again, the part that lives in the real world is simply this: don’t defend the freaking nazis. If there’s one group of people that pretty much everybody in the world can agree on, it’s that the nazis were universally bad people, and Hitler was one of the worst people that humanity had to offer.

 

Again, spiritually, I understand that Hitler went to heaven (a phrase used in Conversations with God), because Hitler did nothing wrong. But even though Hitler went to heaven, countries around the world banded together to help stop him.

 

Despots must be stopped in their despotism.

 

As someone who wants to live a peaceful, loving life, these two sides of me are at odds, but I think I’ve figured it out. People choose to incarnate in their lifetimes to fulfill whatever experiences the soul wishes for them to experience, some of that is, for example, to experience what it’s like to be a racist or white supremacist. It’s not for us to judge or condemn that which we disagree with, since we don’t know the soul’s purpose.

 

However, without judging or condemning, we can observe and say, “This is not who you are. You are not this. I am not this. We are not this.” And always keep in mind that our existence and what we are doing here is done in concert with other people. This is very essence of what Jesus taught about loving your enemy and if someone strikes you on one cheek offer them the other. It gets back to the unity of all. I recognize that they (the white supremacists, etc) exist so that I may better know myself. And if I can know myself, I know them, because we are one and the same.

 

Like the two travellers in the story above, you create the world you wish to see. You can see it as a blessing or as a curse. You can see the light in everyone or you can see the darkness.

 

While I agree that despots must be stopped in their despotism, and there is NO moral equivalency between the nazis and those that fought the nazis (it’s very simple: nazis – bad, those that fought the nazis – good), as humanity, we must work to eradicate the mindset that allows these kinds of events to happen.

 

First and foremost, we must keep in mind that superiority does not exist in God’s universe. Nothing and no one is superior to anyone or anything else in the universe. The fish is not superior to the bird, the sky is not superior to the ocean, the star is not superior to the planet, the tree is not superior to the flower, male is not superior to female, white is not superior to black, straight is not superior to gay, young is not superior to old. Superiority exists solely in the ego, and as the product of the ego, it is a LIE. The ego’s purpose is to lie to you, and it does it very, very well.

 

Secondly, we all must commit ourselves to acts of love. The power of love is greater than the power of fear. The energetic vibrations of love vibrate at a much higher frequency, and are intrinsically more powerful. Spread love, spread joy, spread peace. If we all commit to this, we can, and will change the world for the better.

 

Lastly, we must fight, not with condemnation, but with compassion. We must understand that hurt people hurt people. White supremacists and their like are very, very damaged. They have been taught to hate, either in this lifetime or a previous one, but always they have the same choice we have: choose love, or choose fear. We must continually remind them of this choice. Again, using the sample of Jesus, when he was asked if we should forgive someone even as many as 7 times, he replied, I say 70 times 7, and more still.

 

Again, this is not the spiritually naive notion of entering a lion’s den thinking that God will protect you or that armed with peace you will be safe. It’s been said that it’s better to be a warrior in a garden, then a gardener in a war. Even people like me who prefer the peaceful path, may one day be called upon to show ourselves as people of peace by doing that which we consider unpeaceful.

 

We can look at those who would do us or others harm with compassion, while still living our lives as an example to others. Where possible we can engage those we disagree with by asking them who or what has hurt them so badly that they must hurt another to try to heal it. And lastly, we can face them with courage, and stand up to those that would harm others, those who talk of ethnic cleansing, to fight for truth, and justice, and say, “Never again.”

 

Namaste.

 

Tommy

 

Tommy Heiden is a family photographer based out of Maple Ridge who, when he’s not caring for his amazing wife and two beautiful children, is occasionally found taking pictures of other peoples’ wives and children, and even more often, speaking and blogging about how to add more love to your life.

The Biggest Liar in the World

 

Let’s say there’s two people that you know: one is completely ignorant, and the other one’s the biggest liar in the world. Given that you would have to deal with them both every day, how would you go about functioning in the real world?

 

The good news is that you do it quite well, you’re doing it every single day of your life. Let’s dive deep into spirituality again and then bring it back into the real world once more to see what I mean.

 

Every great spiritual teacher will tell you that you are a three part being: body, mind, and spirit (or soul). They tend to leave out a few important things, however.

 

First off, you’re not a body with a soul, you’re a soul with a body. Your soul is the container for the body, and not the other way around. Likewise your soul is the one running the show. Your body is realistically nothing more than a tool, like a hammer, to experience dualistic reality. Like dualistic reality itself, the idea that the body is you is really an illusion (a pretty fantastic illusion, but an illusion nonetheless), but that’s another story entirely.

 

Here’s the thing: The soul’s purpose is to know itself by using the dualistic reality to understand who it is, by understanding who it’s not (as I’ve repeated many times on this blog, “In the absence of that which is not, that which is, is not” — a wonderful phrase I’ve borrowed from the great spiritual classic Conversations with God).

 

The downside is the soul exists outside of spacetime, and has this unfortunate side effect of knowing everything — including who it is — by its very nature, so in order for it to experience itself through physical, dualistic reality, it has to somehow FORGET who it is. Of course, the soul can’t actually forget anything, so a solution had to be created.

 

That solution came in the form of the mind. The mind (halfway between body and spirit) is designed by its very nature to be ignorant. It’s designed by its very nature to forget who it is, and to not be able to know the difference between truth and falsehood to not know who it is, so that it can experience through the body this wonderful thing we call life. (Of course, the downside to this is that we all know people who are convinced that they’re right and that they know better when in fact, they don’t. And of course, some would say that about me, but that’s another story…)

 

Along with the mind was created the ego. The ego was born out of the illusion of separateness. It’s the part of you that says, “I’m here, and everything else is ‘over there.'” It’s also the part of you that controls superiority and inferiority. In other words, it’s the part of you that says, “That tiger over there is bigger and stronger than me, so I better run so that I don’t become its lunch, or get a sharp stick to try to even the odds.”

 

So you can see that the ego is actually quite useful. It’s the part that keeps the physical body of yours alive. It’s also the part of you that makes you THINK that you’re your physical body (more specifically, it makes you THINK that IT {ie: the ego} is YOU, and the body is part of that “youness.”)

 

But it is by its very nature, a liar. In fact, it’s the biggest liar in the world. It is the very essence of the phrase, “Liar, liar, pants on fire,” because it’s job is to lie to you on a daily basis. It’s job is to say, “I’m the real you. Don’t listen to anybody else, listen to me. You’re superior to that person, and you’re inferior to that person. Feel good about this, feel bad about that.”

 

And of course, the mind being by its very nature, goes along with it, leading to a wonderful exercise in futility, a vicious cycle of lies and ignorance which leads to wars, catastrophes, and suffering.

 

Any time you make a decision that’s based around separation or superiority, that’s a decision made out of the ego. The ego isn’t you. It never was. It was created as a byproduct, and the dual illusions of separation and superiority are what is leading to the downfall of human civilization.

 

If we realized that no separation exists, and thus superiority cannot exist (if all things are one thing, how can a thing be superior to itself?), suffering would end tomorrow.

 

It is when someone feels superior that they commit the most inferior acts. It is when one country feels superiority to another, that they feel that they can plunder their national resources, kill and imprison their citizens, and brutalize their women. It is when one person feels superior to another, that they believe that that other person can be owned as property and be whipped and beaten without mercy. It is when one religion feels itself superior to another that they can kill the infidels, apostates, and the blasphemers in God’s name.

 

Much human suffering has been caused at the hands of superiority.

 

I say again: all things are one thing, and that one thing cannot be superior to itself.

 

It’s no wonder then, that when we look to the masters, they have all without exception, transcended the ego, and they are all quite literally, out of their mind.

 

The first thing they will tell you is that you are not your body.

The next thing they will tell you is that you are not your mind.

The third thing they will tell you is that you are not your ego.

 

That which you are is eternal, unlimited, and free. It is beyond time, beyond dimension, it is light, it is love, it is freedom, it is bliss. And it is one with all. There is no separation. In recognizing this, all ascended masters radiate peace and love, gentleness and kindness, because that is their true nature as it is yours.

 

The mind is by its very nature incapable of telling truth from falsehood. The ego works that to its advantage. It loves to feel superior, it loves to be right.

 

But in seeking truth, we must then transcend or dissolve the ego, and as I mentioned, “get out of our mind.” The ego, of course, will not like this. It’s very survival is at stake, and it will not go gently into that good night.

 

So how then do we a) transcend the ego, and b) learn to tell truth from falsehood?

 

First, we must recognize who we are and hold that thought in our heads. How do we know who we are? Look to the masters, the saints, the avatars. Look to Lord Krishna, Lord Buddha, and Lord Jesus Christ. All of them spoke with compassion and humility. Krishna’s message was that we are all divine. Buddha’s message was that we are all Buddha. And Jesus’s message was not that he was holier than you, but that you are as holy as was he (And yes, I know Christians will disagree with me on this point, but my point stands). Or you could look to modern saints like Ramana Maharshi or Nisargadatta Maharaj for your inspiration.

 

Secondly, whenever we make a decision that is based out of superiority or separation, we should remind ourself that that is the ego, and that nothing is superior to anything else. Different, yes. Superior, no. The sun is not superior to the sky. The ocean not superior to the land. The bird not superior to the dog. And we must remind ourselves of the suffering that’s been caused from our belief in separation and superiority.

 

Lastly, whenever I get caught up in the maya/illusion, and I react poorly, I silently remind myself, “I am you. You are me. We are one.” Choose to see yourself and the other as profoundly innocent. I used the word ignorant before, but innocence is actually much better. In the same way that a child is innocent when he pulls a cat’s tail not realizing it hurts the cat, people do the things they do because they’re innocent. If they knew who they really were, they would act differently. They don’t, so they can’t.

 

Therefore, bless those who you conflict with. End every conversation with the word, “Namaste.” It means simply that the spirit in me, recognizes the spirit in you. When you begin to see yourself as who you really are, help remind people of who they are. Not by beating them over the head with it, but through your own being, and your own actions. Use gentle words, and move softly through the world. Gently remind them of their true selves, and know it is part of the plan for everyone, EVERYONE, to eventually remember who they are, and return to the source.

 

If they want to get caught up in the maya, the illusion, bless them, and yet be an example for them, as Jesus did. As Buddha did. As Krishna did. Each of these masters carved a way, a path for people to follow. They said, I have shown you the way and the truth and the life. Follow me, and you shall be free. But they never forced anyone to walk the path they walked. They simply showed the world what was possible, and offered to walk with them to their destination.

 

Jesus said it best: If someone asks you to go with them a mile, go with him twain.

 

Above all, bless your ego. It has served its purpose. It is not your enemy. It does not have to be beaten. But set it aside, as a child sets aside old toys. Not because it is bad, but because it is no longer needed.

Namaste.

 

Tommy

 

Tommy Heiden is a family photographer based out of Maple Ridge who, when he’s not caring for his amazing wife and two beautiful children, is occasionally found taking pictures of other peoples’ wives and children, and even more often, speaking and blogging about how to add more love to your life.

Albert Einstein and the Science of Spirituality

I’ve always been a bit of a science nerd. I have a fondness for knowing how things work, and when I was a kid, when something was broken, my brothers would give it to me and I’d take it apart or examine it, and see if I could figure out exactly how it worked and how to fix it. I loved looking for gears and levers and catches and other mechanical bits and pieces to bring me to a better understanding of the objects around me.

 

As I grew older, I turned to science as my religion. Science held all the answers I needed, and lead to a greater understanding of the universe. When I’d first heard about Einstein’s famous equation, I was immediately impressed with its simplicity:

 

E=MC2

 

This tiny little equation blew open the doors to the universe. It’s what makes the nuclear bomb possible.

 

But there’s a more immediate, practical use in our daily lives, one that I doubt many people have picked up on.

 

What this little equation states is that energy and matter are related. It states — in full — that Energy equals Matter times the Speed of Light squared.

 

This means a couple of important things when it comes to spirituality:

 

First, it means that energy and matter are one and the same. If you break matter apart, you get energy. If you break energy apart, you get more energy, albeit typically in a different form. So, in truth, matter is nothing more than a fancy illusion. In reality, all there is is energy. And all the energy that is, always has been and always will be. That is to say, energy is eternal. The Law of the Conservation of Energy tells us that energy can not be created or destroyed, you can simply change its form.

 

Thus, we know through Einstein’s formula that we are simply cleverly disguised energy beings, eternal, and beyond time and space (so, y’know, we’ve got that going for us).

 

Secondly, and this is a big one: the formula tells us that matter contains an enormous amount of energy. Each tiny piece of matter contains a mind-numbing amount of energy, so staggering as to be practically useless to the ordinary mind. The Speed of Light is some 299,792,458 metres per second. So if Energy = Matter x (299,792,458 x 299,792,458), you can immediately see how much energy is contained within the smallest speck of matter. (Can you now see how much power you have at your fingertips?)

 

What this tells us spiritually, is that NOTHING MATTERS WITHOUT THE ENERGY YOU PUT INTO IT.

 

In other words, if you give something your energy, it will eventually matter. Give it enough energy, and you can manifest it into actual matter. Focus your intent on one thing with single minded determination, and it is likely to manifest (we still have to deal with quantum potentiality, so we can’t say for sure if something WILL manifest, but we can speak of likelihoods or probabilities).

 

If you spend your life focusing on the negative, you attract the negative. If you spend your life focusing on the positive, you attract the positive. It is also a fundamental law of the universe that like energy attracts like energy.

 

If you focus on, say, your spouse or significant other cheating on you, you draw that into your reality. If you focus on abundance, you draw that into your reality.

 

What matters is where you put your energy. Get it?

 

If you want more love in your life, don’t focus on your lack of it. If you want more money, don’t focus on your lack of it. If you want more success, don’t focus on your lack of it.

 

Keep in mind the formula. An enormous amount of energy has to go into something to create matter, so don’t expect things in your life to change overnight. These things take time. So have faith, young traveller…

 

As Paulo Coelho wrote in The Alchemist, “when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

 

And as Conversations with God reminds us, make every act a loving act. When you put love into everything you do, not only do you attract more love into your life, but it makes the hard times easier.

 

Do everything with a loving heart, a loving mind, and a loving spirit. Put your energy into that which matters. Do so long enough and the universe will conspire in your favour.

 

Are you starting to see why E=MC2 is perhaps one of the most important spiritual laws of all time? It was right there all along. (And you thought Einstein only taught physics. You didn’t think Einstein could be one of the greatest spiritual teachers of our time, did you?)

 

And when things start to move in your direction, and life starts to turn your way, remind yourself, “E=MC2“. When you notice that the energy you’re putting into something is creating that which matters to you, remind yourself, “E=MC2“.

 

E=MC2

 

Now who says science and spirituality can’t coexist?

 

Namaste.

 

Tommy

 

Tommy Heiden is a family photographer based out of Maple Ridge who, when he’s not caring for his amazing wife and two beautiful children, is occasionally found taking pictures of other peoples’ wives and children, and even more often, speaking and blogging about how to add more love to your life.

The Myth of Original Sin

 

 

I talked a little in my last post about the myth of a condemning God, and of course, now I’m gonna talk a little about “Original Sin,” and how it plays into our culture and ideas of spirituality.

 

In the mythical story of Adam and Eve, Eve — of  course — ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This — of course — angered God and He cast them out of the Garden of Eden, condemning all of their descendants to “Original Sin.”

 

This unfortunate story, which not only reinforces the myth of the condemning God, which I’ve addressed in my last post, but also lead to a number of false beliefs which has lead to a great deal of strife, turmoil, and discord in our society and our quest for spirituality.

 

First and most importantly, it created the myth that we could ever be separated from God. The religious version of a condemning God who cast humanity out of the Garden of Eden has created a swiss cheese God — a God which is everything, EXCEPT humans, which are separate from God, and this earthly realm, which is also separate from God. Remember, these are the same religions who say that God is everything, including but not limited to the air, the trees, the plants, the flowers, the water… and yet somehow not the realm in which we reside. That realm, we’re told, is separate, and we need to somehow earn our way back into God’s good graces so we can return to Him in Heaven. So, apparently everything we see is God expressed, but just not everything we see. Hmm…

 

And of course, WE’RE separate from God, so God is everything, except for these little pockets or holes where each human being is. I can tell you with all certainty that God is not swiss cheese. God is everything, the good and the bad, the saint and the sinner, the profane and the profound. There’s no possible way to cast us out anywhere outside of Him, because there IS nothing outside of Him (a point which I addressed in my previous post).

 

Secondly, it has separated men from women and made women the cause of man’s downfall for millennia, allowing men to feel superior to women, that women were somehow inferior or substandard. Man was created first, woman was just created of man’s rib, as an afterthought. I can also assure you that nothing is superior to anything else in God’s eyes. Is a flower superior to a tree? Is a forest superior to a mountain? Is the ocean superior to the sky? All things are Godly because all things ARE God. Nothing and no one is superior to another in the eyes of God.

 

Third, in the creation of separation, it has taught us that not only can we anger God and that we must fear his wrath if we do something wrong (a point, once again, addressed in my previous post), but we must somehow earn our way back into his favour. This has created any number of rules and doctrines and dogma that must be met in order to please God, notably accepting His only begotten son as our personal saviour. That, we’re told, is the only way to salvation. We were born in sin, we will die in sin, and there’s nothing we can do about it short of the whole “accepting Jesus” thing.

 

Here’s the problem. Jesus was a great teacher, it’s true. He performed many miracles, that too is true. But that somehow we have a mark on our souls that can only be erased by the exalted one is simply false.

 

So let’s talk about sin for a minute.

 

“Sin” is a wonderful religious term that means a transgression against divine law — in other words, a mistake, an error. So let’s go a little further…

 

Divine law is supposed to be anything that makes God mad. But what makes God mad? Eating pork? Eating meat on Fridays? Wearing clothes of differing composition? Not keeping your head covered? Working on the sabbath?

 

Let’s look at God again. God created the relative universe so that He could know himself experientially, as I mention often. (“In the absence of that which is not, that which is, is not.”) He cannot know Himself in the absence of that which is not Him. Of course, everything is Him, so He must create the illusion of something that is not Him. The relative universe is steeped in this illusion, in fact it is born of it. That is its purpose.

 

And then to experience that illusion, we create physical bodies to lumber through this fantastic world we live on, forgetting our true Selves so that we can enjoy the majesty that is relativity. If we knew who we really are, the game would be up, the jig would be over, the end would be nigh. Ignorance is kind of the point to this world. Our evolution, as Buddha said, is to move out of ignorance and into insight. It is ultimately true that — again, as Buddha said — that the only sin is ignorance.

 

So any mistake (or “sin”) we make is made out of ignorance of who we really are, our true “Self.” And why would God be angry at us for making decisions out of ignorance that He put into the system? He would only be condemning Himself and His plan! (once again, a point I made previously).

 

Our goal on this planet, in this reality, is spiritual advancement; to know ourselves as our true Selves by experiencing the relative world. That is to say on a smaller scale, we do what God does, to know ourselves as who we are by knowing who we are not (in fact, we are God doing just that. We are God, expressing itself as God, through us).

 

That Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is to make a choice, the first choice. You could say that, for all intents and purposes, she created the relative universe by making the first choice to choose one thing over the other. So if you want to believe that man is superior to woman because Eve ate the fruit, maybe you should consider exalting her instead?

 

And to think that we are born with some kind of mark on our souls that can only be removed at the blessing of “the perfect one,” is mischievous at best. Who has looked into the eyes of a newborn child and thought, “This child is born in sin, it is impure, it is an affront to God.” When I first met my son, I looked into his eyes and thought, “He’s so tiny. So tiny, and so perfect.” Not once did I ever look in his eyes and see sin. Never in his life or the life of my daughter have I ever seen sin in them. I see love, and joy, and purity, and what could be more Godly than that?

 

Moreover, why would God curse babies? What kind of God would demand that innocent little babies must rush to be baptized over the sins of some long forgotten ancestor? We even know in the laws of man that children cannot be held accountable for the sins of the father. Why would God be so terrible, so unforgiving for all eternity? We’re told that God is just, but what justice is in that? How could one act based create an infinite effect? Obviously, a finite cause cannot have an infinite effect.

 

 

So why these last two blog posts about condemning Gods and “original sin”? As I mentioned, religion greatly shapes our culture and our societies, and nothing is so pervasively damaging than the two myths I wrote about. By viewing ourselves as separate from God, we can then see ourselves as separate from one another. By viewing God as wrathful, vengeful, jealous, angry, petty, spiteful, and insecure, it allows us to be wrathful, vengeful, jealous, angry, petty, spiteful, and insecure with others. If God can do it, why can’t we?

 

But, if you understand that we are never separate from God, and that we are not separate from each other, and that God is simply and completely love, then that radically changes our view of the world. Hate is an illusion. Fear is an illusion. Separation is an illusion. Love is all there is.

 

What’s needed in our societies is for religion to evolve. Religion has to acknowledge that while they have many things right, they have failed to do what they say they want to do, which is to bring people closer to God. It seeks Heaven, but ascribes Hellish characteristics to God. Is it any wonder then that more wars have been fought in the name of religion than anything else? Who’s fighting whom in India and Pakistan? Who’s fighting whom in the Middle East?

 

Religion HAS evolved in the past. The Old Testament says that if a man’s son is a drunkard, he should be taken out to the edge of town and stoned to death. If a woman is found not to be a virgin on her wedding night, she should be stoned to death. If a man works on the sabbath, he should be stoned to death (a lot of stoning going on back in the biblical times). We ignore these “commandments” because they don’t make sense in the modern world, or to any civilized society. We can see them as completely counter-productive to the society we want to build.

 

Yet, these things are “in the Gospels,” which is the word of God. Which means that if we can ignore these things, even though they’re the “word of God,” that must mean that the Bible contains inaccuracies that can be ignored as we progress as a species, right?

 

The idea of a condemning God comes from the dawn of civilization when things (storms, earthquakes, etc) would happen, and they were ascribed to some all powerful deity that must be appeased or he would be angry and rain death and destruction down on the earth.

 

But now we have wonderfully holy people who have communed directly with God, and we can simply talk to them and ask them what their experience of God is. Without exception, they will say that God IS love, and that we are all one. They will all say this because once truth is realized, there is no ego to distort it.

 

We must, therefore, realize that the fear-based God and the illusion of separation from Him (and by extension, each other) is not working. We must redefine God using the experiential knowledge of our divine living saints. Imagine a world where there was no right way or wrong way to worship, that no one religion is superior to another, that no one person is superior to another. Imagine a world where fighting over who has the right God, or the right denomination is fallacious. Imagine a world where people of all faiths (or no faith) are all equally welcome in the eyes of God. Imagine a world without sin, without judgement, without condemnation.

 

Imagine a world where all there is, is love.

 

In truth, that is all there is, and all that ever will be.

 

Spirituality is about knowing your Self. Your Self is divinity expressed. It is not sinful. It is love. Your true Self is eternal, unlimited, and free. Love is eternal, unlimited, and free. Life is eternal, unlimited, and free. God is unlimited, eternal, and free.

 

Are you getting the message? You are not separate from God. You cannot be. You are God expressed. You are life expressed. You are love expressed. Find your divinity and you’ll find your Self. So know thy Self. And you will know God.

 

Namaste.

Tommy

Tommy Heiden is a family photographer based out of Maple Ridge who, when he’s not caring for his amazing wife and two beautiful children, is occasionally found taking pictures of other peoples’ wives and children, and even more often, speaking and blogging about how to add more love to your life.

Failing the Cupcake Test: The Myth of a Condemning God

 

Imagine a room, smallish, and scantly furnished with a chair at either end of a table that’s situated in the centre of the room. You walk in and see me in the chair facing the door, and I motion to you to sit in the other chair. You notice on the table are two cupcakes. But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s back up a bit…

 

On a previous blog post, one of my friends replied that they loved my religion/philosophy. It was nice to hear that some people (or at least one, um… people) find comfort in my words, but of course the last thing anyone should do is encourage me. It might inspire me to continue, and that may or may not be a good idea, depending on who you ask.

 

To be clear, I have no religion. My only allegiance is to the truth. I care not for dogma, or sectarianism. I don’t care about churches or religions, I simply seek to learn and speak truth, and I don’t believe that any religion has a monopoly on truth. This truth occasionally butts up against things, like preconceived notions, or organized religion. And yet, I will still speak the truth as best I know it, and correct untruths as best I can based on my own experience, and the truths that I’ve uncovered. And I do this knowing full well that I have religious people in my family and amongst my friends who will no doubt disagree with what I say. They’re free to do so and I will happily debate the topic with them at any point they choose.

 

I will say, however, that truth is truth, regardless of how uncomfortable it makes you. With that all being said, let’s talk a little about fear-based religions, because hey, why not? Besides, I get to talk about cupcakes, and who doesn’t like cupcakes?

 

Over the last year, I’ve had a number of, oh, let’s call them “moments of clarity” that have led me on a profoundly personal spiritual journey. As if I haven’t spoken enough about that recently, I’ll probably speak of the transformation in a future blog post, but now’s not the time for that. Suffice it to say, that this former atheist is now firmly convinced that God exists, God is everything, and God is love. On this, I’m sure most religionists will agree.

 

However, religionists tend to have some crazy contradictions. “God is all loving,” they say, unless you deny Him, then you’ll burn in everlasting torment forever and ever. “God loves all his children,” they say, but you must come to him in the right way, through the right church, and the right religion (some even add the “right” sexual orientation), otherwise He will be angry, and then you should fear His wrath. And woe be unto you if you should worship the “wrong” God, then He will cast you out or leave you behind. Above all else, you should fear His wrath and His judgement.

 

This idea of a wrathful, jealous, vengeful God simply doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. Here’s why:

 

If God is love, why allow everlasting torment and suffering of unspeakable agony? Well, because God gave us free will and wants us to come to Him of our own choosing, they say. But if the choice is suffering of unspeakable agony forever and ever, what kind of free choice is that? Which brings me back to the cupcakes I mentioned earlier.

 

When you sit down at the table, you see two cupcakes. I tell you, you’re free to choose whichever cupcake you want to eat, but the one to my left is the best cupcake you’ve ever tasted. The one on my right, however, if you eat it, will leave you writhing in agony and unspeakable pain even until the end of time. Now, which one do you pick? What kind of a false choice is that? And what kind of God would offer such a choice? Is it any wonder that many people choose neither cupcake? Is it any wonder that people like myself have said, “The hell with you and your games! If this is the choice you give me, then I choose neither. I’d rather starve than play your tricks.”

 

So you see? It is religion itself that has created atheists. It is the myth of a condemning, vengeful, wrathful, judgemental, petty, spiteful, vindictive God that has caused people to turn their backs on religion. If I had simply placed two cupcakes on the table and said, “Here are two cupcakes. Both are divine. Both are the most wonderful, amazing cupcakes you have ever tasted. After eating one, you will be happier, more fulfilled, and more joyous than you ever thought possible. Now which do you choose, the chocolate, or the vanilla? You can, of course, choose neither, and you will still feel happier, more fulfilled, and more joyous than you ever thought possible.”

 

In those two scenarios, which one seems the more Godly? And which the more Devilish? We have ascribed devilish characteristics to God, and have thus, caused people to turn away from God. Thus, the view of a judgemental God is simply wrong and needs to be corrected, for the simple reason that it doesn’t do what religion is attempting to do: bring people closer to God.

 

So, with my blasphemous statement out of the way, let’s begin:

 

God is everything. I’m sure all religionists will agree to that, so let’s start there. If God is everything, then God NEEDS nothing. Let’s say you had all the money in the entire universe. How much money would you need? None, right? Excellent. Let’s continue.

 

If God NEEDS nothing, then there is nothing you need to do to please him, and thus there is no requirement you must meet. If there is no requirement that must be met (ie: your devotion to his “one true son,” for example), you cannot be judged as to whether or not you met that requirement. If you cannot be judged, you cannot fail. If you cannot fail, then you cannot be condemned for that failure.

 

God is everything. We are part of that everything. We are all a part of God. We can never be separated from God. Our fear-based religions have convinced many of us (conveniently for their sake) that you are separate from God, and that they know the one true path back to God, and it is their way, under their rules, by their dogma.

 

If you fail to come to God “on His terms,” via the right church in the right religion, or via the right saviour or prophet, who would He condemn? Himself? And where would he cast you out to, if He is everything? There is nowhere for you to go, nothing that exists outside of God. There is no Hell for you to burn in everlasting condemnation for failing to meet some requirement. Nor can you hurt God’s feelings, or injure Him in any way. The universe is a place where supernovae occur regularly, and supermassive black holes reside at the centre of each galaxy, sucking in and crushing everything within range, and you think that simply denying God will hurt His feelings?

 

In the beginning, God wished to know Himself experientially. But in the absence of that which is not, that which is, is not. So in order for Him to know Himself as what He was, He had to create that which He was not. So in order to know Himself as everything, He had to first know Himself as that which is NOT everything. This He cannot do, since God cannot “unGod” himself, but He CAN fake it a little. So He split himself into tiny pieces we call “souls.” But the soul knows who it is, and like God, cannot NOT know who it is, but it CAN cause itself to forget, and thus created the mind, which is forgetful and ignorant of its true nature.

 

This forgetfulness is our greatest gift. It allows us to know who we are but first NOT knowing who we are (in the absence of that which is not, that which is, is not, remember?). The very act of life, our very purpose, is simply to remember. That is, to re-member, to once again rejoin the body of God.

 

And thus, God knows the Divine Plan. God knows who you really are, even if you don’t. He knows that any mistake you make is born out of ignorance to who you really are. So why then would He condemn you for a mistake based out of ignorance that He himself designed into the system? Would He not just then be condemning Himself? Or His Plan? Would He not simply love the process? Would He simply not just watch us quietly, giving us guidance, and sending us teacher after teacher, and letting us find our way slowly back to Him, via whatever path we choose?

 

This is the path of evolution, of insight, of knowledge. It is a slow process of knowing who we are by understanding who we are not. This is God’s Plan. Therefore judge not, and neither condemn anyone or their path to God. The Bhagavad Gita states it nicely: “All paths, Arjuna, lead to me.” Not SOME paths, not the paths of a certain religion, not the followers of a certain prophet or savior, but ALL paths.

 

You might be saying, “But Tommy, aren’t you judging religionists? Or condemning their religion?”

 

No, I’m merely stating that what they’re saying isn’t bringing them closer to their goal. If someone is staring east waiting for a sunset, it’s not wrong to tell them to turn around. It’s not condemning them to say, “You’re looking in the wrong direction.” It’s simply pointing out a simple mistake.

 

So believe in your religion, I won’t ever tell you to stop doing that. Or change your religion. Or believe in no religion at all. It makes no difference to me. I hold no ego investment in the matter. Make your own choices, seek your own truth. If who you are and who you choose to be is that of a man or woman of a particular faith, then be that man or woman.

 

But remember this: like attracts like. Love attracts love. Fear attracts fear. “Love the Lord, thy God, with all thy heart and all thy soul and all thy might. This is the first Commandment.”

 

Love, and do not fear.

 

“All paths, Arjuna, lead to me.”

 

This is a great truth.

 

“Judge not, and neither condemn.”

 

This too, is a great truth. For if God won’t judge you, why would you judge another? Why not simply support people on their own path? It was precisely BECAUSE I was an atheist for 40 plus years that I came to the truths that I now speak of. It was BECAUSE I was an atheist that I know speak of God.

 

Know this:

 

You are a part of God. You can never be separated. You will never be judged or condemned by Him. You cannot be. You will not be. Not now. Not ever.

 

Seek to find the divinity within you, and you will see this to be true. It is as all the prophets said, Love is the answer. Know this, and you will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.

 

 

Sat nam.

Tommy

 

 

Tommy Heiden is a family photographer based out of Maple Ridge who, when he’s not caring for his amazing wife and two beautiful children, is occasionally found taking pictures of other peoples’ wives and children, and even more often, speaking and blogging about how to add more love to your life.

Uncovering the Real You

 

 

 

It may not come as a surprise to you, but the biggest aspect of self-realization is…. (Duh duh DUUUHHH!!!) realization of the Self. See? Told you it wasn’t surprising.

 

I actually started down the path of self-realization kind of by accident. I was trying to do other things, I was meditating, I was reading spiritual books, and I had a moment of clarity where I realized exactly who I was. It was very confusing because I didn’t know what to make of it, and I had several profound insights which I’ve written about previously, but I thought I’d write about the process in case anyone else is wanting to reach a deeper level of understanding.

 

There are four “soul questions,” which the Chopra Center recommends asking before you meditate. These are:

 

1. Who am I?

2. What do I want?

3. What is my purpose?

4. What am I grateful for?

 

The first question is the one that we’re going to look at. When you turn your focus inward (as in all spiritual practices, the answer lies within), and ask yourself the question, “Who am I?” you’ll probably feel a couple of answers come up.

 

You might get a specific, direct answer like your name. Like you may hear, “I’m Tommy (or whatever your name is).”

 

You also might get indirect answers like, “I am me.” or partial answers like, “I am my personality.”

 

Whatever answer you receive, consider “havingness” versus “beingness”.

 

For example, “I have a name.” but I am not my name. If I change my name will I be any less me? “I have a personality,” but I am not my personality. If my personality changes, will I be any less me?

 

You cannot BE that which you HAVE. I have a car, I am not my car. I HAVE a computer, I am not my computer. I HAVE an arm (two, actually), I am not my arm. I HAVE a mind, I am not my mind… or am I?

 

But my mind is how I think? Am I not then, my mind? Am I not that which makes thinking possible? But what if you… change your mind? What then? Would you be any less you?

 

If you lost everything, your car, your spouse, your house, your kids, your job, everything, would you still be you? Even if you lost — dare I say it — your mind, would you still be you? These things might be things you have a preference for, or things that you enjoy, or things that you think you need, or roles you play, but they are not you. They are not the REAL you.

 

You are not your mind. You are not your body. You cannot be that which you have, nor can you be that which changes. However, if you meditate on this deeply, if you allow your true Self to speak to you, you will come to the same conclusion that all spiritual seekers find:

 

That that which you are is far greater, far grander, and far more magnificent than you’ve ever thought possible.  That which you are, is that which is unchanging. The REAL you, is immortal, unchanging, and ever-present.

 

That which you REALLY are is simply that which IS, that which always has been, and always will be.

 

It is from this “IS-ness” that spiritual masters speak. Lahiri Mahashi states in Autobiography of a Yogi, when asked why his body wouldn’t appear in photographs unless he willed it, said “I am spirit. Can your photographic equipment capture the omnipresent invisible?”

 

It is from this IS-ness that I speak. I am no spiritual master, but in my own searching, in deep meditation, I know that I am spirit. I am love. I am eternal. I am consciousness. I am God.

 

This last statement is bound to rile up a few people, and it’s a deeper topic for another time, but let me just say this: God is everything, yes? And are we not part of the everything? And thus, are we not all God?

 

Good. Now let’s move on, because I want to close this up…

 

Here’s the thing: spiritual teachers are a dime a dozen. Like gurus, you can find some good ones, and some bad ones. The really good ones will never tell you to buy their book because all the answers you seek lie within it. In truth, all the answers you seek lie within (ironically, all great spiritual texts tell you that outright. We just don’t listen.), so if you have answers, trust that your spirit, the universe, or God is speaking to you now, revealing all the answers. It is within the stillness of your mind that you will hear, feel, and see that which you seek.

 

Every spiritual seeker, who humbly and sincerely asks to know will be shown the way. Without exception. It is part of the Divine Plan that you know who you really are, to know your true nature. In truth, everything that God is, you are. You are kindness, you are love, you are compassion, you are joy, you are bliss, and you are immortal.

 

You have simply forgotten.

 

I am here to remind you. That is, to re-mind you. To help you remember your divinity. To help you remember your spirit. And when your spirit is remembered, there will be such joy within you that you won’t be able to contain it. These truths will become obvious and self-evident. And you will look into the eyes of others with kindness, love, compassion, joy, and bliss, and see that they are immortal too.

 

And there will be peace on earth, on earth as it is in heaven…

 

Amen.

Tommy

 

 

Tommy Heiden is a family photographer based out of Maple Ridge who, when he’s not caring for his amazing wife and two beautiful children, is occasionally found taking pictures of other peoples’ wives and children, and even more often, speaking and blogging about how to add more love to your life.

The Sound of Eternal Suffering – Confronting My Own Shadow

 

 

 

It happened several weeks ago.

 

Feeling a little disconnected from my wife, I suggested we see a movie. Unfortunately, my wife and I have very busy schedules, and coupled with our opposing work hours (I work nights, she works days), and two small children, our time is very limited for “couples time.”

 

At one point she made a comment about wanting to make sure the house was clean for the weekend. I shot back angrily, “I get it. Your clean house is more important than time with your husband.”

 

I stopped in my tracks.

 

I know that my wife likes a clean house. I also know that it’s not the movie that’s important, it’s the spending time with and feeling close to your significant other that’s important. That can be done with or without a movie.

 

A Course in Miracles teaches us that every response is either a loving response or a cry for help, and it was clear that my response was certainly not a loving one.

 

My response was such that I wanted to examine why a simple request would lead to such a bitter, angry response.

 

I’ve spent the last couple of blog posts talking about my granddad and my dad, so I thought I’d continue the trend of generationally-related blog posts and get really personal and delve deep into my own damaged psyche (Huzzah!). Maybe it’ll give you insight and help some of you with issues you may be facing in your own lives, and your relationships with your significant others, friends, family, or co-workers (Plus, I think it helps to know that nobody really has their shit together, no matter how enlightened we think we are. You know what they say, some people live to show others precisely what NOT to do)

 

In each of us, there is what Carl Jung referred to as “a shadow.” It’s the sum total of all the negative emotions and thoughts that we’ve suppressed and repressed so that we can function with some degree of normalcy in our daily lives.

 

And it was time to confront my shadow.

 

I asked myself one of the core questions to dig deep into why my response was so bitter to such a benign request. I asked myself, “What for?” or “Why do I want that?” It involves honestly, reflection, and a willingness to look at the deepest parts of yourself.

 

The conversation with myself went something like this: “Why do I want her to see a movie with me?”

The response came: “Because I want her to want to spend time with me.”

Question: “What do I want her to want to spend time with me for?”

Response: “So I can feel connected to and loved by my wife, and because as someone who says she loves me, she should WANT to spend time with me.”

Question: “Your wife loves you. Why don’t you feel loved by your wife?”

Response: “Because she doesn’t express it constantly in the ways that I want her to.”

Question: “What do you want her to do that for?”

Response: “Because if she doesn’t I don’t feel loved.”

Question: “But she DOES love you. What do you need her to validate that for?”

Response: “Because I’m insecure, and worry that maybe she doesn’t express it because I’m inherently unlovable. I’ve felt my whole life that I’m not good enough. What if I’m not worthy of her love? Maybe she won’t love me anymore and not tell me and I’ll be the fool.”

Question: “And why do you think she should WANT to spend time with you?”

Response: “Because she’s my wife. I should be a priority in her life.”

Question: “Why do you feel the need to be a priority in anyone’s life?”

Response: “Because I love her, and she should make me a priority.”

Question: “And what do you need to be a priority for?”

Response: “It’s a sign that I’m important to her.”

Question: “What do you need to feel important for?”

Response: “Because I feel like maybe I don’t matter, that I’m unimportant and unneeded.”

 

So, clearly I was facing some deeply hidden feelings of insecurity, unlovability, and unworthiness. Often, I feel like I don’t matter. And that’s just one aspect of my relationship. It doesn’t even begin to touch my work situation, or other aspects of my life.

 

Keep in mind that this has absolutely nothing to do with my wife. She’s doing absolutely nothing wrong. She’s simply responding the way she always has, according to her model of the world. We project our own insecurities onto the world so that we don’t have to deal with them ourselves.

 

Do you think that carrying around feelings of insecurity, unlovability, and unworthiness, might lead to bitterness and lashing out at the ones I love? Do you think that it might cause me to act out and play the clown to get validation and feel worthy or lovable?

 

Many of us have known someone who was needy. Hasn’t their constant neediness caused each of us to push back and not want to give them the things they need, thereby reinforcing their neediness?

 

We are all radiating energy, and it’s a fundamental law of the universe that like energy attracts like energy. By subconsciously emitting the energy of insecurity, unlovability, unworthiness, not good enough-ness, and bitterness, I’m actually creating those experiences in my life. Do you think it’s an accident that someone who feels the need for constant validation and has feelings of unlovability and unworthiness ended up with someone who has a hard time simply saying, “Thank you”? There are no accidents in the universe. Like attracts like. You attract exactly the situations you need to work out past karma and grow spiritually.

 

Simply put, can you see how carrying this around with me can cause great problems in a relationship? It’s like following someone around saying, “Love me! Love me! LOOOVVEEE MEEEE!!!” Conversely, have you ever known someone who simply radiated loving, friendly energy? Wasn’t it a blessing to be in their presence? Didn’t you want to spend as much time around them as possible? It can be truly said that my wife is a saint for putting up with me considering all of this.

 

So faced with the destructive forces of my own ego and lower self, I decided to do something about it.

 

Here’s a wonderful thing about emotions: positive emotions are infinite, while negative ones are finite. You can live and dwell in joy, peace, and love infinitely if you want. However, if you surrender and release a negative emotion, it will eventually run itself out. Most women intuitively understand this experientially. Many women know that when you’re upset, sometimes you just need a good cry. You need to surrender to the emotion and let it go, and on the other side of that emotion is peace (Many men still have yet to figure this out, by the way.).

 

Unfortunately, negative emotions can sometimes take a long time to run themselves out. David Hawkins, in his book, “Letting Go,” describes several instances where it took him 10 or 11 days solid, day and night, to release certain emotions or attachments, during one of which he retreated to an isolated cabin so that he could work through it quicker. He describes the experience as leading him to the very depths of despair, but once it had run its course, there was peace, calmness, bliss, and transcendent love.

 

So, as is often the case when I want to work through something, I sat quietly in meditation. I said a blessing and called on the support of the infinite creator, and then allowed my shadow to come up.

 

What followed was 20-25 minutes of what I can only describe as utter despair and anguish. Emotions poured out of me that I didn’t even know I could experience. Guttural, primal sounds emerged from my mouth that can only be imagined as the sound of eternal suffering. As wave after wave of emotion hit me, I collapsed many times, and I heard a voice inside my head wonder how much more I could take.

 

I cried out, trying to surrender to the emotions, while simultaneously keeping in mind that every negative emotion will eventually pass, and to remind myself that I am infinite, I am divinity, I am love, I am light.

 

I know of no way to express what happened. It was beyond accurate description, a depth of pain and suffering the likes of which I’ve never felt. The experience pushed me to my very limits before it finally faded.

 

And here’s the great news. I’m not done yet. It’s like the universe said, “That’s enough for now.” I can still feel the tightness in my chest, so I know that I’ve got more of my shadow to release. It will take time, but I’m committed to the process (unfortunately, I have neither a secluded cabin, nor 10 days to speed up the process) because I know on the other side of the pain is love, peace, and bliss.

 

With all that being said, if it’s so painful, if it’s so heart-wrenching, if it’s so emotionally draining, why do it?

 

For me, it’s because (a) I want to have healthy relationships, and (b) I want to progress spiritually, and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to do so. I would like to get to a place of unconditional love, and if I need to confront my shadow to do so, then that’s what I’ll do.

 

I know that my wife loves me. I know that I love my wife. But I also know that my love for her is conditional. If my love for her is dependent on her spending time with me, that’s not love, that’s control. And controlling behaviour means attachment. As the Buddha says, the cause of all human suffering is desire and attachment. Overcome desire and attachment and suffering goes away.

 

Now what does this mean for you? Do you have to go through the process that I’m going through?

 

No.

 

Of course not.

 

Because it takes a great deal of courage, strength, faith, and understanding, I don’t recommend it unless you’re spiritually enlightened enough to think that it’s something you’re ready for. I, myself, with all my knowledge, faith, and courage could only last 20-25 minutes before I was pulled back. (I also did it in probably the worst way. I released ALL the blocks holding me back and let all the feelings come up at once. In retrospect, it probably wasn’t the best idea I’ve ever had.)

 

The good news is there’s an easier way.

 

No one ever said you have to confront your entire shadow all at once. But we all need to surrender to and release negative emotions as they come up, otherwise you run the risk of suppressing and repressing emotions and adding to your shadow.

 

Let’s say, like me, you’re in a relationship and you find yourself getting angry at your significant other for a trivial reason. You can surrender the feeling in the moment, and let it go. Or you can wait until the end of the day, and surrender and let go of everything you’ve felt throughout the day.

 

You can also surrender in pieces. Do you have a particular attachment to your spouse’s behavior? Do you worry whether they’ll make it home safe from work? Choose to surrender to that worry and let it go. Do you get upset when they don’t do the dishes? Surrender to that attachment and let that particular thing go.

 

Or you could surrender to the various aspects of your life. For example, you could remove the blocks to the advancement of your career or your relationship, and surrender to those aspects of your life one at a time. Be careful, though, since you’ll probably find there’s some overlap in that the things that hold you back in your relationship are the things that hold you back in your career, etc., so you may be opening up a larger can of worms than you anticipated.

 

Eventually, however, over time your shadow will diminish, your relationships will become healthier, and you will be more loving and less fearful.

 

A Course in Miracles also teaches us that you don’t have to come back to love. Love is ever present, you simply need to remove the blocks to the infinite source of love that flows around and through us at all times.

 

Now you know the way to remove those blocks.

 

Good luck!

 

Namaste.

Tommy

 

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Tommy Heiden is a family photographer based out of Maple Ridge who, when he’s not caring for his amazing wife and two beautiful children, is occasionally found taking pictures of other peoples’ wives and children, and even more often, speaking and blogging about how to add more love to your life.

The Day I Forgave My Dad

 

 

My son (and daughter) have gone through a number of bath toys during their young lives, and one of the ones he loved to play with was Bruce the shark from Finding Nemo. Every time I would see Bruce the shark, I would silently repeat his catch phrase: “I never knew my father!”

 

It was a constant reminder of what makes up a big part of who I am, and at the same time something I don’t think about very much. My mom and dad split up before I have any long-term memories, so I have one vague, half-remembered memory of listening to my mom and dad fighting while I sat on the stairs that lead down to the kitchen. I don’t know if it’s a real one or something I made up to help me cope with my mom and dad’s divorce. Beyond that, if I ran into my  dad on the street, I wouldn’t have any idea who he was.

 

I was going to save this post for Father’s Day, but now’s as good a time as any, since my last post was about my grandfather, I figured that talking about my dad would be a nice, logical next step.

 

I never knew my dad. I suppose it’s one of the things that drives me to be as good a father as I can be, since I never had him in my life, I want to make sure that I can be in my kids lives. That’s also one of the reasons why I write so personally on my blog now. I’m 43 years old and I don’t know how many years I have left. If anything should happen to me, at least my kids will have my words to understand who their father was.

 

I occasionally get asked about my dad, and I usually just shrug my shoulders and say, “I dunno.” I’ve always considered him about as important to me as some random guy in Belarus. I figured if I never met either one of them, then they probably matter just about the same, right?

 

However, I also believe the path to love begins with forgiveness. We need to learn to forgive ourselves as well as others. True strength lies in being able to forgive someone and come back to love, compassion, and acceptance, even after you feel you’ve been wronged, cheated, or slighted.

 

One night in my nightly meditation, I was trying a new forgiveness exercise (the same one I’ve written about before). The technique is actually from Vishen Lakhiani, founder of Mindvalley.com and author of “Code of the Extraordinary Mind”, and is one part of his 6-phase meditation. It simply consists of holding an image of a particular person or group of people in your mind, and saying to them, “I forgive you, and I hope that you forgive me.” and then hearing them repeat the same words back to you.

 

As I was new to the technique, I ran through my head a list of people who I felt I needed to forgive. Some of the people were minor (like the guy I yelled at when he cut me off in traffic), others were people with whom I had had a long standing beef with.

 

I didn’t want to do anything with a lot of emotion attached to it, so for some reason, on this night, I thought to myself, “Well, I don’t think about my dad much, haven’t seen him since I was a toddler, maybe I’ll forgive him.”

 

So, not knowing what my dad looks like, I brought to mind an image of “my dad.” Turns out my dad to me is nothing more than an amorphous blob of dark shadowy stuff with no discernible features. Who knew?

 

Anyway, to make a long story short (too late!), I held his image in my mind and I repeated the mantra: “I forgive you, and I hope that you forgive me.” And I heard him say, “And I forgive you, and I hope that you forgive me.”

 

And I broke down.

 

There I was, sitting in half-lotus posture, my hands on my knees, eyes closed, trying to hold it together to finish my meditation (it’s a 6 phase meditation, remember? I had a couple more phases to get through before I could close it down), and I’m crying. I felt a huge release of energy in my chest, and I was shaking with tears streaming down my face, trying to remember to breathe and focus on my breath.

 

On a somewhat comical note, my wife happened to be sitting next to me wondering why the hell her husband was weeping during his meditation.

 

I finished my meditation, wiped my tears, and laughed. I said to my wife, “Sorry. I just forgave my dad.”

 

Why am I telling you such a personal story?

 

Because sometimes we carry around pain for years without even knowing that it’s there. I led my life believing that I didn’t have any emotional connection with my dad, that he mattered to me as much as some random guy in Belarus that I’d never met.

 

Sometimes you need to go inside yourself and forgive the people you don’t even think need to be forgiven. Not for them, but for you. Each one of us carries around weights that hold us down, like the weights around a diver’s belt. We can reach the surface of the water with a great deal of effort, or we can simply release the weights and be carried upwards automatically.

 

Many times, releasing the weights is as simple as picturing someone in your mind and giving the both of you the opportunity to be free again, to rise to the surface, and feel the light of love, and joy, and peace. You might not be able to forgive in one session. It might take you a month or more of continuous forgiveness, but when you finally do, you’ll know because you’ll feel lighter, freer, and more joyous.

 

And I would leave you with this parting piece of advice from Conversations with God: Life is not for getting, life is for giving. That is to say, life is not forgetting, life is forgiving.

 

And to my dad, wherever you are, if you’re reading this, I love you. And I forgive you.

 

 

Sat nam.

Tommy

 

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Tommy Heiden is a family photographer based out of Maple Ridge who, when he’s not caring for his amazing wife and two beautiful children, is occasionally found taking pictures of other peoples’ wives and children, and even more often, speaking and blogging about how to add more love to your life.

The Worst Advice I Got When My Grandfather Died

 

 

 

My grandfather was a very religious man. He was, however, Chinese, so we didn’t talk much, so I really didn’t find out the depth of it until after he died.

 

At his funeral, his pastor stood up in front of the funeral and gave a sermon about his life of devotion, and how there’s nothing greater than to “live the life of a righteous man.”

 

Now, maybe I’m misunderstanding this, and it means something different in a religious context, but my immediate reaction was, “Good Lord, what the hell have you been teaching my grandfather???”

 

If there’s one thing people hate is someone who’s “holier than thou.” The religious people I’m thankful enough to know are — by and large — wonderful, giving, kind people. When I look at the religious population of the US, though, I see a lot of righteousness. I see a lot of people (not all of them, obviously), who believe that THEY’RE right, that Jesus is the Son of God, and that the only way to get to Heaven is by accepting Him as your personal Lord and Savior, and anyone who disagrees needs to be shut down, put down, or locked down.

 

But then I also remember the phrase, “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild…” and I find myself struggling to understand how that got twisted into righteousness, and that you should live the life of a righteous man.

 

It’s interesting that the most spiritually advanced teachers all seem to have humility as a common attribute. They may have been strong and convicted in their message, but also humble in that their message was not necessarily a better way, and that it wasn’t even the only way, but that theirs was simply ANOTHER way.

 

Jesus’ way was different from Buddha. Buddha’s was different from Krishna’s. Krishna’s was different from Mohammad’s. And despite their differences, they end result was always the same: salvation, enlightenment, wisdom, cosmic consciousness. All of these are different paths to the same end — realization of the true Self.

 

It occurs to me that all their messages are the same message with different emphases based on the time they appeared in history and the people they talked to. The Jews at the time of Christ were different than the Indians at the time of Buddha or Krishna, and thus each of their audiences needed to be spoken to differently.

 

As spiritual students, we need to remember that we have a great deal of choice to find a mentor or guru or spiritual teacher who speaks to us and helps us along our own unique path. And we have to remain humble and remember that ours is not the only way, ours is not a better way, ours is simply another way.

 

I speak often about spirituality and my own spiritual path because it interests me and writing about it helps get my thoughts in order. But I understand that my way is not your way. If you’re reading this, you will find your own way. As the saying goes, when the student is ready, the master will appear. Ask and ye shall receive, seek and ye shall find, knock and the door shall be opened unto you.

 

I like the Dalai Lama’s approach: If what he says has meaning to you, use it. If it doesn’t, throw it out the window. He also has a deep and abiding respect for all religions. He’s not out to convert people to Tibetan Buddhism, he simply wants to be the best Buddhist he can be and spend his life getting closer to enlightenment. However, that doesn’t mean he has to sit and take whatever you throw at him. If he doesn’t like what you have to say, or disagrees with it, he just puts his hands in prayer position, bows, says, “Okay, thank you.” and then walks away.

 

So not only with matters of spirituality, but in all things in life, it’s always important to remember that yours is not the only way, yours is not a better way, yours is simply another way.

 

I like to get involved in discussions of Facebook on a number of topics. Even this blog is simply me stating what I think is true. But like the Dalai Lama, if what I write has meaning to you, use it. If it doesn’t, throw it out the window.

 

When I respond to things on Facebook, I try to always approach it with an air of humility, and even when dealing with facts, and I’m dealing with someone who doesn’t seem to be able to see facts as facts, I always try to think of the times when I was blinded to facts, and how hard it is to be humble and see through ideology to truth.

 

When you get so convinced that you’re right that you get red-faced in anger, you lose your path. All your muscles tense, your mind gets tense, and it’s hard to think straight. In this, the Buddhist tradition is very accurate of “not too tight, not too loose,” of trying to find the “middle path.”

 

It’s easy to get righteous. It’s hard to be humble. I’m not one to hold individual saints up in high esteem, but I will look to the great avatars, the great gurus, and see their common thread. They speak of the Buddha’s compassion, the gentleness of Jesus, the kindness of Krishna. Krishna said, “therefore, be ye a yogi.” Jesus said, “give your love to me.” Buddha said, “Do not look for a sanctuary in anyone except yourself.” All three messages are different, all three paths are different, and yet all three are the same.

 

So be ye a yogi, or give your love to Christ, or find your own inner salvation. No matter which path you choose, remain humble, and remember that your way is not the only way, yours is not a better way, yours is simply another way.

 

Sat nam.

Tommy

 

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Tommy Heiden is a family photographer based out of Maple Ridge who, when he’s not caring for his amazing wife and two beautiful children, is occasionally found taking pictures of other peoples’ wives and children, and even more often, speaking and blogging about how to add more love to your life.