The Examined Life

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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Monday, December 26, 2011

You Are Perfect

You are perfect just as you are. Some part of you knows that this is true. That part is buried under all the noise and mind chatter that tells you that somehow you have failed. It lies buried under all the judgments that you have for yourself the judgments that you learned by judging others and by their having judged you all these years.

When you were born were you not perfect? Did you not know then that you were perfect? Were your feet too big? Did your ears stick out too much? Did it make any difference? What has changed about you that you have fallen from grace? Did you come to believe in “original sin”?

When was the last time you were in the presence of someone who loved you unconditionally just as you are? The people who told you with every loving touch and gaze that you are perfect just the way you are. The people whose every action and word had you know that there is nothing you need to do to have them love you and nothing you can ever do that would cause them to stop.

What separates you from this love now if not just a mere thought, a belief without ground or substance as ephemeral as a wisp of smoke?

What will it take for you to cast off this wretched lie that you are somehow imperfect? What is the key you need to escape this mind prison that keeps you from the truth of who you really are? If I had the power to give you that key I would grant it in a heartbeat for the sake of all humanity. But it is you and you alone who hold that key. I am only here to help you remember that.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ayahuasca Vision

We had assembled in the darkness around the perimeter of the inner wall of the thatched roofed temple. We were called in groups of ten to the alter where the shaman dispensed the reddish brown liquid. Each of us was given a cup from which to drink. In my hand I held a scrap of paper to be left on the alter on which I had written, as the shaman had requested, my question for Mother Ayahuasca, “What more can you show me?”

As I returned to my place on the bench the sickly sweet taste of the shaman’s brew lingered in my mouth. What had I done, swallowing this strange concoction of leaves and vines deep in a dark jungle, far away from the nearest hospital? What if Ayahuasca was in fact a poison and I was about to have a self-induced agonizing near death experience filled with terror and trepidation?

I sat with my palms over my eyes and my elbows on my knees as the shaman had instructed, blocking out even slightest glimmer of light. A few minutes passed and my frightening thoughts gave way to a profound sense of comfort and well being. I could feel my heart beat as I settled into the darkness.

Then in my mind’s eye I began to picture images. At first the images were just thoughts or long forgotten memories of places and faces that had become nameless as the years had passed. But soon the vague images were replaced with dancing patterns of light of bright neon colors of pink, yellow and blue. The more attention I gave the patterns the more intense they became until I could make out geometric shapes. Like a series of lights around an old fashioned movie marquee they danced, triangles and squares within boxes. But if I were to attempt to look and any one dancing object it suddenly winked out but the dancing patterns remained. It occurred to me that I was staring into the vibrating energy that constitutes the very fabric of matter. I was front row center to an imagined reality that defies any detailed examination. Indeed it was clear to me that without the mind that interprets and believes what it perceives is solid there is nothing but this shapeless energy.

The more I stared at the undulating patterns the more intense they became. My mind began to spin as I felt myself being pulled into the dance. I felt my will begin resist the vortex when I suddenly remembered my question “What more can you show me?”.

Immediately the colors began to fade into brown patterns on a black background then darkness, just darkness. Then a pinpoint of light appeared in the distance. I sensed myself being drawn to the light as it seemed to grow brighter until I recognized it as a room with windows on each wall, we me inside. I looked through each window to see a “different world” outside.

I was drawn to one window in particular as I watched two huge blue men outside engaged in a hand to hand knife fight. I was immediately drawn through the window and the titans stood right before me. As they circled each other I felt an intense fear. One of the combatants shoved the other but defying the laws of physics it was he himself who fell back.

Then without warning I found myself suddenly in the body of one of the huge men! Now it was I that was the object of his intense rage. Terrified I swung my blade and caught my opponent just below the shoulder. But surprisingly I felt the sting and looked down to find my own arm had been cut. In an angry gesture he raised his weapon and I realized I must act immediately. I turned my knife and plunged it deep into my own chest. I watched as he fell to the floor and died.

Saturday, December 03, 2011


The universe is always giving us something in every moment. What makes the difference between being happy and being unhappy is that we have preferences. The world offers pain and pleasure, joy and sadness. We cannot escape what we are given. We cannot change the way the world is in any given moment. Our having preferences only adds suffering on top of our experience of what is given. When we get what we prefer we suffer that we may lose it. When we get what we do not prefer we suffer over what we believe we should have gotten.

The truth is that we can experience pain without suffering and pleasure without worry that it may end. But we must be willing to live in the moment. We must be willing to fully experience what we are given without thoughts of the past or future. It is only then that we can truly experience being alive.

Living in the moment is a practice that we take on so that we can fully experience being alive. The past is gone there is no life there. There are only fleeting memories of moments that are no longer real. The future is yet to be created. What we seek to create in the future is given by how we are in the present moment. It makes no sense to live in the future. It makes no sense to live for the future.

The mind is a great tool for learning from the past and imagining the future. It is not a place to live. The mind will allow us to glimpse into a past that was and a future that has never been. The mind will allow us to re-experience moments of both sadness and joy. We are the masters of our minds. We can choose our experience past, present and future.

We can have no experience of a world devoid of pain any more than we can experience a world without joy. We cannot experience the light without the darkness. We can only know love by the experience also of its absence. But the mind tricks us into imagining these extremes, so we long for a world where there is no pain and live in fear of the possibility of a world where there is no peace, all the time forsaking the experience of the moment.

All there is to do is to fully experience each moment. And to derive from each moment the pain and joy that we must have to feel truly alive. We are not the victims of our experience. We are not at the mercy of our circumstances. We are the creators! To fully live is to take on the responsibility for how we experience each moment. By choosing to fully experience what is given in each moment, both pain and pleasure, we choose to live fully and powerfully. We cannot choose what life will give us we can only choose how we receive it, with gratitude or with trepidation.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Final Embrace

I turned down an unfamiliar street. I saw her coming in the opposite direction. It had been years since our parting. She was as radiant and beautiful as the day when we had first met decades ago.

Without speaking a word she caught me in a full embrace. I felt her slender body as we touched. A smile spread across her face the like of which I had never seen in all the years we had been together.

“I can forgive you now.” She said, “I can forgive you for not giving me all the things I thought the world owed me. I can forgive it all now because I can finally forgive myself and stop blaming the world for being such a wretched place.”

A sense of relief and completion came over me as I embraced her once again. Then suddenly I awoke alone in the dark. I gazed at the foot of my bed into the dim shadows that filled my bedroom half expecting to see her there but there was nothing, nothing but the memory of that final embrace.