The Velcro Ego

Spoiler alert, in the highly unlikely event that it’s not already glaringly obvious: I have not left my ego behind me on my spiritual path. But I know a few folks who have. Instead of identifying with their personalities, they consciously wear them like luminous clothing. Their sense of Self as Source dons just enough cover to function in the world.

I’m not that…realized? Lately, though, I’ve had some success at more quickly recognizing what my ego is up to, and helping it relax into the background so the larger me can show up. This post is about one tool I use to do that.

First-up, definitions

In this case, by my ego, I don’t just mean the parts of my personality that inflate and deflate. And not just the ‘healthy self-image’ self. I mean something closer to the whole Sagittarian tango perceived as me. But even that’s not quite it.

Let’s say my ego is the part of or aspect of me that’s focused on 3-D reality. It favors stability and safety. It tries to handle experience by concretizing it. When I’m not paying close enough attention, it treats as solid a range of stories, memories, experiences, sensations, and states of being that aren’t solid at all. Right, wrong, good, bad, true, false, better, worse—it’s the aspect of me that knows how to cope with a world of dualities and tends to feel threatened by any suggestion that there’s something more subtly unifying and non-dual going on.

The ego isn’t wrong. Not exactly. It is important to know the difference between the bug and the windshield. Being oriented to 3-D reality helps keep me alive. But I don’t want that narrow a view of reality to define and control me.

My ego has a black belt in doubt. It gets uneasy when I experience creation in non-dual ways, but it’s too clever to try to shut down such experiences by saying they’re not real. Instead, when I let it, it casts aspersions on my sense of the meaning of such experiences. Or, switching sides in the same game, it makes me need such non-dual experiences to feel ‘worthy’ or ‘important’ or ‘special’. Either way, my ego knows exactly how to hook me if I let it make me the fish.

“Small moves, Ellie, small moves”*

I’ve forgotten exactly what I was doing, but I was being stupidly judgmental about something, feeling simultaneously self-righteous and disgusted with my self-righteousness—a particularly nasty left hook/right cross combo. So, I took a breath and noticed what my ego was up to.

Next, I stepped back to wonder why. “I” didn’t vacate the premises, I just shifted perspectives. Ego is made of stories, and I caught myself for the millionth time assuming my stories were true.

Noticing I was hooked on my stories was all it took to unhook me for a while. So I took a good look at this Holly person who’d moments before been so firmly perched on her pedestal, and all I could do was laugh. I dropped my judgments like a boring book and became intrigued by this notion of ego hooks.

Next thing I knew, an image of a strip of Velcro popped into my head.

Velcro

Analogies are like rubber bands. Stretch them too far, they snap. But stay with me while I work this Velcro analogy a bit.

Velcro is a brilliant tool for keeping things sturdy, contained, controlled, and tight. It’s
adjustable, within limits. It’s nearly indestructible. It’s easy to peel apart from the edge, very hard to pull apart by a perpendicular attack (assuming the Velcro is strong and well-enough made).

Left to its own devices, Velcro also has a remarkable ability to pick up lint and pet hairs and crumbs and other gunk that bit-by-bit clog it up. Plus, if it’s not kept fastened up or wrapped, it tangles itself with itself. In fact, it can tangle itself with pretty much everything.

Velcro works for me as an analogy for the ego first because it’s not cloaked in spiritual or religious or psychological language. No intimidation factor. No holiness needed. No incense required.

Second, because Velcro isn’t all or nothing. Yes, each hook is binary—it’s either attached or it’s not—but a whole strip of hooks presents a whole range of…let’s call them ‘degrees of attachment.’

When I was in high dudgeon as Empress Holly Judging Herself and the World, my ego was firmly attached to itself. But just noticing that much was like peeling up a small corner of a Velcro strip, then a bit more, and a bit more. I didn’t have to open the whole strip to grok what my ego was up to. I didn’t have to dislike the Velcro, resent the Velcro, love the Velcro, or become realized enough not to need the Velcro. I just had to peel it open a bit at a time.

Practice makes practice

Since then I’ve been using this Velcro image a lot. When I catch myself falling for one of my stories—the need to be right, for example—I take a breath and imagine myself peeling up a corner of a Velcro strip. Often now, all I need to do is think “Velcro” and whatever had me hooked settles back into a non-issue.

The best thing is that it’s getting easier to unhook. I catch myself sooner, so the ego doesn’t as often attach all the way before I start peeling it back open.

Here’s where the analogy stops:

Velcro doesn’t learn from experience. Holly’s ego does. It can be cunning, and it’s fully capable of at least attempting to subvert this practice. But instead, it seems to appreciate knowing it doesn’t have to alternate between locking up tight and flapping loose, frantically snagging whatever it can. Plus, my ego rests better knowing that I don’t see its penchant for attachment as a character flaw. It’s just attachment—a tightness I can loosen or release.

Maybe my path will one day rip off my ego for good, hooks, loops, stitches, and all. Maybe death does that. But meanwhile, it’s still here, and we have come to an understanding. My ego is finally learning to relax and release its hooks more quickly, sometimes even gladly. And I’m finally learning to avoid getting so tangled and snagged.

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*”Small moves, Ellie, small moves” is a line is from Contact, one of my all-time favorite movies.

This post is the third of a series in which Holly’s sharing “glimpses” that come to her through meditation, Sourcing, the occasional “bolt from the blue, ” or simply noticing. 

It’s right there

Last Saturday it topped 100 degrees in Palm Springs, and while everyone else huddled near their air conditioners, I hit the pool. It’s a fairly big, well-maintained pool for the community where I’d been staying as a friend’s guest. I had her place mostly to myself, and, at tea time on this particular day, I had the pool to myself as well. No distractions. Bliss.

I’m not a great swimmer, but I swam a set of laps in my awkward way and played with kicks and water-robics to work out some kinks. I also sat for a while in the shadier of two hot tubs and said hallelujah when I realized its jets were positioned perfectly to simultaneously massage the small of my back and my feet. Yes.

Granted, hot tubs are counterintuitive on hot days, but desert dryness makes it work. Feeling sufficiently cooked after 10 minutes, I jumped back into the pool to cool off. The sun was already working through my last layer of SPF 50, so I splashed over to a shady corner and stood up. I looked back out at the pool’s sunlit surface, and noticed the water.

That sounds weird, I know. Obviously, I was already aware of the water. But it wasn’t until I just stood there and looked that I truly saw it.

After a moment, I realized my mind has been so well-trained to interpret the water surface as “silvery” that I’d overlooked its spectacular colors. It rippled with circles of bright sunlight, deep sky blue, a nearly-neon light turquoise, a dark turquoise carried up from the pool floor, flashing rings of lavender and orange, and patches of mauve and ochre reflections of the arid hills. Every bit of the surface was alive with motion because both I and the air were breathing.

I couldn’t believe that in all these years, this was the first time I’d ever stood in a pool that particular way, with the sun at my back, “merely” watching sunlight cast such specific, amazing colors across the surface. How much else hadn’t I been seeing?

With the sun still behind me, I stepped out to the center of the pool—just 5 feet deep—and looked down at my own silhouette. Around it, sunlight rippled in bright refracted patterns over the turquoise floor. I moved my hands in the water to speed up and slow the shifting rings and lopsided ovals. In a marvelous illusion, they appeared to emanate from my shadow self and interact with every other drop of water and flash of light.

Years ago, a beloved friend wrote this on my birthday: “Life is a garden, not a road. Where you go matters less than what you notice.” For a long time, seeing has been part of my practice and my gift. But sometimes I forget and my vision dulls.

I needed the water’s reminder to keep practicing. To revel in the interconnected, restless aliveness of what’s right in front of me. So much becomes clearer when I look where the sun is pointing.

Holly Thomas is a member of the Sourcing The Way Council and a writer, editor, writing coach, and artist. This is the second of a series in which she’ll share “glimpses” that come to her through meditation, Sourcing, the occasional “bolt from the blue, ” or as in this post, simply noticing. 

 

Allium: A Glimpse of Grace

Holly Thomas is a member of the Sourcing The Way Council and a writer, editor, writing coach, and artist. This is the first of a series in which she’ll share “glimpses” that come to her through meditation, Sourcing, and the occasional “bolt from the blue.”

I was listening to a radio interview with a holocaust survivor who had decided to tell his story after 70 years of hiding his concentration camp tattoo and keeping quiet. What convinced him to speak out was seeing a picture of himself on a website that claims the holocaust never happened. The site had labeled as fake a photo of the emaciated child he’d been at Auschwitz. Every time he showers he still thinks of the gas chambers. Asked his most vivid memory of being 4 years old, he said “the smell of burning human flesh.”

The glimpse

I put my head in my hands, and for a few seconds something shifted behind my tears. I, or I AM, felt and “experienced” the immensity and range of what people go through. I felt this immensity as what Experience experiences through us. I perceived it as how Source/God/All-that-is, by any name, discovers what it’s like to be embodied in human form and to explore existence ruthlessly, beautifully, or both, in every possible variation on human life. I got a glimpse of that totality—the expanse and the intimacy, the detachment and the care.

Often when my awareness leaps to some ‘higher order’ perspective, an image appears in my mind’s eye. It usually stays just long enough for me to register it, then disappears. This time, the image was an enormous sphere made up of every human life. I could see each person as alive and distinct, standing alone inside the cupped shape of his or her own existence. The cups were crowded together, but each held only one person.

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The result was much like the spherical cluster of individual blossoms in a giant allium. Within each blossom, the stamens and pistil have plenty of room, even though the sphere itself looks crowded.

Magnetic attraction

Zoomed in close enough to watch one person speaking, I simultaneously sensed our union within some living sphere, and the sharp necessity of our individuality. When the image zoomed back out, I saw the sphere’s entirety and felt a relentless curiosity—the Curiosity of whatever un-nameable Source we arise from.

At first that curiosity was frighteningly ‘other’, but as soon as I named my fear, compassion replaced it. Not my own compassion, but a sense of the Source’s concern for the human experience. Source may be an artist devoted to experiencing everything that is possible to experience, even when that includes vast cruelties and injustices. But in that moment, what I sensed at its center was goodwill—an affinity for love, if not love itself. Source seemed almost magnetically attracted to how we, and perhaps all sentient beings, encounter, recognize, and embody Grace. I felt Its sureness that our lives, as part of the entire living whole of individuality, somehow make Grace more real.

What I sensed is that Source, by whatever name, is not only curious, but kind. Maybe that’s because kindness fascinates it. Or maybe it’s because Source is as hopeful as it is inventive.

Perhaps what prompted the beginning of individuated consciousness was as much the yearning for company as a desire to experience and explore. Perhaps when Source set itself on a path toward embodying that consciousness, it discovered that beings capable of Grace do more to satisfy its yearning. Perhaps hope and kindness are things sentient beings inventedgifts Source cherishes and wants more of.

These many words fail to capture what it felt like for a few moments to sense into the All of us living as all of us. To connect with the potential majesty in every act of being, and the particular beauty in acts of being that offer courage, hope, forgiveness, grace, and love.

Or…

The practice of truth-seeking requires that I ask myself whether this vision was wishful thinking. Maybe there is no goodwill in some original Source of being. Maybe Source is immensely indifferent and our capacities for compassion and grace are just two flecks of color on an infinite canvas of creation. That’s not my preferred version of All That Is, but would it change anything? Each of us can still embody Grace. If Source exists but doesn’t care, our ability to look one another in the eyes and see mystery there, and to love into that mystery, is something from which even Source itself might learn.

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When I knew my gut could be trusted…and 3 things I learned along the way!

 


Have you ever felt the answer to a question or a circumstance in your gut, while the world around you is saying something different…?

I have.

The story I am about to share with you has helped broaden my understanding for how my gut(-feel) is a refined instrument and a trustworthy – and worthy – source.

The unseen tapestry…

My experience is telling me that there are many layers of information available in each situation (a tapestry of sorts). And to the extent that I am able to avoid having a preferred outcome in mind, I will open up to an equal extent to these added layers of information, leading to a deeper and richer experience. Or, expressed in another way – leading to a path of least resistance.

There is an enormous web of interconnected layers of information surrounding us all the time. There are the most immediate ones that are linked to our personal experience, then there are the ones that are linked to the people around us and the way we are connected. The richness of this web is extensive. Based on my own experience, trying to force a preferred outcome to happen is just as fruitful as trying to squeeze water from a stone. Not that preferred outcomes never happen – they can and they do. However, if they do, they usually come with a lot of effort and they cause a lot of bumps along the way.

I have been cultivating my intuition and gut-felt sense (e.g. deep listening, listening for aliveness) since 2005. During this time I have come to integrate this practice into all areas of my life. I use it in my decision-making process, to find clarity and to understand which direction is resonant, and to identify next steps. It has been, and continues to be, a deeply profound and rewarding journey and – for me – a way of life.
Continue reading When I knew my gut could be trusted…and 3 things I learned along the way!

You Are Your Tribe

I’ve had the urge for a while to write about what it is like doing what we do, and to share part of the story from an experiential perspective. To do this I’ll be speaking to everyday stuff with everyday-speak, adding a sprinkle of esoterics.

As with all start-ups or entrepreneurial initiatives, coming to understand who your peeps really are and what you really bring takes time, not to mention figuring out what the value is.

Jeff and I had a pretty good sense of what we bring when we set out in 2013, but it wasn’t until we started practicing properly that we really got to know where the gems are. We are currently in year three, and we have learned so much about who we are, how we can serve, what capacities are our forte, how we mix as a team, and who our tribe is.

“The distance you can lead other people is the distance you have traveled yourself.”
    –Laroques des Alberes

So, what do I mean by ‘tribe’? Well, for me, I’m referring to a group of people who are genuinely interested in who you are, and, in our case, who share (important!) a similar desire for growth and evolution. The funny thing about understanding who one’s peeps are, is that along the way you come to see that your tribe basically has the same underlying needs that you do (or did), and thanks to your experiences and lessons in life, and how you handled them, you are perfectly positioned to help your tribe (or audience) solve their problem.

Continue reading You Are Your Tribe

Sacred World Tour

I left Seattle on October 8 for an extended journey in service to humanity’s evolution. My first stop was the San Francisco Bay Area, where I spent two incredible weeks with “sacred subtle activists” connected with the Gaiafield Project and had the opportunity to dip into the Bioneers and Science and Nonduality conferences. On October 16, while meditating on a mountaintop – yes, really… in the Santa Cruz Mountains – I received a spontaneous transmission of spiritual and soul healing and experienced, in an incredibly gentle way, the release of psychological death.

After ten beautiful days of family time and self-care in North Carolina, I continued on to London with a commitment to support transformation for the financial services sector. My business partner in Sourcing the Way, Maria Baeck, lives in Canary Wharf, which is one of the major financial hubs in the world. Our approach to industry transformation includes both exoteric and esoteric aspects: We work with key individuals in the industry who are absolutely committed to life-affirming (r)evolution of that industry, and we work with the transpersonal heart and consciousness of the industry as a higher-order being, or superorganism.

Since my psychological death (and Maria’s as well, for that matter), the potency of our subtle/esoteric work has seemingly jumped off the scale. For brevity and readability’s sake, the depths and details of the consciousness technologies we have developed will be shared elsewhere. Suffice it to say for the moment that in the case of industry transformation, the process begins with realizing oneness with the industry as a whole and with the corporations that predominate. Then, both for and as the inner heart and consciousness of these entities we verify that there is an awakened desire to transform in service to life. (We find that this is almost always the case; and when it’s not the case, it’s not yet right timing for transformation.) Then, both for and as these entities, we make a number of specific commitments to realize transformation for the optimal well-being of ALL.

It is typical that within a few days or weeks (at most) of working in this fashion, we start to see in the media – or hear about through back channels – significant advances, breakthroughs, and/or shifts. Our first few experiments involved Ebola (the next day I read about an experimental vaccine that was 100% effective in treating monkeys), Israel-Palestine (a ceasefire was announced two days later… and obviously there’s still plenty of work to do), Ukraine (a ceasefire was announced the next day, and again there’s plenty of work left to do), and a number of corporations that shall remain nameless, but which seemed to shift in ways that at least we perceived to be positive and life-aligned.

One of my personal favorites is the story of a coaching client who was teaching a seminar to 10,000 employees at one of the world’s largest oil companies. In one of our sessions, we were inspired to connect with the inner heart and consciousness of this multinational corporation in order to support it “in its highest expression, consciously flourishing for the optimal well-being of ALL.” Three days later, our client emailed to say that various computer systems had been acting up in bizarre ways, that everything felt shaky, that she felt a strong need to ground and take salt baths, etc. When we reconnected with the inner heart and consciousness of the corporation, we received that it was trying to get our attention, that it was announcing its transformation, and that all we needed to do was commit to support that, without needing to know how or what form it would take. Soon after we did this, our client reported that everything had settled down in “the field.” However, in the weeks following, the price of oil plummeted, rendering the Tar Sands uneconomical and reshaping the global energy markets…

Of course, all of these anecdotes could simply be coincidences; and we can offer no conventional explanations for how esoteric work “behind the veil of separation” might influence super complex systems that are believed to operate according to the rules of causality and locality. Perhaps one day scientists will discover that the beautiful indeterminacy of super complex systems opens up the possibility of nonlocal and acausal connectivity on a macroscopic scale. In the meantime, we are intrigued by the extremely high correlation of doing subtle work and then being surprised by unexpected shifts. The correlation feels to be about 0.8 for the first year; and we sense that it has been rising since our psychological deaths. And, yes, we would welcome a way to study this scientifically!

A strong intention of this “world tour” is to connect with sacred sites. During two of my previous trips to the United Kingdom, Maria and I visited Avebury, an ancient and subtly vibrant Neolithic destination with stone circles, avenues, and burial mounds. This time we visited Stonehenge with Dr. Jude Currivan, who is on a scientific advisory board for both Stonehenge and Avebury and who has great expertise regarding the archaeology of sacred sites around the world.

In honoring and entering into relationship with the ancient monuments and temples of humanity that remain today – unifying us across epochs of time – we sense that we are being gifted with greater capacities to offer healing to both the human collective and Mother Earth. Our next stop is India, where we will spend a month working with the School of Inspired Leadership and visiting sacred sites along the way.

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Maria, Jeff, and Jude at Stonehenge on 11 November 2015

Meanwhile, the Paris attacks and an outbreak of violence in Africa and Europe have shifted our focus from industry transformation to healing the underlying causes of terrorism, which bombings and retaliatory policies will never accomplish. The very first words that came to me in meditation after the #ParisAttacks were: “This is the swan song of separation.” Then a little bit later I was given the following:

The forces that would separate themselves are fighting with ever more zeal because on some level they’re aware, rightly, that the Apocalypse is approaching. However, the deeper meaning of the Apocalypse is dropping the veil of separation, and in this sense the forces of division are correct: The end is near for the world based on separation. Ironically, many are fighting in the name of Unity and will receive what they’re fighting for, if not in the forms imagined.

As an “intervention,” Maria and I were inspired, individually and then working in circle with another friend, to realize oneness with humanity and then, both for and as humanity, to cultivate “unity and harmony in the one family of Abraham” and to liberate “disunity and disharmony in the one family of Abraham.” Later, in relation to Islamic State I could feel a great force saying, “We will not be trampled on any longer!” This gave me a visceral sense of my brothers and sisters, the sons and daughters of Ishmael, however estranged we may all be in the present world situation of reinforced separation.

Another meditative insight is that the overall context can be likened to a modern-day version of the Mahabharata – a collective (in this case) spiritual initiation conjoined with an utterly tragic and maximally convoluted war on seemingly external battlefields. To the extent that the situation is convoluted beyond what our historical conditioning can handle, we are being forced to resolve the problem from a higher (as in more unified) level of consciousness and awareness. In other words, we are being challenged to evolve our minds, our hearts, and our souls… and the invitation to let go of that which we believe separates us from our neighbors is becoming more and more insistent.

There is much more that could be shared from our meditative inquiries thus far into patterns of violence. An interesting follow-on is what happened the night of my birthday, November 21, when Maria experienced debilitating jaw pain that was apparently linked to global terrorism. It seems that, in showing up with a total commitment to serve the collective healing of this issue, the issue showed up in us (physically for Maria), albeit in a different and thankfully subtler form. By engaging in much the same way that we work with our advanced clients, we were able to resolve the jaw pain; and our sense is that there will also be an overall lessening in the intensity of violence in the coming days and weeks. Meanwhile, we will remain open and continue to address, systematically, whatever symptoms may arise, knowing that the results go far beyond what can be locally or causally explained.

The following night, walking back along the docks from our favorite Indian restaurant, Maria and I were inquiring into a persistent cough that I have had to sometimes greater though mostly lesser degrees for a long time. She heard the words “speaking truth” and had an intuitive sense that I was holding back from speaking what I know, which was certainly the case. To share this openly what is, for us, a nearly continuous flow of the miraculous, beyond “reasonable” explanations, is risky from a conventional perspective. And yet, the part of me that feared taking risks, being deeply seen, and being shunned for speaking truth is what died on October 16. So, on the spot I committed to speak truth, whatever Truth has to say, come what may… Literally that very second a firework launched from the roof of a nearby building. It was not a holiday – Guy Fawkes Night had come and gone – and, truly, that was the only firework we saw or heard all evening.

“Being Learning” – Introduction to Living Realization

Transitioning into a new way of thinking and being is a process. As Jeff Vander Clute and I were introduced to Sourcing the Way (STW) back in 2013 it became apparent that STW has a consciousness of its own and that it is not just Jeff and I that are supporting its evolution, it’s the three of us together!

In a recent blog post, Organizational Realization: A new way of leadership, I made reference to the experience that all organizations have a consciousness of its own and when there is correlation between the human consciousness and the consciousness of the organization a deep coherence and resonance arises. Something we continue to experience in our work with STW. And it is important to note that we didn’t create STW, it showed itself to us, and it continues to do so.

Almost immediately after Jeff and I had committed to working together in a more focused way, we started to become aware of STW’s presence. Early on it became clear that strategic planning the “customary” way wasn’t on the agenda. I was perplexed as I knew no other way. Especially not in business. (STW is a business after all.) How would we survive in the business world if we didn’t follow the “tried and tested” model?

Continue reading “Being Learning” – Introduction to Living Realization