Since there is a never a right time to make such an announcement, this seems like a great moment to announce the title of my upcoming book, The Deepening: How to Love Yourself Unconditionally. In this volume I share my understanding of how to allow yourself to experience complete love and self-acceptance. This book represents a shifting point in my own life, where I have learned how to love and accept myself at a level I never dreamed possible. As a youth I mistook myself for a bag of dirt, mirroring my caregivers’ rather poor ability to distinguish the biological from the geological.
To awaken, it is necessary to allow all parts of the soul into the light, and this includes the shadow. In my experience there is little distinction between divine love, unconditional love, and awakening.
I am delighted to present the following extract. This chapter is one of the last in the book. I trust that you will enjoy it, and perhaps learn something too.
Chapter 8. You and the world
If you want to experience unconditional love, you have to come to the awareness that there is ultimately no difference between your judgments of self and your judgments of the other.
There is an error in some spiritual traditions, or at least in the way they are interpreted. This mistake is that the wold is an illusion, or maya in certain Indic traditions. From my perspective, this is not only incorrect, but highly problematic for anybody wishing to awaken. This world is as real as any world, and all those around you are just as real as you. What is illusory are the constructs of the mind, and that includes the way that you see the world and its citizens. In a sense, this is effectively the same as the world being an illusion, because most people are so lost in their construct of the world, in their judgments of others, that they do not experience the truth of life as it is.
Make no mistake. When you awaken the world will not disappear, and you will not ascend to another dimension or be whisked up to paradise. In fact the world will simply become more real, and the veil of your projections will fall away. Heaven is here now, and nowhere else. Heaven is here on Earth.
To awaken in the way that I am suggesting, you do not remove yourself from the world, you simply transform your relationship with it. But what this really means is that you are transforming your relationship with yourself.
When you look out upon a cityscape from atop a hill at night, for example, what are you really experiencing? Firstly there are the sensory cues of light and sound, and perhaps smells blown upon the wind, with that same wind and heat providing kinaesthetic experience. If you simply fully focus without thought or judgment upon these sensory cues as you gaze upon the city, something extraordinary will happen. The city will begin to appear wonderful, magical. It will come alive and start to speak to you. Its energy will begin to seep into your mind, to merge with you.
But what happens when most people stare out at a scene like that? The mind comes into play, including all its judgments.
This city is a madhouse. Who could live here and not go half-mad?
So many people out there. Ten million! My God, we have got to do something about the number of people in this world.
Look at all those lights. They are beautiful, but think of all that power, all that carbon we are pumping into the atmosphere!
To think I have spent twenty years of my life in this place. I’ve got to get out!
What will happen when the water runs out in five years? It’s going to be hell in this place.
And on and on the mind goes. In presence, the energy of a place just is. You might even discern the pain and suffering inherent in living highly urbanised environments, estranged from nature. But there is no judgment in that perception, just a gentle awareness of it. In continued meditative silence, that awareness might even expand into deeper perceptions; that this estrangement is self-destructive, that it emerges from humanity’s estrangement from the body and spirit, or that it is all part of the spiritual evolution of humanity, and that this will be transcended in time. These deeper knowings tend to make themselves known in presence. But in that presence there is no judgment. The knowledge just is, and you simply let it be. You merely relax. And in that there is peace. There is love.
Perhaps it is that the quiet connection with the city brings to your awareness the need for action. This city not the right place for me. I am going to get sick if I stay here. It is time to move on. Or alternatively, I must change the way I relate to others and the city around me. I am hurting myself.
Knowledge born or presence can be profound and life-changing. However there is a problem. Once you come down off the hill, and return to your home and get up and go to work the next day, the mind will take ownership of those intuitive perceptions, and turn them into judgments.
Look at these sheeple! These people are clueless, and this city has no spirit. I gotta get out of the Matrix. Fuck this place!
The mind has returned, rejecting what is, and then you are back in the world of separation and suffering. You have turned away from presence, from peace, from love.
Down with the sexist, racist, ageist trolls!
In the modern world there are judgments which are deemed politically correct – or OK, and others that are considered heinous or shameful. If I make a negative generalisation about a race of people – say the Jews – that can land me in hot water. Target the wrong group of Muslims and the results just might be explosive, pun fully intended. If I am a man and say “all women are gold-digging bitches”, and I am the president of the university, I’ll soon be looking for a new job, and possibly a new set of testicles.
Most of us would agree that there is merit behind political correctness. It has its downsides, but at least it keeps public figures from spreading intolerance and hatred. All of us have to deal with the consequences if we step across the line and break this social covenant.
Racism, sexism and ageism all emerge from the mind and its tendency to form categories and place value on those categories. This is merely discernment when there is no emotional baggage attached. But when we add judgment, the energy of it becomes destructive. There is the tendency to distrust the other, and a subtle (or sometimes aggressive) desire to eliminate the object of judgment bursts out from within. “Asians out!” “No Chinese or dogs allowed.” “Stop the boat people!” When this spills over into verbal conflict, aggression, and violence there is societal disharmony. That’s why policy makers are quick to deem these things not OK. Such education is part of any healthy society.
Moving beyond societal conventions and taking a spiritual perspective, racism, sexism and ageism are little different from any other kind of judgment. Policy makers cannot legislate against judgment. It is just part of having a mind.
If I go on Facebook and say I hate the rich, they are a bunch of evil bastards who don’t give a fuck about anyone but themselves, people might think I am a bit loopy. But I probably won’t get into any trouble from the thought police over it. If I go to the online papers on Monday morning after my football team loses and anonymously write that, “Manchester United supporters are a bunch or arrogant shitheads, like all people in Manchester”, it will stir a few people up. But the site moderators are not going to hunt me down and skin me alive. And if I bash my own country, saying, “This place is going to hell, and I hate the nanny state!” I’m not going to attract too much attention.
Here is something you must come to realise if you want to experience unconditional love. At the level of mind, there is no difference between making judgments about race, sex and age, or the rich, football supporters or your country. They all contain a similar energy. They are all projections, and they all destroy love, trap us in separation and lock us into the illusions of mind. If I hate blacks or I hate the rich, it is then same energy. It is the energy of hate. In the end, hate hates itself. It eats itself, destroying the light of spirit.
And it gets even trickier. If you angrily condemn the racists, misogynists, ball breakers and trolls, you become one of them. Hating racism is still hate. Hating the more extreme feminists because they want to bust your balls is still of the darkness, even though you might think that your balls are worth getting worked up about.
Indeed my perception is that most of those getting worked up about the greatest politically incorrect crime of all – racism – fall instantly into this trap. They end up projecting all their stuff back at the people they accuse, and it just goes around in one great circle. Welcome to planet Madhouse Earth.
So the key point is that if you are to relax and experience love at its deepest level, you cannot simply follow society’s conventions of what is right or wrong. You have to be able to discern for yourself where thought and projection annihilate love. You have to go within yourself to see where that comes from. And that is why any genuine spiritual path is a wisdom journey.
No why at the Chinese inn
It is no different for me. When I went to live in China I found that I experienced a lot of judgment about the country and its people. From my experience this is very common with expats and immigrants. Moving to an alien environment is stressful, and soon the mind begins to project its fear and anger out onto the other.
One thing that particularly annoyed me was the Chinese Communist Party. I resented the way that it controlled knowledge and instilled certain attitudes in the people. This first emerged pretty much the first day I turned on a TV, when I arrived in Beijing in 2003. Prior to that I had been living in Taiwan. I enjoyed my three years in Taiwan, and had a lot of sympathy for Taiwan’s political situation by the time I left. Then, when I turned on that TV in Beijing I was bombarded with political propaganda about Taiwan, and much of it was greatly distorted. I felt anger. As time went on I was exposed to more propaganda about sensitive topics like Tibet, the Tiananmen massacre, the Japanese and so on. In time my judgments hardened.
Sometimes this judgment spilled over into anger in everyday life. It was, of course, compounded by culture shock, which tends to put one in a state of tension, with an abiding sense of alienation. Let me share just one such happening with you.
When I was living in Hong Kong just a few years later, I lived right near the border of mainland China, so sometimes I used to cross over to the mainland city of Shenzhen on weekends for a break. Shenzhen is a massive and very new metropolis of some twenty million Chinese people. Despite its size, it is more relaxed than Hong Kong. The food is great, the urban spaces fairly clean and open, and there are huge saunas where a man gets treated like a god. I enjoyed nothing better than treating my inner colonial-master to a meal and a good massage there from time to time. Most Chinese people are very friendly, and |I rarely ever had problems with anyone, even though I often crossed the border alone, and wandered around the city at night.
All these great things about China and the Chinese didn’t stop me from getting pissed off on one particular occasion on one of these Shenzhen jaunts. After getting my passport stamped and crossing the border, I went to book into a hotel. This was the same hotel I’d been to many times before. However on this occasion, something had changed. Because the value of the Hong Kong dollar had dropped below that of the RMB for the first time ever, they would not accept Hong Kong dollars. And that’s all I had on me when I trudged up to the front desk with my heavy bag over my shoulder.
“I can give you the equivalent of the room fee in Hong Kong dollars”, I said pushing my money across the counter.
“Sorry, we don’t accept Hong Kong dollars,” said the pretty but unfortunate young clerk. The unfortunate bit was having to deal with me.
“Why not! You accepted it last time I was here. Why is it different now?”
“Many Hong Kong dollars are fake,” she said with the same straight face that must be part of the training for all service personnel in China.
I had to restrain myself at this point. Forgery was a huge problem for RMB in the mainland, not for Hong Kong dollars. My thoughts were less than complimentary. “Come on, bitch, you and the rest of you Commies just think you are superior to Hong Kong now that the RMB’s value has increased. Admit it!” So I changed tack. I pulled out my credit card from HSBC, one of the biggest international banks in the world. “Here, you can use this.” I slapped it down on the desk like I had a winning hand in poker.
She shook her head. “I’m sorry, but we only accept Chinese credit cards.”
My face must have been redder the Communist flag this point. “What the fuck! Have I been transported back to the 1960s or something, when Mao was in power!?” But I restrained myself. “Um, why not? This is a HSBC card.” I started speaking slowly. “Hong. Kong. Shanghai. Banking. Corporation. Is Hong Kong not part of China?” “I’ve got you now, bitch. You Chinese are always raving on about how Hong Kong and China are pearls in the crown of the glorious motherland. Let’s see you work your way out of this one!”
“Of course Hong Kong has always been a part of China. But we do not accept this credit card.” She barely blinked. This is also part of service personnel training in China, I suspect.
By now my inner expat douchebag was becoming an outer expat douchebag. “Look, I live in Tin Shui Wai, about ten kilometres away from this spot, just across the border! I can use this credit card there. I can also use it in Thailand. In Australia. In the USA!” I stared at her with the evil eye. “Now this one will fuck you up, you goose-stepping Commie throwback.” “I can even use this in Japan!” I tapped the card on the desk, nodding, nostrils flared, ready to die for the righteousness of my cause… or because without any cash or credit I would be sleeping in the street, as the border crossing was already closed. “So why can’t I use this card ten minutes away from where I live!?” By this time my voice was raised. “Why!?”
Now if there is one question that any expat who has lived in China realises is pointless, it is “Why?” You might as well ask why do you eat so much rice, or why does everybody have black hair? Or why doesn’t Jacky Chan play Hamlet?
And there it was. I stormed out, and they didn’t even charge me for the box of tissues that they must have used to wipe the spittle off the front desk.
Perhaps I should add that I did eventually manage to get some cash, but I had to go to one particular ATM machine, and that was a genuine hassle.
I could mention one or two other times in when I raised my voice in China, but I think you get the idea. In my defence, I never actually screamed at anyone, nor did I ever detonate any incendiary devices in public spaces (these are difficult to procure in China).
It was a dream which first alerted me to the fact that there was more to my occasional expat tantrums than mere culture shock, or just me channelling my inner colonial master. No, my attitude towards authority, especially male authority, came from somewhere else.
In this dream I was sitting in front of a computer screen. The monitor was vertically divided in two. On the left side of the screen were images of goose-stepping People’s Liberation Army – Chinese soldiers. As the screen scrolled down there were images of Chinese leader Hu Jintau with a microphone, bellowing out propaganda. Yet the interesting thing is that on the right side of the screen the images were of my father.
It is very common for me to waken instantly when I have a profound dream, and this time it was no different. As soon as my eyes opened, I recalled the dream, and knew instantly what it was telling me. I scribbled it down in my dream diary immediately.
What I was shown in that dream is that my anger towards Chinese authority was a projection which emerged from my unresolved anger with my father. My father was a rather tough and punitive man, and he ruled the home with the back of his hand. He could often be cruel, and sometimes it seemed that he enjoyed inflicting pain on his children. This left a scar, a deep anger within me which remained trapped inside. When I went to live in Communist China at the age of 36, the political system there pushed my buttons, and out came the anger.
Life is like that.
Fortunately, I had my spiritual discipline, and also tools which helped me to get in touch with that angry inner child. In the end it was just about giving that part of myself a voice, and loving and accepting it; not shaming it because it was hurt and angry. As a child, any display of anger or rebellion was immediately crushed like, well, the way an authoritarian government violently silences all dissent. So the anger became suppressed.
As you can imagine, as long as we fail to love the wounded child and all its emotional baggage within us, it will create drama and chaos in our lives. We will project it out onto the world, distorting the environment into the frame of reference of that little boy or girl within us. In such scenarios, there can be no peace, no genuine love.
This is why you must make no distinction between the outer world and your inner world when it comes to your emotional and spiritual life. Both inner and outer world are just prisms through which you have the opportunity to shine the light of your intention. The rainbow of awakening can only emerge when all parts of us are allowed to be exposed to the light of awareness. We must be totally honest about who we are, what we have become.