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I had an anxiety attack today that made my hands shake so hard that I couldn’t hold a chip. It went on for quite a long time. Sitting there in Mission Burrito, I texted a friend, tried to breathe slowly, and finally started naming things I saw around me. “Table, television, fork, person eating a burrito, floor, booths.” Then, I focused on the other senses: the tang of salsa, the sounds of a busy restaurant, the smell of chip grease and hot beans; lastly, how it felt to touch the table, the feel of vinyl under my fingertips, and the cool metal of the fork. Bit by bit, reality returned from wherever I had banished it, and I was able to drive home and continue my day in relative peace. 

I haven’t meditated in a long time. If you have anxiety, then you know that you have to have a spiritual practice of some sort, whether it’s walking, praying, meditating, gardening, writing, composing music, or any activity that takes you out of your crazy thoughts and places you firmly in the present moment. Anxiety sucks your soul and spirit into a liminal, non-existent space: the future. At some point, you notice that you’ve lost part of your consciousness, that you’re not fully in the moment or occupying your current reality; fear takes you to the Land of the Lost, to invented lands ruled by fantasy scenarios. Anxiety creates dystopias and horror-scapes that DO NOT EXIST. Once you are in that place that isn’t a place, the panic starts. 

So I meditated. At first, it was quite difficult. My mind raced, my thoughts were scattered, and I couldn’t find my spirit companions. There were no visions, no cool, morphing colors, no pretty experiences; just a quiet exchange with the Voice, who might be God, my spirit guide, my subconscious mind, my Higher Self, or some combination of all of that. As the reader, you will erase what you don’t believe in and choose what you do, so I leave that up to you. For me, this is the voice of God–or at least, it was today. So what does God have to say to the overly-anxious? 

It was an odd message that I had not considered before. Anxiety is the result of not committing fully to your life. Your life is, after all, what’s happening in the present moment. Your life is also a set up circumstances that you’ve set up in part, with a good deal of randomness thrown in and the luck of the draw. There may be some karma involved as you work out the various Universal Issues that you’re dragging around from all the other lives you’ve experienced. In any case, your life can only be experienced and understood from the present moment perspective. Anything you think or analyze about your life is happening now. What happens when anxiety swoops in and hijacks your brain? You stop living in the present moment and start conjecturing, worrying, and spinning out fearful scenarios that by definition haven’t happened. A scenario is always about the future. As soon as you are no longer living right now, something is lost. That something is your connection to the Divine, to spirit, to God: for God is not found in hypothetical spaces, but in the strength of your connection to the present moment. 

It’s a hoary old chestnut, but it happens to be true: depression is rumination on past events, and anxiety is fearful projection into the future. When you are living in those imaginary spaces, you are in what I conceive to be purgatory. Purgatory is paralysis and inaction, a space where you hide from present moment communion with God and your true self. It’s the waiting room where you attempt to evade divine connection in favor of a wrong-headed notion of personal safety. The present moment connection to God can be overwhelming to the scared soul, so the waiting room feels safe; you don’t have to open up, connect, accept change and death; you can just hang out there, pretending that you’re invisible and not subject to the terrifying forces of transformation that push you relentlessly forward into the present. Change and death cannot be avoided, but the anxious and depressed mind seeks to manipulate reality so that it appears to be elsewhere. Nothing to see here, folks, move on. Anxiety is an attempt to run away from your reality and the Ultimate Reality that infuses it. To flee the present moment is to attempt to hide from the truth, and the truth is always cosmic and universal. Anxiety seeks to reduce the cosmic to manageable proportions, to make everything small and distant. It never works. 

 Once you realize that you can’t mentally project yourself into imaginary spaces, you have to come back into present moment awareness. Once you’re back in your body and in the moment, you have to face your emotions and everything you’re running from. Pain exists in the present moment, of that there’s no doubt. Projection into the past or the future might seem like a good strategy to avoid the painful emotions of your current reality, but again, it never works. All you do is add the additional torture of fear and despondency to the circumstances you wish to evade. So what do I wish to run from?

Ah, there is so much. I can’t save the world, or my students, or my family, from what ails them. I can barely help myself. I don’t want to live in the dark world of December, and Christmas makes me terribly sad. It’s like a constant reminder of loss, of the world of childhood that we have forever left behind. Christmas is for innocents. Christmas is for children who haven’t fully left the spirit world and are ignorant of the horrors of this one. This may be another reason that I struggle to commit to this life and live in a sort of limbo this time of year: this world is so painful. And yet, as I sit here and write, the house is quiet, my kid is laughing downstairs, the tree is lit, the bird is making small noises as she eats, and nothing is wrong or out of place. As I write this, there is no war, death, suffering, disease, or cruelty. There is only my little house, my animals, the tree, and these words. 

Somehow, I think, the answer lies in that. The answer is very simple. It seems almost too simple to believe. There is pleasure in the present moment, and only in this moment; when you surrender to the here and now, suddenly there is this kind of nascent joy and bliss that seeks to express itself. Pleasure is the opposite of anxiety; it annihilates it. Another message from meditation is that pleasure is the creative principle of reality; without it, there would be nothing, no impetus to create and play. Pleasure is the Holy Spirit in all that exists. Pleasure cannot be experienced in hypothetical time frames; it can only be experienced right now. As such, it is the glue that bonds us to all that is holy. 

There is more to say, but I have to let it go here. I’m no longer writing to prove anything to anyone, or to solve big problems. I don’t much care if science proves any of this to be true, or if all my readers are convinced of what I say. All I care about now is connection: to God, to the creative and pleasurable spirit of Life, and to all the forms that life takes. That, of course, includes all of you who might be out there reading these words someday. 

Un fuerte abrazo,

Kirsten A. Thorne

S

How To Find a Ghost

Spirit is everywhere. You don’t need to seek it; you need to discover it. What most investigators forget is that they are spirit themselves; we are looking for our own essence ‘out there’ when, in reality, to connect to spirit we must first connect to our authentic selves. 

This requires silence, meditation, ‘tuning in’, contemplation, and for some, an alteration of normal consciousness (trance states). The ‘ghosts’ out there can be perceived not through gadgets and devices (if it were possible to prove anything that way, it would have happened already), but through adjusting our brain waves to match the frequencies of expanded consciousness. What do I mean by that? Simply that you must be in the right state of mind to make contact with a non-material human consciousness. If you maintain your ‘normal’, waking state of business and distraction, you don’t–you can’t–contact subtle energies. 

This time of year–December into January–is the best for contact with spirit. The separation between our waking consciousness and the worlds where spirits roam is very thin. Anyone who wishes to make contact with spirit will find it far easier now than any other time of year. Of course, that’s not a rule–our best investigation happened in July of 2013–but the long, dark hours and the contemplative feeling of the season allow for a deeper communion between our deep, spiritual selves and the dimensions where all kinds of beings find their expression: both human and other. 

The trick this season is to find your deepest self and allow its expression and communion with the souls that wander in the soft darkness of December. Once you’ve allowed for that to happen, you won’t need to search for anyone; the ghosts will find you.

–Kirsten A. Thorne

There is this paradox that we all live with concerning language. As soon as you translate experience into words, you have substantially altered the experience. In essence, you have destroyed experience and created something new: a story. Most of the goals and desires that we formulate for ourselves end up as a narrative: we tell ourselves a story of what desirable looks like for us, and we set about to ‘make’ our desires come true. Our entire culture is based upon the fulfillment of our wishes and dreams. However, our wishes and dreams are by their very nature unreal, fabricated by the mind. We often discover that the distance between our dreams and our lived experience is so vast that we find ourselves disappointed, upset, and even angry; so, we set about to creating new goals. This is especially pernicious and problematic when one’s ego seizes upon a ‘spiritual’ goal and places it on a to-do list. 

One example of this is surrender to God or to one’s Higher Power. This is, undeniably, a good idea. We are not in control of so much of what happens around us, and our illusion that we can influence events, other people, and the general course of History creates intense suffering. What happens, however, is that a good idea becomes the next Spiritual Goal. The ego takes over and applies Material World understandings to God consciousness. The same person who makes lists of future accomplishments for her profession, housing and entertainment needs, perfect partner characteristics, and so on, decides that ‘surrendering to God’ is number one on the Spiritual List. This is an impossible undertaking, since the very act of placing a concept like surrendering or letting go on a list of things to accomplish destroys the goal itself. 

When any aspect of ‘spirituality’ becomes a goal or a challenge for the ‘seeker’, the game is lost. The very moment one decides that one ‘wants’ a spiritual experience, one has missed the point completely and enters into ego territory where everything is a commodity and desire destroys the potential experience. As soon as you start seeking what we all already have, you are wandering far from what you say you want. Looking for God or for spirit in any form is futile; God and spirit are accessible through your state of mind, not the state of your desires. Spirit shows up when you prepare yourself to receive it, or when you are given the grace to perceive it. You don’t ‘find’ Spirit; you become aware of its presence and allow it to work through you. This is as much the case with those who ‘hunt ghosts’ as for those who ‘hunt God’. Whatever it is that you try to track down will evade and elude you; whatever you are ready to receive will find you. Your intentions and your state of awareness matter–your desires and needs do not. 

Serious meditators, psychonauts, healers, channelers, mediums, and shamans enter into trance states with the goal of arranging a spiritual meeting with another. For this to happen, their sense of self is often erased, leading to what some call ‘ego loss’ or ‘ego death’. This state facilitates communication with a higher power, but it not a goal in itself, unless one makes it so. Ego loss becomes the goal when one doesn’t have a larger purpose for their practice, such as learning to surrender to situations and people over whom we have no control. When ‘ego death’ becomes a goal in and of itself, the ego has–ironically–taken over and made a spiritual state into a challenge. The ego loves challenges and competitions; especially ‘spiritual’ challenges, because the ego’s desires can hide behind the cloak of a ‘higher purpose’. This is why spiritual leaders can become criminal despots or moral disasters: think gurus who lead their flock to commit suicide (Jonestown) or priests who molest and abuse children who trust them. Although these are extreme examples, anyone who enjoys the window dressing of spirituality and makes a show of their enlightenment has fallen into the same trap. 

My epiphany of late is simply this: there is nothing to seek and nothing to find. There is much to accept and to embrace. And yes, you have to voluntarily place yourself into a state of grace in order to receive the gifts of a multifaceted and multidimensional reality that includes everything that people seek: ghosts, God, aliens, Oneness. This requires an alteration in perception. Your stories, your drama, your upsets, your grudges, your ambitions, and even your intellect and critical thinking skills will all block you from the experience of a complex and ultimately incomprehensible reality. Do not attempt to understand or explain Ultimate Reality. If you do, you will fall into the trap that consumes me on a regular basis: the idea that one can explain and convince others to believe the existence of what we call the ‘paranormal’. 

What is, after all, the paranormal? The paranormal is what the ego, what the individual self, cannot explain or make sense of with our current scientific or philosophical paradigms. The paranormal is that space where we hit the wall, where our language breaks down, where we can no longer make reality intelligible for ourselves, much less for anyone else. It’s that space where we live. It’s who we are, but are afraid to admit it. For nothing is stranger than the fact that we exist and perceive ourselves to exist in isolation from everything and everyone else. There is no journey; simply a remembering of something ineffable that we always seem to forget. 

–Kirsten A. Thorne

When the Guru Vanishes

What then?

It’s pretty annoying to realize that I have spent hundreds, thousands, maybe millions of hours working on something that has no answer. I don’t wish to complain, but when the ultimate goal of the ‘spiritual’ search is for that goal to implode and destroy itself, I feel like I was swindled or the butt of a massive joke. 

Seriously, folks. This blog was all about that. I thought that I would end up with something true and evidential. I believed with great sincerity that Kirsten A. Thorne would be the person who revealed what is reasonable to believe in based on science, philosophy, religion, quantum physics, and various types of psychology, from transpersonal to abnormal. I looked at university programs and doctoral programs in Scotland, scouring catalogs for courses and degrees that would confer respectability to the search for immortality. Of course, I spent a great deal of time hanging out at churches and talking to priests. I also interviewed gurus and all kinds of spiritual leaders. Of course, there was always the ‘ghost hunting’ and everything that came with paranormal investigating. When you hit one wall after another, you eventually give up on finding the Holy Grail. Everything, as it turns out, is paranormal. When your entire reality is revealed as spiritual and eternal, what is there to look for?

I read hundreds of ‘trip reports’ from people’s psychedelic experiences. I scoured the literature for fantastic meditation stories. I have read so many damn ‘spiritual’ and New Age books that I am sick to death of the topic. I’m happy that a snake swallowed you in your last Ayahuasca journey or that you visited the Lower Realms during a shamanic drumming circle, but what does any of that mean for anyone besides you? And that is where we all get stuck. It’s great that individuals end up feeling enlightened or finding their personal answers. I’m happy for all of us that have managed that, however we arrived at that point. But part of me keeps thinking how narcissistic the spiritual path seems when it always points back to you. 

I’m starting to think that there is only one real purpose to the ‘spiritual’ experience, and that’s to connect you to others and your natural habitat in such a way that you show up more and care more. It’s so you call in sick less to work and are a better friend. It’s about less wallowing in your depression and anxiety and more creative relationships. It’s about making decisions based on love, not fear. 

As far as ‘finding’ God, the Holy Spirit, Buddha, Jesus, ghosts, UFOs, aliens (I don’t mean to say that all these categories are equal), or whatever other wild, paranormal phenom out there, those spirits ARE RIGHT HERE, in your current reality, in your universe, and don’t require any searching. It may require some intense discipline and dedication, but all things spiritual are built into the very structure of the material. There is no separation. There is no ‘place’ to look, and no particular practice to follow. Be a Catholic or take mushrooms and go to Burning Man. You will eventually end up coming to the same conclusions (that comment should outrage some of you, I’m guessing). 

Whatever you do, make sure you do it with love and respect. What else can I possibly say?

–Kirsten A. Thorne

How to Give Up

shallow focus photography of multicolored floral decor

Photo by Artem Bali on Pexels.com

I won’t list all the tragedies. We know them too well. We are quiet as we struggle to live with mass murder on a weekly basis. What can we say? What can we do? Whom can we blame? We are tired of looking for reasons, sick to death of the political arguments, exhausted from listening to the news, from the endless social media posts, the photos, the interviews, the grieving, the candles, the prayers, the stuffed animals, the crosses, the funerals, the waiting for the next massacre. It will come. It always does, these days. What does it mean to surrender? Simply this: know when you can do something, and know when there is nothing to do but accept the reality of our and your circumstances. Once your limitations become clear, do what you can and let the rest go. I won’t pretend the God has some ‘plan’ in place here, or that all this death has ‘meaning’ that we simply can’t comprehend. I don’t think God is a personal force, some being that intervenes or doesn’t based on some code that I can’t figure out. I don’t know what God is, but I do know that our circumstances are ours to fight, to struggle with, or to accept, no matter how awful. Surrendering is not about passivity or blind acceptance of situations and events that you could do something about if you had the strength or will; it’s about realizing that there are some scenarios where you have zero ability to influence the outcome or change the consequences. When confronted with situations that you didn’t have a hand in creating and can’t change, let go. Stop trying to fix things, change things, or influence their inevitable path. That giving in is not giving up. Surrendering means that you have the energy to comfort survivors, to work on a PAC, to write poetry, to publish an article, or to simply reflect into the world the peace that you hope will infuse our sad, troubled, little planet. –Kirsten A. Thorne

IMG_7879So . . . Let’s start with a confession. It hurts that my readers have made it clear that they don’t want to read about human rights or social justice issues. My last post on the kids separated from their families at the southern border was the least popular post I have ever written. I lost quite a few Facebook friends due to my eagerness to raise awareness on the issue, which for me had nothing to do with politics; it was about the human spirit and how we, as a nation, were attempting to crush it. It’s painful to lose friends and readers over a situation that desperately requires our compassion, our action, and our sustained interest. However . . . it’s also true that Soulbank was always about the paranormal, the survival of consciousness, alternate realities, and all things that we can’t explain. It’s easier to think about the afterlife than to deal with the harsh realities of this one.

Confession #2: I lost myself in the spirit world, and it’s time to come back to the material world. Paranormal investigators, intense meditators, religious devotees, gurus, and spiritual enthusiasts of all stripes tend to go out into the ether as a way of avoiding the sometimes crushing misery of ordinary consciousness and everyday reality. Think about it: when you’re busy contacting the dead, you are turning away from the living. The dead are so much easier to handle, since they rarely talk back, can’t hit you, fire you, bully you, or betray you. They mostly just breathe into your recorder and knock on walls. You can, under normal circumstances, walk away from them with zero consequences until your next investigation. I often used investigations, research into the paranormal, meditation and other spiritual practices as a way to keep the brutality of the ‘real’ world at bay.

I didn’t want to spend more time than absolutely necessary interacting with people and attempting to figure out what they needed, so that I could be helpful and self sacrificial. As a people pleaser, the real world was very draining and confusing. I rarely asked myself what I needed to be happy, or thought much about my future. Heading out into the spirit worlds, I was not required to ‘read’ other people and their infinitely changing desires and drives; ghosts and spirits do not ask such work of us. All we have to do is ask them lots of questions and wait for the answers. That is much easier to do than calibrate a living person’s energy and intentions and then mold ourselves accordingly. The materially challenged do not ask us to work so hard. We are in control on an investigation; we decide what to say, when to say it, what counts as meaningful interaction, what to take seriously, what to discard, and how to interpret reality. It’s a power trip to chase down entities.

Secret: I don’t like most people. I find them at best confusing, at worst, threatening. However, I am improving my real people skills; I investigate the material world now, as if I were chasing ghosts in an old mental hospital. After all, people are just ghosts with a body and better communication skills (usually). I really, truly, want to connect with my fellow humans on a deeper and more meaningful level. I want to understand what makes people tick, what they love, what they enjoy, what fascinates them–without falling in the trap of trying to make people happy. That rarely works.

In other words, I want to investigate these days because I miss my friends, both the ones I know, and the ones I haven’t met yet. I want human contact: deep conversation, laughter, shared confidences, and building a web of connections so that none of has to feel alone. “Likes” on FB posts or stats on a blog are not real signs of affection or interest. If anyone wants to go exploring, bowling, see a movie, or just have a long conversation about something fascinating at your local coffee shop, hey–you know where to find me. I’m right here . . .

Kirsten

There is hope.

I am sitting in Starbucks and scrolling through Facebook. The news is horrible and gets worse every day. I turn away from the feed, from the news, from all forms of media long enough to get my bearings. I have been nauseous and dealing with anxiety, mostly due to the belief that I have to do something to change the situations of, for example, the kids in detention centers. Over the last couple of weeks, I have signed up for two volunteer organizations that work with displaced kids. I have called my representatives and joined the Democratic clubs around my area. And guess what? Absolutely nothing has happened. No one has contacted me from any of the organizations with whom I enlisted. I have learned three lessons from this experience of total frustration and impotence when it comes to changing the fundamental realities of our country at the moment:

1. Change does not happen quickly. Even when we feel that a situation has to be remedied RIGHT NOW, the wheels of justice turn slowly. It might take months or years to see the kind of reform we feel should happen immediately. That means that we need to be patient, resilient, and PERSISTENT. The news cycle moves quickly, but we must not fall into the trap of forgetting what matters just because social media has moved on to the next horror. By the way, did you all know that thousands of people died in Puerto Rico in the last hurricane? Did you all know that many people are still in danger due to lack of electricity and resources? Nobody cares anymore, because that is no longer a current news story. Make sure that your compassion HAS NO TIME LIMITS.

2. You are probably unable to alter the fundamental nature and consequences of racism, provincialism, sexism, intolerance, and all manner of behavior that has fear as its motivating force.

3. HOWEVER: You can recognize and release YOUR racism, provincialism, sexism, intolerance and fear. In fact, if you don’t this first, you’re of no use to anyone else.

I know. YOU are not any of those things. I get it. I used to proclaim the same thing. Then I realized that fear motivates me to behave in destructive ways towards myself and others. I had the opportunity in my classroom to see my prejudices in action: I ignored far too often the autistic students because I couldn’t ‘deal’ with them. I blamed my students for laziness when they arrived late, only to discover that some of them were taking three busses to get to Pierce and had to walk their siblings to school in the morning. My intolerances show up on a regular basis. My false assumptions about reality pop up in ugly, self destructive ways every day. I am in the process of releasing these emotions and thoughts that serve no one. It’s extremely hard to do: it’s easier to hate Trump supporters and unfriend people who disagree with you, to label all conservatives as heartless assholes, than to look deep into your soul and ask how you are part of the problem. Does your anger prevent you from taking any action at all? Does your anxiety and fear paralyze you, so that calling your congressional representative is impossible, because you’ve convinced yourself that it wouldn’t make any difference? Do you get sick to your stomach and not sleep due to your outrage, only to find that you’re too exhausted the next day to sign up as a volunteer for the kids?

If you are allowing your emotions to rule you and your hatred to dominate the conversation, you are not helping. The kids in the camps don’t need your outrage. They need your action.

Another trap I fall into is believing that working on myself is ‘selfish’ and a waste of time when people are suffering out in the world. This is a false belief. You can’t do anything when you’re sick with horror. I had stopped meditating and connecting with Spirit, thinking that I had to take action in the world, or I was useless. Of course, this attitude kept me running in circles. I accomplished nothing when I was in DO SOMETHING NOW mode. My energy was frantic, uncontrolled, chaotic, and the Universe responded with NOTHING. The energy you bring to an issue, any issue, will be reflected back to you for better or for worse. Change yourself before you change the world, because until you do, you will fail to help anyone else. When anxiety and fear motivate your social justice efforts, you will be thwarted every, single, time. Yesterday, I decided to get back to meditation and prayer. I felt such an intense surge of energy rush through my body that I spent most of the night wide awake. But today, something has shifted. I feel different.

My guilt, fear, panic, depression, and hopelessness were paralyzing me. Nothing good can happen for anyone when I give in to these emotions and to negative thoughts about the shitty state of the world. I have no choice but to let all of that go and approach the problem from a state of grace and love. How do you do that? Spend time in prayer and/or meditation every day and completely let go of your thoughts and emotions surrounding the issue that is gnawing at your soul. Stop believing that your anger and upset are in any way useful or necessary. Let all of it go.

Then, go to this link and fill out the papers to be a volunteer: https://supportkind.org/
Or, call/contact your local representative: https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative
Here’s another good organization: https://asylumadvocacy.org/get-involved/
Or, if you are willing to foster a child separated from his/her parents, go here: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/children/foster-care.cfm

DO SOMETHING. But for the love of God, make sure that any action you take is from a place of love and compassion. Your demons will not angels make.

–Kirsten A. Thorne