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Posts Tagged ‘Kirsten Thorne’

I have been gone for a long time. However, there is a good reason: I have been writing a book on the broader topic of spirituality that includes personal details that I have not revealed on Soulbank. The following is a chapter from that book–I hope you enjoy reading it and will be looking forward to more ‘teaser’ chapters.

I read a book one night: The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael A. Singer. Mr. Singer believes that anyone can achieve enlightenment at any point by simply allowing reality to exist and flow through us without the mediation of our emotions, thoughts, and judgments. A quote that nicely sums up the main thrust of his book is this one: “Deep inner release is a spiritual path in and of itself. It is the path of nonresistance, the path of acceptance, the path of surrender. It’s about not resisting energies as they pass through you.” (250) I decided that if that is ‘all’ that it took to become enlightened, that I could do it. And so I decided to put into practice everything that Mr. Singer suggested.

The first night after I made this decision, I lay on the floor and cried. Emotions needed to flow through me in order to not control and dominate my life and my decisions. I released the pain of my daughter moving to England and taking away the security blanket for my life, exposing my fears and vulnerabilities. I writhed in anger over the mass shootings of recent weeks, the tragic situation at the Southern border, the fact of the hottest July in recorded history, and the deep, painful divisions that our country is living through. I felt like a bottomless pit of pain, but after awhile, the intensity of what I was feeling subsided, and there was a measure of peace.

The next day, I decided that my emotions, judgments, preferences, desires, and fears would ‘pass through me’ without affecting my clear view of reality: the present moment. I downed a theanine gummy (an amino acid present in green tea that is supposed to help with anxiety and lack of focus) and drank a mug of English Breakfast tea while playing Scrabble with my husband. About 30 minutes later, I started to feel very, very strange. The room lightened and colors intensified, and I experienced the bizarre sensation of my head opening up and allowing my consciousness to expand into the room. I seemed to be losing myself as a body and became more of an awareness. The instant reaction was fear. I didn’t want to ‘go’ where this bizarre process was taking me, because I had not intended to experience cosmic unity today. I wanted to hold on to the everyday, mundane reality that I love so dearly, which included taking my turn at Scrabble; but the Universe was not allowing it.

Panic sets in for me when I cannot find a ‘reason’ for a sensation or an experience, and when I cannot control the sensation or experience. I was not directing this expansion of my mind, nor could I stop it from happening. One hundred milligrams of a theanine gummy intended for children could not possibly be the causative agent for what felt like the beginning of a full-blown psychedelic trip. Instead of allowing panic to take over and determine the course of the next hour or so, I lay down on the sofa and decided not to fight the process, even if it made no sense to my terrified mind.

I cried and shook as waves of emotion and energy passed through me. I do not know what had to be released, for any sense of myself as an independent entity vanished, and I was simply a being experiencing something that I was unable to name, comprehend, or describe. “I” was not there to perform those functions. My job was to stay on the couch and not fight it. Indeed, I doubt there was any way to fight the experience, for ‘it’ was far too powerful to be managed.

After about an hour or so, I was able to sit up. I was woozy and confused by what had transpired, but I felt clear, in the way one feels after crying hard for a long time. I was even able to continue playing Scrabble, losing for the second time that weekend. I would love to say that my experience on the sofa cleansed me of my ego and took me straight to Enlightenment, but I found myself angry and resentful about losing the Scrabble game and realized, yet again, that I had not achieved the goal of life ‘passing through me’, even though I had just experienced life passing through me while pressed into the couch! What happened?

I have written before that I do not believe in a ‘path’ or that such a thing as “Enlightenment” truly exists. In fact, I view the concept as an ideal that can easily turn into a spiritual trap where the ego involves itself and starts charging money for the experience at a nice resort where people can smoke toad venom and enlighten themselves instantly. The idea that anyone could ever become–in Mr. Singer’s words–that “open, that complete, and that whole” seemed impossible, idealistic, and in a sense, a denial of human nature at its most fundamental level. We are material beings safeguarding our survival, and to think that we could ever simply allow reality to pass through us without creating meaning around it is something of a pipe dream. After all, do any of us KNOW anyone who does this? Can any of us say that we have met an Enlightened being? And how do we KNOW that someone has achieved such a state?

Stories about gurus who devolve into licentious and criminal behavior are everywhere. I had friends I respected as spiritual seekers who took the content of their cosmic experiences and used that to open psychedelic retreats and charge significant amounts of money to be ‘guides’ for others’ transformative experiences. So many people I know are trying to earn a living selling Enlightenment to lost and desperate souls looking to be happy. I am deeply wary of anyone who profits from spirituality. I watch myself carefully when I write for an audience, even if that audience is very small. I do not know what Enlightenment is, and I do not preach anything to anyone.

And yet, how do I explain experiences that force me to ‘give up’ and allow emotions and strange energies to run through me? How do I explain the psychedelic or spiritually transformative experience? I do not explain it, because I have come to the conclusion that explaining those moments is fundamentally impossible. The force behind such cosmic connections is so mysterious and ineffable that words, even lots and lots of words, do very little to transmit the meaning of the experience. I do not know if these tsunamis of spiritual openings have anything to do with what we think of as Enlightenment. After all, right afterwards, I experienced anger and fear, irritation and resentment, and I did not get the sense that I was ‘liberated’ from any of those emotions.

I think about the basic teachings of Jesus, and they are pretty basic, indeed: Love one another. Easy to say, very hard to do. I think that, in the end, if you can manage to love yourself and others enough that you don’t cause any damage and can perhaps sow the seeds of compassion for the human situation, then you have accomplished as much as can be expected of yourself and others. I am someone who reacts, holds on, rages, refuses to accept a great many situations I find unjust, and is generally quite emotional. I do not think that I am capable of allowing my emotions, thoughts, and judgments to flow through me without any identification with them.

I am willing to admit that I could be wrong about Enlightenment. Perhaps it is achievable by some people; maybe I know someone who fits the criteria, and I am not aware of it, because that is how unenlightened I actually am. When Mr. Singer states, “You truly can reach a state in which you never have any more stress, tension, or problems for the rest of your life”, I want to throw the book across the room. I do not know if I WANT a life without stress, tension, or problems, because all those undesirable states and situations propel me to take action and figure things out. Without resistance, there is no pushing through to the other side of your limitations. The chick must peck her way out of the egg in order to build the muscles to survive. If she passively accepted her state of being in the egg, she would die.

The struggle for survival shapes and creates us. Of course, sometimes we must give up the fight. Nobody wants to die flailing and screaming, although I suspect I might be one of those who do not ‘go gently into that good night’. I will probably resist until the last moment, when I surrender myself to God with a completely open heart. And perhaps, we are supposed to surrender to God on a regular basis, just to remind ourselves who is in charge. Resistance might be futile, but it is so very human. I am here to be human; I am not God, nor do I aspire to be a spiritual leader.

There is something liberating about stating that you do not have a clue how something works. I do not understand the overall design of the Universe, how consciousness works, what God is, or whether or not enlightenment is possible. What I love is the process, the ‘seeing through a glass darkly’. I suppose I adore the mystery, the fight, the illumination, and the falling into humanity and ignorance, only to climb back up and start the process all over again.

May you enjoy the journey as well, and if you find yourself enlightened along the way, send me an email explaining how you got there and what it feels like. I’m guessing not like I’m feeling now. I want iced cream and a nap.

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Have you ever glimpsed something so beautiful that your life changed?

Did you call it Heaven, Paradise, Nirvana, cosmic bliss, or something else? Did it matter what you called it? You know that names mean nothing now. Only experience teaches.

How did you get there? Did you fast for three days, eat a mind-bending plant, drag yourself on your hands and knees to Talpa, whip yourself into a frenzy, pray until you collapsed, or did you simply look deeply into the eyes of a loved one and see God? Does it matter how you got there? You know it doesn’t matter. It is in the finding it.

What did you see? Is it beyond words? Of course; but words are all I have, all you have, in this strange, disconnected world. Can you describe it? The world is glowing from a perfect Light, but most of the time we see through a glass darkly. There is perfect Love, but most of the time we can’t feel it. Life never ends, but we choose to kill ourselves, just a little, every day. Eternity is where we live, but we ruin our lives with clocks and fear, because time is terrifying when you see it with human eyes. There is a center to everything, and it’s still and quiet; there is a communion every day with every creation, and you could live there . . .

There is this place, which is not a place, there is this reality, which is nothing like reality, there is this state, which is constant, behind and over and through the buzzing craziness of us and the world we created, which is, which is, which is . . . something like the deepest love we ever felt, the freedom of when we were eight, climbing a tree and seeing every leaf as a novel, something like that, which now we can’t reach, can’t grasp, can’t see, can’t touch.

But we know it’s there.

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0016OP

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Kitty Odd Black and White

This time of year is really difficult for me. I have Seasonal Affective Disorder and have to use a ‘happy light’, but it’s not just that–these short days and the odd winter light make me think of death, not birth; so while Christians celebrate the arrival of Jesus (which, in fact, happened in September according to historical records), I am contemplating the endings of things.

I accept my particular mindset and the inevitability of my mood this time of year, but sometimes, I really need help. That happened yesterday. I was tired of my general tendency to believe that anything really good that happens to me or to my little family will be followed swiftly by some kind of cosmic punishment. It looks like we just bought a house for the first time since we lost our home in 2013, via a you-have-no-choice short sale. I have been so overwhelmed by this that I managed to convince myself that since something good just happened, I will either get cancer, or a truck will flatten me crossing the street from Starbucks, or we’ll have some catastrophic event that will drain all of our money and put us in the street, or some other variation on that general theme.

I parked near the soon-to-be new house and walked a few minutes until I reached a trail behind Mulholland (this is one, big reason we bought the house–the location allows me to walk into the hills). I scurried into the scrubby, fragrant underbrush and soon was well hidden among the tumbleweeds, oak trees and prickly bushes whose name I never look up. The goldfinches were cheeping and extracting seeds from dry weeds, a scrub jay cried out nearby, and assorted hummingbirds zoomed by me in their incessant search for juicy flowers. Then I talked to God.

I have conversations with God on a fairly regular basis; but a caveat: please, dear Reader, don’t see me as a Bible-thumping fundamentalist–I am very liberal in my spiritual views and although I do identify as Christian, I do not evangelize. This time, I was really emotional, crying out in the wilderness, and completely, spiritually naked. I said that I was tired of not allowing myself to be happy. I asked for permission to let that go, along with the main reason that I put myself through such torment: fear and insecurity. The events of the last three years–crises with my kid, the loss of our home, issues at work, illnesses in the family, financial challenges, and more–had conspired to turn me into a terrified, depressed, fatalistic pessimist who had lost all faith in the world around her, and worse, in herself.

I also cried out about Death, which I think is deep down the root of all my fears. If I have such limited time to learn, to figure so many things out, then I am not going to succeed, and if it all ends in death, then why bother to evolve at all? This was a crisis of faith in its purest form: if you’re going to end my existence, God, then why I am here at all? What’s the point? I made Him a promise: I am going to let go of my anxiety and my fear to the best of my ability, but please, help me to understand these things I have asked You. What happened after that was life changing, and I am going to be processing it for quite awhile.

As I walked home, I ‘heard’ a voice that asked me: do you remember who you were at 15? Think about your emotions then, the way you thought things through, your core personality, that girl in Spain who was absorbing her surroundings at light speed, that girl who first found God watching an image of the Virgin Mary surrounded in candles, flowers and gold. Is that girl gone? “No,” I said aloud, “she is me.” That person who is and has always been me is NOT SUBJECT TO TIME. Time passing has not changed Kirsten’s fundamental characteristics, personality, preoccupations, emotional identity or spiritual essence. All that has changed is her biology: she doesn’t look exactly the same. That’s the only difference.

That which is not subject to time is, therefore, not subject to death. Death cannot happen without the passage of time; the passage of time ‘kills’ organisms via entropy. Entropy cannot occur without the concept of moving forward in time. Consciousness is not a time or entropy affected concept or phenomena. The source of consciousness is outside of the physical organism that expresses it, just as radio waves exist outside of the radio itself, or television transmissions are not “in” the television set itself. What allows for the show to play is not the show itself. “Kirsten” is expressed at the moment in a physical body that changes and will pass away; but “Kirsten” is consciousness, emotion, spirit and soul–none of which are dependent on her body to continue to exist.

We have become so obsessed with the question of HOW this happens–how a conscious personality moves from one state to another, or one body to another, that we have missed the important point: WE DON’T DIE. By “we,” I mean our essential, defining characteristics, our ‘anima’, our consciousness, our essence, and our eternal selves, that which recognizes itself as a particular expression of the universe. Think for a moment: go back to a point in time and ask yourself WHO you were; is that person gone? Has he or she been obliterated by the passage of time? The core individual who recognizes him or herself as the same over time is not part of your body. Do you mourn the stray hair that washes down the drain? Do you cry over your loss of self when you cut your nails? Of course not, you say; but what about my brain? There are people with less than half a brain who function normally. But that’s not the point; your brain is filtering and expressing consciousness and is quite necessary in that process. It is not, however, producing it.

You have always been you and will always be you, whether you die once or a thousand times, whether you are born once or a thousand times. Your birth and your death do not make you who you are. They are physical transitions necessary for the version of you that is here now.

One would expect that this epiphany would bring instant relief, but it has not. If fact, the consequences are huge and daunting. If I can’t die, then I can’t ever stop existing, even is my existence is painful or emotionally difficult. There is no stopping the process or opting out when I’m sick of being in the world, or ‘being’ in general. This kicked off a kind of existential panic like I’ve never felt in my life. The cry in the wilderness was for the end of pain, which, if the answer had been different, would end at the very least with my death. The answer received, however, was of a very different nature. Since there is no end in sight, I have to handle the pain, the challenges, and the fears and the insecurities without the comfort of knowing that it will all vanish when I die.

So there is no choice. You have to progress, you have to work through all the dramas and traumas until you find peace. That could take more than this life, and probably will take a few more–God knows how many. Although is seems appealing to have another and another shot at life, there is also something deeply frightening about eternal life. You simply cannot choose to stop it and you cannot escape it. Last night, I was reading something dismal about global warming that said 80% of us will be dead by 2100 due to climate change. I told Ty that I was glad I would be dead by then and wouldn’t have to experience it. Then I remembered the lesson from earlier today: there is no way to escape life. You might very well be there to experience it. You might be one of the people that helps the planet recover, or you might have some other role in the global catastrophe. You don’t, however, get to skip out on a problem you helped to create.

I am so overwhelmed by knowing this. I wrote about this concept over the years, but it was always a plausible theory and not a lived reality. I connected in such a strong way with the universal intelligence that I was granted an answer to the most fundamental question. Living with that answer is the next, huge challenge. I will be ‘unpacking’ this insight for quite awhile, always hoping that anyone who reads this will share their own experience of asking a difficult question and receiving a transformative answer. If this particular question has also been answered for you, I hope that you will tell me about it in the comments section below.

With much love and respect,

Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD

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Maria marin

I was listening to “Maria Marin Live” (forgive the lack of accents; not sure how to add them here!) on AM 1020, as is my custom after my last class on Tuesdays and Thursdays. She pulls no punches and forces her callers to be direct, honest and sincere. Woe betide you if you can’t make your point or you’re full of B.S.; she will call you on it. I’m not sure how many of my readers listen to talk radio in Spanish, but I recommend you listen to what she has to say if you understand Spanish.

The topic of one of her recent shows concerned life after death, or more specifically, what her callers believe happens after death. There were those who had the quick answer, “you go to Heaven to be with God,” but when pressed on the details, became utterly incapable of providing any realistic descriptions or scenarios. Others, of course, said that nothing happens; and the majority stumbled around attempting to answer the question without the Heaven or the nothingness explanation, only to find themselves impaled on their own uncertainty. Ms. Marin did not provide them an easy out; she pressed them relentlessly to answer the question in a specific and meaningful way. When they couldn’t do it, she moved on to the next person.

I found myself in something of a panic, imagining that I was one of her callers and I had been pressured into answering the question. Even though this topic is my area of research and interest, there is NO WAY to spit out a quick answer to the question, ‘what happens after you die’. I realize that those who have had a near death experience might be able to answer this with the typical imagery: the tunnel, the white light, meeting relatives who have passed on, the life review, the inability to cross a certain boundary between life and death, and the final (usually unwanted) return to the body. However, this describes a transitional state between life in the flesh and the life of consciousness, not what happens after actual, physical death.

No one can answer definitively, since no one has died 100% in the flesh and returned to talk about it except Jesus, and well, there are some issues there, as well. My experience tells me that while there is no quick answer to the question, there is–at least–a concept that we can hold onto when forced to answer questions about life after death. In terms of scientific research, nowhere is there better evidence for the continuation of life than in the work of the late Dr. Ian Stevenson from the University of Virginia. His work on the past lives of children from around the world is legendary; I’ve discussed it extensively in other blog posts. What his work points to is that ‘life’ after ‘death’ is about the transference of consciousness from one body to another.

The best evidence points to the indestructibility of the conscious mind, spirit or soul (I do not think that these terms are interchangeable, but the differences between them are the subject of another post). It doesn’t disappear, but finds another body through which it expresses a self. How this happens is pure speculation, but it must happen at some point in fetal development. I remember my sister telling me–and she is nothing if not a skeptic–that she felt the precise moment when a spirit ‘jumped into’ my nephew while in the womb. He was pure potential and suddenly became a personality. This personality was, in his case, external to him and perhaps had nothing to do with our family and genetics at all.

Consciousness finds a way to continue, whether it be through reincarnation or through some other mechanism, such as inhabiting another dimension or alternate universe as posited by some quantum theories. One of these alternate dimensions of reality might look and feel much like the Heaven that the faithful expect to experience. Many Eastern religions posit the twin existence of soul and spirit, each living out separate existences as the same personality: the “spirit” continues to reincarnate with limited or absent memories of the previous existence, and the “soul” inhabits a timeless dimension where the expected rewards and/or punishments are experienced as expected. Some quantum theories posit that there are infinite versions of us in infinite universes, so that when one of us dies in one world, we simply skip over to another and pick up our lives there, either in the ‘present’ moment or a past or future moment.

It doesn’t work to think of time as important to consciousness after death, since it is a biological concept useful to understand what we perceive as forward movement towards a goal, but it is not an independent entity necessary to understand reality (at least as far physics is concerned–time could just as easily move backwards as forwards, and we only need the ‘arrow of time’ for formulas concerning entropy, which some physicists think doesn’t exist as an independent measure of anything, anyway). You can see why, by now, there is no way to answer Maria Marin’s challenge in a one-minute phone call. When you are discussing issues concerning consciousness–that great mystery–it doesn’t make sense to explain exactly what will happen, since that requires us to know exactly how our minds will perceive reality when we are no longer dependent on a brain or a body to filter and limit our experiences.

Since Ms. Marin requires total honesty, I will say this: I am afraid that the best evidence points to a recycling of consciousness that does not involve karma, reward, Heaven or eternal rest. It seems that our personalities are transferred to another human being, and we drag our baggage along into another life–whether in the form of unconscious trauma or conscious memories. I do think there is room for spiritual evolution from life to life, but that is not the same concept as karma or reward. Our suffering in one life might purify us and lead us closer to God, but it certainly doesn’t mean our next lives will be easy, fun, interesting or rewarding. The most spiritually evolved person might appear to have the worst material circumstances.

For what it’s worth, that’s my answer to Ms. Marin, if I had called in. We come back, again and again, working towards a nobler, more refined relationship with God. What that looks like for each individual is unknown. So, I take my last breath, I might have a transitional period where I’m in the Light and meet up with those long gone, and then I probably black out or go to sleep and wake up screaming, inhaling that first breath again, remembering or not that I was here before, and here I go again.

Yours on the journey,

Kitty Soul bank Post

–Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD

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