rewiring the heart

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Photo cred: https://unsplash.com/@judebeck

the color purple.

There were about four families who weren’t white out of the entire southern West Virginia county where I was raised.  This was a sheltered and skewed microcosm of how the world coexisted.  With limited exposure to diversity and enveloped by prejudice, the world-view I developed in regards to race was narrow to say the least.   I was taught implicitly to develop mistrust and disdain for “those people.”

I made a vow at about ten years old to be everything opposite of my father, and that included racist comments.  So, when I turned eighteen, I married and moved out of the county as fast as I could to the nearest city.  In Bluefield, WV, the demographics were dramatically different. At this point in my life, I equated being tolerant with being nice to people of color, having work friends who were black, and of course never using the “N” word.

I thought myself a pretty evolved young man until 1997 when I took a job as a bank teller.  The drive-through of this particular bank was a detached glass box sitting alone in the far-end of the parking lot.   It didn’t take me long to befriend a beautiful African-American woman named Ellen.  We hit it off beautifully; constantly laughing, singing, or attempting to dance within the confined space of the structure.  This friendship was something I was to proud to cultivate.

On one busy Friday afternoon, I was conducting a transaction for an African-American woman.  As I finished up and sent the drawer out to her, she pointed over to Ellen, who had her back to me, helping customers on the other side.  I turned and tried to get Ellen’s attention so she could speak to the lady, but she was so busy with her transaction she didn’t hear me.  The lady in the car began to drive off a little, so I raised my voice.  “Ellen, this lady over here wants to say hello!”

Ellen, still looking down at her paperwork asked, “Which lady is it?”

My brain must have gone into some sort of over-analytical state.  In a split second, so many thoughts rushed through my head.  I needed to use a descriptive word for the lady. I had heard all of my life that the term African-American was an entitled and stupid way to describe black people.  I had never once used it.  And the other word I grew up with would definitely not be acceptable.  So, I landed on what I thought was the safest word.

“It’s the colored woman.”

My hands are sweaty as I type this, my body reliving the sinking feeling I had in my stomach just after those words left my mouth.  It was if the entire world took a gasp as everything in the drive-through went silent.  Ellen immediately dropped everything in her hand, whipped around, peering at me over her bifocals.  “COLORED?!  COLORED?!” She stood staring at me, hands on hips, her jaw dropped in shock.  “Well what color is she?  PURPLE?!”

I instantly turned red and wouldn’t make eye contact with her.  I was embarrassed.  I took the next customer hoping the issue would be dropped for now.  In my ignorance and naivety, I was just trying to use the right word.  In retrospect, why I couldn’t say something like the lady in the silver ford is beyond me.

I could see her staring at me through my periphery.  “Who raised you, anyway?” She went on to say some other comments that, very reasonably, lasted throughout the entirety of the shift.  Thankfully, we were able to talk it out a few days later and now she is a very dear friend of mine.

Ellen had an excellent point when she asked me about my upbringing. Some people, like Bruce Lipton, author of The Biology of Belief, site that 95% of our current reality is being operated by the programs installed into our subconscious during the first seven years of life.  Installed programs refers to the beliefs and attitudes a child is surrounded by during those vulnerable early years when the brain is recording with intensity.  That situation showed me that there were subconscious programs running in the background of my brain about black people that weren’t in alignment with how I saw myself.

I refuse to place blame on anyone who influenced me as a child.  As an adult, it is my responsibility to take time for self-examination, expose my beliefs and hold myself accountable.  All I knew at twenty years old was that I didn’t want to be a racist, but I didn’t know how not to be.  As the years went by, I prided myself in using socially-accepted terminology and tried hard not to label, judge, stereotype; to treat everyone equally.  That was my definition at the time of being tolerant.

And then the Universe brought me the Target incident.

a target on my back.

Fast-forward twenty years to 2017.  Although I feel my worldview evolved through the years, I will admit that until I physically (and emotionally) experienced pure racism in person, I had doubts about its existence.  And when I would hear of racist acts, my response was to minimize the severity.  Outward expressions of tolerance do not overwrite internal beliefs.  

At one point during active Meth addiction, I decided to become a dealer. I took on a “business partner” named Zeek (not his real name), an African-American man who had been a former dealer with connections across the state.  That whole story could be a chapter in a novel.

One day as we drove toward Raleigh, NC, the car sputtered on the last drops of gas and we drifted into the parking lot of a convenience store.  I was beyond frustrated.  After stopping, a single cigarette rolled from under my seat.  I had been without smokes for a while, so I delighted at this unexpected gift.  However, all the lighters in the car were empty.  For the first time in my life, I decided to steal.  For over forty years, I had never stolen anything on purpose.  I walked into the store, straight to the counter, and scowled at the employee.  I kept my eye contact with her and reached up and grabbed a lighter.  I turned around and walked outside and lit up.  I had found a new high–the exhilaration of getting away with theft.  Zeek told me that that he would never have gotten away with that.  I scoffed.

I then became severely addicted to shoplifting.  My tactic was simple: I donned a nice suit and strolled through Target, filling my cart with whatever I wanted.  I would then simply walk out the front door.  Never once was I questioned and as far as I could tell, I was never given a second glance.  I was using white privilege to my advantage.  At the time I thought I was just a great thief.

I convinced Zeek to join me as I had concocted a two-man job.  He was very reluctant, arguing that he would profiled.  I assured him that this particular Target’s loss prevention team was very loose.   Here’s what happened: we were followed from the moment we entered the store, through every aisle, until we left.  We were trailed, practically on our heels, by two different employees.  I was so discombobulated that I couldn’t steal. I remember taking something off the shelf and seeing an employee moving closer to me, watching with intensity.

Zeek, typically an extremely secure individual, became meek, watching over his shoulder in fear, body slumped.  My mind was blown. And honestly, my heart was hurt.

After leaving, Zeek was relentless with “I told you so!”  He had every right.  I had never in my life felt so uneasy and criminal.  I was shaken by this, and my eyes were opened to an entirely different world.  (Note that I returned to that store and stole repeatedly following that day, so we weren’t being followed because I had been previously identified and somehow flagged.)

Since that experience, I developed a newfound appreciation for the plight of the black person in America.  My worldview was expanded.  I use the Target example every time the issue of racial profiling comes up to demonstrate its validity.  As if the validation from a white man makes it more true.  But, sadly, many times it does.

it’s not you, it’s me.

The death of George Floyd and subsequent events has reignited within me the fire of self-examination.  This process is raw, vulnerable, and uncomfortable.  I long to be exposed as I move from the head space to the heart space.  This journey has illuminated a broader scope than just the issue of me being a racist. I’m beginning to learn what I believe about everything external to me.

One of Neville Goddard’s most frequent topics is his assertion that everyone is “you pushed out.”  What this means to me is that my internal beliefs about people–and more importantly myself–drives the roles people play in my life.  This sounds very mystical to some, but I have personally experienced this phenomenon first-hand to such a high degree that I accept it as fact.

Everyone being you pushed out is a theory that your reality is a mirror reflection of your state of consciousness.  I began seeing Goddard’s theory in action while experiencing the energetic pendulum principle at my job.  Once I began altering the beliefs I have about people, they either changed or left my life.

To illustrate, let’s use African-Americans customers as an example.  I have been waiting tables for over 25 years now and everywhere I have ever worked there is a common belief that black people do not tip well and complain about their food.  Please note that I have only been a server in restaurants in the South, so that could have something to do with it.  But, if you don’t believe me, ask a server who will be honest.  

During the time I was learning to use the power of choice when it comes to feeding energetic pendulums, it was not limited to the snobby lady who sat in my section all night. Black people were also on the list.  At first it was difficult.  My mind had been running this same program of expectations about black people for so many years, that my reaction was instantaneous.  I was pretty appalled at how my mind had learned to function over the years, even after the Target incident. In my heart, I truly believed a story about people before I even met them!

Over time, I found a Universal principle at play: when I believe black people won’t tip well, they won’t tip well.  If I truly make a change in my heart space and believe that everyone is the best versions of themselves and that I was going to have a wonderful and profitable exchange with a black table, then that’s exactly what transpired.  Every time. Does this fix racism in America?  Maybe not.  But, for me, personal evolution is the first step in radical revolution.

Again, this goes beyond race for me.  During my daily self-discovery I have observed ingrained beliefs about groups of people based on weight, zip code, mannerisms, profession, etc.  It takes work to remain in awareness of your thought patterns throughout the day, but the more I practice the more enlightened about myself I have become.  I literally judge people all day long.  And the judgments I make about others will inevitably dictate their behavior.  That is the way it works.  Everyone is me pushed out.  

Catching on to this principle, I then realized that I had beliefs about individuals in my reality as well.  I found that the people in my life who were acting in ways I did or didn’t like were simply playing out roles that I believed about them.  For example, I had a belief that my daughter was a negative person.  I found myself thinking: “she is so negative.”  I would talk to my mom about her: “she is so negative.” I found in my journal where I had written about her negativity.  I had latched on to that role for her and the Universe continued to show me how lazy she was in countless ways.  So, when everyone is you pushed out, the first place to go is inside.

I have found that the only real change in my reality comes when I make changes in my own mind and ultimately my heart.  Instead of telling other people to change or wishing things were different external to me, I have found pure magic in shifting my own programming.  It all begins with a mantra for me: “Lili is such a positive person!” Then that evolves into meditation where I imagine her saying something positive to me or her friends.  Then, when I least expect it, I notice that she has said something uplifting or has perceived a situation in a positive light.  That’s when I latch on, lean into the gratitude, and something in my heart begins to shift. My belief about her evolves.

under construction.

The issue of racism is important, and I feel its demise is part of a world-wide awakening.  At least it feels like I am waking up.  Unconsciously, I have allowed my identity and my reality to be shaped by programming written by environmental factors (including media, friends, literature, culture) and centuries-old DNA coding.  To live in a world driven by external forces feels like mental hijacking.  Becoming awakened to this puts me in the driver’s seat.

I do not accept this programming as a reflection of who I AM.  I recognize that my heart could use some rewiring. I am remorseful about how I have perceived and behaved toward others–but I don’t feel guilt.  Guilt says that I have gone against my morals and that makes me a bad person.  Guilt drives my codependency to do things in hopes of being liked by someone else.  Remorse says I have gone against my morals but the intention of my heart is to rectify the situation.

As I have grown more in love with myself, I have grown more in love with everyone around me. I realize that the more energy I devote externally into what other people ARE or AREN’T doing is simply perpetuating whatever it is they ARE or AREN’T doing.  Everyone is me pushed out.  Revolution begins with and through me.

Please feel free to comment and add your thoughts.

how my inner child became my ally

 

babystarfish
My inner child needed to feel safe. Photo by marcosprado.co/presets-lakeshore-homepage

Impatiently, I glanced at my watch and groaned.   It was past 11:00 pm on a Tuesday night.  The place was packed to capacity, the air almost too dense to inhale.  Regardless, the energy was nothing short of electric; people were wailing, running, jumping, falling.  I looked over and noticed the intense bass beat of the live band reverberating the window panes.   Three vocalists stood center stage, belting out a repeated chorus that had gone on for at least forty-five minutes. 

 

Making his way back to the stage, he stood towering above it all: a larger-than-life African American man with a microphone.  He wiped the sweat from his face with a colorful hanker-chief that matched his necktie and took in a deep breath.  His hand raised to the vocalists who instantly paused, leaving only a soft instrumental background.  It was time to address the gathering.    

This was revival at The First Pentecostal Holiness Church.

I was twenty years old on this particular night, having been married to my first wife for two years.  Marriage for me, both times, was the quick-fix shield to hide my inner identity from the outside world.  Every day for me was a tug of war between trying to live as the man the church perceived and enduring brutal self-loathing for the desires that invaded my head. I existed in a gruesome loop of asking for God’s forgiveness, entertaining unclean thoughts about men, feeling like I wanted to die, then asking for God’s forgiveness.  It really was a living hell.

After years of this dreadful dance, I had become adept at pretending.  No one at my church would ever guess that I was facing internal turmoil.  But, the game changed when traveling Evangelists would come to town.  I realize some people doubt the validity of Christian Evangelists, but I am here to tell you that they could walk into a crowd and ascertain–and announce–the innermost sins of random people.  I had been on the receiving end of this one night, but thank God I was attending another church alone; no one I knew was present.  

So, back to the late Tuesday night.  I was crouching low in my seat hoping to blend into the crowd. The last thing I wanted was attention of any kind.  The Evangelist had signaled to the vocalists and then he raised the microphone to his face.  I stared squarely at the floor.  Please let this be his dismissal.  I was already giving the side-eye to my wife and nodding at our belongings.  There would be no congregating tonight.

The voice from the microphone roared with authority.  There’s one more here that needs a healing and I am not leaving this pulpit until he comes forward.

My stomach knotted up and I stopped breathing.  Instinctively, my shoulders slumped and I closed my eyes so I wouldn’t accidentally make eye contact with the Evangelist.  I was beginning to shake violently.  The Evangelist stepped off the stage and made his way through the crowd and I could feel him standing close to me.  I opened my eyes and was staring at a set of long black leather tassel loafers. I will never forget those shoes.

My brother! Look up!

I raised my head to find that the entire crowd had turned in anticipation toward me.  I was at the point of quivering now.  The thought of him announcing to everyone that I was attracted to men made me want to run as fast I could.  It was one of those “flight, fight, or freeze” moments.  I glanced at the back door of the sanctuary, pondering an image of me plowing over my brothers and sisters in Christ to flee the scene.  But, I was frozen.  The Evangelist slowly bent down, placed his huge hand on my shoulder and whispered in my ear: You’re safe. 

I didn’t really know what that meant at the time, but something in his voice allowed me to finally exhale.  He then stepped back and held the microphone to his mouth again.  God has something planned for this young man!  Looking directly into me eyes, he exclaimed DEMON SLAYER!  

With that, he waved to the vocalists, the music began to boom again and–for lack of better words–the crowd went wild.  In the midst of the controlled chaos, my dear friend, an older lady who had taken my wife and I under her wing as her own, ran to me and we embraced.  The kind of surrendered hold when nothing is said audibly but volumes are exchanged telepathically.  I never talked to her about my secret, but in that moment I knew she knew.  We were both sobbing, I buried my face into her shoulder and felt a release that had been built up over years.

This was one of many nights at church when I left feeling hopeful that my misery was over.

It wasn’t.

***

For the next twenty years, I fought relentlessly to slay my demons.  There were several problems: 1) I was misguided in regards to the true source of my demons, 2) I believed myself too weak to fend for myself, and 3) all the energy I invested in resisting them only adding to my demons’ power.  And if you’ve read any of this blog, you know that those demons morphed into a substance abuse addiction.  A vicious monster that I unconsciously perpetuated because my approach was to wield a sword as the slayer prophesied by the Evangelist.

Along the way through recovery, I was able to unpack this concept of “perpetuating by resisting” and learned to surrender to the healing.  But, there was a milestone moment for me along this journey that I would like to share here.  My hope is that my experience will help others who find themselves feeling helpless and hopeless, ready to allow the demons to take over.

Through a synchronicity brought on by my desire to heal, I discovered the work of Tsultrim Allione, specifically her book called Feeding Your Demons: Ancient Wisdom for Resolving Inner Conflict.  This led me to her corresponding meditation on YouTube and through it I was able to have an experience that transcended decades of struggling and agonizing over the war inside me.

This meditation came to me at the exact moment in time because through self-discovery I had uncovered the true identity of the demons.  For all those years, I had been slinging my sword at shadows.  The demon wasn’t my sexual preference, Meth, sex, or the “disease of addiction.”  Those elements in my life were manifestations, or shadows, of the real scary demon: codependency.  And, more specifically abandonment trauma that activated as codependent behaviors.  The transcending freedom came when I grasped the concept of Tsultrim’s teachings; instead of fighting your demons, feed them, and make them your ally.

Here’s my personal experience with the meditation.  I encourage you to go to the YouTube link above and try the meditation along with Tsultrim.  If you want to skip through the introduction (I suggest you watch the entire video), the meditation begins at about the 21:00 mark.  An important note going into this meditation is to trust what arises.  In other words, don’t second guess the images, words and feelings you experience.  Go with the first thing that comes to you.  You’ll inhibit the experience if you tell yourself, “It is only my imagination.  This isn’t real.”  This is real.

Step 1: Find the Demon

The first step was to decide which demon I wanted to work with, and of course I chose codependency.  Then, to discover where in my physical body I felt the demon.  I thought back to the last time I felt symptoms of codependency; needed validation from someone, fighting for positive attention, needing a reminder that I belong, etc.  Once I recalled the last time I felt that way, the feeling returned; a pain in the pit of my stomach.  I intensified the feeling, it was a combination of anxiety and extreme nervousness.  Then, I imagined how this feeling would look in terms of color, texture, and temperature–the image of a black, gooey hot blob in the pit of my stomach appeared.

Step 2: Personify the Demon and Ask It What It Needs

I personified the feeling by giving it arms, legs and eyes.  It became a star-fish shaped black blog with distant, blank eyes.  When I took time to notice all of its features, it became a larger version of the star-fish shape, but now the skin was a thick red rubber-like substance, it didn’t have a gender, its eyes were still lifeless.

I asked:

What do you want from me?

What do you need from me?

How will you feel when you get what you need from me?

I then stood up from my bed where I had been lying down for the meditation and faced myself.  (Keeping my eyes closed as much as possible.)

Step 3: Becoming the Demon

I took some time to become the demon, to feel what it must be like in this gooey black substance covered by thick red skin.  I looked at myself on the bed from the demon’s perspective.  What I saw was a man who desperately desired freedom.  And honestly, he looked a little weak.

I then answered the questions as the demon (note that I simply let the answers flow from me without any predetermination):

What I want from you is strength.

What I need from you is security.

When my need is met I will feel safe.

Step 4: Feed the Demon and Meet the Ally

Lying back on the bed, I imagined looking at the demon once again.  I then imagined myself dissolving into nectar that had the quality of the feeling of the need being met (that may seem difficult to conceptualize, but at the time of this meditation it made perfect sense to me).  When I imagined a nectar having the quality of safety, I became a thick golden substance similar to honey.  I fed the demon this honey until it was completely satisfied.  Once satisfied, I looked at the demon to see what remained.  What I saw was the image of myself as a baby.  I was crying and reaching up to me.  The epiphany then came:

My inner child needed to feel safe.  There must have been trauma to that baby early in my life that caused him to feel insecure.  This was no demon after all.  I then realized that each time I sought approval from a lover, teacher, friend, boss, or anything outside of me, I was attempting to soothe my inner child’s need for safety.  There was security in being accepted, in being reminded that I was loved, in belonging to someone, being needed by someone.  I wasn’t giving him the safety he needed–I didn’t have it–so we were together endlessly seeking it externally.  

Time to meet my ally.  I asked;

How will you help me?

How will you protect me?

How will I gain access to you? 

I rose from the bed and now became my ally, the pre-verbal version of myself, and answered the questions;

I will help you find self-confidence.

I will protect you by providing the internal security you need.

You can gain access to me through your heart.

I returned to the bed and imagined my ally dissolving into me.  We became one.  I rested in this awareness for a long while considering what had just occurred.  I discovered that at the core of my pain was a little baby who didn’t feel secure and that insecurity had permeated into every aspect of my life.  I instantly felt a peace flow through my body, a comfort in knowing that I didn’t have to fight any longer.  I had an ally now, and I knew exactly what he needed and what I could gain from him.  I had mistaken the frightened cry of a baby for the ferocious roar of a monster.

There has been some work since then to acclimate and integrate this healing.  The work is on-going.  I would love to talk more about that process in future blogs.  What I have found so far is an uncanny sense of self-confidence, self-trust, and a letting go of the need for external validation.  I feel safe and secure and that has replaced my need to fill that gap with drugs, sex, love, or any other temporary substitute.

And now, twenty years later, it has dawned on me what the Evangelist meant when he whispered You’re safe. He wasn’t alleviating my fears of being exposed, he was trying to feed my demon.