<continued from Part III – Emptying Myself of Myself>
The Journey Into Homelessness
I spent nearly every single day on my knees, in tears, pleading with God to love me. I was begging for forgiveness – not just from God, but also from all those who I’d loved and lost – who I’d wronged in some way. As I went out on the streets each night for my evening walk, I began spending time with the homeless; offering them food and comfort – sitting with them, listening to their stories, and loving them completely. I gave everything of myself that I could. Every moment that I felt stretched to my limits and thought my heart could endure no more, I pushed on to give more deeply and more fully; incensed by the fact that I could not do more. Time and time again, I was thrust into difficult situations consistent with my lessons for the day that were all meant to help clear my mind and open my heart.
This is the world that I lived in for about five months – from November of 2014 to March of 2015. It just continued to run deeper and deeper, with everything happening in this stream of synchronicities that almost seemed to be toying with me. My two most common conversations with God, during this time were ‘I love you’ and ‘Fuck you’. How could a loving God be so cruel and callous – why force me to endure such pain and suffering? I was supposed to be the savior of the world – why weren’t things just easier? Time and time again I was confronted with fear – time and time again I was forced to surrender into my fears – time and time again, I was caught on the other side by a perfect love beyond all reckoning. And yet what was the source of this love? Who was speaking to me? Who was teaching me?
It was a combination of synchronistic events, a willingness to surrender everything, a desire to follow in the footsteps of the Buddha and Jesus, and the terrible fear that I was the villain of this story, that eventually had me sell everything and become homeless myself. Anything that I couldn’t sell I put into a storage unit – and just before midnight, on 31 March of 2015, I walked out of my apartment for the last time and entered into the homeless life. Over the course of the next three months, I would push myself further than ever before. My bubble of safety and security was gone – and I was at the mercy of God’s will. In a state of complete and total surrender, a willingness to do whatever it took, I gave myself up and offered myself as a sacrifice on the altar of faith.
I found a spot in front of a bookstore on University Avenue – the central thoroughfare of the U-district – where I would sleep each night. In the morning I would gather up my things and take a slow joyful walk to the Starbucks on the corner so I could buy a banana and use the bathroom. I started to watch videos from the spiritual teacher Ram Dass and would then head over to the University of Washington Campus to nap, do street performances with the staff that I carried around with me, and offer free instruction on meditation and the path to enlightenment. For the rest of the day I’d take a little sign that I’d made and sit in front of the bookstore or out on the street, just talking to people. I met so many people who had a profound impact on me.
I became well known in the area as “The Whistler” because I was always whistling happy tunes wherever I went. Walking slowly – mediating on my movements; sometimes flipping my staff through the air in beautifully choreographed feats of balance and control. I was an oddity, even in Seattle. This was my life now; and it was filled with a joy and satisfaction that I’d never encountered before in my life. It was all so simple, so easy – a blessing of divine grace. I still felt the presence of fear, uncertainty, and doubt from time to time, but when these would arise, something would happen in my experience that would immediately dispel it. I was no longer concerned with questions about who I was or what was happening – all I knew was that I was completely devoted to serving as a vessel for God’s love.
During this time, the core of my teachings began to form. I had a very specific introduction that I would offer to anyone who came to sit with me – beginning with “All things are love, given form, to serve a purpose”. I would then talk about the nature of the conditioned mind and how to move beyond it. When asked what people could do, I would offer “These Five Things” the five most important lessons that my experience had taught me. I even wrote the first version of what would eventually become this book. Everything was precious to me – every person, every experience. Even the most difficult and trying times were seen as nothing more than an opportunity to set myself aside and love more deeply and more fully, without condition, without concern.
As I continued to learn more about Ram Dass and his teachings, and expanded to include the teachings of Eckhart Tolle, I found my own direct experience mirrored in everything they were saying. It all made perfect sense to me and offered a new context to operate from. I was no longer interested in being Jesus. I was interested in being free. That was all I cared about – complete and total inner freedom. And so it was that things took yet another miraculous turn when I ‘accidentally’ found myself purchasing a copy of the book ‘I Am That’ by Sri Nisgaradatta Mahraj, a highly regarded teacher of something I had never heard of called ‘nonduality’. I devoted myself to devouring its pages, and so it did not take long for a deeper, soul-shattering realization to come into my awareness.
Up until that point I had regarding synchronicity as the current of my life, but as I read the teachings of Nisgaradatta, I became aware of a simple fact. These synchronicities were nothing more than my awareness being invited to witness the underlying perfection that is inherent in all things, exactly as they are. I’d been living on the street for almost three months – had read many things and watched several videos, but nothing struck me quite like this did. And in the moment this realization dawned, I was once more consumed with fear – because at that moment, the final remnants of my mind-made self had to confront their own non-reality right alongside the imminent and undeniable experience of being a self; all happening in perfect harmony despite any appearance to the contrary.
Within a few days I made arrangements to leave the streets of Seattle. With great humor it had dawned on me that, this whole time, I’d thought I was the teacher, teaching others. Yet in truth, it was they who were teaching me. It became clear that I am always and forever the student, no matter what role I may be appearing to play at any time. I also realized that I couldn’t actually ‘help’ anyone who didn’t want to be helped. All I could really do was work on myself and become the spaciousness of being that allowed others to investigate their own truths if and when they were ready to do so – all of which would take care of itself anyway and there was really nothing for me to concern myself about. All I really needed to do was get out of the way – and even that was being taken care of.
It’s really quite impossible to describe this experience – having already moved through emptiness and oneness, into direct recognition of life’s absolute, unquestionable perfection. It is important to note though that ‘perfection’ does not mean that our lives will be ‘perfect’. It means that everything that happens in our lives is happening in accord with a divine perfection that goes beyond our individual experience of ourselves and has more to do with what we are at the core of our being, beyond all conceptual limitations. Life, as we are experiencing it, is not something happening in isolation – but is, instead, a reflection of the totality of all beings – outside of and beyond our notion of time. It speaks to the Oneness of what we are, after emptiness clarifies itself through understanding.
There was still more to come, and a long road for me to continue to walk before ‘not knowing’ and becoming comfortable with ‘not knowing’ would establish itself as the hallmark of true knowing, but during those last few days on the street, my surrender became even more complete – no longer just a sense of trust or faith in my own direct experience, but faith and trust in perfection itself. There was a complete sense of peace in this place – all guilt and shame, everything that I had ever thought to be true of myself faded away into the understanding of what this perfection meant – and seeing how it had been at work my entire life. Of course, I am always sure to offer the important reminder that even though everything is always perfect just as it is, this is not a license to be an asshole.
This is why I often say that “oneness without emptiness is only half a truth. And emptiness without oneness is only half a heart”. Love, in its truest form, may have an edge to it, but it is not necessary to continually sharpen that edge, mercilessly cutting away at the confusion of others. Such actions amount to nothing more than another layer of internal confusion that we need to work through within ourselves. Because if we still see ‘other’ as distinct and separate from ourselves, then we are still missing out on the true meaning of the Oneness beyond emptiness that is Loves fullest and most mature expression. In fact, the next year of my life would cement this understanding as my experiences forced me to discern between loves cleansing fire, compassionate embrace, and playful dance.
<Part V – Caught Between Two Worlds – Coming Soon>