When I was a teenager in New York City, there was a feverish surge to educate people in the sciences, due to some concept about the Cold War and needing to further technology and so forth. So in junior high school there were programs for skipping grades and taking more science classes, if you had an affinity for that, and I was one who did. At some point then, maybe in the eighth or ninth grade, there was a test everyone took to qualify for a special science-oriented high school—an accelerated high school for churning out little nuclear physicists. So this test was coming up, and I was probably somewhat nervous because there was a lot of peer pressure to excel and to go on to one of these special high schools in New York City. I recall fairly clearly that the test was on a weekend and that I had a terrible cold. So I showed up for the test with this terrible cold, and as I was taking the test, I noticed something about myself. Not that I was a student of self-study at that time, but I did notice something about myself. Whenever the question was difficult, I said to myself, “You have a cold.” Now because I had some natural abilities in these subjects, I did adequately well and I got into one of the special high schools—but not “the” special high school. So there was this stigma that I felt. I don’t know how it was looked on by other people, but I felt it myself, and I looked back and my explanation was, “Well, I had a cold.”
So putting that aside for a minute, we’re here either being introduced to, or deep in the bowels of an undertaking of trying to get free from the obstacles that keep us from being, let’s call it, conscious human beings. Or at least happy human beings. But what if it were the case that we had a built-in excuse, that every time, as they say, push came to shove, we would opt for, “Well, I have a cold,” or whatever? You can fill in the blanks for yourself.
One of the blanks that I want to talk about today is the life that you’ve led up to this point, and especially the early part of it, when you were damaged. I’m talking about a particular category of excuses I’ll call “dents.” This means the pain you’ve suffered and the hurt you’ve risen above. I’m saying that we’re all battered babies. We have all undergone the pain of either specific trauma, general trauma, or the worst possible pain—numbness. We’ve all experienced either a singular event, or a concentrated sequence of traumatic battering, or we’ve undergone a daily sequence of being ignored, which is certainly not as graphic as losing your parents in a car crash, but after a certain number of years it’s exactly the same. Exactly the same.
I know that there are support groups for people whose parents were killed in a crash when they were kids. I know they have support groups for people who were molested as children. I know they have support groups for kids who come from broken homes, for children of alcoholics. But they don’t have support groups for kids with “normal” upbringings—a battering of its own variety. They don’t have support groups for kids whose parents were workaholics. They don’t have support groups for kids who grew up in families that thought money was the answer to peace. Or maybe you were rich as shit, you know? A different variety of misfortune. Think of the incredibly damaging impact, though subtle, of getting everything you want. With that level of control, how could one ever hope to get free? They don’t have support groups for that. And so on and so on and so on. What I’m trying to explain here is that sometimes you have even a little voice that says, “I have a cold,” or, “My dad was a drunk,” or, “You don’t know what a burden money can be,” or whatever it is. As long as you keep that as an explanation for your inability to effectively pursue removing the obstacles to your natural gift of consciousness—then you will get nowhere. You must come to know that that’s happening. Because when it comes down to it and you need to be able to see things as they are, you won’t be able to because you’ll have a little voice that will say, “Hey this happened to me, I am in a separate category than everybody else, you don’t know the hurt I’ve suffered, I can’t be expected to… .” And you’ll get nowhere.
Whatever damage that you underwent—whether cognitively you think about it or you don’t think about it—it is in your drawer of excuses, of explanations for why you “can’t.” Now obviously if I’m delivering a message of hope, I have to explain to you why you “can.” Certainly I was dented in the way dents happen as much as anyone was dented, and I manifested resistance in the way that other people manifest resistance, but I found peace and I found truth and I have that now. So the conclusion that I draw from myself as an example is that—shit, if I can do it, you can do it. I have to tell you this, and I also have to tell you that anything you have that obstructs your undertaking of using the tools for consciousness that you have been given, of working together with your peers, and of persevering and concentrating on the things that will take you higher, is an excuse. You should examine it, and you should see it as such. And maybe, just by seeing it and examining it, it may diffuse, it may dissipate, and it may even disappear.
Whatever your story is—and I’ve heard some incredible stories—I’ll tell you the same thing. Whatever it is that happened is in the past, you share some variety of it with all other humans. There is a common denominator that we have, and this is that we start off with the greatest trauma of all—we go from the unmanifest to the manifest. No one can overestimate the depth and consequence of that trauma. No one can. And you know when that happened—that happened before your story even started! This experiment involves us starting off wounded. It doesn’t matter if you were born in the water, or if you were born in Cottage Hospital with the music playing, or if your parents took Lamaze, or if your mother took drugs, or if she didn’t take drugs—all that stuff doesn’t matter a shit. It doesn’t have anything to do with the bigness of the trauma of going from an unmanifest state to a manifest state where you become a separated being with no tangible connection to what keeps you alive. That is the trauma. Everything else after that is a song and a dance. So your song and dance is that your dad used to smack the crap out of you every time he came home, or your song and dance is that your dad ignored you every time he came home. Your song and dance is that the kids made fun of you on the schoolyard everyday, or that you were quiet and smart and everyone assumed you were a snob, or that you appeared well-adjusted and everybody thought you were calm and peaceful but inside you were in hell. It’s all the same story. It’s all small potatoes.
So I would like to start a dialogue with people who have these stories, and it would be–“In the pursuit of consciousness, it just doesn’t matter.” There are two things you can do with a story that you think matters. You can tell it here and there when you need an excuse, or you can hide it. Both ways are the same really. If you hide it, if you’re ashamed of it, if you’re afraid of it, if you can’t acknowledge it, then it’s got you. If you say it out and use it as an excuse, then it’s got you. So I’m not telling you just to forget about it. I’m telling you that in order to get free of it, it has to come to mean nothing to you. And this can happen if you can recognize that everyone is in the same situation. Even Beaver Cleaver. Even Opie. The same, the same, all the same.
We have to learn to call those excuses what they are—a bunch of stories. Not that we can’t hear your story. We’ll hear everybody’s story once, okay? Or maybe twice if it’s a really good story. But after that…you know? Everybody hears one and they’re champing at the bit to tell their own. And the poor Beavers among us, what are we going to tell? “Well, I never really did anything. Nothing that bad ever really happened to me. Nothing that good ever happened to me.” You understand? The one person must be able to say, “With me, intensity was every day, fear was every day. With you, mediocrity was every day. Inertia was every day. Boredom was every day. I was never bored, and you never felt adrenaline. Same thing. We’re in this together.” And then we can go on. But if you flaunt your excuse, or you hide it, then it’s got you.
Whatever your story is, it just doesn’t matter anymore. If you want a story, go back to this original story and find a way to repair, to rediscover the connection that you’ve lost to what keeps you alive, to that pure and perfect energy that you were at one time part of and knew it. Repair the trauma you underwent in becoming a separated being, one that is now left totally confused, desperately clinging to this and that, desperately looking for something, but not knowing what. Nothing ever works, and if it does, it only works for a moment. Or if it worked for longer, you leaned so much weight on it you eventually crushed it.
We must understand that we have a common denominator to struggle against, and that this is the experiment that we were placed in by our Creator. This experiment involves us separating into form, into unique elements, separating from that energy that keeps us alive with the possibility of rediscovering it. That’s what we have in common and that’s the challenge that we share. Our challenge is not that of our past, but of our present. We’re all at this same point now.
There’s a line in a Bob Dylan song, “Leave your stepping stones behind, something calls for you. Forget the dead you left, they will not follow you.” That’s always meant something to me. Everything that got you here is really not important anymore. All of your laments, or your successes—not important anymore. It’s like a high school star athlete going to college and wanting to talk about his accomplishments in high school. Nobody cares! Now it only matters what you do now. All your stepping stones are part of your past. They’re not part of your present. Whether they were painful or pleasant, it really doesn’t matter. Just acknowledge that they got you here, and be glad that they did because now you have a chance for something else. You’re separated from your Creator and that is the problem. You have the chance to rediscover the connection that was at one time the most natural thing for you—before you were separated. That is our undertaking; that is our challenge. So you can forget the dead that you left. All of it. How you were wounded, how you were mistreated, how you were well-treated—leave it behind. If you bring it forth, you have brought it forth, but it has no legs to follow you. It’s only what got you here, and now you have something to undertake: the rediscovery of the connection that keeps you alive.
This connection, the tangible experience of this pure and perfect energy, can actually solve everything that you think has to be solved individually. Think of all the effort that you put into solving your problems, plans, and relationships. Our concept that we’re going to find peace by solving every single thing, one problem at a time, is deluded. It’s incorrect. It just doesn’t work that way. We’re in disharmony because we’re not connected. The same as your toaster would be in disharmony if it were not plugged in, not connected to the energy that keeps it alive. “Jeez, I’ve been trying to fix it for a week—I fiddled with the knobs, I rattled the inner frame, I tightened the screws—but I never plugged it in!” It’s like that. We are plugged in too, but we’re not cognizant of our plug. It’s invisible to us and we haven’t rediscovered it. But the rediscovery of that energy that keeps us alive will fix all the knobs and frames and screws of our life that we spend our time trying to fix. It will give us the comfort that we seek from each other and from our possessions. It can give us the sense of purpose and worth that we seek by trying to amass and accumulate and impress. This energy gives us the love and the peace that we desperately try to find everywhere else. It is loving us at every second—we are maintained and cared for every second, with every breath, but we’re not cognizant of that breath or the energy behind it. And so, we feel ignored, so we try to be noticed by each other. But no amount of human noticing, no human love, no human comforting can ever substitute for the experience of that moment to moment, unceasing caring of that pure and perfect energy.
Whatever your story then, in terms of your opportunity for rediscovering a connection to the energy that keeps you alive, it’s all the same. None of it matters. You need to accept and embrace the possibility that you can do this with the help of Grace, with the help of each other, with my help. It can happen. But if you have a built in excuse, a built in defeat mechanism: “Yeah, but, you didn’t know my dad,” or whatever your story is—then when it comes down to needing that edge, you won’t be able to do it. Your hope is defied by your excuses. Your excuses allow you to say, “I can’t.” But you can. We must recognize that each of us is a unique experiment on the part of the Creator, and that the Creator has set it up so that we are separated entities, with the possibility of reconnecting. Understanding this, we can work together with a concentrated effort to try to reunite, to reconnect with that energy that creates and maintains us—which is what it wants for us, and which is our birth right.