A new José Stevens Article

False Gods

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When I was a child I remember being alternately impressed and terrified by the biblical command, “I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt not have false gods before me.” This was the command of a dominant God issuing a directive with implications of dire punishment if disobeyed. It conjured up images of frenzied hordes dancing around and bowing down to golden calves and huge statues of demonic images. I recalled the names Baal and X and the whole thing gave me the creeps. I imagined lightning bolts being sent down by an angry God and resulting hellfire and brimstone forever and ever. These images gradually faded but throughout my life the threatening command would surface every once in a while, and I would contemplate its meaning. Very slowly understanding dawned and I began to gain insight into the true meaning of the phrase. As this happened I couldn’t help but wonder how something so helpful and compassionate had taken on the threatening and oppressive tone of my childhood.

With study and contemplation, I began to understand that God or All that Is expressed through my awareness of being conscious and alive. In fact this, too was present in my childhood. In some of my books I have referenced a time when I was about four years old when I experienced ecstatic moments of being alive and conscious and feeling unimaginably grateful to find myself aware and awake and alive. I considered what the odds were that I had been given this amazing good fortune among all the possibilities that I might never have been born, perhaps been in darkness never to be thought of forever. The contemplation of my good fortune used to delight me for many hours. This of course was before my domestication in school and the terrible command, “I am the Lord they God, thou shalt not have strange gods before me.”

Much later in my life as I began to cultivate being aware of my awareness I began to see the toll taken by my wild monkey mind, the endless parade of thoughts, feelings, and distractions that stole my attention away from the serene and beautiful expansiveness of simply being aware and knowing that I am aware. It was as if a thief would suddenly steal my attention without my being aware of it in the slightest and for stretches of time I would be lost chasing some series of thoughts and feelings down a rabbit hole only to suddenly realize that my mind had been hijacked without my being at all aware of it. How could this be that one moment I could be blissful in a quiet and peaceful state and without noticing it I could suddenly be in a state of worry and agitation, so far from where I started? Wow. Slowly I began to see that these were the false gods referred to in that deadly biblical command. Worry, obsession, and hypervigilance were certainly three false gods that I was dancing with and bowing down before without realizing I had been captivated by them. However, these were not golden calves or big imposing statues external to me. They were inside me, a part of my very own mind. And yet they were not me, rather they were more like parasites taking me over, and they had been doing so most of my life without me even realizing that they had converted me over from my wonderful loving Source to something ugly, agitating, and misery making. From a Buddhist perspective they embodied the essence of suffering. And rather than a big booming dominant voice there was only the voice of compassion and love telling me that I was getting off track with my own thinking.

There was a knowing deep within me, looking out for me and gently reminding me without any judgment whatsoever to remember who and what I am. This knowing is always present and never ever gives up reminding me to get back to my home base. Ten thousand times it reminds me and more if needed – never getting tired, never giving up on me, never being impatient with me. Amazing! Who or what is this voice of knowing? It is none other than myself, my true self, an expression of my source that has always been here and always will be here no matter what. This knowing is not another. It is more me than anything else could be. Nor is it mine exclusively because I share it with all other beings. We are all in the same boat together struggling to release suffering and remember pure consciousness and this voice or knowing speaks to us all because it is our source.

Since we are free to choose, we may choose to ignore this knowing and many of us do lifetime after lifetime. No blame and no judgment. Not listening allows us to have many adventures, many lessons, lots of drama, much suffering. Many would call this life or just being human and, in a way, they would be right. Yet we have been programmed to believe that being human is just this and not much else.  When Christians refer to the kingdom of God they are referring to something other than suffering as are the Buddhists when they refer to emptiness. Both terms refer to the same phenomenon. There is a way to live in a higher octave state without the worry, without the hypervigilance, and without obsessive thinking. There is a way to live without the intense emotion that accompanies anxiety, depression, fanaticism, narcissism, addiction, impatience, judgment, resistance, conflict, attachment, paranoia, and identification that passes for life. What is this way of living? When the enlightened Tulku Urguen Rinpoche, the Dalai Lama’s right-hand man, was asked how he could manage so many worldly affairs without intense thinking, he simply replied, “It’s the easiest thing in the world.” He implied that being in a state of emptiness does not mean one is a moron, stupid, or dull. In fact, rather than ignorance it is a state of brilliant awareness, high consciousness, being totally awake. Without all that thinking and processing and worrying one can operate with total efficiency and enjoy it immensely because we have total access to knowing. Knowing takes no time and there are no errors due to guessing. There is also another key ingredient. There is no fear. There is no external fear and there is no secret fear.

This is a huge consideration. Fear occupies 95% of our lives or a least a major proportion of human experience. Much of this fear is unrecognized and camouflaged in projections, blame, judgment, hate, prejudice, and the like. Every fear thought whether recognized or not causes contraction of consciousness, a shrinking of awareness, until our world looks very small indeed. Awareness becomes contracted into a myopic view of reality such as one has when everything looks conspiratorial. This is not brilliance but a shutting down of curiosity and the doors of perception. In other words, we become grossly ineffective when we are fearful.

There are two more things to consider regarding awareness without thinking. The first is that since thinking causes us to contract, awareness without thinking leads to massive and rapid expansiveness. This usually scares us back into thinking where we can experience the great relief of making ourselves small again. The second consideration is this: the massive expansion cannot be experienced without the concomitant experience of compassion and unconditional love. They just go together like a bird and its song. No bird, no song, no expansiveness, no unconditional love and vice versa. We cannot experience unconditional love from a contracted place of fearfulness and obsessiveness or hypervigilance (false gods). The only way is to let go of fear and let our awareness expand. Hmmm. Doesn’t seem so hard. Why are we so frightened all the time? You might say, “But I am not frightened?” Okay, are you experiencing unconditional love? If not, you are frightened. No two ways about it. You can’t have your cake and eat it too with regard to this. If you want to hang on to your fear then you can’t feel unconditional love. You might still be able to feel conditional love, that’s true. But it will have attachments and conditions. “I love you but only if you stay young and beautiful (I’m afraid you will get old and ugly)” “I love you but of course you will have to do as I say or be as I would like you to be (I’m afraid I can’t control you).” That is the choice. Stay in control (false gods), let your fears run you and be stuck in conditional love or let go of control, let fear drop away and love everyone and everything (no more false gods). Hmmmm… Is that so?

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José Stevens

José Luis Stevens, PhD is the president and co-founder (with wife Lena) of Power Path Seminars, an international school and consulting firm dedicated to the study and application of shamanism and indigenous wisdom to business and everyday life. José completed a ten-year apprenticeship with a Huichol (Wixarika) Maracame (Huichol shaman) in the Sierras of Central Mexico. In addition, he is studying with Shipibo shamans in the Peruvian Amazon and with Paqos (shamans) in the Andes in Peru. In 1983 he completed his doctoral dissertation at the California Institute of Integral Studies focusing on the interface between shamanism and western psychological counseling. Since then, he has studied cross-cultural shamanism around the world to distill the core elements of shamanic healing and practice. He is the author of twenty books and numerous articles including Encounters With Power, Awaken The Inner Shaman, The Power Path, Secrets of Shamanism, Transforming Your Dragons and How To Pray The Shaman's Way.