My Guru

A project which has been a long time coming, something that my entire twenties were geared toward, is Brian Lathai.

I wanted to create a brand from the ground up that featured a personality, but a personality that wasn't necessarily me. A character, essentially. Stephen Colbert is a great example, except where his message revolves around politics, mine would revolve around spirituality. It's not simple commentary though.

One of those most fulfilling experiences of my career has been to work with kids as an assistant youth pastor. I looked at the Sunday School model and knew that for me growing up, it wasn't very effective. Staring at poorly drawn images of Jesus on cheap comic book paper while an old lady doused in perfume spent more time berating us for behavior was what Sunday School. I wanted to create something different.

The model that was developed was to use personal experience as a way to demonstrate God's love. I encouraged my staff to be open about their struggles and talk about ways they saw God working in their lives. As a result, we created a brand new ministry from the ground up which grew to over 300 students. Not all of them showed up at once, thankfully, but overtime we built a family that was different than anything seen in the church. Personal experience works.

Over the last few years I've come to a place of personal freedom. It's not a freedom that's owned, but one that's recognized every day and I feel it's my purpose to share what that's like. Brian Lathai is a vehicle for sharing freedom.

This feels...good, and that's why I'm doing it. I've learned to follow what feels good. I'm excited to keep this blog going as a way to discuss what it's like on this end of things. That's to say, this blog will remain personal, while Brian Lathai, and everything published under that brand, will remain impersonal. In effect, Brian is my guru.

Living EDC

Let me start off by saying that this year's EDC was completely different than the first time. That's probably expected. A friend mentioned after the first time that it would never be the same, and so that rings true.

That said, I'm speechless.

Don't get me wrong. It was great, and not-so-great. There were fantastic moments and moments where I waned to end it all, but not in a suicidal way. I was just overwhelmed by everything and needed a break.

I tend to get lost at raves and music festivals. Like, one moment I'll be with friends and the next I'm simply gone. Nowhere to be found. What happens is I feel absolutely free to go exactly where I want, how I want, leaning all the way on whatever feels right to carry me along.

What's interesting is I've felt more and more free over the last few years. So while going to EDC the first time was like an introduction to going with the flow, this year was an affirmation that I'm already flowing.

Friday and Saturday nights I tried chasing a particular kind of experience; the doorway to the rabbit hole. Drugs and raving helped knock on that door, so I was hoping to relive that experience by drinking and dropping pills. The first night I had an amazing time, but a good deal of it was spent sitting down trying to find my way out of being crossfaded. Tequila. The second night I mixed a bad pill with a good pill and rolled between self-loathing and mindless bliss. A good amount of time was spent meditating, again trying to find some sense of being grounded.

I almost didn't make it Sunday night. Some friends were in town and wanted to hit up a club with the friends I had been riding with the whole weekend. There was a drive in me to be at EDC though, and things really worked out when a friend offered her unused shuttle pass. What a gift. Without it, I wouldn't have known how much all of this has meant over the last few years.

The last night of the festival I finally gave up trying to chase a high and let go to the feeling of simply being under the electric sky. It was during Zedd's set that it hit me: I'm at EDC, again, after all that happened. I looked up in awe as tears streamed down my face. So much of that night was an affirmation that I didn't have to chase a high, chase being in the moment or chase being in the flow. I'm there.

I can be me, and everything is alright.

I'm going to Electric Daisy Carnival, again

There's usually a lot of hesitation involved with sharing what the story has been over the last few years. Part of that hesitation is that it doesn't feel like me. A very faint part of myself is what clings to that story. The rest of what comes up just kind of vanishes, meaning there's no place to stick a flag and declare being finished. That was said a lot in an attempt to describe the shifty nature of spiritual awakening. Yet as life continues to be what it is, the story of spiritual awakening sits further and further in the back.

However, this is worth spilling some words over.

My brother dropped me off at the airport to catch my flight to LA. We did the normal thing, hugging and saying brotherly goodbyes and he wished me well with, "have fun at your festival." I'd spent some time after my first EDC back on the east coast in Philadelphia, and we had a chance to talk. It was obvious how amazing the experience at EDC had been and how much it changed my life because it was all I talked about. That and being a wizard.

I laughed, "Oh, I don't think I'll be going to that this year." He smirked, "Yeah, okay."

Three months later, to the day, I'll be heading to EDC.

It was tough making the decision to come to Los Angeles, because I really had no plan or vision or anything. There was simply a strong desire, like a homing signal as one friend puts it, compelling me to be here. I was confused. The first few weeks were riddled with, "Why am I here?" Even considered going to a psychic.

The signs couldn't be ignored though. It wasn't only the signs, highlighting key decisions at times, joking at other times, but also the synchronistic flow of events. To call it "Divine Timing" almost cheapens what the experience is like, but that's what it is. It feels like guidance, as if someone is behind you with their hand gently on your shoulder and are moving you effortlessly through a crowd. It's comforting, because even though you may be staggering, you feel this presence with you to carry the weight of having to figure out the next step.

Even though there are no plans, there's so much support. I feel very safe. There's a guy they call Mooji who says something like, "it feels like you're sitting in the lap of God." I don't want to talk about it too much, because talking about it takes away from simply being in it. I want to be in a position where I'm so dissolved in That, that my words are His words, my actions His actions. It feels like, for whatever reason, getting involved with EDC and the culture of peace, love, unity and respect is purposeful in continuing that dissolution. Maybe it isn't.

Maybe I'm supposed to simply have a good time and enjoy life in every moment. Either way, I'm grateful.

Thank You Magic

I'm in Los Angeles, again, after having spent about two years in Philadelphia. Los Angeles has been a background thought since the first time I moved out here in my early twenties. There's something about the air that tugs at a specific part of me which is otherwise tucked away.

It isn't simply being away from the small town I grew up in. Time has been spent in Colorado, the Bay Area and across the country a few times. Nothing compares to the stale ripeness of L.A. It's a funky town.

There's an energy that swells up and creates a certain kind of perspective which I honestly can't explain. It just feels good, but in an innocent kind of way. Sort of like a child might look at the world with untamed curiosity and openness.

Much of this is owed to simply relaxing and allowing the moment to be whatever it is. Everything settles into a deeper love which is the simple attentive openness that underpins every experience. The moment is sweetly alive.

Part of what points to this is synchronistic events. The idea of synchronicity floats around spiritual conversation and is often brushed off, rightly so. Firstly, no one really knows what it is. The suggestion is that there is some meaning to coincidences. Like the Law of Attraction though, when this is discussed only as a concept, it gets distorted.

The experience of synchronicity is akin to a close friend peaking from behind a tree, as if to say, "Peek-a-boo!" It's a game of hide and seek. The fun part is that there is only one person playing at a time, and that's you, with yourself. So it's more like playing peek-a-boo with yourself in the mirror.

When that's laid over the concept of every coincidence having meaning, the concept buckles. How surprising is it to notice yourself in the mirror? There are moments however when you're walking through the mall or a row of storefronts and suddenly catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror. It's unexpected. That's synchronicity.

In a moment, you recognize that everything is in order. It's perfect. You're confronted with that as a fact through direct experience.

Speaking of storefronts, there was one earlier with a sign in that said something like, "You'll never see the magic if you don't look for it."

How do you look for magic?

In every story that has a magic worker, what's obvious is that in order for the magic to work, there needs to be some kind of ritual. There must be a practice of arranging myself or the environment in a way to evoke the mojo. Right along with that is the idea that those who practice must actually practice, building up some kind of stamina to be involved with The Work. (I'm totally stealing The Work from actor jargon, because I'm in L.A., so of course.)

Noticing the magic comes from practicing. One kind of practice is appreciation, which is adding value to something. Ram Dass, one of my favorite spiritual entertainers, says something like, "When you see a tree out in the forest, you don't judge it by saying it's too fat or ugly. You simply look at it and admire it for what it is. So I practice turning people into trees." What would it be like to add value to everything and every experience? That's the practice.

Going back to Law of Attraction for a moment, the way it's described is that the more open you are to a certain kind of experience, the more the Universe provides that to you. If you want to be angry or depressed all the time, you'll always be presented with reasons to be depressed and angry. If you want to be happy and blissed out all the time, you'll always be presented with reasons to be that way.

It's another way of saying that the way you think about the world is how the world appears. The confusion of Law of Attraction as a concept is that the bait is that you can get anything you want. You can't. You can certainly have any feeling you want though. The car, money and job are ways to get the body-mind system into feeling whatever it is those things would provide. The more attention there is on the feeling, the more there is.

Still using appreciation as an example, it's possible to feel appreciative of what there is and as a result, grow deeper in appreciation. Simply saying, "Thank you" to whatever happens is a ritual. Someone cuts you off in traffic? Thank you. The little old lady is taking her time putting her groceries on the belt? Thank you. Someone close to me disappointed me, again? Thank you.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Those are the magic words.

Going with the silence

Guilleromo Del Toro's Pacific Rim is a fantastic action film that has many underlying characteristics of a spiritual narrative. One is the concept of The Drift.

The Drift is the space between personal thoughts, thoughts shared with a copilot and the computer system for a giant mech warrior. The Drift is silence, they say. That seems to be analogous with the Flow or even the Force, to stay with the film theme. It is a space where thinking is left to the side and the entire experience becomes a harmonious flow of events. In the case of Pacific Rim, that translates into a mech warrior fighting giant monsters called Kaiju.

How does that translate into daily life?

The key point about The Drift is silence. Attention shifts away from constant focus on the chatter to the availability of the moment. Open world games are a cool way to demonstrate this.

In a game like Grand Theft Auto, there are certain objects in the environment which are simply available for you to use or interact with. Of course there are cars, but there are also weapons or even trash cans that can tip over if you kick them. The object of the game isn't to steal every car, use every weapon or kick over every trashcan, but all of that is simply available. The moment is available in the same way. Everything is simply here.

Opening up to the availability of the moment is simply noticing the silence behind everything that's happening. This is where tools like meditation come in handy.

In meditation, you're training attention to come back to the silence and to notice it more frequently. The more the habit builds, the more it becomes a way of experiencing reality. Attention begins to rest more and more in silence. Going with the Flow then becomes going with the silence.

This reduces the mystery around going with the flow. It doesn't need to be a mystical experience that's out of touch with ordinary life, but can be met right here. It's impossible to live and experience reality without doing so in the flow.

Confidence in the resolve

A friend warned that jumping to Los Angeles again without a plan is probably not the best plan. He's always been reasonable and clever. It's because of his advice and direct help that I've gotten jobs on the East Coast. So I listen. The challenge now however is that reason isn't being followed.

What's being done is completely unreasonable. This is the third time I've jumped to Los Angles, in a configuration not too different from the others. The first time, I had very little savings, very little focus and a very limited amount of time to get it all together. It was a failure. The second time was absolute luck. I had grown desperately angry about being on the East Coast. That fueled a series of events that allowed me to land a job before leaving to LA and a place to stay just days before touchdown. Each time resulted in homelessness.

It's reasonable to say there should be some measure of planning to accommodate a soft landing. It's reasonable to suggest that having a job before leaving is the best way to go. That makes logical sense. However what's being followed is a commitment to being intimate with the moment.

There's a certain confidence in the resolve that creates a comfort and sense of stability with whatever arises in the moment. Whatever happens, I'm still here. Another friend says it quite eloquently, "I'm not dead yet."

I can't convince anyone, not even myself, of what that experience is like. I feel grounded, and there isn't a reasonable explanation as to why. What's apparent is that decision-making comes spontaneously and there is a drive toward following through with whatever the decision is.

Los Angeles has been a goal since returning to the East Coast. There wasn't a rush, it was simply an expectation lingering in the background. Then one day most recently, while casually thinking about LA, a voice pierced through sharply, "I'm ready to be back in Los Angeles." That's all it took. It's like something clicked and the entire process oriented itself toward another jump.

There was a poem that came up some years ago after my first time to LA:

And here I stand
In full command of my fear
Thinking, wishing, dreaming
That I can be that thing I see
Standing far before me
With air that breathes my lungs
Words that touch the tip of my tongue
And arms that reach out for mine.
This is the moment I rise!
And yet, there's a pause.
For what cause? I don't know.
But it goes to show that even in the moment of inspiration
There's a stagnation to our ability
We're only human, you and I
Why reach for the stars when we'll just
And die?
Why push past every obstacle that's in our way?
Freedom doesn't lie there.
It tells the truth.
And that's what I need:
The honesty to believe in something
Ridiculously impossible that it takes
All of me to be.
Baby, I'm on track!
To where? Who cares.
I wouldn't dare stand in the face of fear
Without the confidence to make it shed a tear.
No, this fear belongs to me
And here I stand, in full command.

This is my manifesto.
Whatever fear there was has burned away, singed by the friction of another launch. It's all completely unreasonable, but whatever space is left by the absence of logic is filled with total joy. There is peace and confidence in the undercurrent of the moment. I'm going with the flow.

Hope and Hunger

There were two distinct moments after the first major leap where I lost hope. Once was sitting on the curb near a co-op, organic grocery store in Los Angeles. There were some folks earlier that day who told me to check the dumpster out because they always throw out perfectly edible food, like fruit, with minor blemishes. Hunger sent me over there.

Hunger is an interesting feeling because it pushes the body into survival mode. This isn't the kind of hunger where you're between meetings and don't have enough time to stop and grab something to eat. This isn't the kind of hunger where you wake up in the morning and feel like you could swallow a whole farm for breakfast. This is the kind of hunger where you haven't eaten for days and your whole body is oriented toward finding something, anything, to satisfy an avoidance of certain death. It feels like that.

So I'm sitting on the curb, debating whether to run up to the dumpster. There's a security camera watching over it and a parking lot full of witnesses. Somehow I had to dash over there, dig through it, retrieve a few pieces of treasure and retreat. The other debate was personal. "I'm awakened," the thought went. "Isn't there supposed to be some kind of grace or something to take care of this?"

As I'm sitting there, stalling between deciding when to run and crushing under the reality that Grace doesn't mean entitlement, a familiar face rides up on a bike. It was one of the people who told me to go dumpster diving. He looked down, smiled at me knowingly, reached into his bag and gave me the largest apple I'd ever seen. No words. All action. Then he rode away.

Another time hope was lost was a hungry night in San Francisco. I'd spent the day wandering around, essentially lost because it wasn't clear that San Francisco is an island, and that once you're there, you're stuck. With no money, I didn't have any means of leaving. The whole day was spent walking around trying to find a safe place to sleep later that evening. Nightfall had come, and with it, the cry for food.

A small bakery was closed but had the door cracked open. There were people in the back in what I assumed was something like a kitchen. I peaked my head through the doorway and politely shouted, "Excuse me! Excuse me! Do you have anything I could eat? Maybe something you were throwing away?" A man turned to look at me, shook his head, and turned away. "Do you know where I could find something?" He ignored me. "Sir?" He continued to ignore me. "How could he do that," I thought. "I'm a human being. Where's the love?"

Later that night I made a cardboard sign. I had grown fed up with being in San Francisco and was angry that this awakening thing wasn't working like it was supposed to. The sign read, "Vallejo." The thought was that I could stand by the on ramp to the bridge, hold up the sign, and by magic, someone would stop and taking me off the island. Every driver ignored me.

Hunger started to press again. After a number of hours, I turned the sign over and wrote, "HUNGRY." Drivers started to pay attention. Something said to start smiling, and so I did. People began rolling their windows down and offering loose change and dollar bills. "Holy shit," I thought. "It's working." Some other momentum picked up and the hunger subsided as well as the cold. Focus shifted to earning enough money to catch the Ferry the next day away from the island.

The next morning I stood out there again to earn a few more dollars, and in addition to ten dollars, someone gave me a freshly opened breakfast from Starbucks.

It's interesting meeting those experiences again through these words. Each time, hope was lost. Really, an expectation was challenged and I was made a fool of.

Grace doesn't always work the way I think it should work. It never works that way actually. And—Christ—what's humbling is that even though I'm a brat or grow angry or impatient or whatever the case may be, it always works out. Always. There's something behind the drama that knows.