Conscious Spirituality

January 12th, 2016 by Steve Pavlina

Let me share some thoughts and ideas about consciously exploring your spiritual side, in the form of questions and answers, with the intention that it may help you explore your own spiritual path.

Why spirituality?

I use the word spirituality to refer to your current understanding of the entire universe of existence and your role within it as a conscious being. Who are you? What are you? And what is this reality in which you find yourself?

The word is just a label, so don’t get caught up on the word or attach too much baggage to it. The concept behind it is what matters. You can refer to this same concept as your philosophy of life, the big picture, the meaning of life, etc.

What are we? Are we physical beings with minds? Are we spiritual beings?

We are what we make ourselves to be.

From one perspective we’re all separate individuals. From another perspective we can see ourselves as a unified whole.

Imagine a gigantic sheet of aluminum foil with billions of tiny indentations in it, like protruding fingers. As individuals we’re the dents. Collectively we’re the foil. You can choose to adopt either perspective, or switch back and forth.

As an individual your power is limited. You’re just a dent in a sea of other dents. But you have an interesting perspective on the whole sheet. No other dent sees the same picture you do. No other dent experiences the sheet in the same way. The collective perspectives of all these individual dents add up to the self-awareness of the entire sheet. As individuals we help this reality understand itself.

Acting through the perspective of the entire foil, however, we’re much more powerful. The better we understand this foil, the more we can consciously create eddies and ripples in it that will influence the other dents. But in order to do that, we must learn to think beyond the level of individuality.

The primary reason these dents exist is to help the foil understand itself. Our greater mission or purpose is to explore the foil. The foil is vast, almost endless.

How powerful are we?

As a dent in the foil, you aren’t very powerful. Dent-level thinking doesn’t summon much energy flow.

This isn’t such a bad thing per se. Limiting our power helps us focus on depth. We can stick with our experiences long enough to thoroughly explore them.

Channeling too much energy into subtle explorations would be like running too much current through a light bulb. You’ll burn out the bulb, and then you’ll have no light.

When we channel energy through our individual-level consciousness, the current is greatly reduced. This reduced flow of energy creates temporary stability. Change at this level happens slowly. We also waste a lot of this energy on fear, anger, worry, complaining, doubt, and other forms of resistance.

Some individuals can still channel a decent flow at this level, largely by eliminating resistance to doing so. Most, however, experience only a weak flow of energy at the individual level. They can pick up a spoon, but they cannot move a mountain.

It’s possible to increase your power substantially, but to do so, you must stop thinking so much at the individual level. You must learn to think and channel energy through the greater sheet of foil, not merely through your own dent. As you learn to do this, you’ll gain access to experiences that previously seemed out of your reach. Problems will begin to dissolve, and solutions will seem to arise out of nowhere. You’ll have experiences that exceed your best imaginings, and it may take some time to get used to this.

There are two basic strategies for increasing your ability to channel more energy. The lightworker strategy seeks to channel energy through the foil towards the other dents. The darkworker strategy seeks to draw energy from the other dents into itself. Both paths lead to the same end because the lightworker and darkworker must learn to channel energy through the foil, and in so doing, they each align themselves with the greater purpose of helping the foil understand itself. At the individual level, they may appear to be at odds with each other, but at a deeper level, they’re both aligning themselves with the exploration of existence. Consequently, when a lightworker and a darkworker meet in person, they’re likely to relate with some degree of mutual respect because they each understand the purpose of the other. Both also understand that these are temporary phases.

To use a Star Wars analogy, there is no light side or dark side. There’s only the force, which is the energy flow through the foil. But we can temporarily constrain the ways we use this energy to tighten our focus and to learn its nuances.

If you want to channel more power as an individual, your first step is to decide to explore power. Every exploration has different consequences, including the exploration of power. If you can better understand and invite the consequences of exploring greater power, then you can increase the flow of power through your life.

It’s common to invite the exploration of greater power, to have some experiences in that direction, and then to freak out a little and retreat. You can expect to go through multiple rounds of this because some steps require you to also upgrade your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and expectations. To channel greater flow, you must become a better conduit. Sometimes you’ll need to pause, reflect, and rework your whole model of reality. What was true for you at a lower energy level may no longer be true at higher levels of flow. That which was once solid and stable becomes more malleable. Your old behaviors no longer produce the same results.

If you’re going to explore power or anything else, do your best to make your exploration unique. There’s little value in copying or repeating someone else’s experience too closely. Seek your own unique expression of power, so you can add value to our collective exploration.

Are we mortal or immortal?

You can be either.

You can even make part of yourself immortal and another part mortal.

All of these aspects are being explored.

You can consciously choose which aspects of this existence you’d like to explore and experience. Or you can be passive and not make any conscious choices, and the choices will be made for you.

If you aren’t sure if you’re mortal or immortal, then the foil — the universe — will choose for you. You find out what decision was made when you die.

If, however, you want to consciously create the experience of a limited or unlimited existence, then channel your energy towards whichever experience you desire.

The more conscious you are, and the more powerful you are, the greater will be your ability to influence the way you experience this existence. So a good place to start is to channel more energy into living consciously. This gives you more power to choose.

Do we reincarnate and live multiple lives?

If you want to, you can do that. But it isn’t necessary. There are broader possibilities to explore than simply reincarnating as a human being or an animal again and again. You can choose to exist as a non-physical being for a while. You can become nothingness. You can explore a god-like existence. You can enter a dream-like state. You can be a spooky ghost if you want. If you can imagine it, you can explore it. What appeals to you?

Again, if you don’t use your power to make a conscious choice for yourself, then the choice will be made for you. You’ve already seen how this works in your human life. When you make choices for yourself, you get to participate in directing your experience. Since your power is limited, you won’t usually have perfect control over your experience, but you can influence how it turns out.

Wherever you don’t make choices, those choices will be made for you. Sometimes it will appear as though other people are making choices for you, and sometimes events will seem to happen based on randomness, coincidence, synchronicity, or luck.

If you like the idea of reincarnating as a human being, and if you adopt such a belief, then you can have that experience as much as you desire. Eventually you’ll grow bored of it, and you’ll choose to experience something else.

Why do certain problems plague us? Why do we struggle sometimes?

We’re all exploring different facets of existence. Think of these as assignments that have been doled out. None of these are problems per se. They’re experiences for us to have. We’re exploring existence together and learning about it. Some explorations are easy. Others are challenging. That’s the nature of exploration.

Whether some part of this exploration is a punishment or a reward is a matter of perspective. What one explorer resists, another may welcome.

What bogs us down is when we resist the experiences that come to us. This is an abuse of our power. You’re a powerful being, but when you resist what’s arising now, you’re focusing your energy on that which you resist, thereby perpetuating it. You’re making yourself powerless and constricting the flow. You’re doing the spiritual equivalent of an isometric exercise, like pushing both of your hands together as hard as you can. What’s the result? Lots of tension.

Your power is directed by your attention. You have the ability to direct and focus your attention, and this is something you can improve with practice. You can withdraw your attention from that which bothers you and refocus your attention (through your imagination) on more desirable experiences.

You can be a victim of our collective exploration, or you can be a conscious, active participant. The point of being here is to explore and learn. If you feel you’re getting the crappy assignments, perhaps you haven’t been consciously enrolling yourself in the better ones. Which explorations did you deliberately sign up for? If you don’t pick your assignments, the collective action of our energy field will still send assignments your way. Those assignments may not be to your liking though, so you may be slow to complete them.

Struggle provides a key lesson. The point of struggle is to teach you to stop putting your attention on what you don’t want. The more you make this mistake of using your power against yourself, the more punishment you’ll receive. The more you generate resistance in your own energy, the more you’ll attract experiences to resist. This punishment is largely self-inflicted though. When you’re ready to progress beyond this type of training, you’re free to move on.

There is a bright side to this. When you struggle, you’re still helping us explore. You just happen to be exploring struggle. You don’t have to spend your whole life there though. Exploring struggle will eventually give you a stronger desire for flow. The more you struggle, the more you’ll crave and invite the experience of flow.

Are you ready to experience flow, or are you still keen to explore struggle? Don’t assume that this question is so easy to answer. Struggle locks down and stabilizes many parts of your life. Struggle is slower than flow. If you invite flow, you’re inviting change, and not everyone is ready to experience a faster rate of change just yet. They’d rather stick with the stability of struggle for a while longer.

How do you move on? Stop resisting the struggle phase. Surrender to the struggle. If you want to move through this phase even faster and more powerfully, then share the lessons you’re learning from struggle as you go through this phase. Connect with other strugglers and compare notes. Execute your exploration of struggle like a true explorer would.

Why do we have organized religion? What’s the point of it?

Many people are born into the practice of an organized religion, which serves as their basic introduction to spiritual life. They pick up the idea that there’s more to life than just the physical. The real purpose of religion is to serve as a general starting point for spiritual exploration. Not everyone needs such a starting point, but it can be useful to have one. We all have to start somewhere.

The world’s major religions consist of globs of ideas and practices with countless branches and variations to explore.

Saying that you believe in a particular religion is like saying that you believe in the Internet. It may be a fun thing to say, but it doesn’t mean much. Many religions have more texts than you could read in a lifetime, and those texts don’t agree with each other. Ask two people who adopt the same religious label what they actually believe — or even what it means to be a member of that religion — and you’ll get different answers, with some overlap on vague concepts if you’re lucky.

If someone tells you they believe in the Bible, for instance, ask which of the 200,000 to 400,000 known versions of the Bible they’re referring to. None of those versions are the original texts, and the different versions don’t agree on key points.

Many of our religious texts are based on notes that were handed down from the courts of kings. When these courts assembled and had some interesting philosophical discussions, they sometimes recorded their favorite ideas and stories. Over time these evolved into larger collections. These texts are self-contradictory because the courts themselves expressed a variety of opinions.

A good reason to have a world of multiple religions with different belief systems is that it spawns a lot of variety in exploration. There’s probably at least as much variety within each major religion as there is between them. If reality encourages a wide variety of starting points, it stands to reason that we’ll find many possibilities to explore.

The point of using religion as a starting point isn’t to swallow its beliefs wholesale. That would be impossible anyway. The point is to expose yourself to some core ideas, and then use those ideas to seed your own exploration.

Instead of asking what’s true in an objective sense, ask yourself what you want to explore.

If you want to explore the idea of being a sinner, asking for forgiveness, and receiving redemption, you can do that. If you want to pray or meditate or do various rituals, you can do that. If you want to ignore religion altogether, you can do that as well.

By their very nature, answers to spiritual questions are objectively unknowable. You can’t even prove that this reality isn’t some kind of dream. If you can’t even do that, you have no hope of getting objective answers to your spiritual questions. So the purpose of religion isn’t to provide truthful answers to the big questions; on that matter, its track record is a joke. When we regard religion as a search for truth, we run into all sorts of problems and conflicts because no one really knows the truth about this reality, even though we can do a great job of pretending that we do.

So if the search for spiritual truth is a dead end, what are we left with? What we’re left with is spiritual exploration and experience. We can’t know the truth about this reality. But we can explore it, experience it, and help to create it.

The purpose of religion is to give you a starting point for directing your experience as an explorer. By pointing you in a general direction and telling you to do this, that, and the other thing, a religion can get you moving. When you feel ready, you can switch over to conscious, self-directed exploration.

Is there a God or isn’t there?

You can create and explore the experience of God if you want to, but you don’t have to.

In this reality we’re creating and exploring all possibilities. Many of us are creating and exploring an experience of God, and many are exploring elsewhere.

Some people are exploring a personal God. Others are exploring an impersonal God. Some are exploring an outer God. Others are exploring God within themselves. Many are exploring no God.

Some of us are exploring beliefs that say, we’re right and everyone else is wrong. Others are exploring beliefs that say, fundamentally we all agree in our deepest spiritual beliefs.

One thing is clear: This reality wants to explore itself. If we can imagine a possibility, we’re going to explore it. If we can envision a belief system, someone will create it, and it will attract people to explore it.

Do you want to explore a reality that includes a God or gods? If so, go ahead and create that. Make your God as real as you desire. Otherwise create something else.

How can we feel safe and secure in this life?

Trust the universe. Trust this reality. Trust this existence. Ultimately there’s no other way.

Either you trust this reality, or you don’t. If you’re not sure, it means you don’t. This type of trust is either absolute, or it’s nothing. There’s no gray zone.

You can’t use the Scientific Method to make this decision because you’d have to understand the nature of reality first, and that’s unknowable. There’s no way to know that this whole reality isn’t just some form of dream. You can only study what flows and manifests through the foil, but you can’t directly get at the foil yourself, at least not through objective science. The challenge here is akin to studying and learning about your brain while you’re sleeping. Through your dreams you may learn some things about your brain, but you can’t directly get access to the brain itself from within the dream world because you’re stuck inside of the brain’s simulation. Any science you do within the brain is only dream science. If you assume that the dream world is a real and objective place, your assumption is actually creating that experience. While you’re dreaming you can’t learn the truth about the brain because the simulation can send you around in endless circles trying to figure it out. So the best you can do within the dream is to become lucid, to realize you’re dreaming, and then to explore within the dream world. Become a better dreamer.

You can still study and explore science within the dream world. Just be aware that you’re studying dream science, whereby your discoveries aren’t actually objective observations. Within the dream world, observation and creation are inseparable.

If you believe that the universe is a purely objective space, then by definition you are an object. As an object you can be crushed, burned, broken, etc. If being stamped out of existence or otherwise physically harmed feels threatening to you, then you can never feel safe here. You will perceive threats to yourself. You’ll always feel vulnerable to various forms of harm.

If you do trust the universe, then whatever happens to you, you’ll assume that whatever the universe sends your way, it’s ultimately for your benefit. You’ll assume that all events and experiences have a positive purpose. But in order to have this experience, you’ll need to create and explore the experience of a non-objective universe.

You may still feel frustrated or react negatively to events at times, but when you’re at your best, you’ll forgive and trust. This won’t necessarily be easy, but if the core of your relationship with this reality is trust, you’ll always give it the benefit of the doubt, even if it takes you a while.

A relationship based on trust gives you some advantages. You’ll be less inclined to use your power against yourself. You’ll look for lessons everywhere, so you’ll find more of them. You’ll have a generally positive and optimistic outlook on life. You’ll be willing to take more risks, especially those involving exploration because you’ll see yourself as being aligned with the natural flow of reality.

You’ll also develop the maturity to understand that short-term setbacks are often not as they appear. An apparent setback can be a powerful growth experience that ultimately enriches your life and adds to our collective exploration. How many people have, in retrospect, said that cancer was the best thing that ever happened to them? Or a divorce? Or a bankruptcy?

Don’t be so quick to label an experience as negative, harmful, or unwanted. If you trust the universe, you’ll find growth and exploration everywhere, including where you may least expect to find it.

Do you want to create and explore a universe which you completely, unshakeably trust? Or would you rather explore a universe in which you have doubts about that? Either option is valid.

Why do we die? Why does death exist?

In order for life to exist as something precious, its opposite must also exist. We cannot have a concept of life and perceive it as valuable without also having a concept of lifelessness and the absence of value.

The importance of death lies in the concept of it, not as a deadline or as part of a timeline. Death hangs around as a reminder to live now, to explore now, and to experience now.

In order to explore everything there is to explore, all doors must be opened and walked through. Death is one of those concepts.

Just as we’re exploring all aspects of life, we’re also exploring all aspects of death.

Some of us walk through the door of death and experience it as immortality.

Others walk through that door and experience reincarnation.

Others walk through death into an experience of heaven… or hell.

And still others walk through that door and experience absolute nothingness and disintegration.

Instead of trying to predict what will happen to you after death, consider using your power to choose your preference. Don’t be a victim of the experience. Create the experience.

What would you like to happen after death?

Do you want to reincarnate? And if so, would you like to start fresh with a new life and no clear memories of your previous human life?

Do you want to stay immortal?

Would you prefer to fizzle out of existence entirely?

You can always update your preference whenever you want. Change your mind whenever you desire.

My current preference is that I’d like to continue existing after death. I love learning, growing, exploring so much that at least for now, I don’t feel any desire to stop doing that after my physical body fades. I also love connecting with other conscious beings who share this desire. I probably wouldn’t want to reincarnate as a human again though. I’d probably be too curious to explore other realms of existence.

If the universe is objective, and I actually go poof and disappear when I die, I won’t be around to worry about it. But I don’t think we live in that type of universe. My experiences and explorations indicate that this reality is closer in nature to a dream, in which death is (at least partially) something I’m creating as opposed to something that exists independently of me. And if that’s the case, then it’s important to consciously use my power to create death the way I want it to be instead of unconsciously setting myself up to create an undesirable experience of death, in the same manner in which people mistakenly use their power against themselves to perpetuate their everyday problems. Creating an undesirable death falls within the same class of problems as working at an undesirable job.

I choose to see death as a graduation. It’s a transition to another state and another stage of existence. I also get to influence how that next phase will turn out, just as I can decide what to do after graduating.

I feel I do a good job of practicing this when someone I know dies. Two months ago, my friend Morty Lefkoe passed away and graduated to another phase of existence. I do not perceive him as having poofed out of this reality. It is difficult for me to feel a sense of loss with his passing… or for any other friend who has died. After they’re dead I just connect with their energy differently. To me they all still exist. I cannot give them physical hugs anymore, but I can still give them spiritual/energetic hugs. I can still create the experience of communicating with them. I can still love them.

I could choose to poof such people out of my reality completely when they die. Or I can explore a different way of relating to them. I choose to explore the latter because I find it more enriching and empowering.

I also think that death may be postponedĀ for a while. This reality seems to be evolving some fascinating possibilities for extending our physical lives far beyond what we’ve previously considered to be a normal human lifespan. I find it especially interesting that as I’ve grown to become increasingly comfortable with the concept of death (thereby reducing my fear of it), my reality seems to be moving in a direction where physical death might be postponed for a long time. This is playing out just like a dream world.

Deep down, I have the expectation that I’ll die when I’m ready to leave this life behind and move on. That’s my intention at least. But if death takes me by surprise, I wouldn’t hold it against the universe. My universe also has a sense of humor, and it sure seems to enjoy surprises.

What’s the point of human relationships?

Other people are our co-explorers. We’re all part of the same foil, helping reality explore itself. Part of this exploration includes our interactions with each other.

All possibilities for human relationships are being explored.

This includes relating to each other with love and affection… or peace and harmony… or force and conflict… or rape and incest.

We can agree with each other. We can butt heads. We can hug. We can fight.

We can explore cooperation. We can explore domination and submission. We can explore power and powerlessness.

We can approve or disapprove of any aspects of these interactions, and then we can explore and experience approval and disapproval too.

We can explore being rewarded and being punished.

We can judge each other, or we can forgive and accept each other.

We can explore connection, and we can explore solitude.

We can give. We can take.

All of this is valid. We’re exploring all of it.

If you have no particular preference for how you’d like to relate to other people, those choices will be made for you. Do nothing, and your social relationships will be assigned. That’s a perfectly valid option.

If you’d like to explore something other than your current assignments, you have a say. You can consciously choose what you’d like to explore, and you can learn to channel more energy in that direction to create it. You can influence your social experience.

I find this to be a particular rich area for exploration. I especially enjoy exploring with other people who see themselves as conscious explorers, ideally in person.

Why are we sexual beings?

Sexuality is one way to bring us together. When we feel an attraction towards each other, we connect, interact, and communicate more. This happens whether or not we actually do anything sexual.

Reality is exploring all possibilities, so some people are highly sexual and others are largely asexual. Whatever we can explore sexually, we’re doing it.

We’re also exploring approval and condemnation across the entire spectrum of sexual activity. Can you name a form of sexual expression with no adherents and no detractors?

We’re even exploring the experience of disapproving of people who disapprove.

What do you desire to explore here?

Do you want to explore a singular sexual relationship with one partner? Would you like to explore a series of partners? Does an open exploration with multiple partners appeal to you?

Would you like to explore some kinky possibilities? Do you want to explore experiences that you’d consider tame or commonplace? Or do you want to delve into experiences that you’d consider naughty or unusual?

Do you prefer the path of abstinence, so you can channel more energy into non-sexual pursuits?

It’s all valid.

Another value in sexual exploration is that by connecting nakedly with other people, we can increase our sensitivity to subtle energies. Many people who explore sexuality, especially with multiple partners, have the experience of finding themselves in seemingly desirable physical encounters, but the energy flow still feels off to them. Something is missing. They often say things like, “The connection just wasn’t there.” This leads people to slow down and focus on the energetic, spiritual, and emotional aspect of a connection. When the energy of a connection is flowing well, the all-around pleasure of the experience is greatly enhanced, even when you don’t connect with someone sexually.

You can be physically naked with someone while still wearing a full wardrobe of coverings over your thoughts, feelings, desires, and intentions. If you want to have better sexual experiences, the key is to unclothe yourself all the way and to connect with partners who can do likewise. Be completely naked together.

As you learn the value of being fully unclothed through sexual exploration, you’ll also see the value of lowering your resistance and surrendering yourself to the full experience of life.

Why do we have laws?

Laws and rules add richness to our experience. For anything you’d like to explore, you can probably find a rule or law against it somewhere. This gives you the added choice of exploring within the bounds of rules or exploring outside of those bounds. You can be a rule follower or a rule breaker.

Which rules do you want to follow? Which rules do you want to violate?

Which rules do you consider fair and reasonable? Are there rules and laws you respect?

Which rules do you consider unreasonable? Are there rules and laws you’ll gladly violate?

How does it feel to follow the rules? How does it feel to break the rules? How does it feel to savagely violate the rules? How does it feel to create your own rules… and then to follow or break them?

Rules and laws add complexity to our explorations by stacking them with extra consequences. I once drove 130 mph (209 kph) down the 101 freeway in California late at night for at least an hour. The speed limit was 55 mph. I explored the excitement of doing that for a while. Then I explored the consequence of getting pulled over and receiving a $250 speeding ticket.

When you violate a rule or law and get punished for it, the sting is part of the package.

When you violate a rule or law and get away with it, that naughty reward feeling is also part of the package.

In this reality we’re exploring actions and consequences. We’re exploring rewards and punishments. We’re exploring good luck and bad luck. We’re exploring running away and facing justice. We’re exploring escape and recapture. We’re exploring retribution and rehabilitation. We’re exploring second chances and three strikes.

I like that rules and laws exist because they make me more aware of my thoughts on a subject. When I run up against a rule or law, I feel drawn to pause and clarify how I feel about the decision to be made. When there are more consequences at stake, I’m more likely to think carefully about it.

Another benefit to laws and rules is that if you’re going to obey most of them, they serve to create a bounding box for your decisions. This can help you focus better, so you don’t get lost in a sea of endless possibilities. It’s easier to make good decisions when we shrink the decision space.

I also like that laws and rules help me explore boldness and courage. When I encounter a rule or law that I disagree with, and I decide to push through it and consciously violate it, even as I accept that there may be consequences for doing so, it can help me feel stronger and more courageous as I implement the decision.

Sometimes you’ll face decisions that aren’t illegal and which don’t violate any written rules, but they may still violate social or family conventions. You’re free to follow these rules or violate these rules just the same.

I see rules and laws as reality’s traffic cops. They direct some people to explore one side of a decision point, while other people are directed to explore the other side. In many cases I see good reason for such laws to exist because they help balance out the exploration of this reality. If we see ourselves as reality’s resources for exploration, then rules and laws are a mechanism for resource allocation.

Why do we have individual personalities?

Your individual personality is an experiential filter. Since your personality is unique, it helps you create and explore unique experiences. Even when large numbers of people experience the same event at the same time, their unique personalities create a wide range of interpretations of the event. This adds breadth and richness to our collective exploration.

If you want to be a better explorer, strengthen your personality. Embrace and enhance your uniqueness. A unique perspective adds more value to our explorations than a me-too perspective. These types of explorers often receive the choicest assignments as well.

How can we create and experience more abundance?

First, recognize that abundance isn’t something you can’t really create at the individual level. You can’t earn your way into abundance through a human-level causality chain. It’s not a matter of making enough money or acquiring enough assets. If you feel like you don’t have enough now, and you add more, you still won’t feel that it’s enough. The more you acquire, the more you’ll want.

Abundance is a result of how you channel your power. If you channel your energy towards scarcity, you’ll attract more scarcity. Scarcity is a perfectly valid thing to explore, so if that’s where your energy is going, you’ll experience a scarcity-bound existence. Some of us have to explore scarcity, and if your energy is already flowing in that direction, you might as well help us work on that assignment.

If you resist scarcity, you’re only going to direct more energy into it because you have to think about it and have feelings about it to resist it. Your thoughts and feelings channel energy. So if you want to stop creating scarcity, you need to stop feeding it energy, which means you have to stop obsessing over it. You also need to begin channeling energy into something other than scarcity.

The way that I did this was to understand that by resisting scarcity, I was only making it stronger. So I started doing the opposite. I began feeling grateful for it. I began to welcome it. I imagined having an amazing life as a broke, homeless person with few or no possessions. Of course some part of me was still internally resisting this idea, but I kept cancelling out that resistance by sending out a counter-signal with an opposing frequency.

This is how you cancel the scarcity experience — or any other experience you’ve been creating and resisting. Instead of fighting the experience, you welcome and embrace it. Surrender to it. See it as fun.

Stop trying to use your power to push against the flow of what’s already arising. The harder you push, the harder the universe pushes back. If you’re receiving scarcity, and you’re pushing back against scarcity, that will only keep you stuck.

Instead of paddling against the flow, paddle with it, at least initially. You’ll go faster that way, and your energy will multiply because you’ll pick up speed from the pre-existing flow. So if you’re getting scarcity, then say a huge yes to scarcity. Let it exist. Let yourself experience scarcity. Pretend that this is what you actually want to experience right now.

This alone will help a great deal. If you do it right, you’ll feel a sense of relief. You’ll feel lighter. You might start laughing at yourself and your situation. People may think you’ve gone a bit nuts. But you’ll feel stronger. You’ll sense that you’re finally stepping back into your power.

Once you feel you’ve stopped resisting scarcity, then you can begin directing your energy towards creating abundance. You can do this by taking the positive energy flow you’re creating with scarcity and begin to turn it. Don’t immediately reverse course and paddle against the flow. Just start nudging it to the side a little.

A great way to do this is by practicing gratitude. See the seed of abundance that already exists within your experience of scarcity. Start appreciating everything you can. Appreciate each bite of food, each breath of air, and every smile. Go for a walk and appreciate being outside. See what a rich life you’re already living.

Whenever an opposing thought comes up, do your best to allow it to be there. Thank it for being there. Forgive it for coming up. Tease yourself for having it. But don’t fight it. Don’t argue with it. Don’t resist it.

If you practice this enough, then eventually you can progress beyond scarcity and explore abundance. It’s important to note that scarcity and abundance are both valid explorations. It’s difficult to invite abundance while trying to make scarcity wrong. If you try to make scarcity wrong, you’ll channel more energy into it, and most likely you’ll drag it along with you.

One benefit of scarcity is that it can help you focus. If you see fewer opportunities available to you, your choices aren’t as complex. On the abundance side, you may perceive fewer limits, but then you need to get better at focusing your energy instead of having reality focus it for you. Are you good at focusing your energy without much help? If not, then it may be wise to stick with scarcity a while longer.

I find that when I’m doing a good job of focusing and channeling my energy and living my life as the conscious explorer that I desire to be, scarcity remains at bay, and my daily experience is one of richness and abundance. My needs are satisfied. I exist in a reality of plenty. I’m in the flow. Resources and opportunities show up with ease.

But when I start drifting and my focus becomes blurry, I sometimes feel the signature of scarcity nipping at my heels. It serves as a gentle reminder to sharpen my focus and channel more energy deliberately if I want to keep exploring within the realm of abundance. I appreciate having that reminder to focus and to keep the energy flowing.

Energy likes to flow towards those who can and will channel it consciously. When the will and the ability are lacking, the energy flows elsewhere.

Why do we have wars?

We have wars to explore warfare. This adds to our collective exploration.

Some individuals choose to explore warfare. Others choose to explore peace. And still others are exploring being subjects of war, while some explore being subjects of peace.

Aren’t some people victims of war while preferring not to be? Yes, many individuals receive such assignments. Others are victims of peace. We’re exploring getting what we desire and not getting what we desire.

Collectively we’re exploring all of this — violence and nonviolence alike.

If you’re concerned about which side you’d like to explore, then put your attention on which aspect you’d like to explore. If you want to help and comfort victims of war, then put your attention there. If you want to complain about war and proclaim, “someone should do something about this,” then put your attention on that.

What calls to you? What would you like to explore? Decide, and then go explore it.

I feel a strong resonance with exploring nonviolence towards living beings, so I’ve been exploring a vegan lifestyle for most of my adult life. I also choose not to own any guns. I meditate almost daily, and in many of my meditations, I focus on forgiveness, so I can dissipate any negative feelings towards others. On top of that, I imagine sending happiness, peace, and love around the world. Does that make a difference? It makes a difference in how I feel about the world, and since I influence the world, it probably does affect the ripples I create in the world.

One reason I choose to explore in this manner is that it helps strengthen my personality and my ability to channel energy. As a vegan living in a non-vegan world, I’ve learned to make my own decisions and carve out my own path. Due to this decision, the world is constantly reminding me that I’m consciously creating my experience of life. Even the seemingly mundane experience of walking into a coffee shop exposes me to an abundance of reminders that I’m a unique individual with his own values, thoughts, feelings, and beliefs, and that I’ve chosen my own path. I find this to be excellent training for conscious creation.

I also regard crime, violence, victimhood, abuse, and outrage against the preceding as equally valid explorations. I’ve talked to people who’ve been victimized by war, rape, and other forms of violence. I’ve talked to people who’ve committed violent acts. I’ve talked to people who’ve founded charities. I think that all of these explorations exist because they all add value to this reality.

You may have strong judgments against violence. I’ve had such feelings too. In fact, I’ve explored those feelings a lot. Presently I don’t feel that condemning violence is adding much value to this reality. I’d rather explore other ways to channel energy, so I don’t want to waste energy on condemnation right now. At this time in my life, I’m finding a lot of value in exploring universal acceptance and surrender. So far that’s been pretty interesting.

If we don’t pay attention to violence, could we still be victims of it?

I think we could still be victims of violence even if we choose to focus on peace and nonresistance to violence. I see no special immunity there. Lots of people get hurt and killed.

I do think we lower our chances of being subjected to violence if we’re not actively involved in fighting and if we don’t wallow in the powerless mindset of victimhood. But I wouldn’t say that we’d entirely eliminate such possibilities.

Just as this reality is exploring reasonableness, it’s also exploring unreasonableness. As ironic as it may seem, doesn’t it make sense that reality should wish to explore all aspects of existence, not just the reasonable ones?

Fairness is being explored, and so is unfairness.

Order is being explored, and so is chaos.

Violence is being explored, and so is nonviolence.

Do you want to make peace with this? Or would you rather resist it? Either option is valid.

From the individual perspective, this might bother you. It’s understandable that you’d prefer not to be a victim of violence, and you may prefer that other people don’t have to go through this either. But also look at it from the foil’s perspective. How could this reality ever be complete if it never explored violence? It has to explore violence. It has to explore nonviolence. Ignorance isn’t in its nature.

I think the best we can do here as individuals is to consciously decide which aspects of this broad exploration we’d like to attend to personally. Do you want to grab a gun and play Rambo? Do you want to be a peacemaker? Do you want to complain about politicians on social media? Do you want to feel fear and be scared? Do you want to feed, clothe, and comfort refugees? Do you want to ignore all of this and focus on something else? What’s your role in this picture?

What is the nature of this reality?

If it could be reduced to a single word, I’d say that the nature of this reality is exploration.

By this I mean the exploration of essentially everything.

If it can be explored and experienced — if it can be imagined — then it will be explored.

Your human life is a part of that exploration.

What does it mean to live consciously?

Living consciously means that you choose to actively participate in helping reality explore itself.

Living consciously means saying yes to your spiritual job, which is to be a good explorer.

You’re going to be an explorer anyway. You can’t help but do that. You’re guaranteed to live a unique life with a unique perspective. Even if you refuse to explore, you’re still exploring refusal.

You can either let these explorations be doled out to you — by other people, by society, or by the fluctuations of the universe — or you can consciously choose some of these explorations for yourself.

The more you deliberately decide how you’re going to participate in reality’s exploration of itself, the more consciously you’re living.

Personally I find this to be a wondrous opportunity. We have an entire universe of possibilities in front of us, and we’re invited to dive in and explore. It’s like being invited to an infinite amusement park. Some rides are fun. Some rides are adventurous. Some rides are scary. Some rides are spooky. The whole park is a gift.


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Completing Your Side Quests

December 28th, 2015 by Steve Pavlina

There’s an idea (from Hinduism, I believe) that if you want to dedicate yourself to a path of spiritual awakening, yet some seemingly lower desire keeps nagging at you, then you should go pursue that desire first and get it out of your system. If it takes years to do this, that’s okay. You’ll be better off in the long run if you let that desire run its course, so you won’t be distracted by it later.

Maybe you’d love to center your life around spiritual pursuits and bypass the activities that other people find interesting. But if you were to pursue that path right away, would you have any regrets about what you didn’t explore? Would you feel you missed out on something?

Are you tempted to achieve some success in the world, such as building a successful career or business?

Are you tempted to experience wealth or to own some luxurious possessions?

Are you tempted to travel more and go-see-do?

Are you tempted to have more sexual experiences?

Are you tempted to live in a beautiful home with a loving and supportive family?

Are you tempted to enjoy delicious food and drinks?

Are you tempted to see more movies or play more games?

Are you tempted to experience life with different friends or a new social circle?

Are you tempted to master new skills such as music, art, programming, etc?

What in the world still tempts you? What do you still want to explore and experience?

Let Your Temptations Be Your Explorations

When you resist a recurring temptation, it tends to remain a temptation. You’re stuck with a feeling of incompleteness. You may wrestle with yourself internally as to whether or not you should explore it.

Sometimes you can resist a temptation, and the temptation will fade. You’re able to let it go. The temptation is just a thought ripple in your mind. You don’t have to explore it.

But if the temptation keeps coming back to haunt you, even after you tried to let it go, maybe it would be wiser to stop resisting it. What if you were to consciously dive in and explore it? If you fully immerse yourself in it, the temptation will be able to run its course. It may take years, but eventually you’ll grow bored with it, and you’ll finally be able to let it go. Then you can progress to other explorations.

It’s also possible that after you explore the temptation thoroughly, it will resurface in a different form. Once again, you can choose to resist it or to to continue exploring it.

Initially you may have some beliefs blocking you from consciously exploring a temptation. You may feel that the exploration is somehow bad or wrong. But can you imagine a light at the end of this tunnel? Do you think you’d learn something valuable by consciously exploring it? Is there a chance you’ll grow from the experience? Could the exploration transform you for the better?

I’m often faced with potential explorations that give me pause at first, but I rarely regret consciously exploring them in the long run. One reason is that even if an exploration doesn’t go well, I can still share what I learn with other people, such as by writing about the experience. Initially that was a helpful justification to encourage me to say yes to more explorations than I otherwise would have, but I don’t need to lean on this perspective so much anymore. I find it easier to trust this process because I’ve seen it work out well again and again.

You may have grown up with a rigid sense of morality like I did, which can make it difficult to say yes to some types of explorations. If you’re taught that a temptation is sinful, then even thinking about it too much can send your self-esteem spiraling downward as you conclude that you must be bad or wrong for having such thoughts. I urge you to consider how senseless (and unconscious) it would be to do that for the rest of your life.

Consciously exploring a temptation seems more sensible than pretending that it’s beneath you while being repeatedly distracted by it. Sometimes that’s the only way you’ll be able to progress.

Desires Expire

Some desires take years to explore. Others quickly morph into new desires as you begin to explore. All desires eventually expire. Anything you want now will someday seem boring to you.

One desire that many people have is to achieve some measure of success in the world. Sometimes money and fame are wrapped into this as well. You have to prove yourself. Make your mark on the world. Put a dent in the universe.

I had this desire in my 20s. I wanted to create and run my own business. I wanted to create positive ripples in the world. After 20+ years on this path, I feel that this desire has run its course. Thinking about success and achievement doesn’t give me any significant motivation these days. I can’t seem to care about what success I might achieve in the world. If I were to try to make this the focus of my life now, I’d feel empty and hollow inside — and very bored.

As I grew bored with this waning desire, I uncopyrighted most of my work in 2010 and donated all of my articles, podcasts, and videos to the public domain. In the past five years, other people have created and published many books, products, websites, apps, etc. based on my content. I’m now credited as the author or co-author of more than 100 books (which you can verify by searching on my name on Amazon.com). And this volume of products and content will probably keep increasing over time. Maybe it will eventually hit 500 or 1000 books during my lifetime. To me this makes the idea of trying to achieve success as an author seem ridiculous now.

I wouldn’t say there’s been any measurable financial benefit from uncopyrighting my work and giving it away. But this decision has helped me let go of any further need for achievement in the world, and it’s helped me care less about my reputation. What more do I need to do after having 100+ books published under my name, in a variety of languages, with more works being published each year?

That doesn’t mean I’m done working. It just means I no longer feel that I have anything to prove. I feel liberated. I feel free to work and live without being distracted by the score.

When a desire like this runs its course, there can be a sense of sadness or loss on the other side too. As a desire loses its motivational power, you may be tempted to keep squeezing it, but you get less juice each time. You have to find your juice elsewhere.

When you explore your temptations thoroughly, you may find that your desires become simpler and purer over time. It gets easier to feel happy and fulfilled. A relaxed feeling of contentment and a more peaceful way of living and working will replace the pressured sense that you have to prove yourself.

Morphing Your Explorations

Sometimes your explorations will morph into new ones as you explore them.

I saw this happen in my social explorations. Several years ago, I built up an active and busy social life, both online and in person. I was active in Toastmasters and connected with other bloggers, authors, and speakers. I had social media accounts with thousands of friends/followers. From 2006 to 2011, I was the administrator of a popular discussion forum on StevePavlina.com that eventually attracted more than a million posts. My daily communication volume was high. I had a lot of social stimulation in my life.

Over time that exploration ran its course and morphed into something else. I wanted to tone down the volume, so I could explore fewer, deeper connections with stronger compatibility. I quit Toastmasters, shut down the discussion forums, and reduced the time I spent on social media and email. I turned my attention to 4D relationships, D/s play, cuddling, affection, and other relationship explorations. I went through a separation and divorce along the way. I also did a lot of speaking about relationships and lifestyle during this time.

After several years of this type of exploration, I’m finally feeling that this aspect has probably run its course as well. I still enjoy and appreciate this part of my life, but I no longer feel inspired to explore connection and intimacy the same way I did in 2010. The old desires have been explored enough that they’re morphing into something different now.

You may notice these shifts happening in your life when desires that used to motivate you appear to have lost their juice. You think you should feel motivated, but you don’t. That’s a signal that your desire has probably run its course, and it’s time to move on to something new.

I feel that this ongoing relationship and intimacy exploration is morphing further towards the spiritual side. I’ve been spending more time meditating lately, including focusing on the spiritual connection we all share, sending out loving intentions for all, and seeking to release any negative feelings towards other people. I also want to delve further into exploring and understanding the nature of reality. I’ve encountered a lot of weirdness in the overlap between social connections and how reality simulates itself, and I’d love to explore that more deeply. This probably sounds vague and ill-defined because I don’t have any specific goals here. I just recognize that my desires are shifting, and new doors and windows are starting to appear. Where that will lead, I can’t say. Right now I feel aligned with relaxing into this and seeing what happens.

For me this last part feels like a higher/purer pursuit than some of my other explorations, but when I tried to pursue it earlier, the timing didn’t feel right. I felt distracted by other temptations. By taking some years to explore those other paths, I came to see that they were important and perhaps even necessary steps along the way. This new shift is another step as well, and there will be more steps after that too.

Completing Your Side Quests

I think that a strong, recurring temptation is an invitation to complete a side quest that will assist you on your long journey of learning and growth. You can resist these side quests by seeing them as delays or distractions, but that attitude probably won’t serve you as well as consciously completing your side quests one by one.

Even if your side quest is an invitation to explore some aspect of yourself that you consider dark, such as indulging in sensual pleasures, criminal behavior, or addiction, I wouldn’t label you as bad or wrong for deliberately exploring such a path. I can’t predict the consequences for you, nor can I tell you which way to go, but I can tell you that I haven’t regretted these explorations in my own life.

Indulging in criminal behavior in my late teens and getting arrested four times was a side quest that transformed how I view authority, crime, law, jail, and more. If I never completed that side quest, I think I’d have more fear than I do now, and I think I’d be less understanding of criminal behavior. I’d be missing some important experiential knowledge. I’ve enjoyed some wonderful connections with people as a result of that side quest, including criminals and police officers alike. In some respects it was like learning a new language. It was also a stepping stone to exploring values and character development.

If you feel repeatedly drawn to explore a side quest that scares you, maybe it’s worth dipping your toes into it. What’s the alternative? Do you want that temptation to keep nagging at you for the rest of your life? Wouldn’t it be better to consciously explore it and let it run its course, so you can get it out of your system and move on?


Steve Recommends
Here are my recommendations for products and services I've reviewed that can improve your results. This is a short list since it only includes my top picks.

Site Build It! - Use SBI to start your own money-making website
Lefkoe Method - Permanently eliminate a limiting belief in 20 minutes
PhotoReading - Read books 3 times faster
Paraliminals - Condition your mind for positive thinking and success
The Journal - Record your life lessons in a secure private journal
Sedona Method (FREE audios) - Release your blocks in a few minutes

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