Russell Brand: Absolute Surrender

grace

First I want to quickly mention that I do not have the rights to share this video (taken with my iPhone during Russell Brand’s online course), nor do I have permission to share the transcript. So if you are interested in either, view them while you can. Scroll all the way-way-way down, if you want to check that out asap.

I just wanted to get that out of the way before I officially started the blog post. Next is an old photo of me (at a 10 day silent vipassana retreat) and a bit about my past. Then I’ll get into the Russell and Ram stuff. It’s all going somewhere. I promise. Today is for the die-hards. It’s a super-long post!

aimee meditating

Yogic philosophy saved my life. It actually all started with Zen philosophy in 1993, when I discovered Charlotte Joko Beck’s writing. I loved her book titled “Nothing Special” and I knew it was a sign for me. Some sort of light post. I was interested in Zen books several years before that, but Charlotte’s work stood out for me in a profound way.

A year later, yoga asanas came into the picture, then Vedic philosophy and meditation. It all wafted in and out of my life. I remember hearing Ram Dass speak in New York before I knew who he was. This was also in the 90’s and it was totally by chance. I was at a yoga conference, sitting right in front, staring into his face thinking, “Who is this man?” After his lecture I looked into his work and from that point on his voice was a cathartic practice in my life. I loved hearing him speak. It always made me feel better. It’s like he could put the disjointed mental pieces back together and make me feel whole again.

At the time I was in my 20’s and I didn’t have anyone in my life that I could talk to about self-imposed suffering, surrender, mysticism or spiritual matters — and definitely not from a Vedantic perspective. Which is what I felt most drawn to. So Ram Dass and a few others became my refuge, a sort of lighthouse and sounding board. When I would submerge myself in certain books or recordings, I wouldn’t feel so alone in my thoughts. I felt “normal” and life was ok again.

Ram Dass has since died, but before his stroke, aging and health issues, he was such a charmer! He could be so bare-bones honest, vulnerable in a jewel-like way and speak so eloquently about the messy-ness of life and spiritual matters. He had such a gift that I had never seen anywhere else. His slow decline and passing is such a missing for me. But I have to tell you, I think Russel Brand is developing a similar spark.

I watched Russell gradually evolve and transform his life. He got sober, fell passionately in love with meditation and yoga asanas, fell out of the celebrity glitz spotlight, married a longtime friend and became a father. He also went back to university for a degree in politics and religion. Of course he will never be Ram Dass, but Russell is the only person I know of that can carry that torch.

While I am not an “addict” in the way most people define that world (I have no attraction/taste for alcohol and drugs or other actives that most people would view as harmful) — I still have the ability resonate with people in AA or recovery, because I totally get the 12 Steps. I also understand how suffering is self-induced. It’s something as humans we create in our minds over and over again — even though the consequences are detrimental for us. I would definitely label that an addiction we can all relate to. Hearing Russell Brand speak about addiction, recovery, surrender and grace is comforting to me. It’s like I’m listening to old Ram Dass recordings again. Thanks, Russ!

Embedded below is a snippet of a lecture in Russell Brand’s online course (that I snuck a shot of). It was part of a course for people seeking healing from drug and alcohol addiction (or people like me that love to talk about surrender). I thought it was fabulous and I wanted to share it.

I also added a Ram Dass quote and video, and inserted it before Russell’s, just as a point of reference and homage to Ram Dass. RIP beloved Ram Dass! You are missed. Sending mega love and appreciation your way. I know you don’t need it, but I still send it!

“The most important aspect of love is not in giving or the receiving: it’s in the being. When I need love from others, or need to give love to others, I’m caught in an unstable situation. Being in love, rather than giving or taking love, is the only thing that provides stability.” – Ram Dass

ram-dass_young

russell brand recovery

Russell’s Video Transcript

“…In the kind of cultures that I’m guessing you’re from, and the kind of culture I’m from, there’s this sort of Protestant idea of “We’re going to work our way out of. I’m going to work to not be greedy and lustful.” But the wording is very clear and very deliberate. It will be removed.

For me, that will be getting into woo-woo land, like getting into the territory, “Oh, did you just cosmic wish yourself a helicopter? I just wanted a helicopter, so I wrote down on a pad and stuck it under the pillow, and the next day there were a helicopter.” This is not that. This is like, I mean, but it is pretty peculiar.

The way I can best relate it to you is, I was a proper smackhead and, that was my job almost. It was more than a job. It was a devotion. It was dedication. It was, let’s face it, it was a spiritual pursuit. I believed that heroin would take away my problems. I handed my will and my life over to heroin. I came to believe that heroin would restore me to sanity every time I felt insane. And it’s what I did all day long. One of my mates told a friend of ours, “Russell don’t do drugs anymore” when I was about three weeks clean, and she said, “Well, what does he do then?” Because that’s all I was. I was Russell who took drugs. That’s it. I get up, I do the drugs, I drink, I take drugs, I drink, I take drugs.

I remember giving an incredibly grand speech that I still like to reflect on from time to time when I was in treatment for drugs and alcohol. They make you go to this sort of barn dance thing to reintroduce you to society. Anyone that’s been in rehab or treatment, you will know this. They take you on day trips, things where you have to go in a minibus, and sometimes you’re wearing a coat, and the coat’s done up a little bit too much like that, and in the back of a bus, and then people will see you in the back of a bus, and that’s the you that they’ll always think of. Like if you’ve got a new hat and someone meets you in that new hat, they don’t know it’s a new hat. You’re the guy in the hat to them.

So I was going on day trips to Go Kart places. I was attending barn dances for alcoholics. And I remember putting on an old suit from London to go to this provincial bloody New Year’s Eve barn dance for alcoholics, and I did not like one bit the bonhomous glee of the chummy alcoholics pressing the flesh and slapping the shoulder and telling you it’s all going to be okay. And the alcohol-free glee, so happily dancing without drugs or alcohol or anything that I could see that would keep me straight.

I walked right out of there. I thought, “I do not like these squares.” Really, I was terrified actually. I was just terrified and anxious and two weeks clean. December somewhere in England, all cold, wearing a suit that I used to wear when I was using, finding the foils in the pockets that night. I was thinking, “Oh God, it was so recent.” It was so recent, that other life, but yet a world away when you step across, when you make the jump, when you make the jump into the abyss. At this point, I’ve not worked Steps Four, Five, Six, and Seven. I’ve admitted I’ve got a problem. I’ve come to believe that it could change. I’ve made a decision to kind of listen to these people in this treatment center. But a barn dance? There’s some shit that I will not eat. When you try to barn dance me out of my heroin addiction, I say, “No. No pasa nada. That’s enough. If you tolerate this, then your children will be next.”

So I marched right out of that barn dance, which probably might’ve looked like a barn dance move, or at least a square dancing move to the uninitiated. And this woman, God love her, she followed me out, Lucy. “Russell.” She was one of those people willing to participate in those scenes. How adept I was at finding those women back then. “Russell, what are you doing? You’re so self-destructive and crazy.”

“Yeah, I am babe.” So out I marched, and I said, “It’s not for me, all of this. You’re not going to hear, ‘Oh, Russell, he stopped taking drugs. He got clean.’ I’ll be dead at 27.” Which I think I already was, so I was really playing it quite close to the line at that point. It was on me. “I’ll be dead at 27. You’re not going to hear that Russell got his shit together and turned his life around,” and a real sort of grand, sub-James Dean, anxious little rant at dear Lucy, and off I marched. Off I marched.

But between that day and this one, I have taken no drugs. I have drank no alcohol. This is impossible. Somehow it was removed. The need to take drugs was removed. Up until December the 13th, 2002, every day, drugs. On December the 13th, no drugs. December the 14th, no drugs. 15th, no drugs. Today, no drugs. How does this happen? How does it happen? Certainly not within the limitations of the consciousness that I was previously experiencing. That was a place that required drugs. Without drugs, there was nothing. That was who I was. But somehow it was removed from me.

This is how I feel this ingenious system was evolved around clear objects of addiction such as alcohol and drugs. Because there, it’s clear to identify which is more, I want to say, ethereal elsewhere. Not so easy to notice in a relationship. “Oh, wow. I no longer need to dominate or depend upon my wife in order to feel okay. We are behaving as equal partners in life together.” Not so easy to identify that, not so clear.

But the system that works for drugs and alcohol will work for this one. It will be removed. We don’t give out, I suppose elsewhere it’s kind of obvious. I speak sometimes to beautiful young atheists. Some boy, 17, great natural root lift, hair just Hugh Grant enough into some new dimension. I’ve watched him doing some pull-up thing in a gym. I hated him until I spoke to him, because he was just doing them so effortlessly. I thought, “You little asshole.” But then of course he destroyed that by being cute and complimentary. And he talked about his sort of ability with music and all this stuff, and he goes, “If people talk to me, I will talk about God and death. The small talk, it wears out pretty fast with me, so we get around to God and death.” “Well, I don’t believe in God,” he said, all preppy and atheistic, the rush of teenage atheism that comes with, “Oh, I don’t need mum and dad no more, so perhaps I’ll just shirk God off and all.” He said, “Like my ability with music. I’ve worked hard, I’ve worked hard.”

But who gives you the ability to work hard? Who gives you this life, this life that you call your life? What do you mean, your life? “This is my life. I’ll do I want with my life.” Who is my? Who is I? What is all of this? Did you give yourself legs and feet and a face and eyes, and your own respiratory system and the ability to convert oxygen into your blood, and then a botanical system around you, and machinery that provides the very things you need, and limitless space, and literature, and the English language? Did you invent it? Was it you? Are you Shakespeare? Are you Gandhi? Are you Diana? Are you every single deity, all energy, all forms, all formlessness, all dark matter? Is it you? Or are you just some little pipsqueak pipping about, popping around, floating around on the limitless?

Step Seven is an invitation to interface with that, and an acknowledgment that your consciousness may somehow interact with that limitlessness, particularly when freed of the prohibitive, defective characteristics that form the boundaries of selfhood, personhood, limit, limitations. The individual is all about limitation. Rationalism is all about limitation. Materialism, limitation. But we need to deal with the limitless, because limitation has brought us to the place where we are, and we don’t like it here, evidently. We need to take drugs to cope, or we need to have sex to cope, or we need to get a better job to cope, or we need other people to love us, or to have loads of money, or to be continually given compliments. And for me, as a sort of dyed-in-the-wool standard addict, I need so much of everything so continuously that I’ve had no choice but to recognize that what I really need is absolute surrender. Absolute surrender. Unconditional, waving-the-white-flag, lay-down-your-arms surrender.

I was told by yet another swami in an ashram, “The world’s got nothing else to give you now, Russell. It can only take from you.” And I didn’t like it. I didn’t like being told that, because I needed the world. I needed the world for money, and cars, and blowjobs, and self-esteem, and ice cream. The idea that the tap was being turned off, I’m like, “No. No. Give me something. You better give me something, man.”

It all took two years, but I realized, “Hold a minute. That’s a good thing.” The world’s got nothing else to give you. That means I don’t have to walk into every fucking situation, every single interaction, with my arms bowl ready. “Make me feel better, will you? How about a little compliment? Here, just a couple of scraps to get me through this next interaction. Does me hair look all right? I ain’t aging, am I?” Some dreadful, dismal, T. S. Eliot poem, some slow descent into the Prufrockian wastelands. Freedom now. No one can give me anything.

It doesn’t make me into some kind of a James Bond vicar. Far from it. It means that my job is to give to the world, to give, and that, again, even that’s too grandiose. That’s my tendency. To give to whoever’s in front of me. The world is whoever’s in front of me. So it’s like, “All right. Instead of…”

My tendency up until this program, and if I don’t work this program day to day, moment to moment, fort to fort, is, “You better give me fucking something.” Commodification. Everyone a commodity, everyone an opportunity. And before I condemn myself too hard, I remember that that is also the ideology of our time. Commercialism, consumerism, materialism. If it has no value, if you have no value, you are washed up on these streets. What are those people that we pass in their tents under bridges? Oh, yeah, we couldn’t turn their energy into money, so we just, we leave them there to die. Okay, is that the system? That’s our system. If your skillset is not monetizable, fuck off. Okay, that’s cool.

But some people’s skill set is not monetizable. Some people just need to read, or sit around, or meditate, or look at a strawberry. Consider the lily. What’s he talking about when he’s saying that? Just to look at the beauty of the world. It is as it is, is as it is. It’s all beautiful, it’s all fine.

But if everything’s got to be strapped up with a dollar sign, including human beings, don’t be surprised if people, people with great appetites, great craving, start to see every person that’s potentially attractive to them as a sexual partner. Everyone that’s got assets a, “Oh, I can mine that person. I can mine that person.” I need to be reminded that the people of the world are not vessels to fill me up. “Oh, this guy, he’s got a production company. Come over here and give me a job. Oh, you run a broadcasting network? You got a private jet? I’ll fucking have that.”

People are, I’m here to serve them. I’m here to serve them. Sometimes I hope it’s in a way that’s sort of like, “Oh my God, you’ve really made a difference” type way. Malcolm X making Cassius Clay into Muhammad Ali type way. But other times it might be like a simple making someone feel better about how hard it is. It’s so hard here sometimes. I think that, in my experience, has more visceral value in the ecology of my being that I’m talking about here, this place of defect, and malady, and pain, and suffering.

Once I did this event. It was a British charity comic relief, like a night to raise awareness. You know, awareness. People want their awareness raised. Raise their awareness right up so high, raise their awareness and some money for addiction and stuff. It was at a big venue, like 10,000 people, I guess, and it was live on the BBC, and lots of cool people performed, musicians and comedians and stuff, and I hosted the event. And it felt abstract, because it felt like it was entertainment, which is what it was. But someone brought their kid, who was an addict. And in interaction with another human being, there is the possibility that something will pass between us.

And that’s the essence of this, is the reminder that civilizations, empires come and go. Species rise and fall. But consciousness itself, this thing that’s talking to itself through matter, this is eternal. We replace finite with the infinite. We replace the temporal with the eternal. We don’t spend all our time worrying about a lovely pair of ankle-high, patent leather, purple booties when we could be talking about honor. Honor. We don’t spend our time worrying about whether or not we can be fellated from in the middle of a helix, a multidimensional fellatio, when we could be talking about grace. Grace, some invisible force that can carry you from the imprisonment of addiction, the imprisonment of attachment, the imprisonment of the belief in your own limitation and smallness, to a place of transcendence. But this can only be achieved if you are willing to humbly ask for your shortcomings to be removed. This is where we are now…”

 

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Be More Pirate

be more pirate

be more pirate art

Sam Conniff quote

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Heir To Every Possibility

Louise Nevelson portrait

“Art is the essence of awareness.”

“I don’t demand that all work be a masterpiece. What I am doing is the right thing for me – that is what I am and this is living. It reflects me and I reflect it.”

“I seek truth. What I seek is anything that will work for me. I’ll use a lie if it works, and that [becomes] the truth.”

“What we call reality is an agreement that people have arrived at to make life more livable.”

“We must create our own world.”

“No matter how individual we humans are, we are a composite of everything we are aware of. We are a mirror of our times.”

“I have never liked the middle ground – the most boring place in the world.”

“Greatness breaks laws.”

“Humans really are heir to every possibility within themselves, and it is only up to us to admit it and accept it. You see, you can buy the whole world and you are empty, but when you create the whole world, you are full.”

All quotes and artwork by Louise Nevelson (born September 23, 1899 – died April 17, 1988)

Louise Nevelson artwork

Louise Nevelson 1

Louise Nevelson artist

Louise Nevelson sculpture

Louise Nevelson art 1

Louise Nevelson

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The Legend of Spitfire

spitfire dog

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The Magic of Making Mistakes

magic creative process

Bad things that mean nothing.

I loved this video (embedded below) by New Yorker Magazine about Liana Finck. Not only did it make me miss New York, but the part were she takes two hours to create bad drawings really stood out for me.

Lately I’ve been seeing (in myself and others) an all or nothing mindset when it comes to creativity, and life choices in general. Like we have to do things perfectly the first go-around or it’s a waste of time. We often forget how important process is. And mistakes are part of the process.

Doing things terribly. Trying things out. Having to make changes. Losing investments. Looking foolish. Not getting the results we were hoping for. Things not working out. Failure to meet expectations. Feeling silly. Experiencing regret. Of course all of that is hard to accept. But how will you grow and evolve if you aren’t willing to be uncomfortable?

I’ve mentioned this before, but I erased an entire website that I created because ONE PERSON (that I respected) criticized it. I felt like I had failed and I deleted the whole thing. Which was not a good idea. I really wish that I could have let that work live and allowed myself to be vulnerable and publicly (or even privately) evolve. I wish that I wasn’t so hasty and reactive, and would have accepted the creative process and continued to explore ideas without the self-imposed pressure of having to be perfect.

Another example is in my personal life. I left New York and moved to North Carolina, then Oregon, then California. All of those moves were a huge risk that came with a hefty price. I invested so much time, money and effort. It was emotionally, mentally and physically super-taxing.

Looking back, the loud voice in me says, “Oh f*ck! What did you do? Ugh. What a loss.” But there is a softer, wiser, all-seeing voice that whispers, “What if those mistakes were exactly what you needed for your highest evolution? What if they lead to something amazing, beyond your current understanding? Everything is fine. Keep going. Don’t be afraid to get banged up a little.”

Just like any vehicle, this body is not forever. My life is my greatest adventure and greatest work of art. I don’t want to waste it by playing safe. I have to remind myself of that, over and over. I constantly need reminders.

I’m so grateful for the experiences I had this week that reinforced the idea that stepping into the Unknown is worth it. Looking silly is worth it. Losing money is worth it. Wasting time is worth it. Following your curiosity is worth it. Allowing yourself to be childlike is worth it. Doing bad things and making mistakes is worth it.

It’s all part of the creative process.

:)

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Happy Birthday! :)

january birthday

Time to reflect and celebrate.

Happy Birthday to me and my fellow Capricorns!

I decided to share a Mac Miller video with you. (It’s embedded below.) His birthday is 7 days after mine. He’s no longer with us in body, but his spirit remains through his art.

It’s rare that I think about the awe of being alive without thinking about death. Ever since I was five years old I’ve obsessively dwelled on both. (That’s no exaggeration.) It still remains a mystery why it has been in the forefront of my thinking for four decades. It must sound strange to people. I hope I’m not the only one. I wonder if Mac Miller was similar in that way? His song/video “Good News” makes me feel less alone and a little less weird. Thanks, Mac!

In any case, I’m so grateful to be here for another year. I’m excited for my birthday, a new year and a new decade. I have a feeling 2020 is going to be amazing, and life-changing in a meaningful way. I’m blowing my party horn right now, but you can’t hear me. Toot!
party emoji

To be continued…

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Jar of Fears

Jar of Fears

Happy New Year!

Wishing everyone their most amazing year yet. May it be full of super-big WOWs and all sorts of mind blowing moments that make you smile from every cell of your vibrant being!

Wishing the same for me too. I feel like the last batch (that’s an understatement) of years have been a real doozy. Chock-full of unexpected turns, interesting insights and bumpy roads I thought I would never have to cross. But here I am! Still on board for the next adventure. (Still have my furry pal at my side.) Ready to take on another year.

My plan is to embrace whatever happens in 2020 …but also MAKE IT GREAT. Create a year that stands out from all other years. Produce a year that feels like a warm ray of sunshine that illuminates and validates past years. That’s the plan.

I will be using a few things to help me do this.

1. Full Focus Planner
It will help me to stay clear, focused and on track.

2. One Line a Day – Five Year Memory Book (Book 1 of 2)
This will NOT be used for jotting down memories. Instead I will be using it to record the lengths of daily meditation sessions. I am aiming for 10 years straight of DAILY meditation sessions. The goal is not to miss a single day from 2020 to 2030! This goal will eventually require two of these journals. Each one holds 5 years of daily notes.

4. My Fitness Pal
This is a website I use where I record my health data. You can use it for counting macros, calories, water, exercise, etc… It’s the only thing that truly keeps my health on track. (In addition to getting enough sleep and working to lower stress, and getting good at saying “No”. Trying my best to raise the bar on those three things.)

4. Accountability Partner
It’s always helpful for me to have people (friends, coaches, etc.) that hold me accountable to my goals. I recommend choosing someone you pay, admire or deeply respect. Otherwise, you won’t take it seriously if you subconsciously don’t take them seriously, and vice versa.

5. The Jar of Fears
The most amazing year I ever had is when I wrote a list of my fears and spent a year crossing them off one-by-one. Since then, I’ve had the intention of conquering fears, but haven’t followed through. I simply never made it a dedicated habit or put a fear brawling practice in place. This year I have created something I am calling my JAR OF FEARS. It will sit on my desk, next to my computer. The goal is to feed it every time I feel overwhelmed or intimidated! (Which is pretty much daily.) I will write out the fear I want to challenge on a piece of paper. Get it done and over with. Then put the paper in the jar. On December 31st , 2020, I want to see how full the jar is! I also want to read through my crumpled fears and see if they still sound scary. (Knowing me, I’m sure most of them will sound silly at that point.) I’m very curious to see how it all turns out!

What are your plans for the new year?

Happy 2020! ♥

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