To Live as a Person - A Journey to The Middle Path
Updated: Nov 19, 2020
My past is remembered as a scattershot of different skills, hobbies, jobs, and passions that I cycled through in an attempt to define who I was as a person. I was told my 20’s was the time of my life where I should try on different hats (figuratively speaking). That decade of life was supposed to be for figuring out who you are, not having it all figured out – I took this to heart, and refused to commit to damn near anything for more than a year or so, afraid I’d be missing out on the essential experience that would reveal to me the truth of my personhood.
“Trying a lot of new things” looked like dipping my toes to test various occupations (from full time musician, to tree planter, to personal trainer, to salesman and digital marketer), but it also looked like an orgiastic frenzy of sex, drugs, and rock and roll.
I had risky group sex, overdosed from taking a research chemical psychedelic at a party resulting in a seizure, had sketchy run-ins with tatted up drug dealers, was broke for the larger part of the 2010’s, nearly lost my mind to mental illness and PTSD, and alienated myself from my friends and family in grand fashion. My life felt like a Netflix original that just had dramatic plot twist after plot twist meant to keep the protagonist in constant agony, and ensure that the viewers binge-watched to whole season to find out what happened next.
I would say I’m lucky to be alive, but there were many times that I wish I wasn’t. In between the himalayan highs of hedonism were the heavy hurtful hell realms of my own consciousness that I had to endure. Depression and a sense of meaninglessness weighed on me more than any 450 lb barbell I put on my back when I was powerlifting.
In that scraping by and desperate longing for a semblance of meaning and self-definition, I buried my head into New Age spirituality like an ostrich buries their head in the sand.
Because I was enthralled by my own ego, and was a materialistic sex addict by nature, I was drawn to teachings that purported that I could create my own reality by managing my thoughts, thus manipulating my energy field to “attract” certain things to me.
“So you mean I can just think about money, beautiful women, great food, extravagant adventures, and anything else that I want and can get it without any effort beyond that? Well shit son, sign me the fuck up!”
I went whole hog into books like “The Secret”, listening to hours of pirated Abraham Hicks recordings while I washed the dishes or was falling asleep, I wrote gratitude journals and tried to exude a field of love and appreciation for everything and everyone in my life, even though I subconsciously deeply resented my reality, and desperately wanted it to change.
I ignored the tremendous amount of personal pain and emotional anguish that I was enduring, invalidating my human experience as “too low vibe to entertain”. The result was that my suppressed emotions ended up running my life, sabotaging my every attempt to live a joyful, connected life. I refused to believe that the teachings of New Age spirituality didn’t work, or that the “Law of Attraction” wasn’t my ticket out of my own personal hell of a life.
Frankly, I was terrified of doing work. Both in the conventional sense of having to get a job, and feeling the bored numbness of mundanity – but perhaps more profoundly, doing the work required to look at myself, take responsibility for my miserable condition, and confront the reality that my dissatisfaction was no fault but my own. I was afraid of taking inventory of the ways I’d wronged people on my warpath of personal gain, and even more afraid to ask for forgiveness and reconciliation.
Like many people who are drawn to the idea that you can just “manifest” what you want without any work, I was lazy, afraid of personal responsibility, and preferred to remain in my cocoon of imagination and hopeful fantasy. The biggest fantasy of all was the idea that sex, money, adventure, and anything else outside of me could possibly make me happy or save me from myself.
For the record, I believe the Law of Attraction is a real, immutable law, but it’s not “controlled” by the thoughts you think. The things that manifest in your life are a result of the total sum of your actual energy, your conscious and subconscious beliefs that you hold, your involvement and action within the external world, and your unique contribution through your expression of self.
You still have to earn that beingness that draws in the life and circumstances you want. “Self esteem is the result of esteemed action”, and “confidence is the result of competence” are two quotes that come to mind. In other words, it’s not what you think or what you wish would happen, it’s who you actually are that determines what the Law of Attraction magnetically pulls into your life.
Who I actually was happened to be a self-destructive, narcissistic, nihilistic, hedonist. I say that objectively, without any scorn or judgement to my past. It’s where I was at, and I can honestly say that I was just doing my best. Yet before I forgave myself for my past, I was immensely self-loathing. When I wore out the hopefulness offered to me by New Age Law of Attraction teachings, I started to grope around for something deeper.
As I grew to despise who I was, I was drawn to Eastern religious philosophies of self-annihilation, utter destruction of the ego and disidentification with the personal self to attain enlightenment. Since I hated myself, viewing my entire personality as an illusion and separate from truth was somehow comforting. I would have no qualms with dumping it like leftover chinese food that I kept in the fridge for a few days too long.
I dove headlong into trying to remove the sense of “I”. Constantly affirming that the world was maya (illusion), that my person self was a distortion of ultimate truth, and that the truth of reality resided in understanding the boundaryless, untethered, infinite absolute. This is an incredibly abstract, heady concept completely ungrounded to earthly realities.
If you read my first post on my discussion with spiritual teacher Bentinho Massaro, you’ll get a glimpse of how metaphysically convoluted this can become. I remember one conversation that I had with my father where he said “Anthony, I don’t know where you live, but personally, I’m living on planet Earth.”
I definitely was not.
I was renouncing all my identification with my personal, earthly realities in order to glimpse the dissociative bliss of the Infinite. I don’t say that facetiously - I actually did attain states that many eastern philosophies would describe as enlightenment (albeit accidentally). I even had moments where I thought that I was going to leave my body to meld into the cosmos, what yogis call “mukti”, or the purest freedom that an individual being can attain.
There was one problem (I mean, definitely more than one, but this was the kicker) - I wasn’t leaving my body, and still had to live in the world, eat, shit, shower, have relationships, and work. I wasn’t a monk living in a cave in the mountains sustaining his existence by drinking the nectar of subtle cosmic energies. I was a goddamn human being, and as much as I didn’t want to admit it, still a person, on earth.
No matter how much I affirmed that my identity, body, and even mind were an illusion, no matter how much I dissolved into the non-experience of the Absolute, I returned, tethered to my humanity, bound to my invisible karma that anchored me to my individual existence.
I’d eventually have to reconcile the fact that I indeed have to live out my life as a person, with all my unique idiosyncrasies, neuroses, habits, attachments, insecurities, and compulsions. Instead of trying to annihilate my personal self, I decided I might be able to learn to love it. While there was so much about who I was that frustrated me, there were also so many beautiful things that I refused to embrace because I was “spiritually dissociated” from my personhood.
I embraced my creative energy, my musical and artistic talents, my deeply philosophical mind, my deep inclination for intellectual thoughtfulness, my capacity for nuanced observation, my loving and generous heart, my powerful ability to communicate with compassion and clarity, my fiery sexuality, my strong, athletic body, the magnitude of willpower and discipline I could call upon, and the veritable volumes of knowledge and wisdom that I’d accumulated through hundreds of books, thousands of hours of videos, and dozens of personal development courses I’d taken in my former desperation to improve my situation.
I received incredible amounts of support from friends, mentors, coaches, and healers as I went through the grind of confronting the hardest parts of myself to love. I had weepy conversations with people who I had hurt with my selfish masochism, asking to be forgiven. I shed even more tears as I white-knuckled my way through trying to forgive myself.
I started to embrace the fact that as a human being, I have all the ugly compulsions and primitive instincts of an evolved ape, and I am as much animal as I am divine. I started to integrate and play with those facets of myself. In the same way human beings domesticated wolves to be companions and protectors, I began to train the less sophisticated bestial aspects of my character to be my partner in crime.
I used to think that my 20's were for trying as many things as I could to find out who I was. Now, I believe that who I am is not a fixed destiny, no monorail track of specific purpose driving me to a destination of a particular job, hobby, or otherwise. Having glimpsed higher spiritual realms, I have no doubt in my mind that the idea of the personal self is exactly that - just an idea. And in the advent of new information, ideas can change.
Conscious Grounding is a shift.
A shift from trying to get everything I possibly can from the material world, and live for pleasure as a means to run from pain - and beginning to see that intentional pain through work can be its own gateway to pleasure.
A shift from trying to escape my identity through trying to "ascend to higher realms" - and seeing that my individual identity is what anchors me to witness such powerful visions of the divine.
A shift from attempting to divide the physical and the spiritual - and see that they are irreconcilable necessities to one another.
It's a coming home to all of one's Self. The dirt and the divine living as one, the mundane and the majestic making up equal meaning. It is a deeper appreciation of what Carl Jung said when he affirmed that "no tree can grow to heaven unless its roots reach down to hell".
It's reconciling the duality of our experience - taking full responsibility for everything in your life, and at the same time, fully surrendering it to God. It's fierce discipline and operating with certainty of outcome, while also embracing with compassion that you don't know what you don't know.
It's knowing that anything you believe will have its exception, that you can find a flip side to every coin you come across. It's about the integration of seeming opposites - rejecting no part of who you are and allowing yourself to be complete by embracing it all.
This was my journey to the middle path. Why this website is called Conscious Grounding, and why the articles that I write will range from abstract spiritual philosophy to rational psychology and neuroscience.
I hope you enjoy walking this tightrope with me.
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If you want to talk about working together more personally around making lasting transformation in your life, you can e-mail me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for reading - let me know if you have any questions that I can help with in the comments.