Sucking air. Pressure. Explore You

Do you understand how breathing works? We don’t actually suck air in. We make space, and air pressure forces the air in. Air flows in. We are constructed to live under air pressure near the earth’s surface.

Not only can’t we breathe without air pressure, our ears would burst. Underwater, there’s too much pressure. High in the atmosphere, there is not enough. That’s the purpose for pressurized cabins in airplanes.

We are made to dwell near the surface.

That seems to be where our awareness dwells also. Near the surface, between our conscious and unconscious/subconscious. That seems to be where we breathe easiest.

When we dive too deeply into our subconscious, the pressure hurts our ego-ears.

When we soar too high, we cant get enough oxygen and get dizzy with euphoria.

Fearful of those low or high limits, we nestle into the narrow confines of that about which we can be conscious in a given moment. Moment after moment. Until the moments have amounted to decades.

Sad. Your ego-ears may swell as you descend into your subconscious, but that exploration can transform your unconscious into consciousness, shifting the surface-limit of your awareness, deepening your consciousness atmosphere at the surface; your ears acclimate. If you dove into the deep end before, and it hurt your ears, try to jump in feet first in the shallow end. Or descend the steps to where jubilant children splash fearlessly. But get in, however slowly it takes to acclimate to the chilly water.

Sherpas don’t sprint to Everest’s peak, respecting the perils of the journey. Nor will a helicopter take you there without an oxygen mask. But hike higher at a pace comfortable to the full You, accommodating your ego as your soul walks patiently beside it. Transcend the current limit of your consciousness, and a new awareness-boundary rises with each step.

The thin slice of awareness at the surface of your consciousness will remain shallow without the courage to endure a little discomfort as you rise or fall. But don’t pretend that it won’t be uncomfortable.

Don’t pretend that it won’t feel unnatural, until it feels… natural.

How else can you expect to “know” more fully the very fullness of your nature?

With each step into frontiers, things “suck” a little less, and the pressure feels a little less uncomfortable.

Go there. At your pace.

Before you step, you don’t know what “your” pace is, so you have to step to discover it.

As you step, you can slow as your comfort dictates, while not retreating to comfort. For the boundary of comfort shifts, and that frontier becomes more settled. Then a new frontier awaits for the more comfortable explorer.

Don’t pretend that it won’t feel unnatural, until it feels… natural.

How else can you expect to “know” more fully the very fullness of your enormous nature?

Neil D. 2021-09-07

Labels. Relationships. Toxic people. Shadows.

If someone calls you “desperate” to have a girlfriend or boyfriend, your reaction is vehement, rigorous, strong, aggressive. Especially if your last break-up involved your ex pinning many labels on you, as reasons for parting.

Why do we react to those labels so strongly? The simple and immediate answer we offer is, “They’re wrong.” If we believe that so deeply and thoroughly, why do we react so strongly?

I may insist strongly that 2+2=5 is wrong, but my righteousness isn’t a defense of my Self.

Our ego lusts to be right. Our ego is our psychic sensor that we are a separate person from others. It senses our INDIVIduality – our sense that we are INDIvisible. Whole. It balances a sense of being connected to a larger collective.

Our ego lusts to be wholly right. Wholly good. Not part desperate.

Our ego subsists in the part of our psyche which is conscious – versus our fuller self. All the other parts of our full self of which we are not conscious, Carl Jung called our “shadow.” It’s part of our whole, but we are not conscious of it.

Labels about us violate our sense of wholeness (or sometimes cultivate it). We are uncomfortable being DIVIded.

Yet, we are a mix of everything that can be put on a list of labels.

Each of us is both good AND bad.

An inflated ego doesn’t like that.

When someone applies a label to us, we want to accept/embrace “good” ones, and reject/defend against bad ones – IN THEIR ENTIRETY.

We don’t like parts of mixes that DIVIde our INDIVIual wholeness.

Responses to “bad” labels can be stronger if such labels open the lid of our repressed Shadow, to expose a glimpse, a peek, at the things in our full Self about which we would prefer to remain unconscious.

When an ex listed labels about you, for why you were parting, none was wrong or incorrect – ENTIRELY.

You honestly couldn’t deny *any* of them – ENTIRELY.

Each label called up parts of your Shadow. Remember, we are largely not conscious of those parts, so we can’t simply call something of which we’re mostly unconscious, wrong.

Your ex was far more conscious of those parts because of the pain those parts caused your ex. As they labeled you, on parting, they had already chosen the ultimate and complete choice of rejection, citing all the reasons you were a bad partner. To them, the list of negative labels was a mountain, and your good labels a mere molehill.

The love that bound you together and kept the scale in favor of your goodness, was gone.

Their labels were partly right and partly wrong.

We ALL are “desperate” for mates because it’s how we are wired by nature. Our tribulation about that label revolves around HOW desperate. A “good” amount of desperate? Or “bad”? Our mix. Our balance.

It’s hard to receive or accept a label like “desperate” with a connotation so negative. Yet we all – each – have some mix from the good and the bad lists. And the mix is never static. Sometimes it changes voluntarily, sometimes consciously; other times it changes unconsciously, or with no choice perceived.

The passage of time is constantly swirling the mix of who we are.

When the mixture hardens, we’re stuck. Or dead. Or a saint outside the realm of humanity.

This is why I’m not comfortable with the absolute rule that we should cut toxic people out of our lives. Yes, I can appreciate that it’s prudent or necessary when we are too unconscious of our Shadow to tolerate the suffering of knowing we are imperfect and weak in the light of our fullness and humanity. At that “sometimes,” we require psychological defenses and “setting boundaries.” But those are steps and phases on a much larger journey, not the stopping point(s).

If we “stop” at a stage of excising toxic people from our lives, won’t we again be a hardened mixture that’s “stuck”?

The boundary of toxicity – who is poison, and who is not – is inside of us. It is drawn by our vulnerability. We are very largely unconscious of it, deny it, avoid it, throw psychological defenses at it, over and over.

Set boundaries and excise toxic people from your life if you must at this “sometime”; but as long as you keep the contents of your Shadow stuffed into unconscious darkness, and you avoid “toxic” people who shine the light of a projector on it, you retard your own growth in awareness about the fullness of who You are.

Both your wholeness and your holes need your whole attention.


Neil D. 2021-09-05


Inspired by Brother – Sean of the South

My brother and I have enjoyed greasy food, cold beer, and live music together. Neither of us plays guitar, likes country music, or have had our mom cry over us and exhort us to fight for our lives against any injury or disease. I’m certain that’s something one can never understand if they haven’t gone through it. Mom is 89 and a 1/2 years old, and she has undertaken that battle more than once; her example speaks loudly, and my younger sisters have “heard” that. They’re my brother too.

To eat, drink, enjoy music and the company of mom, our sisters… well, that’s exhortation enough for me for now.


Neil D. 2021-09-06

Listening. And another prayer hangup of mine

An article by Richard Rohr and a Facebook exchange with a wise and bright person from my past (links at end) got me to thinking…

Because being a good listener is a praiseworthy ideal, many of us think we are good listeners. Almost none of us is. Our culture is too hungry for answers, and too eager to give them. I’d hazard that less than 1/10 of 1% of people in our culture listen without thought of responding. That’s not a very good rate of good listening.

Most of us are driven crazy by religious fundamentalists because they have an answer for everything. Political fundamentalists aren’t far behind or much different. It’s the same with fundamentalist science and rationalism. Every ideologue is a fundamentalist, believing that they have heard the counter-arguments, but they are all incorrect.

I think, I’m afraid, that is not relating. That is relating to ideals, not relating to people.

We stopped listening. We are unable to hear a human being, instead reducing them to their incorrectness/correctness. We objectify people by treating them, their thoughts, and their feelings objectively, for the sake of answers that they seek, and that we pride ourselves on offering.

More than anything in this realm, a human being wants to be heard. A human being wants to be listened to. Much much more than they want answers. Even if they don’t know it. Especially about hard questions. Hard questions are hard because they are hard. When you reduce hard questions to an answer, you are rejecting the human being who finds them hard.

Answering is the opposite of listening, not the resolution to listening.

We should listen genuinely because it allows the mysterious to remain mysterious. When we don’t let the mysterious remain mysterious, we simplify and objectify the human being speaking. We also shrink ourselves to something much less enormous than we are.

I think our national religious conditioning has made us this way. Even if you are an atheist, you are living in a nation cultured by evangelical fundamentalism – from the founding fathers to the present day.

Our religious cultures have brainwashed us into simplicity. We are to believe that our relationship to the divine is not mysterious and has answers. Even the atheists, who think there can’t be a god that would allow the kinds of evil plain to see. But I believe much of atheism is driven by fundamentalists haughtily pronouncing answers to questions that have no answers. This is in stark opposition to the example of Yeshua, who listened without answers VERY often. And most of the time, when an answer was given, it was deeply mysterious.

The most explicit way our religious cultures have conditioned us to be very poor listeners is by the prescribed practices of prayer. Ask things of God. Discern the answers. Pursue God’s will. We think this involves listening. But it involves listening for objective, fundamentalist, simplified, reduced answers, not contentment with mystery and difficulty.

Some people say God did not promise to take our suffering away, but only to be present with us amidst it. And that non-answer is why philosophers call evil and suffering the great problems. Those big problem questions don’t have answers. They are mysterious.

But fundamentalists don’t want a mysterious God.

I do. Woody Allen says he would never want to belong to a country club that would accept him. I would never want a god who wasn’t sympathetic to my wrestling with the difficult questions. I think the real God is. And the people in whom the real Spirit dwell are good listeners when they let their divinity embrace mystery and console their fearful ego.

The people we identify as authentically good listeners are simply people who are present in fullness. When they don’t offer ridiculously simplified answers, we are nevertheless consoled. Why? The soul seeks to be heard, and the soul needs nothing more than full presence. Not answers.

Ask God for whatever you wish. Listen for answers if you wish. But be present. Fully present. For God is.

Neil D. 2021-09-04

A psycho-spiritual role for logic

I’m not an overly enthusiastic fan of reason, logic, rationalism, scientism, physicalism, thinking, etc. But I am absolutely an enthusiastic fan. What does “overly” mean to me?

When you put all of your eggs — all of your big questions — in the basket of rationalism, you cheat your humanity. The height of reason is not the height of humanity {see endnote for more}.

Logic — no matter how pure — is simply not a person’s only way of “knowing.” Let’s take up the question of, “Who am I?”

Mire your self in as much logic as you wish about the question, “Who am I?” You stumble quickly into irrational grandiosity which inflates your self-importance, like Mushu presents himself as The Great Stone Dragon to Mulan (voice, Eddie Murphy):

At the opposite end of the Logic Pendulum‘s swing is that you are but a speck on a tiny planet in the universe, bound to be wormbait and dust.

We each sense that we are something special in the universe, but that sense does not, and cannot, come from our faculty of reason isolated from the rest of our life experience.

“Who am I?” leads us to ponder both the universal and the specific. Neither seems to make sense alone. I am part of something big, and I am an individual. Let’s play further with another question logically…

“What is my potential?”

Here, I think logic has a deep and profound psycho-spiritual role to play for a person. You are NOT the ideals and values you espouse. That’s illogical grandiosity. Yet most of us live our lives thinking and acting this way. We wish to be something we can never be. Consider it logically. An ideal is an ideal and cannot be entirely embodied by… well… a body. Neither ANY-body nor EVERY-body.

Objective truths are unreal. They objectify us. And something within us tells us that we are not mere objects, in reality. So poo-poo on your idolization of objectivity. We are each subjects—agents of action.

“Who am I? What is my potential?” Logically, I am Neil. Logically, my potential cannot exceed Neil’s theoretical potential. Logically.

Why do we get so easily tempted by lures of achievement? By promises of becoming something we wish for? Because we live in a materialistic culture with expert marketing! And those forces are not founded on logic! They appeal to “something” in us far beyond our faculty of reason. At their extreme, they are imaginary realms, outside the realm of logic.

Our imagination lures us, logic be damned!

This propensity, proclivity, impulse, and compulsion for imagination is evoked when we hear platitudes like…
Be all/the best you can be.
Be your best/full self.
Know thy-self.

So, set aside your imagination as best you can, and apply here some brutal logic. And remember that psychology informs us by unequivocal consensus that Comparison is a lethal practice for The Self.

You cannot be “that” in its imaginary entirety. You cannot be “this” at every moment. You cannot be this or that by choice, by will, voluntarily in every circumstance.

This is the fullness of logical honesty.

In the sense that you deny each of these truisms, you are logically ill. You become *mentally* ill when you rely exclusively on logic. Because “you” are so much more than an engine for reason.

A human being is much more than a thinker.

A human being is also a feeler.

We try to sort out those two, but that is an exercise of logic! Can you peel an orange with an orange peel?

Anytime we consciously exercise logic, we sense that it is incomplete. And so have the greatest minds in philosophy throughout our history.

Today’s brilliant thinkers have an imaginary hope that we haven’t YET figured out how to subsume our faculties of emotion into our faculty of reason, but will in the future—like scientific discoveries remain incomplete and point to paths we should follow for further discovery. Of course we should do that, but if the aim of those pursuits is a fantasy that we will detangle our thinking faculties from our feeling faculties, and reduce the mystery of the human being, well, then, what are we left with?

Anyhow, that may seem to have strayed from my purpose here. I have drifted into talking about universals, and not the specific You, or Me.

Stop being so hard on yourself because you do not perfectly embody ideals, which were never meant to be perfectly embodied. Be content with valuing them. You are unique in the universe, even outside of time: Never has there been, nor will there ever be, another you.

To “do You well,” practice some logic about who you are, and, especially, who you aren’t.

Then practice some more logic: The full You that you just conceived NEVER remains static.

You are this and that… sometimes.

That’s *honest* logic.

“‘Neil’ is a name which should never be spoken.” Or only spoken as a whisper. Or whatever. Why? Mystery.

This morning’s Neil is not the same as this evening’s…


Related: Beware of therapy goals! (2) Envy and the Pitfalls of Validation

Neil D. 2021-09-01


The Enlightenment is a wonderful collective achievement, but it is not the end game. It was just a corrective swing of the pendulum away from the oppression of both the superstitious middle ages and the religiosity of The Renaissance. (

The Age of Reason and the Industrial Revolution have put us in the age of technology, biotechnology, information, etc. accompanied by political revolutions which have put the freedom of individuals on par with service by the power of the state.

If you are more interested in his characterization of European/western historical ages, I recommend reading about the aforementioned topics as well as “Deism.”