The (nth to) Last Temptation of M

comments 27
Christ / Course Ideas

Roughly a week ago I wrote about acceptance and not looking back.  It was fun.  It felt good.  I felt whole, and alive.  I was aware of a nurturing Invisibility with which I was joined, as if I was wading into a body of water that has no opposite shore, shaking my arms loose, wiggling my head around, and generally preparing to dive forward and start doing a Michael Phelps impersonation at a right angle to my past.

It wasn’t just me that I felt good about, either.  Unity arrives with a joyous feeling about everyone.  Unity has the sensation of inclusiveness, of every being gathering around, of your own vantage point being a particular window with a view into the playground where all beings tumble and twirl, hang from the rafters, invent new whiffle ball pitches, blow bubbles, or sit on benches and make notes in their diaries.  We  are all such windows.  Some beings are looking through you right now.  You are looking through them.  Everyone is looking through everyone else, and, ideally, discovering the natural radiance we all share.

Then I had an experience that really brought home for me what Jesus speaks about in that same section of the Dialogues of A Course of Love as temptation.  I have for most of my life equated temptation with desiring something material that brings with it momentary bliss, but not lasting satisfaction- a status of some sort, the right location, a special recognition, chocolate cake, whiskey, an autograph, money, cool gadgets, etc.  The objects of our temptation are ultimately hollow, and we more or less know that, but there is something about them that lures us in, some short-lived upside we can’t quite do without in our moment of so-called weakness.  Otherwise, what would be the temptation?  I haven’t often thought of fear as tempting, but the tumblers in the lock that hangs on the gate that stands between me and every lasting good thing I desire fell into place- at least a few of them- and when they aligned I could see it clearly.  Fear is absolutely a temptation.

It is cleverly disguised, however…

At some point you have undoubtedly participated in a group endeavor, and the members of that ensemble came together for some sort of stated reason, whatever that was.  You may have worked in a company with more than one person in it.  You may have been on a team.  You may have been on a marching band.  You may have gone to school and found yourself in a classroom full of other people.  It really doesn’t matter the scale.  We could even go macro here and say that you are part of a team consisting of all humans alive on this planet.

At some point, a couple of things may collide in your thoughts.  One might be, this can’t be as good as it gets.  There is something still missing in my life, something for me to stalk out there in the world and attain, or make my own.  Some destiny with my name on it that I had better get off my ass and go find.  This may collide with the notion that whatever it is you are doing, it would perhaps go a whole lot better if you were in charge of it.  You might find yourself saying, if I started my own band, I could do things my way, and it would be good.  I should have my own art gallery, because my taste is incredible and the world would benefit from this missing ingredient.  And plus, if I did, I would have “made it.”  This is what creative people do, by the way, they get their name up there on the board.  And so it’s time for me to open my account, post a score up there in plain view before it’s too late.  You get both of those things going for you, and you got yourself a very interesting temptation, with fear en route to really drive it home and solidify it into a tangible conundrum.

Bear with me here, because I realize there is a time and a place for starting a new band, a way in which it could be a wonderful and appropriate thing, a vehicle for expressing who you are discovering yourself to be.  When you feel that way, you just wake up one day and start writing and playing music and it happens as naturally as apple pie.  But this is not what I’m talking about.  I’m talking about starting a new band because you need to show the world how to do it properly, or because you think doing so will fill the gap left by whatever is missing.  I’m talking about starting a band because you think, if you did, things would be somehow better, and with the riff raff from the old band out of the equation you could finally be you the way you were meant to be.  That’s when fear shows up.

Well, it did for me.  It’s tempting now at this stage, for my thoughts, spurred on by a six pack of refrigerated latte beverages and the punch lines of a thousand self help books at their disposal, to whip me up into this state where I’m going to feel like I suck if I don’t tackle this fear head on and make something of myself post haste.  Fear, after all, is the only thing that could hold me back.  I know this.  You know this.  We all know this.  We’ve got a hair-trigger tolerance set between every two thoughts and if fear comes along into view, we immediately want to go Greco-Roman on it.  Conquer it.  Why?  Because if I’m afraid, I’m obviously dropping the ball…  I don’t want to look like an idiot here.  Everybody knows: just choose love over fear.

What’s the problem, pal?  You don’t get it?

This state becomes a real travesty of a mental dwelling place.  Part of me knows that doing anything whatsoever for the reasons described above is going to amount to a wild goose chase, the loss of a few months or years of my life, and maybe some good “life lessons” at the end of it.  Another part feels like if I don’t do something, I’ll never live up to my potential.  Life will have passed me by.  Something precious will have been wasted.  You may not think this is tempting, but this is the cleverness of fear, in my experience anyway– to make this type of seeming decision an issue that clamors for resolution.  I’m not sure if this is a universal one or not, but it grabs me by the neck once in a while and tries to lay out a clear program for me.  It dares me to become distracted, to get focused on a side show, to inhabit a landscape of assumptions that is wholly arbitrary and meaningless.

Thankfully, this particular emotional roller coaster was like a 24-hr virus.  I opted not to take the bait, but I wrestled with it for a while.  After some time, I realized I was arguing with a straw man.  The whole thing is a set-up.  Being fearless doesn’t mean we have to walk the tight-rope between the Sears Towers, just because when we thought of it, we realized it scared us, and all fears need to be conquered.  Sometimes that little twinge of reluctance is simply saying that something isn’t our path.  The acceptance of the fullness at the heart of our being renders this type of trap meaningless.  It shuts off an entire layer of the world, leaving only what is real…  It is only that last vestige of wanting, that little piece of bait in the trap, that draws us in.

What’s oh so very tempting, is to walk around with the unshakable feeling that something’s wrong, or something’s missing, or some achievement will make us better.  Fasting from want means calling baloney on this feeling.  Stay close to the brightest feelings you can carry, and wave them like torches wherever you go.  At some point, everything will be obvious.


  1. I don’t feel any fear to be conquered, but you sure had me questioning why I’m doing the blog. Thanks. I’ve always known that if it doesn’t come from a pure and clear place it’s not worth doing, but it also gets muddied from time to time and I need to do a good mental clearing and get back to what’s in the heart. What’s really wanted? Only Love.


    • Alison, your blog is brilliant, so I wouldn’t question that one… It is indeed about getting back to what’s in the heart. Sometimes it just seems like I have this “twitch.” That takes a brief explanation… A friend and I at work used to head out to the parking lot in the mid-afternoon and hurl a baseball back and forth for ten or fifteen minutes. Every so often my deep-seated desire not to strike a nearby vehicle with an errant two-seamer would cause me to over-think it, and I’d hurl the ball into the asphalt five feet in front of the intended recipient. He’d say, “You twitched!” I could feel it. The whole throw just felt off- completely herky jerky. That is kind of what this is like internally, a brief aberration or distortion of everything I can see or feel, that all dissolves once I find my way back to my heart. Let go of the analysis… Ahh, the temptation to analyze… That’s what responsible people do, you know! 🙂



      • I certainly know the ‘twitch’ – it means for me whatever you were thinking of doing don’t.
        And yes, the over thinking . Same. I do that with the blog from time to time – when I read posts like this one 🙂 – but actually it’s more like a big emotional reaction and release and in that I get to see where I’ve been holding on too tight.


        • Yes, I like that description Alison. The emotional reaction is necessary so we can see what we’ve been holding, and then release can be a natural response to that. Twitching is like getting it out in the open!



  2. I am struck by how much of our world seems to operate with these hidden “fear” based motivations for doing – to make a mark or fill a gap or to arrive! The activity arising organically from a desire to create, while looking similar, is such a different thing. I find the line, “Sometimes that little twinge of reluctance is simply saying that something isn’t our path,” so helpful. Wonderful explorations, Michael. Your 40 days in the desert are reaping many rewards for us all. How was Marty Scorsese to work with? 🙂


    • ~meredith says

      and another other ~m joins the circle to share. (i might get a lot of things wrong, here, because sometimes i’m not sure whether you write metaphorically… or literally… and i suppose it doesn’t matter, but it is what it is… forgive me)

      fear is healthy. it is one of the seeds of ill-being, and i think its effect depends on whether you pay attention to dosage. yeah? yup. for all the great things that happened on retreat, fear of saying, “no” to playing in sandboxes that weren’t for me was an minute-by-second dance that required absolute attention… especially because excess wants our approval… and our participation.

      i, too, feel a rush of “the big wondeful,” vibrating all around me. some people don’t, though, and some people feel it and want to suck the essence from the very marrow of human forms of it… but it shape and doesn’t follow rules of ownership, so good on you for trusting the twinge. i had to delay one leg of my recent journey by several days to regroup after an unexpected, wild, ride with pirates. (metaphor? not quite.) my body and mind needed detox and recentering before making my most important trek, but i think this is how we learn how to walk the balances of the physical plane… and it is absolutely overwhelming, sometimes.

      you express your potential profoundly. i read it all the time. this is just one piece of writing that I read, then re-read, and then go outside and ponder while digging in the yard. you ‘be,’ bud. (you be even better when using self-help books for kindling, maybe, but i’m not sure who whispered that in my ear, just now so i can’t fully comit to the idea…).
      your brightness is more than near, it’s in gear, so yea!
      hugs, hugs, hugs, and more hugs. love, marga. love, michael. ~meredith.


      • Hugs, hugs, Love and gratitude right back at ya’! Thanks, Meredith. Sometimes I get sensitive about who might be reading, like it may not behoove me to tell my bandmates my transient inner motifs, which I view as transient states on a journey to wholeness and not a threat to anyone, but recognize this is not always a shared realization, and so I write literally-metaphorically to communicate as best I can the reality in which I find myself. Although the analogies are pretty close to the real thing.

        I can sense and appreciate the wisdom in your sharing here. The issue of dosage, of paying attention to what our emotions are telling us, of recouping after nearly walking the plank, and of your most important trek. It is all heartening. (As an aside, I would love to hear more, whether literally-metaphorically-poetically or what have you, about your retreat, if you feel so inclined, though I do feel as if the warmth has been shining through clearly in your comments and sharing.)

        (Whoever whispered that in your ear about book burning is probably right on…)

        Thanks for listening, and for responding.



    • ~meredith says

      (i meant to say ‘shifts shape and doesn’t follow rules of ownership.’


      • ~meredith says

        I meant to put: “i meant to say ‘shifts shape and doesn’t follow rules of ownership’ with parenthesis’ on both ends. *this is why i don’t write in the morning.*

        very cool post. just know. :/


    • Thank you, Marga. It has been a while since I watched that movie, but I have been thinking of watching it again. I remember enjoying it thoroughly.

      That difference between creating from the natural flow of one’s being, and efforting to manifest something in order to head off some eventuality, or to accomplish some arbitrary objective that sounds really good at the time, has long been an intriguing topic for me. We can paint the things we love with either brush, I have realized.

      Writing, for instance, can become a real burden when I compare myself to others, when I make the end game the key aspect of it, when I do all those sad things that sabotage the natural order within me. Or, writing can be a complete joy, when I just let it be what it is. The contrast is increasingly stark for me, and I think that is a good thing… to become aware of this fundamental choice we face… to be tempted by the organically arising desire to create…



    • Another M, late to the party, but loving the read. What gifts of golden wisdom to find waiting.

      The strongest and most powerful foundations in my life have come from being as real as I can in the moment as the weak, fear fraught things about me (when spoken in awareness and truth) then are given the air, space and light to become strengths. I ADORE falling from any pedestal illusions (of my own making or others).

      Hi, meet Maren.

      Let her disappoint you in her shifting and not togetherness so that you can see where your expectations are encoded and may be limiting you 🙂 . lol

      OK….still working, but more time to read and write and respond just over the horizon. Phew.



      • Thanks, Maren. I love what you say about strong foundations coming from just being honest about where the perceived weaknesses may lie. Sometimes this type of reaction “flairs up” within me, like the voice of my Irish grandmother. Mostly when in circles where truth-telling is danced around rather than embraced. When in groups, sometimes my desire to be honest about our collective shortcomings (areas for improvement) can be misinterpreted, but where is there to go if we are not honest about what is difficult for us? If we at least admit the difficulty, it’s out there, in the light, no? Then anything can happen… Suddenly, for reasons we could not have known before that instant, it doesn’t seem so difficult after all…



  3. I really like this post. This is very illuminating, and I have often found myself experiencing the bliss described first, and the sneaking fear worming its way back, rooting into the mind through the need for achievement, betterment, all the examples you provide. (Now please bear with me while I enter my crazy land.)
    Reading Castaneda these days, I have just come across a quote that hit me intensely. “Every one of us human beings has two minds. One is totally ours, and it is like a faint voice that always brings us order, directness, purpose. The other mind is a FOREIGN INSTALLATION (later referred to as daily mind). It brings us conflict, self-assertion, doubts, hopelessness.” -Don Juan (Active Side of Infinity)
    In terms of pure energy and frequency, this foreign installation is a tool used to dim or decrease the frequency of the human energy field. My feeling on this is that when we seat ourselves in higher mind, our frequency and power shoot up dramatically and we feel great. I also feel that this change is unfortunately an alert to those foreign installers, and perhaps the signal sent to our ‘foreign installation’ is increased.
    Also, when I am in this higher mind, I tend to ditch the mental guards I have, and simply enjoy, as you have described, the playground through my open window.
    Thus, fear sneaks in, costumed as something very noble and necessary, yet cracks a hole into my state of being, allowing Daily Mind to seep back in. Over time, I get better at keeping a guard, or as DJ would say ‘being deliberate’ in thought and action, but this takes a great deal of energy. After a while, I’m just tuckered out. This is exercise. This is practice. We get better and better, I think.
    A new resonance, or balance is always configured, and I think the trick is to keep this new resonance slowly growing stronger, longer, more stable, and inching upward. Slow and steady wins the race, right?
    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go bust up the nuts and bolts of my foreign installation. 🙂


    • I appreciate this entire response. You have picked up on the feeling of it exactly, of the way the daily mind worms its way back onto the scene in the guise of something noble. And I like the description of each encounter developing a new resonance. It seems to me that although each encounter with the mirage of wanting seems like a regression, there is in that little voice the awareness that something unnecessary has been left behind. We expand and, like a tree, grow a new ring.

      I haven’t read much Carlos Castaneda. I read one book once- not sure I even remember which one- in which I found myself reading about a strange world populated by immobile sentiences in which one’s soul could be ensnared and caught, or something like that. I wasn’t quite on that wavelength. I walked around for a while afterwards worried about things I couldn’t even perceive. Unbelievable…

      What you have shared here makes much more sense. There is an oft-quoted line from A Course in Miracles where Jesus says we are far too tolerant of mind-wandering, which is kind of how this happens I think. Like your ditching of the mental home guard. I do think we are hurtling into the state in which no guards are needed, in some sense. After all, it was this Daily Mind looking out for me, and alerting me to all sorts of slights and hypothetically feeble futures that shut out the lights temporarily to begin with…

      Slow, steady, and stunningly thirsty for the truth of Being. 🙂



  4. Hi Michael,

    The wrestling is what we do and yet, often the place we don’t want to be, yes? Perhaps the temptation to start a new band replaces the fear of staying and finding one’s way within the band? Sometimes, or, it can go either way, wrestling is what we do.

    “What’s oh so very tempting, is to walk around with the unshakable feeling that something’s wrong, or something’s missing, or some achievement will make us better.”

    ..and of course, something usually is wrong. Silly humans with their eye for perfection!

    I love this post, your wrestling and the gift you have for articulating our human dilemma.

    Here’s to our angels! may the better one’s win our wrestling match.

    With love,


    • Yes, Debra, this wrestling is both what we do, and where we don’t want to be… I agree with your notion that the temptation to start the new band can be a new take on an old fear, or the flipside, if you will, of the challenge of making one’s way through the present. When this sensation arises for me, neither looks promising. It is as if the light has gone out of the world and I am wandering through the blacklight kingdom. A strange feeling. I think one of the greatest authentic achievements of self-reflection is the recognition of these old patterns, so we don’t let them take us too far off into needless quests.

      Without the concept of perfection, nothing would be wrong, in a way, no? I love that you recognize the nuance of these word collages. These experiences are not problems to be solved, but impressions to encounter and absorb and explore, like new flavors upon the tongue.

      May the angels take a break between rounds…!

      With love returned,


      • Hi Michael,

        “A strange feeling. I think one of the greatest authentic achievements of self-reflection is the recognition of these old patterns, so we don’t let them take us too far off into needless quests.”

        So true! Without having seen it coming, I find myself there now, today.

        Struck by an emotion as yet to be defined, but uncomfortable, it’s as if when you walk towards someone who you look forward to seeing sees you and yet walks on by. What happened that someone can decide to no longer engage?

        The familiarity of this discomfort forms a cluster from past similar experiences and tempts me to justify my bad feeling by manifesting an old pattern of hurt.

        How to turn an ill-will into love then? Perhaps I don’t know the answer to that today. Jung had this idea that if we stay in the tension of discomfort, which he saw as being pulled apart by opposing forces, a third way will emerge.

        Hillman saw this tension as Dionysian, a tearing apart into pieces, which allows for a rearranging into an unforeseen renewal. A creation comes about from the ashes, from something that necessarily needs to be destroyed, or destroys itself because it has reached its own dead-end.

        I wonder too, where in alchemy the separation of the substances from dross to essence, a submission is required, a willingness is now required to be with the distintegration so that the essence can come through.

        Not sure of much today, but feeling that strange feeling of fearfulness of my own desire for justice and revenge on someone who I thought was a friend.

        I can’t say I won’t go there, I can’t say I will. It does help to attend to the feelings and be aware of the temptations.

        I hope my better angels are listening 🙂



        • Yes, these things in my experience spring upon us like traps out of the blue. I tend to agree with your notion of staying in the tension, if only because forcing a decision to overcome our feelings seems like a good way to run roughshod over ourselves. On the other hand, feelings seem to respond to perceptions, and so for myself I have come to think that the tension that is important is the tension between being hurt, and the attraction to being whole. They both relate to our own stance to ourselves and the world, and maybe from that tension (like the “image” of a dream) we can see the motives within the desires that have created the tension in the first place. It places the ball within our own court, rather than making the issue about how to respond to someone or something “out there”, which is where I tend to get hung up… Wanting to do something immediately about something “out there”…

          I am recognizing in my recent emotional ebbs and flows, waxings and wanings, an age-old pattern of wondering what I am supposed to be or do. I think the ability to recognize the pattern is SO important. It helps me keep the core of the issue conscious and in front of me. In a way, your friend may simply have shown something to you, as recent events have shown something to me. I remember ages ago having an elementary school science teacher who saw potential in me, and if I finished my class work she would send me to the library to research this or that topic, thinking she would jumpstart my passion or something. I didn’t enjoy the research or being singled out for whatever reason. I felt the complete opposite. I felt as though she and the world expected something from me, and I couldn’t figure out what it was. I just wanted to be a normal student and goof off that day, perhaps. This pattern of what to be, of achieving potential in a way that limits me, recurs. My reaction is so often to start thinking about an outward solution.,,

          I hope my better angels are listening, too. I hope, ultimately, this finds you at peace. As I write, I think maybe you should ignore my words above and just stick with that! 🙂 A choice for peace.



          • Hi Michael,

            This is well said:

            They both relate to our own stance to ourselves and the world, and maybe from that tension (like the “image” of a dream) we can see the motives within the desires that have created the tension in the first place. It places the ball within our own court, rather than making the issue about how to respond to someone or something “out there”, which is where I tend to get hung up.”

            Yes, to remember that we may not be aware of our motives! That is gold, along with the sharing of your experience with your well-meaning science teacher.

            You point out something that is quite relevant to my dilemma with a friend. He was the Pipe Major in a band in which I was the Drum Sargeant. I decided to leave the band last summer after five years of membership, 3 in a leadership role as lead drummer.

            My decision was bitter sweet. I felt like my summers were overbooked, not enough time for hiking, camping and particularly writing. But, I do love drumming and playing in this band was also a way to give something back to the community as we played at a lot of military and community events.

            Until I read your words, I did not see how torn I was in my decision to leave the band. The Pipe Major and I were good friends and he has chosen not to speak to me, even in the course of leaving the band, he did not want to talk to me about it. I was deeply hurt by not being able to have an important conversation and for losing his friendship and perhaps his respect.

            But, I think now I get why. I feel the loss of this hobby and a disloyalty to something I valued, although ultimately, I do not regret moving on.

            Thank you, for the conversation here which immediately allowed me to see what I am stewing over! Although I will probably never know my friend’s motives for distancing himself from me, I do see why my emotions have been running high over the loss of his friendship. Thank you Michael!

            I can live with that and choose peace.



            • Thanks for such a heartfelt share, Debra. I read this a couple of times, and one thing that strikes me is the way a person can withdraw for reasons that don’t seem relevant to a friendship. It almost reads as though the Pipe Major was hurt first, by your decision to depart, and was perhaps just unable to deal with it in a way that would allow a conversation with you to take place. Your loss to the group was perhaps more than he or she could handle. It would seem to me that this in turn could be painful on your end… I can see how you could wind up with a sensation of disloyalty, not only to the hobby, but to this person who had such a reaction to your departure. How could you not be affected when you’re unable to even explain or discuss your motivations and desires? I’m rambling now, but these are precisely the kind of unpleasant, sticky wickets that seem to snare us from time to time, patterns for us to embrace and transcend.

              We react to one another in ways and for reasons we ourselves cannot even initially fathom, and hurt begets hurt. It is my observation that in situations like this it often seems like we are stuck unless the other party steps up to have the needed conversation, but there is a way where we can at least break the unconscious chain of hurt-begetting-hurt. Even in solitude we can do that. We don’t have to stay hurt. I think that it is really powerful when we do that work…

              Anyway, thank you for sharing. Peace… Michael


    • Hey Debra,
      Just sending a warm heart hug for your sharing. I so appreciate the way this coalesing group of kin is able to share their real time flowing of experiences, fears, thoughts, and insights as they arise – truly a shared time of growth. You are loved abundantly! marga


      • Thanks Marga!

        I really appreciate your words and very much agree that we have a good thing going here.

        Perhaps because it’s hard for me to do anything half-heartedly, I very much enjoy how others here can reciprocate much needed friendship and conversation.


        • I would like to third that notion. You guys are making me want to write a post about hair styles again…



  5. Tracey says

    Brilliant! Perfection! Excellent! I am printing this one out– thank you! Thank you!


  6. This post really hit home for me. I have been complaining to myself about succumbing to buying things lately. It’s fear of death really. Being of an age where time us becoming way more precious. No excuse. Things do not bring lasting satisfaction. Neither do achievements. Nor even people. The ones you love die on you. Only God can satisfy that craving deep inside.


    • Thank you for sharing this. I agree 100%. Only God, or what I’ll call the recovery of our true identity, as God expressing, can bring the cessation of the experience of lack. Thankfully, this is readily available to us… Sometimes the places we seek to find love are so beautiful, and then the realization that they are impermanent dawns on us, and it is a scary feeling. So we need that inner grace and connection to carry us… Thanks for sharing this.



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