Awakening From Reactivity: A Journey Towards Human Enlightenment 

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  • How To Transcend Our Sub-humanity

    My son doesn’t do his chores properly, my body bristles. In my address, my tone reveals disapproval, a vain attempt to manipulate him to toe the line. A politician gives into his fear and votes against his conscience.  A child has a toy taken away then kicks and screams. Religious leaders battle each other, claiming only they have the answers and truth.  Lovers, now divorcing, seek lawyers, fight over assets, with hopes of freedom from a piece of paper.  Neighbors spend thousands on legal fees, as they squabble over a twelve inch boundary dispute.  Governments attack each other with their war machines, justifying murder.  We horrifically pollute our beautiful planet, in the name of progress, survival, and profit.

    A common thread?  Can any and all acts of insensitivity and irresponsibility have one root cause? What fuels the hurtfulness, the unhappiness?  As humans we have the capacity for so much good and we have done some remarkable and wonderful things. Yet sadly, generation upon generation, we too often succumb to subhuman ways of being.  We either exact our pound of flesh or cower.  Preemptively strike or be nasty in our passive-aggressiveness, or simply resign in apathy.  And throngs of people seek comfort in ungrounded religious or romantic idealism, or else all-about-me narcissism – 

    “It must be God’s plan…”

    “The next generation will fix things…”

    “It’s not so bad, at least I’m ok.”    

    As sentient beings, it’s more than apparent, we are collectively enacting an unnecessary tragedy of epic proportions  whereby our very survival as a species is seriously in doubt. 

    We must get crystal clear about what we’re up to.  

    Only those rare few, truly Enlightened beings, provide that clarity.  They are the greatest gifts to humankind. I’ve studied with two Spiritual Masters and what I’m about to share is a synopsis of their wisdom, born from their compassion and what’s been revealed to them in their Awakening. 


    Both quantum physics and enlightened masters have irrefutably revealed that everything is energy/light. Everything animate, inanimate, visible and invisible, is merely and mysteriously only energy/light.  This energy/light is the all-pervading Life Force. Forms are modified light. Our human bodies are arising in the infinite ocean of Life Force.  All forms appear, perpetually change, and disappear.  That which is constant remains unchanged.  The one and only constant is the unchanging all-pervading Life Force in which everything arises and from which nothing is ever separate or differentiated. 

    Light is Spirit, Love, Grace, Divine Consciousness, Life Force – Reality itself altogether.  My first Spiritual Master asked rhetorically, “What tradition can claim to own the Holy Brightness?”  

    But we all know there are real consequences when we are not sensitive to Reality – and we’ve been demonstrating we are way out of step with Reality.


    What is the nature of the Life Force? Does this Life Force have a Law?  Consider that the Universal Law is Freedom. As water “wants” to flow and spread, energy wants to be free, unbound. To align with the Law of Reality we must learn to live with our guard down, feeling whatever is arising in and around us.  When we feel freely, our bodies register a wide range of feelings; light heartedness, love, peace, and strength.  The feelings we typically don’t like; fear, anger, sorrow, self-loathing, shame, guilt, loneliness, hurt – when freely felt – are felt for what they are, merely energy, to be allowed.  When feeling freely, we can step out into winter’s cold, or hear a baby crying, receive difficult criticism, or even have a loved one die, and not recoil. 

    Acceptance of all of what we generate emotionally renders peace, freedom.  As Light already, we are, in truth, Free, unbound…which is only discovered in this allowing of all feeling.


    The day we’re born, we do not understand our circumstance.  We identify as being a mortal body. We buy the illusion of individuality.  Later, as our brain develops, we conceive ourselves to be separate from everything outside our bodies.  We identify with being a body that is perpetually changing and that will die.  The word “ego” is Greek in origin and means “I.” Even our languages reinforce egoic consciousness, rooted in the false sense of separation and threat.   It is common and accepted that we talk and write about what “I” wants and doesn’t want.  But who is this “I” we claim to be when in Truth there is no separate one at all, but only Light, only Spirit?  Let go of the mind that grapples to find an answer, better to “feel the Mystery,” as my Masters instruct.

    As the Spirit is free, what if we lived by the presumption that we are already free no matter what is going on? What would that be like?  When I have that presumption and disposition, there is a sense of abundance, not lack. I feel the humor in ordinary existence, and act with compassion and strength.  I remember laying in a hospital bed being prepared for a hernia operation. A male nurse came in to shave my pubic hair.  I had no fear of the operation.  I erupted in laughter over this poor man’s task, and he laughed too.   

    At birth, feeling separate from Love, we are highly anxious, desperate to be comforted.   Identified with a mortal body, we grow up with a deep, often unconscious, sense of threat.  We fear pain and the inevitability of death.   My Masters expressed that humans are like sponges in the ocean, refusing to be saturated, never enjoying the infinite ocean of Love’s currents.  So bound we are by our fear and identification with a dying body.  In the enlightened position, in an attitude of perfect surrender to What Is, and perfectly responding to What Is, the Masters allow all feelings and allow the full saturation. They awaken to identify with the ocean itself, Love Itself, not a dying form. 


    The ego is not an entity but a motion machine.   It simultaneously, addictively, and neurotically, seeks and avoids.   The ego seeks comfort, pleasure and security, as we try to avoid the feelings we alone have created but do not like.   As infants and toddlers, we subconsciously and wrongly concluded that all our painful emotions were bad, even threatening, and should be avoided.  Herein lies the very root cause for all our insensitivity and irresponsibility.  That subconscious belief continues to drive how we live and the result is we’re often in a state of reactivity.  A traffic light turns red, our food arrives later than we wanted, our partner doesn’t greet us warmly – and we get upset.  With bigger matters we get really upset.  It is not that anger, fear or hurt shouldn’t be felt.  It is our reactivity, our trying to escape the challenging feelings – that we alone created – that causes pain for ourselves and others.

    In any given moment, we are either opening or contracting.   As such, the human body is binary.  The contracting, recoiling, putting up walls, reflects we are feeling threatened.  If there’s only Life Force, only Light, who or what, if anything, is actually being threatened?   Until we’re fully enlightened, our default assumption is separateness.  We do feel threatened.  We are easily triggered to react, not intelligently respond.   The ego machine is all of our reactivity.  When operative, it has only two gears  – aggressive or passive-aggressive – and it only dramatizes unlove and irresponsibility.   

    A client asked if it’s ever beneficial to be guarded, to have our walls up.  Though it is understandable why we put our walls up under certain circumstances, I see no advantage to ever having our guard up.  With our guard up we’re reactive not responsive.  

    I recall walking with a girlfriend, relaxed and aware of my surroundings.  A man walked by and I felt a very malevolent vibe from him.  The sidewalk was dark on the side street we were on.  Without thought I immediately took her arm, sped up our pace and walked into the middle of the street (there were no cars).  I glanced over my shoulder and the man had indeed turned around and was certainly intending to mug us.  My maneuver deterred him and he turned back around.  Prior to initially passing him, had I been guarded, worried about something or just up in my head looking forward to our next meal, it is likely I never would’ve felt his energy.  We likely would’ve been mugged.


    When not living from our higher intelligence, we are ego driven.  We contract our bodies.  We’re anxiously, angrily and/or sorrowfully trying to survive and get what we want with our, “5 watts of creature power” – so aptly described by my Spiritual Master.  We are not “plugging in” to infinite wattage, the all-pervading Ocean of Life Force/Love.   Coming from our contracted, coiled stance, we’re totally susceptible to the ego machine’s perpetual victim mentality of “poor me, screw you.”  

    If we aren’t feeling rejuvenated and refreshed by Life Force, when things don’t go our way, the underbelly of our emotional life is revealed – frustration, impatience, fear, rage, hurt, self-hatred, shame, loneliness, etc.  Every apparent “other” is perceived as a threat.  Our bodies then tend to feel tired or stressed, agitated or full of adrenalin.   Our minds race, our digestive system gets out of whack. No peace to be had.  In our self-imposed chaos, we are prone to our most base instincts – to manipulate, scheme, punish, and addictively seek pleasure and comfort, as we feel out of control and disconnected from the heart, from Spirit.

    As a teenager, I played competitive tennis.  While facing a friend of mine in a tournament, the match came down to one final point in the third set tie-breaker.  He hit the ball hard to my baseline and it was extremely close to the line.  To this day I don’t know if it was in or out, but I reactively called it out.  Not knowing if it was in or out, the right call was to call it in and concede the match.   I had an intense ego-driven desire to win.  I was very insecure and winning helped me to temporarily escape feeling this pain.  But deeper, at the core, was my fear of feeling the shame and self-hatred I knew I’d feel if I lost.  The result, I cheated my friend, hurt our friendship, and I felt terrible, full of guilt for quite a while.  I was not in touch with how the sense of threat and the desire for relief from my anxiety and self-loathing had driven my entire life.  No one had taught me how to feel freely. No one had taught me about the ego machine and how to live from the heart’s intelligence.  No one had taught me there is no threat but only the challenge to transcend the ego’s distorted perspective.  This requires our willingness to feel our emotions freely, understand we’re not threatened, tangibly feel the all-pervading Life Force, and heart respond to whatever is going on.  

    This is much more easily stated than accomplished.  It is our work no matter what we’re doing, until our final breath in these bodies of ours.

    100% RESPONSIBILITY            

    Who is responsible for our attitudes and our emotions?   Identifying with the ego machine’s perspective, we are on the unmerry-go-round of doubt, blame and complaint.   We doubt ourselves. We doubt that Love, that Spirit, is real and present.  We distrust Life.  We don’t recognize the Truth of our bodily existence – that we are perpetually arising in that which is inherently liberating and that which most perfectly satisfies the heart.  We easily collapse into blaming others and situations for our unhappiness and despair.  We’re hurtful.  We whine to ourselves and others, voicing and enacting our disgruntlement – reflecting our delusional beliefs that if only people and things were different, we’d be better off, we’d be free, we’d be happy. 

    We alone are 100% responsible for our own attitudes and emotions.  No one else is responsible for them.  That is the good news.  Understanding and employing this understanding is extremely empowering.   Let’s share this wisdom and teach this understanding, committing ourselves to live, hour by hour, by this intelligence.  Otherwise, we are only left to our subhuman devices, unhappy, out of touch with Reality, insensitive to ourselves and others.  


    Attending conferences, I hear therapists talk about helping clients identify their stressors.  Is anything outside ourselves inherently stressful?  Are there actually any stressors, at all??  No.  Stress is 100% self-created  –  the result of contracting our bodies, buying that our challenges, and the demands upon us, are threatening.  

    I got super high on an edible. My heart started to race.  My mind raced.   I was stressing big time, fearing I’d die. I quickly envisioned paramedics attending to me.  Or the mortification of seeking comfort by crawling into bed with my housemate and holding onto him like a teddy bear.  Then I realized, I was not practicing what I preach.  So I consented to allow the fear to be felt, freely.  I simultaneously shifted my attitude to accept my death if it was to come.  The fear energy shifted to just intense energy radiating from my body.  Humor and peace ensued and I was able to sleep.  

    Inhale with great trust of Life.  Fully release all concern as you exhale, accepting the body’s eventual death and your apparent separation from loved ones. This releases the self-made bind and suffering.  This fortifies us to face our challenges with great heart and to receive and give love. 


    Many of you may have heard, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.”   In my 20’s, though the apparent externals of my life appeared well in order, I became quite aware of how insecure I felt and I knew I needed help.  I had never prayed before, but I found myself praying for help.  Soon a colleague introduced me to the teachings of his Spiritual Master, Adi Da Samraj.  While watching a video of this Master, the force of Spirit overtook my body and dissolved “me” in Love.  I’d found my Teacher and he’d found me.   

    One of his core teachings is “observe and understand.”  What we must learn to observe is how we’re pinching ourselves much of the time in our unwillingness to freely feel and how we’re seeking relief from our self-created discomfort in all the wrong ways.  By pausing and observing, this provides the grace of time to take some relaxed breaths, straighten our posture, choose our words well, find the appropriate tone of voice, locate a positive attitude and act responsibly.  In this we gain more and more awareness of when and how we’re pinching ourselves – how we’re at war with ourselves – by our reactivity.  Any agitation, any loss of equanimity, reveals this pinching.  Growing in our sensitivity to ourselves is essential in order to be tuned in to everything and everyone around us.  

    In my vain attempt to manipulate my son to do his chores, I was not taking responsibility for my reactivity, my self-created suffering.  I had contracted.  This reflected that I had bought into the false sense I was being threatened, that I was separate from happiness and love.  Deep down, sub-consciously, I was feeling that my very freedom and happiness was dependent upon him completing his chores well.  My manipulative tone of voice was trying to make the illusory threat go away.  In the big picture, I was being a typical ego.  At the personal level, I was being hurtful to my son, to myself, and our relationship.   Had I paused, realized I was triggered and took a few breaths, I could have addressed him with both strength and respect.

    What is there to understand?  Our higher intelligence knows we are not threatened, that life is eternal, that we are not separate from Spirit, and that in fact there is only Light, only Spirit.  This understanding, when consciously, whole bodily reaffirmed, helps settle us, ground us, allows our guard to drop so we can freely receive the Life Force again, accept our emotions, drop the struggle with self and others, and reengage life intelligently with our hearts open.


    There is a Spiritual Law that you become what you give your attention to.  When we focus on worries we get more and more agitated.  When we greedily focus on obtaining material wealth we remain driven by fear and the false sense of lack. When we focus on learning how to play a musical instrument and find a good instructor, if we whole-heartedly give ourselves to learning to play the instrument and follow their instruction, their musical talents and sensitivity start to blossom in us. 

    You may not be ready for, or desire, a Spiritual Master, but their wisdom is far more helpful and freeing than anything the ego pursues.   We’d be well served to give our attention daily to the spiritual wisdom from the greatest of beings.  That would be aligning with Freedom and Love.


    I’ve been humbled over and over since I began studying with my first Spiritual Master many years ago.  There’s nothing easy about practicing ego transcendence – nothing easy about going against the intensely tenacious patterns of our ego survival strategies. No one is going to do this perfectly.  And “getting it” intellectually is a far cry from true enlightenment.

    Let’s rise every morning with the renewed commitment to be of loving service to each other and to be responsible for our ego patterns of seeking and avoiding, and of doubting, blaming and complaining.  

    Earth will never be utopia. Earth is a school whereby humans have the embodied opportunity to learn how to live the heart’s intelligence; open, strong, freely giving and receiving love.  When we avoid embarking on this liberating process we fight the current of Life Force and operate against the Universal Law of Freedom, of Love.  In this avoidance, we only suffer more and are destructive in our refusal to take responsibility for our own attitudes and emotions.   As my Masters have succinctly admonished, “You can suffer, or you can love.”

    Robert Hirsch, LCSW                           copyright 2023      

    Robert Hirsch has been the student of two American born Spiritual Masters.    Since 1990, he’s had a private practice as a therapist in the Seattle area.       He can be contacted at [email protected]      or   visit his website:       


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