Drunk with Wonder: Questions & Answers
1. Why do we need another self-help, inspirational book about the inner anything?
Look around you. Many people are caught up in a frenetic life style that allows little or no time actually to enjoy life. Survey after survey reports that after sex, sleep and money, the one thing people feel is most lacking in their lives is time. Many people report feeling disconnected, alienated and disaffected. My goal with Drunk with Wonder is to help people reconnect with a sense of purpose, passion and play in their own lives.
After all, every year each of us has a “time account” with over 524,000 minutes to spend. And they aren’t rollover minutes—if you snooze you lose. Millions of people complain of not having meaningful lives, yet spend hours every day glued to the TV, watching shows that by most measures are essentially meaningless.
And looking at the news, can you honestly say that we don’t have a long way to go in terms of creating a more peaceful, loving world? I don’t know about you, but I am so saddened by the seemingly endless human slaughter. How can we change the world if we won’t look inside ourselves? I present Drunk with Wonder for those determined to do life differently.
Take most sports, for example—and in the interest of full disclosure, I am not a sports fan. One of the reasons I was able to write Drunk with Wonder was simply because I was writing rather than glued to the tube. Our culture assigns great meaning to winning and losing, so much so that many fans report feeling physically ill when their teams lose. Years ago, back in the Stabler-Biletnikoff days, I became a fan of the Oakland Raiders. Later I developed a passion for the 49ers under Joe Montana. I also drank a lot back then.
For several years now (actually, for over a decade), I haven’t watched a single game. Zero. No baseball, basketball, football, soccer or hockey. And I haven’t missed a thing. I haven’t missed getting drunk or waking up Monday morning needing to look at the paper to remember who won. I get my “kicks” by being a positive change agent in the world, rather than by being a mindless consumer of beer, TV and endless commercials.
2. How could you tell the difference between your inner self and who you wish you were, based on all your readings of spiritual teachers?
I don’t believe there is any difference at all and that grokking this truth is an essential component of Awakening. I teach that we are really God-in-form. This teaching goes back to the Vedantas, Buddha and even earlier. Part of my Awakening is becoming very clear that I no longer wish to be anyone else. The truth is I am the hero I’ve been waiting for, the one I used to wish I could be. It’s an inside job.
Awakening to the God Within is, at its core, about letting go of our stories and beliefs that our salvation or redemption lies somewhere outside of us. When we Awaken we are “saved”—actually, we save ourselves—from continuing to believe that we are not good enough, that we need an intercessor to “save” us. And redemption happens every time we consciously choose, in the moment, to do life differently. For example, I might choose not to yell at my wife, or my children, or the driver who just cut me off. More profoundly still, we can choose not to “yell” at ourselves for making a mistake. After all, we can't do life wrong, though we can do it with more or less suffering.
3. What can we learn about your book just from the title?
Most of us are familiar with the first meaning of drunk, as in, “intoxicated with alcoholic liquor to the point of impairment of physical and mental faculties.” The drunk I'm referring to in Drunk with Wonder involves the second meaning, “overcome or dominated by a strong feeling or emotion: drunk with passion.” Passion is defined as a compelling emotion; a strong fondness, enthusiasm, or desire for something: a passion for music. Finally, some of the meanings for wonder include, “to be filled with awe” and “a feeling of amazement or reverent admiration.” When we put these meanings together, we can say that Drunk with Wonder means, “To be overcome with a strong feeling of awe, amazement and reverent admiration.”
We then ask who or what is overcome? The answer is simple: our stories of fear and lack, our belief that we need to do something, consume something, be someone else in order to be worth the joy of knowing the truth of the heart. We are God-in-form experiencing life, which is the greatest gift that God-as-us could ever bestow. Enjoying the gift of life is the greatest form of worship I can imagine.
4. What do quantum physicists say about reality that we really need to know?
I believe that it can be very useful to grok that we are literally creating our experience on a moment-to-moment basis. In order consciously to take charge of our lives, it's important to understand that we've really been creating our lives all along, no matter how convinced we've been that we're helpless victims to the vicissitudes of life. We need to know that what Ernest Holmes, the founder of the Church of Religious Science, said— “Change your thinking, change your life”—is literally true. The recently released movie The Secret expounds further on this theme. As I talk about in Drunk with Wonder (Chapter 1), when physicists look at a beam of sunlight, whether they find particles (photons) or waves (frequencies) depends entirely on the lens, or filter, with which they’re looking.
Another example is found when we rigorously examine the apparent emptiness of space. What was thought to be a hard vacuum, defined as space devoid of any matter even at the sub-atomic level, turns out not to be the case at all. It's not that scientists aren't good at sucking all the air out of a chamber. Scientists “suck” with the best of them. What we've learned is that no matter how much we suck, more material (sub-atomic particles, or matter) continuously manifests in what seemed to be empty space. Just so, on a much larger scale, we continuously create our experience. When we can look closely at our lives and realize that everything we experience is, at some level, our creation, we have the power to make changes that serve our authentic selves As the old adage goes, “When you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”
5. Can’t we be happy without understanding these scientific discoveries?
The key word here is happy. If we mean, “experiencing pleasure or joy,” or perhaps, “quite happy to let things go on as they are,” then certainly we can—just as we can skillfully drive a car without understanding anything about how the internal combustion engine works, or use a computer without learning how to design integrated circuits or write software. I wrote Drunk with Wonderfor those who are not satisfied with just sticking the key in the ignition. It’s like the difference between someone who drives back and forth to work, parks and then never thinks about their car between times, as opposed to someone who is called a “tuner.” Tuners make such arcane changes to their cars that most of us can't even appreciate the results. We have no context that allows us to feel the difference between one set of tires or shock absorbers over another.
We believe that many people, if given the opportunity to understand how life works, will enjoy their lives even more. The passion and excitement we've seen so far from people who have already read Drunk with Wonder bears this out.
6. Isn’t it enough just to enjoy the pleasures of life and not look for more to fulfill us? Aren’t most of our addictions pretty harmless?
The greatest pleasure of life is living. Life is the ultimate high.
This question equates pleasure with addiction. We can absolutely enjoy life with unfettered joy without being addicted to any harmful substances or activities.
It all depends on your perspective on “what’s enough” or “harmless to whom?” We teach that addictions, as we commonly think of them, are actually symptoms of an underlying dis-ease. Alcohol and cigarettes, our two most socially acceptable and pervasive addictions, together kill many hundreds of thoudands of people a year in America alone. The cost to society includes sick leave, hospital and doctor care, and intensive medical care when people develop cirrhosis, lung or other cancers.
Fires started by unattended cigarettes cause billions in property damage, kill hundreds of people a year and injure many more. Alcohol is listed as a cause or contributing factor in at least half of all auto accidents, which kill tens of thousands of people every year and injure hundreds of thousands more. These “legal” drugs make billions in “profits” for the companies that make them. I have extensive personal experience with both of these substances, having smoked from 13 to nearly 23, and drank, often heavily, from 18 to 51. I am profoundly aware of their insidious, seductive allure, enhanced in no small part by the media and advertisers.
Are there any addictions that are “pretty harmless,” as you put it? Coffee comes to mind. More and more health benefits are being attributed to it when used in something approaching moderation. Personally, I love coffee, especially rich, exotic brews from boutique coffee roasters such as Peets. I hardly ever drink it anymore, as it’s hard on my system, but I love it. The point is, coffee is not, for the vast majority of folks, debilitating.
What we put in coffee, however, can be. This is not the place to go into a rant about sugar addiction, just to notice that one in four people in this country is clinically obese. Personally, I’ve had weight issues since I was ten years old. The goal is for people to understand the nature of craving and its relationship with addiction. We learn both physically and emotionally to depend upon (and often come to crave) substances and activities that help distract us from feelings (emotions) that are uncomfortable or even scary. So, anything that keeps us from feeling our feelings robs us of our vitality and passion.
7. Other people may have done negative things to us that have shaped who we are, so why should we feel responsible for our choices?
In Drunk with Wonder, we write at some length about how, in each moment, we have a choice as to how we are with the “isness” of our lives. We’ve all felt betrayed, hurt, put down, made wrong—possibly beat up, abused or even raped. These challenges can feel excruciating to go through, and this is an example of where a compassionate heart can be of immense help.
However, when we make other people’s past actions responsible for our current choices, we are giving our power over to them. We will never take charge of our lives as long as we’re blaming someone else for the choices we make in the present moment, as in, “If only you were different, I’d be fine!” We cannot undo the past. In each now moment, we can make new choices about how we’re going to live our lives from now on. For example, it got pretty rough in my house when I was a boy. I got raged on, spanked, slapped and publicly humiliated more times than I could count. I spent much of my life playing victim, blaming my parents for my current misery, then drinking myself into a stupor with indignant self-righteousness. Looking back, it felt as though I was a fly stuck in amber, utterly helpless, already “scarred for life.”
It wasn’t until I realized how badly my parents had been treated when they were growing up that I began experiencing compassion. As you may know, compassion leads to forgiveness. And forgiveness allows us to let go of stories of fear and lack which no longer serve us. I know now that my parents did the best they could, given what they knew and how they’d been raised. Now, in this moment, I get to make a different choice. I choose to take complete responsibility for my moment-to-moment experience. I choose love. What’s your choice?
8. What is it, biologically speaking, that makes fear the predominant unconscious emotion and how can we change our programming?
Simply put, evolution itself makes fear—panic, actually—one of the predominant emotions. Using fMRI brain scans to image neuronal activity in real time, scientists have learned that fear, anger, separation-anxiety, lust and perpetual seeking are the most primitive emotions. They all arise from the area of the amygdala, which sits above the brain stem and forms part of the reptilian brain.
Humans, along with all life, are hard-wired to survive, at least until we reproduce. Evolving out of a predator-prey world, it’s easy to see how fear would play such a powerful role. Today, most of us, at least in the developed world, are no longer prey to “lions and tiger and bears, oh my,” yet our hardwiring lives on. The thrill of adrenaline fuels much of our entertainment, from movies to roller coasters to driving fast on the freeway. I believe that we can change this programming; it starts by becoming present to the moment.
We can ask ourselves, “Do I choose the adrenaline rush of fear right now? Is it truly serving me?” If so, then go for it. Scare the crap out of yourself (but please don't include me—I'm not interested). If not, know that you are free to make a different choice. Like changing any habit, learning to choose love over fear takes time and attention. Fear is a deeply ingrained neuronal pathway. It’s easy to slip into, and can feel like climbing an erupting Mt. Everest to escape from. After all, adrenaline is one of the most potent addictions we have. Please understand; I'm not advocating for people to stop enjoying the intense rush of adrenaline. Rather, I suggest that we can find ways other than scaring ourselves silly in which to do so. We maintain that the darkest scream of terror is not inherently more fun than the rush of falling in love, just that, for most people, terror is a much more common experience—hence the title of our book, Drunk with Wonder. From personal experience, I know that being intoxicated with life is every bit as potent as any other rush, and a whole lot more fun.
To sum up, we can change our programming, around fear or anything else, only when we become conscious that we actually have a choice in the matter. We’ve been making choices all along; they just haven’t been the highest, most loving choices we could make. Now that you know—what’s your choice, love or fear?
(NOTE: There is a whole additional piece we could go into, involving how adrenaline, through the amygdala, locks traumatic events into cellular memory. This is how Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, gets its start. This is also why talk therapy can continue for years with no discernable benefits, except perhaps to enable patients to become more comfortable with—meaning resigned to—their neuroses.)
9. How can we bring our personalities into alignment with our higher selves, and why should we want to?
One of the surest ways we can begin to align, or integrate, our personalities with our higher selves is to notice the stories we’ve been carrying around that hold we are somehow separate. (The very question itself assumes a separation.) “I am here, and my higher self is out there. From birth, I am flawed. God, who is immaculate and perfect, is “out there” somewhere (over the rainbow?) along with my higher self. I am damaged goods, broken—a helpless victim of the vicissitudes of life.” This story goes on to say something to the effect that my higher self is somewhere else, above it all, in some lofty perch that I can’t even aspire to, let alone reach, at least in this lifetime.
Of course, there is a payoff to continuing to see life through the filter of being a victim, of seeing our higher selves as somehow separate from us. This payoff tends to run along the lines of: “I’m helpless to”—insert whatever self-destructive behavior may apply to you, such as “stop drinking, stop smoking, or lose weight”—“because ”—insert whatever story you use, such as “my father is a jerk, no one understands me, my body is broken,” etcetera.
You see, our stories are intimately familiar to us. So much so that we often confuse our stories for whom we really are. This essentially constant conversation says in effect, “I am wounded, therefore I am.” For “wounded,” substitute any word or phrase that fits for you.
So, in order to align our personalities with our highest selves, we notice, embrace and then release all of our stories that we are not so aligned. What is left is the external, changeless truth that we are God in form. We are the higher selves we’ve been hoping and praying would come rescue us from this awful place of suffering. We are already and always the higher selves we’ve been seeking.
And why would we want to? To me, it’s like asking, “Why would we want to stop suffering?” I don’t know about you, but I’m not a big fan of suffering. I’ve learned that the surest and most reliable way for me to let go of suffering is to stop listening to my stories that I am separate. This is the core of my spiritual practice, and I’m the first to own that some days I am more effective at it than others. What I can tell you is that, over time, it becomes easier. Like learning any new habit, which is actually hooking up new neuronal pathways, it takes time and persistence. It also takes generous amounts of grace, compassion and patience. Still, I find it well worth the effort. All you have to lose is your identity with your suffering. Another reason to bring our personalities into alignment with our higher selves is so that we may live more harmoniously, with less stress and illness.
10. How can knowing who we really are change the way we interact with the people we love?
Knowing who we really are—God-in-form—irrevocably changes the way we interact with the people we love by enabling us to see that we are connected. If I treat you poorly, I am actually treating myself poorly. When we see the world, along with everyone and everything in it, through eyes of unconditional love, then treating all life and, indeed, all of manifest creation with love, respect, honor and compassion becomes the only game in town.
When we see our lives through eyes of wise, compassionate love, we see our “nagging” parents as lonely and disconnected from their own light. They're not feeling seen, or heard, and probably just want to be held. We see that our teenagers, with whom we always seem to be fighting and arguing over every little thing, don't feel heard either. They want to feel respected and listened to, and to feel safe to explore who they're becoming.
Owning who we really are vastly expands our perspective. In this place of knowing healing naturally takes place, and love thrives within us and among our family members. Many people don’t have anyone in their lives modeling healthy behavior. As soon as one person in a family begins to change, it ripples through the family like tossing a pebble in a pond causes ripples to flow in all directions. These changes can seem chaotic at first, and may even feel quite uncomfortable. It’s part of the price of healing.
11. Will everyone trample us if we live the way you describe in your book?
We only “get trampled” if we continue to choose the role of victim. If you feel you’re about to get trampled, simply move out of the way. If you feel you can’t move, look at why. Are your feet nailed to the floor? If so, who nailed them there? Why? Perhaps it’s as simple as slipping your feet out of your shoes—which could be likened to the role or roles your personality has taken on in response to the stories it has come to believe are the truth.
One of our core teachings is that when we live our lives in love, unattached to the outcome, we are not holding any ground on which to get trampled. Living from a place where we know for sure that we are all infinitely precious children of God does not mean that we put up with abuse in any form. Yet, instead of dealing with abuse by abusing others in a painful, even dangerous cycle, we don’t take the dysfunction personally. When we don’t get plugged in the abuse cycle is broken.
12. How can you say being wounded has its good side?
What we are saying is that it is around our wounds that our personalities coalesce, much like layers of calcium coalesce around a grain of sand inside an oyster to form a pearl. When we see ourselves as children of God, as perfect holographic representations of infinite love, then we can begin to appreciate how every single experience in our lives has led us to this present moment.
Many people’s core story goes something like, “I’m wounded, therefore I am.” And yes, wounds are painful, even terrifying experiences. Coming through the birth canal is incredibly intense, yet that’s how most of us are born.
Being wounded emotionally can teach us compassion for others (though only if we allow it). Compassion is defined as a feeling of deep sympathy for others, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate their suffering. For example, those who have gone through the wrenching changes of divorce are more likely to reach out to others caught in similar circumstances.
We teach that our wounding is something like a bell cracking. With enough love we can heal from any wounds. With enough patience and skill, a cracked bell can be repaired so that it rings true again. But even after the bell is fixed, the ring has a slightly different tone, one that only a bell that has been cracked and then repaired can make. Just so, when we take on a wound and then choose to heal it, we radiate energetically in a way that others similarly wounded can tune In to, even if it’s on a subconscious level. People who have been wounded and then chosen to heal—and it is a choice—become beacons to others, showing in the most concrete way that healing is possible. We repeat, with enough love, anything can be healed.
13. Aren’t you asking people to love their pain?
We're not suggesting that we love pain for the sake of pain. Actually, we’re suggesting that we love and appreciate the gift of the pain, which includes the opportunity to make other choices, including growth and healing. And it’s important to note the distinction between pain and suffering. Pain is information; our bodies and minds telling us that some issue needs to be addressed. Suffering comes from a story we tell ourselves about the pain. The truth is, people often become so identified with their pain and suffering that they actively resist letting it go. People become deeply invested in their dysfunction, so much so that the prospect of healing can feel as terrifying as death itself (often more so, which is why we see so much suicide). What we’re suggesting is that we can come to love the opportunities for growth and healing that pain can give us.
14. How can we make love the basis of our thought and action when we live in a fear-based culture? How can changing our fear into love influence a world determined to fight wars?
In each moment we remember that we have a choice, we can make love the basis of our thought and action. Fear is the default choice in our culture. It’s what most of us have been taught from birth to believe. We see the first rule of fear, “Do unto others before they do unto you,” acted out every day on our planetary stage. It’s breathtakingly easy to forget those moments when we collectively choose the loving-kindness of compassion. Remember the massive relief efforts that spontaneously arose in the aftermath of the tsunami or Katrina?
The trick is to make choices every day, with family and friends and especially with ourselves, which engender more love and less fear. The need for the planetary transformation that is required to move from fear to love is unprecedented in our history. Still, if we want to pass on a healthy, sustainable future to our children and our grandchildren, we must “Be the Change” every day. The truth is, every single time we choose love we make more love available for the entire planet. Just look at Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, The Dalai Lama, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and others to see that individuals choosing love already have made a huge difference in the world. How about you?
As for the last part of the question, I don’t believe that the “world” is determined to fight wars. Some people are willing to goad others into fighting, mostly for power and personal gain, though it’s often in the name of some lofty-sounding principle. We must choose peace, and elect those who are not so quick to pull out the sword.
15. What kind of future do you see for the human race if the Gaia mind connects with what you call a Galactic mind? Doesn’t the individual get lost in this huge concept?
In the short term, we have a ways to go to get to a place where the Gaia Mind is functioning in a reliably healthy way. We still live in a world with a great deal of pathology. War, terrorism, despotic rulers and fanatics of every religious and ethnic stripe need to be confronted with clear eyes and loving hearts. We already have the infrastructure largely in place allowing everyone to connect through the Internet. We must engage in a deep planetary conversation about how best to share our global resources in a sustainable way. There is more than enough for all as long as we are willing to allocate resources in a more responsibly. There are also a plethora of opportunities to harvest vast new sources of energy, from which virtually all other resources flow. On one level or another, all wars are now conflicts over resources (meaning they're economic), whether animal (human), vegetable (crops and arable land), water, or mineral (primarily petrochemicals and ores, including gold, silver, iron and so on).
Farther out, great thinkers such as Ray Kurzweil have suggested that a singularity is coming (see his wonderful new book The Singularity is Near for more details). A singularity is a profound paradigm shift, so much so that little or nothing of it can be predicted or inferred from what has gone before. What seems clear to me is that no matter how far along this path of the Gaia Mind connecting with a Galactic Mind we travel, we will still all be God-in-form. This truth is changeless and eternal. We will not become lost in the Galactic Mind any more than we are lost right here and right now. In essence, we’re already an inextricably precious, vitally important component of the Galactic Mind. We’re just not aware of it yet.
Remember, awareness takes place out of time, in the present moment. We routinely feel connected to a hugely larger consciousness than our own. Many, many other people report similar experiences. My teaching is that this larger awareness so many of us feel is the stirring of Gaia into an Awakened State. The Galactic Mind has had far more time to develop than Gaia has, and is even now monitoring our progress towards consciousness. The truth is that we have nothing to lose but our fear.