My Journey from Identity to Essence

Seeing through the false reality and embodying the Authentic Self

Journey from Identity to Essence - Embodying the Authentic Self

For most of my life, I believed I was a flawed, weak, neurotic self who had to work hard, be spiritual, and overcome my defects. Why? So that one day I would finally be good enough to have my dreams come true.

Then one day, in the process of reluctantly – yet again! – going into my body to clear some painful, stuck energy, I experienced a profound insight.

I actually saw my life from the point of view of my consciousness sitting inside my “flawed self.” From that perspective “my ideal Self” seemed like another person, somewhere off in the future.

DK Brainard - Feeling the feels. Photo by Julie Jaycox.

Feeling the feels. Photo by Julie Jaycox.

For so long I had searched for the the right spiritual formula. If I could just find the best form of meditation, overcome my addictions, harness my desires (or make enough money or have enough success?), I could finally become that self.

In an instant, I felt  the truth: my ideal Self is who I really am, who I always have been. The suffering, “not quite good enough” self? That’s just my identity.

I saw that my identity is an illusion, a shell I created in childhood to try to win love and approval and avoid pain and suffering. All my life, I had accepted my identity, my personality, as the real me.

When the Shell Starts to Crack Open

You probably already know that for many years I wrote weekly and monthly horoscope columns. They were read by thousands of people around the world. I had astrology and coaching clients on every continent but Antarctica.

I became far more successful as an astrologer than I ever could have imagined when I started out. But one day I woke up and realized I wasn’t happy. I was starting to fake it – I just didn’t feel the juice, the enthusiasm I used to any more. At the same time, my income was steadily shrinking. I drove myself to work harder, to try harder. But nothing seemed to work.

Finally, I admitted the frightening truth to myself: I wanted something more. I wanted what I had wanted since I was seven years old. I wanted to make music, to tell stories, to entertain people, to travel, to live creatively. I felt it like a fire in my guts and in my heart, growing stronger as the weeks slipped by.

Working on the live show. Photo by Lisa Buell.

Working on the live show. Photo by Lisa Buell.

I tried to reason with my heart. I tried to find a compromise it could live with. I had two young children to support. Maybe if I could just get a little better at marketing my astrology services, I could do music part time and fulfill that part of myself.

It was right around this time that Lisa Buell showed up in my life. She came to me for an astrology reading. She told me she was a life coach. At the end of the reading I did something rare. Call it an impulsive moment: I asked if she would be interested in bartering services with me. I had a feeling…

Lisa said yes. In my first session with her, I told her about my dream. I told her how I had burned myself out chasing success as a musician when I was younger. How I’d gotten so wrapped up in my ego my fingers started freezing up on stage to where I could barely play. How I’d felt so crushed and ashamed of myself, had felt like such a failure.

I told her how, just a few years back, my passion for making music had suddenly returned. I was writing and playing in a whole different way. Now I was making music for the sheer joy and pleasure of it. But I felt a calling to bring it back into my life and share my joy with others. And that was truly terrifying.

At the end of the session, Lisa asked me a question:

“What do you think would happen if you don’t allow yourself to pursue this dream?”

I thought for a minute. And then I said the only words that could describe the feeling in my chest and in the pit of my stomach as I thought about letting all of the fear and doubt and guilt I felt stop me from pursuing my dream.

“I would die,” I said. And I knew it was the truth. I was dying already. Slowly, sure. But I could feel it in my body. All the years of repressing my desires, of holding back my exuberance, of swallowing my anger.

What I Thought I Wanted…

Not long after that conversation I wrote a passionate letter to my newsletter subscribers and blog readers. I announced that I was going to quit writing horoscopes and follow my dream. I explained that the post-2012 era was all about us living from our joy rather than clinging to old ideas about security and spirituality.

For some reason, I expected that most of my readers would totally get my new direction. After all, they told me frequently how much my horoscopes and classes and videos had helped them transform their lives and live more creatively. Surely, if this new direction felt this important to me, they would understand and support me as abundantly as they had in the past.

Instead, I lost 80 percent of my list overnight. Half my yearly income just disappeared. After two years of barely keeping it together, I found myself in free fall:

  • I was flat broke.
  • I was thousands of dollars behind on rent.
  • My wife was angry with me much of the time and full of resentment at having to bear the extra financial burden due to my lack of income.
  • My mother and my brother and some of my close friends questioned my sanity and all but openly pitied me.
  • I went through periods of shame and self-doubt so intense it felt like my life was over. I imagined myself in a few years pushing a shopping cart under the I-10 freeway on Claiborne Avenue, despised by my family, my kids ashamed of me.

What I thought I wanted was money. If I could just make some good money, then I could get out of debt and get the resources together to finish my one-man show and hit the road again. I would be an enlightening entertainer.

Money would solve everything. My wife would  love me again. And if she didn’t, I’d be out there living my dream. I’d feel good about myself again, surrounded by people who did value me and my gifts. My landlord would be off my back, my family would finally have to shut the hell up about “Why don’t you get a job doing technical writing? You were so good at that 20 years ago!”

…And What I Really Wanted

What I really wanted was to finally believe in myself, and to believe that I was abundantly supported by Life.

I wanted to believe that my desires were not bad, or selfish, or somehow hurting the people I love. I wanted to believe that honoring my heart’s desire was, in fact, the only way for me to truly bring more abundance and joy and good into the world.

I wanted to be my own hero, not everyone else’s caretaker.

I was raised in a house full of anger. Money was always in short supply. But in our fundamentalist ‘Christian’ cult, that was a good thing. Money and God were on opposite sides of the fence. Being poor was a sign you were “right with God.”

“Everything’s great!”

I learned early on that I was the peacemaker in the family. It was my job to soak up everyone else’s anger and despair so they wouldn’t explode or abandon me and my little brother. I learned how to placate dad. I learned how to suppress my natural exuberance and creativity so I wouldn’t trigger mom’s silent rage and desire to punish. I didn’t consciously believe that life was unfair and there was nothing you could do but suffer in silence, but somehow I knew I was never allowed to succeed where she had failed.

My identity as the good boy served me well through my teen years. But the older I got, the more it took its toll on me. My inability to stand up for myself or to maintain healthy boundaries poisoned my relationships and drained my life energy. I drank heavily for many years to silence the cacophony of shaming voices in my head and numb the heaviness in my heart and the tightness in my stomach.

In 2007 I got sober. I started learning about codependency and the inner child and family systems and repressed trauma. I began my healing journey in earnest.

By the time I started working with Lisa, I had cleared a lot of the old trauma from my system. My years of meditation had developed an awareness of a deeper Self inside of me who wasn’t touched by the waves of shame and fear that felt so crushing to my personality self.

This deeper Self told me not to worry, to use the tools I had developed in my years of spiritual searching, to keep grounding and finding my way back to my center.

And when I look back on that period now, I realize – that despite what my ego (and the people close to me who were reflecting my ego back to me) kept telling me – I was actually enjoying life much of the time.

In fact, when I look back at that period now, I see that my daily experience was, for the most part, full of bliss, hope, connectedness, freedom, creativity, and love.

I spent lots of time with crows, mockingbirds, finches and hummingbirds. I went for long walks almost every day. And most days, my walks filled me with calm, enthusiasm, and joy.

I got down on the floor or the ground and played with my children and felt their love and the love I have for them.

In both my daily creative practice and in my work with clients, I experienced hours and hours each week of going into a state of bliss that sometimes bordered on the ecstatic. I was immersing myself so completely in the experience of caring for the soul of a beloved client or of my fingers flowing along the fretboard as I’m playing the guitar — at times it felt like “I” was vanishing. It felt kinda like the transporter on the Starship Enterprise, like my body was turning into energy, growing lighter and more transparent as it merged with infinite space.

The Light In the Door

But I still couldn’t seem to gain any traction in the real world. I was still stuck.

Until one day in 2016 a question popped into my mind: What if many of the things I secretly believed about the nature of reality were actually true? Or at least more true than the story of reality I still accepted as real?

What if humanity really had been hijacked by inorganic alien parasites, as the Toltecs believe? What if we were created to be a slave race by nomadic aliens who altered our DNA, as abundant archaeological evidence suggests? What if we are living in a degraded version of reality whose gods are not on our side as the ancient Gnostics believed?

The more I imagined this might be true, the more insights into the nature of reality began to flow in to my mind. I began to perceive what we call ‘reality’ as a collective hallucination, made up of false stories about who we are, about who or what God is, about the nature of the world itself.

I had thought about these ideas for decades, sparked by my own experiments with iboga, mushrooms, acid, ayahuasca, and various forms of deep meditation; and by the work of authors like Castaneda, Don Miguel Ruiz, Tolle, David Hawkins, Terrance McKenna, Philip K. Dick, and others.

View from the top of the lawn at Lisa’s place in Vermont.

I began floating these ideas to four women in my little group of patrons who met with me online every couple of weeks to talk about art and life. And as our little group began to experiment with this ‘way of seeing’ reality, it became more and more real.

I realized that everyone is trapped inside these stories that are passed down from generation to generation. And that the entities that spun the stories are not our friends. They’ve been lying to us for thousands of years and using their lies to enslave us and steal our energy.

I saw that we are not to blame. That there is no reason for us to feel ashamed, or less than, or like we’ve wasted our life or missed out on some big opportunity.

I saw that all we have to do is see through the false story – which props up the false reality – and we are home free! And I saw that I couldn’t do it alone. I needed the others to keep reminding me of who I really am.

I was having similar conversations with my colleague Safiya around the same time. We started the Book of Spells webinar series, partly as an experiment to determine if this way of seeing – and the resulting inner freedom – were transferable.

Seeing through the false reality is also fun!

Seeing through the false reality is also fun! Photo by Julie Jaycox.

Within all of these little groups, I began to notice a remarkable transformation in the participants who were really using the exercises we developed. And I saw my own life radically changing as well. We were experiencing levels of inner freedom and self belief, and a sense of belonging, none of us had ever been able to maintain for very long in the past.

Our outer circumstances were shifting, too. Our ability to spontaneously manifest what we desired and needed was becoming more and more remarkable.

This is all still fairly new and definitely mind-blowing, so we often find ourselves lacking a vocabulary that feels adequate for explaining. But the big transformation seems to come about as the result of a magical combination of being willing and able to feel all of your feelings in your body, to adopt a new story about Reality and who you really are, and of connecting with others who have already done this or are in the process of doing it.

Once you’ve made this connection with your essential Self in your body and seen through the illusion of the identity self, wonderful things begin to happen:

  • You feel lighter.
  • You feel free.
  • You feel confident you can achieve your goals.
  • You know you are lovable.
  • You attract friends, collaborators and community who honor you and see you as your real self.
  • You don’t worry about the future any more.
  • You don’t believe the Earth is dying or that we’re all going to perish in a nuclear war.
  • You spend more of each day doing what makes you feel good.
  • You live life according to your rules and values, not anyone else’s.
  • You feel secure, knowing no matter what happens, you are and always will be all right.
  • You don’t search for the ideal partner or soul mate. Because you have the ideal partner inside of you and if it ever becomes important enough to manifest that as someone else, you know you can do it.
  • No matter how you feel when you wake up in the morning, you live your life with hope and optimism.

Want to Experience Your Real Self with Me?

It’s a journey from experiencing the self as identity, to experiencing the self as essence. Once you make that shift, you’re free to enjoy life no matter what’s happening on the level of external circumstances.

If you’ve sensed your true essence and are ready to experience yourself beyond the limitations of ego and identity, I’m passionate about helping creatives, healers and visionaries see through the big illusion, tap into their soul power and create a new reality. Here are some free (and some reasonably-priced) places to join me on this journey:

The DK List. Weekly (or thereabouts) bulletins + first dibs on new classes, special offers, etc. for my tribe. Sign up here: 

Facebook Live – Astrology and Musical Improv/Performance Art. Click the ‘Follow’ button to stay in the loop:

Transformational coaching is my umbrella for one-on-one work that goes beyond astrology readings and into soul retrieval, trauma release, and intentional manifestation. Check out coaching packages here:

The Book of Spells is a powerful self-guided webinar series that exposes ‘the reality game’ and gives you practical tools to identify and disarm the personal and collective false stories that function as magic spells to limit your evolution and squash your joy:

Become your own astrologer with my comprehensive, self-study astrology course: Foundations of Astrology – Understanding Your Birth Chart

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