Hi! I’m Kyle Hilding. Words cannot express how thrilled I am that you are reading this book, one that I have been imagining for so many years. The roots of this book go back to the beginning of my self-Actualization journey, a journey that I humbly continue and learn from today.
Starting at about age 15, I would stay up really late in my dark, quiet room for hours, unable to fall asleep. In this state of consciousness, I began experiencing strange thoughts and visual phenomena. This made me intuitively question the traditional explanation of reality; what I now know is called scientific materialism; the explanation of reality that we learn in grade school. It was also in high school when I began to learn more about global inequality, racism, and white privilege. Growing up as a sports-focused white boy in a middle-class family in Minnesota, I was presented with so many advantages in life compared to others, especially in 3rd-world countries. I could truly feel and empathize with the destitution and suffering of many of our brown and black brothers and sisters around the world. I entered into a deep depression. I began asking some of the biggest philosophical and existential questions one could ask themselves; ‘What is the purpose of living? Does God exist? Why is there suffering? I do I have so much while others have so little?’ The questioning just continued, and I felt I had nobody to converse with regarding such questions. Life just seemed too busy to talk about such “impractical” questions and feelings. I felt like I was falling without any ground upon which to stand firmly. At that time, this felt like an uncomfortable place.
It was upon turning 18 the summer before my senior year of high school that I began the process of attempting to get rid of my depression by exploring the actual world. I had a desire to relinquish my white privilege in order to see what life was really like for people living in urban areas. With the financial and parental support of my mom and dad, I moved into a humble 1-bedroom apartment in South Minneapolis. It was my first experience of truly experiencing what real life was like outside of the culture of the white suburbs of the Midwestern US. It ended up being an incredible fall semester at my new school. I played on a successful football team with a great coach and fun teammates. However, the depression quickly returned after the season finished. I see now that there must have been something even deeper that I was seeking beyond just escaping my privileged upbringing.
The craving I had for thinking about the biggest questions in life began to get quenched a few years later. During my junior and senior years of college I studied Philosophy and Political Science in a liberal arts program. Sitting and wrestling with big questions that were being posed by my professors and from the anthologies of the philosophers throughout history became an obsession for me. I began to write down the biggest questions I could imagine, which became a 15-page document by graduation. There was something still missing though, perhaps something experiential. How could I begin to APPLY this knowledge outside of campus life?
A month after graduating, I was accepted into a program to teach English in Quito, Ecuador. Was living and working abroad going to be my final realization of something incredibly real and profound? I fell in love with teaching, learning a second language, and backpacking alone. I had a lot of freedom and time to really explore who I was, and living in another culture is a great opportunity for that. But I still had dark feelings at times, such as loneliness, disconnection from the world, and it felt like my life was on pause. It wasn’t until the last few months of my 18 months in Ecuador that I finally found it; PRESENCE.
I hiked for a few days with this young man from Finland near a crater lake in the highlands of central Ecuador. We discussed philosophy and meditation, comparing and contrasting both. I was much more mind-focused than him trying to impress him with all of these philosophical ideas I could spew. He kept on referring to, however, the EXPERIENCE of life. He had been surfing for 3 months in Peru, and was now preparing for an Ayahuasca ceremony in the Amazon. He convinced me to meditate with him for 15-minutes in the beautiful backpacker hostel at which we stayed the last night of our hike. He guided me through my consciousness in a way I didn’t know was possible to experience; the simple, yet profound presence of awareness. The last month in Ecuador consisted of me just listening to the silence in my bedroom, or the sound of the city on my long Sunday walks.
Upon returning to my home state of Minnesota, the universe pushed me to ground more than I ever had before. Making money became a real necessity as I turned 24, so I needed to find a normal job, live in an apartment, commute to work; basically a lot of normal activities that most American adults have to do everyday. For me, this was a challenge though! Due to my self-image of being someone who lived a life outside of the American norm, I have always had the desire to appear extraordinary. This, I see now, had an underlying layer of arrogance and a shadow of stubborness. Learning the lesson of being normal and equal to everyone else was the big lesson I have been learning since this transition back to the US.
It was just a month or two into this transition that I began my video podcast about philosophy and spirituality, which was initially called The Library of Humanity. I was able to combine my passion of teaching with my interest in said topics, so a sense of deep soul-like vocation began to emerge in my life around my video podcast. Authentic self-expression quickly became an obsession; a sharing of my mind and soul.
After the first year of my video podcast, two important events happened in my life:
First, I began my career as a high school history teacher, which was important in a few ways. Through this process, I became even more grounded in this adult world of American busyness (which has its advantages and disadvantages in regards to spirituality.) Part of this grounding is the ability to have a more open throat chakra, i.e. speaking your mind to teenagers when they are crossing the line or when they want to interact with you. Also, being able to speak publicly in front of a diverse group of people became a necessary skill not just for my podcast, but also in building self-confidence and self-esteem. This process granted me a sense of trustworthiness so that students and coworkers could have confidence in me to be a good teacher and a good person.
The second important event at this time was that I began to have actual subjective experiences of transcendent consciousness, mostly through my burgeoning meditation practice. My video podcast became much more based on my own intuitive sense of how consciousness and truth worked rather than only relying on outside authorities for the spiritual content on my podcast. This was part of the reason why I changed the name of it to The Spiritual Download. These two events helped the quality of my podcast and life skyrocket.
The most recent stage of my life has been one of an experiential rediscovery of who I have always been; a peaceful, loving aspect of the oneness of all things. Trying to put this experience and state of being into words, albeit impossible to perfect, is my deepest passion at this juncture in life (besides the actual experiencing of it in my own consciousness.) This is what motivates me in such a deep way to connect to the hearts of others through my own heart. Living a life from and through the soulful heart-center of our being… What a lovely way of being it truly is!
Overall, my path of self-actualizing is the lens through which I write this book. I have a background in Philosophy though, so this book may read a bit academic as well. My intention, therefore, is to do accurate and honest research into this gigantic topic AND validate the sense of the tenderness of our own subjective experience. I am trying to bridge the gap between these two worlds; that of hard academia and that of soft awareness. I hope you enjoy this big adventure as the reader.