You can have a tremendously transformational experience, and it doesn’t immediately get rid of all of your contradictions and confusions. Sometimes your deepest shadow comes up after your deepest awakening. Often we have to begin by admitting what is still churning within us.
– Adyashanti, The Way of Liberating Insight
We must give up the pursuit of positive emotional states through spiritual practice. The path of awakening is not about positive emotions. On the contrary, enlightenment may not be easy or positive at all. It is not easy to have our illusions crushed. It is not easy to let go of long-held perceptions. We may experience great resistance to seeing through even those illusions that cause us a great amount of pain.
I don’t use the word enlightenment much. We can have a taste of it, or shift into it, by noticing content of experience and allow it, or rather notice it’s already noticed and already allowed. And that’s clearly not about “positive” emotions, which is another term I don’t really use.
It’s not easy, because it means a continuing disillusionment. It means looking at any belief, any identity, any identification, any hope and any fear, and see it for what it really is: a bundle of images, words, and sensations. It doesn’t exist outside of that. That disillusionment. We “see through” our most cherished identities, fears, and hopes, and that’s not always so easy, even when we cause ourselves a great deal of pain by not seeing them for what they are.
In this process, there is also an opening to anything unloved, unquestioned, and unhealed in us. All this tends to come to the surface, sometimes as a trickle, sometimes in great chunks at a time. And that’s not easy either.
So why do people seek this? That’s a whole other question, and the exploration could – and probably do – fill several books. The simple answer is twofold. One is that we seek awakening or enlightenment because we think it’s something else than what it is. We project our hopes into it. We think it’s a state. We think it will make everything easy. We seek it as an escape. The other is that it’s a natural movement for many of us. It happens whether we like it or not. We seek a more real truth, love, reality. We sincerely seek truth, love, reality. Truth, love, reality seeks itself through our life.
It was a phone interview which was really nice because I get to sit around in my socks and stuff. [Laughs.] ‘What do you think,’ said this wonderful person interviewing me, ‘what do you think about soul mates?’ Then I tend to surprise people because I said, ‘you know, I don’t.’ ‘What’s that,’ I asked, eager to find out. ‘What is it, I don’t know, I thought you might know.’ ‘I have no idea what a soul mate is, such an idea never occurred to me.’ I mean I hear the phrase all over the place, but – Seems like another drug to me. It’s like the last bastion, right? ‘No other relationship has worked, but I’ll hold out for the final fantasy. It will be called the soul mate. It’s where I’ll stuff all my fantasies and wait for it to come.’
It’s like enlightenment, you know. ‘I’ll put all my fantasies of a better life into my concept of enlightenment, then I’ll wait for it to happen. And when it doesn’t, I’ll be really disappointed.’ [Laughs.]
– Adyashanti, Leaping Beyond All Fear, October 21, 2006, Oakland, CA.
I like how he likens those ideas – of a soul mate, enlightenment, and whatever else we put our hopes into – to a drug or a final fantasy.
It does become a drug when we invest truth and energy into it. It becomes something we crave and hold onto as a relief for our discomfort, unease, or sense of lack.
And it is, in a way, a final fantasy, a fantasy about something that will finally and perhaps forever give us what we wish for. Something we imagine exists and is not here. Or perhaps we imagine is here, and then are afraid to lose.
To rest or abide as awareness means to feel what awareness feels like. Of course, awareness is not itself a feeling, but it elicits a particular feeling tone or presence. It is a bit like asking someone what the sun feels like on their skin. The sun is not itself a feeling but it gives off warmth that you can feel.
In the same manner, awareness elicits subtle feeling tones in and around the body that are sometimes called presence, openness, stillness, silence, or intimacy. To abide as awareness means to take note of these subtle feeling tones of awareness, to rest in the feeling and experience of them. This can draw you more deeply into the core of your being, the realization of which can only come by grace, which means spontaneously.
Yes, and it’s the first step. As this becomes more familiar and a new habit, there is another step: notice that these feelings are sensations, and also notice which images and words are associated with it. Then, we can recognize more clearly that everything is already resting as awareness, independent of content and independent of any particular feeling.
Yes. There may be a sense of expansion or contraction, of opening or closing, and that’s happening within the space any experience is happening within (including the sense of conventional space).
It’s literally boundless, since any boundary is imagined (a mental image) happening within this space.
It’s already here. It doesn’t close. It doesn’t open. It allows for (and is, takes the form of) any experience of closing and opening, contraction and expansion.
Said another way, it’s all happening within and as presence. Even the idea of presence (the words, images, sensations representing presence in our mind) is happening within and as this presence.
What the universe will manifest when you are in alignment with it is a lot more interesting than what you try to manifest.
Yes, and as usual there is a lot more to this.
In one way, we are always in alignment with the universe. We are the local eyes, ears, thoughts and feelings of the universe. (As Carl Sagan said.) What’s here is the universe feeling, thinking, acting, doing. It’s not two.
In another way, it’s possible to be more or less aligned with the universe. When I am caught up in fears, beliefs, velcro and drama it’s difficult for me to act from kindness and clarity, and follow (the quiet) inner guidance. When there is more clarity, and less trauma/beliefs/velcro/drama, it’s much easier for me to act from kindness, clarity, and guidance.
So there is always and already alignment with the universe. It’s unavoidable. And I can be more or less aligned with the universe, through (a) recognizing what I am (what this experience happens within and as), (b) healing my human self, and (c) relate to what’s here – including unloved fears and unquestioned fearful stories – with love, presence, and gentle and engaged curiosity.
Be a true representative of the goodness in your heart, and don’t expect it to be easy or even noticed.
And…. notice how I stop myself from doing that. What do I fear? What stories do I believe?
What unquestioned stories are there? What unfelt sensations? What unloved parts of myself? What unloved parts of my experience?
The spirit that Jesus embodies is not a safe spirit; there’s no guarantee of how it will all play out in your life. There’s only one guarantee that Jesus gave: if you can receive and awaken and embody what he is speaking about, then your life will never be the same again. Then you will realize that you’re already living in the Kingdom of Heaven.
– Adyashanti, Resurrecting Jesus: Embodying the Spirit of a Revolutionary Mystic
It’s not a safe spirit since what it wants with us and our life may be contrary to what we, as a human being, wants. Jesus is the best example of this, with his crucifixion. And that goes for any awakening, not just one that’s (explicitly) associated with Christ.
To be truthful is to be able to look inside and enter the place in yourself where there is intimacy and vulnerability. I will give you an example: A person said they kept yelling at their spouse and then would attack themselves for yelling at their spouse. I asked them a simple question: What is it that you are really experiencing, and would say if you were not afraid to say what is going on for you? This person said: “What I would really like to say to my beloved is: ‘I feel separate and when I feel separate it hurts and I feel grief and I want to connect.'” That can be the opening of a more honest conversation.
– Adyashanti, from the Way of Liberating Insight course
And so at times we talk, and I pretend to take your struggles seriously, just as I pretended to take my own seriously. You may pretend to take your own struggles seriously from time to time, and although we pretend, we really shouldn’t forget that we are pretending, that we are making up the content of our experience; we are making up the little dramas of our lives.
We are making up whether we need to hold on or surrender or figure it out or pray to God or be purified or have karma cleansed—it’s all a thought. We just collude in this ridiculous charade of an illusion pretending that it’s real, only to reveal that it’s not. There is no karma. There is nothing really to purify. There’s no problem. There is only what you create and believe to be so. And if you like it that way, have at it!
I’ve been taught that I should “practice like my hair is on fire” and in the past I have done so. Now I feel I should relax into it, be patient. But I keep attacking myself for not being more urgent with the admonition that the more awake I am, the easier it is for someone else to find freedom. How can I relax, urgently?
Let us throw out both of the ideas that say you must practice “like your hair is on fire” or that you should relax in your practice more. What is natural to you? What style of approaching spiritual practice works best for you? That’s really the only relevant question. What attitude works best for you? It’s not about what’s right or wrong as much as it is about what is most natural and works best for you. And you will not find this in your head, but in your body. When you are applying the most conducive attitude to your practice you will feel inspired and relaxed, questioning but not impatient or anxious. You will also feel challenged at times but still open and eager to unveil Truth.
With Great Love,
Bit by bit, it began to reveal itself. I began to realize that our spiritual unfolding doesn’t really have a goal called ‘awakening’ or ‘enlightenment.’ There’s not an end point. To spiritually awaken or become enlightened is actually something that allows another movement to happen – and another and another and another. Spiritual awakening is the ground from which a whole new movement of spirit starts to occur, and that new movement that comes out of our own sense of freedom is what I call ‘awakening into our true autonomy.’
In fact, enlightenment makes another movement of consciousness possible. This other movement of consciousness is not really a waking up from our humanity, waking up from time and space, waking up from an individual identity. It is almost the opposite, where spirit comes into form and discovers this true autonomy.
– Adyashanti, Falling into Grace
The mind may get concerned about being disarmed and letting go of all its concepts and scripts. It might say, ‘I may not get what I want.’ And I say, you’re damned lucky if you don’t get what you want! I got nothing I wanted out of awakening. I thought it would solve lots of things. I had lots of ideas about what it was going to give me. Forget it! Not that you don’t get what you want, but you don’t care if you get what you want. I can’t think of one thing I got that I thought I would get. The only thing that did happen was that I no longer cared. What a hideous dream it was – thinking those things were needed for me to be happy.
– Adyashanti in Emptiness Dancing
The challenge of enlightenment is not simply to glimpse the awakened condition, not even to continually experience it. It is to be and express it as yourself in the way you move in the world. In order to do this, you must come out of hiding behind any superstitious beliefs and find the courage to question everything. Otherwise, you continue to hold on to superstitions that distort your perception and expression of That which is only ever awake.
– Adyashanti in The Impact of Awakening
I have found over the years of working with people, even people who have had very deep and profound awakenings, that most people have a fear of being truthful, of really being honest—not only with others, but with themselves as well. Of course, the core of this fear is that most people know intuitively that if they were actually totally truthful and totally sincere and honest, they would no longer be able to control anybody.
We can not control somebody with whom we have been truthful. We can only control people if we tell half-truths, if we shave down what is true. When we tell the total truth, our inside is suddenly on the outside. There’s nothing hidden anymore. For most human beings, being that exposed brings up incredible fear. Most people walk around thinking, “My god, if anybody could look inside of me, if anybody could see what is happening in there, what my fears are, what my doubts are, what my truths are, what I really perceive, they would be horrified.”
Most people are protecting themselves. They are holding a lot of things in. They are not living honest, truthful, and sincere lives, because if they were to do so, they would have no control. Of course, they don’t have control anyway, but they would have no illusion of control, either.
– Adyashanti in The End of Your World
Imagine if we had as one of our founding myths that we weren’t here as a mistake, we weren’t here as an illusion because somehow the universe screwed up, we weren’t here because we had screwed up – Adam ate the apple and, you know, now God’s pissed off forever more.
Imagine if our founding myth was: What am I doing here? That whatever I am, so loved the world that it poured itself in it, as an act of loving sacrifice, in order to redeem everything that was hurt, in pain, confused about my own human incarnation, which will allow me then to broaden and touch others.
The teacher can light a fire, but the teacher is not going to complete the process for you. Transmission is most powerful for people who feel a sense of resonance with what is being offered. If the resonance is there, a potential is ignited. Once the potential is woken up, then you need to take responsibility for what’s happening.
Don’t just sit around waiting for the teacher or the teacher’s transmission to do it for you, because then you come into a dependent relationship. And as soon as you come into a dependent relationship psychologically or emotionally, the effect of the transmission is dampened down tremendously. It just kills it right on the spot.
It’s like putting water on a fire. We need to become responsible for our own transformation because no teacher can in any way do everything for us. We’ve got to do it for ourselves. We’ve got to look for ourselves. Being in the presence of somebody might light a fire spontaneously, but you yourself have to tend that fire.
Awakening is neither a magic cure for all that ails you, nor an escape from the difficulties of life. Such magical thinking runs contrary to the unfolding of Reality and is a great impediment to its mature expression. The aim of this teaching is to wake up to the absolute nature of Reality, then embody and live it to the fullest extent possible. Such awakening does eventually bring a sense of deep peace, love, and well-being, but these are the by-products of the awakened state, not the goal.
– Adyashanti in The Way of Liberation
No spiritual teaching is a direct path to enlightenment. In fact, there is no such thing as a path to enlightenment, simply because enlightenment is ever present in all places and at all times. What you can do is to remove any and all illusions, especially the ones you value most and find the most security in, that cloud your perception of Reality.
– Adyashanti in The Way of Liberation
Any time we want to express and live from a truly profound place within us, we will feel where we have in our humanness places that are contracted, hesitant, afraid, where we still have unfinished emotional business.
When we’re looking into what it is to develop emotional maturity, it’s important that we don’t cling to notions of what a perfect spiritual being would look like. It’s more helpful if we’re in a state of discovery. We discover what it means to be emotionally mature.
Spiritual really means all-inclusive.
Spirituality implies the invisible and the visible, the divine emptiness and also the world of form. And so our inquiry, whatever form it may take, at some point will circle back to include our whole human experience.
– Adyashanti in The Way of Liberating Insight course
Having a profound awakening can be like taking the lid off of a jar. All the karma that has been repressed, all the karma at the bottom of our misery that we aren’t conscious of, comes flying out because there is finally space in which it can emerge.
When it hits you in the face, you wonder where your freedom went and what went wrong. But understand that this is a consequence of the freedom; it is not a mistake.
Everything wants to come up into and be transformed by the freedom. If you let it come up into this aware space, which is love, it will reharmonize. This space that you are is unconditional love.
Unconditional means just that: everything is welcome, nothing is cast away or set apart from it.
– Adyashanti from The Impact of Awakening
For me, the “taking a lid of a jar” happened just a few years ago, and I seem to still be in the middle of it.
The first opening or awakening happened in my mid-teens, and was followed by several years of reorganization. A sense of being pulled apart, and put together differently. (I sometimes think of it as a dark night of the senses.) This initial awakening was of all as God (aka Spirit, consciousness, love), including anything that could be taken as a me or I.
A while later, and just a few years ago, there was another awakening. This one was very clear, simple, and without the bells and whistles. After about six months, the lid was taken off the jar. I sometimes think of this one as a dark night of the soul. First, a great deal of archetypal and apparently less personal material surfaced (heaven and hell etc.). Then, a great deal of personal material from my own life. It also included a collapse of body and mind, a sense that my inner resources went off line, and a loss of many of my external resources. (It may be that this collapse was necessary for the material to surface. The collapse did happen first.)
Forgiving yourself is a big part of healing unworthiness. You have to forgive yourself for feeling unworthiness, and you can’t forgive yourself unless you allow yourself to feel tenderness, kindness, love, and compassion.
Forgiveness comes from a kind of wisdom that sees that we don’t really know what we’re doing. Jesus said, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” It takes humility to forgive yourself, including your mind and your emotions.
You can project unworthiness onto everyone around you. There are lots of strategies that we use to avoid encountering unworthiness directly.
With consciousness comes options, and with options, you have to take responsibility: “What options am I going to start to utilize? Am I going to choose to be angry, compassionate, kind, or wise? Where am I going to operate from — the conflicted mind, or from some sort of stability?” It’s always wise to choose kindness.
Ultimately unworthiness is a form of attacking yourself. It is being very unloving and not being understanding. To stop attacking yourself takes a kind of humility — sometimes we just need to see what we’re doing.
~Adyashanti from the Way of Liberating Insight course
The resolution of unworthiness is not going from feeling unworthy to feeling worthy, but going from being hateful towards yourself to being kind, even kind toward your hateful self-dialogue — those old violent, condemning voices in your mind that have become inherent.
From your resource of Awareness, from the standpoint of peace, you can begin to acknowledge the turmoil that is there and be willing to experience it. How does our emotional life look from a dimension of consciousness that’s not caught in our emotional turmoil, but neither is it trying to avoid it?
When you begin to tap into a compassion and kindness you would have for anybody having difficulty and begin to operate from that place, then you’re calling upon resources within yourself that you could never access before.
“How am I creating my own suffering right now? What am I thinking?” When you see some of the violent thoughts that are creating your destructive emotional experiences, you see that anyone would feel terrible who has those kinds of thoughts.
How does kindness really see the old stories? How does kindness feel about your own feeling of unworthiness? Does it deny it, or does it understand it and move toward it?
If you can’t find this kindness and peace, think of anything that evokes a sense of kindness or appreciation in you. Once you’re in the atmosphere of it, look at how it relates to the darker aspect of your being, your sense of unworthiness.
~Adyashanti from The Way of Liberating Insight course
Yes, vigilance is very important. It is part of taking responsibility for yourself and not just waiting around for good things to happen. The vigilance here is to not be fooled by the endless variations of the mind’s confused attempts to remain in control. When we continually give our attention to our mind’s confused thinking, it is like looking for a diamond in a trash can. Hence the importance of vigilance, and not simply hoping that the mind will one day become cooperative and still. The mind may become quite still at some point, but not if we are not participating in the effort to remain clear, and discerning truth from illusion. As the ancient teaching counsels, “Be still.”
As for the experience of fear and falling:
- Do not be moved.
- Face whatever you fear until it pops like a bubble.
Remember this, everything in your mind or imagination is transitory, like a bubble or a dream. Within the dream it all seems so very real. Outside of the dream it never existed at all.
With Great Love,
– from the Q&A section of the Way of Liberating Insight study course
Q: My mind constantly discounts the relevance of everyday things, such as work, relationship, joy and love. It uses a deep sense that “all is well” to reject their significance.
This rejection has brought much confusion and suffering to my life, yet I continue to live from it. Can you offer some direction?
Adya: The idea, as well as the direct experience, that “all is well” can be used to hide from the many challenges of life, both individually and collectively. If the insight into the all-is-wellness of life is genuine, the wellness of life becomes the foundation from which you fearlessly and lovingly engage in life. It is not something that you hide behind. It’s about fearless and joyous participation, not rejection and denial.
If you can feel directly into the all-is-wellness of life right now, you may notice that it is fearless and loving. It is the foundation of wise and loving action, as well as appreciation.
With Great Love,
– from the Q&A section of The Way of Liberating Insight study course
During the initial awakening in my teens, it was very clear that all is an expression of life. Whatever it is, it’s an expression of life. (I remember even using those words to express it.)
Listening to Adyashanti from his online course last year, I heard him suggest that as an exploration. How is it to see everything as an expression of life?
That’s a good reminder or pointer for me too.
It does seem, as so many say, that during the initial opening or awakening, all is freely given. Then, it fades, and it’s a matter of doing the work to find it here too.
If I clearly saw that all is an expression of life, can I find that now too?
If it was clear that all is consciousness (or awareness, or Spirit, or God), can I find that here and now?
If it was clear that there is no separate “I” here, can I find that here and now?
If it was clear that what’s happening is the absolutely best that can happen, can I find that now?
Can I find it here too, in my current experience, even if the content of my experience now is different from back then? Can I find it, independent of the particulars of my current experience?
This is a step in the direction of “spiritual maturity”, and one step beyond the given ease of the honeymoon.