Spirituality myths

 

Some myths about spirituality, and how they are valid and not.

I initially kept this post private as it’s written in a different tone than most. It’s more conversational, and perhaps less nuanced and balanced compared with many other posts. I’ll make it public anyway, since some of it may be useful.

Awakening or enlightenment is mysterious and distant.

It’s a noticing of what we already are, and what’s already here, in immediate experience here and now. It’s what we are – that which any experience happens within and as – noticing itself. It’s not very mysterious or far away. It’s closer than anything, since it’s what we are. (And it’s as close than anything, since anything is what we are.)

The grain of truth: Awakening or enlightenment can seem mysterious and distant, if we approach it through thought alone, and especially if we believe the thought that it’s mysterious and distant…! That’s how we stop ourselves from actually looking and exploring for ourselves, in immediacy.

Awakening or enlightenment is unachievable.

It’s actually not that difficult to glimpse or have a taste of what it’s about. The Big Mind process is one way that works for many. Headless experiments another. At the end of a Living Inquiry session it’s often quite obvious. And there is a lot of other approaches that can help us get a glimpse or taste of it. This is very helpful, since it tends to dispel a lot of myths.

From here, it’s the work of keeping noticing, and inquire into our identifications and beliefs that tends to temporarily cover up this noticing.

And when this noticing becomes more clear and frequent (or stable), it’s about deepening and living from it.

The grain of truth: Awakening or enlightenment as you think it is, may well be unachievable. What it’s actually about may be even better than what you think you want. (And what it “actually is about” keeps opening up.)

Awakening or enlightenment is a destination, an endpoint. When that happens, it’s all done.

 No. It’s an “end point” in the sense that what we are has glimpsed itself, or deepened into this noticing to a certain extent, and even is exploring how to life from it.

It’s also an ongoing process. What we are noticing itself can clarify, deepen, open up. And living from this new context is an ongoing exploration, clarification, deepening, and maturing.

There are also many facets to what we are, some of which a thought may call clarity, love, intelligence, presence. And some of which can be associated with the head center (clarity, intelligence, recognizing all as Spirit), heart center (love, recognition of all as love, a love of all as love), and belly center (emotional maturity, felt sense of all as Spirit).

The grain of truth: The recognition of what we are can happen suddenly, and it is – in a sense – an “endpoint”. Something has shifted. And yet, it’s also – equally or more – a beginning.

Awakening is the same as enlightenment.

These words are used in many different ways. Some equate them. Some differentiate them. I tend to differentiate them.

I tend to see awakening as referring to an initial awakening, or awakening to a new phase of clarity and insight, or a new facet of reality.

And enlightenment is more what we are recognizing itself, in an ongoing way, with most of the identifications and velcro that obscures this noticing having found their liberation. In a way, it’s an either/or term, and in another, there seems to be a gray zone here. What we call enlightenment continues to clarify, deepen, open up. And the liberation of identifications and velcro certainly does.

Awakening or enlightenment is what I need.

Are you sure? What do you hope to get out of it? Love? Feeling OK about yourself? Contentment? Aliveness? Authenticity? A sense of coming home?

Are you sure it’s not easier to go for those, rather than something that can seem more abstract and unachievable such as enlightenment?

Of course, these are really the same. And the approach to explore either can be the same. It’s just that it can be helpful in a practical sense to (a) identify  what you really wish for, using ordinary words, and (b) go for that.

The grain of truth: What we really want (love, authenticity, kindness etc.) may be more available when there is some awakening there, some recognition of what we are.

Awakening or enlightenment is what the world needs.

Are you sure? What about love? Practical wisdom? Caring? Isn’t that more what the world needs? And isn’t that more achievable and doable? Isn’t that something we can do here and now, each of us, in our own life?

Why not look at what in us prevents us from living more from ordinary caring and practical wisdom? Why not question unquestioned and painful thoughts? Why not find love for what’s unloved in us – what’s unloved in our experience and who we (think we) are?

The grain of truth: It probably wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Awakening or enlightenment will fix my human life.

No. It won’t. You’ll still find yourself in the same situation as before. You’ll still have to be a good steward of your own life. You’ll still have to live your life as anyone else.

If you think you need your life to be fixed, look at that. Look at the fears, the identifications. Allow those fears and identifications to find liberation now. Don’t wait for an awakening or enlightenment. You don’t need to wait.

What are you most afraid of if there is no awakening or enlightenment? What’s are you most afraid will happen with your life? What is it that’s most uncomfortable to you about your life? Look at those fears.

The grain of truth: You may recognize the OKness of what’s happening. You may have more clarity to act in a slightly more wise and kind manner. (Although even that is no guarantee. The clarity and kindness can easily be covered up by remaining identifications, hangups, velcro, beliefs, wounds, trauma.)

Awakening or enlightenment is a state.

Awakening or enlightenment is a state…. of being always happy, content, joyful, satisfied, of never experiencing any “negative” emotions or states.

That’s the “dream of the ego”. It’s much more about (a) noticing all of our experiences, as they are, are already allowed, (b) and noticing that what we already are is that allowing. It’s a shift of identification from thought-created identities to that which already allows this experience, as it is, and is this experience as it is. It’s an OKness with the experiences that’s here, including what may go against our very human preferences.

In a sense, that does come with a sense of OKness, contentment, even quiet joy. It’s all very quiet, and allows for any other human experience. So there is a grain of truth in the initial idea, but in a more differentiated sense than we may think.

It’s actually better than the initial idea or hope. It does give us that quiet contentment and joy, and also allows for the full range of human experience as before.

The grain of truth: Awakening or enlightenment is a state of what we are recognizing itself. It does seem like a state in that sense. Also, there is often that quite undercurrent of contentment, OKness, and even joy when that recognition is there.

It’s all an illusion.

Really? Why don’t you see what happens if you don’t pay your taxes, or eat junk food for a year, or act like a jerk with your family and friends? It may be that all is Spirit, and that anything you look for is unfindable, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist, or that all is an illusion in an absolute sense. Our actions still has consequences, in a very ordinary and human way.

The grain of truth: It’s all Spirit, yes. Whatever I look for is unfindable. In that sense, it’s an “illusion”, but I wouldn’t use that word. It’s too easy for the mind to make it into a one-sided reality for itself, and act from it.

If I achieve X, I’ll be safe, OK, acceptable, loved.

If I get enlightened (saved, come to heaven) I’ll be OK, safe, acceptable, loved…. by myself, others, God, life.

No you won’t. But it can be better than that. You can see through the painful stories of being deficient (not OK, unloved, unlovable, unacceptable), and you can find love for the parts of you that feel that way. That’s more doable than hoping to get it through achieving some (imagined) state or realization. It’s much more available than that.

The grain of truth: Yes, if you love the unloved parts of yourself and your experience, you’ll be and feel loved. You’ll have what you sought. If you love what’s unloved, question unquestioned stories, feel unfelt sensations, you’ll find a deep sense of OKness, acceptance, even safety. And it’s because you are giving it to yourself.

I need to do X to be awakening or enlightened.

I need to eat a certain diet, read a certain book, do a certain practice, worship a certain god, study with a certain guru, dress a certain way, have a certain type of sex (or no sex), sit in a certain posture, move my energy a certain way…… to awaken or be enlightened.

Are you sure? Certainly, some things may be supportive and helpful in a very ordinary way. A reasonably good diet helps us feel and function better. Sitting mostly upright during practice (prayer, meditation, inquiry) reduces drowsiness. Some teachers may give us helpful pointers. And more. And yet, none of this will magically give us anything. It’s helpful (or not) in a very ordinary and mundane sense. It’s still up to us to actually do the work.

The grain of truth: Yes, some of these may be helpful in a very practical and ordinary way.

X will be a shortcut for me.

Shaktipat. Praying for divine intervention. Saying mantras. Whatever it may be that we think will be a shortcut for us.

Are you sure? Again, some things may be helpful in a practical sense. Some practices will work better for us than other. Some are more appropriate for us, where we are, than other, because we are more ready for them. And as before, it’s up to us to do the work.

The grain of truth: Some things may seem like shortcuts, such as shaktipat. But it sometimes comes with a time-consuming cost, and we still need to do the work – to clarify, stabilize, deepen, life from it.

This is it. I have arrived.

Not likely. It keeps opening up. It’s ongoing. The noticing of what we are is ongoing, with new facets and “layers” revealing themselves. The living from this is ongoing. And the deepening, maturing, reorganization and healing of who we are is ongoing.

The grain of truth: We can indeed “arrive” at a stepping stone, and it may seem like “it” for a while. And yet, it’s a stepping stone. Any insight, realization, clarity, healing, experience, is a stepping stone.

Understanding = realization.

Not quite. One thing is to understand something intellectually, perhaps connected to some degree of experience. Another is to be familiar with it through personal experience. And yet another to live from it, from that deepening familiarity.

If I didn’t go to understanding now, what would I have to feel? Feel it.

If I replaced the words with blah blah blah, what would be left? What’s here? 

The grain of truth: Understanding is often a helpful stepping stone to experience, it’s a pointer and invitation for exploration.

This insight is UNIQUE!

This insight that I have, this realization, this experience, is UNIQUE! Nobody has ever had it before. It’s a new realization. It’s the next step in human evolution!

Are you serious? How can you know? If you are honest, how can you know? And what are you afraid of if it isn’t? (That you’ll feel less than? Not OK? That you’ll have to feel something you don’t want to feel?)

The grain of truth: Any experience and insight is, of course, unique. It’s never happened before and will never happen again, even if a particular insight may be expressed in similar words as someone else expresses theirs.

More people are awakening today than before. Humanity is awakening.

Again, are you sure? What tells you that? What’s your evidence? (Isn’t it equally likely that it just seems that way because it’s easier to find likeminded people today through the internet, people are more outspoken about it than before (less of a taboo), and people interested in these things tend to congregate physically (workshops, talks, Bay Area). Would it seem like many are awakening if you lived in Congo, or most places in the world where few are interested in these things?)

What do you fear would happen if that wasn’t true? If you realized it wasn’t true? Question that fear.

Isn’t that what you really want? To find true freedom from that fear? From the fear that humanity isn’t really awakening? (Whether it is or not.)

The grain of truth: More people may be awakening because there are more people than before. And more information about these things is out there in the open, with valuable pointers which can support an awakening.

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Myths about awakening

 

There are a lot of myths about awakening in our culture, and perhaps other cultures too. I suspect most of them come from wishful thinking. They are what we – when there is less clarity – wish for and dream for. They are a “dream of the ego”.

Of course, many have done what they can to dispel these myths, and it seems that these days, most teachers do. In all of us, there is something that value what’s real and practical more than dreams and fantasies.

First, a brief description of what awakening is, in my experience:

What we are – that which our whole field of experience happens within and as – recognizes itself, independent of any content of experience. And this may be described as presence, awareness, love. (A presence, awareness, love, which recognizes itself as this content of experience, as it is here now.)

An awakening can happen easily and quickly. It’s what we are recognizing itself. The awakening process can be longer and ongoing. It’s a clarifying and stabilizing of this recognition, and a reorganization and realigning of our human self within this new context.

Awakening can be used in three different ways. (Sorry.) (a) It means an initial awakening or opening. An initial recognition of what we are of itself, as all there is. (b) It also means the ongoing awakening process, which includes an ongoing clarification and more stable recognition, and an ongoing reorganization of our human self. (c) It can also refer to how we are when the awakening process is a bit more mature, and there is more clarity and stable recognition, and our human self is more aligned with it. (I usually don’t use it in this sense, since this part for me is also ongoing. There isn’t an end point for this, at least not until we die.)

The myths about awakening seem to fall into two general categories:

What it is.

What it means for our human self.

And here are some more specific myths, and what seems more real to me:

What it is.

Not already here. Is it true that what I am seeking is not already here? Is it true the peace is not already here? The love? (Even if it seems very faint?)

A state. It’s not a state of experience, where our content of experience somehow is fixed. It’s more of a state of recognition. What we are – that which our whole field of experience happens within and as – recognizes itself, independent of any content of experience. There is a recognition of the peace, love, and joy that’s always here, even if it’s more faint, and the rest of our field of experience shifts and changes are before, including sometimes going through the full range of emotions, pain, and more.

Either/or. It’s not so much a binary shift, although it can certainly be experienced that way – especially in the beginning. What we are is always here, and we do often notice it, often without recognizing its significance. And even when the recognition is more clear and stable, there may be times when attention is absorbed into thought (or when there is identification with a thought and a viewpoint) and that recognition goes in the background or is temporarily “forgotten”. There is a big middle zone here, in my experience. And I suspect that there will often be some shifts, even if the recognition is much more established.

An end point. It’s an “end point” in the sense that what we are recognizes itself. It’s not an end point, since what we are keeps revealing itself to itself. It’s also certainly not an end point in how we live from it, or how our human self can transform within this recognition in terms of healing, maturing, and more. Life keeps on going.

Difficult. It’s not really that difficult for what we are to recognize itself. It can happen quite simply and quickly through following pointers, for instance from the headless experiments, the Big Mind process, the Living Inquiries, and more. It may indeed take time for this recognition to clarify and stabilize, and for the rest of us – our human self – to reorganize and align with this. That seems to be an ongoing process. And parts of this process may be experienced as quite challenging.

Pleasant. An awakening and awakening process can be relatively simple and easy. And it can also involve a lot of struggle, pain, and even suffering. It seems very individual, and each phase can also be quite different. For me, the initial phase was somewhat challenging although not hugely. The second phase was generally quite pleasant. And the third phase, the dark night of the soul, has been very challenging and at times painful.

What it means for our human self.

No problems. The “dream of the ego” is that awakening means no more problems. Reality is often different. The awakening process itself can be quite challenging, and bring up a lot of previously unloved and unquestioned trauma, wounds, pain, and more. (As our human self reorganizes and realigns.) And our human life will tend to have the universal human challenges, including what comes up in relationships, work, money, health, and more. We continue to live very human, and sometimes messy, lives. Just look at what happened to Jesus, and any number of other saints and teachers. Their lives were often not easy.

Perfect health. This is another “dream of the ego”. When we are less clear, perfect health seems like an ideal and a dream. Most of us will naturally have that preference which is perfectly fine and even healthy. And yet, illness and physical problems is part of being an ordinary human, and an awakening very much means being an ordinary human being. For some, or perhaps all, of us, illness in in our human experience. It helps remind us we are very human, just like anyone else. It can even be a part of an awakening process. For instance, a kundalini process will sometimes include periods of poor health and physical problems. And just being human means illness sometimes comes our way. The difference is that we see it’s OK. If it’s here, we may even find the gifts in it.

Perfect wisdom, love, insight, teachings etc. This is very similar to what I mentioned above. We are still very much human. We have our preferences, wounds, hangups, blind spots, perhaps even trauma. What we are is, in a way, perfect love and wisdom, and this gets “filtered” through our human self, with all its idiosyncrasies and shortcomings. (I don’t like that way of talking about it since it sets up a duality that isn’t really there. I think I wrote it more because it’s similar to what I have heard others say. And that’s a good example of a very human shortcoming!)

No pain, sadness, anger, grief etc. Again, as above. As humans, we will have the full range of emotions. These may come up during the awakening process, as a reaction to what’s happening, or as part of the reorganization of our human self. And they come up just because we are human. There is nothing wrong in this. And most of us, if we are honest, wouldn’t have it any other way. What’s different is that when there is some recognition of what we are, these experiences can flow through with less resistance, and we may even recognize them as what we are – as presence, love – and be perfectly OK with them as they are here. They are honored guests.

And an additional one:

Living in the present. This is often misunderstood. Awakening does indeed mean to “live in the present”. And that’s because we recognize that “the present” is all there is for us. Everything happens here, including any thoughts and feelings about the past or future. (It doesn’t at all mean to try to avoid or suppress any thoughts about past or present. That would be stupidity, to put it bluntly.)

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