Images of the divine: holding onto images of awakening and Spirit for comfort

We all have images of the divine, and we relate to them in different ways. We can recognize them as images, or we operate from them without noticing what’s happening. We can use these images to comfort or scare ourselves or we dismiss them as fantasies. We may think they reflect something out there or use them as a mirror for what’s here now.

The most obvious images are the ones we know from the different religions. God is a blue boy, an old man with a beard, a fertile woman, and so on. Sometimes, we recognize these as metaphors and images and as reflecting what’s here now. Other times, we take them more literally.

Images of the divine in the awakening process

In an awakening process, we also have these images.

Our images may be of awakening and Spirit as something particular. For instance, we may imagine awakening will solve our challenges and discomfort. And we may imagine Spirit or the divine as what we at a personal level like (peace, joy, insights, clarity) and not so much the rest (discomfort, illness, confusion, challenges). We may even know it’s not like that, and still cling to some of these images – almost without noticing – as a kind of comfort and promise of something better in the future.

The awakening process is, among other things, a process of continued disillusionment.

One of these disillusionments is recognizing we are holding onto hopeful images of awakening and the divine, that we hold onto them for comfort and to avoid what’s here now, that this doesn’t work in the long run, and that there is a way that’s kinder and more aligned with reality.

How do we work with this?

A good start is recognizing the images we have and partially operate from. For instance, that awakening means that we arrive at a place without discomfort, challenges, and unpleasantness. And that although Spirit is all, it’s not so much the discomfort, pain, and suffering.

I using these examples since this is something I am looking at for myself these days.

Just by looking at those images, we may see that they don’t quite make sense. For instance, if Spirit is all, then it’s ALL – including what I at a personal human level don’t enjoy so much. Including what’s here right now that my personality doesn’t like.

How would it be to embrace all of what’s here as the divine?

Can I say YES to it as it is?

Also, how would it be to intentionally change my images to include all?

And what do I find when I examine these images, for instance through Living Inquiries?

Wait a minute, are you saying you recognize all as the divine and don’t at the same time?

Yes. I can easily recognize all my experience as happening within and as what I am. It’s all happening within and as this awakeness.

At the same time, parts of my personality sometimes struggle with my experience – with certain scary thoughts and sensations, and the life situations triggering these. And this is supported by the images mentioned above, which are sometimes conscious and sometimes less so.

It’s part of the messiness of being human and the embodiment process.

I will disappoint you

If we idealize, we’ll sooner or later be disappointed. It’s built into the process.

We may idealize a person, a situation, the past, the future, ourselves in the past or future, God, or something or someone else. It’s often an attempt to find safety somewhere, often outside of ourselves, and to fill a perceived hole in ourselves.

Reality doesn’t live up to our idealizations. And that’s a good thing since disappointment – used wisely – brings us back to ourselves. It helps us notice and take in that we are our own final authority. There is wisdom built into the disappointment, and it’s up to us to notice and make use of it.

Idealization-related disappointment and disillusionment is an invitation for us to notice several things. It’s an invitation to notice that we idealize. When we idealize. That the idealization comes from us and is not inherent in reality. That reality is more messy than the ideas we have about it. That we idealize for a reason, perhaps to find a sense of safety in relying on something outside of ourselves. And that we already are our own final authority, no matter how much we would like to tell ourselves otherwise.

Conversely, if others idealize us, we’ll likely eventually disappoint them. In some situations, it may be good to point that out, especially if this other person is a student or client. We can mention this dynamic before the disappointment happens, and bring attention to how it can be used in a constructive way.

Feminine inquiry tradition

A friend of mine mentioned that we both belong to the feminine inquiry tradition.

I hadn’t heard that term before, and hadn’t really thought of it that way. But I see how it fits.

Here are some of what’s been important to me lately (most of it for a while), that can be seen as feminine:

An emphasis on love. Finding love for what’s here, for this experience, for this part of me and my experience I previously pushed away or ignored. Recognizing that identification (velcro, beliefs) come from love, from a wish to protect, and deep caring.

An emphasis on allowing. Allowing what’s here, this experience as it is. Notice it’s already allowed. Allowing even resistance, contractions, fear and more.

An emphasis on resting with what’s here. Notice. Allow. Rest with even discomfort, tension, resistance, contractions.

An emphasis on feeling. Feeling the sensations that are here. Feeling what I have to feel if I don’t do the compulsive behavior that’s coming up for me to do. Feeling what seems most uncomfortable, here and now.

And the inquiry part:

Inquiring into all of this. Inquire into what’s here. Notice the images, words, sensations. Ask simple questions to see more clearly what’s already here.

So yes, this is a feminine inquiry tradition. It’s love oriented. Feeling oriented. Inquiry oriented. It’s gentle, in a way. And also unsentimental and direct.

It’s even disillusionment oriented. And that too can be seen as feminine. That’s what a mother will do when it’s needed for the welfare of her children and family.

Of course, the reason we may see this as feminine is our stories about it. And these are adopted from tradition and culture. It’s a label. And it doesn’t need that label, which is partly why I haven’t thought about it this way, and may not use that term again in the future. (Unless someone else uses it, and I join in because it fits and helps us connect.)

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For a while, it feels good to be “illusioned”…. to imagine – and believe – that something will save me. With this comes the accompanying illusion is that something will destroy me.

It may even be true, to some extent and in some ways. Some things do lift me up, especially when I believe it will. And some things do appear to break me down, when I believe it will.

Then life shows me otherwise, sometimes in combination with inquiry. I see that words, images and sensations – which is my whole experience – cannot really save me, or destroy me. And the me that looks like it can be saved or destroyed is also made up of words, images and sensations. I cannot find a me apart from or “outside” of that.

This is disillusionment, and although it is sobering and a relief, it can also include disappointment, sadness, grief, even what appears as depression. So much of what drove me – the hopes and fears – fall away.

The parts of me reacting to this process can also be met with curiosity. When I explore the words, images and sensations making up the apparent resistance, sadness, grief, neutrality and disillusionment, what do I find? Can I find these things apart from or outside of the words, images and sensations making them up? Is it as solid as it initially seemed? Is it as real? Is it real in the way I thought it was?

Many maps or outlines of the process show a dark night preceding a phase of more ease with what’s here (AKA equanimity). And with disillusionment – seen, felt and loved – does come a sense of ease with what’s here, independent of what it is. A sense of ease with life as it shows up, as it is.

It’s not nearly as glamorous as it may seem when hearing stories about it, or reading the maps. And yet, it is sobering. And it is a relief.

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verb 1. cause (someone) to realize that a belief or an ideal is false.

It seems that disillusionment is central to consciously aligning more closely with reality in our view. And it can seem disappointing at time.

noun 1. disappointment resulting from the discovery that something is not as good as one believed it to be.

For a while, it seems exiting with all the drama and juiciness of getting caught up in images, and the fears and hopes that comes out of it.

And after a while, as I see more closely the reality of what’s going on, there is disillusionment and these dynamics fall away – often over time. As mind sees that the value it thought was in illusion is not really there, the holding onto illusion naturally falls away.

I used to find excitement and a sense of safety in images of the future. Is it true that excitement is not here? Is it true I am not safe now, sitting here? Is it true that what’s here is not as exiting as my previous images of the future? Is it true it’s disappointing?

I am used to find a sense of validation and love from others. Is it true that a sense of validation is not here? Is it true love – for what’s here – is not here? Is it true this validation is less than what I would get from others? Is it true this love is less than what would get from others? Is it true it’s a disappointment?