We are, once again, living in chaotic times. Each generation seems to endure it’s own brand of chaos, with new issues arising but old patterns of violence and despair recurring over and over in our so-called “civilized” societies. Those who have spiritual inclinations, and those who simply wish to love, visualize a world without this strife and suffering, and imagine that if all would wake up we would be a kinder world, with all people thriving. Perhaps this was the way Jesus hoped things would go when he advised us to love our neighbor as our self, or Moses when he offered ten commandments that would greatly improve human conduct on the planet. (I have often wondered how we can ignore the simple dictum ‘thou shalt not kill!’.)
Despite the efforts of many teachers, guides and compassionate leaders to suggest models for human compassion and cooperation, our patterns of human interaction continue to generate violence, hatred and insanity. For others they produce anxiety, depression, and despair. In some they are met with courage, caring and a renewal of the desire to contribute something hopeful and positive to our societies. In many others there is escape from these patterns through economic, sexual or family preoccupation or many other social distractions. As far as I can tell, these have always been human patterns on this planet and most minds are entangled in the energies they produce.
There is a growing sub-culture of people seeking answers through what is clearly an inward journey – an exploration of their own conditioning and a seeking for a calm center or a sense of connection with “god” or “Truth,” or the primal source deep within. When within this depth of self-exploration the primary and universal consciousness awakens itself, and it is clearly revealed and experienced how you are entangled in thoughts, emotions and beliefs not true but only generationally conditioned, then “awakening” occurs, and there is the possibility of becoming “free” of yourself, and ending suffering. We each have a potential to “awaken” beyond the boundaries of the personal self and into a new perception of our universal connectedness, but very few access this realization consciously in their lifetime.
The search to awaken may emerge in the psyche as a way to end suffering, or the divisive thoughts of the mind that cannot understand the terrible things humans do to one another. It can be triggered by a trauma or by simply wondering why there is so much struggle in many lives. It feels very personal at first. For myself, it came when I recognized that I felt a hole inside related not only to my mother’s sudden death when I was a kid, but also because my faith in God had died along with her. I wanted to know what was True about life. Did something called god even exist?
Usually it is personal pain that propels us to ask these questions. But I have met people who simply fell into the vastness of pure consciousness for a short time due to a shock, injury or deep despair, and when they emerged they felt driven to understand more. Many who are drawn to the peace offered through meditation and self-inquiry go deeper, and find consciousness stirring itself into revelations that surprise them. There are many doorways into the transformation of perspective about who we are.
This searching for Truth is not the personal escape you may imagine it to be. When successful it cracks open the destructive collective patterns that trouble our world. There is a collective consciousness that allows the darkness on our planet to flourish – or we might say a collective un-consciousness. Each of us that can awaken ourselves to the universal collective field hold a potential for healing a small facet of it, bringing light in some degree into the whole. It makes clear the possibility of love and compassion to overrule hate, first within ourself and then in the greater collective. No authentic spiritual guide or teacher is in this work to further their own lives – they are driven to bring more light into the collective. They may not know how to do this effectively – they are ordinary beings after all – only awake – so they give pointers from their own experience to encourage awakening in those who are available to it. They may teach from heart or intuition or a process they have found transformative in their own lives.
It is unfortunate that in some systems the way to encourage Self realization is to discount the attractions of human relations with the world. This approach has a place in helping you to recognize the inner world may have something more fulfilling, lasting and joyful to offer. It helps you to release the addiction to form so that you can directly know the ecstatic essence prior to forms. But once that is felt then awakening will optimally be brought back through the heart and into the lived experience. Great poets. musicians and artists sometimes radiate this. Brilliant inventions may be birthed from this insight. Mental confusion, violence and suffering can be transformed into understanding and compassion, along with a profound appreciation of the beauty and the miracles of the ordinary life.
We may never have a world without some chaos and a percentage of wounded or misguided people striking out at others. But the hope for me is that awakening generates greater wisdom and an evolution of a new perspective within humanity, so that we understand that we are One interdependent species, and it is to our benefit to accept and support our common human needs. Awakening is not for you alone – it is for all of us.
How many people need to stand up in order to create positive change on our planet? Change is usually initiated by one insight or action. Movements begin with one or a few who care about this change.
I admit I have never been an activist. As someone who has spent most of my life caring for family, college and career, preoccupied with personal growth and spiritual realization, while living in comfort, I can recognize easily how much effort it takes to let go of personal concerns long enough to become involved in the greater picture of planetary and political issues. Most Americans are busy with daily challenges and experiences, both positive and negative, and feel they have little energy or interest left for the bigger needs of the collective, hoping somehow our political structures will support us, since that is felt to be their job. I believe the majority feel, as I have often felt, they can help a person one on one, to get what they need, but trying to support the overwhelming greater needs of the planet seems both exhausting and impossible.
All the ordinary and self-serving activities of my own life have happened with the backdrop of WW2 (as an infant), Korea (as a college student), the Civil Rights Movement, the women’s movement, and Vietnam (as a young mother), the Gulf War , and invasion of Iraq, the assassination of John and Robert Kennedy, the shooting of Martin Luther King, nuclear proliferation and numerous other tragedies of human interaction based on the delusion we are separate and must fight and eliminate one another. I remember when we bought our first tv, and as an adolescent watching with horror films from WW2 showing the release of those few who survived the concentration camps. I remember watching the killing of Sirhan Sirhan iive on tv as I was ironing one morning shortly after JFK’s death. I have watched the increase of violence – or at least our awareness of it – grow exponentially as our media became more sophisticated. And in the shadows of this most of us continue to lead ordinary lives.
Today our world problems appear to be random terrorism, environmental degradation and threat, challenges to our educational opportunities and scientific integrity, the pressing needs of immigrants, corporate profits displacing human needs, challenges in healthcare, and the possible disappearance of jobs as technology advances. And once again we are people in a cultural values division. Distrust of government, and fear of its impact on our personal lives is uprooting our peace of mind. The challenges change but the cultural anxiety stays the same.
Today we are more aware of what is happening everywhere, thanks to the web, and people are marching and writing, and pulling themselves away from their personal concerns to seek a voice in the larger collective. Many average citizens are choosing to run for office. Sometimes those who speak up are met with harsh resistance, or the indifference of those who carry power. But we humans are the web of society and we need to connect and interact for the good of the whole, and in many places this consciousness of our larger role in our society is starting to rise.
Indigenous cultures thought and acted from a collective field for the welfare of the community. Our great modern accomplishment of individualization has left in its shadow our capacity for awareness of and compassion for the whole. Our inability to recognize that we are rooted in One consciousness, One source, no matter our intellectual theories about its nature, divides us into separate camps and identifications, and allows us to witness tragedy without much response, unless it is happening in our own neighborhood.
But slowly we are beginning to recognize that what happens in one region of the world profoundly impacts all others. We may still feel helpless at times to be a corrective force when greed and anger and violence emerge like a hurricane or volcanic eruption in the human experience, but it is harder to be unaffected and unmoved.
It appears that every great movement or great invention arose through the insight of one person who inspired a small group and instigated a new perspective.
Every political, psychological, educational, spiritual theory, and every new invention from the wheel to the automobile to the internet emerged from the smallest imaginative thought in one or a few creative minds or hearts. Everything begins with one and expands (sometimes more slowly than we wish) into the world of thought and then into manifestation. We think of it as genius when we like the ideas, and as horrors when they cause destruction.
If you believe you are moved through spirit, what is the one thing you have to contribute to the world? Is it an idea, a service, a movement from love, a potential that can help the life of a few or someday, perhaps many. Find your own unique skill, something that moves you from the heart, and find a simple way to express it. If every one does one action for the good of the whole, the forces of good will outweigh the forces that cause suffering and pain.
Light and dark, joy and suffering, will always be part of this human experience, and the challenges bring many of us into personal searching for freedom and self-realization. But this movement to awaken cannot be limited to the personal life – not if there is one consciousness under all experience or one source. If you are clearing yourself from your personal suffering you are also clearing your lineage, opening new possibilities for the next generation. If you will find the one thing for which you have the time and talent to contribute to the welfare of the whole, you will become part of the future health and wellbeing of the planet. We each need to release our self from fear and avoidance of the world, and bring the strength of our true nature , which holds love and creativity, into the world we share.
A lovely aspect of the film “The Shack”, which I saw yesterday, is that God is portrayed in several images – none of them traditional. This film, based on a best-selling Christian book, offers as well a universal message that divine love is unconditional just like our love for our children, and that the tragedies of life are not “allowed” and cannot be prevented by God, but are part of the experience of living as humans.
This is a film about how we can heal. Presented through a Christian lens, it may not appeal to those who follow eastern practices, but essentially the message of Buddhism, Vedanta and the Perennial Philosophy is the same, as expressed in the teachings about suffering found in Buddhism, and in the challenges and questions Arjuna (representing every man) faces in the “Bhagavadgita”, the most universal scripture in India. It is a message about facing darkness and healing the broken heart through love, forgiveness, wisdom and trust. Christians encourage faith to accomplish this, but more than faith there must be a deep internal turning and releasing in order for healing to happen. Eastern teachings are more focused on this internal path, and view God more as a primary source of the energy and consciousness of life rather than a physical form. The images are only transitional objects defining aspects of this One Source, because our minds more easily relate to Source in the form of a human body, and cannot mentally grasp the wholeness and radiance of the First Cause. It is too much bigger than mind.
Some Christians are really afraid of this internal turning. One woman condemned me recently as offering teachings of the devil. I don’t know why, but I guess she came to this conclusion by watching an interview I did recently on Conscioustv about living with kundalini energy. Such a perspective distorts a person’s ability to find joy and contentment in life, because it denies our own direct connection with the sacred.
It is sad when people are brought up believing that anything arising within them is evil, and unloved by their God. The darkness among humans is often something passed down generationally by people who have experienced extreme neglect and pain, and pass this unconsciously along to their own children. Violence begets violence. Prejudice is taught. Self-loathing is taught. Hatred of those who are different is taught. We as a culture do very little to prevent these teachings as much of our entertainment is focused on violence and prejudiced images of those who are different. Parents are stressed to provide a living, often unsupported and occasionally harshly reactive with young impressionable children. Children in poverty often lack enough food to eat and time with their over-worked parents. Fear is promoted as a way of marketing goods, religion and politics. Evil emerges from the cracks in a culture – the unwillingness or inability to recognize what is needed for love and self-acceptance, and compassion for our fellow humans, to thrive.
Unfortunately some churches do not preach the universal sacredness and connection to God that is in all humans. Some governments are managed by people more attracted to power and personal gain than the emotional and physical health of their communities. This places a huge burden on an individual family system to model inclusiveness and compassion, while also meeting basic human needs.
If there is an original sin it must be this human tendency to care only for our own gain and neglect the needs of others. If there is a hell it is likely the lives of some in our societies who are caught in war and other unspeakable pain.
The true gift of Christianity when rightly used has nothing to do with walking on water or going to heaven or recruiting more Christians. In the teachings attributed to Jesus it is finding the kingdom of God within – the simple connection we each have with wisdom and love and others of our species that can only be found by facing and eventually releasing our personal dramas and traumas, demands, disappointments, anger and grief. It happens when we let go into ourselves and discover our True Nature. Then we may experience forgiveness for the way things are and discover the freedom of seeing the joy and possibility of creation. Then we can find each in our own way how we can express the sacred that has been latent within us.
What is enlightenment? I asked Adyashanti this question once and he said “It is being undivided.” Unfortunately, many people imagine enlightenment to be a state of having magic powers, continual bliss, and connection with other-dimensional beings. Some think of it as genius or having omniscience. I remember being told as a child that God knew everything and was everywhere, and this impression seems to be the way some look at enlightenment – as if it means becoming all-knowing, all-powerful, having control over everything. This would be an exciting possibility for an ego, and may encourage some people to seek enlightenment who are not well suited to it.
But what does it mean to be undivided? Could enlightenment or awakening to the Truth of our real nature have a result as simple as this? The ego’s way of being undivided might consider it as being one-pointed, determined and set in one way of looking at things, never allowing facts or feelings, or the needs of others to interfere with your set direction. But that is being narrowly one-sided, rather than living the undivided way of an awakened mind and heart.
I believe we come into life undivided. It is the state of openness to whatever arises. It is availability. It is a part of our cellular structure that naturally allows anything to happen. It is always within you but from your first experiences of pain or sorrow, and your first lessons of separation and identity, you formed a shell around this openness and became a character with opinions, demands, emotional upheavals and drives that you think of us as “me”. This “me” has fear and resistance to many aspects of the human experience and generates many problems and thoughts in a life. Of course this “me” can have lots of accomplishments and feel love and joy and be a positive force in the world as well. These options are usually thought of as free will – but since in the early years there is so much conditioning and shaping of identity – positive and negative — it is questionable just how free you are.
When a person’s True Nature awakens there is a sense within the body/mind of no boundary or border to the energy of the heart and mind, no separation from either form or space, and no argument with life as it is. We might call this clarity. Some have called it radiance. This openness into life as it is can be felt viscerally, at the core. It feels as if all identification with that “me” has fallen away and what remains is clear, at peace, sometimes kinestically flooded with love or bliss. This realization may look like an experience but it is more of a knowing of what always was and will be, even before birth, and after death.
There is no division in the True Nature. All division comes from the mind’s ideas about protection and separation. When events in your life seem threatening this need to create safety is a genuine response of the body and mind. The dimension we live in as humans has definite boundaries. We cannot fly off cliffs or stand in the middle of the highway and survive. We must have water and food and protection from the elements. As infants we need others to care for us and as emotional beings we crave love and community. Enlightenment does not remove these patterns that are part of our human imprinting. We are energies dancing as form and the form has specific limitations that the spirit does not
This is why no matter how deeply you have felt your True Nature you may at times have medical problems, you may sense waves of the suffering in others, you can feel loss as loved ones pass, and you may still have patterns of conditioning arise to be met and released. The difference is that when undivided you can have compassion for or perhaps even laugh at your human vulnerabilities because there is no one there who cares to judge them. And when the events in the world are troubling, you understand that human form by its limitations produces troubles and challenges, and if you feel an inclination to engage you can do it without attachment to results or acquiring new karmas (conditioning) to be worked through (the true meaning of karma yoga). You are unbounded formless consciousness living within the patterns and boundaries of energetic forms, imprinted with the uniqueness of your conditioning and DNA, and thus you are One and Undivided.
There is a certain violence in nature. There is an underlying indifference to life that is paradoxically a movement that keeps life changing and evolving. It is the nature of all physical form to rise and fall, shift and die. We see this in large movements like earthquakes and floods and fires caused by lightning and in smaller circumstances such as lifeforms that feed on other lifeforms or battle one another for the right to procreate. Our planet and species were created through eruption and wild intense forces of nature. As humans the roots of this indifference and fierceness to survive also lies in our shadow,underlies many of our darker patterns and is evident in the decline of our bodies as we age. As pure awareness it is seen that all of these movements toward upheaval and destruction are just part of who we are. When consciousness awakens itself and the stillness of our true nature is known we can see with equanimity the naturalness and inclusiveness of the world as it is. This part of what we are has limitless acceptance of what is. As Adyashanti often says, “It has no argument with reality.”
But this does not mean we then turn our back on the human condition and have no response to it. We are source playing humans at the moment and when this source is awakened in us it moves through an open heart and generates compassion and love, creativity and responsiveness. In knowing we are all of this world we may be moved to respond in ways the limited mind would not. When our identification with personal suffering in our past, and our emotional resistance and rage and grief is over, we are more free to bring something authentic, healing and useful into the world. We don’t need to be indifferent and are free to move spontaneously. From a non-dual perspective we can rationalize we are not our body/mind , and think “Why do anything?” But if you look closely you can sense this must be a mental rationalization, because the fully awakened being is not personal, and is moved by a recognition of being one with others. Instead there is a movement that is impersonal, but inclined toward the healing of suffering, the feeding of the human, the nurturing of the planet, bringing harmony into the whole. Many call this movement love, but it is not the love that is looking for something in return. It is simply the complement to the destructive and painful forces. It moves through us and not from us.
Genuine acceptance of the fact that destruction and death are an aspect of living and being in form, frees one to bring more harmony and love into the mix rather than rage and resistance. I can’t speak for other life forms, but while we exist as humans we have a capacity for the wisdom to end our psychological self-destruction and the pain in our species that perpetuates it. It is our dream we are living and as we become more harmonious and awake as a species the dream can evolve more harmoniously.
I look out my windows and see that Ashland is blanketed in fog this morning.
I’m reminded that this is often the condition of the human mind.
There is a cloudiness that causes confusion or blind reaction because so many experiences have happened over the years that leave impressions which dull the light of clarity.
There is a way of seeing that is clear and immediate, open and responsive. How often do you see things that way? Most of us have to wade through many hours of indecision, second guessing ourselves and others, reactivity, mood swings and other aspects of our dividing minds before we make a move. We listen to a myriad of thoughts about ourselves and everyone else as if a mere thought could be true and more significant than the moment in which we are living. It is amazing we ever get anywhere. I am not saying you should never weigh an important decision, but wouldn’t it be easier if we knew ourselves well enough to have an immediate sense of what is right for us. Then we would move with the flow of the river or the Tao as the Chinese philosophers described it. Our life would become more natural and integrated with the world around us.
All of us are part of an unfolding, a movement , of life itself. Each of us is presented with the possibilities of the day every morning when consciousness arises out of sleep and into the world of form. There is a natural and intuitive way to move into the day, in response to what is arising and in tune with our openness to it. Sometimes a morning meditation puts us consciously in tune with this place and we can move on into the day without the fogginess of our cluttered minds. Some people have rituals that help them orient to the day. When I was a young mother I remember having such overwhelm just getting everyone fed and off to school along with myself on the way to college classes that it felt like I was just plowing through life, barely noticing what was going on around me. The spirit is easily overwhelmed when the mind is running our lives like a business.
Today there is a natural rhythm in me that seems to come from the heart or the belly. I have days that are very active and days that are quiet, but this “I “ is no longer goal-oriented or task-oriented. Generally there is a flow into the life, whether there be sun or fog. The spirit is open to either and curious to see what it brings. Life is more peaceful this way.
How do we stop listening to our cluttered foggy minds and get in touch with a deeper awareness within us? For me it has been through the willingness to be still, to drop awareness into the heart, to notice awareness is what moves through the body/mind stirring sensation, looking through my eyes, listening, noticing emotion rising and falling, noticing thoughts rising and falling, noticing everything that arises and falls in life. To be this awareness without attention on that which I am aware of, to get curious about what this internal presence really is, has opened a door into a place more deep and true and clear than I ever knew when I was living in the fog.