When you begin to see life without fear, frightening things become acceptable. Or so it may seem.
At the same time, we may feel called upon to act in response to a world that is out of balance, whether it’s someone in trouble or larger harmful developments.
This world matters even if we are convinced our experience in this world will dissolve into oneness.
It’s a spiritual fantasy to believe that nothing matters, that the world before us is not real. The world is not real is the same way as the eternal inside inside, yet it functions as real in our spiritual journey.
In the late 1970s, Krishnamurti famously asked an audience whether they wanted “to know his secret.” Audience members reportedly leaned forward in anticipation. Krishnamurti quietly said, “You see, I don’t mind what happens.”
It’s one of my favorite quotes.
Another quote I love comes from Angela Davis, and it seems to say the exact opposite:
“I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.”
This twist on the Serenity Prayer is a commitment to act in the world.
These two ideas live inside me comfortably, though it took a few years to understand they are not in conflict.
We offer ourselves to the presence within. We ask for guidance, and we ask to be useful. “Relieve me of the bondage of self that I may better do Thy will.” And we surrender the outcome.
We will be okay. The world will be okay. Whatever happens. And we give ourselves over to the guidance to do what we can do.
When the struggle comes to an end, the suffering lifts. You are not who you thought you were. You thought you were caught here in the world. You thought the world had dominion over you. You believed there was such a thing as dominion.
The sky is more blue than you ever thought possible. Blue like a taste. Blue like a thin film you can walk through.
You thought you were close to solving the problem, but the problem is not here. There were so many answers that seemed to be surrounding you, but they have flown off like feathers, delicate and light. They don’t need you today.
You thought you were something. You thought you were nothing. You found that everything is not enough. You found that nothing is too hard to bear. Then you watched your self float off like shiny dust.
There is a song that has been singing you for a thousand years. Now that your self is drifting, you can hear it once again. It is awake in the taste of the air that turns blue and disappears.
Night and day merge as night grows darker and the day vanishes. You were only here for a moment, but it lasted centuries.
You have spent your entire life in the now and you have everything to show for it. Everything can fit in the now. Nothing can fit anywhere else.
Soon you will lose the sense of falling. You will smell the damp leaves that warm and become your nourishment – until you need no nourishment. You will fill up and disappear.
My God it’s great to be alive.
We talk about spiritual experiences, we talk about spiritual awakening, and we talk about the differences between spiritual experiences and a spiritual awakening. We talk about different forms of meditation, and we talk about non-duality and oneness and how it’s impossible to talk about non-duality and oneness without revealing hidden tells of separateness and duality.
We all have our little takes on all the different terms of spirituality.
We think we know, but we don’t know what we don’t know. Or, we think we don’t know, but we actually know and just don’t know we know.
There’s nothing like spiritual confusion over the cornucopia spiritual terms.
In the end, it’s all spiritual. While it seems we can’t help but stumble, in reality we can’t help but find oneness – because oneness is all we have. Oneness is all there is.
Let the battles rage over New Age versus New Thought, Lao Tzu versus Confucius, Hindu versus Zen, The Grateful Dead versus the Moody Blues, Alan Ginsberg versus Ram Das, Richard Alpert versus Timothy Leary.
In the end, John Lennon said it best: I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together. Coo coo ca choo.
How does a spiritual awakening change your life? You have the same personality, the same body, the same family and friends. At first, everything is the same. Yet when your spiritual awakening comes, everything changes.
You see that you are one with everything around you. You are not separate. That understanding takes away your fear. Maybe not all at once, but bit by bit, your fear begins to stop running your life. You come to realize you have nothing to fear. It’s not that you gain courage. It’s simply that fear has become irrelevant.
You come to see that you have been afraid most of your life. Your reactions, your responses, your decisions have all been based on fear, based on the belief that you are threatened, that you can lose everything that matters, and that you will die.
Lift that fear and you see that nothing that matters can be taken away. You see there is no such thing as death. You are free now. It doesn’t matter who loves you or who doesn’t love you. You suddenly have no argument with anyone – you have no argument with life.
Everything slows down. For perhaps the first time, you can catch your breath. The cloud of cares and worry begins to dissipate. You are lighter now, free of resentments and free of anger.
Your decisions are no longer based on what you need – they are based on kindness and how you can serve. This detachment doesn’t mean you don’t care. You care more for this world than you ever have. Never before have you really seen its beauty. In this caring, you become a caretaker.
You don’t renounce the world; you embrace the world, for the world and you are one.
Your spirituality is within. You already have all need to know and everything you need to learn. Your spiritual journey is to the inside. Right this very moment, you are where you need to be. You just have to realize it.
Who is your guide on this journey to yourself? You are. Who shows you where to turn when you’re lost in the dark woods? You will show yourself the way.
How far must you travel? You are already at your destination.
That’s easy to say, but how do teach yourself the way? It’s simple and difficult. You have to be willing and open. Plus, you have to be diligent in exposing yourself to teachings that prompt the recollection of oneness.
The key to willingness is nonresistance. We become resistant when we feel threatened, and without spiritual bearings, we feel threatened most of the time. That’s an illusion that closes down our ability to stay open and willing.
A truck barreling down the freeway is a threat if you cross its path. But a perceived slight in a social situation is not. Yet even a minor slight may close you down with reaction and offense. Then you lose connection with the source within. These soul cut-offs happen all day long, and they can keep us perpetually locked up. Willingness and acceptance are the tools to stay openm open.
Exposing yourself to spiritual teachings, readings, workshops, and more importantly, discussions with friends, will open you up to the source of the oneness within. Seek this exposure. The teachers and the people you meet in spiritual context don’t have something you don’t have, but they will prompt you to yourself.
That’s all you need for a grand spiritual journey. Willingness and spiritual exposure. They will lead you to the oneness within, and that’s everything.
What Do We Want? And why is desire such a tricky guide?
Much of what we experience as desire is actually a yearning for connection, and the only connection that truly satisfies is spiritual connection. We desire something we already have: oneness.
As in the line from the country song goes, we’re looking for love in all the wrong places. We look outside ourselves for that which is inside. The connection we seek has always been inside, and it will always be inside.
Our passions and desires can go off the track so easily. Mine have. I’ve followed passion and desire off many cliffs – bad relationships, substance abuse, overeating. It’s not surprising that 12 step programs insist that the connection to a higher power is essential to overcoming the negative effects of desire gone haywire.
Passion is a powerful human force. Desire keeps us moving when all seems lost. Passion is the beating heart of creativity, the force that drives parents to sacrifice for their children. It is also the fuel that propels massively destructive human behavior, from a single brutality to horrifying wars across the globe. All passion.
The same passion quiets and nourishes when we realize we are not apart, we are not alone, and we are not threatened with annihilation. When that realization is true, the body is put to calm. We awake in peace, go through the day in wonder, and rest easily at night.
For the day is eternal and all our needs are met. We have no needs but connection, and we are always connected. We exist in connection because connection is all there is. There is nothing that is not connection. Our passion – once directed – brings us awake to this simple and eternal truth.
Some remarkable things happen as you practice the presence within. Some of the painful needs that seemed so hard to fill in this world, those needs that haunted you for years, will lose their edge. Either they become less important, or, you’ll discover they are becoming satisfied.
Let’s look at the need for companionship. Loneliness results when this need goes unfilled. But two things begin to happen as you become more aware of the presence within. The need for companionship begins to ebb as the presence produces a sense of health, comfort, and belonging. What can be more companionable than the feeling of oneness and connectedness?
Also, the barriers to companionship begin to crumble. Often it is the ego – ever hungry, ever unsatisfied – that stands between our true self and the sense of connection. After all, the need for companionship is simply the need for connection. Without the edgy, needy ego in charge, we become more companionable. We become more accepting of others, more forgiving of ourselves. We become less of a problem.
Feeling the presence within does not eliminate the ego, but it does take it down a notch in its control over our self-perception and its control over our behavior. Without the ego so much in charge, we begin to see the dwindling of self pity, self loathing, and fear.
The ego holds and feeds our fear. The ego is terrified of death, and for good reason. The ego will die. But our true self won’t die. It cannot die. It is oneness. As we experience that oneness, the bitter needs of the ego become less pressing. In time, those needs will pretty much go away. And even if they don’t vanish altogether, they will become so unimportant as to not matter any longer.