Is there a way to simplify the spiritual journey?
The Spiritual life is about opening the heart to unlearning our values, beliefs and conditioning. It is not about learning something new but looking at what is here-now as it actually is!
It is often a frustrating and confusing journey because we have to undo all that we thought was real which actually isn’t!
It is often followed with little annoying shocks that what we held so dear and meaningful suddenly is seen to be only our conditioned value system. The meaning we give things have only the meaning we gave them.
Think of it this way – imagine a gigantic ladder reaching above the clouds. As you look up you can’t see the top as it is way far above you. This ladder represents your journey step-by-step. You start as an average consciousness on the first rung of the ladder. This is where most people are at. In this first step you are self-centred, self-absorped and self-concerned. You feel like the center of your world where only you matters to you. It is like a little frog in her small pond-world. You worry about your body because you’re totally identified with it. In fact you don’t question your world or your form-body and you take them for granted. They are your belief system. You are convinced that this is who you are. And, this is all you can see and think. In fact, you hardly ever think about anyone else without first thinking about you. Chances are you stay in that first step for most of your life.
If something starts to make you suffer unduly and start asking, “What is it all about?” “What is this thing called ‘my life?’ and so on then you become a seeker. A seeker is anyone who seeks a better and more fulfilled life. So actually what drives you to seek is an inner knowing that there has to be a better life than the one you have.
In this seeking you start climbing without realizing you are doing it. It is as if something takes over and takes you up two or three steps up the ladder.
You look down and you see more than before. You see more people around you. You see greater expanse of space. Then something strikes you, “Hey, we are all really alike apart from our looks!!” This is quite a revelation that you are not different or separate as you thought. We are all the same…seeking to be happy, loved, want to be special, need to feel wanted and appreciated and so on. You also notice, because of your greater and higher vantage point, how everyone believes they are right. How everyone is an ego with the same fears and hopes and desires.
You climb a little higher and you begin to see more of this oneness…oneness in our egoic needs and oneness in our love needs. At this point you will begin to see that even though everyone wants love (called appreciation or need for approval) yet no one knows what love really is. At this point we believe that love is something we are going to get from someone else or the world at large. Thus even though we see our similarity yet we still cling to our different viewpoint as best.
Now we climb higher still, and as we see more in our higher climb we also start getting a little confused. We can’t help seeing that all the training we had and conditioning in our religious and traditional upbringing is coming up for questioning and it scares us. We get scared because we had invested so much of our energy learning about values that only have meaning to us and not to others. So the frightening question is at this point, “How real is everything I have learned?” “How valuable is it to my life?” “Where has it brought me if I am still not at peace in my heart’s core?”
We are now pulled so many ways from our familiar conditioning, family values, national or traditional training and beliefs. This is quite uncomfortable and so confusion reigns. So, one part clings to what is familiar and another part knows there’s a higher truth. Many people stop at this point and go no further. In fact, many years go by before they start climbing higher. It takes great motivation to go higher than our conditioned belief system. Here is skepticism, uncertainty, fear, doubt, confusion and feling torn between continuing and not.
Some of you go on despite your family’s training and/or objections and follow a different drummer. Here you climb a few steps higher. This is where you feel the pangs of catch-22 – damned if you go higher and damned if you don’t. You feel truly stuck between a rock and a hard place. This is even more confusing than before because here you are faced with the inevitable truth which is – you are NOT who you thought you were at all. This is shaking the foundation of belief system that you had invested so much time in. Yet, despite this fear, you know at this point that the truth is not a belief but something very real inside you. You still don’t know what that is, but yet know it exists. This is the sink or swim point in your journey. You are dangling in this midway point. You shudder to think of taking the plunge into the unknown and yet also know that there’s no way out. The ego self has to be transcended.
Most people stay in this point called “stuckness” and never get over this point as fear mounts with time. Many live the rest of their life in this midpoint stage. There are many spiritual ‘teachers’ who are in this midway point and haven’t taken the plunge over the edge. They know what’s necessary and they can even teach it but yet do not have the courage to leap.
Those very few who take the leap had questioned every belief they held and saw it as nothing more than just a concept. They have used an inquiry similar to Bhagavan or Byron Katie or advanced Advaita asking at every turn, “What is real?” and as they sincerely investigated found nothing real. I remember hearing Adjashanti covering this stage of realization where he saw clearly that everything he experienced began and ended and nothing was real. The moment we see clearly that nothing, absolutely nothing, in this world is real we discover something very precious. The real was/is the one that saw the unreality of everything. The changing personality and self saw clearly that everything changed and therefore eventually died and passed away…but the one who saw the change was changeless and in that facing of everything as changeable and unreal, was also the recognition of that which was unchanging and real and lasting. Tis is the discovery of the eternal infinite Self.
In summary it went like this…
The focal point of ‘I’ consciousness is similar to a tall ladder. The steps start at the bottom and keep rising to see more and more of the area until the top is reached. This ‘I’ consciousness arises from pure awareness and initially is experienced as ‘me’ as separate from you. This ‘me’ is known as the suffering ego beset with the need for control and conscious of limitation. It identifies fully with the body and its past and thus suffers automatically from unconscious guilt in the present and fear of the future. This viewpoint is the asleep state of the separate ‘me.’
As the psychological suffering reaches a point of seeking to find what is more in life, there is a higher aspect of the ‘I’ that also gets bogged down with confusion, frustration and unceasing questions. These questions help in ascending the ladder and seeing more.
There comes a point in the ascension of the ladder where the viewpoint gets stuck due to fear of the vaster realm awaiting it. This is the ‘stuck’ point many seekers find themselves in. This ‘stuckness’ usually lasts several years to a whole lifetime unless there is the love of truth that is stronger than its fear of ego annihilation.
Most seekers gets stuck in the midway point of the ladder called catch-22 – feel damned if I do go on and damned if I don’t. This is the sink or swim stage that all awakened beings have gone through. This is the crucial process where the personal ‘I’ is beginning to see that it is really universal Oneness. It is extremely fearful and threatening to give up what has been familiar for so many lifetimes. If a breathrough occurs then we reach close to the top and our viewpoint goes from EFFECT VIEWPOINT to CAUSE VIEWPOINT. We are now quite aware that our ‘me’ had never existed but was always the ‘I’ of Oneness.
This focal point of “I” is never lost but reaches such a height of Oneness-expression that reincarnation is no longer required.
And here is the great paradox as we peer from the top ladder looking down…we see clearly that nothing ever happened and the ladder was always the same one except that now we are looking from a greater vantage point of view. The film of life had already been finished and we are replaying it. We have the choice to see it from this higher view instead of the ‘effect-view.’ We have not changed and life goes on the same way but without the fears, questions and linear time consciousness. We have reached inner peace.
T.S. Eliot wrote, “We shall not cease from exploration. At the end of all our exploring we shall arrive at where we started and KNOW that place for the first time.”