It’s easy for those interested in consciousness to look at Bush’s legacy disdainfully and wonder how he could have successfully tricked so many people for so long. But while it’s simple to see the consequences of his unrealistic and neo-conservative beliefs regarding economic, environmental, energy and global policies, it’s harder for these same people to realize that their own beliefs about awakening have just as little in common with reality. Yet, the consequences of these beliefs impact them far more.
It’s not just a coincidence that so few people have truly awakened. It’s a direct result of their not being able to abandon widely held misconceptions about the awakening journey – myths that those few who have already awakened try to refute at every opportunity. Often accepted because they appear to be politically correct, these myths serve as both barriers and ready excuses for millions of people to remain stuck in the dream state.
We wish it was easier to wake up. Out of compassion, we wish that you didn’t have to make your freedom your absolute priority; that you didn’t have to be willing to give up all that you think you have (including the story of whomever you think you are); that you didn’t have to go through literal hell at different points in this journey and feel the rug being continually pulled out from under you. It would be so much easier if, as so many people seem to assume, awakening would just “happen” to them – that as “we’re all waking up together,” one after another would truly see the light on a regular basis to enter a place of authentic inner freedom.
We don’t want to program you, but overwhelmingly, this doesn’t seem to be the case from the evidence. And your pretending otherwise doesn’t seem to help – it just makes awakening that much more unattainable. In essence, you can keep your myths or you can wake up. You can’t do both.
Maybe you’ll be different. Maybe you’ll be one of the unique few who awaken gently or spontaneously, as a result of gradually “getting better” – without having to challenge the very foundations of your existence to their core. But if you’re putting all your eggs in that basket, you will probably have about as much luck as you would learning Chinese in your sleep. It might make more sense to follow the advice of those people who’ve already awakened than to keep this fiction intact.
Why aren’t more people willing to recognize what seems obvious – that only a relatively few are actually waking up, despite popular, politically correct beliefs to the contrary? We think it’s because their egos have realized that awakening entails the full and complete reorganizing of their priorities, ultimately dissolving both their identity and the ego itself. So it does everything in its power to trick, deceive and resist you. It loves having you assume that you are well on your way to waking up, which still allows it to maintain its control over your thoughts, emotions and your actions.
With this in mind, we’d like to continue our discussion of widely held awakening beliefs so that those truly interested in waking up can begin to move in a more fruitful direction. While it may seem discouraging to realize that what you thought you were doing is not taking you where you wanted to go, if you can let go of your pride, disappointment and fears you might now begin a new journey that can actually do that.
In the previous article in this series (in February’s Edge Life), we discussed Myth #1, contrasting the great differences between one’s sense of “getting better” and one’s truly “waking up.” Here we take a look at another key myth that continues to delude serious seekers.
Be forewarned – and proceed at your own peril!
Myth # 2: The awakening journey should be relatively gentle.
Numerous commentators have described the awakening journey, and almost none of them have called it “gentle.” That experience is quite rare. While this journey is quite often exciting and even intoxicating, it is just as often lonely, tedious and extremely painful. While incredibly “rewarding” in the end to emerge from the dream state and see and accept things are they are, it is not for the faint of heart!
If we had to choose a word to describe our own experience of this journey, it would be intense. Eric Putkonen, who also serves as a guide in awakening in the Twin Cities, compares it to an apple falling from a tree. As it leaves its former life on the tree, it gradually decomposes and shrivels up – adjectives we don’t usually associate with pleasantries. This dissolution applies to our identity and everything we thought we were, including whatever we previously thought was important. Often you feel like you are dying, sometimes for weeks at a time – and in reality this is true, for your old or former self must die, or burn away, for a new consciousness to take hold.
So we can almost guarantee that if you’re still seeking after pleasant experiences or running from greater levels of intensity, you’re probably looking in the wrong place. And if your experience is consistently gentle or if that’s what you think this journey is all about, you can probably assume that despite the apparent benefits of whatever you may be doing, they’re not waking you up!
Often people say to us, “I want to wake up, but I don’t want to look at certain incidents in my past, because it’s just too painful.” Whatever you need to look at is in your present, and you will call it to you at the appropriate moment. Yet, you need to be fully willing to do whatever it takes. For whatever you deny or avoid constitutes the very areas you most need to look at, areas where you’ve tied up your energy through resistance or avoidance. The experiences where you consistently sell out to your fears or your pain are used by your ego to keep you from moving further.
Those who assume they will eventually find an easy route to avoid this dilemma are very likely deceiving themselves. For the world of the mind is by definition one of illusion that interprets, reacts and resists. Here is Adyashanti writing in his new (and appropriately titled) book, The End of Your World:
“We must give up the pursuit of positive emotional states through spiritual practice. The path of awakening is not about positive emotions. On the contrary, enlightenment may not be easy or positive at all. It is not easy to have our illusions crushed. It is not easy to let go of long-held perceptions…If our orientation is simply to feel better in each moment, then we’ll continue to delude ourselves, because trying to feel better in the moment is exactly how we delude ourselves….
“For most of us, the path to enlightenment is not rosy. We need to acknowledge this, because otherwise we’re only going to let ourselves travel toward that which feels good, that which supports our image of what the path of awakening should be….
“But the real, sincere impulse toward enlightenment is something that goes far beyond the desire to make our dream state better. It is an impulse that is willing to subject itself to whatever is needed in order to wake up…no matter if it turns out to be wonderful or terrible. It is an impulse that puts no conditions on what we have to go through.”
Are you ready? Let the journey begin!