Through the process, there was a deeper, more extraordinary dissolution of the egoic self than I had previously experienced. It wasn’t a dissolving like when you sit in meditation and your sense of self dissolves into a wonderful state of presence. It was more like someone was ripping layers off me, one by one. It was very unceremonious. It wasn’t nice, it wasn’t kind, and it wasn’t easy. It was existence shoving a mirror in front of my face and literally holding me there so I could not look away for even a second… I saw that what happens in the body and mind ultimately can’t be avoided. Everything has to be dealt with – everything. Everything has to be seen through….

I tell this story because everybody has a story.

We all have our own ways in which life is attempting to hold up a mirror, to squeeze the conditioned self out of us, to squeeze out of us the holding and grasping, to squeeze out all of our beliefs and ideas and concepts and self-images. If we are willing to look, we will see that life is always in the process of waking us up. If we are not in harmony with life, if we are working in opposition to it, then it is a rough ride indeed….

When we are not willing to see what life is trying to show us, it will keep ramping up the intensity until we are willing to see what we need to see. In this way, life itself is our greatest ally. To think that enlightenment only comes through wonderful experiences is to delude yourself. 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. For most people, the path of awakening does have wonderful, profound moments and realizations. But it is also a gritty thing. It’s not what most people sign up for when they say they want to be enlightened.

The truth of the matter is that most people who say they want awakening don’t actually want to awaken. They want their version of awakening. What they actually want is to be really happy in their dream state. And that’s okay, if that’s as far as they’ve evolved. 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. The authentic impulse toward enlightenment is that internal prayer asking for whatever it is that will bring us to a full awakening, regardless of whether it turns out to be wonderful or terrible. it is an impulse that puts no conditions on what we have to go through. This authentic impulse can be a bit frightening, because when you feel it, you know it is real.

When you have let go of all conditions – when you have let go of how you want your own awakening to be and what you want the journey to be like – you have let go of your illusion of control. In fact, we have to be willing to lose our whole world.

That may sound romantic when you first hear it – “Oh yes, let me sign up! I’m willing to lose my whole world.” But when your whole world starts to crumble, and you start to emerge from unimaginably deep states of denial, it is something altogether different. It is something altogether more real and gritty. It’s something that some people sign up for and some people don’t. This isn’t a journey about becoming something. This is about unbecoming who we are not, about undeceiving ourselves.

In the end, it’s ironic. We don’t end up anywhere other than where we have always been, except that we perceive where we have always been completely differently. We realize that the heaven everyone is seeking is where we have always been. Once again, what is required is a certain sense of honesty.

Adyashanti is the author of the new book, Falling Into Grace: Insights on the End of Suffering, as well as The End of Your World, Emptiness Dancing, and True Meditation. He offers spontaneous and direct nondual teachings that have been compared to those of the early Zen masters and Advaita Vedanta sages. A native of Northern California, Adyashanti lives with his wife, Mukti, and teaches extensively in the San Francisco Bay Area, offering satsangs, weekend intensives, and silent retreats. He also travels to teach in other areas of the United States and Canada. Visit www.adyashanti.org.

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