When we have the insight that we are not what we think we are, we are compelled to find Truth…and we immediately run into the second obstacle. We take on practices and methods and spirituality in an effort to awaken out of this delusional mental framework. The phantom in us looks immediately for answers in external authorities. We chase the answers, typically through religion, philosophy, spirituality, meditation, traditions, self-improvement, books, and we adapt others’ ideas and beliefs and revelations. We are convinced that this story will finally end all the other stories, at some future date.
In our minds we form ideas. Your idea may be enlightenment or awakening or the purpose of life or natural being or flow or God or reincarnation or some sort of new-age thing. We create beliefs that there is a state which is joyful, loving, peaceful, One, the Source, eternal and infinite, all-powerful inclusive. We embrace an identity that is on a universal mission, and is nobler and more sensitive than others. We believe that there are four or seven or some other number of ‘stages’ of awakening. We believe in empowerment, self-improvement, manifestation, master minding, Kundalini, accepting, gratitude, and a lot of other mind-stuff that will suddenly make our lives work better. We enshrine the simplicity of the unknown and call it enlightenment.
Can it be seen that these are just thoughts? Can it be seen that the ideas are not the same as being? Can it be seen that there never can be a satisfying end to all the mental stories? Thought-stories are not looking for an end, they are constantly looking for continuation. The mind has a strong tendency to believe and categorize, codify, organize into hierarchies, cling to ideas of priests, lineages, traditions, right and wrong, higher and lower and so on. Beliefs-all beliefs—are a heavy obstacle to direct experience of Truth. This formation of ideas and beliefs leads to a frustrating, futile chase.
Ramana Mahirishi put it succinctly:
You impose limits to your true nature of infinite being, then, you get displeased to be only a limited creature, then you begin spiritual practices to transcend these non-existing limits. But if your practice itself implies the existence of these limits, how could they allow you to transcend them?
The problem is this: It is the mind that realizes it is delusional, and it is the mind that starts practices to awaken. The ‘me’ tries to end its stories with the story of awakening. It cannot.
The second obstacle is taking the story of Awakening seriously. The ego becomes “spiritualized.” The ego will hijack intention and make awakening into a step-by-step, never-ending process of accumulation, and it will cling to beliefs and concepts. The ego loves beliefs, practice, techniques, imagery, effort, struggle, discipline, teachers, spirituality and books; it loves to take the identity of being spiritual, humble, sensitive, and noble. It can show off to others. It can even teach or coach others. To the ego, Awakening is all about making a fantastic, beautiful, powerful, happy new ‘you’ who will get all kinds of goodies in the future. But it will never stop long enough to experience life, here and now.
So what now? Does this mean we cannot do anything to awaken? Where is Morpheus’ red pill?
Most of us are not able to surrender our beliefs and concepts and practices readily. What we can do is a combination of inter-dependent techniques of Awareness and Releasing, and this can lead us to the doorway. The nice thing about these techniques is that it softens the struggle of life immediately. Effortless Awareness is always the primary answer. Releasing is a process of healing and cleansing. Relying only on direct personal experience can keep the ego from hijacking our intention. If our awareness is open and not clouded by beliefs and dogma, obstacles and traps will be noticed for what they are.
Don’t let the mind settle on any idea or belief. Trust your Awareness, and keep it wide open.