As awakening deepens, I notice I have a number of favorite tools. They really are all the same—they all come down to noticing. But it can help to come at this from various angles.
The tool I rely on the most is releasing. Because more often than not what is between me and Truth is some sort of resistance. Releasing certainly helps with letting go of the hard emotions, but if you try releasing, you will notice that it soon expands to letting go of beliefs and embodied patterns as well.
Another favorite is observing thought. The cool thing about observing thought is that it expands to observing everything. With some practice, you are noticing the Voice—you know, the incessant Voice, and your thoughts, then the gaps in between, then emotions, beliefs, patterns. Some days, you look back, with a smile, and say, wow that was me just a little while ago.
I don’t meditate regularly. There are periods when I meditate a great deal and periods when meditation is just regular living.
At some point there is the recognition that these are just tools.
Lessons are learned. There is the lesson that awakening proceeds in a three-steps-forward-two-back sort of fashion. Whoever you are, you will experience a humiliating set-back, possibly several times. It’s a bummer.
There is the lesson of acceptance. True transformation comes about when I fully accept what I have become. When the lurching to be something different is let go of, there is clarity.
There is the hard lesson of allowing, with love and patience.
There is the lesson of gentle honesty. We are highly skilled at fooling ourselves, this sort of naked authenticity is not easy, but it develops.
There are times when there is an overwhelming feeling of emptiness. It can be vaguely disconcerting, and sometimes outright scary. If thought gets a hold of this feeling, it shows up as what is life all about? Is this all there is? What am I doing wrong?
This is a good time to inquire. Ask “who am I?” If thoughts happen, ask, “to whom does this thought occur?”
Don’t answer with a thought.
When the mind is busy or an emotion is overwhelming and any sort of practice seems too difficult, I fall back to reading and listening. Some of my favorite resources are here.
I don’t rely on any particular spiritual tradition or guru. Don’t deny, don’t follow. As Seng-ts’an said succinctly “Do not seek Truth; only cease to cherish opinions.” By opinions, he meant beliefs and concepts, particularly spiritual ones. Letting go is far more effective than accumulating. Of course this isn’t easy. There is a strong movement in the ego to want to accumulate and cling to concepts. There is a strong movement to create a spiritual identity—what Leonard Jacobson calls a “spiritualized ego.” A woman who considers herself spiritually advanced said that she will go out of her way to make sure her karma is positive. Sure, you can live like that if you want, but it’s just replacing an idea of an unforgiving and judgmental God with an idea of an unforgiving and judgmental concept of karma. Chogyam Trunpa, a great Tibetan meditation teacher, wrote that we are often “deceiving ourselves into thinking we are developing spiritually when instead we are strengthening our egocentricity through spiritual techniques.”
It does get easier and easier and easier. You do remember to be aware more and more. You do let go more and more easily. You remember more and more to be here now, to fully inhabit your body. The most essential question is “do I feel peaceful, joyful and complete” and more and more, you do see that the answer to this can be a resounding “Yes!”
What’s in your toolbox?