Awakening humbles me.
A strange thing about awakening is frequently we feel we are very conscious, but then life throws something at us and we react in the same conditioned way we always did. It’s a humbling experience, and that’s the point of it.
A year ago I had severe and debilitating anxiety. It was bad enough to have anxiety at all, and this particular bout was especially severe, but on top of that I was upset that I could have anxiety at all. I had thought. with awakening I had overcome depression and anxiety. I had seen the light of Truth—how is it possible that I could have anxiety?
That was the point of the experience. Humility was my learning. And the anxiety led to the discovery and refinement of a very effective release technique, so in retrospect, everything fell neatly into place.
The thing that trips us up in our journey to be natural again is that we are not always able to see the obstacles. This is of course why they are obstacles. We are not able to see, for example, that even after we have the insight that we are not mind, we continue to cling to mindstuff. With an awakening insight, the target of our chase changes, but it’s still the same old chasing. We now chase spirituality or teachings or traditions or particular ideas and fixed views. Instead of money and power, we now may be chasing ‘beautiful’ ideas of Oneness, bliss, enlightenment, immortality, positive thinking and so on. The ego is actually ecstatically happy that we’ve taken on this awakening thing. It’s looking forward to that time in the future, when it will have enlightened superpowers to manifest its desires instantly. It loves all concepts and views about awakening.
The ego of course can never awaken. Awareness is already awake. All we need to do is shift attention, but the clinging to concepts and views prevents this simplicity.
In the middle way, the Buddha tells us essentially that no view can be right. The Buddha’s “Right View” is no view.
So why do we cling to these obstacles? Possibly, it’s because we are not comfortable with uncertainty. How do we live while awakening? How do we make decisions? What is “right”? If you’ve had an insight or an awakening experience, that’s wonderful, and you may be sure you’re finally on the right path, but the bills don’t stop. Life does not stop while you are transforming. Relationships, breakups, loneliness, children, parents, family, friends, sickness, addictions, recidivism, fatness, wrong careers, wrong circumstances, money problems, insecurity—it all continues. Frequently, awakening itself brings about or exposes problems.
I’ll write more about my awakening symptoms and experiences in other articles, but briefly, starting two years ago, I have experienced awakening insights, deep emotional turmoil, a series of revelations, all of which are irrelevant and meaningless now, a period of very high energy and activity and involvement, effortless and rapid weight loss, an easy cessation of addictions, followed by severe anxiety, then later recidivism, detachment, apathy, inactivity and weight gain. As old drivers fall away, I have lost interest and motivation in many of the usual things. My career as a software director is gone. Some friendships deepened; some went away. The strong intellectual drive to figure it all out through beliefs and concepts is gone. I don’t have financial security, in the conventional sense.
There have been uncomfortable realizations about myself and my past. Anyone who has known depression and anxiety, knows that the rough tumbles can turn a depressive into a pretty good liar. Depression breaks relationships, careers, health, and life itself—and in desperate attempts to hold it all together, the ego turns to lies and manipulation.
But through all of this, Life inexorably moves on. It does not stop and politely wait for us to be fully expanded.
So how do we live while awakening? That’s a whole another article, and I’m working on it. I don’t have any clever answers except sharing my experience may be helpful, to you and to me.
Getting back to obstacles, what I’ve found to be very helpful is gentle honesty. I was fond of calling it radical honesty—to highlight that it is not something we are used to. But radical suggests a brutish approach, and a strong inflexible approach does not work. The ego will immediately take over.
I’m not talking about honesty in the conventional sense. Generally, when we think honesty, we think honesty with others. That’s important, and that develops naturally with awakening. What I mean by gentle honesty is honesty with oneself.
It’s a gentle, compassionate honesty which allows us to see what we are right now, right here. Any sort of judgment will work against the honesty. There is no need to analyze. There is absolutely no value of right or wrong, good or bad. It’s a gentle, honest noticing.
Often, I write against the type of ideas that have to do with positive thinking, optimism, intentional manifestation and the like. I don’t want to take away or shoot down people’s beliefs. But such strategies are frequently co-opted by the ego to serve egoic intentions, so it becomes difficult to distinguish between egoic desires and true inspiration. These strategies can also be used by the ego to deny or cover up true feelings. Depression and anxiety, for example, are a result of covering up rage. If our thoughts and feelings are negative, forcibly shoving them under the shaggy rug of positive thinking is not gentle honesty.
If you don’t think you are honest with yourself, you’re in a wonderful place. If you think you rationalize, you are in a wonderful place. If you feel lost, you are in a wonderful place. That’s a good place to start. Intend a gentle, honest noticing, and from here, it will develop.
Once you have the insight you are not your mind, everything you do will be right. It cannot be otherwise. Your attention is shifting. Thought is losing its grip on you. The past is losing its grip. Your attention is shifting to the Truth of existence, and everything you do, think, say or experience will help you expand. If something happens that feels contracting, it is temporary and there is a reason for it. So relax. Einstein said it’s insane to keep doing the same thing over and over when you know it hasn’t worked. So when you have doubts or a feeling of self-indulgence, remember you are trying something new.
A gentle, easy honesty can help.
Your turn. What is your experience of honesty? Does self-honesty come easily to you?