Who needs to be Enlightened?

MonkIt occurred to me when I was quite young that I must know what Enlightenment was. From deep within this aspiration arose. It was a totally irrational and impersonal impulse toward freedom. This type of deep yearning for Truth, for Freedom can come from no other place. Enlightenment, in the end, takes everything from our ego, it is a total stripping down of the narcissistic self. No ego could ever want this, to want this, would be wanting one’s own death.

But what I found somewhere along the way, was that my ego also, wanted freedom, because it thought that there was something to be gained. I thought enlightenment meant to be free from suffering and that I would finally get to rest. As I inquired more and more into this, I saw that this is what the ego wants; to rest, and that this was a very innocent request. In a sense, we all want to stop fighting against the movement of Life. And there is a tremendous relief when we finally let go. But ironically, our ego will only let go for a period of time, before it reasserts its drama. Because our narcissistic sense of self, maintains itself from creating drama. So even after we fully surrender, and deeply let go into our freedom, our mind will rise again; this is normal. Yet, we remain free as long as we resist the temptation to engage in our ego’s neurotic dance.

But as I was inquiring into this seeking for enlightenment, what I also found was a part of me that wanted to be able to claim enlightenment for my own self validation. As I looked deeply at this I saw there was still a part of me that did not feel whole, and felt that if I could claim enlightenment or hold onto to it, that somehow I would be saved. That somehow I would be a better, fuller version of myself. This is again, another dance of the narcissistic ego, it is always trying to improve upon itself as a way of fully feeling better about oneself, yet it never gets there.

It is almost as if, I were enlightened, then everyone would know how lovable I am. But again this is another dance of ego. If we truly wake up, then we know we are lovable. We know that we are complete, right here, right now, even with all of our deficiencies. And we have some work to do. What begins to dawn on us, is that we are perfect; that we all are the living embodiment of the Divine just as we are. The thought that we are less than, comes from our ego which operates out of deficiency. In a sense without deficiency, the ego may not exist. But as long as we believe that we are deficient, then our ego has plenty of room to struggle against life, and recreate itself again and again. When we are seeking to be free, it may be helpful to ask, who needs to be Free? Am I following a deep impulse for Truth from within, or am I following and my ego’s need to be somebody important? Who needs to claim Enlightenment? If we are truly free, we do not need to claim anything, because we know who we Are, and we can rest in our Divinity, and we relax in relationship to our shortcomings. As we do this, miraculously many, not all, of our short comings begin to fall away.





Staying Awake


One afternoon, I found myself listening on the web to interviews with many spiritual Masters and their students. As I listened to the stories of these great awakened ones, I began to ask myself, what is the difference between being awakened and being a Master or put a different way, what is the difference between being awake and being enlightened? It seemed that I had experienced a powerful and profound awakening, but I was not living up to the Truth that had been filling me. I could see that my inner life was rich and wonderful. My mind and desires have greatly calmed. Fortunately, I haven’t gotten in nearly as much trouble as I did in the past. But with many of the teachers that I studied with, it seemed as if they had two qualities that most of us lack, their actions followed their words and they were no longer fooled by their own minds.

When I am deeply honest, I see I have a great deal of work to do in these departments. What most of us find is that the habits of the mind are deep and when it comes to our outward expression; I, like many others often, habitually choose to live from the past.  Which leads to this confusing experience of feeling and experiencing great freedom, yet being drawn back into the habitual nature of mind. As a teacher, I meet more and more individuals who are having deep spiritual experiences and yet still remain deeply entranced in their own personal delusion. This can be quite confusing for someone to be on the path and wake up to a vast perspective of Beauty, Oneness and Radiance, and yet to lose that vision and again struggle with the limited perspective of our habitual minds. Many deeply struggle with this, and experience a huge feeling of lose, as they find themselves being deluded again. Life can even be more painful to wake up to the ultimate Reality, and then find oneself back where we used to be. I often laugh at myself and this wonderful awakened perspective I have been given, and how quickly I choose to again act like an idiot.

What is more surprising than seeing myself fall into delusion; is how great spiritual Masters’ fall off the path or make painful mistakes like sleeping with their students, having affairs, or becoming power hungry. It wasn’t until I realized that they are human as well, that I understood. Because we are all human, which means we all have minds with habitual thoughts and desires and conditioning. This habitual nature, can come forward in any of us, and when it does, we act habitually or unconsciously. If we are honest, we can see that every way in which we are deluded comes from misinterpreting our thoughts as Reality.

Ultimately there is only one human mind and all of us, have this mind. And in this mind lives all the various thoughts of evolution, from fight and flight, to wanting to have a family, to desiring more power, and every imaginable thought. And because of this, all of us can fall prey at any moment to being deluded to mistake our thoughts for Reality. When we wake up, we see clearly the nature of things; we see clearly the nature of the mind. But this does not mean that all delusion will disappear from our being. The very programs of delusion are in our biology: fight and flight, desire, anger, jealously, all forms of  ignorance, etc. When we wake up, we gain a vast perspective. But this does not mean that these drives spontaneously and completely disappear from our being.

Often with a powerful awakening or shift in perspective, various programs of the ego simply fall away. This is one of the wonderful graces of awakening. Yet for most individuals, much of the ego, if not all of it remains untouched and as the awakened perspective fades, delusion creeps back in its place. But what waking up can gives us is a wonderful new space to work with delusion from the outside; instead of being stuck in it and trying to fix or heal our ego with the ego. To have this vast perspective stay vast or become more permanent, we must be willing to resist the temptation to believe what we think. And this is precisely how we unenlighten ourselves; by believing the stories in our heads. And this can happen to anyone, who believes the next thought that is not the truth; whether they are a Master Being or simply us.

Our challenge here is to live up to our realization. To walk the razor’s edge of freedom, which means to not give into the habitual nature of our mind. It means that we resist the temptation of taking our thoughts and feelings to be true; to be Reality. It is a big job to live up to our realization and to not give into egoic games or programs. To walk this razor’s edge, we do not do this from the self-righteousness of the ego; it has to come from the sincerity, strength and humility of our True Self or it will just be another movement we are deluded by. And so this is our challenge, can we embody the Truth of who we are as us, instead of embodying the past as us, instead of embodying an unconscious habit of mind as us? Can we give ourselves to this and allow the Truth to live us, as Us?

Freedom Beyond the Past

Exposure © Voyeurism's

What if we woke up one day and had no memory of the past, but we were still able to function in a quite natural way.This is, in a sense,what it is like to truly be awake.

Imagine that every one you come into contact with today, you are meeting them for the first time. What if everything appeared new and fresh? To awaken in this way, we must be willing give up thoughts and concepts from the past and be open to seeing life as it truly is, beautiful, alive Oneness. To be free means we are not putting life in a box, or seeing life through the lens of projection.

I was speaking to a client today who was deeply entrenched in victim consciousness.

To maintain this entrenchment, to keep the victim alive; we have to continue to choose to see life from the perspective of the past.  We have to continue to believe in concepts that the world is an inherently unsafe place. So as he sat before me, he continued to see the world through this lens of self created concepts, that the world is unsafe. Usually this concept comes from some experience of trauma. When we experience trauma, whether it is real or imagined; a deep sense of fear and tension gets imprinted in the body. Often this tension and defensiveness becomes our way of meeting the world. In a sense, if a trauma happened 23 years ago, many individuals are still seeing life from this perspective that the world is an unsafe place. It could be from something that only lasted a few minutes, and we spend the rest of our life, reacting as if life is dangerous. Often to release this fear, it takes a focused intention on healing, so that we can begin to fully see clearly again.

As I was working with this individual, with an intention to begin to release this trauma, and the accompanying concepts that life is not safe; we looked clearly at the present. We imagined what life would be like if we had no memory of the past. We imagined meeting life fresh and new in this moment. As we did this, I asked him, how he felt? To which he responded, “spacious.” Next, I asked him to tell me about his week. Right away, he went into victim consciousness, blaming others and acting as if the world were a dangerous place.  I asked him, how he felt? To which he replied, “terrible.” So here, I pointed out, is the choice; we can choose how we feel and how we respond to life. We can choose to not engage in the past. We can choose to not see the present through the lens of the past. Or we can choose to take the easy way, the habitual and unconscious old way of egoic consciousness and suffer.

Sometimes it is simply this easy. We just choose and then we experience the freshness and openness of freedom. But for the deeper more persistent pain and trauma in us, especially if it is at a cellular level; we need to do deeper work. This work often, requires us to be both open and courageous. And the invitation here is often, to grieve the past with an open heart. It takes courage to grieve this deeply. As we grieve we also, again, actively choose to not pick up the past; but instead to actively let it go. This does not mean pushing it away, it means grieving with the doors of the heart and mind open, which allows the pain to naturally release. Here we renew our intention to not pick it up again and allow it to go. We do this again and again until it no longer arises.  We do this so we no longer suffer or cause suffering in the present, due to our projection of the past. And by uprooting projection, we step into the freedom that comes from seeing Life as it is.

What do you really want?

What do you want?

I have always seen this as one of the most important questions to ask ourselves on the spiritual path. When we ask this question, it solidifies our intention and direction on the spiritual path. And often, if we are not clear in our intention, we find ourselves in the  confusing landscape of modern spirituality. It is helpful to inquiry into what this path or this life is really about for us. If we don’t deeply ask and reflect upon this question, we will be left to the hopes and fears of our habitual and conditioned egoic consciousness.

Today I was at a yoga workshop; a very advanced training with arm balances and inversions.  I had no business being there, I am not so good at yoga.  I normally sit for hours on Sunday mornings; meditation has always been my path. But this morning, I cut my meditation short and ran off to an advanced anusara yoga workshop.  My inner voice told me it was the wrong thing to do; yet today I decided to not listen. It is not that there was anything wrong with the workshop or the teacher; I was the one who was not listening to my inner voice and was headed into a confusing landscape.

When I approach any class or meditation retreat or teacher for the first time, I ask, “What does this have to do with Freedom, with Awakening?” I ask this because, ever since I heard the word freedom, this is what the path has been about for me.  As I sat there in this class, I began to wonder “what am I doing here?”   I love yoga as a path to awakening; I have a great respect for the Yogic path. But the yoga that I am speaking about is union with and surrender to the Divine; which I often find is quite different than what most folks call yoga. It is not that there is anything wrong with different paths or versions of yoga. But yoga is only meaningful to me, if it is about waking up from egoic consciousness.  I know that different people are attracted to different things and have different focuses in life. But as we go through life; an important question to ask is what do I really want, what is this life about for me? And if the highest answer that comes from our heart is to have a good healthy yoga body, then go for it. Likewise if the the highest movement in us is for freedom, then align your life and choices with freedom.

So as I struggled in this yoga class, I began to reflect on what brought me here. I had this idea that yoga would be good for my stiff body. But as the class went on, I began to wonder what all this yogic acrobatics was all about.  We ended up spending a few hours trying to do some very difficult inversions.  I looked around the room and wondered if I was in a circus camp.  Yet none of the people looked like they belonged in the circus. It was mostly middle aged women, who probably were therapist and who had come thinking, that this was going to be a day of spiritual practice.   What I wondered was, what does an arm balance inversion with a twist have to do with awakening or freedom?  I have often asked myself the same question when on Tibetan Buddhist retreats; what does all this imaginary and visualization and moving energy have to do with the Divine?  And for me this day, I could not make much of a connection between falling on my face and freedom. So I decided to just to be myself, and as I relaxed in my own being, and gave up any expectation of landing these complicated arm balance inversions. As I let go,I felt an expanse and a unity; Life came alive before my eyes.  I began to see God all around me. I saw God in the eyes of the circus performers.  But as I tried to do my circus trick, I fell on my face and laughed and cried, and it was God laughing and crying through me….

The invitation of Yoga

The invitation of yoga is to live as Unity.

And to accept this invitation, we must be willing to radically step beyond our egoic conditioning; which is an audacious task. We will never get beyond our limited sense of self without the practice and  discipline of questioning our mind; how it works, how it operates and processes information and expresses itself in the world. If we are going to live in unity; as an expression of unity, then we must give up our divisive tendencies and movement of our minds.

So we begin to ask questions like, “can we live beyond judgements and limited perspectives?” This is quite a radical stance from the perspective of the egoic mind. One of the main jobs of the mind is to define the world. And as long as we continue to give our mind permission, it will continue to put the world in a box. And we will continue to live in the trance of our self created dualistic virtual reality. And this reality is the world of good and bad, right and wrong, black and white. Our mind does this in order to keep us safe; and that is all that matters to our ego. Its’ job is to keep us safe. But if we want to be free, we must be willing to go beyond who we think we are. We need to go beyond the safety and security created by the insistence on keeping the world packaged up in a safe little box.

What if, when we walked into a room instead of labeling this person beautiful and that person ugly, this person safe and that person bad; we walked into a room and saw Unity.

What if we saw things for what they are in their totality. What if we resisted the urge to comment on each and every person. I know that I have walked into yoga class and quickly scanned the room and allowed my mind to comment on each individual. As I sat there, I experienced my own pettiness. And I grabbed a seat in the back, so no one would judge how unflexible I am. (I am usually the most unflexible person in the room). As long as I give into my judgments of others or judgments of myself; I become very small inside. Isn’t this our experience?

Fortunately for me, I have studied with a teacher who always saw the best in me. His vision of me came from a hugeness of compassion. He looked at me from a place beyond the mind, and was able to see my Divinity. And through years of being reminded of my own innate goodness, something opened beyond my mind. And I received this gift of being able to see and experience this Divinity in unimaginable ways.

(© Pat Young/lululemon athletica 2011)

[© Pat Young/lululemon athletica 2011

And this is the invitation of Yoga. To allow our judgmental mind to break open into a mind that does not have a perspective; that does not see the world in black and white, beyond duality. From the perspective of our limited thinking minds this is impossible. And that’s what the invitation is to be and realize. It comes from joining the impossible; stepping out of the mind and not into a different part of our mind, but actually out of the mind and into a vision that is beyond the mind. Imagine looking into the mirror and seeing Beauty; not beauty defined by Glamourmagazine, but a deeper, richer, Divinity pouring out of your own eyes. Imagine walking into a room of people and seeing Beauty pouring out of everyone. Imagine walking outside and seeing the vastness of the sky and the radiance of Life in everything. It is quite a different reality.

Of course there is a time and a place for our egoic judgmental vision. If you feel unsafe, leave the situation; this is wisdom. If someone looks creepy, stay away from them. Evolution, Life, God (whatever you want to call it) has worked hard to give us a mind that keeps us safe. But for most of us this mind is working on overdrive, constantly putting the world in a box of good and bad, right and wrong, us and them. What if we stepped out of this. Just like when we lay in Chavasana or corpse pose, we are not judging anyone. We are laying and resting in our own Beauty and radiance. But this vision does not need to stop when our teacher says Namaste. This vision is actually here all the time, if we allow it. How would our life change if we stepped out of our conditioned mind and into our Hugeness. What would happen if we relaxed into our Beauty, how would we see the world? Who would we become?

trance of mind

Freedom of mind

trance of mind

For the past lifetime,  I have watched my mind or ego trying to figure out life. According to our ego, this is the ego’s job; to figure out life. But life cannot be figured out, especially by the ego. Unfortunately for us, the ego or our mind really thinks that it can find the answers to life. This very function of the ego, keeps us spinning in circles, for lifetimes. If we honestly look at what the ego is trying to do; it is trying to figure out what God is going to do next. It wants to know with certainty what is the safest plan, for its’ (our) survival. If left unexamined, we see that the ego thinks that if it has enough time, it will have life figured out.

This should be hilarious to most of us. If we have lived long enough, or happen to be really wise at a young age; we will know that our mind, our egos don’t know anything. I can think back to so many times when I thought that I had life totally figured out. And then life would come along and pull the carpet out from under me. If you have any question about this, just make a plan and see what happens.  It can be really humbling to realize this for the first time that our egos don’t really have a clue. So it is good to have a very practical understanding of the dance of ego in our mind; the dance of insatiability or never ending searching and onto the next thing. Our mind is never satisfied; that is what keeps it moving. But also wired into the ego is for us to forget this very realization, which in turn, keeps us held hostage in the trance.

That’s what the ego does. That is why we live in a trance, because even if we realize the ego has no idea about life, about which way to go, or what will happen next; the ego has us forget this so that we go back to the trance of ego. This is why so many of us wake up and go back to sleep, this is why we don’t become enlightened, because the ego soothes us back into trance, with the next promise of……whatever.

It is such a silly character the mind, it wants us to follow the next thought; if we did not it would die and we may sit there in Samadhi and lose our jobs. This is an important point; the ego pulls us back to its’ trance so that we continue to function in the world. What awakening helps us to realize is that there is a difference between being totally asleep at the wheel, to using the ego as an instrument, to being an instrument of God. These are three very different ways of being. Being asleep is a fully unconscious life. Being conscious means that we decide how to respond, despite our conditioned and habitual minds or we live outside of our conditioned minds. And being an instrument of God means we let go so deeply that the Divine moves through us; we have all had moments of this. But to live from this place all the time, would be a whole different kind of life.

The most fundamental and practical level most of us need to understand is being unconscious. We all know what being asleep at the wheel looks like. It looks like normal life. If someone drives slowly in front of us, we yell at them. If our boss blames us, we become angry at her. In normal everyday egoic consciousness, we are like a ping pong ball. Someone hits us and we go flying. This is why the world is the way it is. This is why we are still killing each other, because we are unconscious and the ego is in charge. Some of us spend our whole life in this state. And counseling is a way out of this state of unconsciousness and into a world where you are alive and awake to choose to create the life you want. The other choice is to stay unconscious and be at the mercy of the never ending spinning of you mind. So the invitation is to step out of our current mind state and into something that is big and open, clear and free beyond our habitual minds.