In any cleansing process, there is “out with the old and in with the new”. When we do the spiritual work of healing our souls in hope that we will one day find the Oneness, shiny new parts of our personality wake up and we release the old dusty old bits. Expansion happens, excitement builds and, sure as shooting, new challenges arrive. But by now we have figured out that even unavoidable hardships help scoot us along toward greater harmony.
There is a big master plan, which is called the Plan of Salvation. In this plan, Earth is meant to change over time, eventually turning into a welcoming abode of light and unity. Kumbaya. But this isn’t a process that happens only on the surface. It must come about by way of the transformation of its inhabitants. And the consciousness of sentient beings can only transform through the laborious work of self-confrontation and purification. We must find a way to connect with our remote inner levels of reality that have been cordoned off and exiled.
As this transformation happens on Earth, those who won’t do the work of growth and development will create a new abode for themselves. There, the conditions are more like what we have now on Earth. We can already see how conditions are improving for the intrepid souls who have been making an effort.
Following the teachings of this particular spiritual path, in fact, is one way to make potent changes in the shortest amount of time. A person can accomplish in a single lifetime what would take the average bear many incarnations. Not coincidentally, many people following this path can attest to having a strong sense of being reborn within this very lifetime.
To assist us on our passage, let’s drill down further in looking at the greatest trap that humanity, with our oh-so-big brains, often get caught in: duality. This imprisonment stems from our fear and pain and suffering; it ensnarls the mass mind, which then creates conditions that express its bipolar bent. In our evolutionary journey to find the Oneness, we need to penetrate the illusion of a dualistic world. And this is perhaps the toughest nut to crack.
To our way of seeing things, we live in a world that is an objective, fixed place; everything is ready-made. It would seem that our state of consciousness has no bearing on our surrounding conditions or natural laws. Submitting to this version of reality, false though it may be, seems to make the most sense. It’s realistic. It’s sane. Let’s just accept this and move on.
Here’s the problem: to a degree, this assessment is correct. We do need to accept the world the way we find it and deal with it on its terms. For even after we start to wake up, and our consciousness begins to transcend this reality, what’s been created by the mass mind isn’t going to go away. So now we have one foot in each reality. We fully accept the dualistic state that has been created. But at the same time we have a new vision of things rising up from the fog.
With this new awareness, we know—in our gut, not just in our head—that there is only good, only meaning, and nothing to fear. There exists an eternal life of peace and joy where there is no more pain. In this understanding of ultimate reality is the realization that we create the conditions of our environment. Knowing this is not a burden; it liberates us and makes us feel safe.
But also by knowing this, it may be tempting to skip over all this grappling with duality. Let’s just go straight to the good stuff. This type of thinking comes from a childish desire to be king of the hill, even if we have to cheat our way to the top. But we delude ourselves when we think we can avoid any stage, especially those that involve temporary suffering.
So there’s a bit of a paradox here. If we get a taste of ultimate reality but we got it by cheating, we’ll be in more unreality than if we hadn’t tasted it at all and settled for the conditions of the dualistic illusion. Yet it’s different when we fully accept the limited life conditions of a dualistic world and deal with them honestly and constructively. Like a mature person, our mind will organically start to see versions of a greater reality that were invisible before. For this maturing to happen, we’re going to need to do some serious soul-searching work, the way we do on this path.
When we do this inner work and begin to make some progress, many changes come about. They happen in our attitude and intentions, and in our feelings and opinions. Eventually, our whole worldview shifts and we perceive a change in reality. Let’s say we start by feeling a victim of circumstances, and that others are doing us some great wrong. We think we have no recourse to change anything unless someone else changes their behavior or attitude towards us. Sound at all familiar?
So in this situation, we begin with a firm conviction, and everything we witness bears out our conviction. The more we’re convinced of this, the more proof we can collect to show the accuracy of our convictions. So there. What we don’t see is that we’re ensconced in a vicious circle whose self-perpetuating laws warp our view of what’s really going on. Trapped like this, our minds are like pretzels.
The only way out is, with as much good will as we can muster, to open our minds. We must let go just a little, temporarily releasing our stranglehold on our convictions. Then we can begin to see new aspects we could never see before. Maybe we’ll recognize the way we actively contributed to the drama, cleverly putting all the blame on the other person. We might even see our deliberate intention to create a nightmare. Seeing this will instantly shift our perspective.
Careful now, that doesn’t mean we heap the burden of guilt on our own head and turn the former villain into this moment’s victim. But chances are, if we keep our cool, we’ll now see how we’ve mutually affected one another. And doesn’t that open up some new vistas. No one gets off smelling like a rose because everyone has some skin in the game—there’s healing here for everyone.
This is what lies just underneath the surface of any good-versus-bad duality. If we look, one day we’ll find this unchangeable level of reality that holds more aliveness. Because it’s more in truth.
When we’re snagged on duality, we have tunnel vision that creates inaccuracy due to the fact we leave stuff out. Since some elements are missing, the total picture is in distortion. Our view isn’t necessarily untrue in and of itself. But it is false because we are excluding essential elements. Always, always, always, it’s our responsibility to search and grope and extend the limits of our vision. If we’re not in harmony, we still don’t have all the truth.
The same mechanism applies on the scale of our worldview. We look around the place and with our limited, incomplete perception we filter what we take in. For the most part, we see what’s plain as day, but only on a superficial level. But as we discover more of our real selves, our view of our personal circumstances broadens. And we begin to have a wider outlook on all of reality. Then we make connections that we could barely glimpse before, but which now seem remarkably obvious.
So back to that incontrovertible worldview in which we see opposites in black and white. Wouldn’t it seem the epitome of delusion to not see things that way? For real, on the level of appearance, duality is a fact. Life appears to die, and bad lurks in the nook of every good cranny. There’s light and dark, and night and day, in sickness and in health.
There’s also pain and strain under which we’re all hoping to find a sliver of light. Whether we know it or not, our greatest longing is to find the deeper level of truth—that’s the silver lining. Awareness of this other level of consciousness fills our heart with joy, knowing we have the potential to wake up to that reality. And, at some point on our evolutionary journey, we get to live there fulltime. This ain’t Hotel California, after all.
Ok, so a few more words on how to find this other level of perception. First off, we can’t get there with our outer will alone. We won’t find it in a book or a philosophy class. There’s no specific exercise, method or discipline we can use to transport ourselves there. It takes an intense personal purification process for this change of consciousness to occur. And that always starts by looking at the most mundane incidences of our everyday life. In our reactions to our daily struggles, we’ll find our work.
Practical day-in-day-out matters express our subtle spiritual attitudes. To skip over them thinking they are irrelevant is to create further separation—the duality of our practical lives versus spirituality. This easily leads to a delusionary spirituality that’s not grounded in the Now. That’s why people find this path so utterly practical. It’s not just compatible with our daily life, but it folds in every discovery and expression, including our seemingly anti-spiritual attitudes.
Let’s drop some more and get more specific about attaining a level of consciousness that’s decoupled from duality. For starters, we need to realize that pain and fear are like white on the rice of duality. They’re so ingrained in our reality, we don’t know anything else. We take them so for granted, we don’t chafe under their appearance. It’s like a child hardly feeling its painful conditions because it’s never known anything else. But if we’re going to change our conditions, we must feel them to be so undesirable we’re willing to make the effort. What’s more, we have to have an inkling that there are other possibilities.
Most of us don’t know that duality hurts. Or if we’re onto this truth, we still may not get just how painful it is. On top of this, we often don’t realize there’s another way to view and live in the world. And that this other perception eliminates the pain of duality.
When we remain tied up in duality, we fear what’s undesirable and strain away from it. We’re basically hoping to land in the lap of the desirable. But the straining produces anxiety, which hurts. We’ll need to make some initial progress in our purification work before we can even become conscious of this.
What happens is that our mind fixates on running from the pain and fear of the dualistic state. It strains to get away from an undesirable alternative. So it only makes sense that what we need to let go of is the straining. But really, who doesn’t wish for happiness as opposed to suffering? Who doesn’t want life over death? Who wouldn’t push for health instead of sickness? We’d hardly be human if we had no desire for happiness, life and health.
Fortunately, there is a state in which we can approach the undesirable in almost the same spirit as the desirable. Then the straining can relax. Sounds strange, doesn’t it? But let’s pay close attention to the byproducts—our thoughts and attitudes and feelings—when we experience either of these states. If the desirable happens, we likely feel faith in the Lord; we experience the truth of his reality and are able to connect with the Christ within. We rejoice in the knowledge that “God’s in his heaven and all’s right with the world.”
For those of us who have occasionally experienced the spiritual reality beyond dualistic Earth reality, we may know that it is infinitely more challenging to hang onto the same faith—the same knowing—when something undesirable happens. Our feelings are like needles on a compass, bouncing around as the poles switch. We can start to observe our moods from this perspective. When do our doubts bubble up? What brings them up? Are they not connected in some way to whether or not we got something we wanted?
A person who is solid in Christ doesn’t ricochet around like this. When we’re Christed, whatever happens on the outside doesn’t knock us out of the center of our inner reality. We’ll also have a markedly different reaction to pain than most, realizing the way that pleasure and pain can become one. In this way, we transcend duality.
Both Eastern religions and Western mystics are known to foster a kind of detachment from pleasure or pain. They shun worldly fulfillment, considering it to be the antithesis of becoming spiritually enlightened. There are those who embrace asceticism and deliberately impose suffering in their pursuit of detaching from pleasure and pain.
These approaches may have some value, to a degree, but doesn’t deliberately negating anything—even something desirable—basically lead us back to being smack-dab in the middle of duality, only coming at it from the other end? So denying the undesirable is just a stone’s throw from not letting ourselves enjoy the desirable.
There’s another contradiction that stumps many of us, especially those aspiring to reach greater spiritual heights. Spiritual teachers and seers tell us that God’s will is for us to be happy. God wants us to be fulfilled and healthy, and to be successful in life. So then how can we turn our backs on this life that God has given us? Does it seem right that we should pitch over the material world, denying it’s creature comforts, simply because we know that a deeper and more permanent state of mind exists, where we don’t have to endure the splits and breaks in consciousness that this dualistic world entails?
On the surface, at least on this level of reality, these questions appear to be fraught with conflict. But if we look a little deeper, we’ll see there’s no contradiction at all. It is perfectly fine to revel in the fulfillments offered in this world, which are expressions of inner divine states, while dropping the tug-of-war straining away from one state and toward another.
We will be able to let go when we know in our heart of hearts that there is an eternal God who ultimately wants our highest fulfillment and well-being in all ways. So once we stop straining, we can get a glimpse of this other reality. But we must also work this from the other end: we will be able to relinquish straining once we’ve caught sight of this other state.
It’s virtually impossible to come out of the gates feeling the same way about two opposites; there’s no way we can force ourselves to react the same way to pleasure as we do to pain. It’s instinctive for us to tug in the direction of pleasure and strain away from pain. But in our straining, we also then experience a fear and denial of pleasure, which is nothing more than the flipside of our fear and denial of pain. As long as we live with the straining, the associated inner tension will prevent us from realizing the ultimate unitive state in which there’s no death and no pain. So sign me up—but how do we get started?
First, we need to slow things down and start to observe our own reactions to both prongs of the equation: to pleasure and to pain, to life and to death. By now, our reactions are so second nature, we can’t see the forest for the trees. We need to stand back and begin to see what until now we have generally ignored.
We can boil most of our feelings and attitudes down into two buckets: fear and desire. In the fear bucket, where we strain away from pain and death, there will be a measure of anger, resentment and bitterness. These feelings, which are not directed at anyone in particular or even at God, form a diffuse but quite particular state of mind.
We absorb these feelings of bitterness and anger so completely into our systems that they become the pain we want to get away from. What started out as a blemish we could have dissolved with relative ease, has become entrenched and aggravated. Now, it’s not only the angry feelings that hurt, but also our straining to suppress them. And since we’ve pushed them out of our awareness, they now exist underground where they go on to do their damage unopposed by us. We must bring all of this into the light of day.
In a way, this pervasive anger is harder to deal with than if it were directed at something or someone specific. While the latter may go against the grain of our moral standards and contradict the well-packaged image of ourselves we present to the world—called our idealized self-image—at least it feels more rational and reasonable than our generalized mad-at-the-world anger.
Most folks would agree that it’s insane to rail against the way life is. How is it reasonable to resent the reality of death? What sense does it make to be angry about it? How can we be upset that we, like everyone else, sometimes get sick or suffer pain? And yet, until we have come to realize that there is a unitive, deathless, painless state, all of us will experience this rage toward life and all of creation.
If we could articulate this feeling, we would say: “How could God be so cruel as to do this to us, imposing this inevitable ending on us that we can’t possibly fathom, and that may be the total annihilation of our being? I feel deeply threatened by this!”
Those of us who embrace atheism claim we have accepted this notion that when we die, we will no longer exist. But in this very “acceptance” lies the mother lode of rage. Atheism itself is a proclamation of intense bitterness against an utterly senseless and arbitrary creation in which we have no recourse. Unfortunately, we become completely insensitive to perceiving deeper and different level of reality when we adopt the cutting-off movement of atheism.
There is no sensible, genuine accepting of the ending of our being. Such a false acceptance expresses either despair about the pains of life, or it is a bitter and angry resignation. But isn’t it interesting that we can accept eternal life for the same, identical reason: fear. The way out of this maze is by going through the tunnel of our fear, including our anger, bitterness and rage at life—which up till now were skulking around in our unconscious—for putting us in this lousy situation of being helpless in the face of death and pain.
Once we surface these feelings and come to grips with just how unreasonable and childish they are, we can make new connections. “Oh, so this is how I’ve channeled these unexpressed feelings out into my life; this is how I have been expressing my deep-seated anger.” Deflecting our feelings never leads to truth or clarity or unity or harmony. Deflection is a rickety ride that takes us far from the fulfillment our soul longs for, which is to have a visceral knowing of the state of unity when we find the Oneness.
When we’re unaware of these rage-against-the-machine feelings, the feelings themselves become more irrational. This makes it even harder to take a good, hard look at them—or so it seems—so they become further deflected. Over time, we become ensnarled in a web of duality, with all its pains and strains. This makes us anxious so we deny the whole fearful mess, but denying fear creates more fear. Denying our desires also leads to anxiety, not peace. Ugh.
The only way to purify these feelings is by having the courage to go through them. Then they will emerge like gold in the alchemist’s hands. So we can use both our fears and desires for good, to drive us in the direction of finding our longing. And at the heart of our longing, we’ll find a kernel of true knowing about the real nature of reality and the possibility for fulfillment.
As we transmute our irrational feelings by way, at first, of a two-steps-forward-three-steps-back process, we’ll come to a state of wanting life, not because we fear death, but because we know there is no death—that life beyond the body is better. This isn’t book knowledge, but rather a deep inner knowing.
It’s not the same to hang onto life because we fear annihilation of everything we are and have become, and affirming life because we cherish our task here on Earth. Surely, there can be great rejoicing over how it feels to spiritualize matter, bringing little slices of an eternal heaven to this double-sided haven for short-timers.
When we look at pain from the angle of being temporary, we can debunk our suspicions that pain is the ultimate reality. Because if it were, we’d have a right to be mad. It makes us bitter to think that pain comes only to life’s stepchildren, extending our rage until finally, this pain turns into the medicine it is meant to be.
Then we can look at pain as a litmus test for other feelings, helping us ferret them out and make them conscious. But if we put our shields up against the pain, a tightening occurs that keeps our wounds from healing. To heal, we have to relax our entire system, including on levels deeper than just the physical. Then we can connect with the currents of ever-present divinity that penetrate all that is.
If we’re defended against the common cold of feeling pain, white-knuckling our way through suffering and stiff-arming impending death, we’ll stay stuck in a state of tension. We’ll rage against bitter feelings toward all that is insane to resist and oppose, and we will never heal.
Yet, a deep state of relaxation in our bodies, brains and feelings may seem impossible to attain. In such a state, we won’t discard the earthly pleasures of the body, but we also won’t fear their absence. We won’t rush headlong into pain or death, but we’ll be at peace. We’ll have more and more regular glimpses of the greater reality, because we’ll be closely observing our reactions to both fears and desires.
Even as we cease our struggling, we’ll know there is the right kind of struggle at hand. When we no longer fear and no longer reach anxiously, we’ll know that everything we desire is available right here, right now, at our fingertips. What we run from is an illusion, even though we can feel the temporary pain of it. When we move towards the pain, we unfold our real self.
As we get a more honest look at ourselves, we’ll become still and know God in all that is—in both the best of times and in the worst of times, in what we want and in what we don’t want. We’ll remain detached from the notion that our distorted fragments are all of who we are. Then a whole new state of mind—the unitive state of mind—will automatically and gradually be ushered in. We will find the Oneness. What a dazzling state to be in. A true gem.
Return to Gems Contents
Next Book: Bones