~The only way out is by going within~
Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens. ~ Carl Jung
Since I was a teenager, I have resonated with the title of Jean Paul Sartre’s book, No Exit, as it made me feel both caught and freed when contemplating life. There is no way out of here (life), once we arrive, until we die. Most people spend much of their lives running away from their fear of death, and by doing so, we actually bury ourselves beforehand by avoiding being present to our living. Living, which is the most natural and primary, and forgotten for the most part, way of being, which is being in this moment as it is, simply, without overlaying imagination (which mostly arises out of fear), onto it.
We feel and have been taught since childhood that our salvation lies in creating an outer world that will support, validate and hold us as best we can. As children, we paid attention to the cues that the adults gave us as to how to live and move through life. They were our models, and these models gained their, (usually unquestioned understanding of life), through their parents, and so it goes. What has been modeled for centuries is that the world is a dangerous place and the key to survival is managing and manipulating one’s outer reality in order to make things safe for oneself and for ones family.
Tied into ones sense of survival, (which later in this modern day becomes primarily existential angst as we are not so much running away from the tigers anymore), is the feeling that one’s salvation resides in the world, in what lies outside of oneself. Personality develops and morphs to fit this paradigm, with the sense of self, the sense of having an ‘I’, being something separate and outside of your inner experience. Actually, even this understanding is unconscious until you begin to take a deeper look at how you see yourself, and what one’s true experience of what one’s relationship to self and other actually is.
Before we become aware that we have a relationship with an inner sense of self, one is most often lost in the experience of personality, and even unconscious to the inner split that has occurred. This has been likened to the fall of Eve and the end of the garden of Eden, as the inherent oneness that we come in with, before we lost ourselves in the maya (dream) of the world, is covered over by believing that the outside world and reality is more real than one’s inner experience. And a painful split develops over time until it takes such a hold, that forgetting happens to the truth of things, that you are still whole and have always been.
What wakes most of us up out of this sleep, is the pain of the split. Maintaining a fiction is hard work, and never satisfying. For many, this is when either a spiritual or philosophical search into the nature of what is true, begins. If you are lucky, what becomes apparent is that there is no way out, or lasting satisfaction to be had, within the fictionalized world that you have created. The outer world cannot satisfy what are you inside. If you have left yourself by believing that what lies outside of you will give you back yourself, you will suffer, pure and simple. Luckily many spiritual traditions and even now new age teachings point to the need to go within. That what we are looking for (ourselves), cannot be found outside of oneself.
This is not new. But what often occurs, is that this is a long and sometimes arduous process as the habit of looking outside of oneself is so strong. As a result, many people will lean on teachings (and there is nothing wrong with this, I did this myself for a time), or follow a teacher, because trying to navigate the path back home can be challenging. Where are the exit signs we ask ourselves, where is the guidance of how to do this? We have gotten so far removed from our own inner compass, that it takes time to reestablish the sense of ones authentic self, and to be willing to trust your inner knowing.
In the midst of this, becoming aware of the split between sensing into having a false self versus a true self is a painful awakening and can be very confusing. Questions arise as to what part ego plays, and whether there even is an ego (separate self), at all. It reminds me of one of the Bardos that is depicted in the Tibetan tankas with the demons and heavenly beings both being painted into a single picture. Where are you in any given moment? What is really true? The mind goes crazy with the feeling of duality playing itself out as you become more and more awake to the experience of there being a ‘you’ versus ‘other’.
What resolves this paradox? In the end, only You can, as no other can do it for you. This is true for every single human being. ‘Be a light unto yourself’, said the Buddha, my favorite quote of his. Every person that one reveres did this for themselves. And no matter how comforting another’s words may be, no matter how much you might place your faith or trust in a teacher or teaching, in the end the truth of what you are, has to be seen through. The buck stops here, and it is You. If you are really lucky and have stopped looking outside of yourself over and over again (as this is an on-going learning process), and you realize that in truth nothing outside of you is going to give you what you are really most needing, yourself, then gravity is already having its way with you.
In truth it is life itself (as you), which remembers itself, that it has been dreaming. What then occurs, is the wisdom of turning within, the inner eye takes a deep look at itself and traces back its projections into the world of being and doing. It does not matter when this outward projection into the world began, what age it happened, as what we are is the timeless reality. Reality as it is has always been present in our experience, even in the midst of our forgetting. The veils simply part, and what is revealed, is what has always been there, your natural state.
Love begins on the other side of despair. ~ Jean Paul Sartre
We may not in the end have to die a physical death in order to feel released from our (innocently), self- made prison. This kind of death of the imaginary self is a graced dissolution. It is the return of something that no longer serves. And it is happening for more and more people. A collective trail is being made so that we can all find a new way of being. A collective modeling, so to speak, is being fashioned, which points to healing the split of the inner and outer. In the end, what is discovered, is that there is in fact no difference.
The need for locality, and for being a separate somebody is a mind made up phenomena that was supported by fear. This is for each person to find out for themselves. ‘What is really true’, is the question that can break up the existential angst arising out of the sense of being a separate somebody. Having the felt sense of being boxed in (really getting that there is no way out of this dilemma called life), can in the end, be the way out of the maze. It spits you out as you willingly traverse to your very own core.
The no exit sign, when followed to its depths and really letting it stop you, can be the way that leads you back to yourself. And then your life opens up and becomes one of wonder. I wonder what lies past the last exit?