Unbounded Freedom

11873536_458962174228860_2590595508046840340_nWhat is the actual lived experience of the falling away of having a sense of self? Beyond philosophies and imagination lies a truth that is very hard to grasp without actually experiencing it. Perhaps feeling the absence of a self center is something that you have touched upon here and there. For many these are treasured moments. For some they may be frightening. The inquiry method of: ‘Who am I?’, brings the mind back to its own absence. Resting there is rejuvenative and transformative. But what if actually having that lived experience were the everyday reality? What would be the implications of such a life? Whose life would it be from that point forward?

Like a moth to the flame, the seeker is drawn to its own ending, its own demise, merging into the absolute nature of Reality, becoming One with it. This pull is life’s own pull to bring back into wholeness that which it imagines itself as separate. Believing in time – a past and future – is characteristic of living with a separate sense of self. From that perspective, the spiritual journey ensues until eventually, at some point in time, inner unification takes place, making what seemed to be two, one once again. What a relief this brings!

For many, living in a state of inner unification is a time during which all opposites, all things that have been regarded as separate, are reconciled. This phase is now often referred to as embodiment. It is a beautiful time of allowing everything to return back to the heart from a place of unconditional love for the whole, of which the sense of ‘I’ is a part . There is a sense of: “this too” that includes all we have known as our human selves. Both inner and outer are seen as aspects of the divine whole. Even while disparate parts are seen and welcomed, there is an abiding sense of “all is well” at one’s deepest level of being. And there is the feeling that despite life’s apparent paradoxes, one great whole abides at the deepest level. This is the state of unity consciousness.

The completeness of this state may make it feel like the end of the road, as many other phases of one’s spiritual life tend to feel. For instance, when the witness (the I Am), wakes up to itself as the absolute nature of reality, the formless feels complete and whole, until life as form and manifested consciousness comes rushing back in. People can get stuck in any of these phases for quite some time without realizing that a subtle identity has been formed around a realization. This includes the ‘this too’ unity consciousness phase. We may not see this until something else opens up as life keeps moving itself along, not allowing a landing to occur. Truth is not a static thing. Living out what reveals itself within a realization is the only thing we can do, and we are meant to do so until we come to the end of what it reveals.

We cannot imagine something we have not experienced. Being open to the possibility that we haven’t reached the end of the road, and trying to remain flexible so as not to feel the need to land anywhere helps nurture a continuous state of inner discovery and allowance. It is very common for the mind to grasp onto a new realization, or to become fixated on an established one, and thus not be able to imagine anything more. But this is where we can become fundamentalist and closed-minded. “I don’t know” is a wonderful state of mind to rest in.

Unity consciousness, while a beautiful lens to see consciousness through, is still a lens. It is a time of inner reconciliation and an important phase to live through, as what spurs one on throughout this period is a great love for the whole, which includes one’s own self. Unity expresses itself as service to life. The divine serving itself. What could be more important? As this phase wanes, the self center, which has aligned itself with the divine, thins out, and the sense of being one with the whole fades. The sense of self that feels like it has a divine center and not a personal ego center ebbs, until there is the barest sense of unity left. It’s not that feeling separate returns (a regression). Rather, an absence of something emerges, feeling like another free fall into the unknown abyss which has no center, no landing place, not even a divine sense of unity. It is seen that the sense of ground of being itself was another landing place. This is such a radical change that it feels like a new dimension of living, beyond unity consciousness.

It is difficult to find words for a placeless place. Most of what is being written and spoken about within non-duality circles is from the unity phase of consciousness. That which lies beyond the feeling that the human and divine are One has to be experienced to be known. And yet it isn’t an experience, as that would be another landing place. Mind can attempt to grasp at this, but if it is a true opening, it won’t succeed. This opening is characterized by living in present moment awareness to such a degree that grasping becomes ephemeral This is why one cannot feel the sense of self any longer as self-referencing disappears. Any personal sense of self, including that of being one with the divine, has vanished. It is only in retrospect that we can see that what was previously living itself out was a faint remains of self. It’s not that this vanishing is preferable. The unity phase is characterized by a feeling of being totally at peace with life as it presents itself. That includes feeling that a sense of self is part of the whole, and perfect. So the falling away of self does not come out of wishing for
another phase to present itself. We cannot “make” anything come, and why would we if there is already a sense of deep abiding peace?

To rest as this now, is always available. We are this openness, and wanting a state of awareness other than the one that is presenting itself, takes one away from that which has no reference point. Living as the mystery becomes one’s everyday reality. And eventually, it is just mystery that is living with nothing lying in between. It gets more and more simple.

Learning How to Listen

Tree in FogFollowing the world’s commands and the inner divine’s are really two different things. And life offers us many opportunities in teaching us how to listen to what is needed. For most of us it takes many false starts, twists and turns, as we learn to tune into our own knowing. To be as the Buddha says: A Light Unto Oneself.

We cannot be equally devoted to two realities. Either we are inwardly focused and leaning into what is true or we are outwardly focused and being drawn this way and that way according to other people’s and society’s dictates. At some point, we have to make up our own minds about where our allegiance lies. In the end, it becomes about following your own heart, which leads to an altogether different center of intelligence opening up and guiding.

I acknowledge that this isn’t always easy to do and sometimes the stakes are very high. We might be risking a lot by following inner prompting. It can be especially scary and difficult in the beginning, as we learn how to attune to what may be a very silent and subtle knowing. Any resistance in our system to listening to this knowing may muddy it up. It takes both practice and the willingness to make mistakes along the way as we learn how to listen. Following the still small voice over time makes that voice more and more obvious until it is eventually second nature. Just as learning how to walk, to swim, and to speak a language takes time, so does this. Especially as it isn’t the normal way in which our society collectively operates.

It may look crazy to others for anyone to move in this way in their life. It may go against the collective agreement of how things should be. And this places the risks and consequences at an even higher mark. Luckily there are others in the world who are also doing this. And if you are lucky enough to have some of these folks as friends (which is mutually beneficial), it can be invaluably supportive as you continue growing in the ability to listen and follow divine guidance.

The stakes may be high, but the payoff is very much worth it. What we get in return by being in cooperation with Universal Will, is that the sense of self that we are in so many ways trying to dissolve by being a spiritual seeker thins out as personal will lessens. When we give ourselves over to divine will, what has always been right here becomes apparent: full unification with life without any layers of separation lying in between.

If we place our bets that surrendering will pay off in terms of getting rich, having things always go our way, or wishing to have a better life, then this isn’t the full surrender that life is asking for. Learning to trust where life is pointing has its own rewards. So, leave your ideas of equal exchange at the door, and see what true riches are in store for you when you truly let go.

As the saying goes: Freedom never looks the way we imagine it will. And that is a good thing!

Photo by Luke Andrew Scowen