Back to my sweet friend… I wasn’t really sure what to say. It felt as if she was looking for some acknowledgement, some mirroring, some validation. It was sweet, in a way. I turned inward, scanning for any somatic response. I mostly felt raw, just really open, a bit sad, and a bit shaken, wondering how the precious journey of human spirituality ever came to be about not having a personality or a self, or so wrapped up in following the call to be in a “state” other than the one that is here now, turned into some sort of parlor game with magical characters who seed the planet with divine prophecies, peering into the morphogenetic fields and sharing the secrets of the Universe with us all. When exactly did spirituality become about the egoic need to prove to others (and yourself) that you are free from the ego, or what “level” of enlightenment you have reached, as if God or Love or Life had any interest in an enlightenment scorecard, created yet again by ego and its unseen needs and unmetabolized material from the past? When did the spiritual journey become yet another tool of the separate self to seek out its own specialness and shadowy agendas?
The ego is such a wily and creative character. It has an uncanny way of being able to get its hands into even the most subtle and sacred experiences and make them its own, wrapping its tightly-woven cocoon around the nakedness of our humanity. How can we do anything other than bow down to Maya, for she is clearly the one running the show here. But can we actually admit this? Would the house of awakening-cards come crumbling down, taking the whole enlightenment-show with it? Many seem to intuit this, however still are driven from within to keep it alive. It’s just too groundless otherwise. It’s just too compelling a story that we have “made it,” we are one of the awakened ones who was hand-selected by a gaggle of gurus and ascended ones to help usher in a new age of spiritual fabulousness.
After the exchange with my freshly "awakened" friend, I reflected upon the fact that the truly “awakened” people I have been privileged to meet have very strong personalities, are very much “there,” and use the gift of thought and egoic process as skillful means to help others, not to create armies of awakened people who are separate from one another. They do not prattle on about what magical number they are on the “scale of enlightenment” or how the mind is the problem or how engaging in some magical thinking will propel them into some utterly fabulous, “permanent,“ “full,” or “complete” state of this or that, now one of the special class of awakened ones who have come to save humanity (pardon me while I hurl myself out the window). Rather, the truly realized are riveted in the here and now, radically embodied, and profanely human. They are people of the earth, passionately interested in what is happening in the hearts of the others around them, and not at all interested in moving into some other “higher” state of consciousness. They are not waiting to be confirmed, but their raw, tender, beating, open hearts are the only confirmation that could ever be. Rather, they are moved deeply by *this* state of consciousness, whatever it might be, curious about its texture and its color and its unique gifts. For them, there is no longer any reference point of what “state” of consciousness they happen to be in, or what sort of groovy new altered experience they think they are having and is so so so important, but rather how can they move so deeply into the unknown that love has no other option but to pour though them, forever touching everyone and everything in its wake.
I was speaking with my dear friend Jeff Foster about what a new sort of spirituality might be like, or maybe we could call it a “post”-spirituality, that was not organized around the notion of “nobody here.” Rather, it involves a returning to “somebody here,” to being here fully, committed to this very human yummy messy precious muddled yucky painful sweetness of a life. It would involve a true celebration of our uniqueness, and a full engagement with this sacred gift of the state of consciousness that is here right now. We would be so willing for everything to matter—every person we meet, every feeling that is experienced, every difficult conversation with a friend, every biting piece of feedback we might receive. We would not transcend it into some cosmic Divine oneness, but allow it to utterly matter, to be excruciatingly real and touch us at the very deepest levels. We would want to become so intimate with our experience, knowing that we would never want to transcend that which was so precious to us, that which was given by such grace as a special friend from beyond. We would be unsatisfied with remaining the “witness” of our experience because we would be called to know it so intimately, not standing apart from it, but falling heart-first into its sweet lap. We would be willing to be so touched, to be moved, to be hurt, to be completely opened all the way through to the other side of our precious pulsating hearts. This spirituality would be one of love and pain and raw vulnerability, rooted in the unknown. It would be a spirituality of the crucifixion, of the resurrection, and of the transfiguration all rolled into one.
Jeff shared, “It's having a cup of tea with your old dad, your hand brushing against his as you reach for the sugar, and it's not understanding any of it anymore, but it's radically being here, present and awake to what is, being in love with it all even when it hurts, being in love with the one in front of you, for this may be the last time you ever meet, father, sister, mother, brother, husband, wife, friend...”
It’s about being so in love with this life, with *this* state of consciousness, feet firmly planted right here on this earth, intertwined with time and space, allowing the movement of transcendence to burn up in the fire of unknowingness, of groundlessness, of uncertainty. Finally, home, always home, never having left home, in the midst of it all—the screaming babies, the unpaid bills, the ever-expanding to-do list, the scariness of intimacy, the grief, the joy, the sadness, the anger, the anxiety, the tenderness, the depression, the unbearable bliss.
Finally, discovering in just one moment of right here, right now, when the heart is so fragile that its falling apart seems imminent; finding that it’s all sacred, that it's all there is. And that there is not – and never was – a dividing line between the sacred and the profane, between the “Divine” and, what, the non-Divine? What would that be actually? And all of these old concepts and spiritual conditioning obliterate themselves into a yummy pile of grace-honey that you fall into, willingly, getting sticky with the sweet goo that is this life, in all its infinite expressions, in all its wonder and pain and joy, its never-ending and forever incomprehensible grace... and then arising out of all of it, the only response that makes any sense whatsoever… a profound gratitude, for this reality, this body, this state of consciousness, these senses. What a miracle.