Saturday, November 17, 2012

Please declare me ordinary... is 2012 over yet?



*Please understand that it is not my intention to hurt anyone’s feelings here or to denigrate a particular person’s faith or spiritual beliefs. Rather, it is my intention to share my experience in speaking with hundreds about these matters on a regular basis – often in the context of the profound confusion (and suffering) that seems to be swirling around within contemporary spirituality around concepts such as "awakening," "enlightenment," and other modern spiritualities of specialness. But mostly, my intention is to encourage my friends to take the time to really look deeply into their hearts to discover what is true, what is real, what they really want, and to be willing to stay open to the possibility that perhaps things are not what they seem. If, however, my writing has offended you personally, please accept my heartfelt apology; it was never my intention to do so. Of course, the truth never needs defending; that which is false will always fall away, in time.

There is a deeply-rooted desire in us to somehow resolve this life, to get into some “state” of consciousness where we no longer feel conflict, where things are “fully,” “finally,” and “permanently” tidied up into some nice and neat awakening package. It’s as if our lives have become modeled after some sort of avataric super-hero with miraculous powers, repelling the yucky sticky gooey world of human, non-divine feelings, emotions, fear, intimacy, sexuality, conflict, the mind, thoughts – armed with our evil-eye gazing blessings and Frankensteinian brainwave conversion projects. Somehow, we must find a way to escape the yucky, messy, muddled, confused, uncertain, sometimes-terrifying, groundless nature of this life as it is. Maybe if I practice the right ancient rituals, take on the craziest superstitious beliefs from another culture, tell the right stories about myself (using all the right spiritual code words), and construct the most fabulously “powerful” conditioned spiritual experiences – perhaps then I can transcend it all, I can somehow avoid the raging fires of love and all that it truly demands.

There is a part of us that knows that if we give ourselves to love that we will be required to set aside our spiritualities of specialness and our messianic complexes about saving the world through having others gaze into our eyes while magically assimilating our brainwaves of awesomeness. We know we will have to face the unresolved wounding inside us. What is it that we really believe we are transmitting to another? Have we actually thought this through? Have we spent some time using our own intelligence and discernment? Are we sure of the source who is telling us these things? Are we clear on what his or her intention might actually be? Are we sure we are not being used for someone else’s agenda? How much do we genuinely care for the other we are “transmitting” our “state” to – and how much of this is being dictated by some unseen narcissistic organization or unconscious need? Are we sure we want to transfer our unresolved trauma to another? Faced with this confrontation between me as the great “awakened one” on the one side and the reality of our unmetabolized wounding on the other, the most common response, the safest response will *always* be to run straight back to our fables of awakening and enlightenment. It’s cozier there. It’s way safer and just, let’s be honest, a lot more fun. But what this actually has to do with anything that might reasonably be called “awakening” just may be an entirely different matter.

There is nothing wrong with this, of course; in a way it’s so very natural.  We climb up onto the stage, wearing white, sitting cross-legged, draped with an Indian shawl, cue the soft non-florescent backlighting, maybe donning an OM t-shirt, slightly teary, nodding affirmatively, gazing out into the desperate eyes of those in the audience who are not yet awakened… we feel into them: they want what we have, they will do anything, we will help them, we have arrived, we are the ones the world has been waiting for, and so forth. Very soon, we remind them, you will not have a self like me, or a personality - you will never ever ever ever experience conflict again; promise. Pinky swear. Don’t worry, we assure them, assimilate my presence and you, too, will be there soon. It’s like some cosmic sort of Grace-Borg. Just hang in there, we remind them, December 21st is right around the corner. You will be fabulous like me soon enough, and I know that your stories about yourself will be amazing, too, just like mine (though mine will likely be a bit specialer). Just close your eyes, allow the grace to fill you, attune yourself to my “state,” and just repeat, “I am amazing. I am special. I am amazing. I am special. I am amazing. I am special. I am amazing. I am special. I am amazing. I am utterly awakened – fully, finally, and permanently. I have made it.” (repeat 108 times, or 54 if you get tired; or 27 if you’re short on time; or 13.5 if you gotta get the kids off to school; or  just once, it’s 2012 after all, that should do it).  

Of course, life has no interest in any of this (as if this is not obvious). Love could not be any less interested in the dream of me and my awakening, in my “very” powerful presence during my fabulously influential Skype sessions, and canned, parroted, robot-like teleconferences of how special I’ve become after the last “very very very” powerful process when the “self fell away,” etc. It cares not for facebook posts letting our friends know we’ve been “declared” awakened (really, this is happening) during our last day in India or how many thousands of dollars we must pay if we, too, wish to be so declared, finally able to wear white, get the Skypes and teleconferences going, all the while embodying the gaze of the all-knowing one, ready to zap all who come near, with our “very very very” “powerful” states, etc. blah etc. (pardon me while I hurl myself out the window… okay, I’m back). Many have shared with me how they are hurt or angry or just plain sad that such a mockery is being made here of the most precious journey of love, of human unfolding. One even shared, “It’s like we’ve become the Saturday Night Live of spirituality.” She chuckled when she said it, I just listened as she seemed really raw at the time, but then she got really quiet as it was just not really that funny after all. But of course if these ones were “permanently” and “fully” awakened, etc. they would no longer be hurt, angry, sad, etc. – they would live forever in a state where there would never be conflict again, etc. etc. blah. Yes, yes, I know, they are “in their minds,” “lost in the ‘lower consciousness’,” “haven’t fully surrendered yet,” “are ‘in their egos’,” etc. etc. etc. (cue vomiting here)

But for many, more and more each day, there is a burning realization in the heart that the narcissistic circus of awakening just really isn’t all that interesting – and is in fact incredibly flimsy and transparent. It’s not really that difficult – from the outside anyway – to see through it pretty quickly, as I’m hearing from many around the world, including respected spiritual teachers. Is 2012 over yet? Please? Rather, many of you are seeing that life only wants to break you open – to expose your wild, naked, vulnerable heart to the raging furnace of love and its movement. In this love, there is no longer any childish chase for bliss, some fabricated state of “no conflict,” or any other “high” state of consciousness; no compulsive need to tell everyone how the “self has gone” or the “personality has vanished”; no downright embarrassing nonsense that “I’m level 14.3 on the enlightenment scale and she’s 13.9, I should be up to 15.9, though, as soon as Dec. 21, 2012 comes!, - are you still at 11.932? I was told I’ll be at 16.3 by Dec. 22 (that’s higher than you, right? But less than Buddha and Christ- damn!)”; no narcissistic drive to tell others about your “shift” and how if they just spend time with you, they are soon to “pop” also. Life is not interested in this sort of subtle aggression toward others and the great confusion this half-baked understanding is producing (trust me, it’s obvious in the many notes I receive, including from ones who have been “declared” “awakened,” as if you needed to hear that from me). It has no interest in some cultish 2012 dream fantasy, or its accompanying multi-thousand dollar “new” magical processes. A brilliant marketing strategy, yes, quite impressive, actually… but do we really believe this has anything to do with anything that could be called “awakening?" Really? Like, seriously? C’mon, really? No, really!? Amazing… 

Never, ever, I’m reminded, bet against Maya.

In just one moment of caring enough to know what is true, to touch what is real, this sideshow can be exposed for what it is – Maya’s carnival. It is Maya who is pulling the levers behind the curtain here. You can rest assured it is her all-knowing smile beaming through the faces of the special ones on the lighted stage, with the sweet relaxation music playing in the background, “shhhhhh, sacred silence” signs filling the hall, white clothed couches, infant-like giggles and glowing rounds of namastes. The declarations of awakening and enlightenment, and the messianic project of the special me - her final level of deception. Again, I find myself in awe of you, Maya. How do you do it? As usual, she refuses to answer, leaving behind only her signature seductive smile and forever-enticing scent. I reach out toward her, confident this time she will let me touch her but, alas, she is gone. Maya, how do you make use of even the most sacred spiritual journey as a vehicle through which the ego can co-opt the whole thing for its own agenda, fooling millions in the process? No, really, how do you do it?

And then, very soon (god, really, is 2012 over yet?), we will wake up on January 1, 2013 – from the dream of me and my specialness (god willing), and how I’m going to save the world via my special story of awakening, magical dates of my enlightenment "hidden in the Akashic Records," my fantastic tale of enlightenment levels and cosmic morphogenetic fields and “never experiencing conflict again” ad nauseum. We'll believe just about anything if it means we get to be special. Kind of ironic when it comes to the path of awakening, but that irony just sort of seems to pass the circus by... Maybe, at least many of us pray anyway, this chapter of messianic spirituality-as-fear will finally come to a close (but somehow I don’t think we’ll be so lucky as the next round of magical dates and processes and multi-thousand dollar courses will likely be announced soon enough). And then we can rest, knowing that when all is said and done, that it’s just us, here, together, totally non-separate from one another - simple, ordinary, with hearts wide open; tender, raw, and vulnerable, curious as to what love has in store next, how love wishes to make use of these senses, this unbelievable heart and mind, and this gorgeously precious human body. How will the actual pour out through us and touch another with kindness and compassion – careful not to lead our friends and those we care about into mirages of delusion, right into Maya’s wide-open embrace.

The pressure is finally off. We are not special, we are not here to save humanity, we are not “finally,” “fully,” “permanently” - or whatever other adjective is the sexiest and most alluring of the day (and capable of raising the most money) – “awakened” or “enlightened,” “Self realized,” or “God realized” (or whatever state is the sexiest and most alluring, and capable of raising the most money) – and never were. We can just go back to being ourselves, thank God, trying our best to open our hearts, to love others and ourselves as we are - finally off the enlightenment merry-go-round of Maya’s carnival. It’s bound to be a letdown, a profound disappointment, that we’re only ourselves after all. What a drag. But, no, what about mmmeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee? Me me me me me me me me me me me me me! You told me I was awakened! I paid thousands of dollars to take the class where you would declare me! What about my all-white outfit and white cloth-draped chair! And my all knowing gaze? And my fabulous brainwaves! Nooooooooooooooo! You can’t do this! Give it back! But, alas, fortunately, love does not need you to be “awakened” or “fully” this or “permanently” that or any of the rest of it; it never did. Life cares nothing for this silliness, never did, and never will. Come January 1, 2013, hopefully you can rest now – the fable of 2012 is over, the me project of my fabulous state of consciousness has fallen away, dissolved into love forever.

And in this rousing from the mythology of the “awakening” that “must be given to you” (for the right price), the only prayer left that has any meaning: Thank you. I’ll take *this* life as it is, right here and right now. I will set aside my fantasies of the future and my superstitions of a spirituality of specialness and fully embody what is right here, what has already been given, what no magical mythical being could ever be capable of “giving to me.” I am willing to set aside these messianic fantasies and go back to the hard, difficult, demanding, yummy, gooey, yucky, messy work of the heart and opening myself to care deeply about those around me.

If I am to be “declared” anything, please declare me ordinary. Please declare me the one that is unbearably grateful for this reality as it is.