Finding peace and freedom is to discover the place within you that has no opposite. The mind is in a continual relationship of like or dislike with what is happening. The mind does this because it thinks that it can control life to suit itself. Because it tries to assert volition over situations, sometimes you are happy, and sometimes you are unhappy. In the unawakened state, these emotions and moods can take over your life. Why? Because this is all that you know. When you awaken, you regain contact with the uncaused joy, unshakable peace, and unconditional love, that is who you are.
Complete identification of thoughts and feelings is how I refer to the ego. Acceptance is death to the ego, and it knows it, so it tries to keep you in a position of no to whatever is happening. If you observe the mind, you will see that it rarely accepts what is happening, but instead, almost invariably assesses whether it likes or dislikes what arises. It says, “I like this. Therefore I want to keep it” or, “I do not like this, so this should not be.”
Three of the most important things that you can see on the spiritual path is:
- The mind continually judges, trying to find reasons to conflict with life.
- The abiding awareness that you are is in a state of peace and acceptance.
- Allowing the mind “to be” from the perspective of awareness and becoming more grounded in this recognition of “who you are” is the key to freedom.
The mental activity that we call ego tries to grasp or push away what already is, which causes a false sense of separation, suffering, and confusion. Waking up to the spiritual dimension is coming to know and live the unconditioned part of you beyond the mind, that already says yes.
Preferences vs. demands
The mind always has preferences. You would probably prefer a sunny day to a rainy day and would rather be healthy than sick. What causes you to suffer and lose touch with your inner essence is adding a narrative to your preferences.
For example, you are at the beach for the afternoon. When you arrive to sit down, the thought may arise, “This is pleasant,” which is the mind’s spontaneous reaction to the environment. Then the ego adds unnecessary commentary that fights with life. The unneeded ego thoughts that you add could be, “I don’t want the people next to me to make too much noise so that I can read,” or “I hope it doesn’t become cloudy.” Another example is if you have a stomach ache, the thought may arise, “ouch, this hurts!”. Not liking a painful sensation is how the body/mind will react. The unnecessary addition that the ego adds could be, “I shouldn’t have eaten that ice cream, I have no discipline,” or “This shouldn’t be happening, I take excellent care of myself.” The valuable thing to start to see is that the added commentary is fighting what is already the case. It says no and has no use other than to make you miserable to and to strengthen a false sense of self.
There is nothing wrong with trying to have more experiences that you like and less that you do not like, but if you want to find peace, joy, and to awaken beyond the mind, the first thing to know is what you can and cannot control. Some useful pointers are:
- You do not control what is. You can try to influence what happens, but the results are what they are.
- You do not control the initial thought that arises in response to a stimulus.
- You do have control over what thoughts the mind produces after the initial thought arises. If you add a story to the initial response, there is potential for suffering.
- You do have control over whether you bring conscious awareness into the situation. Mindful awareness is what eliminates unneeded thinking and keeps you grounded in the present moment.
Joy beyond understanding
If you are reading this, you have no doubt evolved to the point where you seek in life what is more fundamental than the opposites of like and dislike, or even happiness and unhappiness. You are lucky enough to have contacted the peace and joy, more profound than the mind’s understanding. If you are reading this, you are in the process of realizing your true nature. Your practice is to cooperate with what is transpiring by giving up trying to micromanage life. Stay relaxed, aware, and engaged in what is happening without needing things to be different.
Allow the NO to wake you up.
The next time you experience the mind or emotions adding an inner no by grasping or pushing away what is already happening, whether you don’t want a vacation to end or are angry that you are in traffic, feel your deepest essence. Feel the deeper inner yes and allow it to observe the no. In other words, be the conscious awareness that sees the mind’s habit of fighting what is. With this practice, negativity will start to dissolve, and love will come to the forefront.
Life always gives you signs that you are not living from your deeper self. A few signs are:
1) You are simply unhappy a lot of the time. If you are interacting with the world from separation, you won’t feel at ease. When you treat the world lovingly, you feel good.
2) When we are fighting life, life fights back. People and situations react to your reactivity, so you have conflict in your life.
3) There is a lot of struggle, and you feel mentally drained much of the time.
Spiritual fulfillment, on the other hand, is unmistakable, and you know it when you experience it. Some signs are:
- You experience more flow; Things seem to unfold with more ease.
- There is an experience of love and appreciation for others for no reason.
- Simple things are enjoyable / You experience gratitude for the little things.
- There is less drama and suffering.
- You complain less and hold fewer resentments.
- You’re a better listener.
- There is more empathy.
- You are less fearful / less contracted.
- There is more relaxation and trust.
- You care more about others and the world around you.
Life should be a game, not a struggle.
To illustrate the difference between living from your true nature/the inner yes or adding an internal no, imagine an athlete playing a sport (pick any sport you like). Our athlete would prefer to win the game, but being the exceptional athlete that she is, she does not focus on the outcome. You could say that there is not much “me” and more “now” while she is engaged in the game. The mind is mostly absent when she is in the game. (We all know what it’s like to be “in the zone” or “one with the moment.”) So, for this athlete, actions happen, and the practice that she has done pays off. She enjoys the game no matter what happens because she is entirely in the game.
Imagine if our athlete, while playing the game, was creating a story about what “should” or “should not be happening” while playing. The athlete would be much less likely to succeed if she regretted what happened the moment before or anticipated what could happen in the next moment. In other words, if there were an inner no to the present moment, creating a ‘false me’, there would be more enjoyment and less success.
A good athlete plays the game without adding an extra commentary while playing the game. Of course, the game is a metaphor for life, and I think that it is a good metaphor because when you are in your natural state, life is much more like a game than a task. If you are engaged in an area where you have the talent and work hard, you will likely be successful, just like our player in the game.
Sleepwalking through life
When you are living through ego, your mind is in resistance to life, but it is often so subtle you don’t notice. You don’t like the way the sun feels on your face; you don’t want to be at your job, you worry about what could happen if you are late to your appointment, or are frustrated about a conversation that you just had. Most thoughts are unconscious, but there may be a slight feeling of irritability or uneasiness. Start by putting your attention on the mood and ask yourself what ideas the mind is producing.
This subtle unconsciousness that humans suffer from much of the time is so typical that we often accept it as ordinary. We have stress, strain, and a sense that something is missing in our lives because we have lost touch with the peace and fulfillment that we are. The ordinary anguish of our unconscious human condition causes us to seek escape when we have “free time” to have some drinks, get high, have sex, binge on TV shows, eat a gallon of ice cream, etc. These are the only times that we can escape our mind’s tactics of fighting with life.
We must bring awareness to the normal nervous state of human unconsciousness. Practicing being conscious when things are relatively easy will give you the groundedness in what is real that will be required when more disastrous things happen.
At any given moment, check and see if there is an inner no, an inward contraction that is nothing other than the mind’s habitual resistance. Be aware of the constant internal no and make it conscious. Consciousness is your inner, yes. Awareness will allow the contraction within you to be, and eventually, the no within you will dissolve into the yes.
Everyday suffering can give you great opportunities to wake up. Become aware of the mind’s activity when there is a traffic jam, you spill coffee on a new shirt, or you stub your toe, for example. If you are not conscious, you will throw an inner temper tantrum as if that will help matters. See the absurdity of these reactions and bring awareness into the reaction at any time that you can. The situation is then a catalyst to awakening. The more you bring awareness into the “This should not be happening” thoughts and the emotions that accompany them, the more conscious you become. One day, if it hasn’t happened already, you will look back at a situation and think, “I was completely calm when before I would have been stressed or angry.” It will appear that there is less “you” that feels independent from life and more presence.
Now consider circumstances that are much more catastrophic than the examples that I just mentioned – Your partner leaves you, your house burns down, a loved one dies. The most common thing that happens in these certain times is to allow the tragedy to be food for the ego. The mind says, “Why is this happening to me? If you make this into a spiritual practice, the situation can also be an excellent opportunity for growth. The less conscious you are, the more you are likely to make a story of a “me” out of the already painful situation that can cause suffering for months or even years. The more conscious you are, the more it will help you be grounded in presence, liberated from pain.
Notice the story that you spin around the pain, whether it is a self-pity story or an angry story; We create all of this drama to strengthen your separation. Notice the mind’s enjoyment that it gets out of it, telling friends and professionals without really wanting a solution. If there is a goal to have a solution to the problem, you are consciously dealing with it. If you just want to “vent” or just have someone listen, it is a good sign that the ego just wants to feed on itself.
Keep in mind that how sizable the problem seems to the world is not contingent on how much you are triggered. Trauma within you is linked to the past and can cause crushing pain. A large part of waking up is facing each trauma as it arises.
Always keep some attention within and be conscious of what is happening in the world and your body. Be the sky that is witnessing the clouds. Thoughts and emotions are only clouds in the everpresent sky of who you are. When you are conscious, you see the pain within you and feel the Self (with a capital S) who is aware of it. This holding yourself as the Self (or awareness), during these difficult circumstances, will help the small “s” to dissolve, and the broader and freer Self to come forward. Relaxing into what is real and letting go of the false – this is spiritual awakening.
Suffering is unnecessary
The pain of life is necessary. It gives us opportunities to grow. Suffering, however, is optional. Whenever you reach an inevitable arduous situation, as a spiritual seeker, you are at a crossroads. Your choices are:
1) Accept the inevitability of this moment, which not only includes circumstances but the emotions and thoughts arising within you. Be in let go. Be the witness of what is happening. Letting go and witnessing allows the real you to come forward and be lived more in your life as unneeded mind activity dissolves.
2) You can be contracted and in opposition to what is happening. When you do not bring awareness into what is, you stay asleep at the wheel while the mind is on autopilot. There is very little awareness, and the pain turns into a story that causes the suffering to last weeks, months, or years longer than necessary.
The “no, this should not be happening” reaction to a situation internally and externally will contaminate everything you do. The world will reflect your pain, simply because the unconsciousness in you will trigger the same in others. Being grounded in your inner yes to what is, staying open, and allowing all to be will attract situations that are harmonious with the higher consciousness that you emanate.
Do we know what is good and bad?
While the mind is continually saying, “I want this, but I don’t want that, “it doesn’t ultimately know what is right for you. For the most part, it wants instant gratification or some sort of self-aggrandizement. It doesn’t see the big picture and where you are going, even though it is evident in retrospect that most challenges are a potential gift in disguise. It doesn’t know that you have lessons to learn, and it can’t surrender to that fact. Only the real you knows that.
It is beneficial for you to see that what is best for you is not necessarily what feels pleasant. See what helps you evolve, grow, and wake up comes your way without effort on your part. Your opportunities to grow can be the same old lesson that you have not yet learned, or activity required of you, or getting you out of your comfort zone.
Realizing that you don’t know what is best for you is very useful in your journey to self-realization because your mind’s resistance to life comes from the illusion that it can and needs to control. When you trust, you can let go and accept what happens to you as being the best thing for you. It can be helpful to remind the ego that “shit happens.” Although this is obvious, there is a reason that it is a universal cliche. The ego acts as if it is going to get to a place where only good things happen.
The “me” only knows the material world. “Shit Happens,” of course, does not apply to spirit, your abiding nature. Forms are created and destroyed. Some things feel good, and some things don’t, but everything happens within the formless. Conscious awareness sees all of this happen and allows it to be. The goal is to know yourself as the formlessness that animates the body and mind but to fully experience the pains and pleasures of life, allowing them to bring you forward and help us evolve. Live as body and mind, but also as spirit.
Conclusion: Being on a spiritual path means giving up the ego’s insane need to control life to accommodate itself. Suffering means that you are fighting with experience and adding a no to what is. Let life be, trust it, and let whatever has been bestowed upon you by destiny to help you to wake up. You will know if you are awakening if you are experiencing more love, peace, and joy – your natural inner yes.