Zeus, ancient Greece’s ultimate authority.
I’m happy to report that I have made arrangements to turn The Book of Undoing into an audio book. I think it should be a perfect fit for that medium. Most of that book reads like one-set, two-actor play anyway, and being layered, it’s something that listeners can benefit from listening to over and over. There’s no doubt in my mind that it will become a significant tool for finding freedom.
Margaret Lepera will read the book. She did a seven minute audition that was so good it absolutely took mine and Betsy’s breath away. She’s an audio professional, and a member of SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actor’s Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artist), and is able to use enough voice inflection to do both voices without any confusion about who’s talking. Best of all, Margaret gets it, which is absolutely vital for proper delivery. This was already a field of interest of hers, and you can absolutely hear that in her voice.
The same European team who’ve done my last three book covers will do the cover for the audio book. It’ll be a available at Audible.com, whose helping with the conversion, on Amazon, and on iTunes. I’m really, really excited about this! I’m thinking four to six weeks from now?
Time is running short if you’re interested in attending the Asheville events coming up the end of this month. We’re just a few days away. See the top of the right sidebar on this page for details, and then get in touch with Georgette at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Questioning the Ultimate Authority:
Has Your Spiritual Path Become a Dead End?
I did a video on this topic two or three weeks ago, but after a day or two I took it down, because I didn’t feel like I’d properly addressed the issue. Let me see if I can do so here.
I’m particularly keen on opening up this idea right now, because of a session I had earlier this week. Many of you will have heard me talk about my friend and client, R., in Denmark, either in print or video. He woke up just a month ago and is orienting within/as Awakeness just beautifully. He’s widely read in Nonduality, so he has a lot of context, which is always a help. Plus he’s actively putting time and attention into clearing, and it’s paying off handsomely for him.
The session I’m referring to that took place earlier this week, however, was with R.’s partner. She’d witnessed the changes in R. and decided she would have a go at it as well. She’d seen the video that carried a title similar to the one I hung onto this post. She told me, “That was what made the difference to me. I’m a yoga teacher, and have been doing yoga for 25 years. Yoga was my spiritual practice. I was (and still am) devoted to it. But when you asked that question, I immediately saw that yoga, as you said, had in fact become a dead end for me spiritually. It was comfortable, and I don’t know that spirituality is supposed to be especially comfortable.”
I respect this open, honest attitude so much. S. was willing to question her path and her progress. And as a result, she woke up extremely clearly. We hear a great deal about being our own authority in Nonduality. But have we followed this advice to the point of our own detriment? Have we become overconfident, or simply lazy? Do we find ourselves waiting for the Universe to make the first move but not really expecting it to?
Do we still have, as Suzuki Roshi aptly called it, Beginner’s Mind? Or are we in the middle of the pack and the middle of the muck? Are we still pushing upward and outward, or have we relaxed and found that place of comfort? Have we traded liberation for stagnation? Do we know so much now that we’ve forgotten that the key is not found in what we know but in what we are willing to unknow?
I like to point out to clients that my books are called The Book of Undoing, and The Book of Unknowing, not The Book of Let’s Just Do This One More Thing or The Book of Let Me Just Get a Little More Information. I’ve talked with people–and woken them up–who’ve been seeking the Magic Practice, or the Magic Tip, or the Magic Teacher and/or Tradition for forty years and even more. Some would say they’re holding out for The Miracle, and a few–a very few–would be right: they’ll get it. My sense is a little more pragmatic. I’d say that most of them are simply barking up the wrong tree.
Every time someone wakes up, it’s something of a miracle, I grant you that. So is electricity, but it powers the lights in my study almost every single time I hit the switch. If the light doesn’t come on, then there’s something wrong with either the wiring or something else out in the field. You can bet that electricity itself is never found to not be functioning properly. Same thing in what we’re doing. Awakeness is always working, and it’s always working perfectly.
In the early Twenty-first Century, awakening is becoming an everyday miracle. I can’t know what was possible a thousand years ago, or a hundred years ago, or even twenty. But I know very well what’s available now–and not just at my house. If you want to wake up, you can. Now here’s the toughest question: Do you really, really want to?
Many folks will say “yes” to that question, but a lot of them are not telling the truth, I can promise you that. Over time we may trade in our dream of liberation for the reality of community and comfort. That’s one way to stagnate, but not the only one by any stretch.
Once in a while I find people who say they want to wake up, but what they really mean is, “I want to wake up on my terms.” Not gonna happen. In the first place, the one who’s holding these terms is the very reason their terms are not being met. Most or all of us have expectations in regard to awakening–certainly I did.
I held onto those terms until the vise of suffering–we’ve discussed The Vise before–became too much to bear. Then I unwittingly dropped all demands, and guess what? That’s just when awakening happened–after I let go. Specifically, I had been holding out for an angels-and-trumpets-and-fireworks type of awakening. I wanted all the LSD effects I could get. After all, I’d thoroughly enjoyed LSD back in the day.
Beyond that addiction to the Addict’s Jolt, I was holding out for an awakening that would fix all of my relative problems. I had no shortage of them, let me tell you. And when they got painful enough, when I had suffered enough, I finally lost all interest in the Fred story. Who wants to live a nightmare? Not me.
When I finally threw in the towel on Fred, I threw it all in–Fred’s advice, Fred’s wisdom, Fred’s lies, Fred’s fantasies, Fred’s life management skills, Fred’s reputation, dignity–I just didn’t give a damn about him. And awakening happened. I didn’t do it, I just didn’t get in the way of it.
People regularly ask me how to surrender. Well, you already do it twice a day. You do it first when you wake up in the morning, and then again when you go to sleep at night. How do you do that? You don’t. You become willing for it to happen, and then it happens by itself. Surrender of the self is no different.
Not all of us, thank God, are going to have the sort of painful life content that I did. I do notice, however, that a number of teachers in our community had similar experiences to mine, where suffering was key, so my case is by no means an anomaly. My spiritual tradition was essentially Worship of Fredness. That’s what I wasn’t questioning. When I became willing to question it–no, revoke it is a better word–the game changed.
Fredness was my ultimate authority. Fredness, for God’s sake, was my spiritual teacher. Fredness was my God.
In those days I was a Bookstore Buddhism guy–that’s my lineage. I would’ve been a Bookstore Advaita guy, except that I’d never heard of it, and I was sure that Buddhism in general, and specifically Zen, was the one true path. I wouldn’t listen to any teacher who didn’t preach the gospel of meditation, which unfortunately left out a few very good ones–like J. Krishnamurti.
In my opinion, which was the only opinion I put any stock in, other religions and traditions simply had it wrong. Other religions had a God, for goodness sakes. I, on the other hand, had No-God, which was simply the same god the other traditions had, only my No-God wore a hat and sunglasses like some reclusive movie star, and so I didn’t have to confront her head-on. She didn’t embarrass me in public.
Bookstore Buddhism was the only game my ego would let me play; I wasn’t a joiner of communities–unless of course, you wanted to make me the leader. I’m by no means alone in this Bookstore Lineage; a great many of us come from it. We have our own set of historical, celebrity teachers, our robe is usually the bath robe, and our ashram has a two-car attached garage.
I’m not saying self-leadership is a bad thing–necessity is the mother of invention. But I think you’re going to have to be lucky as a leprechaun to have much in the way of long-term success with it. It gets tougher and tougher for the ego to get rid of the ego. In my case, however, it left me with a damn fool of teacher and a damn fool of student. This was the case for me not only prior to awakening, but for 3 1/2 years after awakening as well.
Eventually I gave up on my teacher. Fredness was seen to be shallow and narrow, and he was a liar to boot. You don’t have to give up on your teacher, whether it’s you or someone else, no matter what lineage you’re in–unless, of course, you do. Lightning can strike on a clear day, but I wouldn’t bet on it hitting me. Yet that’s precisely what I was betting on for years–decades. I was betting on a longshot. I just couldn’t tell myself the truth about my own tradition of no-tradition, and my unwise, unscrupulous teacher.
I loved Fredness way too much to be honest about him, and I loved his Holy Way. I worshiped him and his Holy Way Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, yet I loathed him and his No-Way-Out on the other four days. People often tell me they feel the same way about their own spiritual path–whether it’s organized to the point of being anal or disorganized to the point of being chaotic, as mine was. On a very regular basis–every week–people tell me they are tired of being tired; they are sick and tired of reading nothing but spiritual books, but they find they’re unable to read anything else. It seems that oftentimes our path is there simply to wear us out, which creates an opening for liberation, but the path itself will never actually deliver us from itself.
So, what’s your ultimate authority? Is it your teacher? Your tradition? Your library? Is it your “renegade” path that smacks so heavily of all the other “renegade” paths?
In the end, your ultimate authority is always you. Become willing to look at your own situation in the same logical-yet-compassionate way that you would address your best friend’s situation–if he or she asked you to. If what you’re doing is working for you, great, have at it. My hat is off. After all, I can’t even know what this unit should do until it does it, so I’m no authority on what’s right for anyone else. Nonetheless, I do have a couple of suggestions.
If your present path is not working for you, but it’s working for others, retreat at least temporarily and reassess. If it’s not working for you, or much of anyone else, get the hell out there and try something else. Life’s too short.
Here’s the link to this article’s companion Clarity Talk:
May 20, 2014