It’s easy for us to get sidetracked on the spiritual path. It’s easy to have our search co-opted by ego and redirected toward dream-life improvements while justifying that it’s all part of an authentic spiritual path. Well, baloney—it’s not. I’m sorry, but there it is.
By the same token, the presence of relative preferences is not anathema to spiritual aspirations. We can hold both, we just don’t want to get the two of them confused. This is not a stone-throwing contest about the shallow people out there as opposed to the deep one here. Here’s my dark secret: I care about the Fred story. I care what happens in Fredness’ life.
Granted, I’m not married to my preferences, but they nonetheless exist. I have lived as a park bum, as a street alcoholic. Take it from me, a good story is generally more fun than a bad one. It’s more pleasant to have Betsy, Willy, and Dickens happy and healthy than not. Having been dead broke and in dire straights many, many times, I can say with authority that it’s more fun to have money than to not have money.
When I lived as a street alcoholic, I was doing my job: I was a really splendid Bad Example. My job was very painful, but by God I was still made to be useful.
My job now is to first help people wake up, and then help them clear until living as Conscious Awakeness becomes the default position. Even then I often act as an ongoing confidant, guide, and wise friend. It’s a hell of a lot less painful than being a park drunk, let me tell you. It’s a more fun story. It’s better paid. I don’t know that this job is more important than being a truly excellent Bad Example, but it’s a whole lot easier on the unit.
Ultimately what I want is what happens. To want anything else would be insane. But I’ll be honest and tell you that sometimes I have to stretch a bit to find out why I like What Is. I worked with an absolutely splendid client today who happens to have breast cancer. I helped her wake up prior to her surgery, and the “magic” held through her surgery and the early results of it, which were not perfect, but good. In the past ten days they have become less good, and it turns out that chemo is also in order.
Today I helped her see that from at least one angle, breast cancer is showing up as a good thing. I explained, “This illness has been severe enough that it’s made you positively eager to tell yourself the truth. At the end of the day, this thing that we’re doing together is the only thing that really matters. I’m not discounting relativity–it’s great! Your husband counts, your children count, how you treat others, the decisions you make, all of that counts.
“But when it’s all said and done, this is the only thing that really matters. If the cancer has brought you to awareness of your True Nature, even if that unit dies, it’s a clear win.” And that’s the truth. Mind you, the dream counts. I care about it–my God, how can you NOT care about it? It’s fantastic!–absolutely the best show in town–ever! But it’s not what ultimately matters. Living as Truth–for a lifetime, or for our last day–is what matters.
My hitting the skids was what it took for Nature to bring my undivided attention to the fact that this unit had a fatal drinking problem. I began to tell myself the truth. I confess that coughing out the truth of my condition came in fits and starts that stretched another 18 months before I got sober for what I hope was the last time. My denial was embedded very deeply, and it did not give up quickly. I see this with clients all the time.
This breast cancer is my friend’s “rock bottom”–that mystical position we hear so much about. When we began to talk today she was cloudy, but I had her back in brightness after ten minutes of Attention Practice. (Score yet another one for that often-miraculous practice.) Clearly, she didn’t want to live a lie any longer, but the story can be so sticky, and with the huge drama happening in that unit’s life, only a very determined woman can hope to stay clear. I’m betting on J. doing just that.
We all have our own versions of “rock bottom.” We all have our gutters or our breast cancers. Many times we step over them so that we don’t have to face them. I was working with an active separation addict the other day–a guy who was in an apparently bad situation. I told him, “Life is showing you that your current way of thinking and living is not working anymore. It’s trying to get your attention so that you’ll direct it toward the truth. And it’ll keep on having you suffer until you notice that this mode of living is, in fact, unlivable.
“Life will keep taking you further and further down. Every bottom’s got a trap door, trust me on this. Do you know how to tell when you’re at rock bottom? When you put the shovel down, you’ll know you’re there. Otherwise it’s endless, and right now you’ve still got the shovel in your hand.”
Suffering is not our enemy. It’s actually our friend, because it’s the alarm clock in the dream. If you’re suffering over how you’re living, or how you’re dying, then you’re confused. And let’s face it, we have to live this life precisely as it shows up until we don’t. There’s no “opt out” clause. We can’t even commit suicide unless the entire universe agrees that that’s the thing to do. Suffering is the thing that helps us come to, and remain as, Conscious Awakeness. It’s hard to ask for more than that.
Death is not our enemy either. In fact, if we have any truer friend than suffering, it’s death. For one thing, it’s so wonderfully reliable. It’s always going to be there for us; there’s no way for us to miss it. When the play is over, it’s going to walk us home in absolute safety. It’s going to release us from the slings and arrows of the world and from further indignities to the body and mind.
More good news: we all live precisely as long as we’re supposed to. We can’t die early, and we can’t be late. We don’t even have to get it right! However we go is perfect. Whenever we go is perfect. If we want to go ahead and relax, heck Death will take care of the whole thing for us. Like everything else in the dream, it’s being done for us, not to us. It’s already handled.
This teaching is not about hiding from life, it’s about opening to life–of which death is an integral part. Death is simply the other end of the birth stick. You can’t have one without the other–thank goodness for death! Without it there could not have been a life. There was nothing personal in that unit’s being born, and there’s nothing personal about its dying. When it lives, it’s doing its job. When it dies, it’s doing its job. Bully for the unit!
This teaching is not about transcending relativity or about pole vaulting us out of uncomfortable situations. It’s about not only coming to know our True Nature, but about coming to live as our True Nature, regardless of conditions. If our contentment is based on specific conditions, then our contentment is unstable and fleeting, a hostage to what we think we want–which is never quite this This.
This teaching is about seeing this present arising as it really is and being able to accept and at least mostly embrace it, even when that arising contains the death of someone we love or of someone we once thought we were. Relax. Everything is always okay. This very arising–this This–is our teacher. This arising is our kind guru. This arising is our Self.
Know yourself and you can live and die fearlessly, in absolute freedom.
August 7, 2014