It’s not particularly unusual for me to stop a session and have a have a heart-to-heart talk with my client. People who have been around spirituality a long time often think they know a lot about enlightenment: what it really is, how it should show up for them, what that experience will be like, and what it’ll be like for them afterward.
We don’t have a clue.
Heck, I get it–I thought I knew all of these things, too. I had endless fantasies about enlightenment, but none of them were right. Folks, I was a seeker for twenty-four years! I was not a quick study! But my assumptions were wrong, completely wrong, and these old ideas and expectations did not function to free me, they worked to cage me.
I’ve personally never worked with anyone who turned out to be right about any of these things. That includes the many people who’ve had previous awakening experiences, but who are nonetheless not awake to this present arising. Counting ourselves as the exception to all the usual rules that apply to everyone else is a great way to stay outside the Gateless Gate.
What can happen is that we get into an egoic contest with the very person who’s trying to help us. Inquiry turns into argument. We are far, far better off to catch ourselves in the act of screwing ourselves and have a private “Come-to-Jesus” moment. So here’s some advance notice on how to avoid resisting awakening.
What awakening calls for are three things I learned a lot about when I was in recovery: Honesty, Openness, and Willingness. The H.O.W. of the Twelve Steps is also the H.O.W. of awakening. I am not saying that the spiritual awakening typically found in Twelve Step recovery is the same as the spiritual awakening found in Nonduality. In all but the rarest of cases, it most certainly is not. But I am saying that the most successful approach is the same for both types.
Can we tell ourselves the truth? Can we admit that what we’ve been doing up to now isn’t working? Will we concede that what we think, know, and believe has so far not brought us to awakening? I will ask, “It hasn’t worked for forty years. Is it likely to do so today?” Admit failure.
Can we confess that we don’t actually know anything at all about awakening? Can we admit that we don’t know what it really is, how it should show up for us, what it will be like either when we awaken, or after? Admit ignorance.
Have we noticed that our brain has failed us? Actually, we’ve failed it. We’ve asked to do something that’s impossible. We’ve asked it to figure out how reality works. It can’t. It would if it could, but it can’t. The part can’t contain the whole. Admit limitation.
Have we noticed that whatever path we’ve been on has brought us here, wherever here is? Perhaps the path itself is trying to tell you something? Admit where we are.
Can we leave our old ideas behind, like a snake sheds its skin, and be like a new person coming to a new thing? Suzuki-Roshi called this “Beginner’s Mind”. This is the mind we want to cultivate. Old Mind is what we want to empty as best we can. Can we come to the fountain with an empty cup so that something new can pour into it?
Once the door is open, are we willing to actually walk through it? Are we willing to allow awakening show up on its own terms? Are we willing to accept it when it does? Is my loyalty devoted to our old ideas that we love, to our dear teacher that we love, to our chosen sacred path that we love, or is it to ourselves? We have to decide.
We have to be willing to accept awakening as it comes, when it comes. This is huge.
On we go.
Fred Davis 2.2.2014