The spiritual path is not a spiritual path. It is an integrated process of illuminating all Nine Spheres of life, of which the spiritual dimension is one. We use the term “spiritual practice”, but this is misleading. It feeds the fantasy that emphasizing the more subtle aspects of your experience will somehow magically help you transcend the discomfort of your personal situation. Yet no matter how deep you go into the subtle realm of spirit-energy, you always find yourself pulled back into the mundane affairs of ordinary life. There are always dishes. The rent is due. Relationships push your buttons. Your mother is calling.
As it turns out, the path is all-inclusive.
You can convince yourself that mundane life no longer affects you, that you have mastered detachment, but this gives rise to a spiritually caused pathology: disassociation. You see, the erroneous notion of a spiritual path validates the habit of self-abandon. It has you chasing mirages: gurus, bliss, secret teachings, strange postures, esoteric states, special abilities.
Yoga, meditation, chanting, satsang; these serve mostly as forms of distraction. Spiritual escapism. The practices themselves are not at fault. The traditions are time-tested and the potential for profound transformation is there. It is the lack of contextualization, view, and self-honesty that cause seekers to be mislead by spiritualism.
Authentic awakening is about immediacy with every aspect of life, not only the spiritual. It is about total and undiminished intimacy with everything that arises in the Nine Spheres. Awakening does not transform you into something beyond ordinary. It does not get rid of your worldly problems. It does not fix what you unconsciously assume is broken (your imperfect self). Quite the contrary!
Awakening reveals what is universally true.
Once the fundamental predicament of self-obsession is fully understood, a new type of practice occurs. We call this the birth of the radiant self. Yet no birth at all has taken place. The game of upholding a fictitious self-projection simply ends. When you stop this game, reality becomes self-evident. The un-fabricated truth of what you actually are shines forth spontaneously. You are able to meet life with openness and immediacy on every level.
The whole enterprise of spiritual practice hinges on self-honesty. Without self-honesty — full acknowledgement of your direct experience — nothing of value can be gained from spiritual practice. Without self-honesty, the study and practice of spiritual teachings will serve only to adorn your collection of mental distractions and egoic identifications. These function as toys you use to avoid the naked experience of your own situation.
The reason it is so important to fully embrace your unmodified direct experience is that, although it is painful, it is true. Real. Deep inside, you are suffering. This is a fact you are usually reluctant to admit. You cover this up with all sorts of spiritual rhetoric and idealized behavior, things you have read and heard. You become what you’re supposed to be. It’s an act. You’re hiding. You know it, and so do I.
Why do you play this game?
You can deceive yourself and others, but this does not change the fact: there is something uncomfortable about being you. Most of the time you are running from this discomfort. And you are not the only one. Self-deception is the main obstacle for all seekers. I’ve been there, too.
The good news is: your fully acknowledged suffering is the very foundation of genuine awakening. But you have be more interested in waking up than you are in remaining safe and comfortable in your dream.
In other words, the prerequisite for awakening is to cease avoiding the predicament self-contraction. If you understand this, you have received the core teaching. This is what is meant by the axiom, “start where you are.” Strange as it may sound, your turmoil contains the key to your freedom.
This is the root practice: Face your life in all Nine Spheres. Feel the full effect of your human embodiment. Release your reluctance to be vulnerable. Find out what it’s really like to be you. Become greatly interested in what your immediate experience is really like — at the gut-level — without getting hooked by the promise of self-improvement.
Apply absolute loving acceptance to what is right in front of you.
The very act of doing this is the true meaning of surrender and the true heart of devotion. This is yoga. This is meditation. This is the path.
If you can muster the courage to practice this, to walk the all-inclusive path, a door will open inside you.
Grace will rush in.
Suffering will come to an end, forever.
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