If we read the Biblical story of the Garden of Eden as a myth of consciousness, our original unconditioned nature is evident. This journey has been known throughout history by many names: The Tao, The Way of the Christ, enlightenment, the shamanic journey, kundalini awakening, the middle path, the Royal Road, the path of Initiation, the hero’s journey, or simple ‘going home,’ to name only a few
The first pertinent question is likely to be how this alteration and development takes place in the face of the fact that for any such activity to be effective it must have existed as a continuous evolutionary process for ages for which the human body, particularly the skull, provides no convincing proof, having exhibited no marked variation for the last thousands of years conspicuous enough to furnish conclusive evidence for a radical change in the brain, the seat of its mental expression.
If the answer to it be that the alteration does not occur in the size or shape of the brain or any other vital organ or in the body as a whole, but in the arrangement, quality, and composition of the constituents of the body in respect of the extremely subtle life element present in every cell and part of the organism, the point raised in the question would cease to have any weight. The obvious reluctance of many otherwise highly intelligent minds to accord recognition to the validity of spiritual experience and the reality of psychical phenomena is due mainly to the inability of empirical science to grasp or analyze the true nature of the life principle animating the cell, the ultimate unit of all organic structures. At the present stage of our knowledge the rousing of Kundalini provides the only possible way to study the extraordinary behavior and possibilities of the life element and the subtle biochemical medium by means of which it manipulates the organism and is able to augment or reduce its efficacy and power, leading to the bewildering diversity in intellectual acumen and spiritual insight of persons possessing approximately the same dimensions of the head and the same size and weight of the brain.
It is a great mistake to treat man as a completely finished and hermetically sealed product, entirely debarred from passing beyond the limits imposed by his mental constitution. There is a big gap between him and the most intelligent anthropoid apes, whose habits, it is said, he shared only a few thousand centuries ago, advancing in an inexplicable way beyond the mental boundary reached by the other members of that family. The cause of departure must have originated within, as external influences have no radically modifying effect on a mental compartment sealed by nature.
According to the popular beliefs in India, Kundalini is possessed of marvelous attributes. She is Pam Shakti, the supreme energy, which, as illusive Maya, inveigles the embodied Jeeva into the mesh of transitory appearances, bound helplessly to the ever-rotating wheel of life and death. She is the seductive female who lures him to the bed of enjoyment followed by procreation and pain, and she is also the compassionate mother who creates in him the thirst for knowledge and the desire for supersensible experience and endows him finally with spiritual insight to lead him towards the realization of his own celestial nature.
Amazing stories are current about the manner in which some very famous literary stars of India whose names are household words, became the fortunate recipients of her grace and from common men soared to unrivalled heights of poetic and literary genius almost overnight. They emerged as accomplished poets, rhetoricians dramatists and philosophers without the aid of teachers, without training, and sometimes without even the rudiments of education. There are also incredibly strange anecdotes of the marvelous psychic gifts showered by her on many exceptionally favored devotees almost on her very first appearance before them in a vision, investing the hitherto unknown aspirants with such miraculous powers as enabled them apparently to defy at will some of the otherwise inviolable laws of nature.
Kundalini is the mechanism as well as the motive force by which this biological trimming and re-modelling is accomplished in the most effective manner, provided the system is not too much deteriorated either by its own defective mode of life or because of a retrogressive heredity. The awakening being a rare but natural biological phenomenon it is futile to enter into a discussion of the reality of the lotuses, on which a good deal of emphasis has been laid by the ancient authorities.
The idea of Chakras and lotuses must have been suggested to the mind of the ancient teachers by the singular resemblance which, in the awakened state, the lustrous nerve centres bear to a luminous revolving disc, studded with lights, or to a lotus flower in full bloom glistening in the rays of the sun.
The circle of glowing radiance round the head, tinged at times with rainbow colors and supported by the thin streak of light moving upward through the spinal duct, bears an unmistakable likeness to a blooming lotus with its thin stalk trailing downwards in water, conveying to it the nutritive elements drawn by means of innumerable root fibres, exactly in the same manner as the living stalk of Sushumna supplies the subtle organic essence drawn from every part of the corporeal frame by means of countless nerve filaments to feed the Flame lit by Kundalini.
It resembles in effect a gorgeous lotus of extraordinary brilliance, having a thousand petals to denote its large dimensions. In the absence of adequate physiological information, the old savants probably could not seize hold of a better method, not only to indicate the position of the nerve clusters which had to become seats of intense activity simultaneously with the awakening, but also to prepare the uninitiated disciples for their subsequent brightly illumined lotus-like appearance.
As one becomes conscious and experiences an uncovering of meaning, the pieces of the puzzle come together. Physical illness as a result of the healing and transformation process is viewed as “part of the process,” a detoxification of emotional pain, a cleansing of the energetic blockages in each chakra or energy center in the body. Imagination is a process of reversing conditioned responses so to eliminate feat These processes affect the body, for a full healing of body, mind and spirit.
Psychospiritual Integration and Transpersonal Psychology
The Imagination model is a transpersonal psychological model integrating one’s psyche with the spiritual nature of Self. With healing, transformation, health and consciousness, one is merging the psyche and the spirit—hence the term, psychospiritual integration. According to one of my greatest teachers, Jacquelyn Small, psyche is the root of the word “psychology,” and it means soul, or spirit, something psychologists seem to forget.
The psyche is huge, our total self. Transpersonal Psychology is attempting to bring back a respect for the wholeness of the Self. Its goal is to move forward along the trajectory of our unfolding lives, to help us manifest the theme “from fragmentation to wholeness” so that we can actualize our full potential. It is the first psychology (because it includes the work of Carl Jung) that explains the client’s process as being a hero’s or heroine’s journey, an inner awakening or pilgrimage back to our spiritual source.
This journey has been known throughout history by many names: The Tao, The Way of the Christ, enlightenment, the shamanic journey, kundalini awakening, the middle path, the Royal Road, the path of Initiation, the hero’s journey, or simple ‘going home,’ to name only a few (Small, 1991, p. 30). The Imagination process is the hero journey, described so profoundly by Joseph Campbell—”the goal of the hero trip down to the jewel point is to find those levels in the psyche that open, open, open, and finally open to the mystery of the Self being Buddha consciousness or the Christ”.
Quantum Physics and Universal Law
In addition to core concepts mentioned above, imagination aligns closely with theory from quantum physics which states that we are energy and information, and that energy and information can be focused through our intentional thought to create the future.
With awareness of these principles of healing, clients are ready to heal and trans-form through psychospiritual group process and transpersonal psychotherapy, merging their psyches with the spiritual aspect of Self. The hero’s journey can take each participant to that point where the whole self-awakens. Once awakened, nothing is impossible! Imagination participants learn the art of co-creation through the teachings from quantum physics and begin to affirm energetic intentions that not only affect their mind/body but, the cosmos as well creating interconnectedness which is desired.
The Stages of Contemporary Mystics
Claiming that there is “the universal formula” in cultures around the globe, Joseph Campbell, an expert on myths around the world, describes the three stages of the mythological hero’s journey as “
(2) initiation, and
Campbell’s brief summary of this pattern says, “a hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder; fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won; the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow men:’ In Campbell’s blueprint, first, heroes separate from their familiar life; second, they are initiated by facing challenges’, ordeals, and struggles; third, their return home is “a rebirth to a new world:’ where they are “the reflex of a larger self.” Thus, “the ultimate aim of the quest … must be neither release nor ecstasy for oneself, but wisdom and power to serve others.’
THE PATHLESS PATH
The Romance of the Path If one is fortunate, at a certain point in the dream there are the stirrings of awakening to reality. The forgetting begins to become remembering, and the game of hiding from Self shifts to seeking. Of course, the yearning for the peace, happiness and freedom of our original nature has been going on unconsciously beneath the surface of the “I” all along. But the submerged drive to self-realization is not satisfied as long as it is focused outward on the world and the passing experiences of the supposed individual.
We may become conscious of that drive for what it is. Perhaps the suffering has become too great. Perhaps you have gratified your worldly desires and found that the promises of materialistic culture were false, that you are still lacking real satisfaction. Perhaps you begin to realize that there is more to life than you thought, that you have intimations of a deeper reality. Or a teacher or lover or new circumstance gives you a sudden insight, a taste of the bliss or peace of who you really are. You sense that there is something more and must get to it. Grace is a word we give to the ineffable force pulling oneself home.
It is the inherent magnetic attraction, like gravity, recalling the individual mind-stream to the ocean of consciousness. This force is literally the intuition of our original being, our remembering, through the fog of identification with the individual personality. We intuit this pull in nature. It arises in the intimacy of romantic love, and when we lose ourselves in our creative passions. It flashes momentarily in the psychedelic experience. It speaks to us clearly from the enlightened ones of all ages and cultures whose wisdom stirs and awakens us. Whatever the external catalyst, they are the ways consciousness calls attention back to itself and launches the “I” toward “transformation,” or “self-realization” or “enlightenment.”
Within the dream the spiritual path arises as the way out of suffering and toward freedom. This is the crucial turning point in spiritual life, when you become aware of that pull, when you feel the opening of the heart or the stirrings of a vaguely familiar knowing. If you are willing to follow and give it your full attention, the individual consciousness may fix itself into a homing orbit, impelled by desire and drawn by grace. And if you are so blessed, you may see that the push and pull are one and the same force, and in that realization individual effort dissolves into the effortless flow of the totality.
So we get “on the path.” It is thrilling, comforting, exhilarating. You are on the heroic journey home. You have sighted the goal and are moving toward it. It is a righteous feeling. The “I” is now a seeker, a spiritual person. We are no longer wandering around lost in the wilderness. We begin to live on purpose with intention and direction. We clarify and simplify our lives. We discover the rich, fascinating treasure house of world philosophies, spiritual traditions, methods and practices that promise us clarity, bliss, freedom. We are turned on by teachers, preachers and sages, led and misled by charlatans and fools. You study, you learn the practices and techniques, become fluent in the languages of spirit, acquire the ritual paraphernalia, the clothes and emblems of the ever burgeoning tribe of seekers.
You meditate, pray, breathe, practice yoga, raise the kundalini, balance the energy, heal, dance, drum, study your chart and cast the hexagram, stare deeply into each other’s eyes. And indeed it does bring comforts, glimpses of illumination, tastes of peace and happiness. Inspired by these successes we push on, dogged, steady, believing in progress; or, lacking such signposts along the way we may flail in despair, sensing it is endless or fruitless, or just not for me.
The radical nondual vision sees that all this striving and seeking is still more identification, albeit in a spiritual mode. The “I” has now taken on the identity of a spiritual seeker. “I” am purifying myself, “I” am making myself better, “I” am getting closer to God. The concept of a spiritual path itself is a more subtle instrument in maya’s bag of tricks to project duration so that the separate self-sense can sustain its illusory existence. It buys it even more time and allows it to remain in business.
As long as there is a path, the “I” can continue to delude itself that it exists as something separate from source, at the same time reassuring itself that it is getting “closer.” The struggle along the path, the heroic journey crossing the vast distance to reach some goal, reinforces the experience of solidity.
Sooner or later—if you are fortunate—you realize that the very concept of “someone on a path” itself is the impediment. Perhaps you have the grace of meeting a true gum who reflects your immaculate reality back to you. You see that you are holding to the belief that there is an “1” that is separate from the Self, and that by practice it can somehow diminish or purify itself. You see that “diminishing” or “purifying” is simply more striving.
There is nothing to diminish or purify. The concept that “I am not already That” is pure ignorance. It imagines the condition we call “unenlightenment” and posits a goal called “enlightenment.”
It then creates a spiritual path that will take this “unenlightened” me from my imagined “bondage” to some imagined “free-dom.” Yet the non-existent “I” can never bring about its own demise. The ultimate freedom comes in seeing that there really is no separate “I,” that there is no path and no need for anyone to walk it, that there is no bondage to escape nor freedom to attain. No Way Here we come face to face with the fundamental paradox of the nondual realization.
The big joke is that you already are what you seek. You already are peace, you already are happiness, you are the love, the knowing, the consciousness that pervades everything and that manifests as the universe. You are That. The absolute is all there is. Since you already are what you seek, there is no way to get here. There is nothing to do—no effort or practice is necessary—to become what you already are. All you can do is be. This is the true art of being. In the pathless path, the means and the end are one and the same.
Only awake to the One Mind, and there is nothing whatsoever to be attained. This is the real Buddha. The Buddha and all sentient beings are the One Mind and nothing else.” And finally Huang Po shows them the truth of Buddhism that is beyond even Buddha: “So the sutra says, ‘What is called supreme perfect wisdom implies that there is really nothing whatsoever to be attained.’ If you are also able to understand this, you will realize that the Way of the Buddhas and the Way of devils are equally wide of the mark.” There is no way to what already is.
Understanding It All
The pathless path of Advaita (literally, “not-two” or “undivided” in Sanskrit) is the way of understanding—also called jnana in India—the penetrating wisdom that sees no separation. The nondual knowledge is the Self. While this wisdom cannot be grasped in concept, we can directly taste our true nature by understanding what the word “understand” really means.
If we examine the driving force behind analysis itself we discover the why-thought. “Why?” is the questioning quality of mind. Like an itch the “why?” arises and calls to be scratched—to be pondered, to be answered, based on the assumption and hope that if this “why?” is answered, everything will fall into place and the itch will go away.
Questioning is an intellectual form of desire, a seeking of the understanding that the mind thinks will bring peace, security and control. Like the process of desire, which is never quite satisfied by its temporary gratifications, intellectual answers come and go, yet the mechanism of questioning continues seeking ever new content.
The question—this wanting to know—is a crucial piece of technology in the self-perpetuation of mind, one of the ways it sustains its functioning and reinforces the appearance of the “I”. The why-thought is a servant of the I-thought. Deathly afraid of unemployment, it ongoingly seeks busy work to stay in action and sustain its imagined existence. It ennobles understanding as its heroic adventure of explaining reality and coming to ultimate truth. Yet this hope is the sucker bait on the fishhook of the question. If you turn the question mark—”?”—upside down—”t”—it looks like a hook.
Questions have a barb on the end that hooks attention into continued thought activity, which in its pursuit of truth continues to mask it. It generates ever-more refined questions and answers and the whole body of profound philosophical and spiritual discourse arises. It seems like such a heresy to the acquisitive, knowledge-seeking mind to suggest that there is really nothing to know and no point in thinking about it.
No matter how sublime the expression, all explanation is just a metaphor for the unutterable mystery. In the silent knowing beyond words, mystery is sufficient unto itself and needs no explanation. Ultimately, “why?” has no answer. Or, we could say, the real answer to “why?” is “because.” That is, “because” in the sense of an injunction to be-the-cause itself, to abide as source. When you realize that you are the cause of all, the source of all questions and answers, then the true meaning of understanding becomes clear.
Reverse the two concepts within understand and you get stand under. To stand under something might be to place yourself below it or lower than it, which suggests that one approaches mystery by humbling yourself before it, bowing to it.
Thought must give up all attempts to define the infinite and comprehend the unknowable. It must kneel, indeed, prostrate itself fully upon the ground of silence and release all its conceptual positions, no matter how lofty. In the surrender to no-thought, the real knowing is revealed.
Wisdom arises in the total acceptance of mystery. The meaning of understand gets even clearer if we see the word’s Latin origins: sub (under) stance (stand). The sub-stance or essence of something is that which stands under it, that is, it underlies it. To understand reality is to realize that it stands under everything and everyone. It is the unchanging substrate within everything, the Self within everybody. You are that truth.
Thus, understanding means being the substance that stands under everything. In this sense truth understands it all. In this mysterious self-knowledge where knowing is being, there is no individual knowing subject and known object. “Substance is what remains, “when everything you can think of has gone.”
If you have not tasted the sweetness of your own true nature, then want-ing nothing but the Self may seem like a forced ascetic sacrifice of what you think you want. However, when one has known its pure satisfaction, one wants to return to it again and again. And the more we savor the peace of the Self, the more acutely do we feel the pain of our unfulfilled desires and attachments to experience. Here suffering itself is its own blessing, for it drives one back to the peace. Our pain is the grace that leads us to return repeatedly to the Self until we have had enough suffering and are unwilling to get stung again. We realize that no experience in the movie can come close to the magnificent wholeness of our own being. So want freedom above all things.
Turn to it incessantly, over and over again with one-pointed devotion. As the great Sufi poet-saint Rumi beck-oned: “Come, come, whoever you arc, this caravan has no despair.” Though you may wander away a thousand times, you only need turn your fact Self-ward once again to be welcomed home. As you turn to it, it pulls you. You see that your very yearning is the gravitational force of grace itself, pulling from—and to—the center of pure silence and fullness. It is the irresistible attraction of absolute being calling its own reflection home—a black hole in which nothing and no one can exist. To desire only the Self means to yield to that dissolution into source—to surrender to one’s own truth as the moth abandons itself to the flame. In this way total desire is surrender. Surrender’s Just Mother Word for Nothin’ Lek to Do Surrender lies at the very heart of the paradoxical pathless path. In dual-istic spiritual language, the word “surrender” implies some kind of action by a doer.
It suggests that there is a letting go, some giving up that must be done to realize oneself. Yet in the mystery of the no-way, surrender is not so much a letting go as it is a seeing through the I-thought itself and the belief that there is something “I” must do, somewhere to get, more effort to make to realize myself. Even the concept “letting go,” as passive and mellow as it sounds, suggests an unnecessary action.
While conventionally we might say that one relinquishes the l-thought, it seems more precise to say one merely abides as what you are before thought and action arise and after they pass away—the being-awareness that recognizes no doer, no duality. So, rather than an action or effort, surrender is the seeing that no action or effort is necessary, and that no separate agent exists to perform it. It is the awareness that you are and always have been home free. To be That involves no doing. Papaji said over and over again: “Don’t try. Make no effort, have no intention.” It may seem as if it takes a great intention to have no intention. It may seem like a tremendous effort to give up all effort. ‘
But this is just because the mind—addicted to doing—cannot grasp the simplicity of being and soreverts back to its habitual trying. Deathly afraid of unemployment, it continually generates the make-work of giving itself a sense of solid existence. Surrender is a huge challenge to the addiction to busyness, which seeks more, better, different. Responding to a student who said letting go is difficult, Papaji explained: “That’s because you have the idea that letting go is something you have to do. To move from one place to another may be difficult if the journey is long and hard. But if you don’t have to move at all, how can you say that it is difficult? Just give up the idea that you have to do something or reach some-where.
That’s all you have to do.” In this sense surrender is a full relaxation of effort and striving. It is ultimate stress relief, a release of the contraction, of the holding-on muscle. It is the end of identifying with the survival functions—the desire-grabbing-con-trolling impulses and the fear-avoiding-resisting tendencies that lock in the separate self-sense. Surrender is simply letting yourself be as you are. It is like going to sleep: In order to sleep you must surrender the world, give up your relationships, let go of your body, your thoughts. You can only sleep if you give all of that up. You surrender into non-existence. Each night as you die into source, you are refreshed by this surrender. In this refreshment we come to know the immense richness of the Self, and relinquish the impoverishment of the separate self-sense.
The master told us repeatedly: You are an emperor, not a beggar. You possess the untold wealth of the universe, unimaginable riches. Don’t beg for enlightenment, don’t plead for it. You are the Self, don’t assume that you are impoverished. Give up that yearning and be quiet, and the treasure will be self-evident as your very nature.
Because the I-thought is the lynchpin that holds the separate self sense and its suffering together, the essence of surrender is seeing through identification with the “I” and its story. It is the end of belief in the doer. Are we willing to cease being the star of our own movie and give up the heroic romance of the arduous path? Are we willing to see how much we hold on to the hopeful quest—that hope is still suffering. Can we see how addicted we are to longing and struggle, and see through the whole drama? Who has had enough?
To not entertain the 1-thought exposes the illusory nature of separateness and reveals the always-already presence that underlies all sense of self. If you plunge into the depths of yourself it is seen that the individual “I” is just a refraction of the one “I am,” your real being and the sole subject from which all being arise. I love Emerson’s simple account of his awakening: “Standing on the bare ground,—my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space,— all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eyeball.
I am nothing. I see all. The currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God.” From the egoic perspective, surrender looms as failure and defeat. It may seem an admission of weakness, that you couldn’t handle it or do it by your-self. It triggers the illusory doer’s fear of not being able to control its destiny or pursue its agenda. Surrender faces this fear head on, staring directly into the eyes of an individualistic culture that worships free will as its most precious quality—a worship that sustains the rebellion against source. In relaxing that resistance, surrender claims the ultimate victory of resting as one’s own Self.
A Generous Acceptance Surrender comes as well through the unconditional acceptance of all our experience, whatever it may be. Remember that the sense of separation is sustained by attachment to experience—to our desires and fears, likes and dislikes, to the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. The “I” continually seeks to feed off experience—grasping what it wants and rejecting what it doesn’t—to give it a sense of solidity, To fully embrace whatever comes, to accept our experience as it is without trying to control it, undermines the sense of “I”. Its imagined boundaries and strategic, manipulating tendency cannot endure this receptivity.
“Enlightenment,” Zen Master Joshu Sasaki Roshi defined succinctly, “is the unconditional embrace of your karma.” It is in our full acceptance of all our experience that we find liberation in the midst of life as it is. Nisargadatta Maharaj cautioned those who came to him seeking some idealized state by saying, “Realization comes through a conscious and deliberate plunging into life, not in retreat from it,” “through a generous acceptance of finite experience, not in blotting it out of mind; through utter willingness to be what one is, not in trying to lift oneself to Heaven by one’s own bootstraps. The Self realizes freedom from the finite world by deliberate self-abandonment to its limitations.” Again, the paradox of the pathless path—just be yourself, allow yourself to have ordinary experience, accept your limitations. Self-abandonment to our limitations is a challenging, scary concept to the ardent spiritual student filled with perfectionist notions of some ideal “enlightened state.” We hear that there is a place of unblemished peace and love and bliss and kindness.
One of the biggest traps in spiritual life is this expectation of permanent purity, absent of everyday experience, a perfectionism that subtly rejects our humanness. We then measure ourselves and our experience against that ideal. We somehow believe that we “get there” by always being peaceful, always being loving, always kind or equanimous, and that if we are experiencing something else, we are not there, nor will that ordinary kind of experience help us to get there.
We scrutinize all our experience and judge whatever doesn’t seem to approximate the ideal. So naturally we don’t want to accept the ups and downs of our experience as it is. We want to manipulate it and purify it, we want to get rid of some experiences and cultivate others. We want to elevate ourselves to the ideal. We thus hold up an ideal that, in the very process, means there is “some-one” who is never quite living up to it.
This perfectionism sustains the impression of a selfless than” its own true nature. Recall that mays projects the appearance of division through measurement. Measuring, which in this sense means judging our experience against an image of perfection, literally traces the boundaries of a non-existent separate self. In so doing you forget that you are without qualifiers of any kind, what Buddha called “suchness,” that which is prior to all judgment. If we read the Biblical story of the Garden of Eden as a myth of consciousness, our original unconditioned nature is evident. Adam and Eve were free to live eternally in innocence. God had presented Adam with only one commandment: “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good or evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” (Genesis 2:17).
The commandment was very clear: Do not bite into the distinction between good and evil. Do not judge. If you remain in innocent consciousness, free of judging, you abide as your original nature, which is eternal. If you distinguish good and evil, you no longer know your perfection. This was the simple, straight-forward promise; this was the unambiguous warning. Eating the apple—the judging quality of mind—divides the inherent perfection of reality into right and wrong, good, and bad.
The myth describes the origin of dualism, the separative mentality that projects upon the primordial unity the multiplicity of existence. It cleaves our whole being into subject and object, separates the individual from the totality, creates the distance between the human being and God, and projects the endless path of return to that original state.
This dualistic mentality literally casts us out of the garden of innocent consciousness into the forgetting of one’s own Self. No wonder they felt “shame,” the feeling tone of separation from one’s pure nature. The divided mentality ejects us from paradise and into the world of suffering—as the myth says, into the pain of childbirth and the “painful toil” of work and subsistence. It casts us out of the eternal now and into mortality, into time, old age and death. It is the fall into mind and its dream of struggling to survive outside the garden of source consciousness.
If we read the Biblical story of the Garden of Eden as a myth of consciousness, our original unconditioned nature is evident. Adam and Eve were free to live eternally in innocence. God had presented Adam with only one commandment: “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good or evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” (Genesis 2:17). The commandment was very clear: Do not bite into the distinction between good and evil. Do not judge. If you remain in innocent consciousness, free of judging, you abide as your original nature, which is eternal. If you distinguish good and evil, you no longer know your perfection.
This was the simple, straight-forward promise; this was the unambiguous warning. Eating the apple—the judging quality of mind—divides the inherent perfection of reality into right and wrong, good and bad. The myth describes the origin of dualism, the separative mentality that projects upon the primordial unity the multiplicity of existence. It cleaves our whole being into subject and object, separates the individual from the totality, creates the distance between the human being and God, and projects the endless path of return to that original state. This dualistic mentality literally casts us out of the garden of innocent consciousness into the forgetting of one’s own Self. No wonder they felt “shame,” the feeling tone of separation from one’s pure nature. The divided mentality ejects us from paradise and into the world of suffering—as the myth says, into the pain of childbirth and the “painful toil” of work and subsistence. It casts us out of the eternal now and into mortality, into time, old age and death. It is the fall into mind and its dream of struggling to survive outside the garden of source consciousness.
There was just one commandment at first. When they didn’t follow that one, then we got ten! And now the seemingly endless stream of do’s and don’ts which no one can ever live up to. Hence the vicious cycle of perfectionism—the process of continually falling short of oneself—spins the wheel of suffering. All this is the consequence of judgment. The “fall” did not take place in some mythic or historical time, somewhere in the past in the Near East. It occurs now. Every moment that one judges one’s experience or oneself, one is cast out of the garden of one’s own unconditional Self. As the old saying goes:
“What you resist persists.” Paradoxically, your very judgment and resistance holds you captive to the experience you are trying to avoid. Resistance is the way we hold on and stay stuck. Like the old Brer Rabbit story of the tar baby, the more you try to push it away and get out of it, the more you get stuck in it. The experience persists, and the experiencer persists, caught in some “attainment-mode” trying to let go of the attachment and reach the ideal, pure state.
We get stuck in the thought that this isn’t it, that all our human experience isn’t it, that attachment and reactivity aren’t it, and that we have to attain some other state. Yet if one is fortunate to be close to the great sages, we see that the masters have their ordinary human experience, their moods, their emotional out-bursts and ups and downs, their personal idiosyncrasies. Papaji got angry and cranky. It just happened in a totally different context than most people.
When asked if he got angry, Papaji subtly replied. “Yes, but ‘I’ don’t get angry, anger gets angry.” That is, experience comes and goes, moods and reactions come and go. It is all a perfectly natural flow of experience, yet it doesn’t happen to anyone. There is no experiencer there judging the experiencing, or pushing it away, or clinging to it.
So you don’t have to change your experience. Just allow it to happen, receive it all with equanimity. The essential key is to feel it fully, without holding it or pushing it away. You take what comes, the pleasure and pain, what you like and dislike. Be with it when it’s here, let it go when it is gone. That is all you can do—allow it to come up fully into consciousness.
Feeling is the crucible of transformation, the fire that bums the experience away. When we feel fully, we give the experience the opportunity to complete itself and dissipate. Emotions follow a simple basic law: if you feel them they will pass. That is, if you feel them as pure sensation without clinging to the story we tell about them, then they come and go naturally. They live out their life span and disappear. If you resist them, deny therm judge or repress them, they have a tendency to stick around. They get stored in the mindbody as some form of stress or may show up eventually as illness.’
The willingness to feel is the litmus test of true courage. I am not speak-ing of the popular concept of courage as “no fear.” While fearlessness is, indeed, a quality of our true being, we do not realize it by denying fear or making an end run around it. In fact, courage is the willingness to feel fear, to be fully open to it. “In order to experience fearlessness,” Ch6gyam Trungpa Rinpoche advised, “it is necessary to experience fear. The essence of cowardice is not acknowledging the reality of fear.”
Courage, then, is the willingness to face our fear. We no longer hide or shrink back from certain experiences, but welcome them, as uncomfortable or scary as they may be. Hell can come and go, lifetimes can come and go, in what is a second on the clock.
When one is truly open and courageous in the face of all experience, there is no impulse to run from any of it. On the contrary, one embraces the mystery itself. When you are willing to feel the entire spectrum of human experience as it is, you come to know its true nature—transitory, ever-changing, modifications of the underlying source.
Sensations are not felt any less than before. In fact, they might be felt even more intensely when there’s a greater openness and receptivity to the energy in its raw state. When powerful feelings arise we are given the opportunity to taste an unimagined poignancy of existence. The intense grief and sadness many of us experienced during the September I attacks threw us into the fire of overwhelming feeling. It felt like molten lava flowing through mc, burning everything in its path and leaving an indescribable awe and mystery. Such utter intensity went beyond pleasure and pain, beyond all the categories and interpretations we place upon feeling. Even the most painful experiences became exquisitely beautiful and sacred. It was clear these feelings were not personal, but rather arising from source itself, manifesting through the medium of my bodymind programming and conditioning. By not placing upon it any judgment or identification or story, all experience, all suffering, is felt as the sensate forms of the intangible formless. While the sensation is felt, it is also known to be insubstantial and spacious.
As you fully accept the flow of mindbody experience as it is, a shill in identification takes place. Instead of identifying with the changing content of your experience and believing yourself to be the experiencer, you realize that you are the unchanging context within which it is all occurring. Experience comes and goes and you are always here, allowing the flow of thoughts, feelings, and actions to occur without attachment or judgment. You are the simple loving space that witnesses the mindbody process, including the personality, living out its programming. It is an odd paradox—to fully accept the individual persona is to be free of it even as it flows on.
This is what Maharaj meant by the “utter willing- ness to be what one is, not in trying to lift oneself to Heaven by one’s own bootstraps. The Self realizes freedom from the finite world by deliberate sclf-abandonment to its limitations.” We lovingly accept our humanness, our programming, conditioning, tendencies, preferences, our individual quirks, moods and so-called foibles. The American nondual sage Robert Adams jokingly told his students how amused he was at the way his personality turned out. By compassionately observing the whole person with gentle acceptance, you are freed from identification with it.
As long as you are trying to make yourself perfect, you are stuck identifying with an imagined imperfect self. It is a tremendous challenge to sec through the attempt to change, improve, fix the personality. Any change that may occur is simply the destiny of the organism. It is a great relief to see that there is no “perfecting” the individual, that there is no one working on oneself or purifying character or cultivating virtue or shaping one’s development.
To truly give this up is liberation. Ultimately, then, self-acceptance is self-transcendence. The unconditional allowing of experience reveals your true nature. On the one hand you know yourself as the awareness that is untouched by the mind-body process.
The Self is always free of experience and never limited to it. It is so difficult to describe: all experience occurs, recorded and felt by the senses—vividly, tangibly—yet the being-awareness experiences nothing, just as the images in the mirror never really touch or stain the mirror. All states come and go, and you just are, free of it all, even as it is all happening within you. The inherent happiness and peace of your original nature are independent of what happens in the movie of experience.
Ultimately, however, in the mystery of nonduality, to be free of experience does not mean you are separate from it, as if you are some independent subject witnessing the flow of sensory objects. This is just another trap in dualistic consciousness, an attachment to emptiness that sustains a subtle sense of separation by pushing away the world of experience.
The fully open embrace of experience actually reveals the undivided reality, that all experiences are forms of your own formless reality. It is a welcoming celebration that it’s all just you experiencing yourself as the endless variations of the one taste. This is the “return” to the garden of innocent consciousness, which you discover has always been here, awaiting your acceptance. Neither a place in time nor a state of mind, this unconditioned perfection is your very nature here and now.