Ultimately, there is truly nothing one can say about the awakened life. All that we can really talk about are those paths that are false. So how can we identify a false path from one that is true? Is there a red flag that can guide us on how to avoid errors and dead-ends?
There is. But the red flag I’m talking about is one of the most challenging aspects of the one true path. This is what I present in this post.
Know that the ego is in love with enlightenment. It is tantalized by the happiness and power it believes the enlightened possess. Because the ego is mostly a personality construct that arises out of its own perception and experience of lack, then we can see that the ego is also the prime mover that seeks to become enlightened. To really see this is a great achievement – for it is the ego that is the red flag.
Anything that will draw the ego into its pursuit mode, which it will find as it seeks and hunts through the “spiritual” landscape of videos, books, and blog posts, is precisely the dead-end and error, which we are talking about. In a negative way, the ego, when seen with this understanding, is the near-perfect guide for how not to proceed. The ego is in love with pleasure and power and it will assume the form of pressure and compulsion to be drawn into its identity as hunter and seeker.
Allow me to present you with a subtle example of this principle. The subtle is a better teacher than the obvious, for it is the subtle that is nearly always overlooked.
You’ve made plans with a friend to see a movie, so you get into your car and as you’re driving to meet your friend you encounter a big traffic jam and you’re get stuck in total grid lock. As you realize that you’re not going to make the movie, you get upset and angry with how crappy life can be. Immediately, the spiritual ego chimes in with the thought, “If you we’re more spiritually evolved, you would take this event in perfect stride and not get upset.”
The spiritual ego sounds reasonable and it’s likely that most of us would take its bait and believe what it is telling us. But are its words true? What does it say about us that believes what it is telling us?
Let’s now go through the same scenario, but this time from the vantage point of the awakened self.
Awareness shows that a character in the dream has called our own dream persona to see a movie. We luxuriate in the fun and good vibes that arise naturally through the encounter. We watch as the appearance of our body enters the car and we feel the delicious exhilaration as the car actually moves out in the amazing landscape of the apparent world in this living moment. As we encounter the big traffic jam, we feel the dream drivers upset and frustration and are fascinated by the unexpected turn of events. The feelings possess a quality that is powerful and we can see and feel how they effect the dream and how it manifests in consciousness. We continue, in wonder, as the world re-invents itself in the next moment and the next moment and the next moment.
The differences in these experiences of the very same event should be striking to you. As I type these words, I’m really quite amazed at how it all flowers in its uniqueness and wonder. I am awakened to its remarkableness.
In contrast, the ego is personal. It can assume any personal form. So in the example of the traffic jam it assumes two distinct forms. When the upsetting event happens, it assumes the form of the super-ego. This is its parental manifestation. It has put on its spiritual garb and tells poor me how unevolved I am. It has a bossy quality. It is quite certain about the veracity of its observations.
In its second form it morphs into our apparent selves. This is the self we assume we are. Upset over the unexpected turn of events and listening to the “sage” advice from our super-ego, we convince ourselves that are a spiritual failure. Its acts to stimulate our underlying Wound (to see more about this, please take a look at my book Liberation from the Lie) and make us feel invalidated and crappy about the anger that has expressed itself through our form. In this way, the ego deeply personalizes the whole experience. It is, quite literally, the force that sustains the life of constant seeking and struggle going forward. Sadly, most of us are intimately tied to the ego for the whole of our lives.
If we correctly observe this example, we can also see how the phony spiritual ego manifests in the apparent world as false gurus, spiritual tyrants who preach that everything is love, and just plain business people who use ego manipulation to sell your their garbage (i.e, books like The Secret). Ego manipulation is any product that promises you freedom from pain, want, and suffering.
We see from this example, that the awakened self is not personally identified with anything that seemingly happens in the dream world of the personal self. Even as we might wash the dishes, while the personal ego self might be wanting to finish the chore quickly and get on to more fun activities or is critical of others who are not quite so adept at dish washing, the awakened self is just entranced by the passage of sensations and the quiet theatrical quality of the whole show of which dish washing is a part.
The awakened self has absolutely no need for special clothing, mysterious practices, meditation, or life in a ashram – although it might meditate for its pleasure or live in ashram because its fun. Our “take-away” from all of this is really quite simple and direct: the awakened self is not identified with any form. It is not even identified as the source of all forms. It really is the living awareness that almost ceaselessly takes impersonal pleasure in the whole play of consciousness.
Now let’s talk about tragedy for a moment. How does the awakened self experience pain and suffering?
I cannot give you a specific answer to that question. Now you will say, “aha – I knew this guy was a fake.” But, please allow me to explain why I can’t answer this question, because the answer will give you the key to awakening.
The awakened self is only alive in this very moment. When you bring up a hypothetical it can only deal with the hypothetical essence of the question – thus it can’t address the speculated consequences of the question itself.
I will say this – when my body reads about the agony of war, the terrible suffering of people as their medical coverage is denied, or the rapacious destruction of the earth’s environment, this body feels great sadness and anger. For the body and its consciousness are tied into the same living pathways that support all of life on this planet. When life grieves, it grieves. A lifetime of awareness enlivens awareness with a quality of tentative, modest knowing that stirs the heart. The deeper one releases into the aware heart, the greater grows the connection with all of life and then one day it is realized that everything is alive and we are that life.