Perhaps the most marvelous thing that can happen in any human life is the beginning of the spiritual journey. This point marks a threshold in the evolution of a human soul where begins the path of return. Out of the infinite source of all existence, the One spirit, we emerge as an expression of its limitless creativity. A temporary and ultimately illusory division of singular consciousness into duality allowing the one to experience the many.
Indeed we are an instrument through which the universe may experience itself. Every living being represents a unique perspective of consciousness on its own creation. Every living being plays a role in the Divine play of Maya until the endless succession of roles plays itself out and the individual begins to be drawn back into unity. The timing of this transition is a matter of grace and not personal choice.
The spiritual journey involves the gradual turning inward of attention from its usual outward focus on the manifest world. As the attention turns more and more inward interest in the forms and experiences of the manifest world begin to decline as one sees their unreality. Interest shifts from outer experience to inner experience and initially one may be taken with altered states of consciousness, experiences of joy and bliss, psychic experiences and glimpses of other realms perhaps with the assistance of an entheogen.
Typically as we turn inward the fascination with the outer world is simply replaced with a similar, possibly even greater, fascination with the inner worlds. Some explore the world of dreams, some learn to astral travel and others experiment with different levels of consciousness. This is a natural and perfectly normal aspect of the path of return, but for those whose ultimate aim is complete freedom it also constitutes a potential trap.
When we embark on the spiritual journey, we tend to still have some sense of who and what we are even if we have begun to question or doubt it. We still tend to consider ourselves a human being who is walking some kind of path in order to reach a destination sometime in the future. Some call this destination enlightenment or awakening or realization, but whatever you call it we generally have some kind of idea or image or expectation as to what it is.
It may be imagined as a merging with some concept of God or the Divine, or it may be imagined as some kind of vast release or expansion into total oneness or perhaps even such an exalted state that we become limitless omniscient beings. What we must ultimately come to terms with however is that it’s none of these things because all of these things are imaginations of the mind, they are phenomenal, which means they are limited so they cannot be the infinite being.
As human beings we have lived in a condition in which we identify with the body and mind as being who and what we are. Everything we have ever experienced has been through the conceptual filter of the mind, whether it be horrific suffering or magnificent joy and beauty. There has always been the sense that there is a person, some kind of entity who is experiencing something. That something, whether it’s a backache or an experience of Divine harmony, tends to have a beginning, to persist for a time and then come to an end. This is the nature of experience, it’s temporary.
As we walk the spiritual path we have many experiences and sometimes, if they are profound enough, we may even take them to be awakening itself. Later, when the experience ends and we desperately wish to get it back, we are disillusioned as the mind begins playing its old tricks again and we feel angry at the person who just cut us off on the freeway.
At a certain point, the thing that holds many people back who have been earnestly walking a spiritual journey for many lifetimes is the taking the final step. The final step being letting go of the deeply conditioned belief that we are a person, an individual separately existing being. When the unreality of the person (or the ego, personality, identity) is seen, all that we have taken ourselves to be dissolves and with it dissolves all dependence and attachment to experience. Without a person there can be no experience. We realize that not only are we ourselves an imagined creation of consciousness but so are all our ideas about God, spirit, consciousness and enlightenment. It’s all false, it’s all the mind. The last barrier is confronting the false God of the mind/ego which is the foundation of our existence and what keeps us bound to birth and death.
It was said by Sri Ramana Maharshi: “The I removes the I but remains the I”. When we say I we usually mean to refer to ourselves as a person, as the ego. However the true I, or the I am, is the first name of God, or the Divine, and it’s what I truly refers to when you don’t attach anything conceptual to it. It is the feeling sense of presence or existence that every living being from a fly to a human knows most intimately. It is the presence of God, or Atman, within each of us and it’s the very force that is life.
When we look at our lover or experience a painful situation or seek out God, the very act of looking or perceiving is that Divinity within us. The source of our perception or our awareness is that which we seek. As St. Francis said, “What we’re looking for is that which is looking”. There is in truth no distance to cover and no journey to make because our true nature is right here right now and it’s the source of our existence. When we seek to know ourselves, realizing the true I or beingness dissolves the false I or ego and remains as the pure I am.
When one becomes consciously aware of That, an entirely new experience of life opens up. Life as life itself instead of life as a person. We know ourselves as what we truly are and we see directly that everything, absolutely everything we experience emerges from, takes place in and dissolves back into the consciousness that we Are. Everything is within, there is no separation, there never has been. There is no longer a need to want anything because we are completely fulfilled and we see that everything we could possibly want we already are. Wanting or desires comes out of a sense of incompleteness or deprivation and represents a disturbance of consciousness.
The greater the desire the greater the disturbance and it tends to increase until the object of desire is obtained at which point it temporarily subsides. The pleasure we experience when we achieve something we want is really the absence of disturbing desire energy and the radiance of the true Self which is able to come through when there is calmness. The problem with desire is that its object is not the true source of happiness which makes it endless, fulfillment can never be obtain in this way.
Many bring up the question of how can one live life if there is no desire or nothing to want or seek, wouldn’t that mean we’d be bored and nothing would happen? Only if we still take ourselves to be a person with a separate existence. When we live fully in the now, fully in presence with no investment in past or future, we reclaim the mystery and magic of life. We’ve forgotten the mystery of life being caught up in the mind and its creations or time and space and form.
The mystery of life seems like magic to those unaccustomed to it because we live on synchronicity and love, and being fully in the here and now we recognize the natural currents of life and we flow with them. Life becomes effortless and the unknown is recognized as abundance itself. No longer do we need to know what to expect or what will happen nor would we wish to know because knowing is overrated. It projects a conceptual limitation on experience which we then must take responsibility for. What needs to be known is known as it needs to be, but we live in the mystery which is the way of deep unending happiness.