Kiran is away traveling for the next couple of weeks, so let’s use this time to revisit some of her best posts from the past. This great essay was originally published in 2013.
Okay, fessing up here…
There is a really big “setup” happening, and it’s hard to talk about. It’s tricky territory.
“Emptiness is all there is!” or something like that. Does this sound familiar?
When I get comments and e-mails and they resonate with this, I break out into a rashy irritation.
Because, my friends… it’s a setup.
It is such a celebration to have a “realization”, as I call them. Genuinely amazing. And I am very aware of how final and compete a “realization” can feel. That deep insight of a realization is so delicious, and pure and wonderful—everything gets so clear, and perfect and aligned and peaceful. But then comes this habit to exclaim from the rooftops, and trump every conversation with your “realization”, which is the beginning of a rather horrible setup. It’s innocent, natural, and such an invisible trap.
A realization is like getting to the ballpark, at opening night, where all the excitement is. (And there can be so many juicy realizations; it’s such a beautiful thing.) The first major setup is that a realization can authentically feel like you’re playing ball… when you’re not even on the field yet. But that’s the thing: it feels like you have arrived… which is awfully painful when it stops feeling so expansive and juicy after a few days, months, or—for some lucky/unlucky folks—years.
A genuine glimpse feels so free and amazing, which then catapults us toward the other setup: it’s so easy to imagine the whole journey towards enlightenment and beyond enlightenment will be just like one massive hit of realization. Endless juiciness, or—how does it go?—eternal happiness and bliss. Some crap like that. And then, after that first real peek, there is no turning back!
The big setup is that once you’re in the park, it’s so easy, so innocent to get single-mindedly focused. Everything in your life becomes about on playing ball!
The game, in my analogy, is the full enlightenment—what I define as completely waking up from mind, from emotion, from body. And that is a very, very different experience than a realization. Ironically, it’s not juicy or emancipating or expansive. It’s much more bloody and traumatic. It’s filled with disorientation, profound fear, and the deepest unknown. It’s your life falling apart, as in completely falling apart. It usually entails a substantial break with your family or community. It can be profoundly isolating, and ultimately, it’s your death. And it’s freedom and bliss. And it’s liberation and fulfillment. But its a complicated dance. And you don’t know until you’re there…
And this is also a setup, because with each step that you are not there, it feels like you are so close, almost there—or maybe you are there, and perhaps if you just get an genuine enlightened person to confirm it, you’ll be able to settle a bit more. And that’s the unfortunate territory of this great setup.
And then to say, hit a home run, is what I call beyond enlightenment or, embodiment. That is when the community and family and world comes back, but none of the old ways of living embody it. No one embodies it. Instead a timeless, present unknowing creates this very worldly expression moment to moment. And that is a long road, a very long road. It’s a very thorough passage. Every pattern—including every habit, every muscular impulse, even your DNA—gets wiped out and re-forms. This is not a smooth ride either. This is actually the most arduous part of the journey… and currently on this planet, it’s very, very rare. I have seen it look like 2 years in substantial injury and then 2 years of living homeless on the street followed by 6 more years of instability. I have seen it look like 3 years of profoundly debilitating illness then 3 years of slowly rebuilding health and vitality and 15 more years before balance is found. It can look like a divine partnership and divine business and divine health for 5 years and then it all crumples and falls to unbearable lows. Personally for me it was 2 years of almost complete non-functional mess, followed by 3 years of disorientation and trauma, and another 2 years of profound rigor with periods of fairly extreme isolation. And, as my friend and mentor Adyashanti has commented, my personal journey of unfolding was actually moving at light speed!
It is a very extreme and arduous and long path of breaking down and rebuilding, with unimaginable lows and highs and time-outs. Ironically, there is no one there at all to move through it. Nobody, in pure bliss, moving through pure hell. And well, perhaps a few more highs and much more lows. It is not at all like the sales pitch of unlimited bliss and permanent happiness. And also it is… well, it’s complicated.
And the biggest setup in the whole gambit is the very innocent idea that, say, hitting a home run, or being in this game, is the ultimate experience for a human. The way to end all the pain and suffering in your life. The highest possible expression. The only way we can be free. Which is so innocent because it sure can feel that way, because those insights are so darn juicy… but woven into that feeling is the setup to become profoundly, single-mindedly, focused.
The good news is that there are a ton of other ways to live a peaceful, fulfilling, and free life. Pretty much as many ways as there are unique and authentic expressions of each one of us. We can emancipate our pain any number of ways: via healing, and awareness, and especially a willingness to find our authentic voice and move in our authentic rhythms. Even just a willingness to put in the time to tenderly hold the pain inside of us and let it unwind some can get us to a much more satisfying life experience. There are many ways; say, for instance, your own authentic voice and action and story, your own beautiful face and body.
And that can become so very obscured when you’re so singly focused on the ballgame… hooked by an innocent interpretation that freedom, ultimate freedom, is the only option to ease your suffering. It’s not so easy, from this point of view, to notice other simple ways to get a peaceful ride.
Sure, some of us play the game, and hit home runs… and that is totally awesome. But it’s not necessary or essential for you to be free and happy. Or for you to be awesome.
You got to watch out for the setup.
Watch out for the measurements, the comparisons, the deeply held assumption of some kind of hierarchy that puts enlightenment at the top.
One fully experienced realization, and it’s easy to think that playing this game and hitting home runs is something everyone should aspire towards, that it’s the highest expression, and Blah, Blah, Blah!
Realizations rock. They inspire and emancipate and reveal and it’s great! But once you have one, you start to get hooked. You start to single-mindedly look for those bliss-filled silent spaces, following some idea that you will eventually dissolve into one permanently… or something like that. And if you don’t see the setup, you start racing unconsciously for this single-minded goal, for the home run, and then tragically you start to miss the greatest moments, the moments in your life right now. Your own unique expression of love, of freedom, of peace. Your own unique dance with love, life, pain and pleasure. Its so easy to miss… because of the setup.
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