I spent some time recently with some very lovely, aware folks. These are friends that have a huge capacity for stillness. And we got into some really nice, deep topics of conversation.
One of the things we explored was the tendency in both teachers and students to “hold onto” stillness. Once somebody makes contact with our true reality, and the veils drop (so to speak), there is a phase of this behavior. It’s like there is still some separate ‘me’ that has to keep a hold on the insight gained, keeping one eye on it at all times.
Sometimes this looks like walking and talking very slowly, or keeping this soft semi-grin on one’s face and repressing any emotion that is not peaceful and easy. Sometimes it’s a will to change every reaction and response that shows up in the challenges of life—situations like late contractors, traffic jams, screaming kids—into a neutral event that one is slightly detached from. Sometimes this neutrality is wielded towards all things in life, like sex, orgasmic food experiences, an intense zumba class, etc. And sometimes it looks like a fear of making future plans, keeping schedules and commitments, or activity in general.
Regardless of how it displays, this behavior makes itself obvious to me because it has this effort in it. A subtle feeling of fear is contracted, and I can sense the fear of speed, of integration; it’s like the fear is telling a subtle story of losing the peace if life gets back in full gear.
I really understand how this subtle fear can creep in and spin a web of detached neutrality. I also understand the profound desire that can arise to slow the world down and let the deep silent truth that has been glimpsed become something to hold onto in each moment. And ultimately, I think this is a beautiful stage on the journey at the onset… but later down the road, it will become an eddy that traps you if you don’t evolve out of it.
Evolving out of it means allowing life and all its gorgeous movements to move fully. This implies recognizing you are not in control and you do not have to harness all the movement of life into bite-sized equanimity. It means you have to come back to grounding in your body to let life ride unencumbered. You get to be whole here, because part of the deep opening to peace is the realization that it has always been here, shining right into every single aspect of you, your life, and the world.
The great privilege of being Oneness is that you get to love and break, hate and be passionate, get sick, get well, etc. You are both formless and form, dancing this very alive dance. And once you realize there is no separate me in control, and everything is really just a fleeting experience, all the hating and breaking and loving and wellness begin to take on a sweeter intensity, and also become somehow less grippy, have less need and suffering involved. Life is not devoid of extreme expressions. (See: Jesus going ape-shit at the money changers’ tables.) Heartbreak happens. And sometimes it happens a lot, because nothing breaks an awakened heart like fear, and here on earth there is plenty of fear to interact with. After the big insight, it’s clear that even the fear-filled bastards are still the One.
The myth is that an awakened heart doesn’t break, that it’s just a quiet, neutral, soft experience. There is a stage for that, and it’s beautiful. But it’s not the final resting place of an awakened heart. When we evolve back into the market place—as the 9th and 10th ox-herding pictures from the famous Zen pointer illustrate—the heart gets involved. And an awakened heart loves. It loves so big that it breaks—well, maybe bounces is a better term for it—bounces painfully open. We will forever break open and there is pain, sometimes lots of pain, but it quickly moves towards the next moment and gets involved with loving or hurting over that. It’s a funny ride.
And the reason is because the only thing the Aware formless mystery is doing is living all this aliveness. Once awareness breaks free of being identified with form, it’s still living. For all eternity, life moves in all kinds of bold and subtle expressions. And it’s a misunderstanding that once awakened you get to camp out into this perfect ease of neutral non-emotion. UGH! Again, there is a stage of this, but it’s a stage that will bite you harshly right in the old arse if you try to live your whole life there.
And because this is not so terribly different from the way you live life now, from a certain perspective, it’s a less sexy story. In Robert Greene’s book The Art of Seduction, he warns against being truthful, direct or surrendered, because it’s just not seductive. To which I say, HAHAAHAAHAAHAA! (Nothing turns me on like straight-up clarity.)
But from another perspective, with less resistance to life, we are free to move as life. Discovering for ourselves that life offers up all kinds of experience, and even the challenges, without opposition, are very rich, fulfilling, and supportive in their own right. Life itself is a roller-coaster; it is not hanging out perfectly still and shit, life is riding up and down. The utter joy and freedom is having no opposition to the up or down. Freedom is inclusive. Awakening out of the identity of a ‘me’ sense is not freedom if it’s trying to exclude pain.
Holding onto silence or peace as if it’s a prize you were graced with, and are afraid to lose it if you let it slip some, is not going to make you free or keep the peace in your hands. It is going to keep fear running in you a little bit and eventually keeping that full-embodied awakening at bay, sadly keeping a full freedom at bay.
But as I always point out, awakening is not the only path. Healing is a very legitimate and perhaps much more accelerated and achievable path. So, learning how to deeply support and unravel the accumulated pain you are currently caring around from all your years of fighting and struggling and suffering is going to get you some freedom in life! Also, without all that old accumulated pain in your system, dare I say, you might find the odd heartbreak profoundly illuminating and liberating.
Start here and see what happens….