addictive qualities of the spiritual path, but what I didn't really talk about was the run-up to that first big moment of healing, opening, or general good feeling-ness. Because a lot of times before there's this big surge of wonderful feelings, there's a forging out into the unknown and out of your comfort zone. In a society that has taught us to shun vulnerability and most forms of discomfort (unless you're an athlete, and the mantra is no pain, no gain, which is also deeply problematic), most people turn around once the seas start to get a little choppy. But if you really want to walk the spiritual path, you are going to be saying "good-bye" to your comfort zone, and that means starting to learn how to find your edge.
The Edge of Your World and the Next Step
Coming to the edge of your comfort zone always feels a little like stepping off the edge of the world no matter how many times you do it. While this post is targeted for those early on in their spiritual walk, all of us will have these moments where you come to some new, outside-of-normal experiences. In those moments, we have to embrace another aspect of ourselves we had not seen or do something outside of our regular life. With it comes a sense of vulnerability and uncertainty. There may still be a lingering concern around failure even if you've done this numerous times, and perhaps, that's part of why this opportunity has come. Or not. It's not about becoming "perfect" in any way. It's about continuing to allow yourself to grow as you need to and to change to whatever the current situation is.
And so whether this is the first time you're meeting your edge or the 78th, it is always a brand new experience.
The Expansion After the Edge
The carrot on the end of the stick is the new level of awareness of yourself that arises after stepping through a major issue. Sometimes it is a painful realization, and sometimes it's a beautiful breath-taking experience much like I mentioned in the addictive qualities blog post. It will be whatever it is that you need to experience, so I can't tell you that there's a light at the end of the tunnel, per se. The first time you come to the edge, stepping off may take you into a slew of repressed issues, resentments, and fears. It's not a "safe" place for the ego, but it is where you've hidden a lot of your greatness.
To take this metaphor in a different direction, you are in a jail cell. You are so used to it that you don't know this. Or perhaps some of you have felt the edges of it for a long time. But the fullness of you is much, much, MUCH larger than any cell, and that cell--your ego, your definitions about who you are--cannot contain the fullness of you. No set of words, beliefs, and ideas ever really do. What we learn to do is to use ideas and tools to point at things and point at meaning. I am a spiritual teacher, but that is just a set of words. It only points to something; it is not me.
And that's part of what we learn as we break out of the cell. We learn how to use words, ideas, and egos, instead of the other way around. In that amazing expansion after the first edge, you may initially find even more terror than you imagined. It's okay. You can meet it because you are the one who has created and carried it. Only you can meet this, but you can get help and support at certain times. At other moments, it truly is just an internal thing, and no one can do the internal work for you, but you.
Getting Comfortable With Your Fears
This seems to be a dark and serious blog. I promise to have a blog post before long about humor and spirituality (because if you can't laugh at yourself and the absurdity of life, you are truly lost. Plus laughter in and of itself is just good medicine). This post is not meant to be a downer. It's meant to help you understand the road ahead. It's meant to help scrub out illusions that spirituality should always be this high-flying good feeling. In the deep spaces of connection and aliveness, the world brightens up. But if you're used to the prison cell, you can't appreciate this brightness. That's why many of us have to hit these walls little by little because if you give an inmate too much light and freedom too soon, they have no idea what to do with it. More often than not, they try to run right back to the prison cell.
Case in point: being fired. When someone is fired from a job--even a job they hate--many people immediately go looking for another job, oftentimes the very same thing that they hated doing before. They've just be freed. Putting aside the need for money (which is much less than most of us think in Western Society), you can now do anything. ANYTHING. But the mind rushes in with its programming about college funds, mortgages, car payments, and so forth. And I'm not saying those obligations aren't important. I'm saying that you have much more flexibility and creativity at your disposal than you're allowing yourself. The spiritual practice in these moments really is getting comfortable listening to all of your fears so you can hold a bigger space in your life for possibility...to hold a bigger space for you.
The Hand Reaches Out for the Wall
Coming back to the topic at hand, you may wonder about how to find your edge of your prison cell and how to take the next step. It always starts simply. It starts by noticing your life. It starts by noticing your assumptions. What are you doing? Why are you doing it? Why do you think that you need to live the way you do? That is when you start to reach your hand out to the walls of your life. Feel around the edges of the wall. Feel around the edge of what you think it means to be a successful businessman, academic, mother, father, lawyer, public servant, or something else. Look at all the assumptions that form your ideas about who you are. These are part of your prison.
As always, you are returning to the space within. Your greatest expansiveness and your general greatness is never something measured in cubits, accomplishments, or pounds. It is measured in the freedom you have for your soul. Only you can ever measure this, and if you are feeling stifled in your life, only you can unstifle it. I often talk about journaling because here you begin to face yourself. Here is where you take a look at the mind game that you're playing that imprisons you. So make journaling a practice if this is where you are. Write down answers to the questions I've suggested, and then develop your own questions. Or develop all your own. Do what you need to do. Don't do stuff just because someone on some blog has said to do it. That's just following the methodology that probably got you here of listening to what other people think you should do and doing it. It's time to give yourself the freedom to live your life.
The Intensity Builds With Growing Awareness
The more aware you are of your life and your hand in making this reality, the more pressure you feel on the aspects of your life that aren't in alignment with who you are. It is the start of the pressure cooker. For those of you in awakening, your awakening has cranked up the pressure cooker to 1 billion degrees. You know what it means to be thoroughly cooked. If you had the slow build up, maybe it's easier to appreciate the burning out of issues, fears, and karma. If you haven't, then just know that I am here to support you if you need it, as I am here to help support all of you.
For most of the rest, you will feel like something is wrong. You may think you're going crazy. Some people have that sense when they first start meditating, but really, they're simply noticing the craziness that they already carry. I mean just look at the stupidity of our cultural myths that we fill our minds with. Do you really think a 6-figure job is going to make you happy? Do you really think everyone needs to get married and have 2.5 kids? This is absurd. It doesn't mean that some stereotypes don't work for some people, but everyone seems to be trying to pour themselves into these same molds from our cultural myths.. Oh, how about beauty ideals? Do all women need to look like toothpick supermodels? You can see the absurdity of these things as I write them, can you not? And the building pressure of your awareness will shine so much light on these that you may suddenly realize you can't live by these and other lies anymore. Your light may suddenly show you just how much these ideas are strangling and destroying you, and you may suddenly realize that you have to break free.
The Time for Action Comes: A Shift Must Occur
Now, I'm not talking about an awakening here when I'm talking about a shift. I'm talking about a first step. I'm still talking about coming to that first edge, and then you make a necessary change, big or small. Maybe it's a job change. Maybe it's a change in how you act or communicate in a relationship. Maybe it's dropping the gym membership and taking up yoga. Maybe it's an apology to your mother that leads to a healing in that relationship. You'll know what you have to do. You'll know what the key is to unlock this prison cell. Just as you are the jailer who created this cell, you also have the key that gets you out.
And then a rush of fresh air comes in. You suddenly feel more space around you, and you may have that amazing feeling I described. Or you may suddenly come into more space and have even more awareness about how much more sludge there is in your life. Or you may have both of those feelings simultaneously (that's how one of my early shifts felt). It will be whatever you need. You may even feel a little bit of accomplishment with this. Don't hold on to that too much. In the same way, don't become overwhelmed by the pile of unmet issues that you can see as you walk about outside of your jail cell and into your jail block. Keep in mind that you aren't out of the prison, but you are taking the right steps.
Coming to the Next Edge and the Next
It can feel like an unending process at first, but I like to remind people that for most of your lives you've been locking yourself up in smaller and smaller jail cells until there was hardly a peep of light finding its way into your world. This can be demoralizing for many of you who thought you were doing it right and who even felt marginally happy or content with your lives. It's part of the reason that for most people to really commit to the spiritual path, they have to be utterly miserable. They have to have destroyed the illusion that living in illusion is better than knowing and living the truth. In essence, it's the idea of "ignorance is bliss" at work, which is nonsensical. Consider that you are carrying a terminal disease, and if you don't heal, you will kill everyone else around you. Is that ignorance truly bliss?
So, I encourage you to find your courage. I encourage you to find support in new spiritual friends, teachers, and healers. And I encourage you to dedicate yourself to this path because without the tenacity and self-belief, it's easy to get sucked back into the lies of this world. It is okay if you don't know the way. It is okay to feel fear. Transcending fear means experiencing and releasing it...again and again. It is okay to make mistakes and to be a mess despite other lies we are told about always needing to be together and be "successful" (and who is determining what success is anyway? A referee and a scoreboard? What nonsense).
Saying Hello to The End of Your World
At the end of the day, coming to your first edge may feel like the end of the world. It may be. It may also be the end of living in a prison cell cut off from yourself. Isn't freedom worth it, though? Aren't you curious about who you really are when you are no longer trapped? I was. And there's no way I would ever go back to that cell. It just feels too damned good standing out in the grassy field in the clear air with sunlight on my back.
Here are some more thoughts on releasing a big energy blockage for the first time: