You Were Not Looking for FreedomHere is the unfortunate reality of 90% of the people on the spiritual path: they were not looking for freedom. They simply weren't. What most people are looking for on the spiritual path is the way out of pain. Buddhism talks about following the path to enlightenment as the way out of suffering. Christianity talks about turning to God to find salvation. But leaving suffering and finding salvation does not mean that your life will be free from pain and difficulty. Jesus ended up facing great adversity and pain in his life, but clearly, he was walking the spiritual path. I think it's important to really appreciate this reality as many people will find that their spiritual freedom leads them into great difficulty. This is where those of you who still look to the outside world to confirm and affirm that you are doing the right thing will suddenly have great doubt. If the world is always supposed to like you and be easy for you to validate you as walking the "correct" spiritual path, then suddenly you may think that you are doing something wrong. This is a grossly unfortunate misunderstanding, and it is why the many great teachers out there will remind people that success in the external world does not reflect success in the internal world and vice versa.
As people suddenly find this adversity, this is usually where many people stop, shut down, and turn back. It is of course right when the opportunity to transcend this difficulty has arrived. So this possibility is also not realized, and it is because many of you were not looking for freedom. Furthermore, you had no idea what would be asked of you. You thought that the spiritual path would be some kind of endless ecstatic trip to an amusement park. Or you thought it would simply make everyone like you all the time. Or you thought that it would make your healing process completely easy.
Very rarely are any of these things true, and if any of these resonate for you (and resonance in this case will probably mean making you angry or upset), then it is time to get out the pen and paper (or computer word processing program) to write down what you really want.
The Arising of Fear: The Great Gatekeeper to Spiritual LiberationFear is one of the great gatekeepers on the spiritual path. There are some interesting ways where fear keep you from places that you are not ready to go. There is much on the spiritual path that is intensely challenging, and I've come to have a great esteem for fear and how it keeps people who are not prepared for the road ahead away from it. This may seem odd to you, but I encourage you to appreciate that every emotion and every part of life has its sacred role to play. I am not here to keep you locked in the bondage of fear, but I am definitely willing to say that it has its role. If you cannot face your fear, you are not ready for the next part of the spiritual path.
Because you will find that you cannot carry that much luggage on the plane. There is no way to fly with all those bags full of your fear. As you do take off in that plane, you will find that you have to keep throwing things out to keep flying. You will find that all your attachments keep you chained to old and unhealthy ways of being. You will find that you feel like you are "losing" everything, and that will include the idea of loss. Because its the ego that's trying to gain things, and if you came to the spiritual path trying to gain a new identity for yourself or anything else, you will be sorely disappointed when suddenly this idea and attachment must be severed.
Scared By the Long DropOne of my students said that she felt like I was asking her to jump off a cliff. It sure does look like that. It's the unknown really. Most people would rather cling to the familiar misery of the known life that they live in than to jump off into the free space where anything is possible.
And anything is possible. That includes the good and the bad. So the ego will feel very triumphant when something bad happens that you could not have foreseen. It will run in and say, "Ah-ha! Look there. I told you this spiritual foolishness was a mistake. Look what has happened. You have lost your job and your wife is divorcing you. Go back to your old life. It was much safer." Only the truth is that that is lie. You may still have lost your job and your wife/spouse if you'd stayed on the edge of the cliff. Perhaps, you were already falling and you just had assumed that the rush of the air was the wind. Many times, we find that we are falling as we come into our awareness. The spiritual path didn't push us off a cliff; it simply made us aware that we are already plummeting to our own destruction.
The only thing to do now is to learn to fly.
The Long Inhale Before the PlungeSo here you are looking at your fear of breaking free. Here you are staring at the wall and metal, iron-barred doorway that keeps you inside. And you are holding the key.
Turning that key will take courage, love, hope, faith, God, and every other ounce of strength and support you can call on.
And yet it can be so easy.
I had a beautiful story share with me recently by a spiritual friend who found her truth in a courtroom speaking up for herself and her daughter. In a space where she had had so much fear and trepidation, in the moment of speaking, she was unafraid. She did not have an attorney to represent her. It was simply her speaking her own Truth. The court ruled in her favor.
This is a small snapshot of what may be asked of you to break free and firmly step onto the your soul path. It doesn't have to be hard, and in truth, when you are fully present, the difficulty and fear that we create in our minds dissolves. From that space, you are a rock. You are unmovable in love and Truth, and from that space, you are free and limitless.
Living in the World, But Not Being of ItYou may feel that you face many tests, but that too is the ego trying to define itself. You do not need defintion; you are already a profound, loving, and infinite being. What you may need is time to understand how to act from this space. You may need practice, and you may need community to help you break down old patterns and develop new patterns. That's a big piece of what this blog is dedicated to. I am not here to awaken you. If you wake up while reading these words, that's beautiful. But the awakening comes from within. It always comes from within. There's no other place from which it can come.
Consider that you are seed in a garden. All the sunshine, rain, and fertilizer cannot make a seed sprout. That comes in its own sacred time. But once it springs forth, there is much work and much growth that it goes through as it learns to develop its roots and live in the world it is part of. This is the real spiritual awakening process--this is the embodiment process that I am always talking about. Because it is so important to learn how to be grounded in truth and love in this world. In so doing, you can be in it, but not get lost in it--even if it feels like you get a little lost from time to time. So long as you have those deep roots in spirit, you will find your way back.
Loving the Fear: Melting it From WithinIn the instance of this blog post, this may be the first time you have ever truly gone within a fear. You will likely do this again many times. Meeting the doorkeeper this time is just the first time, not the last. You will likely find many fears and many other doorways on your spiritual path. You may try to run back to the door that you have just walked through. But that is impossible. When that shift within happens that starts the internally opening process; there is no going back. Sure, you can close your eyes and turn up the music really loud, but the new harmony and sights and sounds of your true life are already there. So let go of the struggle.
And if you are not past this first main fear yet, let go of the struggle here too. That's part of what is energizing fear. Our attention and our struggle to escape it have given it form and life. Now it's time to learn how to surround it with love. Now is the time to simply breathe into that space and dissolve it from within. That really is my best tip for facing fear. Imagine you can breathe into the fear. Imagine you are within it, and simply breathe all the love you can into this space. See what happens. If emotions come up, just be with them, and continue breathing. Let the relaxation that comes with deep breathing soothe away this fear, and see what comes next.
The Safety of the Jail CellFor many of you, the jail cell feels safe. It has its walls and bars. You know where you can go. You don't really want to have wide open spaces in your life. This too is fine. This is not me being facetious. This too is part of the grand unfolding of life. So do not run from your cage. Sit in it. Be with it as it is whether it is a horrendous job, a bad housing situation, an unsavory lover, uncontrollable children, or some other situation. Look at all aspects of it. Be with it completely until you no longer can accept any aspect of the cage. Be with it until freedom is the only thing you want in the world. Then and only then turn to face the jailkeeper. Face your fears that have keep you in this imagined box.
Until then, consider your fear of breaking free a gift. Consider that it is keeping you safe until you truly want to focus all your love, attention, and awareness on finding your spiritual liberation. Then go. Go with everything you have inside of you. Take nothing else.
Because you cannot fly with any extra weight. You can only fly with love, and that has no weight at all.
The photo comes from my friend and reader, Becky Stiller. You can check out her beautiful work on her flickr link.