Monday, January 26, 2015

The End of Experiences

spiritual experience, spiritual feeling, spiritual awakening, awakened state of being
The spiritual path can sometimes be cut up into three segments. The first is very well understood and tread. It is the space of spiritual knowledge and intellectual learning about the path. It can be full of rote memorization and basic rituals, and it provides many people with a sense of comfort to know what to think and do to live a "good" life.

The second part is usually dropped into the purview of the mystic, and the direct experience of the divine is emphasized. In this space, the heart, body, and experientially-discovered knowledge are emphasized. People want to know God through experience, and people discover many amazing (and sometimes terrifying) levels of connection and experience with the vastness of the divine.

The last is the least appealing to people, and it is the most profound. It is best reached when people have exhausted their interests in the other two or if they are fortunate enough to come to completion with them. When someone no longer yearns for any kind of knowledge or experience, they have come to the end of experiences. Certainly, people still have experiences so long as they live in a body, but now it doesn't matter what the experience is. All is life. All is the divine presence, and yet from this space a deeper, more natural, and more intuitive spiritual growth is unlocked that embraces the other two aspects of the journey in the most alive and vibrant way possible. This is because our own ideas and need to feel a certain way have finally surrendered to the divine. In this space, we have come fully to life in divine presence.

The Long Journey Through Our Own Traps

The end of experiences sounds like an impossibility, but it's not. To have no preference on life is not to be without engagement. Quite the contrary, the end of experiences means you are fully engaged with the present moment because you have no demands on it and what it should be. If the present moment gives you war, you are engaged with that in the way that most suits you. If the present moment brings you an amazing lover, you are engaged with him/her in the most appropriate way for you. That appropriateness doesn't need to be thought out. The ideas of right or wrong don't need to be reviewed. The inner awareness of your presence is so strong when you come to this aspect of your journey that action or inaction is a natural byproduct of your divine awareness. It doesn't matter the situation anymore. You know how to be with it.

The Depth and Profundity of Acceptance

The total, complete, unconditional love we talk about on the spiritual path is fully available to us in this space of presence. We don't have to go looking for it. It is--at its core--total acceptance of life as it is. It is total acceptance of pain, suffering, joy, sadness, grief, elation, jubilance, and everything else. Nothing is left out. It sounds fictional because we have been conditioned otherwise. We've been so deeply conditioned that it seems like everything needs a reason or a rational, which must work according to our mental constructs. If something doesn't work according to a mental construct, the ego gets immensely upset. That inner upset is like taking a stick and smacking yourself with it repeatedly because the sun came up today. You had no influence over that part of reality, yet you have the audacity you think you do. Because the universe has showed you that you absolutely don't influence the sun, you instead punish yourself.

This happens in so many ways. You can consider examples such as:
  • Being fired when you were doing a good job
  • A romantic partner cheating on you even though you both love each other
  • A child dying in a hit and run car accident
  • Disease killing your spouse right after your wedding

The list of things the ego mind rejects as not being possible or the way things should be is impossibly long. The age old question of why do bad things happen to good people has tormented religious philosophers endlessly. But at this space where we are left with only presence, we accept all of this because it simply is what is. To do otherwise is to drive yourself mad.

Deepening Into this Peace

At the end of experiences, our ability to drop into peace and stillness grows. We do not need to disturb the waters. Let there be no mistake about it; human beings are constantly muddying up the waters. Through constant striving and craving, a lot of issues are manufactured, and you should not underestimate the power of taking no action. The waters of your life often become a lot clearer when you stop acting. It's one of the most important purposes of spiritual retreats and your regular spiritual practice. If you stop for awhile, you can see things much more clearly. If you keep churning up the waters, you can't see much of anything beneath the surface.

Being human beings, however, we've typically created numerous layers of pain and disease. Just stopping the physical body shows us how much is moving in the mind. This is why many people don't like meditation. Suddenly, they see all the noise in their heads, and they just want to run away and hide. But you can't run away and hide from yourself. As you become more at peace with yourself, you get better and better at finding those deeper layers that continue to disturb the waters but where hidden by the upper currents. Currents that are easily ignored, missed, or dismissed are the issues of the animal body (sex drive and survival needs), cultural unconscious, and family karma. Because they are so deeply ingrained and hidden beneath the top levels of issues such as making money, finding a romantic partner, buying a house, etc., they are hidden. In the depths of peace, they are no longer hidden, and exposing them is how they dissolve.

The Drivers of Experiences

Unconscious needs and pain drive our needs for knowledge and experiences more than we realize. One of the things I'm good at is helping people question their wants and desires. I sometimes will ask a student, "What do you want?" or "Where are you going?" The initial responses serve only to provide fodder for another round of questioning such as "Why do you want that?" and "Why do you need to go there?" Then more compassionate questioning follows with each answer to unveil the deeper drivers and core issues. Because as I've already mentioned, you will continue to be manipulated by unconscious drivers until you do so. These will drive your motivation for certain types of experiences as well as for gathering certain types of knowledge. But it does no good even if it feels good for awhile. If the issue remains, you will have to keep gathering more spiritual knowledge and having more spiritual experiences. A splinter in your mind and a thorn in your foot will keep you agitated and constantly moving until you figure out what they are about. Otherwise, you are lost. Even on the spiritual path, you may be lost.

For more on uncovering these deeper issues, check out "Uncovering Core Issues" and "The Multiple Layers of Healing."

Spiritual Awakening and the First Meeting with the End of Experiences

All spiritual awakenings come with slightly different flavors. (And if you need a reminder on my definition of spiritual awakening, please read: "What Is a Spiritual Awakening?") Depending on the person, you may have a deep experience with the place that is not an experience. It is enormously relaxing to no longer need anything, and because it is human nature to have an emotional and biochemical response to life, some people call this a bliss experience. But that experience should be understood as the byproduct and a response to that state of presence and not be confused as the everlasting state of the end of experiences. Otherwise, striving and craving begin anew to get that feeling and experience again, and you're right back into the same ego issues as before.

More often than not, the end of all experiences feels good because we momentarily drop all agitation to rest completely in the moment. The end of experiences (which is the abiding awakened state--they're the same) doesn't negate upset feelings or those that we would label as "bad." Because it never is in conflict with any human experience, we can still experience "negative" feelings in our lives and not be disturbed. Because we are not disturbed and don't need to make those feelings part of our human stories (and then wallow in them, fight them, or run from them), they tend to last for much shorter periods of time. This makes peace and relaxation a more dominating state of being in this awakened space.

And there's never anything you have to do to get there.

Frustrated by Spiritual Experiences? Good!

Hopefully, you will come to a point where you are not getting whatever it is you want from spirituality. This can be the inspiration to turn inwards to find out what you are trying to get. For my spiritual knowledge seekers, you have to get sick of your notions and ideas. They cannot keep you safe anyway. They are sandcastles on the beach, and if you are lucky, the tide is coming to wash them away. If not, you will be submerged in the quicksand of your mind your whole life (not a perfect metaphor, but roll with it).

For those who are touching the awakened space, let it arise more. It's already here. It is okay to not want anything. It is okay to be okay with everything as it is. The ego will only reveal itself further. All your issues will reveal themselves further the more you let go of your need for any kind of experience from life. Let go of romantic partnership. Let go of jobs. Let go of money. To be sure, letting go doesn't mean you aren't engaged with romance, work, and money. Instead, it simply means you are at peace with what happens. Many times, things improve because our own ideas aren't gumming up the works.

But I can't guarantee that, and you will have to give up your own need for reassurance about how life goes--that simply is hiding deeper fears of death and pain. I'm also not here to give my knowledge seekers any more ideas. I know it's hard to look at words and not want to store away some more ideas like a squirrel preparing for winter. And of course, the ego may already be trying to manipulate these words.

"Ah yes, if I just don't care, life will give me what I want." Um. No. Caring is another ego game. A truly open heart loves the whole world; it accepts the whole world unconditionally. And a truly open mind knows that anything--painful or joyful--can happen to us at any given moment. That is simply the truth of life.

The Hard Truths of Life Revealed

Many ideas and experiences are used as attempts to insulate ourselves from some of the hard truths of life. I say "hard" because they're not what the ego wants to hear. To the awakened self, they are simply truths.

We will die.

There is pain.

Life does not proceed according to human ideas.

Anything can happen--not just joyful stuff but also incredibly painful stuff.

We do not become indifferent to these truths. Rather, they are simply aspects of life we appreciate and do not resist.

Life Reborn at the End of Experiences

The more you allow life to be as it is, the more it is renewed. Your home, your job, your breathing, your food, and everything else regains a kind of vibrancy that had been lost because the mind had categorized it as mundane, bad, uninteresting, or something else. For some of you, you will take action, and of course, all of us will continue to experience life so long as we are human beings. But it does not matter what those experiences are. It's difficult for the ego to fathom this, but it is the truth. And as you can embrace any experience, so many other wonderful moments reveal themselves that would have been hidden or missed by the narrow-minded ego that's looking for things and for life to behave a certain way. In this way, the gems that have filled your life are revealed even in the midst of pain and suffering--and there's a lot of that on this world. As such, even the pain and suffering is transformed into another gem to discover at the end of experiences.
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