There are undoubtedly other examples I could cite. Some drugs and other substances can create powerful in-the-moment experiences, but the person using them loses autonomy. Essentially, being lost in the present moment is a loss of ability to function and/or a loss of access to different functions. In all my experiences, the matured spiritual person gains a greater ability to choose how they think and act. Their autonomy is only diminished temporarily.
So let's explore the reality of being present versus the experience of being lost in the moment and even lost in a sense of presence.
Since we experience life through separateness, we don't tend to perceive any profound experiences of oneness in daily life. Some of you have experienced moments where you had profound realization of oneness. Some of you have dissolved deeply in that space, and then many of you have come back to a renewed state of human experience.
I'd like to emphasize that part.
Just as I mentioned being present giving us greater ability to chose life, those of you who have melted deeply into presence can re-emerge to your human experience with a much greater ability to choose how you interact with life. That's what I mean when I said, "renewed." Recognizing oneness offers you the perspective of how many unconscious choices are going on within you and to engage with yourself and life from a new perspective.
When you don't have any perspective, you basically operate on auto-pilot. Now that you have perspective, you may feel terrible being back in a more normal human experience. Many people just want to run back to the experience of deep dissolved presence. But even the experience of presence is a part of separateness. The most profound dissolving has no experience. It's beyond experience because there is no longer an experiencer and experience. There is no longer presence and the one who perceives presence and who might also perceive a pleasurable experience to get lost in.
With all that said, being present is the practice of letting go of your human experience and watching how you think, emote, and act. This also is useful in observing others, but always, always start with yourself. You will likely find you have more inner work to do than you might suspect.
Wanting Blissful Presence BackTo continue on about the power of a blissful present moment experience, the ego loves feeling good. That's not wrong either! But the attachment to a transitory experience will bring suffering. Too many people have an enjoyable experience and just want to crawl back into that experience and forget everything else in life. This is one way people get lost in the moment and then stay lost through grasping and desire. Any profound realizations you have should be inspiration for you to learn how to let go of all the pain and attachment you hold onto.
Lost in Spiritual Bliss: Reclaiming Your Self From the Trap of Good Feelings
When you return to your habitual experiencing of life, you tend to return with more awareness. Or perhaps I should suggest it's like cleaning a window. The cleaner window lets you see more things through it. There aren't actually new things that you are seeing. There's not more awareness. Instead, there's more space for awareness to shine in your life and for you to recognize things. The things you now see are new to you only because you have been ignorant to them. You have been in the dark about yourself. So, just as many of us are ignorant to our presence, we are also ignorant to a lot of our pain. Returning to normal human interaction (I use the word "normal" very, very loosely) tends to show how much more dust needs to be wiped from the inner windows and pain needs to be cleaned up in our inner rooms. When we do that, we see more, and we are more present in human terms to what is real in our human life.
That's how it goes. When we touch that space of oneness and pure presence, it helps us understand how to live a human life and what it means to be present to all the things in our lives. Often that means facing a lot of undealt with trash in our inner household. In these "trashy" moments, people don't like being present and may want to get lost again.
The Chronically Lost Spiritual TouristBecause getting lost in the present moment through a spiritual experience tends to feel great, a lot of people become spiritual tourists, hunting down every vision quest, spiritual teacher, retreat, and so forth to get those feelings back. In this way, "spiritual" experiences can become a strange drug for people. The spiritual tourists will stick around so long as the good feelings are here, and when those feelings go or serious inner work arises, they move on. They figure something has gone wrong when they feel bad or nothing. They'll decide that the teacher isn't "right" for them, or the spiritual path isn't right for them and other excuses. This ends up keeping the individual lost right when they could be coming home more fully to their own inner truth.
Lost on the Spiritual Path
Most people who are spiritual tourists, however, have quite a few beliefs set up to hide this reality from them. It's amazing how people use spiritual beliefs to hide from spiritual truth, and yes, the two really are different. One requires you to actively believe in it. The other exists whether you believe in it or not. A spiritual truth like, "you are here now," is like gravity. It's true regardless of your beliefs.
There's really nothing I or anyone else can do for a spiritual tourist caught up in beliefs that life should always feel god. They really are in the hands of God and whether the Divine decides to open their eyes more fully. The way out of this if you think this is you is to stop moving. Stop changing teachers, traditions, and everything else. Commitment to the present moment and whatever enjoyable or painful thing it throws your way is key. Understanding that most pain you feel is of your own choosing is also key. The inner work is about understanding why you choose to suffer and where those old issues are rooted inside. Once you stop moving, you can end your spiritual tourist days and start to really set up shop with God.
Checking Out of Difficult or Unpleasurable SituationsAnother common phrase in the spiritual world is "checking out." One example I can give is when someone is meditating, and they fall asleep. Another is when someone is listening to someone and then they stop listening and have no idea what the other person has been saying. Sure, we all have lapses in focus, but a lot of times the ego stops listening, goes to sleep, or finds other ways to shutdown to protect itself from ideas and situations it doesn't want to hear/experience. So the person shutdowns. They are not just lost in the moment; they are completely tuned out to the past, present, and future. They are completely lost.
If you have this issue of getting completely lost, then a little journaling can help as well as help from your friends. Trace back when you checked out in a conversation. What were you discussing? What emotions were you feeling? What sensations were going on in the body? If you are energy-sensitive, what kinds of energies were you feeling? Then after you answer these and any additional questions you have, see what you discover about when and why you check out. The next time you feel/sense/hear things that trigger the checking out response, take some more deep breaths. Actively focus on your breathing and your body because it seems like those are two of the things with which we lose touch when we check out. You might also ask a friend where these check outs happen to help you figure out what is going too. They may already have insights about the issues you avoid or how your behavior starts to change. A good spiritual friend (or just a good friend) can help you go a long way to get un-lost and come back to the present moment.
Choosing Your Spiritual Friends Wisely
Healing Substance Use and AbuseI don't talk a lot about substance use and abuse mainly because healing those things is already addressed by so many, many other people. There are many paths to healing abuse, and there are many experts at helping you heal substance abuse issues. There are a lot of substances people use and abuse to avoid uncomfortable feelings in the present moment, and they attempt to get lost in a moment full of good feelings through those substances. Uppers, downers, and plenty of other substances get used all the time to attempt to change how people feel. But there is nothing quite so empowering as being able to mindfully shift your inner experience on your own, is there? Many of you hear me talk about how empowering the spiritual path can be, and for those who struggle with different substances that might also include sugar and caffeine, learning to break out of these use and abuse cycles to reclaim your independence over your body is key.
So I won't go into too much more detail other than to say the usual things:
- Substances are short-term fixes for long-term issues. They're often not even fixing things. Many of them damage you and create more problems.
- Help exists. You should reach out and get some if you suffer from a really bad addiction like to opiods, alcohol, and other things.
- Your core issues need to be healed. People get lost in substances to address pain. When people are extremely happy, they very rarely look to other things to make them feel good because they already feel good. If you heal the core pain, a lot of psychological addictions start to break down.
- Healing is possible. Others have healed from substance abuse.
- Healing can be messy. It may not be fun, but healing is so worth it.
I think that's the gist of it. The more you heal the body, the more you can get into the deeper core issues, which is where someone like myself can be of service.
The Present Moment Embraces All Experiences of the Present Moment
My last point of this spiritual blog post is that the present moment embraces all experiences. Whether you feel good, bad, happy, sad, hot, or cold, the present moment embraces you as you are. You can learn to do the same. You can learn to embrace all of your experiences. In this way, a level of clarity and understanding becomes more and more accessible to you. When we are trying to avoid parts of life, we are trying to avoid parts of ourselves. In that avoidance, we are closing our eyes to certain realities...realities such as there is pain in life. I always like to remind people that we are not on the spiritual path to get free of pain. We are on the spiritual path to be free of suffering. Suffering is our response to pain. It's how we can turn a car wreck into a disaster by blaming others, blaming ourselves, getting upset, and so forth. The car wreck is the pain. The blaming and hysteria response is the suffering, and it's the latter from which we can become free.
The present moment is not always going to be to our liking. And when it is, we should also practice being fully aware and at peace with the joy of any moment. Everything is coming and going. Everything is moving through us like the wind. There's nothing to resist. The more we practice this present moment awareness, the more we see that life is alive and flowing in ways that we couldn't have imagined. We also find out how we are flowing in more ways than we could have imagined. Through that clarity, we find ourselves, and that self-awareness let's us engage in life in new and amazing ways.