The enlightenment I speak of is not simply a realization, not simply the discovery of one’s true nature. This discovery is just the beginning—the point of entry into an inner revolution. Realization does not guarantee this revolution; it simply makes it possible.
What is this inner revolution? To begin with, revolution is not static; it is alive, ongoing, and continuous. It cannot be grasped or made to fit into any conceptual model. Nor is there any path to this inner revolution, for it is neither predictable nor controllable and has a life all its own. This revolution is a breaking away from the old, repetitive, dead structures of thought and perception that humanity finds itself trapped in. Realization of the ultimate reality is a direct and sudden existential awakening to one’s true nature that opens the door to the possibility of an inner revolution. Such a revolution requires an ongoing emptying out of the old structures of consciousness and the birth of a living and fluid intelligence. This intelligence restructures your entire being—body, mind, and perception. This intelligence cuts the mind free of its old structures that are rooted within the totality of human consciousness. If one cannot become free of the old conditioned structures of human consciousness, then one is still in a prison.
Having an awakening to one’s true nature does not necessarily mean that there will be an ongoing revolution in the way one perceives, acts, and responds to life. The moment of awakening shows us what is ultimately true and real as well as revealing a deeper possibility in the way that life can be lived from an undivided and unconditioned state of being. But the moment of awakening does not guarantee this deeper possibility, as many who have experienced spiritual awakening can attest to. Awakening opens a door inside to a deep inner revolution, but in no way guarantees that it will take place. Whether it takes place or not depends on many factors, but none more important and vital than an earnest and unambiguous intention for truth above and beyond all else. This earnest intention toward truth is what all spiritual growth ultimately depends upon, especially when it transcends all personal preferences, agendas, and goals.
This inner revolution is the awakening of an intelligence not born of the mind but of an inner silence of mind, which alone has the ability to uproot all of the old structures of one’s consciousness. Unless these structures are uprooted, there will be no creative thought, action, or response. Unless there is an inner revolution, nothing new and fresh can flower. Only the old, the repetitious, the conditioned will flower in the absence of this revolution. But our potential lies beyond the known, beyond the structures of the past, beyond anything that humanity has established. Our potential is something that can flower only when we are no longer caught within the influence and limitations of the known. Beyond the realm of the mind, beyond the limitations of humanity’s conditioned consciousness, lies that which can be called the sacred. And it is from the sacred that a new and fluid consciousness is born that wipes away the old and brings to life the flowering of a living and undivided expression of being. Such an expression is neither personal nor impersonal, neither spiritual nor worldly, but rather the flow and flowering of existence beyond all notions of self.
So let us understand that reality transcends all of our notions about reality. Reality is neither Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Advaita Vedanta, nor Buddhist. It is neither dualistic nor nondualistic, neither spiritual nor nonspiritual. We should come to know that there is more reality and sacredness in a blade of grass than in all of our thoughts and ideas about reality. When we perceive from an undivided consciousness, we will find the sacred in every expression of life. We will find it in our teacup, in the fall breeze, in the brushing of our teeth, in each and every moment of living and dying. Therefore we must leave the entire collection of conditioned thought behind and let ourselves be led by the inner thread of silence into the unknown, beyond where all paths end, to that place where we go innocently or not at all—not once but continually.
One must be willing to stand alone—in the unknown, with no reference to the known or the past or any of one’s conditioning. One must stand where no one has stood before in complete nakedness, innocence, and humility. One must stand in that dark light, in that groundless embrace, unwavering and true to the reality beyond all self—not just for a moment, but forever without end. For then that which is sacred, undivided, and whole is born within consciousness and begins to express itself.
Soon after I was married, I found myself busier than I’d ever been before. Working two part-time jobs, commuting to acupuncture school, and studying for my state licensing exams, I needed to feel some sense of quiet inside. So I decided to hold the question “Where is rest?”
The answer didn’t come to me in words; instead, I discovered that just asking the question elicited a sense of stillness and peace. Once my mind became calm, I could rest in the busyness.
My interest in stillness didn’t start, or stop, there. Since childhood, I’d wondered about the words from Psalm 46 that we learned in Sunday school: Be still and know that I am God. So when I began hearing Eastern teachings, I was intrigued by concepts such as samsara (continuous movement) and nirvana (cessation).
In the East, an image that’s referred to as the "wheel of samsara" has been used for centuries to depict the continuous cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, and the conditions that cause suffering. The conditions of ego that power the wheel are sometimes called the three poisons. They are desire, or attachment; hatred, or aversion; and ignorance, or illusion. When one’s life is lived free of these conditions, one is said to be freed from the wheel of samsara.
In my own experience, the first two conditions, attachment and aversion, are best remedied by addressing the third condition, ignorance. You could say that the root condition of suffering is ignorance of our true nature, ignorance of knowing ourselves as spirit. Attachment and aversion, then, cause day-to-day suffering.
Stillness, I have seen, is both the treatment for ignorance and the ultimate antidote to samsara. When your mind is still, you get a rest from the push-pull energies that drive the ego and cause suffering. In stillness, the energies of attachment and aversion can unwind. The sense of a “me” who desires can relax out of the center of experience and ultimately dissolve. That is the harmonizing quality of stillness.
To get a dose of what life is like divorced from stillness, try this experiment: Think a thought that has “push” energy, such as “I don’t want to go to work” or “I don’t want to have that difficult conversation.” Or think, “That shouldn’t be.” Now check in with your body. Can you feel it registering aversion? It may feel like there’s a hand in your gut, pushing away.
Next, consider a “pull” thought, such as “I want to meet someone who will love me” or “They should do what I want. ” Hold that thought, and then pay attention to your body. Do you feel a grasping fist in your gut? Tension in your shoulders?
Either way, push or pull, your body beautifully lets you know which thoughts will cause you constriction, inner division, or feelings of separation. It would seem, then, that if you could stop divisive thoughts, you’d be at peace with whatever presents itself in each moment.
But wait . . . having trouble finding the “off” switch? Yep, thoughts keep coming. The more you try not to think, the more aversion arises. And the more you try not to have divisive thoughts, the more attachment arises. Both efforts take you further away from experiencing peace.
A Better Way
But there is an alternative to push-pull thoughts. Again, using your body as a thought meter, feel your gut as you contemplate the phrase “Thoughts simply arise.” Let the words permeate your body. Do they make you feel more peaceful, or less so? My guess is that you feel more peaceful. Perhaps you can sense relaxation as you let go of assigning credit or blame for having a particular thought. When you align yourself this way with what life is presenting—with reality—the experience of inner division gives way to peace.
Thoughts themselves don’t create division, separation, and suffering. Rather, investing thoughts with belief, identifying with them, and taking them personally are what fuels the wheel of samsara.
When you identify with a thought, that creates a fixed position in time and space—like a star in the night sky. As you identify with more thoughts, you create more fixed positions, until you have an entire constellation of ideas and beliefs. The lines of that constellation continue to grow and overlap, creating something that begins to look solid, like an object. Those fixed points create an illusion of an individual “me,” with its own boundaries separating it from the whole.
You can live your whole life in ignorance, not knowing that suffering is a result of believing the thoughts that suggest you are separate from the whole. But if you examine your push-pull thoughts, discover which beliefs you’re investing in, and question them, you can slip into stillness and become your own medicine—the perfect antidote to the poisons of ignorance, attachment, and aversion.
What is Stillness?
Connect with the quiet at the center of your whirling energies.
Begin by sitting comfortably. Close your eyes, breathe deeply, and let your body settle, inviting relaxation. Observe your body as you allow it to cease moving. Lean softly into your experience and give it your whole attention.
Now drop this question into the space between your muscles and bones: What is stillness? Let your body experience the answer. Let the body’s response wash into every part of you, from the top of your head down to the floor or chair where you are sitting. As your body quiets and softens, notice the stillness gather and settle.
Maintaining a steady and intimate quality of attention, let the stillness widen and let your senses open globally to the outer world. Notice the space of your awareness and let it relax outward. Let sounds in the distance enter the space of your awareness, but don’t strain to hear or to make note of them. Notice any sounds that arise closer to you, between the edge of your body and the outer shores of your hearing.
While continuing to soften into stillness, rest a portion of your attention on the surface of your body, allowing it to stop there completely, allowing the stillness saturating you inside and out to soften any sense of boundaries between your body and the outside world.
Let any sense of a “me” who is aware relax out of the center, letting stillness dissolve all attachment, all effort.
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