Death and Awakening: Their Relationship to Convenience, Ease and Distraction
Convenience. Ease. Distraction. There’s nothing wrong with these, until there is.
I just got off the phone with a friend that’s been doing “her work” for decades. She’s a seriously accomplished yogi, fitness, health and life coach. She’s a frequent vipassana participant ("Vipassana" is a 10-day silent meditation which is both brutal and blissful). In short, she walks her talk. She has integrity. She operates more from love than fear in every way I can ascertain from outside her being.
Like most people I know who choose to walk in this way, her life looks messy, unsettled. This is only because she refuses to compromise her values. She is here to raise her consciousness, period. She’ll not be distracted from this work – at least not for long. So, unafraid of change, she does what she’s called to do no matter what it looks like. And it looks weird at times.
So be it.
The work of consciousness is nothing more than this: a never-ending question. The question is, “why?” Why do I feel this emotion? Why do I have this desire – and what’s underneath it? Why is this “flavor” of situation continuing to occur in my life? Why am I drawn to this act or action? Why do we do this in modern culture, and is it ethical to continue to do so? Why does this physical chronic condition exist for me?
Part of the work of consciousness is being open to, and embracing, death. This work is what we often call “spirituality,” as the awakening person has increasing capacities to allow their own spirit to do the work to which it is called in this sphere. Raising consciousness within ourselves is no less than the work of allowing ourselves to die to the past (and to the multi-faceted egoic identification that keeps us there), so we can live entirely in the present. The present is the only place that Spirit resides with us. Hence, it’s the only place where we are entirely useful to ourselves and the world at large.
In short, if we are becoming conscious, we are familiar with death. This is no exaggeration. I am not being ironic, nor am I being dramatic. Consciousness is to ego as the oak is to the acorn; one has comes to life only as the other passes away. Jesus spoke to this several times during his ministry. The result is a clarity that feels by degrees like light fog being swept away by wind and sunshine; a little more light is able to come in.
A few months back, my friend adopted another “tool” for doing the work of continuing to raise her consciousness. She felt a type of stagnation and wanted a “bump.” It’s not really important what the tool is, but it involves plant medicine. Plants have an “interest” in the awakening of mankind, and I contend that there are some that are here to give us a “view” of ourselves and our blocks. Of course, good old deprivation, prayer and focused intention can give us a similar view, but as we are at a precipice for our species, plant medicines are coming out of the woodwork to give us greater access to an “outsider” view of who we are and what blocks have been working us over.
Of course, these medicines are abused at every turn because that’s what we westerners do; if a little is good, a lot is better and we tend to skip important steps related to respect for plant and process, for instance. But for the committed seeker, these plants can be of great assistance in allowing us to “see.”
The point is that my friend, as committed to “path” as she’s been, has stumbled upon a practice that has opened a Pandora’s Box of “stuff” for her to deal with. Things that involve anger towards her mother (who left her as a child) that she thought she had come to terms with, for instance. This trauma has had ties to relationship issues she’s suffered for most of her adult life.
As hard as she's worked, she said to me this morning, “I always leave. Before he can hurt me, I end it.”
My friend has found roots to an issue that’s dogged her the bulk of her life. She can now do the conscious work of healing this trauma. It took this new tool to help her see this.
The point is that as dedicated as she’s been, the “stuff” keeps coming. New tools, greater dedication to old ones, new access to ancient means… these can all “crack open” even the most dedicated seeker. It appears we are never "done." And yet, the message always continues, “…you’re accepted and loved beyond your capacity to comprehend as you are, this very instant.”
When I feel stagnant, it’s often a call to take a look at my life. Is it time to shake things up? Have I fallen into habits that disallow “feeling” at the expense of mere sensation? At the beginning of this essay, I mentioned convenience, ease and distraction. These are the places where our blocks often hide; the blocks that keep us from the kind of growth – and death – that might free us from the bondage of attachment to this world. Free of this attachment, we sense the deep freedom that only the truly spiritual person can feel.
Convenience, ease and distraction are part and parcel of modern life for most of us. In and of themselves, there is probably a time and a place for all three of them. But if we come to the point where we’re using them to “medicate” out of feeling… it’s time for something to change, to die, so the Self can be that much brighter, her voice that much more understood.
This is death.
And this is awakening.