Are you seeking, but not sure what you’re looking for? Or have you found it and just want more of it?
This is the question posed by Andrew Cohen in his recent article, “Spiritual Practice Is Spirit Lived“.
And it got me thinking about something our meditation master shared with us during a retreat last year.
Some of us in the group, who were training to become meditation teachers, had profound experiences during a particular meditation. Whenever you have an experience like that, it will be unique to you, and it is likely to change your life – forever.
For me, I knew I had connected with whatever it is that I call “God” or “Source” or my “Higher Self”. I had somehow made it past the fears and barriers created by the ego and discovered the pure light and love that it at the core of all beings.
In that moment, I realised I had found what I had been looking for. Though I couldn’t have told you beforehand what it was that I had been hoping to find. All I knew was that the search was over.
My meditation master explained to us that, once you have found what you are looking for, even for just a moment in time, you are no longer a seeker. You are a finder.
He described the shift this produces in a very similar way to Andrew Cohen’s article:
Once you have “seen”, you are a “seer”. Instead of spending the rest of your life “seeking” and searching for something abstract, your focus changes. The focus of your personal and spritual development shifts to deepening that experience and finding more of it.
He told us that becoming a “seer” or a “finder” would change our life forever. And he was right.
I have no idea what others “saw” that day. I know for me it gave me a clear, deep knowing that we are all one and that there is no separation or division between us, at our Source. I also experienced that this Source is simply Light and Love. And that it is infinite, boundless, endless and always available to us. Words make it sound somehow defineable. But, as we are reminded in the first verse of the Tao te Ching, “The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao” – you cannot define Source, God, or whatever that is for you, with words.
Our job isn’t to find what we’re looking for. Our job is to allow what is already there to become real for us.
This experience didn’t suddenly turn me into a Saint. It didn’t suddenly remove all my “character flaws”. It didn’t suddenly make me permanently happy or free from destructive habits and anger. But it did mean I had seen through the lies of my ego, my monkey mind, and I could tell when I was playing ego games, rather than being true to my “true” self – that boundless source of love and light.
I found this really challenging because, having “seen” oneness and the Truth of “who I really am”, I had suddenly expected it to be easier to feel happy more often and to always act from love, not fear. I gave myself a hard time over this, until I realised what was going on.
Having “seen the light” means that the mirror which shows us behaviours and thought patterns that cause us (and others) pain became even bigger and more highly polished. That light shone on every shadow aspect of my ego and kept boshing me on the nose, to deal with my “stuff”. This “boshing” usually took the form of some willing volunteer “pressing my buttons” (behaving unkindly), to highlight my auto-pilot computer programme-style response, to allow me to choose whether I wanted to make changes.
Over the coming months, I had the experience of “finding” and “oneness” a number of times – sometimes during meditation, sometimes spontaneously. (Twice in Wagamamas in Salisbury, which was plain weird!) But then it stopped.
I took a long while to realise what had happened.
Our ego, or personality, isn’t who we really are. It’s just a “uniform” that we wear, made up of our thoughts, habits and beliefs. We spend decades honing it, though ultimately we become its slave, as we give up freedom of choice on how to respond to life and believe the lies of the ego that we’re powerless victims of fate – or other people.
If our inner being is, say, a ball of light and love, our ego sees its job as being the thick layer of crud that blocks out that light. The ego’s greatest fear is that we open to that light, because then the ego thinks it will die. And there’s truth in that. Once we reconnect, ongoing, with that love and light, we no longer need the habits and fear-based behaviours that our ego has used to protect us for so long.
So the ego spends its days splatting on more layers of crud, while our deeper self is yearning, seeking, to reconnect with the light that it vaguely remembers is there.
Sometimes, through spiritual and personal development practices, we can create chinks in the layer of crud, that allow us to slip through and experience who we really are. But after a while, the ego cleverly plasters over those chinks, so the light can’t shine through.
We have seen, we have found, but we can’t find our way back again.
The Ancients tell us that clearing this crud is the way to being able to connect with the love and light that is our true being. There are many paths to set ourselves free from the painful cycles we have unwittingly created, to reconnect with “God” – and this is the core intention behind most, if not all, religions. But it takes dedication and commitment.
The more we let go of our “crud”, our “stuff”, the thinner the ego’s layer becomes, until there reaches a point where there is light, dimly visible, through that layer. The crud layer becomes thinner and thinner, like stretched rubber. There are still thick, chunky areas, but there are also patches where a gentle tap will finally allow you to break through to that light. And you know that, once you have tapped that area, the ego won’t be able to regrow it. You have set yourself free.
But what happens as you near that place?
The ego, knowing its demise is imminent, makes desperate last-ditch attempts to save itself.
It throws every last weapon in its arsenal at you, trying to knock you off course, distracting you from your goal.
- Everything that is ready to be released comes up to do that nose-boshing thing.
- Everything about your life that is inauthentic, not based on Truth, comes up for inspection.
- Every habit or thought pattern that has kept you from being who you really are comes up to be observed and, hopefully, released.
- And your ego even turns up the “drama dial” to 10, to really make sure you’re entering in to all of this as intensely as possible.
- It can feel as though everything you know is falling away, as though people you love are rejecting you, as though everything is going wrong.
- “Stuff” can come up daily – or more.
- You can feel deeply mentally and emotionally exhausted – an exhaustion which sleep alone cannot touch.
But, as long as you keep letting go and releasing these painful auto-pilot scripts, trusting completely that this clearing out is for a higher purpose, what you are ultimately doing is moving towards freedom.
And then there comes a point where you realise you are nearly empty. It starts to feel like you’re almost “done” (for now!). You have dealt with some really big, deep, old “stuff”. You feel like you have cleared out pretty much all you can imagine clearing out. And that’s a strangely peaceful place.
Suddenly the drive to seek or even deepen what you have found melts away. There’s no rush. There’s no urgency any more. There just “is”.
There’s no seeking. There’s no finding. There’s just being.
Every breath becomes a spiritual practice. Every interaction with anyone or anything becomes an opportunity to connect at the deepest levels. The illusions melt away.
Then you know you have finally arrived home.
You are no longer a human being having a spiritual experience.
You are a spiritual being having a human experience.
And that is why we’re “here”.