8 – Whatever Your Experience of Life Is Right Now, That Is the Starting Point
Like the lions in the eponymous book, man is born free. But the freedom this statement refers to is not dependant on habitat, wealth or social status; this freedom is of an inner nature. It is not defined by our circumstances in the world, this freedom is already the case. It is who we are. I call this freedom, in which we enter the world, the Natural State.
In The Story of ‘You’I describe the attributes of the Natural State as Joy, Choice-less Awareness, Stillness and full-feeling engagement with life. We engage in Spiritual Seeking in order to rediscover the Natural State and live those attributes, but it seems that the last attribute on the list – full feeling engagement with life – is often ignored. Everyone wants to experience Joy and Stillness but who wants to feel deeply when we know there is Suffering inside us? That’s what this spiritual stuff is meant to protect us from, right?
Anyone who has gone beyond a superficial engagement with this enquiry will know that this assumption is incorrect. This enquiry has nothing whatsoever to do with avoiding anything; rather, it is about facing everything. Wherever you are, whatever your experience of this life is right now, that is the starting point. That is where this search begins, because whatever is happening in this moment is your Story and your Story – and any Suffering that is woven through it – is not transcended by avoiding it. Transcendence happens through engaging in it. You may say: ‘I’ve been engaging with it all my life, and I’m still Suffering,’ but what’s being described here is thePersonalityengaging in the Story. The Personality engages with the Story on its own terms: it feels the parts that it likes – the parts that make it feel stronger and more secure, and looks away from the parts that it doesn’t like – the parts that make it feel weaker and out of control. The Personality will happily feel anything to do with pleasure, desire, success, while it will do all it can to avoid feeling pain. failure, rejection etcetera.
The Personality has many strategies and techniques to avoid feeling those parts of the Story which undermine its authority and make it feel out of control. For example, it can simply repress those parts, confine them to the sub-conscious and pretend that they’re not there. The Personality can also use beliefs to justify its non-engagement with feelings. For example, it may hang onto the idea that engaging with one’s feelings is being indulgent and self-obsessed. The religiously inclined might ascribe dark and ‘difficult’ feelings inside them to demons and devils, thereby placing ‘the problem’ outside of themselves and avoiding any involvement in them. Those believing in astrology may achieve the same outcome by explaining away their ‘difficult’ feelings to the position of the planets.
In circles of Non-Duality, Zen, etcetera you can find the most spiritually sophisticated justification for not going into ‘difficult’ feelings of all. In the pursuit of the Absolute ‘state’ of ‘no -self’, anything to do with the self (relationship, feeling ) is rejected as if it were somehow lesser because it arises in the Relative Level. However, as we all know, everything that is repressed has a way of coming out in the end. (See my website blog called: ’ How Can some Teachers of Awakening be Capable of Abuse?’ )
Who is it that deems certain things ‘unspiritual’ so that they should not be felt? It is just more of the Personality’s games – cleverly hanging onto a spiritual ideal in order to fool you into thinking that you have gone beyond the realm of personal feelings. A lot of Seekers find the idea of ‘no-self’ attractive, not because it is a deep spiritual revelation, but because it seems to offer a free pass beyond all the Suffering. An instant way to avoid having to confront and feel all the ’bad’, ‘difficult’ feelings. There are countless softly-spoken, glazed-eyed, grinning teachers out there who will happily act as a role model for that distorted belief. This is simply promoting a state of psychological disassociation which has nothing to do with Waking Up from the Dream of Personality.
Earlier I talked about how Personality engages with the Story selectively, it chooses to feel parts of it which make it feel safe and rejects the parts that threaten its security. The engagement that is necessary in this enquiry is totally different. Firstly, one engages through feeling any part of the Story, not just the parts that you like. This is why I call it ‘full-feeling engagement with life’; there is no contraction, no rejection, no editing of your experience. This is the first step of engagement; the second, vital step is that you watch. You become fully aware of whatever is happening – the good parts, the bad parts, the joyous parts and the desperate, depressed parts. I call this Choice-less Awareness.
Choice-less Awareness and full feeling engagement in life are two of the attributes of the Natural State. Without these in place, the other two attributes, Stillness and Joy, will remain elusive, whatever Spiritual ideal you are aspiring to.
To read more on The Natural State, see Chapters 4 & 5 of The Story of ‘You’