When I began my journey on the spiritual path I had no idea of the joyous and momentous road to freedom that lay ahead. Or the often arduous and painful, beating and slashing through roads less travelled, I’d have to endure. When I put my hand up for this ride nobody said I could never take it down. When you glimpse the addictive Truth you can never unsee it and the thirst for it grows.
At eighteen years old I was somewhat naive. I travelled to India with a girlfriend. Not because we were seeking spiritual enlightenment. We’d never heard of it. We hadn’t even heard of Yoga. We were broke and there was a great package deal to Goa from the UK. We wanted the adventure and were seduced by the 1985 prices and promise. It was here I had my first expansive awareness moment. I had bought a cheap bedspread as a beach blanket. Purple with elephants printed all over it. I stood on the beach and shook it open – suddenly I felt my whole being travel out far into the universe and I was looking back at myself on the beach. I was terrified. It happened in the blink of an eye. It is a feeling that I have never forgotten. It felt like a cry for help and a prayer answered all at the same time. I knew it was going to change my life forever. But I did not know how!
Letting God Out
There are indeed many paths and means to travel these roads to freedom. There are particular trials and tribulations that seem to be designed uniquely for me. So many choices in the choiceless choice of waking up. So many teachers and gurus to point towards the light and that state of being when I am no longer governed by my ego and monkey mind. That place of presence and relaxed control of my destiny and perhaps, most importantly, the place to accept what is, over and over again. To stop the great argument with reality. To enter the slipstream of grace and a recognition we are the life happening — Life does not happen to us. One of my first big realisations was that I had to open my heart and let God out.
This was huge for me. I had been taught over and over again to open my heart and let God in. This idea of an external omniscient presence that would enter me and then I would be free of suffering never felt right or truthful. Perhaps it works for some people but it just didn’t ring true for me. And believe me I tried. The key for me was the direct visceral experience that, for want of a better phrase, and one borrowed from my Christian roots, I was, ‘the living word’. When I became aware that I was one drop in the ocean and I was also naturally part of that Ocean, I realised I had a right to recognise I was not separate from God. This changed everything for me. I was on the beach, I was the beach and I was the whole universe witnessing and experiencing simultaneously. But although I knew this as a deep knowing. I could not make sense of it with my young and limited capacity. I had to ask my mind to be okay with starting with, “I don’t know.”
I became hungry for direct experience and often rejected turgid and over-complicated religious notions and explanations of who or what God is and what and who ‘he’ rejects and accepts. I felt many religions over complicated the simplicity of loving-kindness with control and rules to keep the human condition at bay. I did not need to politicise it, although many do, Karl Marx coined the phrase, ‘Religion is the opium for the masses.’ I knew what that meant. But I might have said something like, religion is the thief of natural joy and divinity. This is how I experienced my formative Catholic years, living in fear of hellfire and damnation. My new spiritual journey would be in pursuit of Unity, Peace and Love and this, my new holy trinity, would be my superpowers to face the darkness and dysfunction of my habitual self-harming personality and ego traits.
Call Off the Search!
Papaji often asked his devotees and spiritual seekers to, ‘Call off the search!’. This was so refreshing for me. Again, the recognition it is my mind and ego which is seeking that that I already am. My mind is the creator of my illusion and delusion. This great paradox is still alive in me today. How do I stay vigilant to my ego and mind’s traps and false identifications and simultaneously call off the search? This would become my life practice. After many years of backflipping from graceful ease in a flow-state to resistance, contraction and drowning in emotions, I became quite the conscious/unconscious acrobat. I also became exhausted.
I had let my victim-self usurp the generic idea of Karma and overlay it onto my engrained Christian belief systems. I believed If something bad happened to me I deserved it and God was punishing me. Not only did I have to deal with this life’s misdemeanours but also my many previous ones. I believe in the energetic vibration that can have a cause and effect but I do not believe that some omniscient power is watching my every move and judging me. I believe that kindness begets kindness and sometimes bad things happen to good people. That’s life. I try and not take everything so personally. Taking things ‘spiritually personally’ sucks just as much!
I love the idea of Dharma. In its most simple explanation, it is how we live our ‘good’ lives. How we make the right choices, how we show up in service to others and ourselves. In an ideal world if everyone had their Dharma in positive order the world, indeed the cosmos, would be a kinder place. I see Dharma as: a good, kind choice; a deliberate right action; a conscious awareness of my intention and energetic vibration — something that has benevolent enduring consequences. Being mindful of my Dharma is how I stay vigilant to the internal struggle of my ego versus my natural state of enlightenment. My innate godself needs no vigilance or practice. Keeping my ego and my monkey mind out of the way does. EGO is often written, Eases God Out… I resonate with this. In a very real and crude sense, there is Universal Love or there is not. When there is not, I make a point (for me it’s through the heart) of reconnecting to that expansive feeling and resetting all actions from that place. And when I fail, trip up, have a hundred reasons not to recalibrate back into the heart I keep that promise alive — to come home to who I truly am. I put myself back on the beach at Goa. I metaphorically shake that beach blanket open and start again with, ‘I don’t know.’ Then I can relax, take a deep breath and put one foot in front of the other.
From this place, from this consciousness bringing awareness to the foundation of my thoughts, that leads to my actions, my human-being, my being human; I feel I’ve discovered at least one way to curtail the drama that life can throw at me or I can throw at it (in the past we’ve been a very good team). By keeping vigilant to the ego’s propensity for creating pain, suffering and chaos and making more positive and energetically sound choices in each moment I am able to reduce external drama in my life and, for the most part, eliminate internal drama and suffering. I get to be on that beach, in the wonder and mystery of this life, shake that beach blanket, lay down and just be. Ah … Bliss!
How are you able to be vigilant and yet call off the search? How do you reconcile the seemingly paradoxical elements of practicing presence? We always love to hear from you. Your voice is Uplifting!
If you’d like to hear a dynamic discussion about practice and presence please visit The UPLIFT Pulse.
And if you’d like to dig a little deeper and go on a journey of self-discovery and self-enquiry while being wildly entertained, check out UPLIFT’s recommended Docu-series and on-line course: The Road to Dharma
All our love in thought and deed
Paul and Team UPLIFT