Friday, 24 April 2015

Embracing the Emptiness

Whether or not you are someone who claims to be actively seeking enlightenment, or whatever it is you believe enlightenment to be, it is not uncommon that catching a glimpse of it may raise unexpected feelings of angst. I've heard the eternal space of “I am” within each of us described in many ways. Some descriptions make it sound very appealing, words such as “Stillness”, “Spaciousness”, “Peace”, “Oneness” and “Awareness”. There are, however, other words that are equally as accurate that not only sound far less appealing, but may even induce feelings of fear and repulsion, such as “Nothingness” and “Emptiness”.

Every human being perceives the world in a way that is a unique combination of their personality, the way they have been socialised and conditioned, their life experience, their body and brain chemistry, their genetics etc. There is also an aspect of every soul incarnate as a human being that carries a unique vibrational signature and possibly even imprints left by past lives. At some point all these elements will come together in such a way that we become consciously aware of the eternal stillness within us.

Now you would think that this rendezvous with our truest selves would feel exciting and inviting and we’d feel like diving right in. But this is not always the case. Sometimes this space feels less like joy and peace and more like emptiness. Our minds and egos often reel against anything that feels threatening to them. They have been in control for so long that they are unlikely to surrender to any experience in which they are not calling the shots. They will more than likely put up a fight. Their weapon of choice is one with which we are all familiar, fear.

In an attempt to find more accessible words to describe the still awareness within us I came up with the phrase (also the title of this blog), “That which wants nothing”. This is another element of surrendering to the emptiness that may result in feelings of discomfort. We have been conditioned to believe that what motivates us as human beings to keep moving onward and upward is desire. The societies in which we live seem to be driven by desire. Step one is to want something and step two is to figure out how to get it. We believe that this is the force that keeps us moving and propels us forward. Given our conditioned belief that wanting is a large motivating factor in our lives, it is not surprising that entering into a space that wants no thing would feel threatening. And yes, it is true that depending on your personality type, stepping into the emptiness may result in some initial passivity. As the mind and ego drop away so do many of their desire or fear based incentives for activity. However, what will rise up in their place is creativity. At some point you will find yourself less motivated by wanting and more motivated by the divine creative fire that burns at the heart of the source of all that is. You will no longer be motivated into action by fear, and instead will be moved into action by grace.

My point is this, the flowery language sometimes used to describe enlightenment may seduce you into pursuing it, but in reality the experience of entering into the space where enlightenment dwells may feel frightening to the mind and ego. It can at first feel like emptiness and the angst the mind and ego experiences when faced with this may cause you to turn away. Try to move beyond this initial fear and instead choose to lean into the emptiness and eventually embrace it. Allow your experience of it to simply be what it is, and what you will find is so much more than what you imagined.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Connection versus Attachment

Warning: Some readers may find this disturbing!

We've all heard spiritual teachings, especially those originating in Asia, speak of non attachment. It is understandable that some may find this idea unappealing if they confuse it with indifference. Others may feel comfortable with the idea of non attachment with regard to material possessions, but struggle with the idea when it comes to the personal relationships in their lives.

There is nothing wrong with experiencing feelings of attachment, in fact as human beings we are pretty much hard-wired to form attachments. It is part of our physical survival and propagation of the species instinct. Every human being has needs. From the moment we are born there are certain things we need to survive and thrive. There are the basic physical needs such as food, shelter, security and sex. There are also more complex needs that bridge the gap between our physical and spiritual selves, such as the need for social interaction and community, what I sometimes call “togetherness”.

When it comes to our spiritual or higher selves there is a far deeper and more profound drive toward connection. Notice I did not call it a need. Calling it a “drive” is also not entirely accurate. For our higher selves connection can almost be described as an incontrovertible universal force, like gravity. As spiritual beings, connection is not a need or even a desire, it simply is.

In terms of personal relationships, all kinds of trouble can ensue when we confuse attachment with connection. Attachment is a collection of thoughts and feelings that are born out of the ego. When we feel that someone is fulfilling a particular need that we believe is important to our survival, we feel a strong drive to hold onto them and not lose them. We fear that the loss of the individual or our relationship with them will in some way impede our survival or threaten our existence. Again, there is nothing wrong with this. It is part of our survival instinct and the reason our species is so successful in terms of maintaining and increasing its numbers over the millennia. Whether the person or people we feel attached to are providing for our very basic needs such as food and shelter or the more complex social needs, is not really relevant, the source of our attachment is nevertheless need. Need is not connection. Attachment is not connection. You can have relationships that include need and attachment, but are mostly based on and blessed with connection. This is wonderful. But unfortunately the world seems to be overrun with examples of relationships that are based mostly on need and attachment and do not include much connection. Usually these relationships end when one or more of the participants is no longer having their needs met. It irks me somewhat when I hear people use the word “connection” to describe their relationship with another when it is plain to see that there is very little connection happening and a whole lot of need and the fear-based feelings of attachment that spring from that.

The reason I feel it is important to clearly separate need-based attachment from connection in our understanding, is that we are evolving. As more and more of us begin to awaken to our higher potential, we can make this transition a whole lot smoother by knowing that connection can occur without attachment. I have observed that many people will not allow themselves to open up to or connect with another without first assessing the potential longevity of the relationship and which needs they can have met by the other. They may not be doing it consciously, but they are reluctant to allow a connection to occur with someone unless they believe there will be some need-based return on their investment. The result is that they miss out on hundreds of opportunities to grow and learn and share. The universe has generously arranged for them to rendezvous with someone for the sake of their mutual growth, and they have shut the door on that gift.

When you begin to understand connection to be a force on it’s own that has nothing to do with need or attachment, you begin to see the world and everyone in it as a friend and a teacher and an opportunity to grow. Connect for the sake of connection. It does not matter if it lasts five minutes or five decades. If you do then I promise you that the beauty and richness that will flow into your life and the lives of those around you will be unlike anything you've ever experienced before.