The Road Home
The Road Home to a Place We Can Never Leave
I am delighted to share what I have experienced about how both enlightening and unsettling it can be when our conditioned selves start to fall away in order to make room for our true essence to emerge. It is clear that my encounters are the unfolding of what is inevitable for all of us. I feel a great deal of solace when the collective twists and turns of the blossoming of our true nature is brought to light. What follows are the recollections of my part of our choice less journey.
The most powerful spiritual experiences are surprises that I characterize as a series of Shakti (merging with our primordial unity essence) awakenings. The first one I recall was while gazing at a flower in my family’s garden at the age of five. In a moment of innocent clarity, I knew without a doubt that the flower and I were one. The “spell”, however, was broken when my mother poked her head out from inside the house and said, “get up and do something useful, go play with the other kids”. Even at that young age, I could not imagine anything more useful or interesting. There was a sense that grown-ups must know what is best; yet the truth of what I had experienced was undeniable.
I was fortunate to have had a grandfather that grew up on the Penobscot Indian Reservation. He invited me to share some time with him tending to his incredibly lush and simple garden. When I told him about the garden “incident”, he advised me to keep that between the garden and myself. Suffice it to say, that was my introduction to shamanism and plant spirit healing. I am very grateful for such a gentle and graceful introduction to the knowing that all is one and that all nature is one nature.
Other childhood Shakti experiences included lying awake in my bed and viewing my body from the top of the room and on several occasions observing the room expand exponentially. I knew with certainty that my thoughts, my feelings, my physical body and the world around me were inside of a much more spacious context. Like all of us, my habitation was that I was a separate self, distinct and disconnected from my environment. However, my direct experiences were in conflict with that conditioning. When I shared that set of experiences with my parents, they called the family doctor who prescribed medicine to suppress my “hallucinations”. Although loving and concerned, I was aware that my parents were simply misinformed. It was apparent that I needed to keep such observations to myself. Looking back, anyone who challenged my direct experiences would have been analogous to someone handing me an apple and telling me it was an orange. No one could really dissuade me; life is simply more fluid and spacious than we are led to believe.
In my early teens, something quite pivotal happened. Unexpectedly one day, there was an undeniably clear knowing that I was never born and that I would never die. I can still recall the confused combination of elation and terror. The sense of separation from the whole of existence simply fell away. All the usual points of reference were gone, until an overriding fear of death (the unknown) pulled me back into the dream of separation. Over the years, I developed a push pull relationship with death and I cautiously played with the energy between the known and unknown. I was, however, unwilling and unable to face death (my dearest friend and my most terrifying enemy) until much later. The next significant experience on my magical mystery tour of life was when I was in my early twenties. While hugging a girlfriend, both she and I felt me literally pass through her physical body. As we simultaneously turned in shock, we said, “Did that really happen”? That particular experience was quite a jolt that inspired me to seek out some structure to help put the fragile nature of reality into perspective. In the interim years between then and now, I studied with a variety of very insightful and inspiring Shamanic, Zen and Hindu teachers. Eventually, I took on the role of full-time spiritual teacher and counselor.
In spite of all my spiritual training, none of the ongoing glimpses at my core self or essence over the years was sustainable, and consequently became a source of great frustration and disillusionment. One day it dawned on me that all of my seeking was a waste of time. I recalled something that the great Indian sage Ramana Maharshi said to a disciple about seeking: “who cares about what you are seeking, if you do not even know who it is that is seeking.” It became apparent that my spiritual search was merely the conditioned programming of a separate self, dressed up as a spiritual seeker. In spite of the glimpses at my true nature as spacious awareness itself, something desperately held onto the programming that I was a self, a “me” that was separate and distinct from my environment. I came to realize that there would never be a better or enlightened version of me, because as I knew as a child, there is no separate self or me to begin with.
A significant shift in my attention from the world of form and the known, to the direct awareness that all form appears in, occurred in February 2003. I was sitting at an ancient temple in Teotihuacán, Mexico. I knew that I was totally out of alignment with life and I could not avoid the unknown anymore. I prayed to spirit, offering up my personal identity and I committed to turn myself over to death and live with the consequences that went along with that shift in attention. I was open to whatever manifested. I remember saying, “my commitment to the truth is more important than everything that is safe and secure”. I must have fallen asleep because my head jolted upward and my attention shifted so that I was a part of a vast stillness where there was no conflict, and the customary mind chatter was simply background noise of little consequence.
In that moment of clarity, it was unequivocally apparent that the self I had identified with was nothing more than a concept. There was no me looking at other things and other people. Looking was looking and awareness was aware. Everything and everyone, including what I had always known as me, was clear light that was alive, vibrant, still, spacious and full of profound compassion! The distinction between one form and another dropped away and all life, including thoughts and feeling, were clearly appearing within the larger context of spacious awareness. The undeniable realization that all forms are the same at the core was literally mind blowing. That sudden shift in perspective was quite hilarious and I laughed uncontrollably for about six hours. I could not believe that I had overlooked something that was so obvious and self-evident. What I had been looking for was there all along.
The deep “seeing” was like the aperture of a camera opening fully. The problem at the time was that the aperture was stuck in the on position. Unlike before, light was primarily at the foreground and form was in the background. A simple task such as setting a cup down on a table was a challenge because neither the cup nor the table had a clearly delineated edge. For a few years afterwards, I clumsily maneuvered through life. I also came to realize, however, that my conditioned self slowly and subtly co-opted that experience of grace in Mexico by trying to claim ownership or blame for the experience. My identification with the formless was just another mind trap. Eventually, I relaxed into this new way of seeing and learned to enjoy it as a wonderful preamble to a deeper understanding of the unknown. Along the way, the aperture became more pliable, functional, dynamic and enlightening.
It took me years to realize that there is nowhere to go and no one to be. Quite literally, there is nothing to grasp hold of and nothing to release. I know that our core essence does not come and go; it is our true unaltered “stateless state” and cannot really open or close. It just is. Our conditioned self is the “altered state” that we awaken from – how can we possibly be anything other than one with all expressions of life! What I have come to realize on my journey from nowhere to nowhere is that all arguments with life are just ideas about life and are therefore not life, and those conceptualizations take a great deal of effort and energy to maintain, uphold and defend. Any tension felt anywhere in my being is the signal that I am defending an illusion in the form of a thought or belief. The invitation at that time is to relax, breathe and fully embrace the moment. Surrendering those highly conditioned concepts to spirit and unconditionally accepting life as it is requires no effort and is dilemma free. That is the road home to the place we can never actually leave.