Dear Reader,

The following essay pushed through me on the second anniversary of my second birth awakening. I’ve read it to some friends, all of whom really liked it, but some felt that I was being a tad arrogant. So let me put forth a disclaimer here, so I can let the rest of it stand without making excuses: The following expresses my current stage of realization. I might say something totally different in the future as I continue to evolve. I doubt it, but I’ll be the first to admit it if I find I’ve said something that I later disagree with.

That said, I need to make one more introductory comment. Some have felt that my tone here is not respectful enough of other spiritual traditions. Others really like my somewhat flip and fresh attitude, because they feel it helps to break up what they consider to be an overly reverent atmosphere that has surrounded such traditions for far too long. I want you to know that I really do honor other traditions; some of them were very important in my own awakening process. I simply feel the need to strongly state what I feel is true about their limitations. Naturally, you are free to respond with limitations you may find with me and with us. That’s mutuality. I hope you enjoy this.

The Self You Didn’t Want To Realize

While assisting others in their process of Self-realization, especially when the aspirant has suddenly and shockingly dropped into a heretofore sealed-off chamber in their Being, I have often found myself saying something like, “This isn’t the Self you wanted to realize, is it?” The usual reply is stunned silence. The unspoken answer is obvious: “No! I didn’t want to realize this part. I wanted to realize the blissful, empty, and unbounded part!”

The problem is: there is no separation. Your Being is one seamless event. To realize the depth of the boundless part, you must also permit the depth of the bounded, conditioned part. Pisser.

It has been my observation that most of the seekers in our generation grew up on Disney-style pictures of Enlightenment, Awakening, and Self-Realization. Well, OK… not all of us, but most. What I mean by that is that we were given images and descriptions of the awakened state that made it sound like we were all going to be liberated from the pain, messiness, suffering, and chaos of embodied existence. Let me replay some of those pictures right here, so we’re all on the same page about this.

Perfect mental and physical health is natural in this state of fulfillment of life where divine intelligence speaks in all phases, where God-consciousness permeates all daily experiences and activities, where universal love flows in and overflows from the heart and where divine intelligence fills the mind. (page 250, The Science of Being and Art of Living)Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

As long as you imagine yourself to be something tangible and solid, a thing among things, actually existing in time and space, shortlived and vulnerable, naturally you will be anxious to survive and increase. But when you know yourself as beyond space and time—in contact with them only at the point of here and now, otherwise all-pervading and all-containing, unapproachable, unassailable, invulnerable—you will be afraid no longer. (page 485, I Am That)Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

When you are yourself, there is no fear and you are aloneness. You never touch anything else. Time doesn’t touch, mind doesn’t touch, fear doesn’t touch. You are beyond all that. … Duality is only in dreaming. When you wake up, nothing else existed. That is total freedom. (page 133, Wake Up And Roar)H.W.L. Poonja

The Sage has no interests of his own, but takes the interests of the people as his own. He is kind to the kind; he is also kind to the unkind; For Virtue is kind. He is faithful to the unfaithful: for Virtue is faithful. In the midst of the world, the Sage is shy and self-effacing. For the sake of the world he keeps his heart in its nebulous state. All the people strain their ears and eyes; the Sage only smiles like an amused infant. (chapter 49, Tao Te Ching)Lao Tsu

When the divine joy comes, immediately my breath is still and I am lifted into the Spirit. I feel the bliss of a thousand sleeps rolled into one, and yet I don’t lose my ordinary awareness. This is universally the experience of those who go deep in the superconscious state. When the profound ecstasy of God falls over you, the body becomes absolutely still, the breath ceases to flow, and the thoughts are quiet—banished, every one, by the magic command of the soul. The you drink of God’s bliss and experience an intoxication of joy that not a thousand draughts of wine could give you. (page 161, Man’s Eternal Quest [I couldn’t find my copy of Autobiography, but I’m sure I’d easily find something similar there.])Paramahansa Yogananda

The outcome of the lesson that God’s Son is guiltless is a world in which there is no fear, and everything is lit with hope and sparkles with a gentle friendliness. Nothing but calls to you in soft appeal to be your friend, and let it join with you. (page 647)A Course in Miracles

The above quotes are taken totally out of context, without permission, and pretty much at random from my dusty spiritual library. Believe me, I’m quite aware of how likely I am to get into trouble over quoting other awakened beings and exalted teachings this way. Still, I’ll risk it to make my point. The point is this: most of us were imprinted at an impressionable age with the message that enlightenment would spontaneously endow us with one or more (preferably all) of the following idealistic qualities:

  • Absolute fearlessness
  • Endlessly self-effacing and compassionate toward all beings
  • Freedom from emotional reactivity
  • Freedom from all desires and attachments, illusions, sex, money, anger, the world, everything
  • Endlessly devoid of personal, egoic, self-satisfying tendencies
  • Healed of all wounded and self-contradictory conditionings
  • Filled with bliss, light, and/or ecstasy most, if not all the time

It’s not that I think the descriptions of realized states were fabricated by the authors. It’s just that from where I stand, I see a picture that, at least to me and my friends here, appears to include a much larger reality than the one we assumed was being communicated by those writings and teachings. This might be a bit uncomfortable for you, but try to imagine something with me for just a moment. Imagine that the enlightened state these sages, yogis and mystics were talking about is NOT the “ultimate” realization, but merely a stage along the way. A stage that tends to glorify the absolute, infinite, and impersonal side of our Being while dismissing, marginalizing, vilifying, or flatly denying the finite, human, and limited side of our Being. A stage in which the realizer sometimes says that All is included in the embrace of the Absolute Self, but not really. No blame. It couldn’t have happened any other way, given the evolutionary context in which such realizations and teachings appeared.

I can already hear the outraged objections. Perhaps you say, “Not my guru/teaching/tradition! My teacher always talks about the embrace of All, and especially the body, mind and feelings.” Or perhaps the objection is “as long as you live in relativity, there is suffering. Those who have truly gone Beyond, who have fully transcended this Earth-plane are the ones who speak of such absolute Selfless experiences.” To these objections, and in this short space, I can only reply this: What exactly is it you hoped you’d get from being enlightened, awakened, or liberated? Feel free to take a moment with that question. It’s important.

You see, while working with people who aspire to realization of the Second Birth, I hear one question beneath all the others. It is a desperate, heart-wrenching, soul-searching question, screamed from the end of long tunnels of space and time spent in endless incarnations of change and suffering. The question is this: How do I get out of here? Variations include: Can’t I transcend this world? Isn’t there some way to burn through all this? Why am I here again? Why do I have to be here? What did I do wrong? When will this all go away? If I really GET IT in this life, can I leave here once and for all and never have to come back?

I hope you get my drift, because I feel quite vulnerable in stating these things. We are all so defended against perceived attacks on our sacred yogas (and, based on the ways we’ve been painfully judged, rightly so), that it’s scary and dangerous to speak such things. Yet, I cannot help but speak my truth. Here is a stark version of it: One way or another, we have all been hoping to find a way out of this existence, or at least the suffering inherent in it. We couldn’t help it—that’s the stance that Being Itself has been taking—in and as us—for millennia. Now here’s the kicker: THERE IS NO POSSIBLE WAY OUT—NOT NOW, NOT EVER. BECAUSE JUST AS MUCH AS YOU ARE THE INFINITE, BOUNDLESS SELF, YOU ARE ALSO THIS MANIFEST UNIVERSE AND THIS INDIVIDUATED INCARNATION OF BEING. Sure, you can leave this Earth plane when you die, but I suggest that even so, no matter what heavenly or angelic realm you may find yourself in (on a good yuga), it’s all temporary. All things invoke their own opposite. Sooner or later, no matter how good things look or feel, they will look and feel worse later. I’m not saying there’s no good in all of it, nor that there is no evolution. I’m only suggesting that, at the bottom of your existence, you would do well to begin to examine your fundamental (and your ultimate) hopes and motives.

I suggest that, sooner or later, and only when you are ready, you will begin to notice that the Titanic amount of energy bound up in your various attempts at escape is more that you can afford. Eventually, you will notice the pain that is caused by our endless attempts to avoid pain. Or, another way to say it is this: you will see that the way you’ve made yourself comfortably numb or removed from your own life is actually more painful than simply feeling the unavoidable discomfort of being human. The period during which this recognition is clarifying itself in you is usually not much fun. It is often attended with feelings of depression, anxiety, failure, despair, exhaustion, and a general inability to get yourself together one more time to go on the next great quest for… whatever. When this is happening, if it is truly the conclusive passage of which we speak, you would benefit greatly from our kind of support. This is because, according to the world, you are letting yourself and/or others down, sinning, failing, falling off the program, or at the very least not trying hard enough to get yourself together or do whatever it takes to make things better. But according to us, this event in your life is most auspicious. We call it The Rot, because it is a necessary, preparatory, and mature period of decay out of the idealistic hopes, dreams and projections for a better reality, and into the stark and often uncomfortable encounter with your present moment, just as it is, just as you are.

When you have arrived at such a point, you become a real candidate for this Waking Down process. Once you get to the point where you are no longer fundamentally on the escape trajectory (if you haven’t already, I suggest reading my essay, The Black Hole Analogy), you begin to get that physical embodiment is the only direction that remains. What do I mean by “physical embodiment”? I mean the process of consciously claiming, inhabiting and engaging all the parts of ourselves and this life that we were secretly hoping we could avoid. Like what? Well, our whole body, for one. Or perhaps relationships. Maybe even the whole world. Too general? How about sex, money, anger, or fear? Sickness, pain, disease, death. Self judgement and judgement of others. Rejection. Work and responsibility. Self-hatred. Hatred of others. Terror in every form. Whatever aspect of your life you can name, there’s a good chance that there’s plenty of room for waking down into a deeper level of owning and living it.

  • How were you hoping to avoid such dark aspects of your nature? Here are a few common strategies:
  • By simply ignoring them and hoping they’d go away, or by telling yourself it’s not important.
  • By staying on the light, bright, happy, positive, and sattvic side of life.
  • By transcending it all, meditating a lot, remaining perfectly still, not breathing much, mimicking the Absolute, or trying to act spiritual or righteous.
  • By fixing each wounded part until you have no more “stuff”.
  • By losing yourself in sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll, work, relationships, TV, food, alcohol, whatever.
  • By hiding from everybody and everything; becoming invisible, feigning inferiority.
  • By being arrogant, superior to others, pretending everything is great, dismissing the pain.
  • By telling yourself and others that you’ve already done a lot of work on yourself and you’re beyond that now.
  • By avoiding the messiness of actual sensitive, sexual, heart-to-heart and body-to-body human relationships.
  • By realizing Consciousness and then pretending that everything is fine or that nothing else matters or exists.

The point here is that everyone (myself included) is afraid of being ALL of who we ARE. Even you, especially if you’ve already realized yourself as infinite Consciousness. We are afraid because we’ve been taught that if we let ourselves follow our natural impulses, we’ll inevitably do grave damage to ourselves and each other and we’ll experience a lot of pain. My reply to all that has two parts. First, that very fear is born of a (very) long-standing transmission of lack of confidence in our own (and All of ) Being. It is the parent saying to the child: “Don’t do that – you’ll hurt yourself or someone else.” Now, of course, some of that is necessary for survival. But a lot of what we got there was a fundamental message of distrust that we are smart enough and sensitive enough to learn our own lessons and integrate them. But I say that, despite the great weight of this tradition, its message is simply not true. We are, each and every one, quite capable of learning our own lessons. We may not all learn them the same way as each other. Nor do we always APPEAR to be learning at all, especially when others see us appearing to repeat the same “mistakes” many times in a row. But are we really always learning? I say yes. But check it out for yourself.

My second point is this: If you give yourself permission to just do whatever you feel like doing, you WILL hurt yourself and others and you WILL experience plenty of pain. That’s how we learn. Now, what happens if you constantly stop yourself from following your impulses? YOU HURT YOURSELF AND OTHERS AND EXPERIENCE PAIN! Usually, even worse (at least, in the long run)! Have you noticed this? It’s an amazing phenomenon. Now, you could conclude: we’re doomed! I’d rather say that this is simply part of the human condition that is waiting to be accepted, even actively permitted. There is NO WAY TO AVOID HURTING OURSELVES AND EACH OTHER. In other words, the concept of enlightenment, awakening, liberation, etc. as a state of perfect action and compassion is IMPOSSIBLE. The advertising was FALSE! Do you think Jesus didn’t piss anybody off? Think again. Do you think the Buddha’s pals thought he was perfect? I sincerely doubt it.

Perhaps you are now thinking, “Then what was the point of all the spiritual teachings? Is there no such thing as a realization of absolute freedom? Was everybody faking it when they were talking about exalted states of awareness? And what of all those descriptions of enlightened behavior? Are you saying all that was rubbish?” Well, no. It wasn’t ALL rubbish. It was just HALF rubbish. It may take me years to explain this whole thing, but I’m dedicated to doing just that. I’m aware that explanations in themselves aren’t all that matters to sincere aspirants, but it’s an important piece of the puzzle. When the mind understands a path, it can cooperate with allowing the rest of the being to follow.

So here’s my explanation of all this in brief. There are two parts of your (and All) Being: Absolute, infinite and relative, finite. For most of time, we have found ourselves enmeshed in the relative side of life. Finally, the impulse arose to discover and directly live the intuited free side of our Being. This impulse was explored by the early investigators of consciousness, who, through various means, discovered that there is indeed an immortal aspect of our Being to be realized. In the old days, to attain that realization was to pop through a pretty intense force field. Once on the other side, the endless expanse of pure consciousness, instantly realized as the universal and immortal Self nature, was pretty awesome to behold. So awesome, relative to the life of enmeshment, that it was declared to be the only True Reality, and that this life of change and suffering was declared unreal by contrast.

Since those early days, thousands of years ago, I propose that human consciousness, the universe, and the totality of Being has greatly evolved (I know I’ll get lots of tomatoes thrown at me over that statement, but I’ll stick to it). I suggest that the force field that once made realization of our infinite nature so difficult, is now far more permeable. Many can sit with a teacher of advaita and get talked into the transcendent fairly easily. Some even stick there pretty solidly. Again, this may sound heretical, but I say that those who realize consciousness in such schools can be the least fortunate. Why? Because the dharmas that surround these schools tend to keep you split. What’s the split? Consciousness versus the body, the mind, and the world. Yes, in such a realization, consciousness is known to be absolutely free of the world and all phenomenon. But has consciousness noticed that it simultaneously IS the bodymind and relationships? Ordinarily, no. That’s exactly what the realizer was hoping to get free of. And so, when the mind, the emotions, and the body come back into your world after such a realization, there is a tendency to support a stance of vigilance that will maintain the separation from the bodymind, the world, and all the messiness of relationships (for the sake of “freedom“), despite the (absolutely natural) tendency for the other side of your own Being to come and invite you into a life of divine union and sacred marriage.

Am I being too disrespectful, too negative, or too broad and undiscriminating in such statements? Perhaps. I am frequently admonished for this. I truly mean no disrespect to all the traditions and teachings that have come before and which are still evolving (I’ve made great use of many of them myself!). I can’t possibly know what they all are, and all the treasures they hold. But I can tell you that I feel, quite bodily, the effect of the separation I sense when reading every spiritual book and when hearing every spiritual teacher I’ve encountered since my second birth awakening. In any case, let me continue with my view on all this.

After a realization of Self as limitless consciousness, a choice is constantly before you. And this choice is, for most, quite unexpected, irritating, and perhaps even unnerving. It goes something like this: Having realized the infinite, having attained the ultimate realization of my identity, why would I allow myself to get crucified in the world of suffering? Why should I? What could possibly impel me to sacrifice my expansive state of Being by coming back down into the body, into the world, into the hellish realms of material phenomenon?

Good question. I want you to know that the answers I’m about to suggest are not geared to convincing you. I’ve long since learned the futility of such endeavors. When the time comes, something like one or more of the following reasons will suddenly make sense, based on your own investigation and experience:

  • Because you have no choice
  • Because you can no longer hold the rest of life, of your own Being, at arm’s length
  • Because your need for whole-Being integration is driving you more and more deeply into embodiment
  • Because your need for true and sustaining communion with others is forcing the issue
  • Because your need to heal the deep splits and fractures in your own being is bringing you literally back to your senses

So let’s say that you are thus driven, for whatever reasons. What happens next? I suggest that, in the process of Waking Down, you will begin to encounter all the reasons why you were preferring to wake UP. You begin to notice that conscious embodiment is a terrifying and difficult path. In other words, you begin to encounter THE SELF YOU DIDN’T WANT TO REALIZE.

What do I mean by that? Specifically, this weird, icky, demanding, endlessly problematic physical and energetic bodymind with all its fucked-up conditioning. Indeed, the self you didn’t want to realize is also this very world, this endless universe, and all of manifestation, with all of its heavenly and hellish tendencies. I say that this too awaits your discovery as your very own sacred Self. I suggest that you ARE your body. You ARE your mind. You ARE your feelings, You ARE these worlds and all manifestation. I suggest that what awaits you is the most sacred event of all: the marriage of your conscious nature with your human individuality and all the worlds. When you are ready, and if you would like, I would be most honored to be your personal “midwife” and teacher in this process that leads to and beyond your second birth.

© 12/31/1998 Ted Strauss
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