We live in a world that is largely unevolved still. We are showing at least the outer signs of evolution. Our mobile-friendly lives, social media connectivity, scientific breakthroughs and other worldly advances reveal an everchanging human landscape that seems to be headed in a progressive direction. But, at least here in the West, we still experience a profound lack of connection to what we are and find many obstacles to true freedom, joy, creativity, contentment and peace.
Many have not reached a place where they can truly soar, finding instead many of the same mental, emotional and spiritual limitations experienced by their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. The generations keep generating. The surface keeps getting shinier. But the core issues tend to remain the same, no matter how many new faces are born into the species. In many ways, there is a kind of regression happening, with people so disconnected from themselves and with each other that they find themselves burying their faces in screens even when they are two feet away from each other or in the company of loved ones.
We still seem hell bent on connecting from a place of deficiency, as if somewhere behind the face, in the deep cavens of the heart and soul, our real identity is “not enough.” This pervasive sense of “not enough” rears itself everywhere, in every relationship. Many have even given up the desire to recognize something greater than this inner sense of deficiency, reframing it instead as “just part of being human.” It’s as if the possibility of living from a more authentic, genuine, awakened, loving place feels so out of reach that they have resigned themselves to embracing, rather than investigating, this false mask.
The mask presents one thing to others, while deep down beyond the outer presentation, we lack the capacity to truly be ourselves, to show up exactly as we are, openly and unapologetically. We are largely out of touch with the basic insecurities that are fueling the majority of our needs and wants. We are easily triggered emotionally, falling back into old childhood patterns of conflict, pouting, blaming, complaining or projecting. We remain out of touch with these basic emotions, having over-intellectualized and over-analysed ourselves and each other. In the age of political and spiritual correctness, we are so out of touch with our own bodies and feelings that we have placed a premium on not hurting other peoples’ feelings. And so, like mother bears, we are protecting each other from evolving beyond our limited mental and emotional patterns. This lack of connection with our deeper emotional landscape places us at risk of heading down the same path we have been on for thousands of years.
What seems important for many people is how they look or appear to others, whether they have enough likes on Facebook, whether they are smarter than the next guy, whether they are “right” or “getting it right” or whether they have accumulated enough money, fame, attention or acknowledgment from the faceless masses. Of course not everyone is prone to these patterns. But there is some degree of it in most of us. We look on the outside for what we feel we lack within. And the promise to fill that void lies at every turn, in every TV commercial, job promotion, new relationship or addictive substance or activity. Even many modern forms of spirituality seem to focus a lot on these things. In some of those circles, it seems more important now to be part of a popular movement, to offer people a spiritual neverland or to build up a fantasic set of spiritual promises rather than invite a deep and radical investigation of our experience. In some ways, the spiritual teachers become the replacements for parents who did not act as proper role models or did not give the necessary love and attention. Deficiency is the fuel of our lives and relationships and we never seem to run out of it. It has such a cunning and stunning ability to survive each generation and to hide itself so well in every story, feeling and relationship that we are only dimly aware of just how much its running the show. It’s much ado about nothing. And that’s exactly what the deficiency story gives us – nothing – nothing more than the appearance of advancement, acknowledgment or fulfillment.
There is a kind of scarcity in this way of life that leaves many feeling empty, lost and heartbroken, unable to actualize their true creativity and potential in life. We do not love ourselves. And our culture is sending all the wrong signals about how to love ourselves. It is focusing on what lies on the outside and what is presented on the surface. We continue to buy into that culture instead of dismantling it from the inside.
We ought not to stand for it anymore. But what it takes to rise above that is not more promises coming from the outside. It is not a new IPhone or a new lover. It is not about the future, for the future is always at least a step away, if not more. We never reach it. It is not a spiritual neverland that holds itself out as a happy Hollywood movie ending. It is not the prospect that others do love, need and acknowledge us. What it takes is the courage to fully face these patterns of deficiency as they arise in the moment and to see through them, to immerse ourselves nakedly in the emotions we are trying so desperately to avoid. If we can take all that energy that is being projected outward onto others and onto the future and turn it in on ourselves with the power of mere observation, we have a chance at evolving in a much deeper and more transformative way.
But how we turn that looking towards our inner landscape makes all the difference, for we are prone to spiraling down into a kind of analysis paralysis as we look inward. There is this seductive pull towards over-conceptualizing ourselves, each other and our emotions. What I’m inviting here is not a reframing of our inner experience but rather a pure observing of it, of allowing it all to be exactly as it are. And along with that observation can come an investigation into these patterns, a dismantling of generations of false beliefs and patterns. There is a beautiful freedom in that, an embrace of everything.
This embracing does not leave us merely complacently quoting pithy sayings like “I accept both my perfections and imperfections.” That’s the stuff of entry-level spirituality. It can go much deeper than that.
This investigation does not leave us in some blanked out, spaceless space of nirvana, for even that is a fleeting state. I’m not talking about nondual realization here either, for even that is merely a transient phase. No, this kind of looking, as long as there is no bypassing and there is a courage to be with absolutely everything, allows us to fully love and be ourselves. We leave behind attachments to past and future but also attachments to now and to all spiritual or special states and experiences. We come back into the world, realizing that we never left it. We love ourselves without being able to truly define ourselves. And this freedom which is no longer weighed down by concepts allows us to continue changing and evolving. Our hearts, minds and bodies remain pliable, able to adapt and move fluidly through all sorts of experiences – from love to heartache to grief or death. This can profoundly change how we see ourselves, each other and the world. It can unleash our creative potential so that it is no longer tied to wanting praise from others. Instead we become creative merely out of the pure and naked joy of creating – nothing more. We naturally leave behind the generations of pain and deficiency. Our relationships change. We are no longer tied to protecting other peoples’ feelings or getting love from others. We are no longer attached to each other in that old sticky way that feels stifling and needy.
We love with a sense of maturity, clarity and open-heartedness. We come closer to one another, connecting more deeply with one another, by simply putting the masks down.
And that, my friends, is not a promise. Promises imply that there is something to give, something that comes from the outside or is found in the future. All of this is already within you. All that it takes is the courage to look in the right way. Let no one tell you that you need anything more than the act of pure observation and the organic acceptance of experience that comes with it. The key to life is not hidden away in a profound text. It is not something we add to ourselves. Human life is no mistake. There is no need to correct it from the outside. Our love is held within our pain, waiting to break free once the pain is faced. Our promise land is our present awareness of everything that is already unfolding naturally. The greatest realization is not that there is some wonderful future state waiting for us. It is in the moment by moment seeing of what truly lies at the core of our present experience. As we see that nothing lies there, everything is possible. We are then like an empty slate that allows for life to be completely full and to evolve in a profoundly different way. That’s how the generations of pain and deficiency fall away. That’s how we find connection with each other. That’s how we rediscover the pure joy of creating what we are here to create. That’s how we get our heads out of the screens.
That’s how we set healthy boundaries.
That’s how we open up new possibilities for our children.
That’s how we end the wars.
That’s how we let others be who they are.
That’s how we find our own unique expression in the world.
That’s how we stop looking on the outside for what cannot fulfill us within.
That’s how we become what we were always meant to be – ourselves.