Free Therapy #74: Why We Suffer Part 8

“You were aimed from birth:
you will never be alone.”

William Stafford


Like a lot of us, I began waking up spiritually when I reached my adolescence.  Suddenly it seemed my mind was able to understand reality in a way that was not possible before.  Why did this happen then?  And why does this process continue to unfold?  Could it be that humans undergo a cycle similar to other life forms?

We have a seed stage where we are comfortably asleep in a cocoon of silence and possibility.  And then we experience germination, growth, reproduction and finally we spread our seeds before we die.  These columns are nothing more than seed-spreading.  What once passed in must now pass out.  What entered must exit.  Acorns make oaks and oaks make acorns.

When I think of seeds, I think of the Big Bang, the birth of what we call physical reality, when the hot, dense, energetic, non-material spirit or “seed” of nothingness gave birth to “the something” of everything; what the theoretical physicist and cosmologist, Lawrence Krauss, wrote about in his book, A Universe from Nothing.

Everything we see, feel, smell, hear; taste, imagine, love, fear; seek, desire, hate, regret; recall, resist, enjoy, forget came from the nothing that “was” and became the everything that now “is.”  And one day, “in time,” it will be nothing once again, a pregnant nothing, ready to repeat the cycle of birth and death and re-birth for eternity.

Like seeds, to germinate we need the warmth of love, the light of understanding and the water of truth.  And then we experience a kind of photosynthesis as we absorb, incorporate and embody the many lessons or energies of love, truth, justice and peace, like humility, kindness and honesty.

And in our interactions, are we not engaging in cross-pollination?  If we are loved, we learn to love others.  If we experience justice, we desire it for others.  Same for truth and peace.  That which we receive, we become; and that which we become, we share.  This is the miracle of evolution, purpose or destiny.  This is life.  We must be what we are but first we must wake up to what we are.  We must wake up.

Until then, we suffer in our slumber, lost in a delusion of sorrow and fear.  In his book, Falling into Grace, Adyashanti gently speaks and reminds us that what we “think” is real is only a dream.  In our somnolent ignorance, Adyashanti warns we are addicted to the pursuit of “approval, recognition, control and power” even though they cause us great suffering.  The more we seek peace through grasping and clutching, the less peace we have.  The more we resist and avoid suffering, the more we hurt.  The more we run away, the deeper we sink into pain.

Who is responsible?  Our mirrors offer clues.  We are the puzzle and the prize, packed together within the embryo of our conscious (or unconscious) awareness.  Adyashanti likens us to drug addicts or alcoholics where our drug of choice is suffering itself.  We are addicted to it because it’s familiar and provides us with the reassuring illusion of a permanent, separate self.  It defines us, we think.

Within our thinking minds, we create an imaginary world of loss and disconnection where we don’t have what we want and we don’t want what we have.  We run from what we possess (and yet still have it) and run toward what we want (but never get it).  We are rarely fully happy.  Not for long.  Seldom totally satisfied.  Not really.  Sporadically content because nothing lasts.  It all fades.  Everything dies.  Something is missing.  We all feel it.

We prefer to avoid the truth:  the material world is ephemeral.  The physical houses that contain our thinking selves – our bodies and brains – are only briefly real.  Instead, we cleave to our “ideas, thoughts and beliefs as if our lives depended upon them.”  And of course they do but “not our true lives.”  Like actors who forget the self behind the mask, we confuse our random roles with true reality as we happily lose ourselves in the illusion of the play.

Adyashanti suggests we choose to remain addicted to our idea of a separate self with a personal history.  We are afraid to do otherwise.  If I am not the person in the mirror, who am I?  Who are you?

Like many before him, Adyashanti describes his enlightenment experience, when he woke up to reality.  It was only when he finally and completely surrendered; only when he gave up; only when he admitted “he” could do nothing to end his suffering that it actually ended.  He went past effort and despair; past striving and failure and totally accepted “absolute, utter, bone-crushing defeat.”

He quit.  And it was only when he fully embraced the impotence of his small self that he experienced limitless liberation.  As everything he ever thought or felt collapsed and “literally disappeared…this great revelation occurred where I realized I was both nothing and everything simultaneously.”

He writes, “So in that moment I laughed, because I realized that what I was searching for was always right here, that the enlightenment for which I was seeking was literally the space that I existed in.”  He understood he had been addicted to an idea of himself.  “I was a junkie for me,” he explains.

It is only when we admit we are powerless and don’t know anything that we get to wake up.  We think we know when in fact we only know we think.  And our incessant thinking obstructs us from the direct experience of reality.  Adyashanti writes, “I’d thought I understood what the great spiritual teachers were talking about.  But at that moment, what I really saw was that I had never understood anything.  I had never understood a single thing, and that was quite shocking.”

At the top of this page are two pictures of the same person, “me” at 21 and “me” again at 59.  They are the same and they are different.  Which one is real?  Both?  Neither?  Is there an essence of ageless, changeless truth within all of us?  What is that animating force?

When watching waves roll in and die on the sand, I’m reminded of the illusions of time, space and self.  Each wave rises and falls in the time it takes to read these words.  Are we any different? Do we not rise and fall in a moment of time?  And at the end, where is our lifetime?  It appears like the slow rise of wave on the sea, feels the warm sun fleetingly and then dissolves back into the mother of all.  Where is the evidence it ever was?

What happens when we fully realize that time is an illusion?  What happens when we realize that past and future don’t exist?  What happens when we wake up and see it’s always now?  We have a choice.  We can wake up or remain asleep.  We can escape the “prison cell” of our mind or we can make our cell more comfortable.  Which do we prefer?  Can we let go of our past?  Can we let go of the illusion of a self that moves through time?

What if time was just the measure of energy as it travels through space?  And in between all these stories?  All these plays?  All this drama?  All this ebb and flow, yin and yang, you and me.  All this us and them.  All these ocean waves.  All these species coming in and going out.  All this recycled energy.  All this struggle to be something and then nothing and then something again.  What is the essence that ties it all together as one?  Is it here?  Are we ready to see, know and be?

Adyashanti explains that we are not just addicted to being who we think we are.  We are addicted to time.  We depend on our yesterdays and tomorrows like we rely on breathing in and out.  They frame our flow.  How can we live without the journey of time, our conceptualized continuation from there to here and there again?  We freeze time with our cameras and place photos on our walls as if we’ve captured and preserved reality.  Have we?

Some people finally give up time when they embrace their own death.  For the first time, they are fully alive.  With wide eyes that sparkle with life force energy, they see the past and future disappear into the now.  In letting go of everything, they have it all.  For some, terminal illness is a spiritual opportunity.  Cat Stevens sang, “Lord my body has been a good friend.  But I won’t need it when I reach the end.”

Eternity or heaven is here.  Can we sense it?  It waits for us to notice, see and be.  When we fully accept and embrace our own death, it shatters our illusions of self and time.  We get to wake up.  We get to die before we die and the sweetness of that taste is beyond our capacity to convey.  What we are in truth can never die but our illusions must.

Adyashanti encourages us when he writes, “Right now, there is always and only freedom and peace.  The question is:  Is that what (we) truly want?”

Is it?

Douglas Craig

Douglas Craig

Doug Craig graduated from college in Ohio with a journalism degree and got married during the Carter administration. He graduated from graduate school with a doctorate in Psychology, got divorced, moved to Redding, re-married and started his private practice during the Reagan administration. He had his kids during the first Bush administration. Since then he has done nothing noteworthy besides write a little poetry, survive a motorcycle crash, buy and sell an electric car, raise his kids, manage to stay married and maintain his practice for almost 30 years. He believes in magic and is a Dawes fan.

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