I don’t buy the story that you must do nothing to awaken to what you are.
Imagine a baby born a blank slate, a clean tablet, an empty song of possibility.
The parents and culture begin a regime of cult-like acculturation, teaching the innocent babe the rules of human society. Patterns form in baby’s brain. As baby grows, patterns harden with cement-like ferocity. By the time baby reaches kindergarten he’s ready for an even deeper groove of cultural conditioning.
That’s assuming you don’t believe in reincarnation. Should you believe baby arrives with tendencies and previously established deep-down patterns, you might energetically glimpse what looks like underwater glaciers of beliefs and reactivity already filling the ocean of baby’s unconsciousness.
Human conditioning is fierce.
Personality hardens its mask-like face.
Perceive an adult with thirty, forty, sixty years. This adult often operates from deep patterns with robot-like efficiency. What she learned at age eight and repeated 354, 879, or 1,543 times now grooves deep in the brain. She thinks she’s thinking, but often she’s simply mechanically moving, reacting, unconsciously fulfilling the pattern’s imperative.
The adult mostly believes his thoughts. He assumes he’s thinking. He hears thought, claims it belongs to him, and reacts. His worldview perceives he’s a separate individual, in a separate body, a unique mental, emotional and physical human being.
Now let’s suggest the unthinkable. What if we human beings are something other than separate selves? What if we’re simply awareness, expansive spacious awareness in which everything arises? What if we’re the space in which sun, leaves, wind, computer, disgusted thought, delighted thought, angry feeling, smiles, weeping tears, houseplant, blanket, job, politics, religion and “What’s for lunch?” all arise?
What if we’re much wider, more expansive, more encompassing than our cultural conditioning? What if the way we view the world involves no “I” at all? What if it’s simply “this arising“?
What if evolution points to this realization, when we tire with the wonderful/awful/happy/sad polka of identifying with a single human perspective?
What if the effort to maintain a separate self begins to erode, begins to chip away, begins to dissolve?
Many sages counsel: You do not have to do anything. It will fall away on its own.
Other sages shake wise heads: No, no, no! You must meditate, join an ashram, crack open your egg, stand on your head, realize your truth, realize WHAT is true, ask yourself 5,888,444,333 times “Who am I?” “Who am I?” “Who am I?” (Insert the advice of your wise sage, church, author, shaman or teacher.)
Some sages insist, “You must look within. There are sixty paths to realizing what you are beyond the human mold. But there is only path you must take–and the secret path lies within. You must follow your own path.”
Other sages gasp, “NEVER FOLLOW YOUR OWN PATH! You will mess up. You need a wise guru, pastor, Native American healer, Buddha, Jesus, Allah, teacher–anyone except your own path because ego is so embedded in your own path you will NEVER EVER find your way out of the abyss.”
What is Ms. Ego?
Ego is the cement of cultural conditioning. Some folks think ego is a bad word, but it’s a lovely word for someone who has chosen to enjoy a human personality. Ego holds us in place so we can be a John, Jane or Donna Summers. It holds us in place for up to, say, 100 years, so we can truly grok a perspective.
Ms. Ego encompasses your thoughts (or what you think are your thoughts) and glues them into beliefs (good and bad, healthy and horrible). Ms. Ego keeps together the act you’ve chosen to encompass. She’s a peach.
Sages who’ve awakened say, hey mon, doesn’t matter. You’re waking up anyway. Enjoy your dance with Ms. Ego! Be an astronaut in your head bubble. Be an accountant with your endless numbers. Be a writer with your million words. Be asleep in the personality and thoughts for as long as you want. Awareness is operating anyway.
If you’re reading these words, I can almost bet that you’ve experienced a thought, “There is something more than THIS. There is something more than this personality, this perspective, this life, this world.” And you’ve believed this thought, and it’s now leading you…into another thought which says you must do something…or shouldn’t do anything…
There’s a tear in the fabric of your cultural conditioning and you’re seeking to gnaw your way out, or you’re vaguely dissatisfied, or you’ve dreamed your escape on previous occasions (often due to illness or grace or suffering or an unexpected sunrise in Peru) and now you desperately or vaguely want to transcend yourself and realize what you already are before you cemented those grooves.
What should you do?
If you do nothing–you may just end up following the pattern of your conditioning for the next five or 80 years.
If you do something–you’re doing it from the fixation of your ego, your fixed patterning. You’re creating an energy of doingness that contains an energy of somethingness, which is obviously just another polka with Ms. Ego.
What’s a personality to do to realize what exists beyond the veil of itself?
Luckily, deep within, the Holy Grail exists. (We only thought it was lost.) The Holy Grail is awareness. Awareness is like a laser sword. A magic spear. It cuts through patterns like chemotherapy without the poisons.
Unfortunately, one must steady attention to apply the laser of awareness. The purpose of meditation or concentration is like Olympic training. Patterns run without awareness. When awareness penetrates a pattern, it erodes and begins to disintegrate. It may fall apart in a month or sixteen years, but awareness weakens the cement which you’ve utilized to hold the personality in place.
What then, you ask, is Presence? Presence is the steady attention of awareness. It’s meditation in action-less action. It is the laser of awakeness engaged with John, Paul, Mary and the kitchen sink. It is all there is when you’ve dissolved the patterns of I, me and myself.
Presence is what exists before you glued yourself into a separate self. Presence is what we are, the spacious awareness of this-here-now.
What is the something that you must do to do nothing? Cultivate being-here-now. Cultivate attention, awareness, bird singing, thoughts rising, pain in heart, stomach growling for breakfast.
Patterned grooves are fierce and will often fight-to-the-death to maintain their right to lead the polka. By gosh, they step on our feet all the time and we’re crazy yelping humans barely dancing at all fussing about our broken toes and swollen ankles! No wonder Buddha carried on about suffering. His feet ached after all those years of dance practice…
What we eventually realize is that life polkas. Not you, not me, not ego, not thoughts, not feelings, not anything. Presence polkas. Awareness polkas. This-here-now polkas! (OK, Ms. Ego, you can come along for the dance in your pretty polka-dotted dress and cowboy boots, but you’re not leading anymore.)
Life polkas! Hear the music?