Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Avoid the Spiritual Path if You Are Afraid

The title of this post is something I have been mulling over for a while. The first question a reader might ask is 'why' — what is there on the spiritual path to be afraid of?

I have often thought that any spiritual book or practice should come with a health warning that says, "From the moment you open this book and/or take on this practice, your life is not going to be the same." The minute one says "yes" to the spiritual, no matter how tentative that yes may be, new neural patterns are laid down in the brain that one day, if the conditions are right, will result in a Kundalini awakening.
2013 UK Kundalini Conference
Brighton Street - April 2013
My spiritual journey began when I was nine and has continued on and off for all of my life. The most intense period were the years  I spent studying and practicing Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism. Pulled along by some invisible force I didn't understand, not knowing why I was doing it, all I knew was that something bigger was propelling me along this path. I would sit in meditation and be totally and completely bored, vowing "this is the last time I am going to put myself through this." Once the session was over, my memory seemed to be wiped clean of the torture I had suffered to the point that when it came time for the next sitting I walked meekly in like a lamb going to the slaughter. The slaughter of being alone with the contents of my own mind — with no escape.

I thought life would get easier, be smooth and harmonious. In fact, the opposite happened. My relationships with people seemed to be even more fraught and my despair at ever being understood only escalated. At one point, I asked myself, "Why am I continuing to meditate and pursue a spiritual path when life just seems to get more and more difficult when I do?" Still I persisted.

What have I retained after so many years of dedication? A practice like meditation brings deeply buried issues to the surface. Those years of uncertainty stirred up the mud at the bottom of my subconscious.

The process is similar to water dripping into a bucket. For a long time it seems no water is going into the bucket — the practice merely releases pain, and then one day there's an experience — and the bucket is overflowing with water. It's important to keep a practice going no matter what is happening in everyday life. It's easy to give up when the results aren't noticeable, but the spiritual path is like water dripping into a bucket; it's not an overnight thing.

Courage is essential on the spiritual path, courage in the face of fear and uncertainty. The path is as narrow as a razor's edge. There are many places where the consciousness can get stuck. There is no guidebook for the expansion of consciousness, specifically for YOU. Or perhaps, there are too many. The writings of the sages and saints, yes, but the journey by the Alone to the ALONE is done alone and it requires courage.

The first spiritual experience is of greatest importance. In my case, the overflowing water resulted in a first rising of energy from the base of my spine (Kundalini) and this experience shifted my consciousness from without to within. Instead of looking outward I focused completely on the energy within. This altered perspective that consciousness takes on changes knowledge into experience which ultimately becomes wisdom.

After it happened, spiritual literature became a source of validation for my experience rather than a source of seemingly unattainable knowledge. This altered consciousness is so profound and, at the same time, so deeply threatening to the mind that, in the days and weeks following my experience, the mind threw up all kinds of fearful thoughts as to what the experience meant and the possible consequences of being called to a celibate life as a nun which I had no interest in. Staying steady in the face of these kind of thoughts takes courage and I am forever grateful to my years of Buddhist training for keeping me steady during what were often scary and uncertain moments.

If you are not prepared and willing to live life from a place of uncertainty, then do not go near the spiritual path. It is not what you think it is. I had no idea when I went to my first Buddhist class in 1988 that there was a powerful spiritually transformative energy lying dormant within the body that would make itself known to me and shift me physically, mentally, and spiritually. I was drawn to it. I loved the Buddha without any expectation of material or other sort of benefit. And while life is truly balanced and harmonious now, it wasn't always so. There are so many surprises on the spiritual path, unexpected rewards that are incompatible with fear. That is why I say, "Do not approach the spiritual path if you are afraid. Stay with the known. Don't venture into the choppy waters of the unknown."

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