Once upon a time in a land really not that far away (New York City) Alex (me) was an actor. No real need to delve any further into that shit-show other than to re-tell this one point I find more and more relevant as I journey through my spiritual transformation.
However, before I do, I think it important to highlight what I believe to be the function of spiritual guidance, whether that manifest in the form of another human (the guru), a lecture (satsang), a book, or even some absurd attempt at a parable written by some failed actor schmuck on Thrive.
Spiritual guidance is a signpost. Signs along the path leading you to the edge of a cliff that eventually and invariably you alone can leap from. Your guru can speak ad nauseum about the virtue of anchoring yourself in the I Am. Or you may perhaps find solace in the latest Oprah endorsed book laying out the ten steps one must take towards manifesting their life goals. But the fact is, if you don’t take the time to actually be in silence and abide in your sense of presence, all of this crap will just be intellectual knowledge. Enlightenment is not intellectual knowledge. It is not a collection of new ideas to harbor in your spiritual wisdom bank. It’s not a notion. It’s an experience, and that experience can only be realized by leaping into the uncertainty of just Being. Without taking any lessons from your past, or finding any respite in the future, but by simply sitting in what I like to call the dispassionate internal witness (when I’m feeling particularly frisky, I like to call it the D.I.W….no I don’t. That’s a lie. I just lied to you)
So long as you never take the time to practice dwelling in your dispassionate internal witness, you will simply be you, standing on the edge of a cliff, filled with a lot of quotes about flow and surrender, totally unable to make the leap into the causeless bliss of your true Self. But at least you’ll know your thoughts create your reality. So, there’s that I suppose.
So, if this story I am about to relay reveals any resonance, then please take the time following the read to observe that resonance. Dispassionately. Watch and see what comes up. Don’t participate in it. Don’t analyze it. Watch it. It’s that simple effortless action alone that is the leap you are looking for. The total and complete surrender to the What Is. But more on that later…
Ok. Cool? Cool. Now, here’s my story.
But first (psyche!), a warning: this story is not about you. It’s about me. If you’re anything like every other human being that’s ever participated in life on this earth, you probably find stories that aren’t about you to not be all that interesting. I’m with you. It’s the group photo theory. When handed our friend’s iPhone after the waiter at brunch snapped our obsessively happy group shot, we invariably always do the same thing; we take thumb and middle finger, we find our face, we place said digits on our face, we extend the fingers, and we judge the collective shot based on how our hair looks. Everyone could be mid sneeze with half closed eyes and their ass-crack showing, but if my hair is just the right amount of messy with a single curl accentuating the heavily manicured organized chaos on my dome heretofore known as my “hairstyle” – then that is one helluva good group shot. We all do it. It’s the human condition. So, feel free as you read this story about someone who’s not you, to find scenarios that are relevant to you. Because this scenario, I believe, is relevant to all. There’s a method to the madness, so please just stick with it.
One of the cooler jobs for a theatre actor in New York is the staged reading, or workshop. I always loved these jobs because they were a playwrights’ work in progress read, generally for the first time, with a group of actors, a director and eventually an audience. The process was quick, on the edge and always collaborative. It required everyone’s adherence to the creative laws of the theatre. The playwright’s words are gospel. Read them. Find your spontaneity within that frame. Don’t be an over indulgent prick. Thanks for playing.
The short time frame of the process required such an adherence. Generally you’d have a first read through in the morning. A second reading stop and go style with playwright and director adjustments through the afternoon. Lunch/smoke break. An additional read-thru again with said adjustments baked in. And finally, at about 7pm that night – an audience.
It was lovely. Seriously. So lovely. I miss them dearly.
Now for me, there was always a bit of an arc to a reading, and it went like this. I never read the play itself until it was time for the initial morning read thru. This was a technique I adapted after years of figuring out that a cursory read through of the play the night before somehow, for some reason, tended to slow me down.
So I would always rehearse the first read through completely cold. It was a bit daunting, but ultimately it became crystal to me that the wellspring of uncertainty housed an awful lot of creative gold. The less I knew intellectually, the more spontaneous, creative and perfectly timed my read-thru. I would instinctively understand the rhythms of all the laugh lines. I would intuitively understand where to pause and breathe and how to cadence my way through. I understood beats better. There was flow. It was exhilarating. I felt love. I felt calm. I felt totally synchronized with the world. Bliss.
It was weird frankly. I thought about it often afterwards. How was it that words and thoughts I had never seen before until the very moment I was reading them aloud, just made sense as they came out of my mouth? How was it that a playwrights deepest thoughts and emotions just effortlessly connected with me in a micro-second without even an iota of analysis or study? How was this even possible? It was instinctive, intuitive, and completely, totally blissful. It’s why I was an actor.
Then came the second read thru. By this point my ego had managed to up the volume by virtue of the director’s or playwright’s notes, and immediately the spontaneous, non thinking, trusting well spring of my creative self took an abrupt back seat to the salacious offerings of my judgmental and all knowing mind self. No more flow. No more spontaneity. No more creativity. Just a misguided and failed attempt to re-create something from the past. The good old days, which, it just so happens, existed no less than an hour before. A performance rendered creatively dead by virtue of my decision to leave the scary confines of uncertainty and trust, for the “safer”, more logical planes of my need to plan and know. I became hesitant. I over thought laugh lines and fell flat. Over emoting to compensate for digressions from previous lost laugh became the screeching default. My rhythm was gone, replaced by the daunting face of the insecure actor’s mind. The playwright hates me. The director feels like she made a mistake asking me to do this. The other actors think I’m a hack. Inevitably the tail spin of self doubt and fears start hitting overdrive and now, yup, I hate myself. Time to mope. And by the way, let’s make sure we openly mope so all the other people in the room know I didn’t give my best effort. Because God forbid people thought that I thought that was good. So, now, on top of my self loathing, the inability to recapture my creative nothing-ness spot, and dread for the future of my performance in front of actual people; I have managed to manufacture my personality to shape my insecurity in lieu of my colleagues impressions of me. It was awesome, lemme tell ya. Ladies and gentlepeople, I give you Samsara. The wheel of suffering. Or, to put it bluntly, how most of us live our waking life, generally without even knowing it.
What a perfect parable for the virtue of internal surrender to your Higher Self.
The first scenario trusted, with deep sincerity, that a leap into the intangible nothingness of the uncertain soil of my deeper knowing and God-given talent would blossom a rose far more aromatic then I could have imagined.
The second scenario disregarded that trust and instead fixated on the external notions and influences of those around me. Manifested by awareness’s determined focus on the thought thread of shit that ticker taped across the periphery my Self.
One produced an amazing result where no result was desired.
The other produced an absolute shit result, where result was the end game.
One came from the blind non effort of trust to something greater.
The other came from the grinding effort of a mind that sought validation from external sources.
One was exhilarating.
The other was treacherous and filled with fear.
One produced a default of self love and therefore outward joy and graitude.
The other cultivated self loathing triggered by the need to be loved and appreciated by others.
One was heaven (nirvana).
One was hell (samsara).
There was no less action taken in one over the other. None. As a matter of fact, the action that sprouted from the place of internal non-doing, resulted in action far more efficient. The action taken from the thoughtsphere of fear was dull, desperate and produced a result that was far below the standard of my talent. Far below.
And yet, guess which one we use to live our lives? And guess which one we think will produce the result we want? And worst of all, guess which one society says is the ideal?
You see, living the spiritual life of surrender is somehow confused with being part of the cult of drop outs. “Can’t have ambition and desires if you live the spiritual life” they say. That life is for mountain yogis and long haired patchouli-men with a distinct overdose of false well being and a penchant for shitty rope necklaces.
The real ambitious folk grind their ass off. They put their head down and they struggle. Life is hard. If you aren’t struggling, if you aren’t mind numbingly beating the virtuous drum of the worker bee mentality then you will never find the success you desire.
It’s the condition of the human mind to believe this. This was the Greek’s allegorical point in the Sisyphus myth. As long as we buy into the mind’s notion that what we have is never enough, we will spend a lifetime pushing a boulder up a hill, only to find it roll back down again when we reach the top.
Yeah. No thanks.
Fact is, enlightenment is not about abandoning ambition, on the contrary, it’s about letting your talents blossom without the interference of doubt and fear. You think simply because you abandon internal strife and effort, all of a sudden you will be somehow muting yourself? As if focusing our “I” thought on the stream of fear that goes by our awareness everyday is the catalyst for our greatest successes. It sounds silly on paper, but it’s how we approach our daily lives. And we think it’s the recipe for success, when in actuality it’s merely filling our tank with the emotion of lack. We are scared out of our petty minds to allow the mystery of the universe to run the show. Why? Because we fear the unknown. We are unable to embrace the uncertainty of being present. But the fact is, that uncertainty is where all the magic lives. It’s where freedom is housed. It’s where fearlessness abides. It’s where creativity thrives.
As the sage Mooji so beautifully stated: “The ship is going by a mighty engine, and you are busy paddling.”
Stop paddling, start Being, and watch as the miracle of your talent starts showing itself without any effort at all.
It’s time to stop fixating on that which you know, and start embracing that which you do not know. The great paradox of all is that the great known is housed within the unknown. All that we want and desire finds its roots within the wellspring of uncertainty. We realize this comfortability with uncertainty by dispassionately watching, trusting, and KNOWING that when you sit in the state of Is-ness with total trust, the greatest action you can take will be taken. It just will. It always does. It always will. Automatically. From the desirelessness of the no result-state will spring the action that manifests the perfect result. Every time. But not by you per se. Nope. It’s different than you. It doesn’t live in the planning mind. It’s the place where spontaneity resides. The place where The Zone abides. A place not burdened by the thoughts of past failures, or future fears, but a blank canvas of creativity, wonder and manifestation.
And ya know what, that’s scary. Scary as shit. Because we assume we need to DO in order to survive. And we assume that if we don’t do our asses off within an inch of our scared lives nothing will ever get done. But guess what? The exact opposite is true. By being present you aren’t bailing, hell, you aren’t even abandoning the mind. You are simply no longer a slave to it. It becomes the servant rather than the master. A beautiful gift that comes out a few times a year in April to calculate taxes, or in December to organize the holiday party. Meanwhile, in the interim, you are present as life unfolds in its natural and perfect course. Just as a flower blooms. Or a human grows. There is no effort. Only allowance.
And from this rose of allowance springs spontaneously the aroma of gratitude. And from gratitude sprouts the seeds of our manifestation. If you want to have what you want, want what you have. And the only way to truly want what you have, is to allow and trust in the ‘What Is.’
When you sat in mom’s womb you didn’t plan on growing your hair and finger nails. You didn’t effort those things into existence. You just existed in the ‘What Is’ and a heart and fingernail way more complex, beautiful and functional than your petty little mind could dream up was created. Why, upon why do we believe that this process would somehow stop once we came out of the canal? Why, on top of why do we believe this same system isn’t in affect for our lives as well?
Ok Universe, Thanks for everything you’ve done. You’ve created an ideal and complex beyond imagination system filled with miracle upon miracle of perfect timing, collaboration, and effort….but if you don’t mind I’ll go ahead and take it from here.
Because we’re scared, that’s why. We are scared of our own infinite potential. We hamstring ourselves unwittingly because the unfettered energy and explosiveness of our Being Self might prove too intense. That’s not what our conscious mind is telling us of course. Our conscious mind is telling us that if we don’t cultivate the internal attitude of fear and need for more more more we will wither away and die in a pile of insignificance and irrelevance. But the truth is deeper. We are scared of our greatness. And that’s ok.
What do you have to lose? Let me ask you this. Is the current system working? Are you currently living in a space where your joy and bliss for the things you have is infinite? Is your joy causeless? Or is it dependent on the external? Is that what you think life is supposed to be? A roller coaster of emotions dependent entirely on the whims and egos of others? If so, by all means, have at it. But if not, I ask you to try something.
For today, this week, this month even, try this: Internally DO nothing. Abide only in the I Am. Go to that place inside yourself that knows you exist. What Sri Ramana Maharshi called the “I” thought. It’s the starting off point of all thoughts, feelings and emotions. It’s the thing that is afraid when something scary happens, or is elated when something exciting happens. It’s the feeling inside you that says simply “I exist.” Find that place, that person, and sit there. Don’t invite your past and future thoughts to enter. Don’t give access to the judgement of the present. Instead, with emptiness just dwell in that I Am place. Your mind won’t like it. It will invade the space with thoughts of “this is boring” and “you got shit to do.” That’s ok. That’s good actually. That’s the mind getting a little irritated that maybe you aren’t paying attention to it anymore. Like a 7 year old. Or our president. It wants to be fed, and by abiding in the I Am without attending to its nonsense we start to starve it out. And the hungrier it gets, the louder it will yell. Keep abiding. Continually, without reservation, go back to your I Am thought. After a bit something pretty cool starts to happen. A space starts to open up. A space that allows life to create the way it wants to. A space that allows the Great Creative the arena to move around and work its magic. A space that stops forcing the Great Creative to have to muscle it’s way past your psyche of ‘not enough’, and instead give it the free reign it needs to manifest the embodiment of all your talents and desires.
Watch as life stops being about what you accomplish, and instead starts to just be joy. Causeless joy. Your most natural self. And continue to watch now as things magically, creatively, without your nosy input, start accomplishing things on their own. With you playing both the role of participant and witness.
Just Be in that. And effortlessly watch the greatest play of your lifetime unfold.