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Breaking Down or Breaking Through? Guidance for the Weary Spiritual Traveler

Lake Hume Dawn, Panorama, Fine Art, Wall Art

The last couple of months I’ve felt a weariness pervade my experience. It has worked its way in initially in a very subtle unbeknown way increasing in vividness as time elapses. The weariness is not alone; with it comes a sense of futility, drudgery and overall pessimism.

Try as I might to dispel the experience, all that seems to do is bring into focus more of the same; and thus deepen the ordeal. In remaining aware of the narrative playing out in the mind, I notice the constant deluge of negative thoughts even when I begin to explore the possibility of turning toward known sources of reprieve and solace such as my copious spiritual/psychology book collection, meditation or even my cherished landscape photography.

Of course, the disinterest in activities is one of the hallmarks of depression, something of which is familiar to me having had it in the past. However, there is something truly unique about this experience. On one level, that awareness of the loss of interest is in itself distressing, on another, I am completely fine with that. A kind of freedom exists in forgoing the necessities of being the constant doer of life.

And so it brings me to a strange pinnacle whereby a clear contrast exists. One thought is, “oh my God when will this seemingly endless struggle end?” while the other is “I’m okay with it all exactly as it is.”. The dichotomy is polarized and thus is my experience.

The knowledge collected and experienced over the last several years informs my current thinking, whereby I do not actively seek to “resolve” the issue of a “struggle”. I know too well that the “struggle”, while having legitimacy practically speaking, is still yet another ruse of the mind.

And yet I find myself still enthralled by my story when I pay attention to it and the perceived sufferer. I am careful to not minimize the clear malaise, but basking in its thespian play is addictive and distracting from the truth; that is, the essential truth of who we are. Indeed, the longer we watch the narrative unfurl, the bond to it strengthens and the separation our souls intensifies.

I believe there is some evidence to suggest that a break through is the more likely then a break down. The operating degree within us of two key factors delineate the difference; namely, awareness and shame.

Awareness is the fortitude to be fully aware of your experience. To be the witness to it. It is marked without judgement or discrimination; it just notices the happenings arising moment-by-moment dispassionately.

Awareness is the essential ingredient in the beginning to “waking up”. It is the quintessential element of what underpins spirituality. Without recognition of it, we remain dominated by primitive forces and conditioning formed long ago.

Shame, is the crushing experience of feeling exposed to other and self without consent or foreknowledge. It is closely aligned with identity and is both subtle and overt in its manifestations. Shame often resides in secrets that we hide from others and often from ourselves for fear of the chaos inherently imbued in it.

The distinction I believe between breaking down and breaking through is the nuanced way that shame dissipates over time in the light of awareness. To the point where the personal edifice held up by shame dissolves to be replaced by a personified innocence or vulnerability. It is the innocence/vulnerability to disclose your personal story without inhibition or emotional investment.

I recall Adyashanti when asked what he thought spirituality is, he said that he believes (not verbatim) that it’s about “becoming honest with ourselves”. I believe that “becoming honest with ourselves” eludes to the way that shame when cast into the scintillating rays of awareness no longer holds the contrived power it once had, leaving us with the original unperturbed innocence we were born as.

Shame is about identity. About who we think we are (as somehow inherently defective). When cast into the light of awareness it dissolves into nothingness from where it came leaving the only truth that is tangible, that we are this.

There comes a point where as a personal story we are no longer are so invested in it. Dramas evoked from hues of memory and transpiring events do indeed create torrents of energy. This energy attempts to usurp the throne of awareness and exile us back into the morass of unconscious. But of course, awareness is essentially what we are, so the winds of time hold no sway against it. In the end all that remains is. And this is-ness is what separates the weary that falter and fall to those who ascend. In the midst of a turbulent milieu, the wise know to hold the course and stay true.

“…I want to share this fundamental pointing: very often, tremendous resistance will arise right when you come to some defining moment in your life. It will raise its ugly head right when you stand a real chance of breaking the hold of identity and the limitations of your mind-set.”

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