Timothy Conway will be a retreat leader at the Awakening Together Satsang Retreat in Santa Barbara from September 12-14, 2014. He will also lead a Satsang at the ‘Soak in the Beauty’ retreat at the same location from September 14-18, 2014. In preparation for the retreat, I am sharing a series of questions answered by Timothy. To read the full series, click here. And now, here is today’s question:
Dear Timothy, … I have passed your website on to many of my friends and have just read about your criteria for authentic spiritual realization. It is a beautiful work. I have a sense of the abiding presence of God that is within and yet beyond, I can “feel” the reality of love that includes the other that is not really the other, BUT I have much restlessness and many fears and anxieties that betray my inner divisions. I am selfish and fall too easily into anger. I know that these things are happening to me and am aware even as they are happening. This often leads to disappointment and a bit of despair at my own lack. I feel that I have been at this place of “looking in” but not entering before (other lives) and it is so easy to pull back due to attachments to a glass of wine, a day of diversions, a plunge back into the “life-style to which I am accustomed”. As St. Paul said, I know better, but the flesh is weak and I do that which I do not want to do.”
I sense in you a possible answer, you have probably already given it on your website, I already know it, but I need help.
A friend who sends you love and energy, “Marshall”
Hi Marshall. Thank you for your kind words about the website and for referring your friends to it.
You so very honestly wrote: “I have a sense of the abiding presence of God that is within and yet beyond, I can “feel” the reality of love that includes the other that is not really the other, BUT I have much restlessness and many fears and anxieties that betray my inner divisions. I am selfish and fall too easily into anger. I know that these things are happening to me and am aware even as they are happening. This often leads to disappointment and a bit of despair at my own lack.”
Marshall, all these states (restlessness, fear, anxiey, disappointment, despair) are NOT who you are as Awareness. As Ramana Maharshi would say: These things are of the mind, and you are not the mind–your real nature is this Pure Awareness or Self (the pure I Am that Am even before the “i”-thought). Now, there has been an apparent momentum of identifying with these finite mind-states. This momentum can seem like a formidable force. But the truth is that every night in dreamless sleep, and probably many times throughout the day, these mind-states don’t operate. They are not permanent or solid. What is permanent or solid is the fundamental Awareness that you ARE. In time (and time is nothing in eternity), your own real nature as solid, seamless, infinite-eternal Awareness affirms ItSelf as Witness and, in a forceful, uncompromising way, “sees off” all these various mind states as impermanent (actually vanishing, moment by moment), hence insubstantial, hence not worth indulging. This Witness function that sees and dissolves and vanishes all passing states can come Alive quite suddenly, or else gradually. In any case, sooner or later, you wake up to this Superior Principle of Awareness, in Whom we (the egomind and body) “live, move and have our being” [as St. Paul wrote about our essential being in God].
This awakening to Truth is inevitable!–because Divine Being-Awareness-Bliss is the real nature of everyone and everything–the only true Reality! (The early Christian teaching on apocatastasis is relevant here. The apocatastasis teaching is that God’s Love is all-powerful and all-accomplishing; therefore, this Divine Love will ultimately “retrieve” all “self-exiling” souls, no matter how lost or evil they seem, from their private hell-states and then merge these souls back into the Divine Presence. All will realize God because ultimately there is only God–the Divine Spirit is the Essence of each and every soul.
It’s so very helpful to realize that all mental-emotional-bodily states arevanishing, moment by moment. They get re-created as apparently solid by the mind in each moment, but the truth is that they are not solid. Moreover, at the beginning of each moment, and actually during the “duration” of each moment, we are always ever and only Free as this gloriously open-empty-full Substratum of Awareness.
To speak metaphorically, our real nature is like the projection screen on which is displayed a wild, wacky, violent movie. The movie-screen is never for a moment tainted by the projected images–there’s not a single bullet hole or drop of sweat or blood to be found on the screen before, during or after the projection of the movie. So, if you feel fear or despair, as you so honestly and candidly mentioned, Marshall, what is it that is aware of the fear or despair? This Awareness is itself neither fear nor despair, not at all tainted by the “movie” of fear, despair, etc.–rather, this Awareness is the “Unfelt Feeler of feeling,” to paraphrase India’s old Brhadaranyaka Upanishad. Awareness is the one Divine “Host”-Space in which happen all “guests” (phenomena in the form of sensations, perceptions, emotions, thoughts, etc.). This “Host” that you really are is intrinsically open, free, pure, untaintable, unimprovable–Divine.
You wrote: I feel that I have been at this place of “looking in” but not entering before (other lives) and it is so easy to pull back due to attachments to a glass of wine, a day of diversions, a plunge back into the “life-style to which I am accustomed”. As St. Paul said, I know better, but the flesh is weak and I do that which I do not want to do.
Marshall, this is old conditioning. Instead of trying to resist it, why not get very curious–with a consummate, affectionate amusement–at what this “ego” is up to? If you were taking a dog for a walk, wouldn’t you be wonderfully curious about how the little canine friend operated and functioned? Bring the same benevolent curiosity to what the ego-mind is up to, moment by moment, and what happens is that ego-tendencies are simply seen for what they are and any old unnecessary tendencies sooner or later fall off. When you’re coming from true Awareness, so much will fall off. As Dogen Zenji said: “Shinjin datsuraku–Body-mind fall off!” Another way of saying, “letting go, letting God.”
We need not make a problem out of ego tendencies. In Zen they say “don’t make anything at all.” My dear old enlightened friend Sunyata used to endearingly refer to ego as “ego-ji,” as in “Baba-ji” or “Swami-ji”! The ego-mind is like a rambunctious puppy dog, playing out all sorts of conditioned tendencies. There’s no need to reify (thing-ify) these tendencies, and no need to indulge them, and no need to try to suppress them, either. Just penetratingly witness them and “see them off” as passing dreams, and they can’t get a grip on you or drive you into misery.
Thus, being the simple, boundless, Divinely-natural Awareness that we always already are allows the powerful Divine Light to illumine all apparent “darkness” and slowly or suddenly transform everything into Light. There is only this Divine Light, through and through. All else is imagination. And one day, by Divine Grace, even that imagination (which is “God’s original whim”) is purified and transmuted into Divine Essence–pure Love-Bliss-Peace.
So… right now breathing is happening, a mind is functioning, life is unfolding. No problem. Only God…. Only God….. Only God. (Allelujah!)
Love from your brother,
Adapted from www.enlightened-spirituality.org