At the start of this year, in the middle of Winter, I was committed to the realisation of the True Self – that which lies beyond the conditioned, worldly self. It felt as though, after all the self-development work I had done, I had the finish line in my sights and all I had to do was move deeper and deeper into the richness and beauty of spiritual freedom. Spring and Summer, however, brought inescapable insight, and as we approach the out-breath transformation into Autumn, things look very different.
This post concludes the series of six entries surrounding another transformation: a change of direction; a return to the work I embraced so eagerly with Karaj, and from which I continue to benefit to this day. As the dust settles on what has happened, this entry summarises where I stand right now, and prepares the way for the next phase.
Almost four months have passed since calling time on the Tile 9 project, which was ultimately about that search for the True Self. This is what I wrote to myself in April, on the day everything came to end:
I’m right, but I make myself wrong. There is another voice other than the business voice. Mine. My voice needs to be heard, and my reluctance to continue investigated. We did what everyone else does. We went to T9 too quickly. We should have gone through the first 8 Tiles before embarking on Tile 9. We missed the chance to experience the fullness of the process.
I didn’t know it consciously back then. It was just a feeling. But time has filled in the detail and recent events have laid down my next step. My incongruency with the Tile 9 project now bathes in the light of an unforeseeable revelation. What had seemed like the logical conclusion to my work with Karaj has been unveiled as the extreme position of the pendulum of self-discovery. One that negates the self which has fought to survive and which carries with it the same precious cargo it was carrying when it was born.
What makes the revelation all the more potent and precious, is that it took someone’s death for it to be fully revealed. That is an indication of the allure because, not only does the perfection of liberation feel inviting, it also makes complete sense. Once you have seen through the conditioning of the physical world, why wouldn’t you want to let it all go and move towards spiritual emptiness, attach yourself to the peace and joy of non-attachment, and merge eventually into oneness with everything?
The answer to that question is simple: You are far from done with the physical. Far from done.
Having just finished Jeff Brown’s book, Grounded Spirituality, I see how distracting the desire for the True Self can be. Sure, it’s an indication of what’s available – a hint of a different dimension – but it’s not a destination which need concern us at this time. Its single-minded pursuit facilitates dissociation from the world. Perhaps more damagingly, it also makes it easy to see ourselves as insufficient. The concept itself is simple, yet the practice so isolating and the goal so ethereal, that we are always susceptible to inadequacy as we fall short – time and again – of perfection.
In contrast, Brown reminds us insistently of our magnificence, urging us to dig, excavate and uncover our splendour. There is so much to be explored and liberated in ourselves first, before we even think about going anywhere else. Stay with who you are. As damaged and as bruised as we may be, we remain forever beautiful. Our job is to recapture our beauty and bring it to the surface where it can reach into the world and touch the same in others.
There was another book recommendation during this period. I’m currently 80 pages into The Body Keeps The Score by Bessel van der Kolk. It took only a few pages for me to infer that I am carrying trauma of some kind. Up until then, I had never considered myself traumatised. However, van der Kolk, whilst understandably using examples of extreme trauma to demonstrate its effects on our mind, brain and body, leaves us in no doubt that we are all affected by trauma in some way. As he writes in the preface, ‘Trauma happens to us, our friends, our family, and our neighbours. […] The challenge is: How can people gain control of the residues of past trauma and return to being the masters of their own ship.’
I had a pretty standard childhood. I was happy. But if I think about it, I was probably much happier at four years old than I was at ten. Or 20. Or 30. What happened? My present understanding tells me it’s down to more than conditioning. Indeed, if I look at the main issues I have faced for so many years, I am compelled to conclude that they also have their origins somewhere in my response to traumatic experiences. They are the signposts which give direction to my forthcoming exploration. A constant presence in my life, they do not exist because of conditioning alone. Their roots are buried deep in my body, held in storage since the times when trauma first visited. They are the following injunctions:
- I am not heard.
- Everything I do is wrong.
- I’m not good enough.
- I can’t have what I want.
- I can’t be who I am.
In recent weeks, my internal forces have found solace in the various independent declarations that trauma is the root of our pain. Unanimously, they make it clear that our trauma is locked in our bodies, waiting for us to notice. Now is the time to heal the wounds, release the strategies that once served to protect me, and live as fully as existence allows.
We are wonderful. Every one of us. We all start out full of wonder, but it gets covered up slowly and steadily by life. I had always seen the covering as conditioning – that forming and moulding influence exerted on us by our world. But our magnificence is also covered by trauma. I see that now. There are more layers to remove. They are all there waiting for us to release them with a listening attention and a commitment to honour ourselves and our stories. By being gentle with ourselves in ways we were not able to in our past, we can unwrap the gift within.
Conditioning or trauma, the work is the same. Know that it is there, use the signposts to visit ground zero, see the blockages clearly, work with them, and know that the jewel of your own brilliance lies within. Karaj used to say to me, ‘You need to see your brilliance.’ I always struggled with that. I am starting to understand why I have never been able to see it as clearly as he did, or as she does. My work now is to uncover it completely, and allow its light to shine as brightly as it did when I was born.
Related post: It’s Your Choice: Brilliance Or Pain
Others in this series: The Pendulum Swings | Always Know That You Always Know | A Visceral Body Experience | What The Body Has To Say | A Tragic Breakthrough