or years an essential part of my spiritual practice was taking everything negative or bad that happened to me and getting real serious about taking responsibility for it. Whatever showed up in my life, I had created that. I was taught this in a psychospiritual school back in the late-1990′s, and back then it did transform my life. The goal of the work was to transform us students from identifying as victims to identifying as creators. Though empowering, it turned out to not be enough and, on some level, it wasn’t real.
I discovered two things on that journey. 1) It was easier to take responsibility for the negative. For one thing, getting real serious about taking all that responsibility sometimes meant wallowing in it a bit longer. And, well, sometimes wallowing just feels really good. It doesn’t satisfy, but it can feel really good! 2.) I never really practiced taking responsibility for the positive. The positive felt like such grace and such a gift that it seemed arrogant to declare, “Oh, I created that too!”
That school and what I learned there was part of my spiritual journey. It lead to the path I am currently on, the path that I believe is just beneath the surface of all the others I’ve walked. That path is the path of awakening. I imagine that enlightenment is somewhere along it, but whether or not I reach enlightenment will be all grace, all gift.
Twice a month Joseph and I sit in satsang with our current teacher, Alaya. She has given me a new way to perceive and experience the shadow side of my life. When it shows up, whether in the moment or in memory or as a projection into the future, it is showing up to be healed. She says, “Grace leaves nothing untouched. Nothing! Be tender with all of it.”
Which means just be present to whatever shows up: don’t resist it – don’t celebrate it – don’t embrace it – don’t identify with it because all those things keep one locked in separate self. The shadow arrives, just be. If just being with it brings me to my knees in grief, so be it. If it creates a sense of equanimity, restfulness, and peace, so be it. If feelings around it fall flat, so be it. This, by far, is the most peaceful and healthiest response to the shadow I’ve ever been taught. It is the main reason I chose her as my teacher.
To say a little more about the psychospiritual school and why I found their teaching of how to take responsibility for our lives to not be enough – to even be unreal. In that school, personalities and who was in good standing with the teachers mattered a lot. It mattered too much. There was a great deal of attachment to processing feelings. Those of us who could really dive in deep, pulling out all kinds of toxic emotions, were held in high esteem. It invariably resulted in students sometimes either faking it or manipulating themselves and acting out but, more importantly, it kept us all strongly attached to our egos and our ability to perform well. Nevertheless, it transformed my life to the degree that it was the first time I was given full permission to feel my feelings and to do that in a community where we all did love and support each other. I will always be grateful for the school and its place in my life.
These days, though, life is showing up differently for me. This awakening path is all about recognizing the illusion of separate self – the death of the ego, if you will. One of the ways Alaya puts it is when anything shows up as a choice for or distinction between “this or that” then we are in the illusion of separate self. So focusing my attention and energy on how I created everything that shows up in my life means I am attached to the illusion, to separate self. It’s an ego conversation to spend energy, brain power, and emotion trying to take responsibility for everything that shows up, invariably judging it as good or bad so that I can create less of the bad and more of the good! That practice seems superficial and it no longer satisfies.
The farther along this path I walk, the less interest I have in ego conversations or separate self. Taking responsibility for my life by acknowledging that I am not separate from any of it requires a courage that runs deep and wide. It means I’m free to dive really deep without manipulating myself or anyone else!
Joseph and I were already on the awakening journey when I met Alaya. I chose her because her teachings speak to my soul and support this awakening path in a way that contributes to easy, natural breathing and beingness. And, like a healthy teacher, she says when a student no longer needs her, the student stops attending her satsang. No codependency there! It’s all Grace.