There is no spiritual path
The spiritual path is not a spiritual path. It is an integrated process of illuminating all Nine Petals of life, of which the spiritual dimension is one. We use the term "spiritual practice," but this is misleading. It feeds the fantasy that emphasizing the more subtle aspects of our experience will somehow magically help us transcend the discomfort of our personal situation. Yet no matter how deep we go into the subtle realm of spirit-energy, we always find ourselves pulled back into the mundane affairs of ordinary life. There are always dishes. The rent is due. Relationships push our buttons. As it turns out, the Path is all-inclusive.
We can convince ourselves that mundane life no longer affects us, that we have mastered detachment, but this gives rise to a spiritually caused pathology: disassociation. The erroneous notion of a spiritual path too easily validates the habit of self-abandon. It would have us chasing mirages: gurus, bliss, secret teachings, strange postures, esoteric states, special abilities.
Yoga, meditation, chanting, satsang; these can easily serve as forms of distraction. Spiritual escapism. The practices themselves are not at fault. The traditions are time-tested and the potential for profound transformation is there. It is the lack of contextualization, view, and self-honesty that causes seekers to be mislead by spiritualism.
Authentic awakening is about immediacy with every aspect of life, not only the spiritual. It is about total and undiminished intimacy with everything that arises in the Nine Petals. Awakening does not transform us into something beyond ordinary. It does not get rid of our worldly problems. It does not fix what we unconsciously assume is broken. The imperfect self. Quite the contrary!
Awakening reveals what is universally true.
Once the fundamental predicament of self-obsession is fully understood, a new type of practice occurs. We call this the birth of the radiant self. Yet no birth at all has taken place. The game of upholding a fictitious self-projection simply ends. When we stop this game, reality becomes self-evident. The un-fabricated truth of what we actually are shines forth spontaneously. We are able to meet life with openness and immediacy on every level.
The whole enterprise of spiritual practice hinges on self-honesty. Without self-honesty -- full acknowledgement of our direct experience -- nothing of value can be gained from spiritual practice. Without self-honesty, the study and practice of spiritual teachings will serve mostly to adorn our collection of mental distractions and egoic identifications. These function as toys we use to distract ourselves from the naked experience of our own situation.
The reason it is so important to fully embrace our unmodified direct experience is that, although it is painful, it is real. Deep inside, there are difficult emotions and sensations. We too often avoid dealing with what is inside. We are reluctant to admit that we avoid feeling. We cover this up with all sorts of spiritual rhetoric and idealized behavior, things we have read and heard. We begin to spiritualize suffering, confusion, and fear of intimacy. All of this is an act of self-protection. When we do it, we're hiding from our selves.
Why do we play this game?
We can deceive ourselves and others, but it does not change the fact: there is something uncomfortable about being totally embodied. Much of the time we are running from this discomfort. Self-deception is the main obstacle for all seekers. I struggled with it for years.
Here's the good news: our fully acknowledged suffering is the very foundation of genuine awakening. The clincher is that we have to become more interested in waking up than we are in remaining safe and comfortable in our dream.
In other words, the prerequisite for awakening is to cease avoiding the predicament self-contraction. Once we understand this, we begin to digest the core teaching. This is what is meant by the axiom, "start where you are." Strange as it may sound, our turmoil contains the key to our freedom.
So the practice is to simply face our life in all Nine Petals. To apply absolute loving acceptance to what is right in front of us. To feel the full effect of our human embodiment. To release our reluctance to be vulnerable. To become greatly interested in what our immediate experience is really like -- at the gut-level -- without getting hooked by the promise of self-improvement.
To find out what it's really like to be here.
The very act of doing this is the true meaning of surrender and the true heart of devotion.
This is yoga. This is meditation. This is mindfulness.
This is the path.
When we muster the courage to practice like this, to walk the all-inclusive way, a great gate opens inside of us.
Grace rushes in.
Suffering comes to an end, forever.