Being Wary of Traps – Part I

Posted: June 7, 2015 in Uncategorized

This is part 1 of Chapter 7 from the draft manuscript of my book ‘Just Be’. 

The most challenging part of the entire spiritual journey is keeping yourself moving in a forward direction without getting lost somewhere along the way; avoiding the traps. A trap is anything that locks us into a particular pattern of thinking or leaves us ‘stuck’ in a conditioned state of mind. Every time we think that we have an answer or that we’ve ‘arrived’ somewhere, we’re likely in a trap. While it’s true that even being lost in a trap is, in itself, part of the spiritual journey, the goal is to avoid them if we can, realize when we’re in one, and move through it as quickly as possible. Some traps are quite obvious, others are more subtle, and some are downright insidious. Learning to address them is an extremely profitable investment in your spiritual future – otherwise you risk getting lost along the way.

The easiest way to spot some of the more obvious traps is to simply ask yourself “does this create division?” Anything that creates a division between us and others is, by its very nature, a trap. Keep in mind that this particular trap covers a lot of ground – your religious identity, your political identity, your racial identity, all of it – everything that separates you from others is a trap. The moment that you say to yourself ‘I am this’, you separate yourself from everyone who is not that. If you are a Christian, you have created a boundary between you and anyone that isn’t a Christian. If you are a Democrat, you’ve created a boundary between you and anyone who isn’t a Democrat – and so on and so forth. Every layer of identity is a layer of conditioning and adds to the confusion of the conditioned mind.

This isn’t to say that you can’t be these things, but keep in mind that your focus, if you really want to step into this place called enlightenment, is to let go of your concept of self. Your concept of self is tied up in all of these identifiers – so you make it more difficult for yourself by staying tied into a particular aspect of self-identification. Once you’ve stepped through the eye and begun to reintegrate into the world again, you can reevaluate who you want to be and start your life anew. In the end the emphasis is no longer on things that create separation and division, but rather on those things that create unity. You begin to see yourself as a human being – or rather as a spiritual being having a human experience. You see all things for what they are and you see yourself in everyone and everything – there are no longer any boundaries.

It is important to cover religion here again in more depth. As already stated, religion can be extremely problematic on the journey toward enlightenment. Fear is extremely powerful – indeed, the fear instilled by the very thought of defying or even questioning your own creator can be overwhelming. Most religions have built in fear factors that are intended to keep you locked into a particular pattern of belief and behavior. You will either burn in hell, or find yourself taking rebirth in a lower life form, or punished in some other way. You must set this aside in order to break free – and it is not an easy thing to do in a society that is consumed with misplaced religious fervor. If you choose to be religious or practice a religion, or worship at the feet of a teacher – that’s fine. Just know that there is something deeper waiting for you – and in the meantime, be the very best representative of your faith that you can be, as a being of love.

Another interesting and more challenging trap is the very journey towards enlightenment itself. You may already have some idea of what you think enlightenment is or what it means. Most people have this idealized sense of perfect love and peace – the absolute equanimity of the perfected mind. Perhaps some people do indeed get to this place, but they have to give up everything in order to do it. All enlightenment really means is that you’ve reached a particular stage of realization within the spiritual journey that allows you to fundamentally reorient your entire perception of reality. The order in which certain realization are achieved can be variable, but in the end you will realize that everything is exactly as it should be, you can’t actually ‘fix’ anything, and the only thing you can do is continue deepening into your own experience.

Your mind becomes spacious and open, and there is distance between you and the physical and emotional content that is arising within your experience, but to suggest that you just become a mindless, uncaring zombie is untrue in every sense. You just see that every person in the world – every being in the world – the world and the universe itself, is just working out its own karma. You see that now is all that you have and all that you can offer to others. Within your own personal field of now you create spaciousness for others to be who they are – all while you breathe through the experience with steady patience and ask God what you are meant to learn from this particular interaction or challenge. You don’t get wrapped up in the drama or the narrative – and even if you do, you see yourself doing it. It is clear seeing that opens your eyes and helps you create this space – and then it’s all about practice.

The enlightened ego is another, more insidious trap that many people can get lost in for a while – sometimes their entire lives. When you awaken, you are flooded with love, wisdom, and power that are not yours – or rather, you are overwhelmed by the realization of who it is that you truly are when you see it for yourself for the first time. You may get the sense that you are one with everything, or even ‘the one’. You may sense that you are now Jesus or the Buddha – a new savior born into the world to rescue the world from itself. This is the senses being overwhelmed. Keep in mind that there is only one source – the conscious awareness of God, which is the container for all existence. It’s easy for the ego to see this and then run with it, forgetting that this truth applies to all human beings. We all have the capacity to realize ourselves to the level of depth that Jesus and the Buddha did, or perhaps even deeper.

Your ego may also grab hold of each new realization and yell ‘now I’m enlightened’. Believing that you are enlightened is, in its own way, its own trap. So long as you still believe that this means something, you have not yet fully realized what enlightenment is. Think about it in terms of the earlier traps of division identified above. If you think of yourself as an enlightened being – thinking that it means something, then you are creating a line of division between yourself and everyone who is ‘not enlightened’ – and then enlightened to what level? Enlightenment isn’t a thing; it’s about degrees of realization. When the truth of enlightenment really settles in, the terrible beauty of it all, you may even feel like you want to give it back. At this point you’ll find that it’s just easier to focus on reintegration and using your reintegration work as the next stage of your journey.   ‘Enlightenment’ ceases to matter.

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