A spiritual awakening reveals many, many illusions, and the illusion of independence is one of them.

Most people want to believe that they are independent and do things on their own, but as a person looks deeply into this belief, it quickly begins to fall apart. It becomes apparent that there are so many ways that a human being is dependent on all kinds of things around and within him/herself starting with the very air that is breathed. This fundamental dependence requires a certain kind of interaction with nature–namely breathing–and it demands certain types of gases to be present for the human being to survive. Without the right mix of oxygen, people can suffocate and die. When the air is polluted, a person can get sick with different bronchial ailments. This is just one dependency that people have of many.

But I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Sure, Jim, I’m dependent on air. But I make my decisions about everything else.”

Do you?

When a person peels away layers of ego, it becomes increasingly apparent that we are not free to make decisions at all. We’ve been heavily conditioned in terms of how we think and act by society and biological preferencing, and in this way, we are following orders, not making choices.

In regards to biological preferencing, I am pointing towards how our bodies prefer to feel safe versus unsafe, for instance. That duality of experience defines a lot of how people act, as they are herded towards the feeling of safety and make many choices to avoid feeling unsafe.

Yet, there’s even more, and it leads the sincere spiritual person to realize that there truly is no independence.

Discovering Your Decisions Are Not Your Own

The experiences and beliefs from childhood set up a powerful framework for how a person sees all of life. In these earliest of years, a person’s ego and their overall feelings about life are established. This childhood foundation will define how a person sees life, thinks about it, and interacts with it. In this way, the ego is like setting up a room with only one window that looks out. The walls all around a person block out the views of other possibilities. They’re blocked out so much that if someone comes to this person and tells them of an opportunity behind one of the walls, the initial person won’t believe them. The person might think this friend is crazy to suggest such a thing.

Feeling Crazy After Your Spiritual Awakening

These blindspots and other false beliefs reduce a person’s independence and autonomy. They can’t interact with opportunities that they can’t see or believe in, and they are entirely dependent on the structure of the ego for their guidance, which is causing much of the problems.

And it gets worse for many people.

Trauma and Upsetting Experiences Reinforcing Beliefs

For many people, trauma and upsetting experiences are fundamental parts of their childhood experiences, and trauma creates certain types of egos. Those egos make “the inner room” smaller and any windows looking out at the world narrower. The narrower the room and windows, the more frightening and limiting the world around a person appears to be. Because of this narrow ego self, the animal self–the human being’s body is basically an animal–is more quickly triggered into fight, flight, freeze, or faint. This impairs thinking, and we all know how poorly people function when their thinking is impaired in any way!

The nature of the ego is to reinforce its story as well, so when a new upsetting experience happens, this story tends to be interwoven deeper and more quickly if a person has already been traumatized once and never fully healed from it. If someone doesn’t have trauma, they are less likely to include an upsetting experience with their ego self because it doesn’t fit their story. Actually, a person with an ego that has had an easy life may resist and deny a trauma precisely because it doesn’t fit their ego story. But that’s not any better. It reduces a person’s ability to engage with the present situation.

In general, people tend to get more upset and narrow their view on life even further with more upsetting experiences as their ego self attempts to find safety. The result is that people intentionally limit freedom and independence in preference to “feeling safe” and creating an illusion that they are safe.

Healing Past Trauma, Issues, and Forgotten Memories

Awakened to the Truth of Interdependence

However, some of you are fortunate to be given a way out. A spiritual awakening can burn down a lot of the ego, and this can expand a person’s view on life. They can discover how little independence they had while trapped in the unconscious ego, but rather than finding full independence, what people actually find is interdependence.

Interdependence honors the reality that we are all one, and we are all interconnected. There is ultimately no separation, so how can one truly act independently? They can’t. Everything is influencing the individual, and the individual is also influencing things around them. Breathe in, and a person is dependent on the gases there. Breathe out, and the person influences their local environment. This last part is some level of autonomy, so there is a small amount of independence woven into interdependence–you can see it linguistically. Interdependence contains the other word, but trying to be independent is not a goal of the spiritual path.

Interdependence honors that there is some level of separation on the human plane of existence, but our spiritual work is to dissolve away as much of that separation as is humanly possible. Rather than trying to become independent, the awakened person and anyone striving forward on the conscious path works towards realizing the fullness of interdependence and the will of the Divine that flows through each of us. There’s no need to become someone in an attempt to reclaim illusory independence.

Choosing the Conscious Spiritual Path

Interestingly enough, some level of autonomy and independence in the human world is granted to people who become more and more conscious. It’s an idea to be held lightly as it is ultimately fictional. It’s much like my water droplet and ocean metaphors. The ocean is the oneness, but yet we are also each a droplet in this ocean. When we realize this reality, we gain some level of ability to determine the current we flow in. But even that is still deeply limited. We are deeply and entirely enmeshed in oneness, and that inherent dependence must be acknowledged.

Interdependence with a Spiritual Teacher

Spiritual teachers help people to understand illusions like independence, and in the relationship itself, the student is forced to face that truth. They are interdependent with the teacher, and because of that, the teaching works in certain ways. A student must be willing to depend on the teacher’s wisdom, and the student must also be willing to do the work on their own. If a student is too attached to the illusion of independence, then their ego is likely to argue with the teacher, pick and choose the parts of the guidance they want, or quit too soon because they think they can do it on their own. Conversely, the overly dependent student may think the teacher is his/her savior and the only way out of suffering. They may be overly literal and try to do everything the teacher says, and some may not do their spiritual work in hopes that the teacher will somehow do it for them.

Clearly, the middle path through this is interdependence. The more a student accepts this, the more they can spiritually progress. That progress is facilitated by trusting the teacher and following instructions, and their reward is greater freedom from the ego and suffering. As mentioned earlier, this tends to give a person greater autonomy and independence, but only in a limited human sense.

5 Signs You’re Ready to Work with a Spiritual Teacher

Autonomy and the Freedom to Choose

Personal autonomy and the freedom to choose are slippery subjects as many of you have already discovered and some of you are now discovering while reading this spiritual blog post. But rather than attempting to gain or regain independence, the wise move is to surrender more to the divine. Develop your intuitive nature further to find and flow with Divine rhythms rather than impose ideas upon yourself and others. Learn to accept your inherent interdependence with others and your environment. From that acceptance, greater opportunity for choice become possible, although a lot of that choice tends to also feel divinely chosen for you. Most of us discover the wisdom of the Divine over any egoic choices we can make. As such, surrendering further to these pre-selected Divine choices makes more and more sense. In this way, we surrender further illusions of independence.

In general, there are a lot of limitations in being a human being, and we are intertwined with many systems on this planet and this universe. We don’t have to be upset by those dependencies, and we can discover and resolve ego limitations that are purely self-imposed. Ultimately, discovering the illusion of independence leads most people to realize that we truly are in this all together, and we all have to come down this path to greater consciousness and spiritual freedom.

How to Find Spiritual Freedom


I'm a spiritual teacher who helps people find freedom from suffering.

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