I’ve written about today’s topic in a number of ways. My blog post called, “Be Nobody,” is one. The video about “The Freedom of a Meaningless Life” is another, but it just feels like it is time to return to this topic in yet another way.
There is nowhere to go on the spiritual path.
There. I said it again. We good?
We live in a society that believes that action is required all the time. But more specifically, we unconsciously believe a lot of things about ourselves and about life all the time. From all those unconscious beliefs, we believe in certain kinds of actions, and we live in a constant veil of ego interpretation that overlays everything happening right now. Which means we aren’t seeing the “Now.” We are seeing a string of perceptions that come from our past experiences that are constantly interpreting the present moment. In this way, we are not actually engaged with the present. We are still engaging with the past.
All the while, many people are trying to manipulate their perceptions and body feelings to feel in certain ways and avoid other feelings (also based on past experiences generally). And further more, many people are so lost in future concerns (based on lots of past beliefs about what their future should be and look like) that people are truly lost.
So how do we get out of this mess? We don’t.
You have probably read my posts about doing different techniques and the importance of spiritual development. These statements seem to run counter to today’s blog post, but they don’t. A lot of spiritual work that people do early on is dealing with accepting and dropping into the ego mess I just outlined. In this way, we don’t avoid or get out of the mess. We embrace it.
In some regards, many spiritual techniques are aimed at overcoming our own involuntary tendency to not be here. Consider the work that gets done to help someone’s muscles relax. When they are aligned appropriately, you relax by no longer tensing. You stop taking an action, and relaxation is discovered in the present moment.
But when the muscles are so badly misaligned that they don’t relax appropriately, then we have the massage therapist or another type of bodyworker actively working on the involuntary tension. We apply one tension to mindfully help another tension let go. When the body functions correctly again, the bodyworker (a metaphor for the spiritual tool in use) no longer is necessary.
Yet, all that said, this work arises in none other than the here and now.
The Drive to Find Somewhere to Be
By and large, however, a lot of people don’t like where they are. The sense of some other place or another moment being better is very strong for a lot of people. Some people reject the present moment to such an extent that they’d rather fantasize about other dimensions and worlds than to deal with their here and now reality. Whole belief systems get developed in attempts to get somewhere else.
What are a few of those somewheres?
- A perfect romantic relationship
- Enlightenment/Nirvana/Insert your favorite term for total spiritual realization
- A purpose
- A better aligned community (whatever that means)
- A meaningful job
- A feeling of wholeness
There are a lot of somewheres that people want to get to, although people usually don’t really understand what they represent. Spiritual realization sounds like a great thing, but when people believe that it is a place or experience to achieve, that is not it. In many respects, the spiritual journeys that many people go on get contorted and twisted away from the truth when they think they’re going to achieve some kind of lasting Utopia, which generally precludes “bad” things from happening; that’s how lots of people think about it.
The last “somewhere” is a little closer to the truth because usually the search for a better somewhere is a search for better feelings. Unfortunately, this search for good feelings generally leads away from where we need to go, which is nowhere.
Sitting in the Now and Here
One thing I like about the word “nowhere” is that we can divide it into two words: now here. Yes, being nowhere is now here. We arrive at the present moment, and we accept there is nowhere to get to. Despite how this sounds, this is a not a place devoid of taking action. This is not a lazy space. Rumi puns on the word laziness in some of his poems, but he is talking about surrender and not the inability to take action when necessary.
What we discover in this space of nowhere is that we have avoided a lot of aspects of ourselves. A lot of spiritual searches are not usually a quest to find oneself. It’s more typically a quest to escape oneself. When we sit in the now here, this reality of how much time we spend trying to escape ourselves becomes clear, and the inner work that we need to do begins to arise on its own.
Going Nowhere Fast
Yes. I can hear the objections. I can hear the continuing confusion.
“So I just sit here and do nothing?”
No. Not exactly. How about observing the thoughts that are objecting to being here now and/or interpreting every little thing you perceive. Watch them. They are still searching and doing and evaluating. Until we reckon with how little our attention wants to settle and focus on the present moment, then we still have not arrived. We are still wandering away from now here and looking for somewhere else.
If you follow this little bit of advice, you may be confronted by how much the mind may not like itself. You may be confronted with deeper fears, anxieties, and old pains that you’ve attempted to mask. You may be overwhelmed by the mountain of judgments you place on EVERYTHING!
Just pausing a little can thrust you back into the reality of the present moment and all the different things that you’ve tried to avoid.
Actions Arising from Nowhere
The beautiful thing about the intelligence in all of you is that you do know what actually needs to be done. The more you go nowhere, the more the real issues can arise. Maybe it takes awhile because most of your thoughts and impulses have been directed towards distractions. That’s part of the problem of taking actions and creating beliefs early on the spiritual path. Most of that is still serving the unconscious ego in a myriad of ways. We have to break down the ego enough to really understand what needs action and how to think about life, and a lot of times, what is needed is not what our ego expects.
As a teacher, I offer my students all kinds of direction, and a lot of times, it isn’t what their egos want to hear. Some of it won’t seem “spiritual” by most people’s standards, but it is what is needed. So the person who is overweight may need to start a workout regime. The person who is unemployed may need to find a job and work for awhile. The person who is single may need to start dating. Do I really care about someone’s weight, job situation, or romantic status? No. But as a teacher if that is where someone needs to grow, then that is where they need to go.
Resting and Acting from Nowhere
When I talk about “nowhere,” it is another term for that space of being. It is nowhere, but it is always here. It is also everywhere. There is no way to travel towards it or away from it. On the true spiritual path, we learn to peel away all of our fantasies, attachments, and ego illusions until we are confronted with this reality. From this reality, clarity and conscious awareness can develop, and we can take action or not from a place of integrity, humility, and love.
As I mentioned before, this space of being is not an invitation of laziness. Laziness suggests an inability to take action. Those people who think that the spiritual path will give them everything by doing nothing are simply looking for a different type of escape as opposed to those who think they have to take action. We are always acting, then resting, acting, then resting. They are a sacred pair. It’s just how we embody human life. The key is to slough away the ego so that these actions and times for rest arise intuitively, naturally, and intelligently on their own.
A Spiritual Awakening Is the Beginning and Ending
I know that more than a few people have spiritual awakenings, openings, and every other kind of spiritual experience you can imagine. They can create such powerful impressions on people that there is a sense of “going somewhere.” I often talk about awakened energy like a flow of energy, and that river metaphor implies direction and a goal. But please understand, that this is a metaphor. It is a crude tool to speak to how human beings develop in a world with time.
The river like awakening isn’t really ever apart from the present moment, however. It is always now and here, and from that now-ness, things intelligently move. Getting used to the intelligence of awakening is often a difficult thing for many people because their ego still wants to apply their original rules to how they should be and how life should go on. But we have to give up this goal-orientation and our old ego beliefs and surrender instead. We surrender to whatever life is and how ever we are now. That is the end of the ego, and it is the beginning of new ways of living.
Yet, from surrender and acceptance that there is nowhere to go; there are no beginnings or endings. Paradoxically, growth and going somewhere take care of itself–the path takes care of you. It’s okay if this doesn’t make sense yet. It will.
Being Nobody in Now Here
The loss of the ego–who is a somebody–leads us deeper into the freedom of being nobody. Nobody is not restricted to one identity, and being nobody allows us to become whoever we need to be in any given moment. Once again, this is not done unconsciously. The unconscious ego wants this power to get what it wants, but you won’t act in such a way if you no longer want anything, would you? Being free from ego desire makes how we act as nobodies FUNDAMENTALLY different.
And this may all sounds rather mysterious. It’s not. But you’ll have to accept there is nowhere to go to find out the truth for yourself. Keep nothing that separates you from nowhere, now here. Let go of everything. The more you let go, the more you’ll rest in the now here and see the beauty and the reality that there never ever was anywhere you needed to go on the spiritual path.