Sometimes, the fury of internal change takes us over. It seems like you have no choice and everything will be done for you.
Eventually things settle.
It is really easy to plateau.
It is even easier to backslide into greater unconsciousness.
We are creatures of habit. Our initial shifts often are the most overdue and the most superficial. It’s the steam that has built up to the point that it explodes the top off the pot. But the rest of the soup is still stewing.
The fire–the core issue–underneath the pot is still burning.
The relief of having that pressure gone can be immense. During this time, a lot of people do make important changes. They feel renewed.
But they tend to have only let go of surface-level stuff, despite how profound it might seem, and they tend to believe they’ve done everything that they need to do.
How do you avoid the plateau or the backslide?
The Dawn of Perspective
We never know how much crap and attachments are in us until after we see them.
This is the curse of ignorance.
It’s only in seeing the thing that we become aware of it. That’s why I talk a lot about how the first step in letting go of attachments is to identify them.
After a spiritual awakening or in the midst of a trauma breakdown, a lot of stuff seems to pour out of people. It’s like there is no choice.
But there is.
There is the choice to surrender or resist.
Many people resist and resist, and while some things resolve, they end up grinding things to a halt. They put the top back on the pot and may, unfortunately, end up going through multiple cycles of these explosions and implosions. It’s not healthy. It is avoidable.
When Are You Ready for a Controlled Burn?
I have so many posts on the topics of accepting, surrendering, and learning to let go of attachments. Please check those out:
In this post, we’re jumping to the point when things settle. Now you have another time of choosing. Do you go deeper because you’re stable or quit?
I’m assuming you’re going deeper.
You’ve learned your lesson.
You know you have a lot of attachments.
You learned how little you knew about yourself.
You wonder how much more you don’t know about yourself.
You learned how to let go…at least enough to release a few dozen issues and attachments. You learned how to make changes in your daily life that needed immediate changing (ending drug use, improving nutrition, meditating regularly, and so forth).
You’ve learned that unaddressed attachments only will come back and cause you more suffering.
Time to get more serious. Time to develop a controlled burn.
What Is a Controlled Spiritual Burn?
I’m referencing a fire-fighting technique where overgrowth is burned off in a controlled manner to help reduce the risk of a larger wildfire engulfing everything.
When we get to this stage, we have learned to surrender to what is coming up. But we also are getting better at smelling where the smoke is. We follow our “inner work noses” towards that smell to get to the fire–the deeper issue.
We ask questions.
Why am I feeling this way?
Why am I thinking this way?
Where does this emotion or thought come from?
Invariably, we find things.
We find a lot of things.
Then we find the ego resistance that is trying to hold it down, justifying them, bargaining for them, denying them, ignoring them, and all the usual ego responses.
We breathe some more.
We breathe into the ego resistance to help ourselves let go of the physical tensions that make the issue feel real. We ignite the processing process.
Things go through the cycle of release.
Then we settle.
And we repeat.
After awhile, we become experts at this, and to paraphrase a Hafiz line in a poem, we “go out looking for trouble.”
Deepening Your Understanding of Yourself
You arrive at a stage where you can do this kind of controlled burn because you’ve been paying attention. You have begun to really respect how this process works. You’re not trying to get through faster. You’re not trying to go anywhere.
This is critical.
People who are trying to get somewhere, do it right, or be better are heading towards trouble. They’re lost in a fixer ego and its many different games.
Those who have a fixer ego and arrive at this stage need to understand how problematic this ego is. For them, they often must put down a lot of tools and step into a new level of vulnerability around the help they need. The fixer ego worked at one level–not at this next. Getting stuck in a fixer ego is one way people plateau because
the fixer ego is a creation of/response to core issues.
You’re not going to “fix” those issues. You’re going to surrender them.
It’s a big difference.
It’s time to learn about different levels of intensity AND rest.
Expanding Your Support System
If you’re going to do this right, you are going to need social, spiritual, environmental, and financial supports. Maybe you had this during the initial surge, but most do not. Going forward, things get a whole lot more challenging in part because you are going to face issues to which you are more and more deeply attached.
So the person builds their support systems before worrying too much about starting any kind of controlled spiritual burn.
The social support system are friends and family who can give you space to be messy and figure stuff out while still loving you.
The spiritual support system are teachers, helpers, spiritual friends, and others who understand releasing attachments and the path to realizing spiritual freedom. It also includes your daily spiritual practices like conscious breathing, meditation, coming back to awareness, and so forth.
The environmental support system is how you feel about your home, city/town, and local region. It needs to be something that is low stress and which makes you feel safe enough to fall into the unsafe parts of yourself.
The financial support system is a job, partner, family member, bank savings, and/or something else that can take care of your means of living and help you to access different supports. Money is a tool, and it matters.
Leaving No Stone Unturned
The ego that wants to quit needs to be unearthed and revealed in its motivations.
The ego that wants to bargain and say things are “good enough” needs to be investigated too.
The fixer ego, self-soother ego, and all the other ego parts all need to be investigated.
Again and again, you’ll find these internal guard dogs barking at you, trying to throw you off the scent.
Don’t be dissuaded.
Keep your gaze looking inwards.
Then rest. Put down the tools. See how things settle inside of you.
As things settle, it’s like a pond that got stirred up now resolving to greater clarity. You can see deeper.
Feeling emotionally strong and mentally clear?
Take another peak. Reach for the next muddy log inside you.
This is how we keep the fire alive without burning ourselves out.
Eventually, we want to get to a point where the fire truly has a life of its own, and we are that fire.
Then the fire takes us on to the level after this one.
Burning Bright in Awareness
The initial fires that seems so hot are tepid waters compared to the fires we can cultivate.
And only you can cultivate them.
If you don’t, falling back into familiar patterns is the
most unconscious thing you can and will do.
When people return to unconscious states and stay there–often now masked by a prideful spiritual ego that thinks it has accomplished something–deeper issues re-develop in new ways. Incompletely healed wounds re-emerge in a new ferocity.
Or maybe everything settles down and you can live comfortably in ignorance again.
Anything is possible!
Additionally, people often fool themselves about their initial shifts. They believe they have cleared more than they have and realized more than they truly understand.
It’s only when you’ve gone deep that you begin to be confronted by the vastness of false beliefs and attachments inside. You don’t want to go down there without a brightly lit torch–the torch of awareness.
Because now it actually is serious. The controlled burn has cleared space, and it’s time to start digging into the bedrock of core issues and primal instincts.
Are you ready?