Just Where Are We "Going" on our Spiritual Path?
I had several helpful/clarifying/confusing responses to my previous blog, Those “Amazingly Modern” Pathwork Lectures. I add “confusing” to “helpful/clarifying” just to confess my own naiveté and limited experience with the subject matter – and as I read various sources, I realize I am not alone among spiritual adventurers and seekers, and even among teachers, in longing for more clarification and less confusion with this material on “consciousness.” Each path seems to have its own lineage and with it, language and descriptions for experiences of what we have come to name in our thinking mind as consciousness, or levels of consciousness.
In reading my earlier blog, some suggested that “non-dual” and “unitive” were not descriptors of two different experiences but rather were two words or descriptors for the same experience. The operative word here is experience. What is an experience of consciousness? And how does one’s “experience of consciousness” change as one develops psychologically and spiritually?
I would offer that an experience of consciousness is an experience of Knowing – capitalized to distinguish “Knowing” from “knowing.” “Knowing,” as I am using the word here, relates to experiences of consciousness, and as such is much different from all the ways we intellectually learn facts about things, including facts about experiences of consciousness. I may be able to tell you about history, I may know 7 languages, I may know about all the many religions and spiritual paths in the world, I may be steeped in math and all the sciences, but still not experience the kind of Knowing that we call consciousness.
So what is the kind of Knowing that we call consciousness? It seems that consciousness, or Knowing, is an experience of realizing reality. I would go on to say that Spiritual growth and personal development are processes of ever-expanding Knowing in which realizing reality is experienced in ever-more profound, inspiring, and transcendent ways.
Perhaps a professional musician achieves such experiences of Knowing in music. The musician experiences in his or her bones when he or she, musical score set aside, experiences the music in a profound, inspiring, and transcendent way as he or she, often eyes shut, performs. We the audience are often moved and inspired by such performances. For the musician, this experience is not (only) about knowing music theory or having great technique, but rather it is experiencing the thrill of the music flowing through his or her very being – a true Knowing experience that is indescribably beyond anything that can be experienced by simply knowing about music and about its theory and its history.
Perhaps what such a professional musician experiences in his or her musical career development is similar to experiences that a spiritual adventurer or seeker experiences in his or her development: ever-expanding Knowing in which realizing reality is experienced in ever-more profound, inspiring, and transcendent ways not just in music or another artistic field but in all of life..
So is non-dual or non-dual consciousness a suitable word for describing such an experience of Knowing? And is there some different experience of Knowing that we could name Unitive or Unitive consciousness? Or are these the same experience but in two different individuals, each using different names and descriptors for this one and the same experience? And does it matter to the spiritual adventurer or seeker? These are questions perhaps for future blogs.
For this blog, however, I want to speak of non-dual and unitive as two descriptors of the same experience. One of my knowledgeable responders to my previous blog provided helpful input on this matter by noting that the word we use, “non-dual,” is a translation of Advaita, which simply means NOT TWO. So in what follows I use “NOT TWO Reality” as the descriptor of whatever experience of reality we are talking about when we speak of “Knowing,” or what I call below, when we speak of experiencing “Life Flying.”
A Spiritual Path as “Training Wheels” for Life Flying
It seems that “spiritual teachings” are really “training wheels” leading the spiritual adventurer or seeker to the experience of “life flying.” When we “get it,” as with bicycling, the training wheels come off, we throw them out, and we fly away, thrilled at the new experience of “life flying”!
As long as we are at the level of “life flying training school” where we still need training wheels to stay up, it makes no sense to get caught up in arguing about which brands of “training wheels” are “best.” How would one know which training wheels are best when one has not yet experienced “life flying.” One can look at all the ads for “training wheels” and only scratch one’s head in confusion. Doubly so when advertisers use all kinds of terminology to describe the features of their brand and, worse yet, when they try to describe the experience of “life flying” to those who have not had such an experience and have no idea what “life flying” might be.
If one’s soul keeps encouraging one and one is persistent in one’s YES, however, eventually one actually does try a few brands of “training wheels” and chooses one that seems to “feel right” to his or her “soul.” Voila — Grace is at work! One practices and practices. And suddenly, as if by magic, one realizes that one does not need training wheels any more and can “life fly.”
At that point one probably has no idea how the training wheels actually worked and got him or her to this experience of “life flying” — and one doesn’t care. One just loves “life flying.” And what’s even more amazing, one realizes (a “realizing” that is, in fact, a Knowing experience) that even before he or she embarked on this path and even during his or her stage of using “training wheels,” one has been “life flying” all along, just not experiencing “life flying”! (Or does true “life flying” require that whatever appears “real” be “experienced”? – perhaps this is another blog entry exploration! We continue.)
So we fly about life. When we see others struggling in life we might decide we want to share our experience of “life flying.” Perhaps we can encourage folks to do what we did: “try a few brands see which one “feels” best.” And we remember that different brands feel better at different levels of our development as “life flyers.” We can coach our prodigies along, recognizing in their experiences some of what we ourselves experienced earlier on our path. (Note: In our advising others it is important to keep our ego at bay in this “help” we are offering, recognizing that the brand of “training wheels” that worked for us and that we are so excited about, may not work at all for another.)
Oh, “training wheels” can be a pain in the ass, and so we also need to encourage our prodigies frequently to keep trying, and yet we realize that it is “grace” and “not-trying” that is the “magic.” And we also realize they are already “life flying,” but just not experiencing “life flying” yet (obviously more to be unpacked here!).
And that takes me back to Lecture 253: Continue Your Struggle And Cease All Struggle. I realize that “Struggle” and “Ceasing Struggle” describes the paradox of experiencing “life flying,” or, using the word or descriptor we are using here, an experience of “NOT TWO Reality.”
As I look at this Lecture 253, I see that it, and all the Pathwork Lectures, AND all other effective spiritual teachings and teachers (including my good ole Lutheran bible training days) are merely “training wheels.” And increasingly I feel the training wheels fall away “in moments of Grace,” where I am experiencing “life flying” — at least for brief moments — but ever more frequently. All by grace! And in life there are plenty of times when I have to get my training wheels out again. Or, as one wise Pathworker friend reminded me, sometimes we are given a much larger “bike” (or “life experience”) and that calls for much larger set of “training wheels”!
I pause in reflection here. I realize that I, as a would-be life flyer, am still encouraged by teachings and teachers such as Pathwork, Adya, Erena, and others, but my relationship to them changes over time. Eventually they are no longer part of my “training wheel system” but rather they are “fellow life flyers” offering me encouragement to keep “life flying” when I find myself struggling with life — forgetting that I am already, even in my apparent struggles, “life flying.” Life-flying is a matter of attitude toward struggle it would seem.
So in our Life Flying School we go from a “Teacher-Student” relationship to a “collegial class of Life Flyers” — each of us encouraging and being encouraged by our fellow “life flyers.” Teacher and Student are NOT TWO Reality!
Perhaps this is what our Pathwork Community is — it is what I experience sometimes in Erena’s Sacred Dimensions of the Pathwork program where we mix senior helpers, helpers, workers, and even new folks who are hungry for Pathwork but not as familiar with our particular “training wheels.” Erena and each of us are NOT TWO Reality! (I realize I did not say we were part of NOT TWO Reality, but rather, and it feels unconsciously intentional and correct, I said in some mystical transcendent way we ARE NOT TWO Reality – what ever that signifies.) So Erena “helps” us experience NOT TWO Reality! AND she skillfully incorporates the Pathwork Guide and other training wheel teachings to encourage us (AND herself) along our paths. And where is the path leading? To more and more experiences of “life flying” – life flying in times of pleasure AND life flying in times of “unpleasure” — unpleasure that doesn’t seem to become extreme terror, just unpleasure! Eventually all of life IS pleasure — but perhaps not on this dualistic life plane. Over time the path itself transforms into a real blessing graced upon us.
Shared in love, Gary