One of the rare writings I have cherished and revisited many times over the last many months has been a piece by nondual teacher Scott Kiloby on the long (and confusing) phase between initial seeing and full liberation. Little is written about this subject, and Kiloby has some truly eye-opening insights to share. I urge you to read the entire piece called ‘After The Fall’ on Scott’s website here. Meanwhile, an extract on 12 things to watch out for in this phase. Download it for your weekend read, you will treasure it for a long time.
[EXTRACT FROM ‘AFTER THE FALL’]
If you will allow me to use language freely….
These days, it seems that more and more people are experiencing shifts in perception or initial realizations of Oneness or no self, much like a satori experience in Zen. The seeing or event isn’t always accompanied by bells and whistles. It isn’t always one grand moment where absolutely everything drops away into a deep recognition of Oneness. It may be more subtle than that, like a shift in perception that quietly dawns upon you.
But I’ve been around the awakening scene long enough to know that these experiences aren’t usually the end of the seeking entirely and that there is often more to see. Yet the “more” isn’t as much about seeking some later point in one’s story. The “more” is actually “less.” Stuff falls away gradually after these events, eventually leaving one surrendered in and as the flow of life, “living naturally in the present moment,” as they say.
Before one stabilizes, there is often a lot of stuff, emotional and psychological stuff, and even leftover seeking that arises. I call this “oscillation,” which is the seeming movement back and forth between the sense of “I am my thoughts and emotions and sensations” to “I am not these things, but they still arise.”
The road to freedom is often bumpy, confusing, and filled with doubts, shadows, and old stories of deficiency, “I’m not good enough” or “I’m weak” or “I’m unlovable.” Somehow the momentum of this old way of being in the world wants to stick around, almost as if it is hanging on for dear life.
And teachers aren’t immune from it either. I’ve seen in myself and virtually every other teacher things like competition, jealousy, shadows, fundamentalism, control, and at the more extreme end greed, abuse, and even cult-like behavior. […]
Here are some other things I’ve seen through the years. By just spotting them in yourself, you can see through them.
1) Avoid beliefs like “I’m not there yet” as well as “I’ve arrived.”
Both are often mental landing points of the ego. Life is fluid and ever-changing. The ones who claim to have arrived, either implicitly or explicitly, are often holding onto a belief that life is static and that there is someone who can “arrive” at life or even awakening. Or perhaps the belief is “there is no one to arrive, I have arrived at that realization.” It’s a subtle, backdoor way of saying the same thing. And the ones that claim “I’m not there yet” are often still believing in the story of someone who can awaken, still seeking some ultimate, fictitious point in the future. Once these beliefs are dispelled, it all gets a lot clearer. How do I know these are beliefs….? Because they were beliefs I’ve held, but couldn’t see. And that’s not a statement that I have now “arrived.”
2) Watch for selective memory
Once there is a recognition that this moment is all there is, or some similar insight, it can be easy to assume that all the inquiry, methods, meetings you attended, and books you read had absolutely nothing to do with that. It can feel like all of that is some faint memory. It’s then tempting to want to tell everyone else who is doing inquiry, engaging in methods, and attending meetings and reading books to “STOP, JUST STOP.” But could you just stop? If you could have, you would have and all those inquiries, methods, meetings and books would not have been necessary.
There is a whole debate happening around whether methods are helpful or not. Why not simplify it down to this: methods seem to work for some and not for others. That takes the debate right out of it. It sucks for the ego when it can’t be right anymore. Can any of us know what is best for another? If you begin teaching or just helping a friend and you say, “All there is, is liberation, there’s nowhere to go, nothing to do, and no one to do it,” apparently there WAS something to do i.e., listen to your words or attend your meeting. If there were truly nothing to do and nowhere to go, no one would show up and you would not need to utter a single word about “what is” or “liberation.”
When awakening dawns, and we assume that inquiry, methods, meditation, or whatever had nothing to do with it, it’s like a guy going into a donut shop. He eats one donut but it doesn’t make him full. Then he eats another, then another. Still not full. Then after the 12th donut, he eats a muffin and says, “Damn, why did I eat all those donuts, when I could have just gotten full from eating this muffin?” We can never know how methods and inquiries are or are not helpful for others. We can only speak what worked for us, and let the cards fall where they may.
3) Avoid denying relativity
First of all, how can you deny relativity and how would you actually do this? When you speak or think, those thoughts divide reality up into parts. It doesn’t matter whether the thoughts are really profound or really dumb. They are thoughts. The very act of denying relativity is a thought. Pretending to be beyond relativity is a relative thought that divides life into Absolute and relative. This writing is a relative viewpoint, and not objectively true. It won’t even resonate with every reader. The suffering comes from believing that your thoughts are representing a true, accurate, and objective picture of reality. That’s the rub.
Once you begin seeing that you aren’t thinking objectively, relativity is fun, like a play. Transcending relativity is only important when you see relativity as a problem. And of course that problem is created through thinking, which is relative. Trying to eradicate pronouns or any reference to yourself or others may simply mean that you still experience what you believe to be an objective self that must censor itself. We are always playing around with language. But rearranging our thoughts isn’t necessarily a sign of awakening from identifying with thought. It’s just rearrangement. And we will rearrange thoughts in any number of ways to find some landing point that divides a self against the others. Recognizing an unshakeable silence is not personal. Yet, we love to make it personal, like “I’ve recognized silence and you haven’t it.” It’s another rearrangement of thoughts, an investment in some objective self. What is there to transcend when the play of life is seen to be empty, and not actually full of real divisions? Love it, or hate it, but at least see it as a play.
4) Keep it simple
This relates to the relativity part above. Anything you perceive as right/wrong, good/bad, enlightened/unenlightened, valuable/valueless about yourself, others, the world or reality isn’t there objectively. It’s your thoughts. Think away if you wish, but don’t be confused about this simple, basic point. Of course, that goes for everything said here.
5) Avoid Dangling Carrots, Then Investigate
If you read somewhere that someone seems to have had a deeper recognition than you have, assume it’s a dangling carrot first, then investigate. People have a way of wording things that makes it look as if they are special. When they speak of stages and levels, notice that they always place themselves near the top of the stages or levels (or they place THEIR teacher there). And this is often just a self-centered way of saying, “I’m more special.” They may have added some belief about themselves that subtly gives them a sense of being higher or more awakened then others. Don’t fall for it.
If it pulls you into seeking into the future, it’s a carrot, a mirage, a belief that there is something presently wrong that you have to get away from or move beyond. But do investigate. It may be that this person has stabilized (so to speak) and is not experiencing some of the sticky points mentioned here. Find out exactly what they are talking about and what beliefs were seen through. Ask them. Don’t assume you already know the answers. It may be that they are not offering a carrot to chase into the future, but rather a deeper recognition or seeing through of some belief that many people carry around. You may find that it’s not a matter of reaching some later stage, but more like the falling away of something believed and held to be reality. Awakening is like that. It’s not that you gain more. It’s that you lose. And what you lose was not reality. It was just a belief you were carrying.
6) Avoid the Belief that all concepts are false
That, itself, is a concept. If you look, it is not that concepts are the issue, it’s that there is a sense of self that grasps after them. When there is no more grasping, thought is seen to be beautiful and very much a part of human experience. Like everything else, it is welcomed, and not made into some enemy that needs to be eradicated. Thoughts may quiet naturally, but that’s just because one loses interest in one’s story, drama and fixed conceptions of reality and even one’s story of being awakened from the story, the drama, and all fixed conceptions of reality. What’s left? …The capacity to express and think or not, whatever arises. Any way you slice it, everything we say is a concept, including concepts about silence or non-conceptuality, and even the concepts that try to eradicate other concepts.
7) Be Transparent (tell on yourself at all costs)
Whether you begin teaching or helping others or not, the tendency after the fall is to be blind to the movements of self that are still operating. And the tendency, even when you see them, is to downplay them and only speak of the plush bliss or infinite peace or beyondness or radical freedom that you have come to know. For example, you aren’t likely to talk about how unblissful it was to puke your guts up the other night after getting food poisoning or subtle feelings of inadequacy that still pop up in your marriage. “All that messy humanness” is irrelevant. But how irrelevant is it? Is this just the mind hiding behind a belief, “I’m awakened” or even “there is no one to awaken” or some other belief in transcendence? If you have transcended all human messiness, why are you still getting upset in certain areas of relationship? Why are you still trying to prove something to other humans, even that you have transcended everything? Isn’t that still human stuff? Do turtles brag about transcending turtlehood? Do birds try to make personal claims about recognizing the air more than their fellow birds? Stick with the simple seeing that no one cares nearly as much about your awakening story or insights as you do. Share them freely, but see they are just part of the story of you, even the parts that talk of transcendence. […]
8) Virtually everything comes down to fear
If you don’t know what is disturbing you, assume it’s fear and just feel it, without story. Fear of anger, fear of fear, fear of intimacy, fear of being wrong, fear of death, fear of uncertainty, fear of being nobody, fear of not being loved, etc, etc. Just feeling fear directly, without story, makes stabilization happen more smoothly, without the need for a dramatic “dark knight of the soul” process. Sometimes it looks like something other than fear. For example, getting really busy intellectualizing a grand scheme to explain intricate levels of awakening, discomfort with real intimacy with others, or a reaction against what someone says doesn’t always appear like fear at first, until you check into the body. And there it is.
9) See through body identification
One can see “no self” when it comes to the story or pattern of thoughts and emotions, but still have a very visceral sense that “I am this body.” Body identification accounts for a lot of the struggle experienced after the fall. Get with someone who has seen through body identification. It clears up a lot, especially the very subtle movement to resist uncomfortable sensations as if the sensation is you.
10) Look for any place where you are rejecting
The ego can be seen as rejection of emotions, thoughts, views, experiences, and other people. This can continue on after the fall. Wherever you are rejecting, notice that it is often out of fear and a continued belief in a separate self. You are afraid, even if you are trying to claim “there is no me.” Admit it to yourself and let the emotion, all emotions, be as they are without story, facing them fully, seeing that there arise and fall and that they cannot kill you or even harm you. They are temporary energies. That’s it. What often trips people up after the fall is an inability to be with the most painful emotions, a subtle rejecting of your own experience. Open to it. If you have seen there is no self at the core, there is nothing to be afraid of with regard to emotions.
11) Trust your own experience:
This is one of the hallmarks of the period “after the fall.” This is about your happiness and freedom, which can only really be found in your own experience. Eventually, you will come to see that there is no authority. You will come to listen to other views, and take them in, while remaining true to your own experience, finding your own voice, and letting awakening unfold for you in its own way. If you find yourself still following every word of a teacher, re-examine that belief. This includes what I’m saying here. Don’t trust me. Look into these things for yourself. Everything written here is second hand knowledge.
12) Avoid extreme views
If you find yourself uttering any opposites as if one is true and the other is not, let that be an alarm bell that lets you know you are still possibly holding onto beliefs about the experience of awakening, still trying to land somewhere. As Buddha said, “Don’t be attached to conceptions of self or no self.” Don’t be attached to your ideas about awakening. They are YOUR ideas, that’s all. This includes all opposites.
– Scott Kiloby
Image courtesy of pixtawan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net