Transcript of Amoda’s opening discourse at the ‘Open Circle’ Meeting, San Rafael, CA, September 2018.
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There’s a tendency on the spiritual path, when seeking the elusive and much desired state of enlightenment or awakening, to emphasize the mind-qualities of illumination – such as clarity, insight and wisdom, the idea of an all-seeing, all-knowing God-like state. This emphasis on the illumination of the mind is strongly promoted by both old and new spiritual traditions and teachings with the emphasis on the absolute, the realization of emptiness, the pointing to formlessness as the ground of being.
This emphasis, which keeps the carrot of enlightenment or awakening just somewhere up ahead and never quite reached, is a great error if supreme wisdom is upheld as more precious and more vital than something that is not often pointed to, that is not often touched, that is not often allowed into the elevated state. This is the tenderness of the heart – the place that flows into our humanity.
When feelings are neglected they go underground. I’m not talking about emotions, although it may include these. I’m not talking about the story of ‘poor me’ or the drama of ‘this shouldn’t be happening to me’ or ‘this shouldn’t be happening to the world’ (which is the same as ‘this shouldn’t be happening to me’. I’m not talking about drowning in the waves of the human experience so that all clarity and wisdom and awareness and awakeness are lost. I’m not talking about flapping around on the surface of life. I’m talking about the more tender feelings when the heart feels as if it’s breaking open in the face of suffering. I’m talking about those subtle whispers of doubt and confusion and failure and rejection and loss that are part of the human experience when interacting with others in intimate relationships, part of the human experience in following a purpose that arises from the depths of our belly and then calls us to move into the world with that purpose.
I’m talking about all of the interactions – the feelings that arise in response to living in the world in human form as part of the earthly experience. When these are denied because there is a belief that they might tarnish the pristine perfection of absolute realization, then they go underground. And even enlightened ones, even awakened ones, have a human experience. When this human experience is not admitted to, then there is a veneer of perfection that is presented. The tenderness of the heart gets neglected and in that neglect it either atrophies or it becomes a monster.
Feelings, when they go underground, build up an intensity – because everything wants to be loved. Everything wants to be allowed. Everything wants to be accepted. And in that intensity, there is the possibility of an eruption – an eruption that creates a mess. That mess we might see as a personal crisis. That mess we might see as a scandal, as something previously hidden that comes to the surface in a spiritual community. That intensity we see as the eruption of power, sex, and money issues, that appear either harmful or unclean.
The upholding of an enlightened state as some kind of supreme wisdom at the expense of the tenderness of the heart is no different to the patriarchy of religion or the patriarchy of politics. In both religion and politics there is mind over heart. There is not a synthesis of the two and in that we lose our humanity. And in that we lose our true power and we lose our true authority. We lose our true sovereignty because we hand over our authority to an external projection, an external father figure who we believe will save us – an intermediary between the innermost and God, the innermost and truth.
The subtle search for enlightenment, for freedom, for spiritual liberation, often replays that patriarchy. The time has come to admit and expose our humanity, so that the mind’s illumination can filter into the belly of our earthly experience. I’m not talking about the situation of having both awakeness and humanness and having to juggle the two. It’s not a polarity. It’s not a dichotomy. It’s not sometimes we are awake and sometimes we are human. It’s a merging. A marriage of the two. It’s a marriage of illuminated mind and illuminated heart.
The heart becomes illuminated when we allow the light of truth, the allegiance to truth, to support us in seeing beyond beliefs, concepts, ideas, projections, hopes and fears to what is truly here right now. It’s a cutting through, a piercing of the veil of projection based on conditioning. When that illuminated view can filter in through humility, through tenderness, into the heart, the heart stops being a reservoir of hurt, of defense, of need, and starts being an open vessel for love. Not the kind of love that is to do with subject and object, not the love of anything or anyone. Simply the open hand of love – which is the same as saying the deepest acceptance of what is here. And the deepest acceptance of what is here includes the human experience.
The magic, if you like, is that in that deepest acceptance of even our humanity the backlog of previously unmet energies, emotions, regrets, fears, and any other kind of armoring that usually surrounds the heart is more likely to come forwards into the light of awareness, into the light of acceptance and dissolve.
Now we can start to live with illuminated mind and illuminated heart. It is the end of an inner patriarchy, the end of giving our authority over to an imagined power. It is the end of the myth of enlightenment as an elevated superhuman God-like state. It is the beginning of a new world within you. And the beginning of a new world within you, is the beginning of a new world.
We start by admitting to ourselves wherever we are on our spiritual journey, wherever we are on our inner journey, wherever we are on our waking up journey, by being ruthlessly honest with ourselves about our vulnerability, being ruthlessly honest with ourselves with what is here in our direct experience, in our inner experience. Having the courage to face ourselves totally, always. Not sometimes, not half way, not just when you feel like it, not just when the conditions are right – but always. To notice how we hold back from exposing ourselves to ourselves because we feel we might be judged, because we feel we might be not good enough, because we feel we might be unloved, because we feel we might not be worthy enough.
We start with ourselves by seeing that there is no external authority, but only an imagined one. Whether that imagined one is somebody else in our lives, whether that imagined one is somebody from the past, whether that imagined one is some higher power, whether that imagined one is universal consciousness. To admit to ourselves, to see clearly, to pierce through the veil of illusion, to see that there is no external authority – but only the one in your imagination. If you see that clearly then you can start to have the courage to face yourself, so that everything that is here – wanted or unwanted – can be included in acceptance. This is the heart, this is tenderness towards what is here, this is kindness towards what is here. Most people want to be kind, most people want to be compassionate. But we don’t start in the one place where it matters. And that is within, with your feelings.
Feelings are what is here before it becomes an emotion. An emotion is what happens when it’s gone underground and built up in intensity, when there has been some kind of denial. Feeling is a direct experience. A feeling doesn’t actually last very long. An emotion does last long – until it’s catharted or expressed or transmuted. But a feeling is what we feel all the time. It’s like the wind blowing through us always – it doesn’t last long, it changes. Sensitivity to feeling is what allows the purification of the heart. It’s what happens when we stop armoring the heart, stop defending against what might hurt, stop defending against or denying what might be unwanted, stop protecting ourselves from feeling vulnerable.
Vulnerability is the doorway to openness. And openness is your true nature. Openness is your essential nature. Openness is what you were born as and hopefully openness is what you die as. Denial of that openness creates suffering. But the doorway to that openness is the feeling of vulnerability. We feel vulnerable when there’s a sense of being exposed – exposed to ourselves. Exposure is the same as acceptance, admittance and acceptance. There can be no acceptance if there is no exposure. And there can be no exposure if there is no vulnerability. I’m not talking about the vulnerability of a ‘poor me’ – that is an imagined vulnerability. I’m talking about vulnerability as tenderness.
True wisdom, a wisdom that is truly lived, that is truly breathed, and that has any impact on your life or anyone else’s life cannot be one-sided, it cannot be lopsided. True wisdom arises when the full light of truth falls all the way, into and through your heart into the very belly of your existence. Then wisdom is whole. And wisdom is holy.
That is the invitation of what is offered here. If there is to be any usefulness, to be any benefit to awakening beyond the aggrandizement of the self, something more is required. And that ‘more’ is where the rubber hits the road. That’s the conversation. That’s the investigation. That’s the inquiry that is being invited here.