IN THE WORLD, BUT NOT OF IT

Awakening, the holy grail.

Awakening, the icing on the cake.

Awakening, the carrot at the end of the stick.

Awakening, the magic bullet.

Awakening, you want it. You seek it. You chase it. You give up caring about anything else in order to get it.

Awakening, you hope it takes away your pain. You expect it to erase all your problems. You imagine it will lift you up, beyond the mess of the world.

Awakening, you understand there is ultimately no self. You know there is really nobody here. You get it that time is only now and space is only here. You are empty, still, silent. You are unbounded awareness, and there is no suffering. You are free.

Until something happens. You get pulled back into the world. You get sick and experience excruciating pain. You fall in love, you fall out of love, you get triggered. Your parents don’t see how free you are, they continue to treat you like a child, and you feel angry. You think you’ve become a spiritual teacher, but people judge you, and you feel misunderstood. You think you can live in a perfect paradise where everything happens by itself, but life is sometimes turbulent and you feel discomfort and uncertainty.

What happened? Well, you had to engage with the world. You still have a body. You still have thoughts and feelings. The more you get your hands dirty in the mess of the world because you’re fired up with a mission and you need to get things done in order for your mission to flow into the world, the more you sacrifice emptiness to return to fullness.

And you start to wonder … does the world erase awakening? What happened to the pristine peace, the untainted silence, the undisturbed stillness? Can awakening fade away? You hanker - ever so subtly - for the freedom of no-thing. And gradually you start oscillating again from feeling enlightened to feeling weighed down by the human condition.

But friend, it is right here in the midst of this conundrum that the initial high of liberation from form can deepen into a spiritual maturity that includes form. It is right here in the blood, sweat and tears of going beyond your comfort zone, of doing what it takes to learn and grow, in the grit of trying and failing and getting up again, in the fire of exposure when you truly show yourself to the world, that the sharp blade of wisdom is forged and that the true radiance of an illuminated heart is revealed.

Friend, it is only after walking the path of tender openness for seemingly forever, only after awakening has become so ordinary you can no longer remember what it was like to live in the dream, only after you stop hankering after stillness or spaciousness or silence, that form and formlessness fuse into one. And now, you come to realize they were always one anyway.

Now, you dance in the paradox of emptiness and fullness. Now, all resistance to the exquisite agony of the human experience comes to an end.

And now, awakening is just a word.

You are free, all over again.

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