November 12 Bitter and Blissful Awakenings


On Monday, Marie will facilitate.  She shares:  

This week, we will reflect on how our consciousness and/or our lives have changed since we first started to practice.  I began thinking about this last month whilst on retreat with Rinpoche Anam Thubten.  He gave a Dharma talk on the three stages of spiritual practice and described that, in the last stage, one recognizes and transforms the five poisons (hatred, pride, greed, jealousy and ignorance).  He shared that, in his experience, "bitter awakenings" have been more important, more transformational, than blissful awakenings.  When one sees that one is deluded - hooked on an inner poison - one can recognize this, look deeply into this experience and find freedom.   In "No Self, No Problem", he writes: 

When we come to the spiritual path, we have to... be certain that we are not adding another illusion on top of the illusions we already have.  When we look into our consciousness we see that we have many illusions.

What is our main illusion?  The illusion is that I am real.  I am truly existent.  This final illusion is the one we want to hold on to.

There are stages we go through on the path of dissolution and sometimes the first stage is a bit painful.  Sometimes it has a bitter taste because it is painful to lose what we are attached to...  Did you ever experience going through your old clothes, pictures and paperwork and find that you have a lot of things that are totally useless?  They are useless, yet when we have to make the radical choice to throw them away it is painful because we have great memories attached to them.  We wore that tee shirt when we fell in love...  For these reasons, dissolving illusions can sometimes be very painful...  

What is transcendent wisdom?  It is a direct momentary process of dissolving all illusion right now in this very moment.  It is dissolving the illusion of pain, sorrow and hatred.  It is dissolving the illusion of self...

It is good to lose everything sometimes.  It is good to get out of the straight jacket and get free from everything that has been imprisoning us throughout many lifetimes.  It is truly liberating to lose all of our cherished illusions, including the illusion of self.  Giving up all mental exertion, especially the mental exertion we use to sustain the illusion of "I", the illusory separation between the self and the other.  When we give up this effort, then suddenly all illusions just go away.  We really don't have to do anything.  It's all about stopping.  We simply stop perpetuating and holding on to illusions.  The illusions don't have their own life force.  They are ready to dissolve in each and every moment.  It's just a matter of tie.  When we wholeheartedly decide to no longer sustain the illusions, they collapse.

If we close our eyes for a few moments and pay attention to our mind, we see that somebody is working very hard.  Their main work, their full time employment, is to come up with concepts, ideas and story lines about the past, present and future with one clear goal: sustaining illusory reality.  This full time employee is called "ego".  It's story line is "I'm good. I'm bad.  I don't have enough. Somebody hurt me.  I'm too old.  I'm too young and so forth.  All these are concepts produced by ego...

However, when we decide wholeheartedly to no longer sustain illusions all of this collapse.  It takes a lot of energy to keep producing the story lines to feed the nonexistent, illusory reality. Suddenly, when we stop producing concepts and ideas, when we stop feeding that illusory reality, when we stop associating with the ego, it is very simple.  The moment we stop associating with ego it just immediately ceases right there.  And in that moment, we fall in love with the truth.  

What has been your experience?  If you reflect back on how you were before you started practicing relative to how you are now, what has changed?  Can you identify the source of these changes - in terms of insights or transformation?  To what extent have your awakenings been bitter or blissful, and what are the implications for your practice going forward?

I look forward to us sharing our experiences on Monday night.