In a recent correspondence with a reader, I was asked how it is that some “spiritual” teachers talk of success, mastering the mind, and motivation, while others like Tom Stine speak of having absolutely no control.
This raises a key point I talk about regularly. Understanding is an important part of the spiritual journey for many of us. But understanding is all about context.
It’s important to always keep in mind that when states of consciousness change, knowledge, perception and understanding change. We know from experience that our perception of the world is quite different in waking, dreaming, and sleep states.
This is similar in other “higher” states. I find it easiest to understand states by comparing the perspectives they create. Then we can see how it progresses. In a Survival perspective, ideas like success and control are meaningless. Life is focused on simple being. In a Tribal perspective, we look to the group for guidance, generally feel fairly powerless and see authority as having all the power – be it government, God, or whatever we feel a part of. In its weaker state, it is called Victim thinking. We feel at the mercy of events, others, and so forth. This is a dominant meme today.
Self-empowerment is the next stage, where the sense of a personal me becomes strongest. Most of our leaders have a strong ego. Most of the motivational, success and related teachers speak to this perspective, encouraging self-empowerment, getting one out of a powerless state. At its worst, it is egocentricity. At its best, self-contained & responsible.
(we can also see these stages in various aspects of child development)
With the approach of Self realization, one shifts into the witness mode. In that state, the me is no longer the doer. Life simply happens. As we are not the doer, all ideas of control are seen as illusion. The world is seen as a play, a lila or maya.
self becomes Self (or no-self), peace, freedom and then bliss become prominent aspects of the experience.
Interestingly, intention and action remain. What changes is who is perceived to be doing/intending. We see life as simply happening, the laws of action playing out within its own field. We stand separate, the observer, liberated from control.
As perception refines, the true mechanism of doing and the doers become apparent. This unfolds into finer feeling values and the realization of the divine.
Finally, there is the realization that I and Thou are One. There is no other. Now one is again the doer, but not as a me. Rather as the one doer, the cosmic Self. This gets increasingly difficult to explain. But it’s like the discovery that all past and future are in the moment. In the same way, all the layers of doing and being are right now, here. They are expressing though this apparent individual vehicle. One is both the doer and the non-doer, the witness to doing. They are discovered to be the same thing.
In other words, the apparently opposite viewpoints of control and no control are each correct for their respective states of awareness. We follow what is most true for us, but keep an awareness of what is a little more true of reality. Where our awareness is going. No making a mood of oneness or pretending. Just being aware of a higher way of seeing.
It’s also not all tidy and separate. We’ll have areas in life where we’re developing self empowerment. Other areas where we’re learning to allow it to be as it is and relinquish the need for control. And other places where we feel one with it and the masters of the universe.
If we keep a general framework in mind when we’re looking at any given teaching, we’ll have a quick gauge of where it’s coming from and thus how suitable it is for us. I’m all for reading Nisargadatta. But for most of us, it won’t be a one step shift. If we’re trying to gauge next steps on the journey, best to look at what’s in front of us.
If you’re living in the world, there is every reason to learn how to use attention and intention, whatever state you may be living. That’s how everything gets done. Even awakening. Evolution is only in our perception of who it is that’s doing. And who isn’t?