29 May Avenues for Awakening
As I explained last week, a few years ago Briana started writing a book that directly speaks about spirituality and the awakening of human consciousness. I like the word awakening because the condition of everyday consciousness is often like being in a dream. A dream in which anxiety and depression are considered normal, and awe and delight are less common than outrage or boredom. A dream in which we lose contact with two of our greatest powers – the power to create and the power to see. That is, the power to create our life as we choose, and the power to see the truth – i.e., reality unadulterated by our thoughts, stories, beliefs and all the human drama.
The book is called Rituals for Transformation. Our aim was to address several facets of the human condition that are instrumental in keeping us in this unempowered “dream state.” We organized the 108 lessons of the book into 14 categories, but didn’t use these categories in the book, because after writing the lessons we decided to mix up the order. We realized the process would be more effective if we returned to each category repeatedly – making a sort of spiral through the lessons over three months. As we get ready to launch the second edition of the book, I thought it might be inspiring and informative to write about these categories now.
1: Body Awareness and Reframing
The body (and, more importantly, how we relate to it) is one of the biggest impediments to human consciousness and potential. Most people have limited body awareness combined with excessive identification with the body. By “limited body awareness,” I mean that we’re disconnected from our bodies – we tune out most of the intelligence and felt experience that are available to us through this physical vessel. And by “excessive identification with the body” I mean that (despite being disconnected from what it’s telling us) we tend to define and judge ourselves based on how our body looks, feels, and performs – especially in comparison to others.
We started with the physical body because it’s the outermost level of our being. (You can read more about this concept here.) It’s also the most tangible or earthiest aspect of who we are. The lessons in this category focus on loving and being grateful for the body while recognizing that it isn’t who we are. We also focus on learning to feel into the body and reside more mindfully in it. We look at ways in which our concept of the body leads to feelings of antagonism – how the body’s vulnerability to injury, aging, and sickness can make us feel threatened by it and hostile toward it. And we invite readers to honor and care for the body while also experiencing freedom from its limitations.
2: Reframing Thoughts and Feelings
We could say the mind (or ego – meaning our mental identity, our story about ourselves, which is informed by our body, thoughts, social roles, history, relationships, etc.) is the greatest obstacle to awareness. Even the ways that we’re limited by our body come down largely to our thoughts and feelings about it. The mind isn’t intrinsically bad – we use it to solve problems, communicate, and performs all kinds of everyday tasks – and its associated feelings are part of the specialness of being a human.
But our thoughts and feelings have a tendency to completely monopolize our awareness, and in effect, they become our identity. That is, we forget that who we really are is something else – and when we forget, we lose our power and we suffer.
So, these lessons are about perceiving the difference between Awareness and thoughts/feelings, learning to make inner space so that we have the perspective that enables us to not be run by them. We learn to recognize our inner critic and other tricks of the ego, to see how it degrades our experiences, and to defuse its survival mechanisms. And we remind ourselves that it’s always possible to choose our Highest Self (Spirit) rather than the ego.
3: Resistance and Letting Go
In these lessons, we look at the mechanism of resistance. It’s a very primal survival mechanism – by resisting things that don’t feel or taste good, we might spare ourselves harm. But most people resist every feeling, thought, image, smell, person, situation, etc., that isn’t pleasant. When we resist, there’s an underlying subconscious thought – “If I resist this, it will get better” – and it’s almost always untrue. Instead, the resistance itself becomes an uncomfortable burden that obstructs the authentic experience of reality. It also squelches our power, our energy, and our freedom.
The lessons in this section begin with noticing all the ways we resist life and perceiving the impact of that resistance. We inquire as to what inner stories perpetuate resistance. Then we look at the opposite of resistance – “leaning in” or “turning toward” the object we’ve been resisting, getting curious about it, allowing it, exploring what we feel in relation to it, and accepting those feelings.
If these ideas sound interesting to you, I encourage you to check out Rituals for Transformation. Of everything we’ve written, I feel the most strongly that this book changes people’s lives.
You’ll probably notice that some of these ideas feel poignant – likely to provide challenging and rewarding work – while others may not resonate strongly with you. That’s okay. Our intention is to explore multiple avenues for awakening, knowing that, depending on the person, not all of them may be revolutionary.
If you’ve gone through the book, we’d love to hear about your experience in the comments section below. Next week we’ll look at more of these avenues for awakening.