A human being blessedly is endowed with a dual capacity: to experience our oh-so-mortal physicality and simultaneously to attune, in the stillness of the now, to the timeless reality of which we partake. To be incarnate is to inhabit a body, even as we can detect — very nearly feel, in a palpable way — a larger truth enfolding and saturating our temporal existence. This means that in addition to attuning us to the sensory world, the body is the “vehicle” through which we know the timeless now.
Here is what spiritual awakening is about: living a fully human life — brimful of love, death, and (yes!) profound sorrow — all the while being neither defined nor imprisoned by any of it. To partake consciously of our twin endowments is the greatest good fortune imaginable.
Many a well-meaning seeker, aching for freedom from suffering, will turn spirituality into a means to an end.
Our capacities may seem incompatible and irreconcilable, but they are not. Both are thrillingly real. Only to the ordinary mind (or in reductive religious or spiritual orientations to “reality”) do vastness and mortality appear contradictory. Attempting mentally to reconcile the two is a waste of effort, of precious life.
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The term incarnation classically is used to refer to Jesus Christ. The historical figure was a man. He also is said to have been the son of God. Nor is it delusional — or blasphemous! — for you or me to sense that we too partake of the mystery that gave rise to Christianity. I cannot imagine the historical Christ having wished for us anything sweeter than palpably to know the intersection of time and timelessness. Nor is it relevant whether we consider ourselves Christians. None of what Christ was about has remotely to do with a system of belief, which cannot hope to be anything but reductive.
Any religious system, its structures likely infused with ideas and dogma, is a pale and sad diminishment of the underlying reality it points to. Yet most organized religions, most of which involve the existence of a deity, appear to have arisen from a deep intuiting of the larger truth of existence, in many cases thousands of years ago.
A good deal of contemporary spirituality unfortunately is subject to the same phenomenon. A spiritual framework may well shed light on the larger truth of things. Yet many a well-meaning seeker, aching for freedom from suffering, will turn spirituality into a means to an end, rather than simply taking refuge in its wisdom as each moment of life arrives. Perennially keeping the eyes fixed on a desired future looks over the head of what is, just now. The desire to awaken thereby (most poignantly) actually interferes with the prospect of coming to know radical peace — to see that “it” is already here, however seldom it may be experienced.
Evidence of this phenomenon is the nondual allergy to the use of the word “I,” along with the tortured practice of referring to oneself in the third person (“the character”). What’s wrong with having a name, with being a somebody? As if using the correct lingo had anything whatever to do with attuning to reality! It is a colossal squandering of life energy, altogether missing the point, without benefit for one longing to become free of mental constructs and identity. Isn’t it clear that the strained effort to say-it-right is the activity of the very mind that’s in the way of radical truth? However well intended, it’s all misguided and useless.
Yet the underlying wisdom of nonduality — rather like what underlies much religious doctrine — is surely profound. It points to the possibility of being an “I” without its generating torment. When a person is relieved of crippling attachment to the self, cleansed of the familiar identification and belief, inhabiting a human skin can turn out to be delicious. Because none of mortal experience is any longer mistaken for what we are.
Isn’t that the point, after all? To get to be a person and yet not to be lost in the head? To be liberated from lifelong identification with what life has endowed us with, good or bad? What more could a person wish for?
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In the months following my awakening, one of the more stunning moments of dawning had to do with my finally deeply “getting” Jesus Christ. I was in my car and suddenly had to pull over, lest I plow into another vehicle. I needed stillness just then, to enable the shocking realization to register fully. I could never forget it: I saw — actually felt, inside my skin — the truth of that man’s existence. I felt how his presence palpably shimmered — shimmers still, to this day — with an aching tenderness. It’s the wish that each of us could know what he came to realize in himself: that we all are both human and divine. That there’s no contradiction whatever. Blasphemy? Only to a mind imprisoned by dogma.
[From a forthcoming book by Jan Frazier]