The Awakened One
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We can give four steps on the Way in the human realm.
3) Found and Lost, or Lost and Found
4) Neither Found nor Lost
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Anam Thubten shares on the wisdom of getting lost -
Years ago, I was invited to participate in a friend's wedding ceremony that was to be held in Northern California. At that time, GPS was very new, but the person who gave me a ride said, "Don't worry, the GPS will get us there." So he and I "hit the road," or in this case, the highway. It was fun, and the GPS was telling us where to go. It felt like a magical, omniscient, omnipresent object, something out of the ordinary. Eventually the GPS directed us to take an exit, and we suddenly started driving on small roads into the mountains. The GPS couldn't direct us anymore, and we got lost. I thought to myself that the GPS is like the thinking mind. At some point, you have to take a leap into the unknown. You have to jump off the ledge of the thinking mind. You have to jump off the ledge of the known and leap into the unknown. The mind can take you to a certain point, but then, like the GPS, it doesn't work. Then you have to let go of it and use something else.
*The Citadel of Awareness.
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Persons speak of following their heart or where their heart leads. They are saying, "I'm going to follow my feelings." Others lean toward the reasoning of the mind. They are saying, "I'm going to reason this out and go the logical way." Yet, there is a point on the Way where the heart and mind no longer work for us. They cease leading us at this threshold of unmediated encounter with the Unknown.
Most persons live on the mediated side of Reality. A spiritual path trains us in this, providing means to connect with the Sacred, the Unseen. But what next? For example, many Christians partake of the Eucharist. What happens when that propels one toward a direct experience of what the Eucharist points to? Spiritual acts can only take us so far.
This point of unmediated Reality is a challenging crossing for us. We are habituated to reference points, like hiking in the forest and finding orientation from signs along the pathway. Scriptures, rituals, teachers, and community have given us a sense of location - where we have been, where we are, and moving toward.
I was a mid-teen. Two friends and I began walking a creek near my home. I had never tried to see where it led. I had viewed it from the road and once descended the slop to it and drank its cold, pure waters. Walking it, before long, we were lost. We were disoriented. We did not know if we were walking north, south, west, or east. Everything was unfamiliar. We decided to keep walking in hope, following the creek farther into the wood. We, finally, came out on a clearing of a neighbor's farm. At first, I did not know where we were. I had never been back on that farm. I saw the farmhouse in the distance, which told me where we were and how to get home. By this one familiar sign in an otherwise unfamiliar landscape, disorientation moved into orientation. We were soon back where I lived. I recall that first moment of feeling lost. The fear felt primal. Like this, we can feel a passage on the Way where the familiar becomes the unknown on the Way. It is usual to feel anxiety facing this unknown landscape.
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When facing the lightless unknown, the question arises, "Am I willing to keep going?" If "I" is the ego, or the sense of separate individual, the answer will likely be, "No way!" We will pull back into the familiar landscape. If the answer comes from the True Self, the Self already united with Life and everyone, the reply is likely to be - even if said with trepidation -, "Okay. Let's go."
So, we have a holy invitation stepping from the known into the unknown. This moment is a place to rest and let the Way show the Way. "Rest" does not mean doing nothing. "Rest" entails engaging the Way with an entrustment of ourselves to Grace. We relax in surrender to and communion with our Source. Some say God becomes the pilot, and we become the co-pilot. We come to see we are neither.
We give up, resigning ourselves into the unknown, and we discover the unknown is the One summoning us to Itself. We may think Spirit leads us into the unknown, when Spirit leads us more deeply into Spirit. Spirit is the Unknown. The unknown is Unknown, so it is a Presence, not an absence. Not being able to conceptualize Presence can be frightening to the self-sense.
This transition does not mean we did not know anything of Spirit before. We knew what we could understand of Spirit. Now, the navigation equipment of the senses no longer works. We are led in what we cannot understand. We come to enjoy understanding that we cannot understand. In this non-understanding, sublime intimacy arises. Spirit becomes that leading us into an unmediated and continuing experiential encounter with Itself.
Once we have tasted the sweetness of this closeness, we have no wish to return to the time before we got lost. We know we are found, for we are lost. Then, found and lost dissolve in the union of Pure Presence. We no longer hold an idea of either being found or lost. If we could say anything, it might be, "I'm found and lost." Yet, that is not true, finally.
Does this make walking the Way easier? In a sense, yes, in a sense, no. The summons to entrust ourselves to the Grace of the Unkown continues. Even as we had to learn to use the senses in our relationship with the Beloved, we enter schooling in this new means of navigation, one we will receive little support to follow. This lack of outer encouragement leads us to lean more into Spirit to take care of us. We will find few companions to walk with, for few enter the bright darkness of Pure Faith. Spirit is that Bright Darkness.
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So, this is a beginning again, as we learn to be with the Sacred based on direct - not sense-mediated - agency. We walk, not knowing where we walk, yet we walk. The walk becomes enough. In time, we can no longer say, "I walk," yet, walking happens. We are going nowhere, yet walking continues, so we find an unceasing pageant of discovery.
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*© Brian K. Wilcox, 2021
*Brian's book, An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, can be ordered through major online booksellers or the publisher AuthorHouse. The book consists of poems based on wisdom traditions, predominantly Christian, Buddhist, and Sufi, with extensive notes on the poetry's teachings and imagery.