Updated: Jan 10
"Why do you stay in prison when the door is so wide open?" - Rumi
Life is a long series of endless choices. Each one, however small, creates a shift in trajectory and and heads you inevitably towards some, what you believe will be, hoped for destination. Sometimes it actually is the destination we had planned on but, more often than not, it is somewhere else altogether.
Over the years I have come to terms with that simple fact. I now make a choice knowing full well that, while it will definitely take me somewhere, I don't really know where that somewhere is actually going to be. I am being asked a lot of late "Why have you moved to Europe?" The direct answer is, "I don't really know. I just wanted to."
Truth is, I don't know what I am going to discover here. I don't know what it will bring. I just know that it will bring me somewhere. it will be different and it will be an experience outside of my "normal." That is enough for me. Now, if you want to go even deeper down this rabbit hole, consider this, where do the thoughts and feelings that constitute a decision actually originate?
When I look closely at the inner process of making a choice, what I find is simply a sequence of events:
A desire arises
That triggers a series of thoughts
One thought eventually becomes dominant
Motion towards the now "chosen" goal begins
A few thoughts later the thought comes, "I chose that!"
The "decision" cycle is complete
As hard and as often as I look, I never actually find a chooser. I find the choice and the choosing thought and the thought that later claims ownership. But the chooser is nowhere to be found.
None the less, even after all these years and all the inner work I have done and the blessings I have experienced, even a deep awakening to my true nature, there remains all the feelings of uncertainty, loss and potential gain, the bitter and the sweet, albeit as of yet unknown. Many people believe that deep spiritual insight somehow immunizes you against emotional upset. It doesn't. In fact, because genuine spirituality removes all of the filters and emotional defenses, you actually feel everything more deeply. Highs are higher. Lows are lower. Love is deeper. Grief is total. The only difference, and this is the important part, is that, although even more intense and unbuffered, experience no longer throws you off center. It is simply the experience of life. No... more... it is life. Understanding thus, the highs do not become a dependency and the lows do not disturb an underlying contentment. In other words, you feel everything fully yet without resistance and therefore without suffering.
This may seem quite odd to most. Feeling lost even more deeply and yet not suffer? But it is true. Suffering is resistance to this moment as it is. It does not matter if this moment is pure ecstasy or pure hell. Without resistance there is pure, unfiltered joy and pure unbuffered pain. But there is no suffering.
The ultimate goal of spirituality then, is not to enjoy some material utopia or the endless flow of "having it all." Thinking that it is is the prison door that Rumi refers to. The ultimate goal of the spiritual path is to totally embrace life as the ordinary human being.
It is not to create some perpetual high but to feel the full range of what feeling is capable of. To so embrace it that you find that this is the entire purpose of human life. This embrace is the embrace of heaven.
"Enlightenment is total surrender to the inevitable" as Anthony DiMello puts it.
Spirituality is the sacred path to finding the heart of compassion and then, surrendering to that heart, doing your part to save all beings from suffering. Then, remarkably, you find that, not only is the prison door open, in fact, there is no door... and there never was. So embrace all the ups and downs of life without resistance. Acknowledge that we are flying blind, without a map, in a foreign territory, over unfamiliar terrain and with no place to land. Decide without deciding. Follow the incomplete map from the unknown cartographer. In that bittersweet embrace, deadly to the ego but life giving to the heart, in that spicy deliciousness of surrender to "what is" find a heavenly peace, like the feeling of returning home after a good days work.
That is what lies on the other side of that nonexistent prison door.
Follow your heart. It knows where it is going. It knows the door to the self-created cell is open and is silently taking you to its threshold and beyond.
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