Excerpt taken from the May 23rd, 2021 Sunday Satsang talking about the need for radical honesty along the spiritual path of awakening, and the need to have your loyalty be to your direct experience not your conditioned ideas.
Excerpt talking about finding those ‘shoulds’ that cause so much suffering and learning to trust life, trust your Self rather than acting from old conditioning. Taken from a Satsang during the December 2020 Diving Deep 7 day retreat.
It’s rare that we don’t impose some kind of limit, condition or expectation on ourselves as to who, what or how we should be in this world. This causes immense suffering as we’re then having to try to constantly keep up and meet these things, often falling short we then feel like we’re at war with life… which is exhausting. Accepting yourself and dropping these overlaid impositions leads to a sense of ease and naturalness of life.
But it’s not easy… these conditions are sometimes so subtle we don’t see them as such. We have to get good at discerning what is intrinsically YOU, an outpouring of your essence, and what is acquired.
Transformation comes when the old conditioning and ways of thinking that inevitably cease to serve are let go of. Their cracks begin to show, yet there’s still comfort felt in them as they’re known like an old pair of slippers whose time of service has come to an end. But when life is calling for growth and change these old habits being to feel like an increasingly heavy straightjacket, keeping one foot planted in the past. We are never who we were even yesterday and that which may have served us dearly invariably has to be sacrificed in service of what is happening in the current moment.
A step into the new and unknown may seem like a scary risk but let your loyalty be to the NOW. Let your loyalty be with what is opening up before you and you will see the fruits of this trust in life’s wisdom. Even though there may be trepidation, notice how fully you are held. Life comes up to meet you with each step, even when there’s fear, even when there’s hesitation, even when there’s resistance.
Life asks of us that leap of faith, that bold courage as we let ourselves be surrendered to who and what we are in THIS present moment. Let the old fall away and you will find that it transforms and gives way to the infinite possibilities of NOW.
“Love sometimes looks like having strong boundaries”
Story time… Boundaries are something I’ve always struggled with, in fact it’s probably been THE number one struggle in life for me. While it’s almost unrecognisably night and day compared with how it used to be, I still do struggle with it because that conditioning is so well ingrained. But luckily life shows up in ways to test where I still have trouble standing in my healthy and necessary boundaries.
And so boundaries is a topic I’ve shied away from writing about up until now, not because I don’t want to (believe me I’ve started to write about boundaries countless times!) but mainly because it’s such a big topic for me that I didn’t even know where to begin – posts ended up rambling and jumping all over the place. I think it’s also difficult because I’m still walking it, I’m still living the learning and growing from it. It’s raw, it’s intimate, it’s a big unknown because I’m not talking of a subject that’s all wrapped up in a neat bow, it’s woven throughout the fabric of my story in ways that I’m sure I haven’t yet gotten the big enough perspective of time to see some of the bigger lessons and themes fully. It’s coming, it’s happening, which is maybe why this is getting written right now.
Through my difficulties I’ve learnt that setting and keeping boundaries can actually be THE MOST LOVING AND HEALTHY THING that you can do when relating to both yourself and others.
A few years back this was a new and wildly scary one for me to accept. Like I was stepping on to an alien planet where all the rules had been turned upside down and I couldn’t fathom this is could actually be true. You see, somewhere along the line I had picked up the idea of the opposite of this being true; ‘No’ was not something acceptable for me to feel. No was not kind, no was not loving, no meant you were selfish and unreasonable, unloveable even. No was negative. No meant you were protecting your ego and if you were in a constant state of yes-ness to life then you were surely spiritually evolved.
In fact in my childlike innocence and ignorance I somehow misunderstood (or probably heard in a way that fit my learnt conditioning) that spiritually speaking if this was all one unified consciousness… then there ARE no boundaries… boundaries were false conceptions of the ego-mind to be gotten rid of. Somehow ‘no’ as a healthy and natural expression of life got twisted up into that idea of boundaries = bad. See… told you I had big issues and misunderstandings to unpick around this stuff !!!
‘No’ equated to wrongness for me and so I used to think my no’s were a pathology, a failing, a bad girl, an unlovable aspect of myself. I continually ignored them to the point that quite early on in my life I struggled to even say the simplest of no’s or ask for what I needed. This led me into a dark place of not only people pleasing and putting myself second to the point of mental and even on occasion physical danger. But more importantly it also led me to the point where I lost touch with my intuition and self knowing light. It put me on a path of having too many internalise voices of ‘should’ rather than being able to recognise my inherent and wisdom-filled true voice of Self.
For me it’s be a long journey home to this wisdom of self boundaries. So long that initially I didn’t even realise how off course I was because my boundaries were so covered up and hidden that when someone encouraged me to have my own boundaries, I felt lost, I felt confused, I felt like they were actually doing something wrong TO me, not helping me!
No’s are still in many ways uncomfortable for me. I still on occasion have a voice (yes albeit a very faint one now) that gets me almost looking over my shoulder as if I’ve done something wrong. But I’ve learnt that a ‘no’ honours yourself and in turn honours the other in that you’re not doing something that actually breeds resentment in your heart. Others can trust you then, trust you to communicated with them where you’re at, even if they don’t like what they’re hearing. Your yeses are true, clear and authentic and nothing is going unsaid and festering, there’s no reading (or misreading) between the lines.
I’ve learnt to love my no’s. I’ve learnt that “no” is a complete sentence too!! I’ve also learnt that my spontaneous natural expression is that of going with the flow (enneagram 9 anyone). As it happens my heart IS a (mostly) continuous yes to life, not as a pathology but because that happens to be in alignment with the most loving action and least resistance for me – acceptance… I learnt my yeses through learning about my no’s, so when there is a no… that no is to be listened to and to be trusted and honoured. That no is accepted wholeheartedly. That no is a sacred part of life. That no is just as much of a yes to life. That no, in that moment IS the most loving expression of life.
“Bring conscious awareness to it all, see the unfolding dynamics and suchness of life without overlaying the beliefs of the limited conditioned mind. Drop all ideas of how life ‘should’ be and live in the flow of how life is.”
“Don’t get caught in the mud of the mind…”
Post-Awakening Integration & Releasing Old Conditioning
Q: I’m fearful of what will happen as I continue on this journey of awakening. It’s coming up right now because working with you these past weeks I finally experienced a shift into Unity Consciousness and see the integration deepening as well. But the fear is mainly there because after my initial shift into non-duality a year ago I had a pretty traumatic time of instability and integration where I couldn’t function in the world very well. I don’t want to go back into that unstableness and overwhelm that came with that first major shift. I’ve felt this sense of “My God what is coming next, what if it’s like the other time?” And while it’s not been like that at all this time so far, I still have a little bit of fear of “how will this be?” I feel I can’t make plans because I don’t know how I will be in the coming weeks and months and this scares me.
That you will hit against a major period of instability is an assumption and definitely not a certainty at all. What I can say is that you will go through what you need to go through, but it rarely looks exactly the same. Especially once you’ve gone through something all the way to the bottom and it’s done. The next time it’s got it’s own flavour and shape to it, but it’s never the same.
So on the topic of stability I can’t offer you any guarantees, but I doubt it will look the same as it did a year ago. You’ve been through a lot since then, and a lot of wisdom has been embodied and a lot of trauma released and integrated.
But in the broader sense it’s also a good lesson for life really, that actually we can’t plan and we really don’t know what life will throw at us at any given moment. In many ways life gives us what it needs to give us for our evolutionary and spiritual growth. In some ways we are at life’s mercy and any plans are pretty futile unless they are just seen as a sketch.
To me this is where faith comes in – the trust and love of life itself to show us the way. This is why I use the word Grace so much, because to me, it’s all Grace and it’s all a gift. There’s an assumption generally that gifts are nice. But gifts are not always nice, nevertheless they are gifts because they show you something, they give you something or they teach you something. Life doesn’t give us anything that we can’t handle and the human capacity is phenomenal. It blows me away to constantly see the resilience and capacity of human beings.
But I understand that fear and while the appearance of fear in your experience needs to be fully acknowledged rather than ignored, I also encourage you to question whether that fear is actually calling on something in you to go into it, rather than away from it. Our mind plays all sorts of tricks and what-ifs but what’s happening is not necessarily any of the things that you fear it will be. Often the presence of fear is actually fear of the unknown itself. The mind wants certainty but life inherently can’t provide that for the mind.
Recently I’ve been getting many people coming to me with similar stuff. They’ve already awakened and have stabilised in that recognition and yet they’re struggling with integrating aspects of life to varying degrees. Some struggling on little things and some are struggling in a big way. But the answer is the same – going into the experience, not away from it. There’s a subtle assumption that all prior ‘issues’ will be solved upon awakening. It’s not true! Sometimes there’s even a feeling of “I shouldn’t be dealing with this stuff anymore, I should be done with it, I thought I’d be done with all this ‘personal’ stuff.”
Q: Yes I’ve noticed there are quite a few people that are struggling so much with this, “I just can’t deal with more and I wanted it to go away, I want it to f**k off. Really, I just can’t deal with this.”
I recently talked with someone who post-awakening everything’s been going great for a good while and then they hit this similar sort of thing. There was still a sense of, “Okay, so this is arising and I can sit with this for X amount of time but at some point, okay, now it needs to be done.” And so sitting together we came to the discovery that there was this sense in them that “Okay, now I should be done. Now you need to go.” And it’s actually at that point I believe, it’s the learnt conditioning that’s still present kicking in and is saying that something shouldn’t be the way it is.
And that’s the point at which they needed to hold it closer, get more intimate with whatever is arising. Not in terms of “I need to keep this” but in terms of, if there’s a sense arising of, “Okay this needs to be done” that’s when the most self compassion and attentiveness needs to be present. That’s when the most space, the most attention, the most acceptance, and the most love needs to be felt because that’s actually the call inward right there. It’s the call out of the head and into the heart of awareness. Into the subtler, a-conceptual nature of life where the call of acceptance for all that arises is heard. But the conditioned mind has a tendency to go, “Right, I’m going to throw a stone in the bush, and I’m going to distract you”. This is because it feels the attention and the sense of control slipping away from itself (the mind).
To me that’s a handy little hint indicating that you need to break out the ‘inner child compassion’. Where you go, “Okay, all right, you want to be done but that’s just a subtle form of rejection. We can sit here for as long as you need to be here. You can be present and you are free to go when you need to go as well. But I am not going to give you any rules to live by.” I won’t sugar coat it, it’s really hard to break that particular conditioning. To break that cycle of feeling like, “Okay, now I’m done. I’ve been at it for a couple of years. Now is the time to get my reward, time to get the good stuff. Now it’s time to be done with all of this”.
But it’s actually when you lean into that feeling that the space of emptiness opens up. And that’s the space of love and the fulfilment of all the things that we’re searching for. That’s where you find all of life, all of love and it’s not a goal, it’s just the natural fragrance and emanation of it.
Q: How is it for you when these things come? Because I know you also struggled lots with this initially post-awakening.
I still do occasionally. This is the thing people don’t get and so I try to be really honest with this because there’s the assumption that I don’t struggle is in of itself an idea that perpetuates the idea that “It’s just my problem. No-one else deals with this. (S)he’s got it all sorted out. (S)he’s done. I’m wrong, I’m broken. When I’m ‘awake’ I’ll be fixed.”
And it’s not true. Not true at all.
Q: But does it arise in the same way as before?
I would say the intensity, length and the frequency are much less, mainly because when I see it arising, there’s not a breath of hesitation in that I know what this is. I’ve been through it enough times. I’ve been there, I’ve done that, I know what needs to be done now. So I hit up against these pockets. They’re like coal seams in the way that you’re going along in life and you hit up against a pocket. These pockets in life show up sometimes, it’s not like you have to go digging for them. It could be a new situation that you hadn’t bumped into before, or an old school friend, or any number of things. But now I recognise it, it’s familiar and my body recognises it. It’s not even to do with the mind anymore, it’s just that I physically recognise it and I allow and greet it like an old friend.
Not only do I allow it or put up with it but I love it too. And I don’t mean I smother it in love, what I mean is I accept it, I allow it and I am compassionate to that aspect in myself that is arising. I don’t try and reject it, I don’t try and push it away, I’m compassionate with it and I give space to it. Whatever’s coming up needs to be there and it’s calling for my attention. The way I respond to it is almost with the attitude of that’s the least I could do – not because I should but because that’s what feels most true and loving. That I can give it my attention in the moment, that’s the least I could do. So I give it my attention and my love. I give my attention to all these other things in life, why can’t I give that thing that is coming up the same level of care and attention?
Q: Yeah, so true. And when you do that do you feel it doesn’t take long for you to move through it?
It depends. It depends on the level of intensity or the size and depth of that pocket. Sometimes it’s a tiny little thing and I barely notice it even before it’s gone, it’s only a momentary something. But sometimes it might be a couple of hours or even days that are needed to attend to what’s coming up. They’re much less frequent now, those kind of big pockets. But they do come up. But also I haven’t got the attitude of ‘needing to move through it’ anymore, as if what’s showing up is wrong. I accept it fully as part of the current of life.
But as an example, I had one come up a few weekends ago. Some situation came up and I recognised it was something that I hadn’t dealt with since almost the beginning of mine and Martyn’s relationship. It had been in the background all this time, so much so that I hadn’t even noticed it was still there because it hadn’t actively come up in so many years. And then this big pocket came up and, whoah, the intensity of that was so vivid, so raw. I spent a sleepless night just sitting with it very intensely. I was watching this process of the mind and the body literally trying anything it could to get out of this situation that it found itself in. Any excuse to not sit with it and include it, integrate it or embrace it, and to instead run far away from it. But I found myself saying to myself, “Okay, all right, it’s okay, you’re trying to get out of the situation and I hold the space for that even.” Even in that desperate mind-body attempt to avoid the crap that was being felt, I was present and holding enough space for that. So yeah, it still happens for sure.
You see I’d done very little ‘work’ before awakening compared to the depth that I discovered was needed to be held, healed and integrated post-awakening. The intensity of what I felt a couple of weekends ago was what it felt like pretty continuously for many months initially post-awakening. I’m amazed I got through it in those early days, but I did, even though there were times where I felt that I might not make it – quite literally. It was quite unexpected, the level of intensity for me. It’s probably why I put so much focus on helping others in this way now.
Q: It’s the same for me. It’s so much less and not so frequently now than a year ago.
These things do pass in really a relatively short period of time but we think that it will last forever when we’re in the midst of it. Even the intensity of those first few months and year(s) post-awakening, when it feels like it will go on forever, in time it’s seen as only a small part of your life story.
I feel the processing of these pockets could almost be likened to when you get just a little bit of a song stuck in your head. Round and round the same chorus or the same couple of bars of music or something and you cannot for the life of you get it out of your head, no matter what you do. You have to be finally willing to play the song all the way through to the end, otherwise what happens is you get stuck on the little brain worm of a couple of bars or the chorus over and over again.
And so the willingness to do that has to come about. And it’s not something you can force because sometimes you’re just not ready to go there and do that. But eventually whatever is coming up has to be played out, and when it’s played out fully, it’s done. Then in the future, when something comes up, it may be very similar but it won’t ever be the same thing exactly.
So surrender is actually what is required. It’s that surrender and freefall into the allowing of the full song to be played out. I feel it’s actually the only way eventually.
But sometimes we’re like “No, no, quick, quick, I want the song to be done”. But the song has exactly the right amount of beats, the right amount of words, it’s got its rhythm, its pace. It’s the full length of the song and you can’t speed the song up and end it any quicker, you also can’t slow it down and keep it going.
So the recognition of this process brings an ease to it in itself actually because then you get to learn your rhythm. You get to learn the rhythm of this song playing out, and then it becomes less alien. You’re no longer thinking “Oh what is this?” And I think that’s the thing that comes in time is the recognition of, “Oh, this is what’s happening. This is nothing to be afraid of”. It’s actually old stuff that’s coming up that needs to be processed. It needs to be gone through instead of trying to push against it.
Q: Yeah, I can’t do it, even though I’m trying to escape it for sure unconsciously, and sometimes consciously. But it’s impossible. I have to stay with it.
And maybe you’ve also noticed the more you don’t listen to life, the louder it gets. Learn to actually listen to that intuition and trust it. For me, I feel it in my gut, but I think other people feel it in different places in their body – but it’s never the mind! If I ignore that intuition, and the more and more I ignore it, the louder and louder the lesson gets.
Q: Yeah. Before awakening I could only see the results of ignoring my intuition later, maybe some days, a week after. But now it’s instantaneous.
Yes, it’s keeping you right there in the present moment process. It’s life’s mechanism for keeping you honest and truthful to yourself. Sometimes those intuitions go against every rule, go against every idea that society has about what you should or shouldn’t be doing. But you cannot not listen to it because it is the right thing for you. Even if seven billion people tell you it’s the wrong thing, it’s the right thing for you and only you will know that. Being centred in your heart and not your conditioned mind you’ll know if it comes from a true and honest place of Self intuition or if it’s coming from layers of conditioning and ego. Awakening certainly makes it easier to see those distinctions.
Once you let go of those layers, or once those layers have dissolved and gone, each of us has the answer to life in this moment. Not the answer that it ‘should’ be, but the actual natural, spontaneous answer to every moment. It’s comes from truth, your truth, not my truth, not anyone else’s truth. Just truth, your truth.
I feel we are conditioned into so much shame and wrongness with our experience. It’s very difficult to go against that conditioning or break it, but it’s very simple in terms of the work that needs to be done. So the reconditioning, or the deconditioning of that shame and that wrongness is a big part of the post-awakening work and embodiment in many ways. Because it’s going away from the ‘shoulds’ and into the ‘what is’. But you really physically feel that shaming, that wrongness in your body, and it’s hard to ignore.
So I think wrongness is a big one to get over for most people. When we have a conditioned sense of wrongness for whatever’s appearing in our experience, there’s a voice that says “This is wrong. This isn’t correct. I shouldn’t be feeling this. I shouldn’t be going through this. I shouldn’t be, shouldn’t be, shouldn’t be”. When we recognise this to be false the release that we feel is that relaxing into the sense of “Okay, this isn’t wrong. This really isn’t wrong. None of it is. It’s all perfectly as it is”. The release of any sense of wrongness is to me so powerful.
I feel there’s actually no such thing as ‘wrong’ experientially speaking. Because the idea of wrong automatically creates a sense of separation between something correct in consciousness and something incorrect. But if it’s appearing, or happening, surely this IS consciousness, this IS life too!
Q: Yeah. I’m doing wrong, I’m being wrong, and the shame of many different things.
For most it’s been a lifetime of that, this is why it takes time and it can be a difficult one to fall away. We talk about there being no time, yes, it’s all now. But at the same time, in the paradox, there is time too, and it takes time for these things to unwind and unfold. It takes great patience and great forgiveness of oneself.
Q: What do you think the difference is between dealing with these things post-awakening and pre-? Is it easier? Is there less resistance?
Before awakening it’s difficult to really deal with and see a lot of the conditioned behaviours because the ego-mind strategy and structure is working against this in many ways. Functionally it’s protecting the mind and self image from going into the depths of held beliefs where it all begins to fall apart and be seen though. But a certain amount of ‘work’ can be done as you go without a doubt. I personally just wasn’t very successful at this, or rather I should say my mind was very efficient at building structures to avoid this! Post-awakening a lot of these false structures and identities dissolved or at least were seen through, so this is when there was true openness to have it all arise. The brakes came off, so to speak.
Generally I’d say after awakening what happens is that there’s an acceptance of whatever is arising. There’s nowhere else to go, there’s nothing to be done that isn’t already happening, it’s just what is arising in consciousness. And so the human experience is very raw in that way because you’re faced with whatever’s coming up in your life. So that’s where I’d say there’s lack of resistance – you can’t hide from life, it’s just happening.
Even in that recognition and acceptance, resistance or fighting against something can still show up. But the meta of that is that there’s a complete acceptance somewhere in there, maybe deep down even, there’s the acceptance that “Okay, this is what’s happening”.
This sounds like a very ordinary and obvious thing, which it is, but it’s the full acceptance of the recognition that there’s nothing else other than this. This is what life is presenting right now. This is what is showing up in me. And so therefore it’s not wrong.
But that can take a little bit of time to come to trust this as old conditioning still plays out that says otherwise. So initially this can feel very groundless and there can be a lot of fear that can come up with that. The rules of right and wrong in regard to experiences get thrown out and you’re just left with the suchness of life.
If you’ve been conditioned to believe that the feeling of groundlessness is wrong, that you’re a broken human being if you experience that, then that can bring up a lot of embodied trauma and fear of uncertainty. You can intimately feel that sense of groundlessness, the emptiness, the void; but the mind interprets the lack of control and the lack of anything to hold on to as threatening to itself. It can feel like life or death to the conditioned mind, and this can take some patience and courage to work though as life gently guides you to see that it’s actually not true; that groundlessness is the ground of your Self and it’s nothing to fear.
But even in this post-awakening process of unwinding old conditioning and integrating the current lived and embodied experience, fundamentally there’s a recognition and acceptance that whatever is showing up simply is. It’s not even right or wrong, it just IS. And what is is not personal, it’s just an arising in consciousness.
The ‘Conversations & Questions’ series comes from snippets of conversations taken from emails, 1-on-1 sessions, group meetings or in-person conversations. I take out any personal or sensitive content, but often these conversations have a universality to them that can be helpful to more than just one person. Feel free to get in touch via email, social media or even post your question in the comments below and I may answer them in this way…