SOUL OF A NEW SELF: CHAPTER 1 EXCERPT
I am happy to present to you an excerpt from the first chapter of my forthcoming book, The Soul of a New Self:
My deepest visions of a new reality came first in spiritual openings that occurred in deep meditation. While following the impossibly simple instruction of total acceptance of the way things are, I have on numerous occasions slipped out of my current experience of reality into something completely different. Those experiences have left me with an unshakeable conviction that there is a different reality waiting for us. It is our destiny and our future and it will not arrive without our conscious collaboration to manifest it.
In meditation practice I adopt a position of perfect passivity allowing all experience to simply arise and pass away as it will. As I become more and more still I lose all sense of myself. There is only the arising and passing of experience and one experience that arises and passes away is the sense of being me, but there is no me having that experience. It is simply another experience in consciousness.
I am just another piece of experience that arises in the field of awareness. My body, my mind, my history, my qualities, my faults are all experiences that arise and fall away. The sense that all of these things point toward a being that exists independent of them is itself a transient experience that occasionally arises and falls away. There is nothing that exists other than as fleeting experiences that arise and pass away in an unending parade. Our experience of reality is created from mental fragments in the same way that a movie is created from a rapid succession of snapshots.
The moments spent in this flow of consciousness free of any enduring sense of self is more liberating than can possibly be described. There is no independent existence, nothing that is separate from anything else. This is what in Eastern mystical traditions has been referred to as the play of consciousness. The parade of experiential snapshots creates the illusion of reality. It creates the world as we know it. In this world we feel like a thing – an entity that exists separate from other things. We feel that we are a special kind of thing because we are an independent source of consciousness. We have our own mind that perceives both the inner world and the outer world.
In deep meditation we first adopt a stance of passive acceptance in relationship to all of the content of our mind. Eventually we see that our experience of reality is being generated from perceptual fragments that pass through awareness. We awaken to what Buddhists call emptiness and recognize that reality is nothing more than a collection of fleeting experiences. This revelation is profoundly liberating and can be deeply disturbing. I remember the first time I began to feel myself slip into this state of consciousness. It felt as if I were going to die even though I knew that I was just sitting on a meditation cushion. In a sense, of course, I was going to die, at least my self-concept was.
The meditation experience doesn’t end with the freedom found in the emptiness of passive acceptance. That is just the doorway that leads to something more. The first stage of meditation allows us to become deeply absorbed in the space between all thoughts and feelings. It liberates our consciousness from the dictates of our usual habits of thought and feeling. In that stillness we begin to become aware of subtle movements and energies that begin to move us physically, emotionally and spiritually along a path of transformation that we cannot understand.
At times I have spent hours in meditation feeling that my body was being reconfigured. Sometimes it can be painful and uncomfortable, other times blissful and ecstatic, either way I simply allow it to occur. The meditative stance of passive acceptance now takes on a different flavor. It becomes an active passivity. I am still allowing whatever wants to happen to occur without willful intervention, but I am also aware of actively making myself available to be moved by spirit. I am not leaning toward anything in particular. I am simply making myself available for an ever-deeper presence and surrender.
It feels as if forces far beyond my understanding are supporting and guiding a delicate process of awakening that I feel in my heart, mind, body and soul. At this point it no longer feels as if that awakening is happening in or to me. It is happening in reality itself and I am participating in that awakening process while having a localized experience of it. A great deal of this book will be dedicated to the possibility of collective awakening in which a number of people simultaneously open to this higher source of energy and intelligence. In collective awakenings the presence of something bigger than any individual becomes obvious and undeniable, but even individual awakening experiences reveal that something much bigger than any individual is moving us.
When we realize that we are locked inside a world created from fleeting fragments of experience we simultaneously recognize that we have no definitive way of knowing if that experience is ultimately connected to anything that we could call independently real. This can be a frightening realization from the point of view of our current sense of self because it offers only the disillusionment of that sense of self. Any attempt to embrace the truth of absolute continuity and flow from our current sense of a solid and fixed self will lead to deep unease. We cannot fully embrace a new reality from our existing sense of self because that self has no place in the new reality. A new reality can only be embraced by a new sense of self. The point of this book is to explore what kind of self is capable of stabilizing and abiding in the reality of continuity-unfolding.
I am compelled to explore what I see as two different aspects of spiritual practice and conscious evolution. They represent two levels of surrender. The first surrender is attained through perfect passivity. It is the surrender of letting go of everything. The second surrender is an active passivity that moves us toward greater availability to the energy and intelligence of the larger being that we already are.
In my earlier book Radical Inclusivity I wrote about Edwin Abbott’s 1884 novella called Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions and the exploration of multi-dimensional reality that it contains. I want to use that same book again here to illuminate our path forward.
Flatland is a world that only exists in two dimensions. It is flat plane like a table top with no height. In Flatland the only thing you can see are lines. The actual being in flatland might be a circle or a square, but inside of flatland you can only see their edges. In the story only the mysterious entity visiting from the world known as Spaceland can see the surface of the circle or square because the Spacelander exists in three dimensions not two.
The important insight here is that as long as we stay inside our existing reality our perception will always have less dimensionality than our being. There is always more to us than we can see! The square in Flatland can never see its own surface because to do that it would have to jump outside of the two dimensional world that it exists in. The three-dimensional being, perhaps it is a cube, already exists outside of the plane of Flatland so the cube can get up over the square and see its surface.
From within our world we may see beings that have more dimensionality than we do, but we will only see those aspects of them that exist in the dimensions available in our world. When the cube from Spaceland crosses the plane of Flatland it doesn’t appear as a Cube. It appears as a line because lines are all you can see in Flatland. The cube could never explain what it looks like in three dimensions. That possibility lies outside of the Flatlanders’ capacity to imagine. The cube can’t even explain the existence of the Flatlanders own surface – the idea of surface is not imaginable in Flatland.
When a three-dimensional cube passes through Flatland it simply appears as if by magic. One instant it is not there, the next it is. No entrance from anywhere. It simply appears out of nowhere because from the Flatland perspective nowhere is exactly where it came from. If this line that appears as if by magic then tries to explain itself, the Flatlanders simply have no idea what they are talking about; they can’t imagine it.
All manifest beings exist within a limited dimensionality. Dimensions beyond those do not exist to them. This book introduces a reality that exists beyond our own current level of dimensionality. Generally it is not visible at all to us. Occasionally we get glimpses of it. These glimpses, as seen from the vantage point of the limited being that we are, feel unintelligible and mysterious because our powers of perception have less dimensionality than that reality has.
I call the consciousness that gives us access to this high dimensional reality continuity-unfolding. A vision of a continuously unfolding reality can appear to us, and has to me, in deep meditation. If these experiences remain anchored to our current sense of self, in other words if they are viewed from within our current limits of perceptual dimensionality, we can only see a thin slice of that bigger reality.
If we are able to leave our current sense of self behind and float off into another dimension something even more amazing occurs. If we not only ‘see’ higher dimensions from here, but actually leave here behind and move into higher dimensions we can actually experience this new reality in its fullness. When we are inside of it, having left our limited self far behind, that reality appears to us as totally intelligible. In fact, it makes more sense to us than anything else we have ever experienced and we have no doubt about it’s existence.
Imagine a Flatland square that lets go so deeply of its sense of reality that its consciousness floats up out of its current plane of existence. All of a sudden the Flatlander is seeing the impossible, squares, triangles and circles not as lines, but as surfaces from above. From the point of the Flatlander he or she is standing in nowhere seeing everything, which sounds like descriptions mystics use to explain their spiritual awakening experiences.
I believe this is a very useful way to understand our own mystical experiences. They are journeys to other dimensions that occur once we have let go of our current sense of self and reality. These experiences are profoundly intelligible and seem to make sense of everything. When, and if, we return from such a journey we find that squeezing back into the limited dimensionality of this world is uncomfortable. We also discover that what was so clear and simple and true out there, is mysterious when remembered from back here. Our mystical journeys beyond our current dimensionality are often impossible to communicate to anyone else, unless they have had a similar experience.
Of course I am making all of this sound horribly dualistic, as if there is a reality out there that is separate from a reality over here. This separation is a line of division that is useful in describing our mystical experiences. Our minds are conditioned to see things dualistically in terms of separate objects and my description here fits comfortably into our current patterns of thought. Ultimately it is not true. There are not two realities there is One. Reality is one continuous whole without breaks or gaps. That is the core insight that characterizes the reality that we are moving into and that I am calling continuity-unfolding.
In this first chapter we have explored how we come to have perceptual glimpses of a new reality. We live in a world of things-in-space and have glimpses of a new world of continuity-unfolding. These glimpses, which we often refer to as mystical experiences, come in weaker and stronger forms. The weaker forms are glimpses of a new reality as viewed through the perceptual limitations of our current sense of self. The stronger forms are journeys that we take in consciousness beyond our current sense of self directly into a new reality. The weaker forms leave us compelled to continue. The stronger forms leave us convinced. The weaker forms have the power to initiate a true spiritual search. The stronger forms have the power to end it.
In the remainder of this book we will expand our exploration of continuity-unfolding consciousness and more importantly we will discuss the possibility of not just having perceptual access to a new reality, but actually creatively embracing a new sense of self that can abide there. We can glimpse a new reality from our current sense of self. We can learn to liberate our consciousness and journey beyond our current sense of self into a new reality. But even more significantly than both of those we can let go of our current sense of self and embrace a new one that allows our awareness to stabilize in continuity-unfolding consciousness. In this book I intend to share with you everything I understand about how we can stabilize in a new reality.
My experience tells me that this is not a solo journey. The sense of self that we must embrace is collective not individual. We will not become a new being on our own. We will become a new being together. I have experienced this shift into a collective self with others. It is a miracle. It is almost impossible to describe and yet I feel compelled to do so. You are invited to a journey that takes us beyond our current sense of self, beyond the experience of no self, beyond even an individual transformation of self, into a sense of self that only emerges between us.