Our awareness resides, moment to moment, in either the conventional or transcendental realities. Each of these realities has its own truths. From a conventional view, illness is a misfortune and death is final. From a transcendent perspective, illness (or any adversity) is a perfectly natural part of life and death is an illusion—our transcendent self—pure Awareness, is never born and never dies.
Most of the time, conventional reality monopolizes our attention with the stuff of everyday life—the challenges of education, earning a living, relationships, family, and health. Conventional reality contains the complications of experience, memory, identity, and duality fashioned out of the meanings and stories we impose upon a pure and mysterious Field of Being. Our dramas, played out in the theater of gain and loss, desire and satisfaction, seem real and important to us. Conventional life involves the pursuit of satisfaction and fulfillment, wherein our happiness depends upon events unfolding in line with our desires, hopes, and expectations. Thus immersed in our conventional agreements—clinging to the versions of reality that seem entirely true and justified, trying to make things work out—we suffer from attachment, craving, and anxiety, leading lives of “quiet desperation.”
Then one day, on the path of our personal evolution, we simultaneously realize two things that had previously escapted our notice: First, we discover that we live and believe, nearly all the time, in the conventional world; second, we notice that we are suffering. If our pain takes the form of an acute illness, injury, or personal loss. If we suffer a lack of money, making more money alleviates this pain; if we suffer physical illness, a return to health solves this issue. Every problem has a solution.
Only when we are willing risk all that we think we know, to relinquish familiar truths that no longer serve, to look beyond consensus reality and venture into the unknown can we finally step out of the endless search for conventional solutions. We need to realize that we ourselves are the center and cause of our situation. This marks a turning point: We become interested not just in self-improvement, but in self-transcendence. We take a leap of faith that launches us on our search for a Teacher, Process, or Path to awakening. We may attend seminars, read books, engage practices, and learn from a variety of guides.
The spiritual traditions point to such a transcendent Reality than that which we perceive in our usual state of consciousness. This Reality lies outside our everyday stories and assumptions, beyond the boundaries of our common beliefs. Its truths are not found in formulas, visions, or mystical experiences, but in a simple yet profound shift in perspective—a shift that reveals the Great Simplicity of What Is, prior to all our complications.
The Great Traditions point to It, recommend It, remind us of It, and rhapsodize about It. They may advise paths or practices involving meditation, fasting, breathwork, bodywork, chanting, concentration, contemplation, reflection, and service. The sufis advise, “Live in the world but not of the world–to function in this conventional world while viewing it from a larger, transcendent perspective.
My work is not about abandoning the “Western Solution” to happiness, striving for material success. Nor do I recommend exclusive focus on the “Eastern Solution” to happiness, turning from the world and “going inside” for answers. My work involves integrating both East and West, male and female, flesh and spirit, reason and faith, left-brain and right-brain, conventional and transcendental truths.
Freedom lives right here, right now, in front of our noses, as close as our breath, as intimate as hour next hearbeat. Awakening does not require us to abandon the conventional world. Rather, we can bridge both worlds and all apparent dualities; we can keep our head in the clouds and our feet on solid ground. (As an Arab sage advised: “Trust in God, but tie your camel.”)
We are already free and perfect. Nothing needs to be done to complete or fulfill us, because we are already Home, because no separation truly exists, and no others, no world, no time, no space, and no God exist separate from us. All is the Heart.
When we do grasp this Great Simplicity, this Realization does not make us famous, successful, glamorous, wealthy, or even holy. Nor does it release us from the obligation to raise our children, go to work, and live our lives. It only brings us peace. It only gives us joy. It only sets us free. As the poet Masahide once wrote, ‘Now that my house has burned down, I own a better view of the rising moon.”
Such liberation from conventional beliefs may appear unpredictable, even frightening to those who have not yet tasted it. So, like children on a school-day morning, we may turn off the alarm, put a pillow over our head at the first wake-up call, and say, “Please let me sleep just a little longer!” We start out wanting to wake-up, but end up settling for success within the dream. This is perfect, too. Reality waits with infinite patience.
We do not need to heal; we need only see that we were never sick in the way we imagined; that our “sickness” was itself was only a story we believed and so experienced as true. The transcendent perspective reveals that no matter what our apparent challenges, our lives are always unfolding in divine order and perfection. Not always pleasurable or pleasant, but perfect in terms of our highest good and our soul’s evolution.
A bridge exists between worlds. It is right in front of us, around us, inside us. To cross it we need only inquire into and profoundly trust our own true nature, to see the transcendental perfection of this world. When we open our eyes in this way, in this moment, we find within us the truth that sets us free.
I’d like to close by sharing with you a brief excerpt from the epilogue of my book, The Laws of Spirit. The woman sage bids me farewell after an adventure together, with the following words:: “These are my wishes and prayers for you, all the days of your life. May you find grace as you surrender to life. May you find happiness, as you stop seeking it. May you come to trust these laws and inherit the wisdom of the Earth. May you reconnect with the heart of nature and feel the blessings of Spirit.
“The challenges of daily life will remain, and you will tend to forget what I have shown you,” she said. “But a deeper part of you will remember, and when you do, life’s problems will seem no more substantial than soap bubbles. The path will open before you where before there grew only weeds of confusion. Your future, and the future of all humanity, is a path into the Light, into a growing realization of the Unity with the Creator and all creation. And what lies beyond is beyond description.
“Even when the sky appears at its darkest, know that the sun shines upon you, that love surrounds you, and that the pure Light within you will guide your way home. So trust the process of your life unfolding, and know with certainty, through the peaks and valleys of your journey, that your soul rests safe and secure in the arms of Spirit.”