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Sobering up


29. Sobering Up

"Spirituality is wishful thinking. It divides reality into material and spiritual. That split does not exist. There is no path. Reality is already seamless and all things pass. Be as you are is the wisdom, not to be a wannabe for pie in the sky."

John Troy on Facebook

The word "spirituality" gave me the creeps for a long time. It reminded me of new age bliss ninnies with "healing crystals". It also has something elitist about it, something that divides people into spiritual and non-spiritual persons…

But it can also mean something that actually connects us, because it is fundamental to all sentient beings: spirituality, for me, is the relationship I have with reality, including anything that can clarify this relationship.

As I see it, clarification means unlearning or seeing through everything we think we know about reality. Only this can put us in touch with what is real…

Right now, as I write this, I'm a little hungover and feeling crappy and a little guilty about a meeting I had the day before. But thinking about the amazing fact that I can feel all these things anyway makes me grateful at the same time and puts a smile on my face.

It's incredible to be alive and be aware of that. It puts everything in perspective.

Spirituality, as I understand it now, is the realization of being connected (not trying to be connected), being one with everything around me, it is aimless, unfocused, relaxed, an open experience. Like a child playing. We know this and long for the innocence and connection that seems to be lost. It isn't lost. It is only covered up by all the so-called "knowledge" we have acquired over the years. Of course, some knowledge is extremely useful and helpful, but what we think we know about who we are, what this life is or could mean, obscures that which we don't need words for in order to experience, in order to be.

Shiv Sengupta of Advaitaholics Anonymous says it like this:

"In the end, spirituality is really about getting sober. Developing the courage to see life for what it is, without blowing it up with escapist love and airy fairy rhetoric, nor resorting to a nihilistic resignation by declaring that everything is just illusion and therefore meaningless."

Spiritual anarchism

Anarchism, or rather the spirit of anarchism never really left me. It came back to me after and as shedding the spiritual baggage I had accumulated over all those years. Fortunately, I had help with that. Reading the words of a few free spirits (meet them at the back of this book) made it clear to me that I was living a lie, a lie of false spirituality, a spirituality filled with and governed by beliefs rather than knowing, rather than being this life.

Also be aware that you should not become a cynic or nihilist. Don't close yourself off, don't pretend that you don't care. Do not reject the possibility of meeting and being with life as it presents itself. Life is glorious, amazing, full of stars and babies, the feeling of rain on your skin and yes, also the smell of shit, the feeling of heartbreak, the pain in your stomach and your dog licking your face when you come home. Life has laughter and sadness, anger and fear and also the best coffee you can get. And don't forget chocolate!

Don't let anyone or anything dictate what or how you should be, how you should feel.

Spiritual anarchism means sobering up, examining all our beliefs and dropping them when there is no real evidence for them. All beliefs come from external authority that has been internalized.

Be aware that thinking you are already an unbeliever probably means you are deluded and under the influence of agnostic, atheistic or materialistic ideas.

If anarchism is about freedom from external authority, then spiritual anarchism is about freedom from all internalized authority.

Spiritual anarchism in brief

  1. Spiritual anarchism, as it is defined and understood here, is about the realization that no belief is valid and no one knows anything with absolute certainty — not even this. There are no principles chiseled in stone, there are no hierarchies, no masters, no enlightened ones, no traditions.
  2. There are no "higher" or permanent states or "levels" of consciousness. Life has no preference for any state.
  3. Awakening can happen as and when life brings it.
  4. Spiritual anarchism is completely agnostic about the ultimate or fundamental nature of reality. We cannot go outside our "mind", whatever "mind" means.
  5. Spiritual anarchism is not a philosophy, not a worldview and certainly not a form of politics. It is about sobering up and having a clear mind.
  6. There is no fixed "self" or "soul" and there are no enduring "things" anywhere. Hope is not necessary. Reality, whatever it is, happens as it happens. There is no personal free will (although it may feel that way) and reality cannot be manipulated or forced to be any different than it currently is.
  7. There is nothing hidden. There are no "secrets". Nothing needs to be revealed.
  8. Reality, in all its beauty and cruelty, is as innocent as a newborn baby. Neither "evil" nor "good" exists.
  9. Spiritual anarchism is neither for nor against anything. It has no flag and needs no defense. It has no choice but to accept what happens, even if it appears that someone is taking the position for or against something.
  10. Spiritual anarchism is not about being "spiritual" or "non-dual". This is exactly what is recognized as false. It is about being natural.
  11. Spiritual anarchism has no answers, clings to nothing and is forever in free fall, never touching ground.
  12. Spiritual anarchism expects surprises, paradoxes and anomalies. The universe does not seem to be a tidy place.
  13. Finally, spiritual anarchism is not "truth" and certainly not "The Truth"; nothing can ultimately be concluded from it, there is no copy-right, and no one owns it.

The process of getting sober

How do you get sober? How do you get rid of all the things you believe in? You can't. Not completely, not overnight. Maybe this little book encourages you to explore. You're probably already doing that. As I said at the beginning, this is for doubters. Just keep doubting. The process has its own dynamics and will never stop completely. There is always more to look at, if you allow it, if life allows it.

And you shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater too. Some beliefs are very useful. For example, I believe that Tokyo exists even though I have never been there. There is enough evidence for me to rely on that belief.

On the other hand, beliefs that don't feel like beliefs, but like absolute truths, those are the beliefs one really needs to examine. Everything is a belief, except the life that is in and as this moment. Are you convinced that there is nothing after death? Or are you convinced that you will somehow survive death? Think again: you are not dead now, so how can you know?

"Would you be willing to abandon, even for one instant, all teachers and teachings, all injunctions and practices, to simply meet what appears in each moment with no guidance or reference points to tell you what is true, or how you must live? What would it be like to cease to locate yourself in any teaching or teacher, to no longer be identified with any conceptual framework or spiritual philosophy—not yours, not Buddha's, not Jesus, not anyone's? How would it feel to live with no maps, no mental conclusions, no final destinations, to cease to refer to any notion in the mind about how anything is supposed to be?"

John Astin, This Is Always Enough

Be quiet

Being free from internalized authority means having a clear mind, and a clear mind can be still, and in that stillness one knows.

Here is what Papaji had to say about this. Whatever his followers may say or believe, this is spot on in my opinion:

"When I speak about quietness - when I tell you to keep quiet - it is not easy for everyone to follow. Most people here are from different backgrounds, practices, sadhanas; and therefore feel they need to do something, to put something into practice. When I say, "Keep quiet." it is not a practice. There is nothing to be done and nothing to be undone. This cannot be followed. There is nothing to think about, no need to make any kind of effort. This is an indication of the quietness I am speaking about. Truth always exists. Existence alone is. It is called satyam.

We speak about enlightenment, but first we have created bondage. Bondage does not exist. How can you remove that which does not exist? First, teachers impose a concept of bondage and then various practices are prescribed. There may be millions of books in the world, thousands more are published every day. Nowhere does it say, "Be quiet". When you simply say "Keep quiet", what is the rest of the book to be about?

There is no ignorance at all; there is only existence - there is only satyam. If you simply keep quiet you will know that only this exists. Before the sun rises early in the morning it does not first try to remove the darkness of the night. The sun does not say, "Let me brush away the darkness and only then, in the daytime, I will rise." For the sun there is no light, there is no darkness to be removed. The sun does not even know that such a thing as night exists. What practice is needed to remove darkness, where is this darkness? All practices imply the reality of darkness, of ignorance, when in fact they do not exist. The river in the sand is a mirage; it does not exist, it never existed. If you go closer and closer the sand not even is wet; it is only a belief that makes us run after a mirage, nothing else.

There is only satyam; there is only Truth. What need is there of practice? It is only practice which is concealing the truth."

"Be still" or "be quiet" may sound very simple, but it should not be taken as a prescription, as something you can do. You can't. But it can happen. If there is enough space, life can fill the experiential space 100% and then you know.

Indeed, it cannot be done by any exercise or method to try to be still. That would only reinforce the idea that you could do this. When it happens, it will feel like grace… It is not up to you or me. It is up to life.