Last night my husband and I were talking about nondual teachings again. And then Marga’s engaging post about actualization and the no self really got me thinking. There was a time when I was really into that stuff. I used to hang on Adyashanti’s every word, hoping for the arrival of my own liberation. But for better or worse, I gradually let go of those aspirations.
The paradox and adventure of being human is that while it is true that we are Soul/essence, we have also chosen to show up in limited form. Our primoridal essence is divine, unlimited, and needs nothing. It is simply Beingness. Yet in choosing to show up in this world of limitation we create soul structures. The ego is the vehicle we necessarily construct in order to function in the world of limitation. It is unavoidable. And it’s a pain in the ass. But trying to live without an ego is kind of like trying to live without a body. It’s not really workable.
Many nondual teachings are about returning to primordial essence and bypassing the messy hassles of the ego-body vehicle. If we can step out of form and abide in formlessness, we don’t have to suffer. In other words, for some folks the goal is to die before we die so we can avoid the discomfort of life. Of course it is true that our essential nature is infinite and devoid of suffering. But I think it’s also true that we came here to do more than commit suicide.
Now I don’t want to unfairly suggest that all nondual teachings are about avoidance. Some teachers do address the second core spiritual question of “how shall I live?” (And not confine themselves to the first core question of “who am I?”) Such teachers incorporate a more balanced approach of working with form and formlessness. But I do think there is a lot of what Andrew Cohen calls “pre-modern enlightenment” teachings, where the goal is simply to return to essence and not actually participate in life. This is unfortunate because the world needs our participation. It is also sad because within those approaches there’s often a subtle hatred of form, and it becomes self-directed. As in: I hate my ego and I want to kill it.
My view is that spirituality is really about working with the tension between our unlimited essence and our limited form. That’s the human journey. That’s what we came here to play with. In working with the ego structures I am less interested in suicide and more interested in having a light vehicle.
I love this journey. I am thrilled to be on it. But I want to take the journey on a bicycle instead of in a hummer. On a bicycle I get to go slower, be more receptive, notice more, get to know the terrain, feel my muscles moving, and be out in the weather.
I came here for the weather.