Someone said the other day that they were going through a time where they felt hopeless and stuck. They were writing songs about it, but getting tired of the same old theme coming out. I recognized this landscape as one I once walked through.
I know these feelings. Not too long ago I also felt like I was in a rut. I had this image in mind of an old power line access road my brother and I used to explore when we were younger. These deep ruts, filled with mud. Any vehicle, barring heavy machinery or military equipment, would get stuck in those ruts. This image I associated with those feelings.
I asked myself today if I feel hopeless. If I feel stuck. Maybe those feelings are there, but I do not seem to be aware of them. I can not say that I am still traveling through that landscape or not, although it seems unlikely. Lately I seem to be more identified with feeling lost, confused, uncertain. “I don’t know” has become my catchphrase, not “I am stuck.”
After reading some of Adyashanti’s, “Falling Into Grace” this morning I noticed some things I was not aware of before. So I wanted to write about it, in case these words would help this person, or anyone else who may need them. Unfortunately I provided the wrong address to my blog, so I am unsure of this person will ever see them. But that’s OK. Getting into this state of OK is what I am going to talk about.
Adyashanti writes of a “vortex of suffering” we get pulled into while we are in an “egoic trance.” In other words, as long as we are living in a state of separation within our minds we are ruled by the ego, and are in this trance state. This “vortex of suffering” pulls is in when we fight, resist or struggle, because in doing so we identify even more closely with our ego.
Our ego, as I understand it, is our self-image, our story of our self, our story of, “my life.” It is that which causes us to separate ourselves from others around us. That is them, this is me. That is theirs, this is mine. Us VS them. They are Christians, I am an atheist. They are atheists, I am an agnostic. They are sports fans, I like to watch movies. All of this is driven by the ego, examples of people in this “egoic trance.”
My understanding here is limited. I do not know how I can become one with God and still be myself. I do not know how I can wake up from the egoic trance, or what they would mean. I am not even sure I have the ideas of ego and struggle correct. But I have found a few connections that may prove useful to understanding this.
In an earlier blog post I talked about trying. How trying implied effort, so anything we try to do implies, by our very act of trying, that these things must be hard to do. Also that if we set anything on a pedestal, make anything important to us, we risk putting it out of reach.
Well this fits in with struggle as well. If I am trying not to think certain thoughts I have labeled as unwanted, then I am struggling to only think the thoughts I have labeled as wanted, which gives the unwanted thoughts more power over me, and which places me deeper under the control of my ego. If there are wanted thoughts, there must be unwanted thoughts. Freedom comes when we see a thought as simply a thought, without attaching any sort of label or meaning to it, without criticizing or judging it.
Whenever we view anything as difficult or hard we give it power over us. We may also give it power over whatever we call God. This is something we should not do. That energy or force which we call God must always remain more powerful than anything in our experience during our lives. Otherwise we block the flow of this energy or force between us, and restrict what we can receive. I have written about this earlier too.
So let’s come back to hopelessness. What is this experience? It is a feeling. What is a feeling? It is a thought. In other words we have had an experience. We had a thought about that experience. We then, based on that thought, had a feeling based on that experience. Through the whole process it was our choice. We decided, whether consciously or not, what we were going to feel by what we chose to think about it. More so the specific thoughts we chose to latch onto, to attach ourselves to and to identify with.
Perception plays a role here. Where one person may feel stuck, another may feel secure or stable. Or one person may view being stuck as a bad thing, and wallow in the virtual mud pit, while another may enjoy playing in the mud, and view it as a challenge to get out, and still another may feel they are drowning and thrash around, sinking deeper. But the reality is there is no mud pit. There is only a thought and a feeling, filtered through the glasses of perception.
If I understand Adyashanti correctly, they key is to stop fighting. Just allow this hopeless feeling, this state you believe you are in. Just stop. Admit your feelings, observe your thoughts. But just stop, Release and let go. Embrace this experience, and in doing so, you take the first steps to freeing yourself from “egoic trance” and the situation itself.
The ego apparently needs struggle to enforce division. It needs to fight and resist. So when we stop fighting, resisting and struggling, we begin to free ourselves of the ego. All we have to do is accept whatever we are experiencing. Accept it, admit it, allow it and just let go. No fighting, resistance or struggle. No matter how horrible things might be from the perception of our bodies, no matter what is happening to us on a physical level. We simply allow ourselves to feel whatever we are feeling, and we stop fighting, resisting or struggling.
Does that mean we don’t fight back to save our physical bodies, if threatened, or the physical bodies of others? No, I don’t think so. But we have to realize that our physical bodies are only physical manifestations of our separation from our Source, whatever we call this energy or force. We are not our physical bodies, what happens to them does not affect who we truly are. It seems like it does, but that is because our egos are attached to our bodies. Body, ego and mind are all things that keep us separate from God.
I think that’s how things are, but as I said, my understanding is limited here. What it comes down to can be summed up by a simple example. In “Falling Into Grace” the author uses the example of a loved pet, a treasured companion, being buried. They allow themselves to feel that grief, and in that allowing the experience, not fighting it, a pinprick of light is seen in their heart, and inside of that is a smile. So that, even in the experience of grief, they are OK. There is love and light. I forget the actual words they used.
Most of us “fight back the tears.” Especially if we are male. We are supposed to be strong, to not cry. So if we go through an experience of grief, maybe a few tears escape, but we choke them back. We do not allow ourselves to just stop. Feel what we are feeling. Allow the feelings to flow and move freely within us. We resist, and ultimately we thrust ourselves deeper into the “egoic trance.” We give the grief power over us, because we make it to be hard to go through. Our experience of grief becomes exactly what we believe it to be by the thoughts we latch onto about it and the feelings we feel about it. The belief we have about the experience comes from our perception of grief. So its perception, thoughts, feelings and finally belief.
To wake from “egoic trance” we need to release and let go of all our beliefs. We need to change our perceptions. We need to let thoughts come and go without attaching ourselves to them. We need to allow ourselves to feel, without judgment, whatever it is we are feeling at any given moment. That is how we can be OK, no matter what is going in the world around us, and no matter what we may be experiencing.
So the first step in coming out of feelings of hopelessness and being stuck is to stop fighting, resisting and struggling. To admit that these feelings are there and allow yourself to feel them. To accept them, embrace them even. Be OK with feeling hopeless and stuck. Be OK with writing poetry or songs about it. Just stop and be OK with all that we formerly had labeled undesirable or unwanted. No criticism or judgment. No attachment or aversion. Just still, stopped, OK.
Then you are free to change your perceptions about this state. You can see it differently, then think about it differently, and then feel about it differently. You can accept whatever is happening in the present moment. You can stop giving what you call undesirable power over you by fighting against it or calling it hard. You can stop labeling your experiences at all and just let them be whatever they are. It is then that you can awaken from “egoic trance.” They way out is not found by fighting, resisting and struggling through, but by stopping, then accepting, admitting and allowing.
These concepts may be hard to understand. It helps to use an example. I was thinking about where in my own life I am fighting, resisting or struggling. For me it is where I live. I am located over two miles from a small town, predominantly Christian, with little or no social or spiritual opportunities. Also little or no work. I feel isolated, alone. I have few friends, and none are in this area. I am single, coming up on 40, and I have nobody to share my life with. I live in the house with my grandmother and my parents, who live in an RV on the property. My grandmother, my aunt, my uncle, my parents – all the people I am usually around – are all Christians. This is the current story of “my life.”
I do not want to be here. I feel stiffed, suffocated. But I can not leave. Where will I go? With no money, no transportation other than a bicycle, where can I go? I feel, and as far as I am concerned I know, that this is not my True Place. There is my right place, which is where I am now, where I put myself, and my True Place, which is, essentially, what others would call fate or destiny. I think of it as the place where I am doing what I love to do, and am able to support myself as well as a family, and of course in this place I am also serving others.
The point of all this is that I have been fighting, resisting and struggling being here. Which gives this place power over me, makes it hard to live here because I am, “trying to do my best in this situation…” and places me deeper under “egoic trance.”
So to apply what I have learned, I need to stop. To let go and release. To accept, admit and allow. A part of how I do that is to treat this place as if it were my True Place. How would I act if this were the absolute best life I could live on this planet while in my physical body? Obviously there would be no fighting, resistance or struggle. This also changes my perception of this place, freeing me to think other thoughts and have other feelings about it.
As long as I perceive, as long as I see this place, as something undesirable, with all the thoughts and feelings attached to that label, then that is what this place will be for me. When I stop seeing it this way, I can see it as something different. I can use this experience to wake myself up from my “egoic trance.” So this place becomes a place of transformation for me, not stagnation.
How can you change the way you perceive your current circumstances, experiences, or life? Take the first step. Stop fighting, resisting and struggling. Stop giving it power over you with words like “try” or “hard.” Allow yourself to experience whatever is happening, right now, in this moment. Just think whatever you are thinking, and feel whatever you are feeling. Change how you look at you current circumstances, experiences or life.
Beyond this I have no knowledge. I know what to do, but am in the process of taking the first step myself. Once I have taken that first step I will certainly share my experiences, and if the second step is apparent, I will point it out.
There is no such thing as hopelessness or being stuck. There is only your belief in these states. When you have released and let go of your beliefs about these states, you will simply no longer be in them. The only things that can have power over you are what you give power over you. Everything else simply is, and it is up to us to simply accept, admit and allow that.
When you say, “I am hopeless” or “I am stuck” you are lying. What you are is beyond hopeful or hopeless, stuck or unstuck. This is, as I understand it, what spiritual teachers call duality. Good and bad, right and wrong, hate and love. The existence of one state means the likely existence of its opposite.
What you are is beyond that. Who you really are is both that and not that, at the same time. Not beyond as if it were something above. There is no physical locality. It is both and neither and at the same time. It allows both hopeful and not hopeful, but does not criticize, judge or label. Ultimately, in a way I still do not understand, all of these pairs of opposites, these sets of duality, are all the same. They all come from the same place, and it is humans who have divided, separated, and labeled it.
I guess its sort of like being in quicksand. You want to struggle to free yourself, but doing so makes you sink faster. We have to change our thoughts and resulting feelings about giving up, letting go, acceptance, admitting what is happening (being honest with ourselves) and allowing, in other words not trying to change things for something we perceive of as better but to simply allow things to be as they are.
So it’s like being a sieve water travels through. Or a limb of a tree under snow. Whatever is happening flows through and can not affect us, because we are not resisting it, or latching onto it. If the branch does not bend under the weight of the snow, releasing the extra weight, it will break. For example, when someone makes being a victim a part of their identity, they are latching on to whatever happened to them. The weight of this experience could break them. It is only through forgiveness, which is an act of releasing, they they keep from breaking under the strain.
As long as we fight, resist and struggle, we sink deeper into “egoic trance” and ultimately we suffer more. When we stop and wake from the trance, our suffering ceases.
It is not hopeless. This may be what you call your circumstances, experience or situation. But hopelessness is not real. It is an illusion. It only exists in your mind. It is not an actual thing. It is only hopeless in your perception, based on your feelings, which came from your thoughts.
Admit to yourself that you feel hopeless. Allow yourself to express how you feel for as long as you have the feelings. Do not criticize or judge. Stop, release, let go. Question this. Ask yourself, “Is this situation really is hopeless?” Is there anything in this experience that gives even the faintest glimmer of hope? Look hard enough and you will find it.
But even if you don’t, to quote a movie I loved years ago, “It can’t rain all the time.” No experience is set in stone. The only things that are real are those things that never change. So this experience is not real, because it can, and will, change. If you can find hope in nothing else, you can find hope there. You can believe, have faith (by acting like you have it), that things will get better. If anything gives you hope in this apparently hopeless situation, the whole thing crumbles. It can’t be hopeless if any hope at all exists. Remember that!