You know that setting on a music player that repeats a song over and over? So much of our history – shaped by groups and individual lives – is on “single repeat.” Our instinct is to do what we know, what we have always done, what we have seen done, and what we were told to do. We are so caught up in repetition that we shut down the truly creative response that is needed from us moment to moment – that we are capable of.
I was talking to an artist today. His core belief is that the world is set up to “screw him over” no matter what he does. His other core belief is that he is “worthless.” I can see these beliefs in what he says and what he tries to hide. His subtle and overt agression masks his self-loathing. His silence, at times, masks his desire to cling to the deep-seated drama of how the world will turned on him. His sarcasm is his way of attacking that which tries to show him that all his chains are self-crafted – and unnecessary. He clings and, at the same time, he fights.
I see people. First, the beauty and the truth of who they are, and then the chains, the anchors, and the inner demons. Most people live in bondage of perception. They believe something at their core about life, and then they see proof of this belief everywhere. Even if the perception is twisted, they don’t doubt that they live inside the illusion.
Of course, not everyone is ready to give up their core beliefs. The attachment is deeply entrenched and serves its purpose. Not all illusion is “bad” because it brings experience, even if it’s the same experience over and over. Some souls need this Life to be structured a certain way, and they derive joy from the structure – often even if the beliefs are self-negating. They don’t feel trapped and there is no problem – they describe the experience as being happy. Strangely, even unhappiness can be comfortable and comforting.
However, there are those who suffer because they feel the boundaries of their illusion. Although they are trapped, they are looking for a way out. They may not even care what lies beyond the illusion, but want to be free of it. These are tortured souls because they know they won’t find that feeling of “new” with their current awareness.
This artist knows he is trapped, but he forgets. Over and over, life gives him opportunities to be aware in the moment, to treat each encounter as unique, and to be open and innocent to each exchange – the opposite of living out a predetermined “the world will just screw me over again and again and again…”.
When he is reminded of what he is doing, he resists and deflects, at first. One can’t miss the internal battle of running on the tried and true circuit, and having to switch to the untried but true response. It is agonizing for him to surrender to truth in the midst of battle, and yet he tries. Over time it is taking him less and less time to see beyond his habitual perception. But he still forgets.
This is the dilemma of transformation in a nutshell – forgetfulness. This forgetfulness requires reminders, and mostly these cannot be “nice.” The Ego treats “nice” as a joke and works around gentleness in any number of ways. However, when facing a forceful confrontation and cornered after every possible deflection, it gives up and the true soul emerges (even if this is temporary). The Ego is extremely strong and entrenched – it will fight tooth and nail.
The artist keeps coming back. That is the key – persistence and a gradual letting go. There is trust that transformation can and will occur, despite numerous challenges. You must keep coming back if you want to go all the way through the perception illusion tunnel.
Chogyam Trungpa spoke of the teacher as a skilled surgeon performing a painful operation. The art of confronting illusion is such an operation. But it is not for everyone because it is an irritant and a discomfort – who could withstand this long enough to transform? Not many, but more and more are starting to wonder.
Once the teacher is present, he or she will fight for you. When the operation starts, you will likely say at first that you changed your mind. However, you have already seen beyond the veil. And living with this without going all the way can be painful. So, you may take breaks, but you return for more.
Of course, there are those who take the teachings and their incomplete transformation to the world to further reinforce their Ego. This has happened over and over, and incomplete understanding spreads. That is neither good not bad – it is just the way it is. At some point, people will realize they are stuck and go elsewhere.
This is the age of healers. Some people must be comforted and helped to live with the choices they make, and others must be helped to free themselves. Neither is better, it is just that the approach is different – and healers recognize and honor each other for their self-less service. After transformation, no gratitude or recognition is necessary anymore. Those healers who have crossed over know that taking money for helping ready souls transform creates karma. Only for this is there a restriction, otherwise money is neutral when handled properly as an energy exchange.
Movies and songs capture our culture quite well – and only the performers are different. They still show us why relationships do and do not work, teach us how to distract ourselves and forget, remind us how to reflect, and help us to escape from what is here and now. There truly is nothing new under the Sun, and it may not even feel new – unless you want to lift the veil from your eyes.
Ultimately, you make your choice how to live, and no one else. There are many options and all are being explored. But for those who are tired, disillusioned, even bored – ask yourself if you are ready to leave the illusion behind so much that you will muster up the strength for it. For it takes more courage and commitment than you have ever given. Your teacher will appear and stay if you are sincere, and you will evolve – and you will often ask yourself “have I had enough yet?” before the initial transformation is complete.