In many ways, I see the spiritual path as a spiral. Once birthed from the cocoon of ignorance, we go through a cycle of learning and expansion that will lead us (if all goes well) back through the darkness of the womb (our cocoon) to be born anew.
Each cycle is from an increasingly wide trajectory, a new perspective. But it is the same symbolic cycle of light to dark, of birth to death, or of expansion and contraction, just replayed in different ways. Each spiral allows for our reborn selves to heal, to become more aware, to pass through the initiatory processes that often freeze or hold us static within a spiral.
Ideally our process here in our human forms would be one of continual evolution, a continual expansion process with an ever-increasing trajectory that brings us home to that dark womb to be reborn countless times. But often we stop ourselves, or an aspect of ourselves is halted in prior spirals, as we cling to the notion of safety; we cling to the ideology of being static beings, as the idea of the base of our being involving change and chaos brings uncertainty. Our grasping towards finality, completion, and a static state prevents us from realizing our true nature: flow.
Attempting to hold ourselves static against this flow or pretending to be in charge of this flow is not only illusory but leads to a lot of suffering.
Eventually the process of realization allows someone to sit at the juncture of these two states, of contraction and expansion, reality and non-reality, birth and non-birth, and to “drop through”– being in witness of the creation cycle itself. To expand within the womb of our singular birth to the extent that we experience cosmic birth, or the realization of the Universe expanding and contracting within ourselves, just as we had experienced with our individual birth-rebirth process previously.
It is the ultimate returning to “home” a realization that one is at home within the self, a state of being. A letting go of the fighting, a realization of peace, a grounding within chaos and flow, a rest in illusion.
With each spiral the previous spiral (and our former selves) look naive, confused, and in pain.
When we spiral further we may experience emotions like grief and anger at our former selves for being who they were, and for those who are in spirals we have already traversed.
I am a fan of the Maya Angelou quote: Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.
This quote to me shows exactly how to work through the grief and anger at our former selves, as in those states we were doing the best we could. Our current selves would handle our prior situations and experiences differently, in just the same way we, as an adult, would have handled being a teenager, or a toddler, differently. We learn new skills, develop new awareness, along our lifespan. Or at least we should. And the huge shifts in consciousness that emerge as a result of spiritual awakening, as a result of going through these spirals, can be a jarring clarity, a brutal clarity, in the immediacy of recognizing how in pain or ignorant or naive our former selves were. But they were doing the best they could – just as we are doing the best we can do now. And in the future we may see our current selves as naive, ignorant, or in pain as we gain clarity from further spiraling.
What is within is without, and what is without is within, and the grief and anger that emerge as a result of further spiraling can be healed by healing the parts of self that are angry and grieving. By realizing what we react to in the outer world is a reflection of unhealed forces within ourselves.
Similarly it is easy when we have spiraled for many things to look foolish, ignorant, or to lack meaning. It can be easy to be lost in this abyss, as what we spent our time on previous to the spiral that we were in was likely an immense amount of energy and time spent on things that we can now see are meaningless; that we spent so much time and energy on repeating our loops, on our projections, on distracting ourselves from our pain. On looking anywhere else but our pain; failing to understand that our pain doesn’t heal by covering it up, denying it, or creating mythic realities to shield ourselves from it.
In relation, looking out at the rest of the world can create issues with anger at how false or meaningless things are. How most people are stuck in loops and patterns of behavior (with their ensuing projections and delusions, misguided impulses and survival instincts) and are not capable of truly living due to the weight of all of this; the immense amount of time and energy spent on things that amount to pain just being passed back and forth because people, on an individual as well as a collective level, are not in a place of skill and awareness to take personal responsibility for their own inner nature, are not ready to truly look within.
People can get quite stuck in this, lost in the abyss of darkness and meaninglessness without recognizing that they are within the dark womb, waiting to be reborn. That simply certain parts of themselves may need healing, or longer to gestate, or to catch up, so that the Self can be reborn in a greater way.
The spiritual path is a deconstruction process. Before rebuilding can occur, before greater consciousness can break through, we must break down what is preventing that.
Picture a large, beautiful sea. In front of that is a brick wall. If you become aware of each brick and consciously accept it as something within yourself that is resisting becoming whole, that brick will disappear.
If you jump over, bulldoze, destroy, blow up, or pretend that the wall isn’t there, you are in Plato’s cave, chained, creating illusions about what the sea must look like and feel like.
In some of the larger spirals (death and rebirths) what happens is that we increasingly become aware that we are a small part of things. That we are cosmically insignificant, a small strand in an increasingly vast web… if we continue to spiral, that is.
Anyone who I have spoken to who I would ascribe as “highly conscious” describes this realization and type of spiraling with complete awe. The sheer vastness, the smallness of ourselves in relation to whatever small corner of infinity we are inhabiting. It is awe inspiring, it is creating of bliss, and as a result of having an experience like this, a total immediate plunging back into the womb of creation to be reborn again occurs.
I do find it interesting that people in the modern world have one experience of a higher consciousness state (or sometimes perhaps just see something shiny and misconstrue the experience altogether) and call themselves enlightened.
This has everything to do with those spirals, and how we traverse them.
It has everything to do with ourselves being a multitude, and different aspects of ourselves being in different spirals of awareness.
Our minds like to think of ourselves as one thing; ourselves as uni-dimensional, with a singular, constrained personality that inhabits a very small spectrum of being. I am a Gemini introvert INFJ, so that means that I cannot occasionally shout at concerts or find pleasure and comfort in the company of many.
We are a result of many forces coming together, and what happens is that a small part of ourselves might authentically be enlightened, or have experienced something once or twice that brings them to a state of temporary greater awareness. That sea is always there, we are already enlightened. But those bricks are there.
Our poking through a single brick to get a whiff of ocean does have meaning, it can allow the individual to have momentum and reason to further un-brick themselves. Or a single experience of oneness or connection or even states like emptiness, bliss, or ecstasy can profoundly change the life of the individual.
Or they can be like any addiction or wonderful vacation, where the person stagnates themselves at that point of consciousness, in that spiral, or uses it to stop themselves from spiraling further. Or because they have taken that experience and utilized it as fuel for the still ignorant and wounded selves that remain within, bringing it down to a first chakra level of awareness, subject to the wounds and perspective and filtering of that chakra.
Generally I find if there is anger and reaction at people in a previous spiral, it is because we are not one thing; we are a multitude.
And we are angry at or reactive to the aspects of ourselves that are still stuck in a previous spiral.
If we find meaninglessness and emptiness in the world, or are outraged at the falseness, it is because an aspect of ourselves (or many) are still stuck doing meaningless, wounded things in a previous spiral.
If we are able to realize that we are a multitude, that means that we can see the parts of ourselves that still suffer, and tend to them.
We can gently realize that a large part of us may be enlightened, and another part may be deep in a state of shock, of cocooning, of denying reality, of not wanting to truly live.
A part of us may see things from the heart chakra perspective of unconditional love; another part may be in a second chakra perspective of only caring about ourselves and the people immediate to ourselves.
This allows for us to continue to cycle, to be born again and again until we become increasingly present and embodied, until clear light radiates out from every cell within ourselves.
Until we cut through the knot of the heart and awaken the spiritual heart, residing in a state of permanent enlightenment. Until all aspects of ourselves are integrated, realized, and, without projections onto external reality.
The experience of cosmic insignificance can bring many things.
It can bring us a realization of impermanence. This seems frightening to the mind still deeply afraid of death (and underneath, of truly living) but this perspective allows for us to see how little time we have, to spend that time accordingly, to seek joy and connection in the short time that we are here.
It allows for a release of fear of death. With greater perspective death is simply seen as another change; another trip to the dark womb and then into the light of birth. This change for some may be less painful than many of the initiations of life– such as violence, abuse, divorce, and the effects of wounded, living individuals creating conditioning that prevents many of us from thriving.
The realization of impermanence also allows for us to put things in relationship. By this I mean that you begin to realize that consciousness changes quite quickly. Our circumstances change quite rapidly, and that realizing this is a really key thing to learn how to traverse quite difficult experiences that happen as a result of being human.
Being human while in a human form, with all of our difficulties, with its cycle of birth and death, doesn’t cease. What does change is our reaction to it, our acceptance of it, our realization of how all things are impermanent. This allows for perspective and skill to traverse change, as change always occurs, and creating mentalities and illusions to pretend that change isn’t constantly occurring just makes our experience of traversing the human experience more painful.
It is also very true that we spend an enormous amount of time on things that are completely meaningless, that anesthetize the self or distract the self from living, or that are more about bringing pain and reprisal for the hurts we have experienced into the world than bringing any aspect of goodness, or joy, or benefit.
We spend an enormous amount of our vitality towards putting pain that we do not want to deal with, or cannot consciously contend with, onto the world.
In the cocoon we can only consider our most immediate needs. With further perspective, we realize that we cannot live for ourselves, and that the emptiness within cannot be filled by living to satisfy our wounded needs and conceptions. First chakra awareness leaves people feeling isolated, like the Universe (and all the people in that Universe) are out to get them, creating endless cycles of us. vs. them. In a cycle of creating more pain, of tearing others all others down. With perspective beyond this, connection to one another, in greater and greater degrees, becomes vitalizing, becomes a realization of purpose. What we bring to the world, what we think, what we do, how we treat one another, how we can bring our unique attributes into the world, is all seen with greater perspective. And the pain and misery of looking to take as much as possible, to tear down everything outside of the self, ceases, as it is recognized that there are no others… and what we are doing is externalizing our relationship with ourselves on the external world.
Ceasing to put our vitality towards cycling pain and externalizing our internal battles onto reality allows for an increasing amount of time to do what you wish with your time and energy. To consciously decide what to do with it. To have the energy and will to do things without something wounded inside of you getting in the way. To stop fighting ourselves within and without.
To experience joy in daily life, as it is so fleeting, and it is so sacred that we are within our human forms. To truly support and love ourselves, and one another, in an unconditional way.
I do find that the supposed end goal of “emptiness” is so grasped at in our modern world to be interesting. I am not sure if modern proponents of this are misunderstanding what emptiness means, or if it is a result of essentially a child’s game of Telephone were someone tells one person something and then down the line until it gets quite skewed because the succeeding people haven’t experienced it, or don’t understand that there are many states of realization… with the modern, binary quality of “emptiness” being an entry point into far more realized states of being.
In contrast to the modern concept of “emptiness”, in the Heart sutra the description of emptiness is a state of having dealt with our projections and unconscious material onto the world. We no longer hook into the world, we no longer cast our fishing lines onto the world looking for targets to cast in our plays, our trauma-based dramatizations of previous unreconciled wounds.
I find that people grasp towards the modern, binary state of emptiness when they are experiencing large parts of themselves that do not want to live. That have fear of life, and a unconscious death wish. The desire for completion, for the static quality to guard against life.
To guard against life and to seek comfort in the static principle may allow for us to experience some degree of realization, but it will not allow great feeling, bliss, or ecstasy, because those feelings and states are states of being that emerge from the feminine pole intertwining with the masculine. From realizing every state of our being, all of the forces that make us up, from realizing that we are many forces coming together, a continuum of being, rather than singularly this way or that.
Put more simply, we can experience some degree of emptiness of the mind through the realization of binary emptiness. But unless more spiraling occurs with the intertwining of the masculine and feminine principle together, the person is not going to move out from binary reality, and is not going to experience states of bliss, ecstasy, and the simplicity of being, which involves great feeling. It will likely languish in states of apathy and meaninglessness.
The mind (the force of masculine, static reality) when intertwined with the feminine within allows for the process of great feeling and states of being; it allows for the mind to surrender its needs for control and domination and for the son (sun/yang/masculine principle) to seek the dark womb of the mother within.
Separated, the static principle can only envision emptiness for itself. When both are intertwined, the masculine and the feminine are realized within, the full continuum of self is realized, and the static principle provides the structure and boundaries and activating principle (or fire) for the flow of the feminine to emerge successfully through our human energy systems.
The state of emptiness is not a state of apathy, or depression, or of disassociation. I have met quite a few people who believe that their disassociated trauma-based reactions are some form of enlightenment, and they are more about the person experiencing something that has caused for them to not want to live, to be energetically beside themselves because being anywhere near themselves and the pain untended to within is too overwhelming to deal with.
Needless to say, they are different states.
For ourselves to be “complete”, we are neither this or that. We are not empty or full, void or non-void, dark or light, male or female. We are both simultaneously.
We are the static and active principle, chaos and order. Order tries to chop up chaos, to guard against it, to make rules and admonition for it. To do anything and everything to cocoon the self against the cycle of death and life, birth and rebirth, creation and recreation.
We emerge from the formless Void, the dark mother. It is by learning to ground in this chaos, to be that point of brightest light at the deepest dark of the ocean, to be the darkest thing of beauty in the brightest light, that we can witness ourselves as a part of vastness; that we can move beyond binary reality and recognize ourselves being created and re-created.
The experience of our experiencing cosmic insignificance to greater and greater degrees offers perspective, it allows for an enormous relief of stress to realize that we are not the center of the Universe. It is funny how we do everything we can to be enormous, to be in charge and the leading role, and we don’t have perspective to see just how exhausting it is to attempt to be in control of things that are so much larger than ourselves, that shouldn’t be dealt with on an individual level.
Letting go of this is everything we fear, but when it is done, we recognize just how much weight has lifted as a result of this perspective.
If you get the toilet cleaned today or next week, it doesn’t really matter. If you get fired from your job, that truly is a miserable experience, but in six months you may have a different perspective on it. In five years you may have only a faint memory of it.
The en-light-enment process is a process of truly becoming lighter. Like Atlas, we believe that we hold the weight of the world on our individual shoulders. Like Sisyphus, we believe that we are constrained to a life of imprisonment, rolling the boulder up the hill again and again. Like Plato’s cave, we only see our chains or the shadows on the wall and we rarely allow ourselves to recognize that there is something else– daylight.
We are imprisoned by our cocoons, as much as we have erected them out of our own survival instincts and the most primitive of impulses.
By realizing our cosmic insignificance, we can more clearly see and experience ourselves as incredibly connected. We are able to move into states of realizing when we need support, when we need a community, when we need good friends and lovers and family.
Those bonds strengthen us when they are bonds of health. They revitalize us. We are so low on vitality as a culture and a world not only because we are conditioned to be this way, but because in our cocoons we cannot recognize that we are vitally connected to infinite energy, to infinite possibility.
It is moving into the perspective of cosmic insignificance that we can truly begin to live. To experience our senses, to feel not just emptiness but states of joy and bliss and ecstasy that only come through allowing surrender to the point of experiencing something much larger than ourselves moving through us.
To realize that we are a part of the Universal play, of flows of all types informing us and flowing through us. That the Universe is essentially playful, or at times has the personality of a trickster with a wicked sense of irony.
The experience of bliss and seeing ourselves in relationship with infinity allows for a glimpse at the cosmic state of perfection, creation creating itself, and with this experience the understanding that we do not live for ourselves emerges.
We can allow ourselves to experience joy, both by being truly in the present moment, as well as through surrendering and allowing of the chaotic principle, the great ocean that flows through us all, to flow as it will.
We spend so much time in our cocoons satisfying our wounded needs and projections. We so fear the knowledge that there is so much creating us, flowing through us, informing us. We believe that we can shield, guard, or stop ourselves from anything but experiencing our rugged individualism. That we must struggle on our own through our lives.
This is not only foolish, but makes us incredibly sick individually and as a world. We are composed of many forces, have many webs that we intersect with, and even “I” as a singular object is not one single thing.
We are a multitude. We are many forces and conditionings coming together and parting, contracting and expanding all the time.
If we are able to ground in chaos, rather than seek to dominate or decimate it (as the ego-mind and the static principle tends to attempt to do) we are able to find rest in illusion. To realize that the world and the illusory nature of it is both empty and full, meaningless and ever sacred.
If we are able to feel this flow through ourselves, we can realize how we can be of service to the whole. We can move beyond being concerned only with ourselves and our delusions and immediate circumstances into bringing something of worth into the world. Something sacred, something of our soul.
We can stop spending the time and energy on resisting the flow, on being someone that is societally and parentally approved, and simply be who we are. We can realize the flow, and act with it, realizing our potential (whatever that may be through our individual natures).
To realize that we are insignificant is to realize how we carry the Universe within ourselves. To realize our vastness, our multitude, to realize how we intersect and connect with one another, and with all that is.
In that we can let go of the pain, the masks and roles and projections, and simply be. We can realize the joy and perfection of the Universe and its “play”: how joyfully it creates through us, the perfection of it, and this joy is only realized through the recognition of how cosmically insignificant we are, how small we are in the relation to the vastness of infinity.
For more on this line of thinking, I suggest my book, Working with Kundalini, out now through varying retailers. Or The Spiritual Awakening Guide (my first book) if you are looking for a trajectory of the overall spiritual path and information on the varying types of awakenings.