I recently opened my Facebook page to hear from people what they might want me to talk about in a blog. One of the questions that I got via email was basically asking what the biggest misconception on the spiritual path is.
My answer is that unless you are directly experiencing the spiritual path, you do not understand the paradoxes that are a part of it.
I have been sitting a lot with the awareness of spiritual orphaning. This is the realization that the modern world has split from the Other, from the spiritual realms, to such an extent that we no longer believe them to be an aspect of our daily, lived experience.
My job as teacher has frequently been to get individuals to traverse the “hedge” into the Other, to move beyond the mythic creations and mental realities they have created for themselves (or at least to discern between their psychological and spiritual experiences) or at times to recognize how they are traversing said hedge and how they might do so in a more conscious, skilled way.
Within the hedge are our conditioned layers of reality– what we consider to be valid societally, personally, and culturally.
In our modern world we have a deconstruction of information going on. This is troubling in a lot of ways, and has led to the famous new-age adage of “everyone having an equal and valid voice”.
Any of us who are logical recognize the fallacy and danger of this, of letting wounded individuals with little information define our reality for us, but still it persists, and it is a growing ignorance, a growing energy that is schisming our reality to an even greater degree.
In my book, The Spiritual Awakening Guide, I talk about how the mythic and archetypal layers of reality are the last conditioned layers of reality. What I have been sitting with, along with the spiritual orphaning concept, is about how there has been a tremendous unmooring of this layer of reality.
We are no longer steeped in the stories, myths, archetypes, and folklore of our ancestors. The mythic and archetypal layers of reality are intended to connect us– they are a bridge between the hedge and the Other.
What lies outside of the hedge is not intellectual: it is wild, it is ineffable, not able to be neatly managed and named and labeled by our minds, and so we carry back our experiences of it into civilization the best way that we can– through myth, through symbol and archetype, through breath (word, song, dance).
We are also intended to connect to myth the other way– from inside the hedge. This means that we look towards the archetypal and mythic to explain our human condition. To feel connected to someone or something outside of ourselves. To recognize that not only do we feel like we have the world on our shoulders, but Atlas does as well, and that it is a part of the human condition to feel that way. In that way we feel more connected, less isolated, and can in some small or large way lessen what we carry by recognizing ourselves as a part of a web, as part of that mythic and archetypal layer of existence.
But in our modern world we have unmoored ourselves from the mythic and archetypal. We have replaced our myths and archetypes with movies and movie stars, which can point to such things successfully, but tend to only perpetuate the isolation and rugged individualism of the modern condition.
When we are grounded in our mythic and archetypal realities they are a bridge each way– both in and out of the hedge. They deeply inform and are a part of our existence.
When we are disconnected from that layer of reality, we utilize the mythic and archetypal layers in a disconnected way. We perpetuate and project our wounding and disconnection onto those layers of reality, with no connection to our daily lives or to the Other.
The reason that I am mentioning all of this is not only because it is so pervasive, but because the ideas and ideologies that are a part of the modern world that spiritual awakening leads to wealth, to perfect health, to a state of perfection, to a state of never having to contend with the human condition again, of a desire to move beyond the birth-suffering-death cycling of existence, are a result of this disconnected state, not one of connection or lived experience.
In a world that is incredibly separated from any type of embodiment (yet another split between the head or the masculine/thinking aspect of the body) and the rest of the body (the feminine, feeling, intuition, and spirit) we live only in our heads, projecting our wounded desires for perfection, for non-feeling, for control and knowing, for superiority (and the superiority/inferiority loop) again and again and again.
Our bodies are so filled with unprocessed emotions because we have lost connection to them, and so it is understandable that to a consciousness that is deeply afraid of death, on some level incredibly aware of its own trauma and wounding, that it would create a mythic reality in which specialness, superiority, immortality, perfect health, either a fixated state of perfect joy or a zombie-like state of never feeling again, would be its goals. The result is a “myth of becoming”: that if only one were awake enough, that life would be perfect. That one would be perfect. That none of us would have to contend with the messiness of being alive.
This myth never becomes reality, and so the person pretending perfection and enlightenment, as well as those striving for those states, on some level go through a loop of feeling inadequate or false again and again, despite what their outer mask might be to the world.
But back to those paradoxical experiences…
The processing and awareness of emotions so that you do not react to everything that comes your way as if it is specifically out to get you. A moving away from victimhood, a realization that you have, in fact, been the victim perhaps in many ways but a recognition that you do not need to remain as a forty year old with the beliefs and vantage point of a traumatized two year old.
A paradoxical release of needing to feel as if the Universe, and everything in it, is specifically centered around you, is specifically on your side, and a realization that nobody, no matter how spiritually connected, knows the totality of the cosmos.
With that comes feeling, perhaps for the first time. The allowing of feeling. The realization that our emotions are sacred messengers, not to be denied or transmuted but that bring us vitality and expression of being.
That emotion, in fact, is the carrier of dynamic spiritual experiences, of ecstasy, of spiritual connection and devotion. Not just the “good” emotions, but grief, and pain; a realization that love is not a fixated thing, a perfected thing, but a dynamic experience.
The realization of the parts of you that have not been living, that have in fact used spiritual communities and ideologies to give permission to the wounded aspects of yourself to not live, to not feel, that have caused for you to feel superior or inferior or separate yourself from others.
The moving away from the noise and chaos of the world, the recognition that many things that you once participated in lack meaning or were simply perpetuated loops or traumas, and then the realization of how precious and fleeting it is to be alive in human form, how sacred it is.
The reaching for the spiritual path to be special and superior, only to find out that what is seeking that specialness and superiority is what is wounded in us, that what is creating mythic realities within us that are based off of wounding are separating us rather than connecting us to the web of all that is.
The realization that much of the advice and spiritual teachings on this path are illusory, meant to give people permission to perpetuate wounds, to give people permission to not change, to not experience life.
A letting go of the admonitions and rules and guidelines and people just looking to perpetuate illusion and the superiority-inferiority loop out of their own wounding again and again in different projected roles and a turning towards and a revelation about the sacredness of being ordinary, of being human.
A return to daily life, to friends and family, and a recognition that the ordinary moments, the lived moments, are the most sacred and holy.
The realization and utter humility of discovering your potential– what you can bring into this world– while at the same time deepening feelings of humility, of how vast and deep and wide and extraordinary it all is.
The feeling of awe, of smallness, at the same time a recognition of how important human life is, how important your human life is.
The realization that the unfolding of consciousness, the spiritual awakening process, is one of evolution and “ascending” but simultaneous descending.
The paradox of realizing that the spiritual path confers the ability to deeply ground and embody in your humanness. The recognition that birth-suffering-death are simply a part of life, and bearing witness to that instead of reacting or creating mythic realities to attempt to escape it.
A revelatory process of recognizing imperfection and the utter sacredness of that.
These paradoxes are not experienced if we are projecting into ungrounded mythic realities, if our spiritual experiences are not lived and embodied. There is a vast difference between ideology and lived experience, between the projection of what our wounded selves desire and create to not face the emptiness and pain within, and the experience of moving beyond the illusions and healing what feels the need to perpetuate those realities.
It is by healing these wounds, by healing these rifts, rather than perpetuating them, that we can move forward into evolving into who we are meant to be, and what our potential is in this world.
P.S. I do recommend my book The Body Deva if you are interested in such change, or my book The Spiritual Awakening Guide if you are interested in the conditioned layers of reality and the spiritual awakening process.
Mary Mueller Shutan is a spiritual healer, teacher, and author of several books aimed at assisting those undergoing kundalini awakening, spiritual awakening, and healing from trauma. You can read her bio here.