This will be a three-part blog – find Part 2 here, and Part 3 here. In the first, I will deconstruct the idea of “being special”. In the second, I will talk about how powerful the understanding of cosmic insignificance is. How this realization brings so much to those who are ready and willing to experience it, or who have experienced it and are looking for different context or perspective on it.
This is obviously a hard topic for many, there is no doubt about that, as it breaks down some of our prime motivating factors for being, and our most sacred of illusions regarding ourselves.
Over the years there have been several ideas that I have posed that have caused for resistance to come my way.
When something is too painful for us to consider, our defense mechanisms engage. We deny, ignore, reject, or outright attack the source of what has made us realize something uncomfortable within.
This allows for us to remain in cognitive dissonance, in denial, with our sense of ourselves and our world view (and our illusions/ignorance, defense mechanisms, and wounding patterns) intact.
One of the largest sources of this type of resistance has been the teaching of insignificance. How truly significant (yes, a small joke) the experience of cosmic insignificance is.
It is understandable, really, as the idea of insignificance, the idea of moving beyond the need to be special, to see oneself as smaller rather than larger, to be okay as we are, goes against what many individuals are looking for in their spirituality or what we have been culturally conditioned to look for in our spirituality.
We are part of a huge societal schism that has created a pervasive sense of emptiness within; this emptiness thrives on the idea that we are not enough, that we must always do or be more.
There is a vast difference between what our wounds say, how they direct us, and what the connected, healed resources within us speak. The first will direct us in ways that cover up the wound, to pretend it isn’t there, to put on a mask that we are beyond it, to guard the ideologies that have created disconnection in a misguided form of protection and survival instinct. The latter heals it.
The basic wound of spiritual seekers is the wish to feel large, mythic, to feel in control over their reality. To feel in control over the Other. To blind themselves to anything that does not meet their specific ideologies. To know everything, to feel superior.
These thoughts and beliefs can only remain if we are not spiritually awakening, as the process of surrender, the seeing of the self from different perspectives, the spiritual awakening process itself allows for the examination and release of this basic wound and the needs that arise from it.
There is an inherent irony that a cocooning of self from anything that does not meet personal likes or tastes, or the creation of a mythic self separate from any type of reality is often presented as “spiritual awakening”… that if you look at any spiritual concept or word (“kundalini”, “shaman” to name a few) what emerges in popular culture has absolutely nothing to do with the archetype or actuality of the experience or word.
What is presented is often, in fact, the opposite of the reality or experience.
There are many reasons for this– the biggest of note is power. If we are embodied (there is no separation between our physical, mental-emotional, and spiritual realities), our lives, beliefs, and realities change considerably as a result of spiritual awakening. We come into contact with forces much larger than our individual selves and their wounded needs.
This realization of our connectedness, of opening ourselves beyond our cocoons to experience ourselves as a small part of the whole in larger and larger ways, allows for us to develop our own power. Power is a connecting force, a force that allows for us to connect within and without with larger and larger webs.
Which needless to say, if we are not embodying our spiritual path, does not occur, as the very splits that culturally have created a state of emptiness and pervasive longing cannot be reconciled while we are still in a disconnected and thus powerless state.
Also, power is terrifying. Not only because culturally we have quite wounded modeling when it comes to power, but because power creates change. It creates the Will to actualize and do, the capacity to truly live your life, the capacity to look straight at what isn’t working in our lives. And such a thing is what our wounded selves long for, but would create too much change, too much deconstruction of myth and ideology, to enact.
When we are traumatized, we become disconnected. We become isolated. We start to believe that it is much more safe for us to be isolated than to connect. So our mythologies that come from our trauma support this ideology under the false notion that it is offering us protection.
We also experience a “split of mind”– a part of us feels wounded, neglected, small, powerless– and as a protective mechanism, we reach for something that our wounds imagine we need to cover up.
Typically our wounds will imagine the mythic opposite of what we are suffering from in a misguided attempt to heal it.
This means that instead of seeing ourselves as having our power taken away, instead of seeing our disconnection, we reach for something like the mythic archetypal figure of the Shaman– the figure of power and connection. Connected to many realities, versed in many realities, with the power and capacity to work with the most primal forces of nature.
If we are operating in ungrounded mythic realities, they are held separate, separate from our lives and being, separate from the way we treat ourselves and one another, separate from our way of being in the world, separate from the daily actuality of our existence.
Once we let go of significant resistance and personal mythology arisen out of trauma by looking at why we need to be special (enlightened, or place other terms that denote “special” and thus separate from the rest of reality here), generally life goes much easier. Not necessarily in what our life contains, but without the amount of resistance we once had, we generally can simply do things that we could not before. We can traverse things much easier than we did before. We can allow ourselves to be connected and nurtured by things much larger than us, which does not occur in a disconnected, powerless, or illusory reality.
The force within us that desires for us to be “special” is a force that desires for us to be separate from the rest of reality. It is a voice of trauma, of pain, of a protective mechanism and wounding pattern that has created a mythic reality to shield us from inner pain and emptiness.
Put more simply, our wounds want for us to remain who and what we are because they want to protect and isolate us. Such protection includes mythic notions separated from reality so we focus on them, are distracted by them, instead of looking at the pain and emptiness that has created the need for them.
Such mythic protection is not only disconnected from daily reality, but perpetuates the wound instead of heals it. We do not heal things unless we acknowledge them, unless we see them through the eyes of understanding and compassion, unless we look straight at the source of them.
Our wounds don’t really understand what we truly need. They have a voice of pain, of disconnection, desires separate from what would truly make us whole.
What needs to be seen and heard is not the mythic reality that we have created out of traumatized notions and a split that emerges from not being willing to look at the inner reality that fueled it, but the inner reality that fueled the need to be something (powerful, significant, special, a specific label) in the first place.
Only then can the grasping towards labels, superiority, specialness, and the outer play of enacting this need with others be left behind.
Only when such inner wounds are healed that we realize that we do not need to be in such a role, that our previous desires came from pain. That we do not need to be special or large or in control or mythic.
We can simply be who we are, imperfect.
Ironically, the discovery of who we are and moving beyond the mythic creations of our minds that emerge out of trauma and cultural and personal emptiness allow for us to understand how truly special we are, what we bring to the table right now, how we can uniquely be of service to the world right now.
It is due to the paradoxical nature of the Universe that it makes sense that the deepest of ignorances will often present itself as enlightenment. This is the deepest sense of understanding and breaking down this patterning.
It is the push-pull of ignorance and wisdom, the deepest of yin to where it transforms to yang, or yang to yin, a seeing into the depths of ignorance to see it as a naked force, with a specific aim. This aim is not violence or anything dramatic, although it may emerge that way in the end.
It is the force of stagnancy, of static vs. dynamic forces that appear in binary reality. Ignorance is a force of static energies, and it will rightfully fight to keep things as is. It will rightfully feel at war against the principles of chaos (lack of control/surrender), of flow, of growth/evolution, and of change.
The longer I do this work the more I see people as comprised of these forces, not one singular thing but many forces, many webs, coming together. In this it is much easier to maintain a non-reactionary state, a witness state, when the force of ignorance presents itself, either culturally or within an individual person.
The reason to break down the notion of significance or the desire to be special within the self is to move beyond the basic egotistical forces that compel people to remain in a cocoon.
The force of emptiness within, the wounded aspects of self within, are easily exploited. If such an emptiness is filled, the search is discontinued.
When talking about forces and exploitation it is easy to devolve into conspiracy theories and aberrations of mind that do not contribute to clarity. I am not talking about the idea of forces that can yet be another mythic reality to distract, confuse, or deny reality; I am talking about the very human exploitation of the need to be special and significant that drives commerce, spiritual seeking, and so many other things in our reality.
The sense of inadequacy and emptiness within compels people to keep on grasping towards external things. Another workshop, another book, another diet fad, a new car. Another thing that does not fill the hole of the desire to be special, because this inner emptiness will never be filled by anything but the thought that we are perfectly fine being imperfect, of the teaching that we are exactly perfect being imperfect (being who we are right now).
That things are the way they are supposed to be right now, and a surrender into the greater perspective and knowledge to go with the flow of our lives, instead of attempting to swim upstream, or elsewhere.
In some of my courses I talk about “ocean floor patterns”. These are the patterns that drive all of our other patterns of being. They organize everything we think, are, and act like.
People rarely recognize that specific forms of trauma, of disconnection, create similar wounds– similar beliefs, ways of being, needs for protective mechanisms, and desires. That these with perspective can be easily seen in people because they program people in specific ways… they restrict people from experiencing reality (and living) in specific ways.
One of these ocean floor patterns is the right to exist.
This can manifest in many different ways– invisibility patterns, inability to speak up or say our truth, the need for ego contests in which we tell everyone in the outer world how superior we are (in an attempt to convince ourselves that such a reality is a reality).
If we are taught, especially in early childhood, that we did not have a right to exist or take up space in some way (and our cultural values as well as trauma very much teach this, especially to children) we have a wound that arises.
This wound tells us that who we are is not okay because who we are was never fully recognized (seen and heard) by the sources that were intended to see us and nurture us in the way that allows for us to feel that it is okay to be just who we are.
This does not mean that we do not achieve, or perform, or anything like that, if we have healed this wound… but there is a vast difference between achieving because it means on some level that you have learned that achieving is something that needs to occur to be loved or noticed on some primary level, and achieving or performing with a distinct sense of self in tact, without the sense of emptiness and grasping of requiring an achievement.
The need to be special or significant is often then a primary wound that arises from being taught that who we are is not okay. That we must be better than those around us to even merit existing. That we must measure who we are against our neighbor, against our classmate, against the person we chat with over coffee or who we interact with online.
It separates us from the whole, as this emptiness separates us from the embodied understanding of Oneness. Where each of us is separate but paradoxically a part of the whole. This is a much different understanding than the isolating wound that requires being special, that requires thinking that it is separate from the whole.
This emptiness/wounding teaches us we cannot be ordinary, or even lack knowledge, in something. That our self-worth is contingent upon achievement, superiority, being inhumanly perfect. That we must constantly “do” and achieve to have any worth.
Except that the perfectionist, the person who craves such superiority and significance, never achieves it. They believe that the next thing will allow for them to achieve it. And then the thing after that. It is a perpetuating loop, a cycle, that can never be resolved because it cannot be resolved through wounded grasping.
The only way to truly resolve this need is to find acceptance within the self. To look directly at the emptiness within and what is driving it. To realize that as long as we are in human bodies, we are meant to be imperfect.
If we are able to ground in our humanity, to realize that we have a right to love and be loved as exactly who we are, imperfections and all, we can move beyond this need, we can move beyond the masks we attempt to wear to prove our worth, beyond our wounded protective mechanisms, beyond the grasping, and truly fill this emptiness within.
Mary Mueller Shutan is a spiritual teacher and healer as well as author of six books, all having to do with spiritual awakening, sensitivities, and developing spiritual tools to be able to connect to spiritual reality in a healthy, pragmatic way.