This article is the answer on question that I got after I posted the former article: “Symptoms of Spiritual Transition”, which is about the tell-tale signs that indicate that you are in a process of spiritual change.
The question that I got was in short: “I seem to be stuck in my transition process. Is there anything that I can do to help myself along? How do I flow along with that stream and break free from those symptoms?” I could not have asked for a better question, so I decided to take my time on this one and answer this one publicly because there are without any doubt many that are struggle with this very similar problem.
I reflect a lot for myself in this topic, because it is directly connected to the trials of our every day life, with the pearl of total freedom as the bonus price that has to be won each time again. With “freedom” I don’t just think of a spiritual freedom, but of a spiritual freedom that coincides totally with the personal freedom. Meaning: that we make it a process in which our spiritual freedom becomes the leading factor for our personal freedom. Like the horse in front of our wagon determining which course to take because it knows the way better than you do.
The process of gaining this freedom is also expressed trough the Zen parable of “Herding the ox”, where the herder is in search for his missing ox and where during the process he starts riding the ox. The ox in that allegorical story symbolizes the true essence of enlightenment because it is unstoppable in determining in its own direction. You either ride along or you have kind of a big problem.
Lack of spiritual freedom, and with that our personal freedom with it, comes with side effects. The reasons of those side effects are often so veiled that it is very difficult for us to determine where from they originate. In this article we will try to cover that.
Our most particular symptoms
- We may feel unease and unrest without that we necessarily see any particular reason for it.
- We may feel a doubt in all aspects of our lives that we find hard to place.
- We may feel torn between two or more options or choices.
- We can feel loss of creativity and that spark that drives us.
- We feel completely stuck.
As an effect of these we may feel lethargic of course. We may feel empty and apathetic…
These symptoms easily result in our need to withdraw from the world, to avoid the doubt and unrest we are feeling, while at the same time we will feel this deep urge within us that makes us to want break free. We feel torn between them like between two poles. The freedom at the one hand and the doubt at the other. While we are in the depth of such a total confusion, in this dark night of the soul that aptly is called “Massa Confusa” in Alchemy, it seems totally incomprehensible to us to know how to turn this process around until we manage look at it from an different perspective by analysing what we are doing and why we are doing it. Insight together with the desire to change are the two essential elements that will bring about that change.
TWO DIFFERENT STATES OF BEING
Original state of being: Acting from the source
Our spiritual source is like a stream. It flows constantly with abundance. This stream is the force of creation and it is the source of inspiration. It is the life giving water of love for small things that makes those small things grow larger than our selves. Engulfing us and carrying us. It is the essence of true appreciation of what we have and what we encounter in life. It is from this source that our ultimate limitless freedom is watered and grows. Its roots are in it and its purity and powers are immaculate and part of a universal flow and harmony that goes past all comprehension.
This source is from itself and by itself. We can’t steer it in any direction with our will. We can’t know it directly, but it can feed us and grow us by flowing along with it effortlessly and without opposing any resistance to it.
Acting from this creative flow our actions become harmonized. We become more loving, more open, less encumbered, less dogmatic, less moralistic and less limited. We do in fact become as limitless and free as the stream itself because there is no ego leading us and no personal prison obstructing the flow of this pure radiant essence that brings about our freedom. Our capabilities and creativity are unlocked. Acting completely from the source we are as original, unencumbered and real as we can be.
The only problem that we seem to have with this stream is that we can`t grab or grasp it, steer it or manipulate it in any way as we are so used to do because of our fears for loss of control. So flowing along it comes by surprise, and leaves again when we try to hold on to it or try to call it up or control it, until we get the hang of “not holding on”. Then it can flow freely and pour out trough an unencumbered creativity in life and action.
Personal state of being: Being cut off from the source
It happens quickly to get cut off from that stream because of a fear-based conditioning that we have built on negative past experiences. We all have our personal collections of defence mechanisms built on fears that seem to direct our lives for us. We basically don`t live our lives but our fears do.
What is interesting is to see how our fears come into being and how deeply seated they in fact are and that can be easily illustrated with the following:
In the early 20th century, the psychologist John B Watson made experiments with fear-based conditioning. He tried to understand if conditions like phobias could be conditioned in humans.
For this Watson conducted his famous “Little Albert” experiment, showing an emotionally stable baby,
a fire, a monkey, a dog, a rabbit and a white lab rat. To all of these Little Albert responded naturally without any sign of fear because it didn’t mean a thing to him.
In the next step of this experiment Watson started making loud noises each time Little Albert reached out to touch the rat. With increasingly loud noises, Little Albert became more and more distressed when the rat was brought close to him.
Then Watson introduced other stimuli to Little Albert, which bore similar characteristics to the rat. These stimuli included other animals, but also a fur coat and a Santa Clause mask. Each time Little Albert (that was previously calm) responded with fear, which led to Watson`s conclusion that fear is a conditioned response in us.
Watson completed many experiments with young babies and stated: “Give me a baby and I can make any kind of man”.
It is kind of gruesome considering this poor baby that unfortunately died at the age of 6, but this experiment tells us something about in what way we become conditioned by fears and how we react distressed when anything baring similar characteristics to our most basic fears. The source of these fears are, as psychologists have on a number of occasions concluded, buried in our youth.
These conditioned fears become our most resilient and worst motivators. They push us constantly subconsciously. While we grow up we create personality traits built to deflect these fears. For example: We have felt very rejected as a child. In later life we may become deflecting and avoiding. We might choose jobs of isolation or of prestige in order to show avoidance trough our ivory tower of superiority. We may also have created a strong automated tendency to reject positive relationships out of fear for losing them, making us cling to relationships that we don`t really believe in because it makes it easier to cope with the loss we fear will come as a result if we deeply trust someone. So we rather choose to lose than to get hurt. And the thing is. Others seem to see it and we see it in others, but for ourselves we seem to have to experience and realize it.
This is just a simple example, but we all are, without any exceptions, conditioned in such ways and so we all are as burdened as we are. No one is namely devoid of such burdens and everyone that is trotting the path of spiritual progress has to face his or her conditionings at some point.
The most difficult of these conditionings are the ones that we identify with as ourselves and that we value positively. We may identify ourselves with archetypes like that of the artist, the teacher, the scientist, the musician, the priest, the housewife, the husband, the lover, the pretty girl or boy, the good person, the spiritual person. But also as the bitch, the ass-hole, the criminal mastermind, the dictator, the predator and so on… We may also associate ourselves with a religion, a political party, a football team, a sexual preference… and so on. All of these identifications give us a sense of belonging that is without any exception built on our personal fear based defence-system. We identify with what C.G. Jung calls a persona, a mask. And we identify with it in order to avoid the scary reality because a mask means a distance but a the same time this mask will easily turn into our largest behavioural prison cutting us of from the source.
We are conditioned by founding most, if not all, of our choices on an automated fear. On it we make rules and build morals. On it we base our personal belief system of what is right and what is wrong while true freedom surpasses all of that, creating new laws and a greater flexibility of spontaneous morals.
As a path-goer, any choice will daunt us if it is not chosen straight from the heart. Those choices will give us unrest, make us feel torn between options, and will make us feel empty, doubtful and lost. Basically it means that we are taking a wrong turn. A turn that seemingly leads us away from a fear but which is in fact based on a fear. This will steer us as a result into new fears until we come to the point that we let our heart decide instead of our head. Past all conditionings and fears.
This seems very difficult and daunting in itself but in fact it isn’t that hard! It only asks for a working attitude because you can bypass your fears completely. We only need to stop worrying! We need to break with the cycle of speculative thought and doubt and simply dare to live openly and fully as if we were fearless like a warrior.
The reason why you experience this so deeply, why you seem to end up in situations where the greatest doubts and uncertainties seem to manifest themselves so abundantly is because you are on that path. You have tasted the freedom and liberation. And you long stronger for it than for anything else. You long for rest, peace and harmony. You sense the freedom in words that are spoken about it. They resonate in you because that string inside of you, your soul, sees and feels the stream. As a consequence for this longing you end up in situations that are the most difficult and trying for you. You are confronted with the choices that are killing you and with problems that seem unsolvable. And all of that happens for one reason, and that is time for you to learn to let go and to change your focus and direction, because a proper answer will never be found in your doubts, worries and fears.
So those deadly situations that are consuming you by worry and fear are placed there to get you to focus you on a totally different method. One that bypasses those worries and fears. Lifting you over them without sinking away in them. Or when you do sink in them again (and all will) that you will know how to shake off those worries and fears. That you try to look at them neutrally and move past them as quickly, while learning from them at the same speed.
The fearless mind
Did you ever find yourself on a beach or in a forest or in the car on a long drive, or playing sports or music, or writing or making art or while you were meditating and suddenly time stopped? That your sense of self just seemed to disappear in the moment or for a prolonged period of time? Did you notice that you felt free? Unburdened? Part of the moment? Did you notice too that that moment collapsed as soon as you started to think about it? Grab it? Analyse it? As soon as your mind came into action? As soon as you were not simply transfixed any more? That is when you fell out of it.
These moments of self-forgetting we all experience. Some little more often than others and some strive to gain this experience on regular basis and find it beneficial to meditate, to be creative or to take a good walk in nature, or engage in something like tantric sex in order to return to this automatic experience of freedom. So doing things totally naturally without trying hard to get a result helps. Using your personal talents help.
Keeping these moments dear and striving after them without trying to grab them are of great importance to us because those moments strengthen our sense of freedom opposed to the sense of self. Instead of identification with some aspects of our life created by the collection of experiences we can identify with that freedom instead, but then without directly identifying with it. We know simply that we are it!
This state of mind is by Buddhist called fearless mind. It is our free and infant-like unburdened state of being. And it arises when you are in the moment and in the flow that is within it instead of on fear. This flow namely gives a clear mind and insight, washed free from worry. That is what we can do spiritually by meditation, contemplation, yoga a good walk and so on. We need to unburden ourselves. But we can also deal with our fears in a more direct manner.
Confronting our fears
It’s all great with all that spiritual stuff here, but there is also something we can, and actually need to do in a more direct way. Without it we are mere spiritual day-dreamers. The thing is that we are trying to avoid the unavoidable while the unavoidable will come up for as long as we try to avoid it. So we just need to face our deepest fears in order to deal with them and to be done with them. Rudolf Steiner and the Theosophists call this “The Guardian of the Threshold” . The Saturn-phase. The phase of death and in fact the final phase before liberation. It is at the same time the hardest phase because our fears are laid bare before us. We feel as if we are displaying an open wound that is left open be hurt even more. And here, at this point, we need to be the fearless warrior. We actually need to take that double edged sword forged by mercy and justice and plant it in ourselves in order to assess ourselves.
As soon we experience fear we become instantly paralysed by it. We start worrying and get the tendency to avoid the culprit of our fear and subsequently we start avoiding those situations and people that come too close to our fears for comfort. An other reaction to our fears is to cleverly sabotage situations, playing victim or manipulation which are too very clear signs of fear based reactions coming out of fear for pain and to be hurt, which is “the mother” of all fears.
Fear to lose is one that most of us know well. It is a fear for losing something that is truly meaningful and important to us, making us vulnerable. So we may as well, as we all probably have done too, reject the best things that might happen to us out of fear. But what is even worse. Our worst fears seem to have a tendency to come true.
When we act on fears then these fears will be perpetuated. For instance: “We deeply fear being left. We react and act on that fear and become intensely distrusting towards someone that we value deeply. This distrust leaves that other person feeling distrusted and frustrated. From that frustration this person may try to communicate with us, convince us. But as there is a deeply rooted distrust in us we aren’t convinced and open for that kind of communication, so the situation gets frustrated further until this person that we in fact deeply value leaves us because it is impossible to be connected freely with us when we have no trust.” And so we feel acknowledged in the fact that people leave us, while we in fact are the culprit of it by not trusting them in first place, and so we create our personal self fulfilling prophesy again and again until we become conscious of our fear based actions and break with them by confronting our fears, accepting them and seeing them for what they are and for what they do. There are many other examples where our fears come true because we react strongly on them. We perpetuate them. Fear for being laughed at, for example, will easily make us go all spastic in public, getting us being laughed at. Confirming a false feeling that we would not be not worthy, perpetuating our reactions and confirming expectations until that terrible circle is broken in some kind of way.
A matter of choice
In all situations we have choices. There can be choices that scare the hell out of us even though the may seem good at one hand but then doubt comes streaming in, engulfing us at other hand. There is no shame in undergoing them and feeling at a total loss. The only thing that really matters is namely that our concious mind is focussed on solving the factors that give us fear. And that is a choice too!
We can also look at our choices and try to determine if we are making them based on fear and conditioning or if they are based on freedom and openness. We can determine if there is such a choice of freedom and openness in the mix and if that one is an option despite the fears.
To my personal experience it is so that if I am motivated by subtle fears driving me to safety, while I feel openness and a clarity in the other direction even though that is the choice that I fear most, that the latter is the best one of my two choices, because it will eventually lead me out of my fear. While the first one, the one that is based on fear to start with, will lead into a perpetuation of my fears, calling up new situations that are never free from fear.
So with other words. The choice that we fear the most is the most difficult one, but it also is often the one that breaks with the perpetuation of the fear factor that is living us. The effect is not unlike getting over a fear of being laughed at. The best performers have struggled with their nerves until they broke trough their resistance and let a performance happen, instead of letting their personality stand in the way of it. And then magic happens. Change happens. There you find the X-factor in X-factor because the creative source behind the performance breaks these people free despite of their fear, and carries them beyond their personal capabilities. They are more than they are when they are singing or acting or dancing or what not. This is also the reason why it is so touching to watch such performances, because something in us resonates deeply with it. Our own fears and breaking free from them is a deep seated issue for all of us and it is truly inspiring, beautiful, touching and heart-opening to see that happen.
The thing is. This can happen in your own life too. In your own situations where you experience fear and act from it in the most spastic manner possible and make the worst of all choices. Stepping over that fear into something real and streaming will change us completely, leaving all fears and doubts and double dealings behind. Then our own life can become beyond our own capabilities. We can become more than we are. Maybe we even inspire others by it. Just by being. It is namely so simple. In this we also have to choose not to struggle. Not to victimize ourselves. Because also the choice of struggle is based on fear. Choosing the more difficult because it is easier may sound illogical. But to many it isn’t. It is choosing loss and that can be an easier choice if you know loss too well for comfort. Losing something really valuable like something that is real, beautiful and easy would be too hard to cope with so are we conditioned in accepting a situation that fatalistically steers towards difficulties and a bad fate. It doesn’t have with lack of self love to do as many believe, but lack of personal confidence and fear for loss. Also here we can choose. Choose not to lose but to gain and to appreciate the right, the good and the beautiful without fearing it.
If we want to dissolve fears then we may also benefit from observing past situations. This may be very helpful in seeing how and where we are stuck. We can for instance look at job choices, relationships with friends, partners or kids. Odds are that it is 100% certain that we have made the majority of our choices based on fears. We may even see that we made the worst choices for ourselves out of fear of becoming disappointed.
The best we can do, when we have lost our true freedom and when we have lost that spark and flow, is to assess our situation. That we assess our reactions to people and situations. Assessing if they are open and fearless or closed and conditioned by fears. We can assess our conditionings, recognize them and dare to peel them off. Placing ourselves naked in a situation or in front of a person. Showing ourselves in our deepest fears and weakness is one of the greatest strengths that we can show. Most of us who are trotting this path are very good at looking at others doing so while being strong ourselves. This is also a defence mechanism based on fear. Letting others show themselves, being open to them because we judge others so little, means that we don`t need to be open ourselves. And at the same time we can learn a great deal from other people’s processes. It is all very nifty but also very clear as soon as you start to poke around in yourself fearlessly.
Further it is important to let go of any ideas that we have stuck to or that we are sticking to in a desperate attempt to make a situation, a relationship or our whole life work. We can deeply fear to lose control, so we are sticking to concepts and ideas as anchors with which we are trying to control an uncontrollable life. With those concepts and ideas we unknowingly and unwillingly fight against the free flowing freedom of being. We need to let go of the reins and dare to see what life has in store for us without us wanting to control the outcome.
Fight or flight or observe
Fear is a veiling factor in our lives. It gives us a “fight or flight” attitude while the best for us would be to observe.
Becoming fearless is a process but also an attitude that one needs to tend to. It is the attitude of the inner warrior or the hero. Slaying dragons. Rescuing kings, queens and princesses or riding a bull that might go all bronco on you. The key is to give freedom and the force of creativity and creation the lead instead of those fears. In that limitless source of freedom lies a strength and solidity that is beyond measure.
Being a rock
Opposed to all the fears and insecurities we can have gives this freedom us an unwavering strength and a rock steady certainty. And if one is tried in life whilst living essentially from that source, then life`s trials and tribulations will be hard, sharp, painful and deep, but also the strength and the learning will be great keeping you unwavering and focussed, also in your weakest hours.
Last but not least. Living fearless is of course not the same as living reckless. But being lived by fears hinders us in our process, and that needs to be dealt with. If not today then tomorrow. If not tomorrow then the day after. Because in the spiritual process, becoming free from fear and worry will become inevitable at some point. So you better be the warrior today and confront your fears now instead of saving them for tomorrow because the inevitable can`t be avoided in the long run. You only make it harder on yourself. It all has to do with daring to be and show yourself as you are, be it strong, be it weak, be it filled with fear, uncertainties and doubt. It is facing them which counts the most. The fruit of that labour will be reaped later, with complete certainty.
It is also very helpful to seek out friends or just colleagues or acquaintances that you practice on. Showing bits and pieces of yourself. Saying things about yourself that you have never admitted before and see how they react. Pull yourself out of your comfort-zone. This will help you a lot as well with getting at ease with showing yourself and with easing the weight of those fears that seem to have a grip on you
Article by: Douwe Boschma.