Category Archives: Difficulties on the path

No Mountains, No Rivers

mountains

Most of you must have heard about the old Zen saying about the rivers and the mountains, for those of you who haven’t here is a condensed version of it:

At the first level on the path, he saw mountains as mountains and rivers as rivers. On the second level of the path, he saw that mountains are not mountains and rivers are not rivers. And at a third level, he saw once again mountains were mountains and rivers were rivers.

That Zen metaphor describes the three important stages experienced by consciousness as it passes through the gate of VISION, COMPASSION and REBIRTH.

At the first level on the path, he saw mountains as mountains and rivers as rivers
The first stage describes the state of mind-consciousness. Objects are labeled, they have a story attached to them and seem clearly separated and independent from each others. This is the current state of consciousness of the majority of human beings.

On the second level of the path, he saw that mountains are not mountains and rivers are not rivers.
As the world and our ego start to appear for what they really are, mind constructs, the “contour” of all inner and outer objects starts to blur and the unity of all starts to become our experience. That stage is often considered as awakening. Many individuals are currently going through that process.

At that stage, I would like to add a little note of caution based on my conscious experience of stage 2.

Consciousness can easily be fooled into thinking that stage 2 is the destination. The first contact of the “substance” with Presence can be fascinating. All objects and forms seem to “float” within a pure Presence, Awareness.

The mold of Neo-Advaita, in particular, seems to freeze many seekers into stage 2 through a dynamic of neverending compulsive self-enquiry. They deconstructed their reality and through a form of  new spiritualized ego they tend to compulsively reject all forms and objects that present themselves to their new found awareness. It is just another form of inverted duality and an exclusive expression of consciousness. Exclusive because the all inclusive heart is still not included.

And at a third level, he saw once again mountains were mountains and rivers were rivers.
The world of forms and objects has dissolved, the self has acknowledged its essential nature as pure Presence, the time of rebirth has come.

Strong from its “self-awareness” in the substance, Presence embraces the world of forms once again and it is now an embrace of love with the substance. Mountains are mountains again. Body, emotions, and thoughts are “impregnated” by Presence, the “little things of life” re-emerge in a newborn awareness. The VISION is now connected to THE HEART, humanity is embraced in its beauty, limitations, imperfections and fragility. Presence knows itself as the source of all, pure knowing, pure experiencing and the known, the experienced is not separated from it, it is essentially Love meeting Love.

Calwen

The Dark Night of The Soul

Dark Night Of The Soul - IsolationThe subject of the “dark night of the soul” is not an easy one to approach.

Psychological disorders are the results of mental and/or emotional malfunctions, it can be understood and treated. The dark night of the soul is not a psychological disorder it is a state of consciousness resulting from the collapse of the psychological structures that define the “sense of I” in an individual.

The concept of the dissolution of the ego is not new, it has, and is considered as a sine qua non condition for the spiritual awakening to happen. In that regard, many spiritual traditions consider the dissolution of the ego as a positive indication that the student is walking the path in the right direction.

Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.

The quote above, attributed to the Christ, is interesting to understand the potential causes that lead an individual to experience the dark night of the soul.  The Christ indicates that the “vibration” of our earthly personality must be raised before we can experience a new influx of life and consciousness. The old you must die, for the new You to live.

He also mentions that the wineskins could be ruined. It is said that “god is a devouring fire” and if you foolishly try to approach its radiance too early it might burn your wings. You will find many horror stories of early Kundalini awakening in individuals not ready to deal with the energies unleashed in the process. It is important to understand that beyond words we are dealing with energy, everything is energy and consciousness. The energy can be controlled or untamed, it can participate in harmony or cause destruction.

Our “sense of I”, the way we see ourself,  is a focus point, a contraction of  Presence that came into existence  through what we have been told by our parents, teachers, our close environment and finally through our cultural heritage. We are what we think we are, the key to the great mystery of awakening is in the deep understanding of that key concept.

It comes to a point, in the evolution of a human being, where nothing seems to make sense or attract anymore. The fruits of life have been experienced. The gradients of love and hate have assimilated.  The world is seen as a senseless and agitated arena and the individual intuitively feel that there must be more to life.

Eventually, the individual embarks on a spiritual path and adhere (or not) to an existing spiritual strategy. It can take a long time for an individual to come to the realization that the “sense of I” is just a made up blob of energy floating in Presence and that his physical, emotional and mental substance are an impermanent manifestation of Presence. When it happens, a sudden collapse of the psychological structure might precipitate the now dying ego in the dark night of the soul.

Dark Night Of The Soul - Rebirth

Notice that I said that the dying ego “might” experience “the dark night of the soul”. I do think that individuals with personal spiritual strategies who are walking the path alone (not guided by an already awakened being) are more prone to find the experience of the dissolution of their identity difficult and frightening.

How does it feel like in the dark night of the soul? That is a very subjective question because every individual will describe that state of consciousness using different terms and as I said it is a very intimate and subjective experience which is not easy to put into words. We don’t realize that our sense of identity is a protective energetic shield, when that shield breaks what it was protecting is exposed and in direct contact with the forces that emanates from all directions in a daily basis. In the dark night of the soul, you can become the witness of your own life for some time, in that regard, it is a form of derealization or depersonalization. It can also take the form of a total lack of drive or desire to accomplish anything and a desire to be alone. Many will need to spend a lot of time in Nature in a contemplative state. Some will even end up on the sofa of a psychiatrist, which is, as you can imagine, far from an inspired solution.

Above all the dark night of the soul is an initiation, a test of strength for the heart and the will. Will you be able to stand in total emptiness and darkness, surrounded by your doubts. Will you be able to face the monsters you created and embrace them through the power of Love and acceptance of What IS.

If you are reading me and think you are going through the dark night of the soul, remember that you are essentially an eternal flame of Presence and that you have the power to bring light to any corner of the known and unknown, visible and invisible universe. You are a powerful light carrier, walk the darker parts of the path with confidence. You hold a scepter of power in your right hand and a lantern in your left hand, you open the path for the rest of humanity.

Finally, from the bottom of the pit, laugh triumphantly because you are an eternal and indestructible flame of Presence.

Calwen