The Seeker of Peace


Absence of a Breakthrough
October 21, 2008, 5:57 pm
Filed under: Non-duality | Tags: , , , , ,

A few days ago I wrote about how I was feeling stuck in my spiritual progress. I realized that part of my frustration is that I’m hoping for some sort of massive breakthrough.

I’ve read many accounts of people who had dramatic shifts in perception, often overnight. Byron Katie, Karl Renz, Echkart Tolle, and Lester Levenson all had quick transitions from deep depression to a peaceful sense of oneness. While Levenson worked to trigger his transition, the others I mentioned all had their breakthroughs seemingly without conscious effort. Apparently, these people got a helicopter ride up the mountain, while I’m taking the walking path!

In talking with a friend today, I began to wonder if I’m reading too much into these people’s seemingly random progress. All of them were in states of very deep depression when they had their breakthroughs. I know what it’s like to be deeply depressed, having gone through a bout of suicidal depression as a teenager. If I had suddenly leapt from that state to my present state of consciousness, it would have seemed like a tremendous enlightenment experience.

I am much more loving and forgiving than I used to be, and less likely to be upset by the vicissitudes of the world. If I came here suddenly from deep depression, it would have been such a transformation that I would have wept with joy. There would be no doubt in my mind that something profound had happened.

What if I have underestimated my progress? I’m waiting for the day where I wake up and suddenly perceive non-duality, see everyone as a loving reflection of myself, and transcend the illusions of my ego. Maybe I’m already close enough to the goal that I haven’t recognized my gradual progress, and maybe my further progress will seem gradual too.

Karl Renz speaks about a definite shift from dualistic to non-dualistic perception, and Jed McKenna similarly makes it sound like there’s a definite point at which one is “enlightened.” Yet I have to wonder whether Renz and McKenna actually made it to the end of the path, or just became stuck in a cul-de-sac. Both of them seem to find their states lonely and empty. I’m therefore hesitant to look towards either of them as role models.

Maybe the point of Zen’s “gateless gate” is that there’s no well-defined endpoint to the path. I know Levenson kept studying and learning long after his transformation. Byron Katie sounds like she had to keep forgiving and consolidating her gains.

As a comment on my post about feeling stuck pointed out, “Expecting something – looking ahead – is another way of avoiding the present moment, yes?” I think that my expectation for a grand breakthrough is, indeed, another ego trick to interfere with my practice.

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