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Motivation After Spiritual Awakening

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Q: In 2009, my personal story was seen through, and it dropped away. With it, went all motivation. Without a self, there’s no desire or fear of living or dying, and without those desires and fears, there seems to be no drive. I have about two months of money left in the bank and no desire to get a real job. Still, I have no worries and sleep like a baby. It feels wonderful, appreciative, in-touch, pure, loving, and connected. The lack of motivation seems to be the biggest part of the “problem.” The other part of the problem is a lack of identity. Not having an identity to pin myself to is disconcerting. What motivates you when there is no “you?”

A: Although there is no formula for what happens after awakening, I can assure you that your experience is not unusual. I have two suggestions. The first is an invitation to become very curious about what is present in the lack of motivation. Because the deeper movements or drives of essence are quieter and subtler than our old egoic desires and attachments, it can take a very sensitive ear to hear them. It sounds like you are already in touch with them when you say, “It feels wonderful, appreciative, in-touch, pure, loving, and connected.” So what is that appreciative love flowing most naturally and authentically to? Where do you still find a deeper longing in your Heart? Since every expression of the mystery is unique, even every snowflake, what that deeper longing will look like in your case is unpredictable. Being in the flow of your essence may mean continuing to rest and be quiet, or it may mean becoming busier than ever. The key is to be very curious about what is true in your own Heart. What allows the deepest opening of your Heart right now? I know of a man in California who had a profound realization and then sat on his couch for months. One day, he suddenly had an idea for a spiritual bookstore. He said he was too lazy to not get up off the couch and start working sixteen hours a day to open this bookstore. At that point, it took more effort to sit still!

The second thing I would suggest, which may seem to contradict my first suggestion, is that you consider not waiting for motivation to show up. I had a teacher once who pointed out that the word “energy” comes from words meaning “into the work.” He suggested that energy and motivation often come once we are already doing something. So you might simply notice what opportunities or activities naturally present themselves and just do them. That will give you a chance to find out if there is motivation or energy for that activity after all.

I see these two suggestions as complementary, not contradictory. The truth is subtle and has many levels, so sometimes we need to sense the subtle movements of our Being, and other times we need to just get up and do whatever presents itself to do. I find that, as the discovery of the complete range of my true nature continues, I experience a greater and greater range of movements and motivations. I’m willing to experience everything from a deep sense of resting (what one of my teachers called “the contented old cow state”) to a passionate flurry of activity and creativity. Our true nature includes all of these possibilities and more.

As for the issue of a lack of identity, I have two similar suggestions. One is to be curious about what is present in the space where there is no identity or sense of self. “Beyond No Self,” which is included as Appendix 1 of this book, is an article I wrote that explores this further. Reading this may help you become more accustomed to the lack of a self, which is such a strange and unfamiliar experience when it first arises. Once you discover all the rich dimensions of Self that are present in the absence of an egoic sense of self, you might not find the absence of that egoic identity to be a problem.

The second suggestion is to allow yourself to have whatever identity is needed in any moment. Put on an identity when you need it or feel like it, in the same way you might dress up for Halloween. Freedom is when you can spontaneously identify or dis-identify based on what’s true in that moment. Spiritual teachings often emphasize dis-identification because so many people are stuck in identification. But there’s no reason to, then, get stuck in dis-identification. You can play within the limitless range of roles, stories, and dramas that life contains without getting permanently stuck in any of them.

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Everything is Spiritual

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Another email question:

I've been writing a story lately. It's turning out to be nasty, I mean it's like a soap opera. One character gets murdered! I'm having a whale of a good time, but I've got this nagging doubt in the back of my mind: is it spiritual? I mean, the feeling is more, I wish my characters were more spiritual or had loftier ambitions or something. Or perhaps I would be a better person if I wrote books about spiritual development.

My response:

Sounds like a good story!  This is another chance to check in your own heart to know what is true. There is no formula....and writing a nasty story can be a wonderful way to see more of our inner conditioning and also maybe just enjoy creating something with some good drama in it.  Because you say you are having a whale of a good time, my guess is that it is something that is true for you right now. Does it open your heart and allow you to feel more alive to write? If yes, then go for it!

Do not worry too much about being spiritual as that is a big category: it only includes everything!

 

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What Power Does the Ego Have?

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Q: Does the ego have the power to create what it wants to be, have, and do? Does the ego have the power to block the natural flow of life through me? Or can the ego only create psychological suffering or happiness, but it doesn’t have the power to block the flow of life or to create what it wants?

A: The ego has a small degree of power to create what it wants and, at times, to block the flow of life temporarily. However, the ego does have a lot of power to cause us to suffer, although suffering itself is just an experience in thought—a mental state. There is no actual thing called suffering. It only exists as a mental experience. Mental suffering can trigger feelings and physical sensations, but the source of those feelings and sensations is thoughts.

For example, there is probably some furniture in the room where you are right now. You can think about the furniture, but the furniture is also a physical reality. Compare that to imagining a baby elephant in the room where you are right now. You can think about the baby elephant and imagine it in great detail, but the baby elephant is still not really there in the room with you. So suffering is all imagined, like the baby elephant. That is why the ego has so much power to cause us to suffer—because it doesn’t take much to imagine something. We only have to exercise our imagination to suffer; we don’t have to do anything else.

In the midst of this potential for suffering, there are also the events in your life and the actions you take. The ego has a small degree of power to affect these. And when it does, we often learn much more about how limited the viewpoint of the ego is. Oscar Wilde once wrote that there are two great tragedies in life: One is when we don’t get what we want, and the other is when we do. When the ego gets what it wants, we often discover the limitations, problems, and difficulties we hadn’t foreseen when we were lost in the perspective of our ego’s desire. The ego acts out of a very narrow range of impulses that are focused on its own needs and preferences. When these get satisfied, we discover the limitations of our understanding and foresight. A friend of mine always wanted a house in the country with a big yard. When she finally got one, she spent the entire summer mowing the lawn! Spending all her time riding a lawn mower wasn’t in her ego’s picture of the joy of having a place in the country, and it also wasn’t her deepest desire.

So the ego can create distractions and detours that interfere with the unfolding of our life’s purpose, but fortunately the underlying wisdom and discrimination of our Being is still also working. So we eventually feel a truer impulse and adjust course and end up back in the flow. Or our ego’s creations fall apart and then essence, or Being, picks up the pieces and puts us back on track. Our life is a dance between all these forces. Ego has some capacity to affect what happens, but that capacity is much less than the capacity of our Being to unfold life in truer directions.

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Nothing Personal: Seeing Beyond the Illusion of a Separate Self by Nirmala.

Nothing Personal leads you to the experience of your true nature and helps you explore its depth. Through exposition, questions and dialogues, it brings you to a place of realization of the Truth: you are the spacious Awareness in which everything appears.

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