Simply do this: Be still, and lay aside all thoughts of what you are and what God is; all concepts you have learned about the world; all images you hold about yourself. Empty your mind of everything it thinks is either true or false, or good or bad, of every thought it judges worthy, and all the ideas of which it is ashamed. Hold onto nothing. Do not bring with you one thought the past has taught, nor one belief you ever learned before from anything. Forget this world, forget this course, and come with wholly empty hands unto your God
~ A Course in Miracles
Spiritual transformation asks of us something that sounds simple enough: Turn within and let go of everything you think you know, including what you think you even are. Since letting go of just one familiar pattern can feel terrifying, trust is the spiritual muscle we most need to allow a deeper surrender. When trust blossoms we feel held within an ocean of boundless love and freedom. The more we receive this infinite holding, the more we can let go into the inevitable changes of life, and into deeper dimensions of consciousness, with less concern for what will happen to the construct of “me.”
You are so much deeper than you realize.
Vedantic philosophy holds that your true nature is SAT – infinite pure being, CHIT – pure consciousness prior to all conditioning, and ANANDA – unending love and bliss. What we typically call “me” is not ultimately who you really are, but your personality brand; a particular collage of past impressions, conclusions, beliefs, emotional habits, likes and dislikes, held together by the glue of attachment. Like a childhood comfort blanket, it has our familiar smell and feel to it, and so we often do not stop to question whether our personality is real. All too often, we are hypnotized by our own propaganda, forgetting that we are really spiritual kings and queens, blessed with all kinds of inner riches.
You are not defined by your brand.
Spiritual awakening does not ask you to get rid of your personality or pretend you are above having one. It invites you to relax the habitual activity of trying to fix, get, become, improve, seek, judge and project. To simply be still, present and undefended with what is. This practice that I call “ego relaxation” cuts through your everyday stress at the root. It lovingly calls your familiar sense of “me” to retire being the director of your life. It helps you forgive yourself for your human limitations, while inviting you to submit to the deeper heart.
Drop in and through the gates of your mind
Diving deeper often involves passing through the gates of fear and pride that make us worship the familiar and resist real submission. We subconsciously fear that who we thought we were is not a real ontological being, but a constellation. We turn it into some story of “I’m not good enough,” and then get busy trying to prove it is not true. Commonly we distract ourselves with some busyness because facing our inner emptiness can make us feel young, lost, deficient and covered in a sticky shame. So much compassion is needed to contact this cowering vulnerability and bring it to the light of awareness. If we can open through these layers of the mind without judging or justifying, we see that the personality at its core is empty. Not bad or wrong – just a structure rather than a real self. Opening, softening and allowing this emptiness, it opens into a vast space in which illusions dissolve and deeper reality can shine forth. The space of no-thing-ness is both emptiness and also infinite boundless love. This is why nothing bad can happen to you when you turn within, face whatever you find, and let go. Despite fears that you will fall through thin air as if jumping out of a plane without a parachute, there is no crash landing possible. You can only fall out of a fearful structure within your mind. You land deeper in the truth of your heart.
Your dreaming of exile has been happening within God
Each time you humbly submit the reins of control, you discover afresh that your dreaming of exile has been taking place within God. Dante wrote “The infinite goodness has such wide arms that it takes in whatever turns to it.” You exist within the deepest holding possible; a loving goodness that has known you and loved you all the days of your life. It IS the heart of your own being. Unlike the holding environment you experienced as a child that likely was not as total as you needed, this loving goodness has no limits and does not come and go. Ramana Maharshi referred to it as the “sub-stratum.” It flows like an eternal river of absolute beneficence underneath everything. This is why the Christian mystic Julian of Norwich expressed “all is well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”
What would your life be like if you could accept this?
Fully trusting you are intrinsically part of the vast ocean of consciousness that is inherently loving would mean the end to all fear and anxiety. It would dissolve the need for any self-deception or pretense. You would be so much more capable of being real with yourself, with others. Your living and relating could be so much deeper and freer. Not needing to hide anything would extinguish all shame, expose the sense of sin as laughable. It would render judgment unnecessary and bring a loving countenance to your gaze upon everyone and everything.
Trust is way more than a concept
Simply affirming “all is well” does not cut it when our body-mind is still carrying undigested memories of feeling alone and separate. As I have written extensively in a previous article “Cultivating Trust,” our capacity to trust and therefore surrender, is limited by impressions of our personal history where we were on the receiving end of unkindness, neglect, mis-attunement, lack of understanding or support. These impressions hold together the felt sense that there is no safety, no loving goodness to let go into. We cannot help but develop beliefs about who we are and how the world is based on our experience of our early environment before we could even speak. These early experiences create the foundation of our unconscious mind. A young child automatically presumes that how mother and the holding environment is = how the world is = how safe, loved and valuable we are. This feels like objective reality until we patiently approach our most sensitive inner material and just be there – kind, spacious and contact-full in body, heart and mind. Then the hurts and conclusions that create our fearful patterns can begin to unwind. We often need to receive these qualities offered by a skilled guide in order to truly meet them, but meet them we must.
Love does not bypass or force
Our fearful beliefs, memories and contractions will only relax into the infinite embrace that Dante speaks of when we move towards ourselves with the utmost patience. The awakening process is not a race to some idealized finish line. Love does not force. Contacting, forgiving and surrendering the hurts and conclusions our inner child arrived at is daily work. It is done only when contractions cease to grip us. If we are interested in a genuine awakening, we cannot jump over the practice of inquiry through our psychological and somatic being. We just don’t stop there. The existential spiritual level underlies our personal history around holding. It is an unavoidable stage of the human journey to forget we are Sat-Chit-Ananda. We all fall into identifying ourselves as our personality brand limited to the location, shape and gender of our body, and then the thoughts of mind. In our existential forgetting, our infant-self projects the qualities of its own divine nature onto the mother figure. Since we need her to feed and care for us, intuiting and meeting our needs when we are totally dependent, our infant self is looking for total holding from a personality. Even if she objectively does a great job, unless our mother is a fully enlightened being –the holding is going to feel limited. The love won’t feel like enough. We will conclude we must not be enough.
True holding is not of the personality
Holding is a presence in which we feel contacted and completely imbued by boundless love. Unlike the smothering we might have received in the name of love, it also contains infinite space, which enables us to relax right down to the core and BE however we are. This presence does not come from any THING – it is an indestructible aspect of our own true nature. It feels like a soft, fleshy, golden fullness, reminiscent of that nectar like light of the sunset over the ocean. It is the divine mother PRESENCE.
She welcomes even your reactions of rage and hate
Whenever I teach on this subject, my words on infinite holding often grate like fingernails down a blackboard triggering primal hatred and rage. Often we cry out “where was this infinite loving holding when we most needed it?” “How come there is such suffering in the world?” Old pain rails against talk of something we so want and need and often have felt so powerless to attain. This makes us want to trash, reject or dismiss the validity of infinite love and holding. If you find such waves arising as you read this, let that ancient hurt be met by the compassionate allowing of your own breath. The infinite holding welcomes this completely and fully. Honor and open through your human reactions.
How do we access Limitless Holding?
Holding is a dynamic substantial but subtle presence. It comes alive when you relax your attempts to get the holding from any particular thing or form. I am sure you know how intensely painful it feels when you have sought for a particular kind of holding in your intimate relationship and did not get it the way you hoped. Entitled rage can roar out of us like a young child screams when it does not get what it wants. We contract and control and push. Not getting what we want activates our more primitive patterns. Yet infinite holding cannot come to you by demands, for this reveals there has been no surrender. This passage from A Course in Miracles reminds us that: “You need not know the way to God. He knows the way to you. Your part is simply to allow all obstacles that you have interposed to be quietly removed forever. Ask and receive. But do not make demands, nor point the road by which God should appear to you. The way is merely to let everything be. For in that way is your reality proclaimed as well.” Bring your historical evidence for mistrust to the light of awareness, contact the feelings and sensations and let them be. Then turn deeper into the present moment with this inquiry question:
What’s holding you now?
This is a question that I have been offering as a contemplative inquiry practice to all my students. It powerfully opens your consciousness to recognize and receive the holding that is unarguably present that is not coming from your efforting mind. You might feel it right now as the holding of the earth below your feet, the chair you are sitting on as you read this, the life giving oxygen inherent in each breath you take, the nourishing goodness pouring out of every tree, the love that gives rise to the warmth of your friendships, inspired writings, sufficient food to eat and so many blessings of ordinary life. Recently in our ongoing sangha, we took it much deeper with the further inquiry:
What’s holding that?
With each aspect of holding that you perceive, you can inquire deeper into where this holding is coming from. What causes there to be life-giving oxygen inherent to sustain your life? What causes the tree to manifest and bring its shade, beauty, transforming our carbon dioxide into clean air? What causes the warmth of your friends to manifest in your life? What gives rise to the blessing of your children? Of your husband or wife? The sweetness of your pet? The light that manifests as daytime?
What’s holding all of that?
What happens if you let your consciousness sink into the vast mystery that holds it all? Holds our planet within the space of our solar system? What holds the space in which you and I and all beings have their life? What holds absolutely everything?
Just like lying back to find that effortless balancing spot of floating in the ocean, feeling the soft membrane of the water cushioning your resting body, you can lean into whatever these questions lead. Simply follow the thread of each seemingly minor felt sense of holding. Recognize every hint of evidence for the loving goodness underlying your life. Then inquire into its origin and finally its even deeper cause, and you can fold back into the infinite holding of pure being itself. Like the ultimate mother that holds you but gives complete space for you to be as you are, you can find yourself naturally imbued in this field of grace that has no beginning and no end.
Everything great and small that you grapple with can come home in this embrace.
All parts of your self and everyone are welcome.
All fear and stress from the past can unwind.
You can simply rest, be here, wherever you are, knowing that whatever happens this loving goodness is always inherent within your own deepest nature.
You can let go all the way – coming with wholly empty hands unto God.