Lightmind Extract 013
Another awesome post, Julian! You cover a lot of important territory, and as you noted in a previous post, this is territory that Wilber at best glosses over in his work, in part because he’s never worked in the capacity of an integral/transpersonal therapist, and in part because as he’s said his aim is only to provide generalizing orientations.
I’m sure you’ve heard of Adyashanti, who Heruka and others have mentioned here and at the old forum on occasion. I was curious about his hybrid of Zen and neo-Advaita and when doing a web search I chanced upon a document wherein he gives an account of what he characterizes as his first “really deep spiritual awakening, and it also happened in my 25th year.”
I thought of you when I read this, because I thought that you could confirm with me that the opening and awakening that Adyashanti describes, while uncommon in the general population, is familiar to many people within the greater transpersonal community. Adyashanti was practicing Zen at the time, and so that is the context within which he framed and understood his “experience” (his word).
The type of experience he describes is familiar to people who’ve engaged the types of transpersonal therapies you’ve mentioned in your posts. Such openings and awakenings are familiar to people who’ve engaged Grof’s Holotropic Breathwork and any number of breathwork-based approaches; entheogen/psychedelic therapy; different forms of meditation practice; approaches inspired by Reich, Lowen, Pierrakos and Janov; energetic bodywork; and many other approaches.
this incredible onrush of energy just like from down in my spine and just overwhelming, overwhelming to such an extent that my heart started to race and my breathing was like I was running the hundred yard dash. I was just laboring in breathing and my heart- having been a high level athlete, I knew what maximum heart rate was; I knew my heart rate maxed at about 210 beats a minute and I knew what if felt like and I knew I was way beyond that. The whole body was completely out of control and again these internal energies and lights and just this incredible happening that intensified to the point that I was quite certain, absolutely sure that I wouldn’t survive it, because I knew what the body could take, and it couldn’t take this very long. At that moment, I knew I was going to die. And the question kind of ?. And all I said when I knew I was going to die, I said, \If this is what it takes to be free, okay”. So as soon as I said that, it’s like something just let loose. Just \shwoo” and I just found myself, everything became (snaps finger) like that, absolutely pristinely quiet and just this vast emptiness opened up
and my awareness just went, it didn’t just expand, it just disappeared. The boundaries just completely, they weren’t just expanded, they went so far, they just disappeared and it was just absolutely stillness and insights rushed in at I can’t even, I have no idea what the rate was, but literally hundreds came in, in just a matter of a few minutes. One, like simultaneously. Not just one after another, but just these groups and it was all flashing, flashing, flashing and so this went on for awhile and then the insights kind of disappeared into that vastness and then there was just this incredible nothing and after awhile I got up and as I always would do, I had a little Buddha figure there, the incense and everything and I bowed down to it and when I hit bottom on the bow, I just started to laugh hysterically, because I looked at this Buddha (snaps finger) that’s what I was all along. (chuckles) I have been chasing myself all these years. What an idiot you know and it was tremendously funny. (giggles) Just tremendously funny and so this was a really deep spiritual awakening and it also happened in my 25th year. So there went that life!
This is from pages 12 and 13 of this Adobe Acrobat file: http://www.wheniawoke.com/Sages/Adyashanti.pdf
My intent in this post is not to focus on Adyashanti, but only to use his account as a convenient example of one of any number of types of transpersonal experiences that are familiar to many within the greater transpersonal community.
The context within which this type of opening and awakening occurs will determine its significance to the individual and within the community. There is a continuum of contexts ranging from contexts where this type of opening and awakening is regarded as being par for the course and worthy of little more than passing acknowledgement, to contexts where this type of experience is regarded as extraordinary and special and as a kind of “guru status” teaching credential.
You’ve talked a lot about integration; the way such openings and awakenings are integrated into an individual’s life again depends on the context within which the opening and awakening occurs.
Healthy contexts will encourage the individual to ground such openings and awakenings in the body, the emotional dimension of the being, in her personal life, and in the context of the larger community of which she is a part, e.g., in the form of social activism.
An individual with a poorly formed functional self may be unable to integrate this type of opening and awakening. This can lead to psychological unstability, and/or inflation, where an inflated sense of self compensates for an inadequate self-image (of which the memory of the opening and awakening becomes a vital part).
The profundity, intensity, and brilliance of such openings and awakenings can have the effect of washing out inner and outer feedback that might offset tendencies to inflation. Such openings and awakenings fill one with a sense of utter certainty that, combined with the everyday ego or functional self, can result in a kind of psychological impenetrability.
The unprepared can easily suffer the fate of young Icarus, who flew toward the sun on waxen wings despite his wise father Daedalus’ warnings. The wax melted and he fell into the sea – the unconscious. One may thereafter wallow in confusion and delusion, including the delusion that one is a messiah or savior who is not bound by one’s humanity.
In some Zen centers such openings and awakenings are considered to be kensho breakthroughs worthy of little to no attention. (Adyashanti says that he didn’t even mention his experience to his Zen teacher, and that if he had she probably would’ve said, “good, now let’s get on with it.”) And in some Zen centers more of a big deal is made over such openings and awakenings.
In the insight meditation community (e.g., Jack Kornfield’s Spirit Rock Meditation Center), such openings and awakenings are par for the course and are given no attention unless someone has difficulty staying grounded. Otherwise the attitude is, “That’s nice, let it go, that was then, this is now.”)
In process work, where there is no focus whatsoever on having such experiences but where they nevertheless sometimes appear, the emphasis is on integration into one’s relational life and there is a strong emphasis on integrating personal openings and awakenings with the greater community via social activism. IOW the emphasis is on keeping the action within “the marketplace.”
For seekers who may have held such openings and awakenings on a pedestal, it can be disconcerting to finally have such openings and awakenings within a context where these are given little to no attention and are not seen or recognized as being special. I would imagine that some individuals, who want recognition and attention for their “spirituality,” avoid contexts where openings and awakenings of the kind Adyashanti describes are regarded as being relatively insignificant, and gravitate toward contexts where such openings and awakenings are regarded as being very significant. (And of course there are people who are unaware that such openings and awakenings are hardly uncommon within the greater transpersonal community and who are unaware of contexts other than the one in which their opening and awakening took place, and I imagine this lack of knowledge can contribute to the fostering of feelings of “specialness” and significance.)
People experience such openings and awakenings outside of contexts other than their own individual lives, and there are any number of ways they might then frame and interpret their experience. What is all too common is that someone may be deeply relaxing in the bathtub when they suddenly have some memeory that triggers them somatically and emotionally, and they begin to hyperventilate (as in Adyashanti’s “labored” breathing “like I was running the hundred-yard dash”), and the experience takes them over and they end up with an experience of boundarylessness and disappearing into the vastness which Adyashanti describes, but they have no context for this experience. So later they figure out that taking a bath and having some kind of memory and breathing in a certain way is the key to evolution, and they write a self-published book and create a name for their “method,” and turn the whole thing into a formula, and it’s all their invention.
And then there are people who have such openings and awakenings outside of transperonal contexts but within mainstream or fundamentalist religious contexts, where these openings and awakenings are then interpreted within those contexts. Someone who has charisma and oratory skills might become a dynamic televangelist or tent preacher.
Your comments on enlightenment as a red-herring are on the mark, IMO, as is your comment about the “intense child-like idealizing of mere mortals.” Mere mortals who have profound openings and awakenings within contexts where the checks and balances are lacking or deficient can easily end up becoming the objects of such idealization, and often they want to become the objects of idealization.
Or, and I think this is what happened with Franklin Jones, mere mortals who have profound openings and awakenings get into a “closed system” relationship with students where the feedback bouncing around within the closed system creates, over time, what ends up being an incredibly unhealthy dynamic. Within a hermetically closed system one simply loses touch with reality, because the closed system is one’s whole reality.
You have a knack for being concise and on target: “enlightenment is an attempt to conceptualize something outside of the stream of experience that is liberated from the realities of being human.”
Filed under: Adyashanti, Bodywork, Daism, Jack Kornfield, Ken Wilber, Lightmind Extracts, Psychospiritual Growth, Stanislav Grof, Zen Buddhism | Leave a Comment