The inner journey is not new to me.
I've been on the quest for self-discovery for as long as I remember with a hunger and thirst to understand why the world is the way it is, and why I am the way I am.
This quest has led me to various modes of self-discovery in the past four decades, from academic and professional achievements, fulfilling social and cultural expectations, delving deep into the mysteries of meditation, contemplative practices, esoteric practices, pilgrimages, rituals and rites, disciplines of the body and mind, copious reading (and writing) on aspects of the body, mind and spirit from the standpoints of science and spirituality... it's an exhausting list.
On this long and winding road, I had many profound insights into the workings of the world and my own mind, periods of altered states of consciousness, many shifts in habits and perception, and leaps in intellectual understanding of esoteric concepts.
And yet, I was left with a sense of missing something... I went through periods of self-doubt, a contraction of energy, discordance between how I was perceiving something and its expression, inability to move past some events no matter what tool I used from my vast spiritual repertoire, and a general sense of being stuck and bogged down by... something...
The something was the approach I had been innocently using and pursuing all along.
It didn't matter what I was doing - achieving academic accolades, meditating, contemplating teachings, or engaging in rituals - everything was a crutch to move away from the thing within that was driving the search. I had been wielding every tool to overcome what I was not even aware of, which was the sense of not being enough. It wouldn't matter how much I achieved or what I did (materially or spiritually); this fundamental problem was not going to go away through the acquisition of more things, relationships, accolades, or whatever...
Now, this was certainly not the first time I'd arrived at this conclusion. I'd been on the path of nondual self-inquiry for years, along with a dedicated study of the philosophy and tradition associated with it.
This was different.
It was a realization that even my spiritual pursuit had become an escape from what needed to be seen.
Once you see it, you can't unsee it.
Gradually, I began to see the source of my suffering. In bits and pieces, the program that had driven my life and ambitions revealed itself. I reached into the toolbox of techniques and methods I'd collected, finally applying them to the root of the problem instead of seeking to create a better version of myself. The most important insight was to see that our suffering comes from an inability to differentiate between:
Data refers to what is - the event, the memory, the feeling, the sensation, the sights, sounds, smells and feels of the world, and the stream of interactions with people and situations. Data goes on in a neutral fashion, snowballing from often unseen causes into seen effects and results. The key word here is neutral. In other words, nothing and nobody is really out to get us. Things occur as a natural consequence of individual and collective (collective being influenced by individual) choices.
If we can perceive things as they are, we wouldn't suffer.
But we do suffer, and that is because of our narrative.
Narrative refers to what should be. Our interpretations of the event, memory, feeling, sensation and feels of the world are based on how we assimilate them, process them and make sense of them. In other words, our unconscious programming gives meaning to the neutral stream of events, making it personal, good or bad or desirable or undesirable. The key word here is personal.
The internal war between the neutral and the personal gives rise to all our external conflicts, ambitions, the need to prove the superiority of the personal over the neutral (which is a losing game), striving, stress, burnout, righteous rage, and the multitude of issues that make up the word suffering.
The Multiplication of Suffering
As if the confusion between data and narrative is not enough to cause suffering, another interesting thing happens that propagates the suffering - the ongoing attempt to rearrange what is to become aligned with what should be.
This proposition is a failing one - imagine trying to move Mount Everest to North America because we think that's where it should be.
This mental war against what is is no different; it's a losing proposition. Who decides where Everest should be? You? I may have a different should, and if we asked the 7+ billion people on this planet, everyone will have an opinion on where it should be. Just because a few people are in agreement with their shoulds does not imply that the opinion is aligned with reality. It just means that the internal programming of those that agree is similar for this particular issue. That's all.
This is where most of us trip up. Does it mean we do nothing about injustice? Does it mean we become doormats? Does it mean we sit on our hands?
Absolutely not. It means none of these things or any other imagined scenario.
It just means there is another way of being and acting that is not in conflict with what is. In fact, this way of being is full of creative potential to change the course of personal and collective history through the actions that we take while being aligned with what is.
The thing is, we cannot arrive at what this might look like while still being under the influence of the narrative!
We cannot arrive at what unconditioned action might look like while still being under the influence of the narrative!
The only way to know what may be possible is to actually go there, there being within, but not within as the narrative of how things should be but as what really is driving our behavior - the subconscious mind with its very specific patterns that make up our very specific narrative.
While the ordinary way of being is to live and die in this inner conflict, it is the rare person that goes against the grain and against all odds to the root of conflict and suffering, merely out of curiosity to discover other ways of living. In this process, the very thing that we sought out to accomplish becomes available as authenticity, growth, beauty and ecstatic opening to what is.
We always have a choice - to remain entrenched in programmed ideals, beliefs and ideas or to break through them to occupy the endless space of our full potential.
The former is easy. The latter is hard. It entails becoming a renegade.
A renegade defies known ideals and beliefs and is willing to brave the consequences of relinquishing them to find the truth that cannot be found anywhere else other than within.
The Renegade Method™
Right at the onset, I want to point out that there are many incredible tools that can help us with understanding the root cause of our suffering.
The Renegade Method™ is one such method.
It's an algorithm that opens with the question, "Are you content?" This isn't a philosophical question or one that you might answer as, "Yes, I'm content because..." where the because has to do with you having this or that, your kids being happy and healthy, or whatever else you define as being the "ultimate" contentment as in when lying on your deathbed.
Here, contentment refers to your current experience. THIS HERE - are you settled, at peace, needing nothing more than the experience of reading these words? If you say you're at peace because you have nothing else to do for the next few minutes, you've just had a satisfying meal or nap, or just got your bonus or paycheck or whatever the "because" is, is it truly contentment when dependent on so many factors out of your control? In other words, would you still be content if your life was falling apart, you're past your meal or nap time and it's been a bear to get that paycheck or bonus?
The answer to this "trick" question is usually a resounding no if we need anything to be content.
And this is where we begin by asking why we are not content. What is the data in any of the above scenarios and what is the narrative that brings up the "because"?
The inquiry proceeds from here, systematically unearthing what we hold in words or wordless concepts, ideas, beliefs and energy as narrative that leads to paralysis or hyperactivity, numbing to experience or overreaction, being stuck in the same-old or inflicting pain on others, being burned out with no recourse except to complain, being a victim to circumstances and passing that along to our children... and everything that comes under the umbrella of suffering.
While the issue of data versus narrative may make a whole lot of intellectual sense, working with it in real-time is challenging since the mind easily confuses narrative to data to suit its... well, narrative!
POINT is an acronym for Pause, Observe, Inquire, Notice and Tell The Truth. Click here to download the POINT document.
While pausing, observing, inquiring and noticing are relatively easy, telling the truth is where we get stuck, not only because of confusion between data and narrative but also because we tend to remain unaware of why the narrative is as it is. The roots of our narrative about the world lie deeply embedded in the subconscious mind and out of our reach. From the depths of their existence in our psyche, they run our lives and our behavior and masquerade as truths and facts.
In a series of blog posts, we will explore this masquerade and the many ways in which data and narrative appear alike but are diametrically opposite of each other.
Meanwhile, consider this.
Are you willing to become a renegade?