Over the years in my work as a teacher and practitioner, I’ve noticed that, oddly enough, personal growth and spirituality often cut both ways. Sometimes as we become more open on the levels at which we’re conscious, we can become more defended, or “armored” at the very core.
There are several ways this can happen. One is this:
The armor of insight.
Spiritual understanding is a two-edged sword.
Clearly, it’s crucially important. Spirituality is intangible and paradoxical. It’s simultaneously the domain of the deepest human meaning, inspiration and wisdom, andfull of confused ideas, wishful and magical thinking, unhealthy covert power dynamics, even abuse, and many other forms of delusion.
Spirituality without clear discernment isn’t even healthy. There are many subtle, sometimes paradoxical distinctions that can save you years of self-defeating engagement. It is liberating to recognize, for example, that “life is a school” (that will keep delivering the same lessons until you actually learn them), that “an attitude of gratitude” is key to a happy life, that “the orientation of seeking inherently presumes the absence of whatever it seeks” and that “whatever you resist persists.” Many insights light the path, and these are just a few of the best-known.
Today we have remarkable, unprecedented access to humanity’s most penetrating and sophisticated spiritual principles and practices, the “secret teachings” of the ancient paths. Not only that, our spirituality can be informed by groundbreaking contemporary scientific, integral and evolutionary insights. On top of that, we’re connected to a worldwide community that’s sharing about how to bring these understandings alive, practically, in the midst of our busy, fast-moving 21st-century lives.
All of this is tremendously exciting, and a huge blessing. It’s changed my life, and I’ve devoted myself to advancing the leading edge of these new understandings, working hard to disseminate the blessings of these insights as widely as I can.
However, “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing” and the more we learn about “the elusively obvious” presence of the Divine, the more that knowledge can subtly function as a substitute for actually awakening—now—into intimate loving communion with the Living Divine Reality.
This is why feeling is at the heart of true practice, and why actual practice (not just philosophy) is so essential.
It’s also why we have to transcend black-and-white thinking, and awaken to the paradoxthat cognitive intelligence is necessary to awakening, but by no means sufficient.
In truth, the heart must crack open if the soul is to become free. And you simply cannotthink your way into that. But the mind will try! And when it does, its sophisticated spiritual knowledge easily becomes a clever but invisible barrier to the actual awakening that can only take place at the heart.
But that’s just the first level of things. Another important way you can become more armored is even subtler:
The armor of the heart.
The more you hear about “opening the heart” and the more you try to practice it, the more it will begin to feel like familiar territory. Thus, you can begin to think you already know what an open heart really is.
On one level, that’s a very good thing. You have connected with the feeling organ of your heart. You feel compassion and care. You’ve received feedback from others about what a loving person you are. What could be wrong with that?
Nothing. But here’s how it can work against you:
The presumption of familiarity leaves no room for surprise. Your ability to experience familiar good feelings and warmth can wear a “groove” in your neurology. Every time something signals you to relax and open at the heart, that familiar pattern will tend to unfold.
Ironically, this often works to prevent people from actually experiencing the truly miraculous transformational power of the living Divine in this moment.
When the heart falls in love with God a radical transformation becomes possible, one in which the pervasive anxiety you may have previously felt actually drops away, and you find yourself spontaneously feeling healthy, energetic, confident, generous, and creative.
The reality of your felt-connection with God can heal the heart radically—“at the root”. It’s more than a little glow of warmth. Life can seem so beautiful it is truly like heaven on Earth, but as a reality and not in a delusional or “rose-colored glasses” way.
So you can see how sometimes your “open heart” can keep that radical love and bliss out of your life. Could that be happening to you?
What makes all the difference?
An integral spirituality that is founded in radical consciousness and a direct, intimate love relationship with the living Divine, the luminous Mystery of existence, makes all the difference.
This goes beyond immature, irrational spirituality. It goes beyond the limitations of merely rational spirituality. It requires the awakening of a truly trans-rational spiritual life, with feeling at its core; and courageously engaging in a process is a disarming, gentle, yet powerful way of directly contacting the real “power source” of true spirituality, and going beyond the familiar spiritual patterns that keep our hearts hidden and our spiritual growth arrested.
Thanks and Love,