Awakening To Our Bliss
Awakening To Our Bliss
Opening To The Wonder & Realization Of The Boon
Boon – defined – a symbol of life force energy, geared to the needs and requirements of the one on whom it is bestowed. The obtainment of the ‘pearl beyond all price’.
A hero taking action moves beyond the world of opposites,
And through this transcendent passage
Discovers their vitality of life within, rooted in eternity.
The hero whose attachment to ego is already annihilate passes back and forth across the horizons of the world, in and out of the dragon, as readily as a king through all the rooms of his house. Therein lies his power to save; for his passing and returning demonstrate that through all the contraries of phenomenality the Uncreate-Imperishable remains, and there is nothing to fear.
– Joseph Campbell
As once the winged energy of delight
carried you over childhood’s dark abysses,
now beyond your own life build the great
arch of unimagined bridges.
Wonders happen if we can succeed
in passing through the harshest danger;
but only in a bright and purely granted
achievement can we realize the wonder.
To work with Things in the indescribable
relationship is not too hard for us;
the pattern grows more intricate and subtle,
and being swept along is not enough.
Take your practiced powers and stretch them out
until they span the chasm between two
opposing polarities…For the god
wants to know himself in you.
– Rainer Maria Rilke
For those of us on the path of awakening to the soul’s heroic journey throughout our lives…
We practice making the time and space to quiet ourselves. We listen deeply for the call of the soul to speak within us, something that breaks through and awakens us to a path, a purpose, a pursuit that holds promise for a meaningful way of living.
We let go of the routine, we drop the familiar ways and identifications of how we know ourselves to be, in order to cross a threshold into some deeper aspect of who we truly are that is ‘as-yet-unknown’ to us, with no way to turn back to the old self.
We allow ourselves to be undone and disoriented as we leave the fixed pathways and surface happenings of our lives; we practice a mindful wandering into the dark forest of our unconscious – what we call the psyche, or soul.
We say ‘yes’ to the ways of the soul, to the lived experience of a sacred and attentive journey, one where we are no longer in control, we more wholeheartedly and purposefully participate in the adventures and the ordeals of living, often finding one in the other.
As we go forth, we understand our need for helpers and companions. We recognize and extend ourselves to allies that show up along the way, and become allies to others on their own journey. We also become aware of the serendipitous and captivating presence of synchronicity at play in our lives, which offers us surprise and encouragement along the way.
We learn to say ‘yes’ to the whole adventure and in doing so, we accept that we must face the demons, dragons and beasts within us when necessary. We fully surrender our ego over to the ways of soul during these times, thus entering the belly of the whale. We are temporarily enveloped in a dying process in order to be re-born, passing through and attaining again and again the inner awakening to the Imperishable, which brings forth the life force energy that remakes and reveals to us the boon for our lives.
Then we must bring this boon forth in our lives as they are, matching our deep gladness and skill sets with the needs of the world.
Let’s devote some time and space for reflecting on how the devevlopmental process of the universal hero’s journey is active and alive for us in our lives, setting the stage for awakening to the boon in our lives.
Let’s also reflect on how we may need to be, as well as what we may need to yet do, in order to be in the best position and condition for ourselves to open to the very distinct and personal revelation of the soul’s boon for us.
What can happen if we learn to keep letting go of attachment to particular outcomes for our lives? What transpires when we move beyond our grasping onto moral ideas of right and wrong, good and bad? What allows us to expand into an inner space that Joseph Campbell refers to as “moving beyond the pairs of opposites”?
We will have to examine two fundamental ways that we create barriers to the boon of inner awakening. One way we close the door to the inner treasure house is by creating polarized fields of consciousness, oppositional forces that play out within us, and between ourselves and others. In this dynamic, we are always choosing sides, which keeps us out of the transcendent possibility.
This will require us to move beyond our clinging to a sense of personal or moral righteousness, which carries a heavy feeling of superiority or indignation, which comes from our judgments about others. From this vantage point, we tend to view deficits and flaws as being primarily external, as being in the realm of someone’s ‘otherness’, which we see as something bad, or as part of the bane of our society.
When this happens, our motivation becomes simply to rise above or distance ourselves from the deficit or the plight we perceive in the other. Our inner movement is in a defensive position, so we can’t be open to the boon.
Another way we close the door to the inner treasure house is by our attachment to self-judgment, along with a distorted and negative view of ourselves. Here we have the essential healing task of moving beyond immobilizing and regressive feelings of inadequacy, shame or ‘badness’.
We must strive to find ways of moving beyond the heavy burden and deadening weight of guilt that we carry for the mistakes we have made in the past, the imperfections we hold in the present. From this perspective, the deficit, the ‘beastliness’ is experienced as internal, as residing deep within the core of the self. We feel unworthy, helpless, damned, and barred from the treasure house door.
Ultimately, the goal of the hero is therefore fear not and to go within, and travel far enough down past all the inner barriers and through the opening into the illuminated ‘jewel point’ that is beyond the judgments, complicated entanglements and matters of struggle that involve the ego, and everything it grows attached to.
However, the inevitable complexities, dilemmas, ordeals and ambiguities of living a worthwhile life, these are another matter. These challenges serve to help pull us down into those dark ‘belly’ levels of the unknown in the psyche that keep opening and opening doors within us, until they finally open to the mystery of our real self awakening to a growing consciousness and connectedness.
This is the whole point of the answering the soul’s calling, and taking up a heroic journey in pursuit of awakening.
“Moving beyond the pairs of opposites” is obviously not easy to do, and must first be contended with. This realm of consciousness called ‘the boon’ is so often sought after and strived for, but it is a treasure not easily attained, for then it would not require us to take the journey into those ‘zones unknown to us’. Furthermore, it is difficult to remain anchored and centered within the realization of our boon of awakened awareness, once we touch upon it.
This is why many of us must first enter all the other passages of the journey, and ultimately, enter the ‘belly of the beast’ passage. Challenging conditions and trying circumstances provide us with ordeals that we would never choose to ask for, yet nonetheless we must not only must learn to say ‘yes’ to, but then also must give ourselves over to with a wholehearted surrender.
The journey myth, as it unfolds itself for us, creates those exact and necessary pre-conditions for the boon, so it can arrive in its own time and way, and at last reveal itself to us.
Surrendering into the dark depths of the psyche can undo both our deeply embedded sense of unworthiness and our sticky moral righteousness. It also requires us to come face to face with whatever difficult feelings standing guard at the threshold door to the treasure within, where entering into its belly at first feels like impending and certain ego annihilation, or death.
These days, our routines of life rarely feel simple. We easily become hurried, dulled or inattentive, especially without a daily and ongoing spiritual practice rooted in meaningful relationship to what is eternal.
How do we learn to walk the path between the pairs of opposites in any conflicted situation, without getting pulled down into or mired in the conflicts?
How do we stay uplifted in daily life as we contend with all the suffering we see and experience in this world?
How do we navigate the personal concerns of our significant relationships and our own hearts, without constantly reverting to escape fantasies or behaviors?
How do we keep searching for entry into the path of our soul’s unique adventure, while dealing with the immediacy of life’s concerns happening right in front of us every day?
How do we actively explore the ultimate mystery of what is infinite and eternal within us, while living inside our flawed, finite and fickle minds and bodies?
How do we come to consider that our troubling social conditions create particular sets of circumstances that may be needed, in order to bring forth something unrealized from within our own individual beings, something that is rooted in eternity and must be brought forth now, from within us?
These questions can provide us with essential quests, to serve us in our hero’s journey for modern times.
The ancient wisdom path is calling to us, and is to be taken up by those of us currently awakening within a technologically advanced, economically stressed and environmentally distressed world.
Who can afford to make the time and space necessary to look inward in the midst of such busy and demanding days? And yet, who can afford not to?
Let’s look how these very dynamics may be playing out right now in our lives.
Let’s stop for just this one moment and slow everything down. Let’s keep it simple.
Pay attention to what (if any) troubling thoughts come to your mind; become as attentive enough as you can, notice what it is like to let your thoughts pass through. Pay attention to the precise matters of concern that come forward in your mind as you slow down. Keep feeling into your breath and your body, and let this quality of attention open you up to your interior space.
What specific fears, upsets or anxieties rise up? Are they economic in nature? Are they related to your social world or your interior world? Are they concerns about your physical, mental, or emotional well-being?
Do you feel isolated, alone or overwhelmed by your current thoughts? Do they govern your mood this day? Do they influence the decisions you might make or avoid making today? Do you have an impending sense of helplessness or powerlessness related to these issues or concerns?
Notice once more the impact of simply paying attention to what occupies your mind.
Can you find a way to bear the thoughts that arise by simply allowing them to exist without pushing for action?
Can you manage to not respond immediately or not react reflexively to your thoughts for just the next few moments? What happens if you suspend your impulses?
Can you stay centered and still long enough to pay attention, to sense into what may be underneath these thoughts, feelings or worries?
Notice how the familiarity of these ongoing thoughts may define or shape your sense of how you view yourself, how you feel about yourself and the life you are presently living (or fail to live).
This is one way of practicing ‘moving beyond the opposing or polarizing forces’ of your own thinking through the practice of mindfulness.
The practice of self-reflection requires us to slow down as well as drop down, so we can look at what we have been unable to look at and live with thus far. Perhaps we need to look within at what we have been afraid to face – something that feels as if it is lurking, and is ‘as yet unknown’.
Our fears tend to project strong, negative, and future-oriented thinking. We tend to most strongly project onto a future outcome something that has already happened to us in our past. This is particularly so when it involves an unhealed wound or an unprocessed life experience.
When these deeply held or suppressed thoughts or feelings go unaddressed and unprocessed, they tend to recede down into our unconscious minds, and from there they begin to shape our most fundamental beliefs about life. What we believe to be true we will tend to play out as true, positively or negatively. This is the nature of a self-fulfilling prophecy: We re-enact and live out what we most know, identify with and believe to be true about ourselves. We especially tend to do this with our unprocessed pain or our undeveloped, limited sense of self.
Go back now to whatever you have been presently focusing your attention on in your daily world.
What thoughts begin to pull you away from your life in a negating or diminished way? Can you simply observe these thoughts? Don’t ignore them, become distracted from them, and most significantly, do not succumb to them and over-identify with them. Just stay in your center, breathe, and witness your thoughts.
Then something else can begin to happen, that would not happen without bearing this challenge of facing the life-negating mind.
As I practice this mindfulness exercise right now, I become aware of the pull of so many tasks I have created for myself. These thoughts give rise to a recognizable uneasiness, which brings on a vague, familiar anxiousness within me. These various tasks all somehow seem to feel important, and yet they create a feeling in me of too much-ness, of being unable to respond to them. As I track this old sense of ‘feeling unable’, I notice how this feeling creates a slight tension in my stomach; then I also notice a deeper tension in my jaw.
This can serve as fuel for an old and generalized sense of inadequacy for me. As if somehow I am not valuable or lovable enough if my tasks are not completed in a timely fashion, and also done well. The dilemma for me is the belief that there can be no being in peace, until an un-definable amount of these endless tasks are done and completed.
As I track this process within me, I notice that this dilemma creates a sense of immobilization, a subtle kind of trancelike state within me. I see clearly how this precisely creates a “stopping current” for my life force within. I can feel how I am ready to welcome any kind of distraction right now as I sit on my back porch. I can feel the sun’s heat bearing down on my skin and on my mood, mid-way through this early summer’s morning.
Right this very moment a small but striking synchronicity happens. Two young bucks (a eight-point and a ten-point) amble down my driveway about 15 feet from where I sit. I stop my typing. I drop my mental ruminations and feel what is happening inside.
I am being pulled fully into my lived experience of the present moment.
Suddenly I feel alert, relaxed and excited. Ahhh, excitement, once again! I watch the two deer stroll leisurely through my back yard. I quietly whistle to them. They stop. They freeze and look over at me for an instant, then simply walk on through the grass, meandering own their way, headed for the nearby woods. I feel alive inside.
In the very next moment, my next-door neighbor is yelling at the deer, shoo-ing them away from her yard. Then another neighbor cheers her on, also wanting the wildlife to get away from their flowerbeds. As a gardener in this neighborhood, I understand their reaction completely.
However, as a journeyer in the world of myth today, I am more struck by the display of serendipity that just transpired. How something wild and untamable walked into the world of domestication, gardening and lawn care, suddenly disturbing the stasis in me, and the status quo of the neighbors.
I reflect further, slow down more. What is it in us that makes us wish for the wild and untamable to quickly go away from our daily world? We put up the ‘do not disturb’ signs in the flower gardens of our lives, do not interfere with our plans for the colorful beauty we want to cultivate. Do not threaten those things that we possess, these carefully groomed yards we call “ours”, in which we have invested our time and energy.
How is it also that the mystery seeker within us also wishes for a visit by an untame-able spontaneity? What makes the soul adventurer go searching for wild and memorable encounters? What makes us long for the kind of surprises that will pull us towards a rapture we cannot manufacture with our rational, well-planned lives?
In a subtle but unmistakable way, I am now in a very different internal space from the one I was in five minutes ago. I have passed back and forth across the horizons between this world and another one, in and out of the mouths of dragons that I make up with my mind. I move between the worlds of time and timelessness as one who is free and adventure-filled one moment, then fretting and neurotically worried in the next moment.
Let’s go back to our mindfulness practice, once more paying attention to the chronic and habitual ways in which ‘mental thinking’ consumes our energy and attention. Let’s practice once again moving beyond simply being in thinking mode, clearing out our minds, and opening to higher sensing abilities.
Can you observe your thinking again without having to act immediately and without having to distract yourself from what you think? Without succumbing to the underlying feelings they generate?
Can you just let your thoughts pass through? Just let them be what they are. Keep watching them as they pass by, while staying anchored by being in your body, centered on your breathing, and remaining still within yourself.
Now, another challenge – what can you extend yourself towards that holds meaning for you, that is not only of this world? Can you open to something vast, eternal, and benevolent in this moment, something that is fundamentally useful or good?
Perhaps this may be a nature setting, a sacred spiritual or religious symbol, or even a dream, an important memory, or simply take hold of a mantra.
Can you say “yes” to any pathway that will open you to a different and larger energy, a bigger presence than just yourself and your own thinking mind? This is another essential task for the hero’s passage between the worlds, for our modern age.
Become open and receptive, and allow what comes towards your conscious attention to come forward now. Clearly visualize that arriving memory, vision or presence; kinesthetically allow sensate feeling to accompany your inner sight.
Breathe more deeply into the core of your being. Ground the lower half of your body by resting into the ground underneath you.
What happens when you make just a few moments of time for this internal experience to take place right now?
Pay attention to the subtlety of any kind of inner shift you are experiencing in this moment. This is how you can deepen and root yourself more into the core of your being within you, as you attend to it.
Pause here for a little while, being with what you have just experienced.
Poetic expression is something that also allows us to notice the place inside where inner and outer worlds meet and become one. Take, for instance, this particular poem by R.S. Thomas, a 20th century Welsh poet and Anglican priest.
Before going any further, close your eyes and take a few more slow, deep breaths into your belly. Inhale through your nose and exhale out from your mouth. Pay attention to the movement that happens through your body as a result of your breathing. Feel the sensations that happen in your body as you breath.
This is how you can have a direct experience of being with your own living breath, with a “life force in motion”. In this same way, perhaps you can drink from these words slowly, taking them in like a warm, refreshing tea. Ready?
I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it.
Feel the impact of these first lines of the poem. This is what the boon of the two young bucks strolling down my driveway and through my yard did for me. They were like sunlight breaking through; they illuminated the small field of my interior life. I held a state of wonder for a few moments; I came alive and was transported outside of time; I was taken beyond the intruding ego concerns I was carrying.
Then, I gradually re-focused myself on the task at hand – continuing with writing this essay. Soon I would go on to other tasks, taking a rest from writing. Unconsciously, I began to forget about my encounter with the young male deer, letting that experience fade into the background of my awareness.
But now I have more of a choice – I can easily resume my concerns over the undone tasks for this day, or I may shift to a different perspective on life for a while.
Without help from something greater, without the structure and context of a soul’s journey, we readily fall prey to our ego’s concerns and our personality’s worries. Our concerns and worried are endless, varied, and well established, are ready to come forth in any given moment.
But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it.
The capacity to go beyond our concerns, our self-interests, our sense of being right (or wronged), this is the pearl of great price. This is a hero task for people of today’s world: To look into our troubles and see our way through them, not simply to go away from them. To be taken beyond our identification or fixation with them, and move towards a larger sense of who we are. This positions us for recognizing the arrival of our boon, when it comes.
We learn to accept the limitations of our fate, and the usual distractions of the mind. This is not be confused with simply resigning ourselves to it, thus becoming “fated”. Instead, we can take hold this ancient and universal truth: where our fate binds us, there our destiny will find us.
Where has the sun momentarily broken through to illuminate your field of existence in your life? How will you pay attention long enough, clearing the clouds of despair and confusion enough, to see where the illumination of eternity shines through for you right here in this world in which you live?
Perhaps it has already shone through long ago, and you are only now awakening to its realization, and can see or claim the boon that came for you. Can you do this without regret for not seeing more clearly sooner? Can you trust the process of awakening with hindsight, and seeing it’s value to you?
Can you devote yourself to hero task of focusing your attention on the breaking through of insight, of awareness, of synchronicity, right here and now in your daily life happening right in front of you, in the days ahead? Perhaps where you may least expect it or allow it?
Going forward from here, will you be tolerant of the internal disruption you might have to bear when this higher energy frequency wants to disrupt your lowered energy, your sameness, your smallness or dullness, your familiar, stale and comfortably dark places within?
Will you now stay with the soul’s journey of transformation long enough to bear witness to exactly how you walk away from the possibility of change, over and over again, out of habit and out of discomfort, from that which illuminates your small field? Will you agree to suspend self-judgment when you see this happening?
Going forward now, are you willing to manage your ego enough in order to not be defeated by the witnessing of your own forgetting, failing, avoiding?
We all fall short of our ideals day in and day out, so any of your personal failures aren’t really that special or unique. Ultimately, we are here to learn about ourselves – to gain insight and wisdom from our mistakes, and perhaps even valuing them. Just come back to yourself for the next opening, the next opportunity when the sun breaks through and you can notice that it is really happening.
Resilience is a necessary skill for the soul’s adventurer.
Now here is more wisdom medicine being offered by R.S. Thomas. Take a few more sips from his poem:
Life is not hurrying on to a receding future,
nor hankering after an imagined past.
It is the turning aside
like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.
Isn’t it true that we always seem to be hurrying towards our future?
We must recognize that this hurrying is almost always defensive in nature. It serves to ward off our arrival at the doorway of the present moment, the one given to us now, which we subconsciously believe we cannot bear or withstand, or perhaps don’t actually want – whether it be positive, negative or neutral in its nature. This is why slowing down is essential to a developmental process.
The paradox is the more we slow down to pay attention to our unfolding interior life, the faster we will cultivate our capacity to be a functional and compassionate human being.
Isn’t it true also that we tend to hold on to pain, especially if our identity is tied to it?
We are all capable of clinging to our old, limiting belief systems formed by childhood hurts held by childish minds. We will become attached to a fear-based, victim identity until we get the proper amount of support and regard to let it go.
Many of us bury the past and confuse this with having let it go, or having moved beyond it. Then the unfinished business of our past re-creates itself in the present day, like a ghost in the machine, until we unearth what went wrong early on and apply a compassionate and corrective response to our wounds now, from the present moment of our capable adult consciousness.
Our ability to transform ourselves will inevitably require the presence of “helpful others” in our lives – those who will bear witness to our stories, those who will reflect the realness and truth of our lived experience back to us, those who can speak the truth to us, and help us to see who we truly are. Then we will need to learn how to think about ourselves through our helpers’ eyes, and then remember and internalize their way with us, into us.
We have to learn to receive what we were never given, before we can truly give from a place of wholeness within. This requires us to open and to go where we have not gone before – the hero’s act of courage.
The boon involves a connection to the vital life force energy of soul, accessed and revealed through the emergence of one’s true nature, pouring forth into the mind and body of the one awakening to it’s presence. It is a transitory experience. Awakening to soul is often quite potent; it is typically incremental; our direct exposure to it is always fleeting.
The boon of the revelation of soul consciousness mostly only happens little by little, occurring across the span of a lifetime. Soul tends to reveals itself to those of us who have embraced the task of claiming our life purpose of knowing and following our bliss, but yet this happens only in the soul’s own time, and in it’s own distinct and peculiar ways.
The boon revealed by the soul can’t be discovered simply by our pursuit of a hero’s journey, but it seems that only those who authentically take the journey truly find it.
This is so, because each little revelation of soul has profound magnitude and gravity for the ego. Small glimpses of soul are all that we can manage without becoming blinded by the light of it’s revealing, or swallowed by the darkness of the effort required for the pursuit.
What becomes understood is that time and eternity are two aspects of the same experience-whole, two planes of the same nondual ineffable; i.e. the jewel of eternity is in the lotus of birth and death: om mani padme hum.
– Joseph Campbell
The boon, the pearl beyond all price, is most often given to the one who takes up a hero’s journey. The heroic task is the courage it takes to enter the conditions necessary for the discovery of an embodied sense of vital life force energy, which is often co-arising with penetrating insight, awareness and irony. This embodied vitality and clarity of mind will typically be accompanied by a sense of surprise, wonder and awe, along with a sense of place, right timing and a peace beyond all human comprehension.
This inward awakening experience is at once very intimate and quite impersonal. It is like a personal visit from a universal, intangible presence that can’t ever be described or named, and yet paradoxically could not in any way be mistaken or ignored.
It is the felt sense of the eternal bending down to enter us, as Campbell says above, in the field of time – which is only to be found here and now, in this world, and in this moment. I suppose this is how eternity awaits us all. Eternity, the mystics tell us, is not something for us to wish for only after we die. It is something for us to journey for while we are among the living. It is what those who seek vital living do, and it becomes apparent to us only with a seeker’s awareness of soul.
I recently visited my daughter in Dallas. She now lives there, far away from Pittsburg, having pursued a career opportunity after graduating from college. Visiting her in the place she now calls home, I could feel the passing of time as a palpable experience, yet I also felt outside of time, all at once.
This past Father’s Day, my daughter gave me a picture of her and I in front of the golden dome at Notre Dame. She is in her graduation gown; I am in my suit and tie.
Serendipitously, I received from her mother a photo of my daughter and I at the bus stop, on the morning of her first day of school. She is six years old, wearing her backpack and carrying her lunch box.
I am looking at both of these photos right now. The juxtaposition of these images touches me deeply, moving me both in the awareness of the passage of time, and also to a feeling and place that is timeless, soulful, and beyond time.
Where does time go? Why does it feel like there is never enough of it? How is it that everything beyond this particular day and point in time feels so dream-like to me? How does memory live on inside of me like it does, and what brings it forth?
How does a captured image on photo paper create a sense of something meaningful within me, even though it reflects a time and place that happened so long ago? Why does it also feel like it was just yesterday as I gaze upon it? Why does the sense of time having passed move me so deeply? What makes my memories feel at once so familiar and distant to me, like an old and cherished friend?
Life is such a mystery. The way it moves us, the way it pulls us forward. Michael Meade says walk in two worlds, in the same way we as human beings walk on two legs. One foot moves us through time, and the other foot is rooted in eternity.
Living with this awareness, I have the privilege and the opportunity of being a living embodiment and expression of that which is eternal – intangible in nature, infinite in possibility, and imperfect in its expressions and emanations. When I live from within my boon, I awaken again and again to the realization that I am destined for what I have been born to do – to live and love as only I can. And so I will.
– Michael Mervosh
The world is filled and illumined by, but does not hold, the Bodhisattva, the one whose being has awakened. Rather, he is the one who holds the world, the lotus. Pain and pleasure do not enclose him, he encloses pain and pleasure, with profound repose. And since he is what all of us may be, his presence, his image, the mere naming of him, helps.
– Joseph Campbell
The boon bestowed upon a worshiper is always scaled to his or her stature and the the nature of one’s dominant desire: the boon is simply a symbol of life energy stepped down to the requirements of a certain specific case. The irony, of course, lies in the fact that, whereas the hero who has won the favor of the god may be for the boon of perfect illumination, what he or she generally seeks are longer years to live, weapons with which to slay the neighbor, or the health of one’s child.
– Joseph Campbell