Hell, heaven and total clarity

I’m living, working and practising full-time at a meditation retreat centre at the moment – the first week of 10 over the summer. As I’ve experienced in previous phases of intense inner work, some days are hellish – all my ‘stuff’ is in my face and I feel overwhelmed by it. Other days, I feel light, uplifted and full – like nothing could knock me down. Then there are precious moments of total clarity, when a realisation impacts the entirety of my being so that something changes, for good.

Being the best, fitting the mould

I had one of those moments the other night during a vision practice with a friend. I was seeing how for as long as I can remember – quietly in the background – I have been trying to be someone, be something. When I first started on my spiritual path 13 years ago, that translated as trying to be the best student, fitting the perfect mould, trying to work out how to be validated by my teacher.

I had a lot of aspiration and I held this with a puffed up pride – surely this would get me somewhere, so I could really be someone. What ‘being someone’ actually meant is not totally clear, but it is based on a sense of lack or emptiness beneath. A deep fear that perhaps at my centre I am nothing, don’t matter, have no worth.

Being nothing, one with everything

cosmosI’ve had experiences of dissolving into this space beneath the trying and the pride. Here I feel like a piece of dust, so small and insignificant. And yet at the same time, I feel one with the Creation. I am a part of the Cosmos – a very small part – but a part nonetheless. This is something I never feel when I am ‘trying be someone’. Instead it’s like I don’t belong to the Creation, and I am trying to be granted access. I’m hoping that someone will come along and give me the secret pass. It never happens.

You already are something

So in this practice, I had this experience of feeling like a connected piece of dust, but this time, my friend encouraged me to feel a bit deeper into it. There I felt a light so quiet and unassuming, but solid and eternal in its burning.

“There”, she said, “see, you already are someone. You already are something”.

It was not a blazing light, a mighty force, or any of the other imaginings my pride had, but it was real and true. And in that moment, something dropped away. I already am something. I already am someone. I don’t need to try. I don’t need to strive. That’s not my journey. My journey is to go within and reclaim what is already mine.

It is all within

light-through-keyholeThis is such a simple principle and one we hear again and again. It is all within – simply go inside. And it is true – I have experienced this time and time again. But what is not so obvious is seeing when we are striving or seeking outwards behind the scenes, behind the curtain in front of which we live our life.

This is where there is no replacement for spiritual vision. On the outside, I didn’t look like a ‘striving student trying to be the best’ – I did what I wanted and I often didn’t play by the rules. But the mechanisms are much more subtle than this – and can only be seen from a particular level of involution, much deeper than the ordinary mind.

Stepping into the unknown

From here, I don’t know what my path looks like (I often did have an idea from my pride and striving). It is a step into the unknown, where I don’t have control, but I have connection to extraordinary spiritual forces that can lead me. It requires trust rather than trying, and although it’s scary and somewhat new, it’s a relief to stop pretending and stop trying to be someone.

It’s a relief to have access to a foundation inside that feels real and sustainable, that can take me all the way without hitting up against walls, a place that already is – and always will be – connected to the Divine.


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3 replies
  1. scott
    scott says:

    This is beautiful. Totally something I’ve been experiencing. Doing inner work from this stand point feels so different. IIt’s like starting from a place of fullness, and then deconstructing the mess. Whereas starting from lack, I just highlight how bad I do things, and feel even worse.

    • Emma Swan
      Emma Swan says:

      Thanks Scott, glad to hear that it resonates. I like the way you put it – starting from a place of fullness – knowing what you truly are, then deconstructing and letting go of the rest.


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