At one time, we were all connected.
“God” wasn’t over there. God was at the core of who we were. There was a rawness, a spontaneity about us. We were open, naked, and innocent. Furthermore, this way of being was so natural, so instinctual, that we didn’t even think about it. Our openness was not generic; it wasn’t cliché. It was our nature. But somehow we caught the sickness, the shame that was going around.
Society was intimidated by our freedom and confidence. Our teachers, the church, politicians, and sadly, our parents were terrified by the power of our imagination. Society is dependent upon conformity, and neither freedom nor confidence conforms to external expectations. Society needs a weakness upon which to act, a button to push. Caught in the psychological momentum that installed the very insecurity that now compelled them to act, they installed that button in us. They taught us that we were separate or other than the immediacy of our direct experience. First, they assured us that the power of being from which our life emerged, had a name and that name was “God.” Then, they drove home the idea that God was not in here but out there. We began to feel disconnected. In subsequent lessons we learned that this feeling of alienation could only be remedied through grace and that grace was afforded only to certain individuals. These individuals looked a certain way. They had a particular body shape and wore certain clothes; they knew the right people and had money. So we tired to become them. We tried to achieve a degree of unnatural perfection. We clothed our naked heart with shame.
How does one unlearn such violent and deceptive propaganda?
First of all, we cannot employ the problem as our solution. We cannot expect the culture that created the pain and the confusion to offer us a way out. The path to freedom is a lonely path. One has to practice radical hopelessness. In this case, hopelessness has nothing to do with negativity or pessimism. It is about letting go of the illusion of free will. It is about seeing that we do not have choices. We are who we are and no amount of effort can change that. We need to be present to our Self. We need to be where we are. In order to do that, we have to give up the idea of getting some place—heaven, enlightenment, becoming a good, better, or perfect person.
This is a radical departure from the self-improvement mentality we are all tortured by. We are stepping beyond the narrative of shame by letting go of the idea that there are prerequisites for being. In an act of radical faith, we are stepping out of the painful process of becoming and trusting that who we truly are is freely given. In silence we unlearn the mistaken notion that grace is earned. Rather than trying to conform to our inherited ideas of perfection, which are impregnated with shame and insecurity, we draw closer to our Self. We draw closer, not through achievement, but silence. As thoughts try to bring us out of the felt presence of the body and into a new ideal—another image of perfection we must become in order to be happy—we simply return to the breath. In this way, we relate to where we are, instead of where we should be. Regardless of how smart or thin, how popular or lonely we maybe, we see and feel a flame burning at the center of our being. As we draw closer to this flame, we can feel it melting the shame away. We feel the immediacy of the breath and the warmth of our beating heart. There is no alienation. This is meditation.