Enlightenment is a Demolition Process
“Asking, ‘What is the Truth?’ is a demolition project. Most of spirituality is a construction project…It just keeps building, and a person feels, ‘I’m getting better and better.’ But enlightenment is a demolition project. It simply shows you that everything you have ever believed was true isn’t… It’s a removal project. What does it remove? Everything. And unless it’s a removal of everything, it’s not ultimately liberating.” –Adyashanti, Emptiness Dancing
“Enlightenment is ego's ultimate disappointment.” - Chögyam Trungpa
The beginning of the journey towards awakening lies in the realization that we do not really know anything. The majority if not all of what we have been told is not the truth. Anything that is not the truth we can consider as a lie. Why are we being lied to? Lies hide the truth. Truth is power. When you find truth, nobody can take it away from you. You cannot charge for Truth because a person does not need another person to obtain it. When you have found it, you no longer need to relinquish your own power. Whether or not this is intentional or not, we can never know. Even building conspiracy theories around it will lead us to relinquish more control to the ones we blame. With this framing of the enemy, we continue the cycle of us and them thereby trapping ourselves in the polarities we wish to ameliorate.
These lies, or omissions of truth can be structured in many ways. To name a few, they can be motivated or accidental methods of misinformation, manipulation of truths, alteration of key facts that would sway opinion, or the complete ignoring of histories and cultures that represent opposite world-views of the established narrative. Most of the established narratives we are told are some form of propaganda that helps manage and herd the consensus. If we look to establish a consensus reality agreement of functionality, then we become dependent on that mode of operation; especially as other modes of operation or worldviews are destroyed.
Let’s take a look back at Nazi Germany and their Minister of Propaganda from 1933-1945, Joseph Goebbels. He states,
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” (1a)
The Truth becomes the enemy to a consensus reality. The Truth can topple the entire structure of the elaborate building being constructed upon dependency. This is because it aligns people with their true power. Like Jenga, when you pull out the pillars of a building, which in this case are resting on the backs of the people, the building collapses. To this regard, when we truly see our complicit nature in the structural integrity of something we do not align with, we have but no choice to change.
As we stay trapped in the existing constructs we begin to forget the subtleties of the subjectivities of truth. We utilize science and proof in order to believe something which casts out our own intuitive processes and things that are hard to explain in words. We begin to dismiss experiences if they do not align with something that is stated in science. If we cannot quantitatively define something, we don’t believe it to be real. This limits us deeply as we mostly operate in terms of the visible world. We cling to the physical world, the world of form, and are fearful or skeptical of the invisible. We are trained out of our intuition, as we are told knowledge is more important than imagination. And, we are told that the more knowledge the better, which is why we continually look to obtain more and more of it.
Einstein states the opposite—that imagination is far more important than knowledge. Moreover, even this knowledge, that we have the desire to accumulate to increase our value to a societal model, is knowledge that is formulated and labeled as academic for the seamless continuation of our current exploitative operating system (OS) that we function within.
Therefore, knowledge becomes hypocritical and fragmented in the scheme of our extractive economic model of accumulation. It is being pegged specifically to the proliferation of a system in which corporate desire and the maximization of profit lead to the oppression of people, animals and the environment, and the disconnection of humans and Nature. Knowledge alone does not create wisdom, and our desire to obtain as much of it as possible renders the subtleties from which it is acquired numbed.
On a practical level, as of today, to compensate for the lack of integrity in the economic structure, the government is buying shares of ETFs, bailing banks out, and helping large-scale corporations so that they do not fail. Why? Because if they did, the entire operating system would fail. We print trillions of dollars based on fractional reserve lending that is no longer pegged to anything real. Monopoly money is real. From the lobbying grounds to biased interest representation, we are allowing the allegedly legal framework of deception and bribery to justify our way of life. Just take a quick look at interconnection between the food and pharmaceutical industries and their relation to legislation.
Only since the advent of the internet, which puts endless information at our fingertips, have we had the chance to really delve into the depths of research, opinions, and experience from around the world in seconds. Yet most people are not using this amazing tool for these things due to the distraction capabilities programmed into our biology so that we become addicted to the feedback loop of social stimulation. If our brain’s biological mechanisms attempt to battle the YouTube super-computer, I doubt we will win. The mind-numbing channels of sponsored news, social media and consumption continue to keep us in their grasp and drained of personal and financial resources. I mean, it’s called a television program for a reason! We are now constantly in a state of either being distracted or being the distractor.
This mantra of multitasking is in the name of efficiency and productivity, and thrives on the lack of our attention spans caused by instant gratification. Our ability to concentrate is being whittled away at such a clip that the average attention span now of a human is 8 seconds. (1b) I think a goldfish is 5 seconds; not good company to be in. If we cannot allocate attention to any visible facts, of course we don’t see what is happening right in front of our faces. If we cannot even focus on average more than eight seconds on what is in front of our faces, we have no chance to tap into the subtleties of intuition while bombarded with stimulation. Without this attention to detail, there is a lack of intention, and without intention, we are flags in a windstorm.
We are kept busy and compartmentalized to reduce our holistic ability for critical thinking. Many jobs want you to be keeping busy in business even if there is no work to be done. We are becoming more and more specialized in specific things, creating more and more fragmentation in the world, and essentially, more and more fragmented within ourselves. Being busy and biased has become the norm. We attach to our opinions like they are our own and consume other’s to back them up and defend our stance. This inevitably creates unrest and violence because of the disconnection of a shared stance behind the superficial opinion structures that are rooted in our own desire to be right.
This compartmentalization has rendered us into a hyper-consumerist society that seeks external validation for internal feelings of inadequacy. To paraphrase George Carlin, the American pastime changed from baseball to consumption long ago. This includes not only the consumption of material goods, but also the consumption of ideas, ideologies, beliefs,
fandoms, information, identifications, and more, which separate us from each other by forming strongholds of collective identity that make us feel right. Self-righteousness stands at the gate with shield and sword, preventing us from entering into the deep inner worlds of purpose and meaning for which we long.
We can only be right if someone else is wrong. As we become so enamored with this collective consumption, people can hardly sit still anymore and look at trees, or listen to the wind. The only antidote to all of these woes is stillness and presence. Along with it comes the depth that has been supplemented with superficiality and efficiency, and with that depth comes the subtlety of experience and interconnectedness.
Language and conditioned superficiality
No wonder people feel that they are lacking purpose and depth in their lives. After all, purpose stems from experiencing and witnessing the depth, the nuances of multi-dimensionality within the lives that we live. We live in the delicate nature of life in balance with death. Purpose is witnessing the sacred in the profane.
Most of us skim the surface of our relationships, romantic and non, never asking deep questions for fear of not being respectable or for fear of being vulnerable. And then we allow ourselves to feign contentment at the lack of connectedness that stems from it, meanwhile feeling hollow and lonely. We’re trapped in a catch-22, between craving to be seen yet being afraid to be. Trust is lacking. We are defending ourselves because we have the illusion of something to protect. If we don’t need to protect our fragile little egos, what would we defend? Who would we be if no one was home?
Loneliness in itself is one of the main insecurities that drives dependency on a centralized system. If you recognize your interconnectedness with all things, loneliness cannot exist. You can be alone yet not lonely. Language, specifically the English language, is one aspect of this equation that I feel leads to our inbred division, and hence loneliness.
We often think about language in pretty superficial terms. Yes, it is absolutely necessary for the relaying of ideas and communication, yet we remain trapped in its labels. Unless you begin to really delve into phonetics, that is.
While sitting in Wailuku River State Park in Hilo, as I watched the river water flow through rocks before toppling off of Rainbow Falls, I came to wonder what my world, my literal visual reality as well as my emotional connectedness to Nature would look and feel like if I spoke a different language. What are the worldviews that are encapsulated in a language that is less transactional than English? What would my being look and act like if it was primed by a more holistic and interconnected interpretation of reality? For example, being in Hilo as I was, we can take the Hawai’ian language as an example. Would my entire picture of reality painted continuously through my brush-strokes on the movie-screen of consciousness look and feel totally different? If so, would I inherently act differently in accordance with the world that I interact with and see? Perhaps the language is more romantic, or fluid, or connective.
My friend whose family is from Lebanon told me that Arabic is essentially a religious language, with connectivity to the divine in many of the concepts and words. Yet, even in that, translation and language as a whole always seems to come up short of the real unfolding of the moment. The moment is so much vaster than mere ideas relayed into words. Language, after all is the freezing of reality. It is merely a thin veil that separates the unfolding verbiage of process into a still-life noun.
In order for us to embrace subtlety and presence we must begin to detach from our reliance upon explanation. An explanation is not the truth; it is merely a way to conceptualize it. Whatever we call it, label it or talk about it, can’t be how it really is, because all we are doing is creating a thought and the thought is not the reality. It is a still-label of the reality amidst the constantly changing wholeness. The reality is what is unfolding every single moment at such a rapid discontinuity that it appears continuous. Thought is trapped in the past and in the future. Thought is a screenshot of perception, smacked with a label and boxed into syllables and sounds. How could this ever be the expanse of all existence and consciousness that is weaving together in the moment? We often forget this while we attempt to relate cross-culturally. If you label God as Allah, and I label God as Buddha, and she labels God as Jesus, who is to say just because of the difference in names, we’re not all saying the same thing? To meet behind the understandings of language are where we find some of the roots of our interconnectedness.
We often attribute so much to our thoughts, forgetting that our thoughts are not reality. Language is just a tool to attempt to wrap our minds around the world—it is not the world. These labels themselves separate us from what is happening, and some languages separate less. Some languages depict nature as more of a living, breathing entity of which we are a part than English does. For example, while I was at the Ute Indian Museum in Montrose, Colorado, one of the videos showed Clifford Duncan, an elder of the Ute Indian Tribe, describing the importance of the depths of language.
“The language that we speak today, we use it to communicate. But the other part to that, it contains words that have a spiritual connection to nature or to higher level spirit. Words that we cannot put into like English. That’s why its important.”
As we delve into the existential truths, we see that outside of our language, which builds the constructs of our reality, there is no separation of rock and squirrel and sky to us as human beings. We are but a parcel of the same mass. Perhaps clinging to language, thoughts and ideas is one of the roots of our superficiality. We are on a collective journey to stop clinging so tightly to our labels of what we think reality is.
The loss of attention and the gain of conditioning
Another frightening part of these trends into superficiality in my eyes correlates with the eroding of attention span. Attention is one of the keys to entering into the subtleties of Truth. The shorter this becomes, the shallower the states of being become. We also bundle up attention in our minds rather than our Hearts, thoughts rather than feelings. How can we be fully present for someone unfolding their layers if we are distracted by what is going on in our own minds? If we are thinking about what we want to eat later or how many likes our Instagram posts receive, how can we ever be vulnerable and experience an authentic connection? Authentic and vulnerable connection requires presence.
Presence lies in the merging of the mind and the Heart. And we, like birds distracted by something shiny to add to their nests, flitter away the days without penetrating any sort of fertile depths at all, leaving the seeds of our inherent spiritual natures dormant.
Furthermore, from the point of our birth, until the point where we are reading this now, we have been deeply conditioned, which continues through the strengthening of our habits. These conditions physically manifest as neural pathways. Our parents were conditioned by their parents, who were conditioned by their parents, and so on. My mother admitted to me recently that her mother, my grandmother, was known as ‘the worrier’. Now my mother is a worrier, having been conditioned to worry. What a trip! As Ram Dass puts it in many of his lectures, “we all entered into somebody training.”
This issue of deep conditioning is not linear. Rather, it is a multi-dimensional, multi-generational phenomenon. Plus, this only takes into direct familial exposure, not even environmental and technological. In fact, the conditioning goes so deep that it even affects our expression of our DNA. This is what the study of transgenerational epigenetics goes into. We won’t delve into that here, but I highly suggest looking into it. It is simultaneously fascinating and disturbing.
Now, that being said, not all conditioning is necessarily bad. In fact, we must get out of our definitions of bad and good. However, I am talking about the conditions, the stories rather, the falsities that we continually hold onto that cause harm. The stories that separate us from witnessing and participating in the ultimate Truth of reality. We can view this as divisive. Divisive from Truth. This ultimate Truth, called by many names, is the pure manifestation and expression of consciousness and is represented by our greatest abilities as human beings, which are normally rooted in compassion. As we recollect what has been lost in these regards, we continue walking a healing pathway of multi-generational, multi-cultural trauma that has stricken the planet and Her people deeply and gravely.
The biggest condition of them all, which is encapsulated through the stories we tell ourselves, is our separateness from each other, the Planet, and essentially our existence as an aspect of the divine/consciousness itself. This separation results in the exploitation of the land, the animals, and the people who stand in the way, because it feels fine to harm something outside of ourselves. This is why we attempt to personify things rather than listen to their specific, unique language. We may think that tree isn’t alive like I am alive, therefore it doesn’t have a right to live, it is just a tree, and trees are meant for paper and desks. We’ve been deconditioned from feeling the pain of the Earth.
We’ve been deconditioned from feeling the pain of the rhinoceros going extinct because we have been conditioned into a belief that the planet is ours for the taking. If we could feel these things, or merge the Heart and the mind, there is no way we would continue doing the things that we are doing. Our Hearts would break, over and over again. We would see that as the world is being destroyed, so are we. This is why we find ourselves in the middle of the crumbling wreckage of resource diminishment, abuse, obsolescence and consumption that is ecocidal on levels apparently unseen in the history of the world. Actually, the Hopi discuss that this is actually the Fourth World that has followed a similar cycle of humans being consumed in greed and creating destruction, but we will leave that for a later time. In sum of this paragraph, this illusion of separation is the condition from which all others arise.
To attain peace, we cannot add on anything. In fact, we must strip it away. Enlightenment is not a construction project; it is a demolition process. This is one of the main confusions about spirituality. Many view spirituality as a constant acquisition of experience, culture and the like. However, we and everything that we perceive, and don’t for that matter, are already divine. Consciousness is not exclusive. The entire mass of the knowable universe is encapsulated in the smallest atomic particle in our bodies. We are already a part of it all. The true spiritual journey is just removing the veils of stories and conditioning that prevent us from experiencing this existential Truth of our own divinity and interconnectedness. Complexity only adds to the division. We are demolishing the layers that separate us from our true nature.
We are in fact, with the conditions and stories that we tell ourselves that are not real, preventing ourselves from finding peace and living lives that are harmonious with our human community and the planet. As we place a false image of reality in between us and the reality that is expressing itself, our movie reel becomes skewed. Cyclical tapes of patterns and thoughts roll over and over, connected by the reels of our conscious habits. We do this, at first, through language, as discussed above.
When I was in a hot tub somewhere in the woods of Western Massachusetts, I was having a conversation about language. My friend Terry and I came to the conclusion that language is the first prison. However, as we discussed it further, we realized that it can also be a prism.
Every aspect of our lives has the capability to enslave us or to free us. From language, comes our conditioned cultural stories, some from childhood, some epigenetically passed down, some not even our own stories. They could be your friend’s story that she told herself and you absorbed it through mirroring. These can be stories such as, “My parents are the reason why I am how I am” or “If my friends don’t message me then they don’t care about me” or “I am a burden to my family and friends.” Whatever they may be, these images of what we think reality is, play out on the film screen of existence via the patterns that we hold in our belief system as true. Even if they are not. All of these stories prevent us from truly being present because we are trapped in thought which is somewhere in the past or future.
Our story of what is, is the division that exists within us. There is no one to point the finger at here. There is no one who can decondition you but yourself. If your neighbor has worked on themselves, you do not automatically inherit their inner-work. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks you should do. Remember that you are your own medicine and your own poison. You are your own captor and your own source of liberation. This is the beginning of the journey of deconstruction. It brings the responsibility back to you, not the outside world, not the trends, nothing outside of you.
What are the main barriers to responsibility? Trust and faith. Do you trust that you can heal yourself? Do you trust yourself to be able to adapt, ebbing and flowing with the natural tides? Or is it easier for you to step outside of yourself and allocate that responsibility or blame to the universe, the government, or your parents? We are so quick to give away our power to others who appear to have more credentials than us because we don’t trust ourselves.
Once we can move into a space of trusting ourselves, which is essentially the universe and every single other centralized agent we pin our power to anyway, we will be led to sovereign growth. The growth happens via de-growth. The growth happens in relation with Nature. The destruction yields creation, which will yield fruit for everyone. It is cyclical, not linear.
I’ve viewed this cyclical phenomenon in the context of our current time on the planet quite often. I first experienced this insight while living in Cameroon. I could really understand the Earth’s macroscopic circulatory system of time when I began to put it in the sense of conditioning. From the beginning of time, we work our way out of the absolute Self. The Bible calls this the fall; many other traditions describe something similar. We build languages, structures, societies, and cultures, only to see that we are headed for destruction, hedonism and a loss of freedom. We hit the apex, and begin our trajectory back down to a different location.
Similarly, the West has reached the so-called pinnacles of society and development, only to find itself dissatisfied, and there have been movements back towards communes and living in alignment with Nature. However, many countries in the world who have been aligned with Nature and not tasted development seem to need to go through the rise and the fall as we have due to the spreading of capitalistic and consumptive ideology. When we all fall back down, naturally, it is to a different place. Nonetheless, we work our way back towards ground level, base level, Earthen level. As we begin our de-growth, we weave through dirt and barbed wire fences, false beliefs, stories and conditioned reactions, boarded up shops and ghost towns until we reach a point of stillness and acceptance of it all. The sun is rising, and the carrots are growing right on the plane where we all started. Back to the only thing of value; that which provides life. We are a part of it. Nature. Home.
1. What are the personal stories you’ve been telling yourself are true? Example -- I am worthless. I should already be successful (add in definition of successful.) Note: When I did this exercise, I came out with about 50 personal (not even societal) stories that are not true at all, but that I have been conditioned to believe.
2. What are the societal stories that you believe in?
Example -- The richer you are the more important you are
3. What habits or beliefs have you accumulated that are toxic?
4. What habits or beliefs have you accumulated that are healthy?