There is a snag in spiritual investigation that must be unhooked and unraveled. That is the habit of looking for truth, perfection, or realization outside of ourselves. It is important to understand how this comes about, in order to unravel this very tight knot.
There is an exquisite and important moment in the course of your life when you recognize the habits, addictions, selfishness, and suffering you have identified as “yourself.” Along with this spiritual shock of recognition, a desire often arises to find what is true, real, pure, holy, and free. Because you have identified yourself as the negativity and horror, the search for what is pure and holy begins “out there.”
We have many splendid examples of “out there.” We have sages, saints, messiahs, wise women, and wise men throughout time whose lives we can look to and say, “Ah, there it is. They have it. How can I get it? Why can’t I get there?” Then we make many attempts to fix what is now perceived to be disgusting and limited in ourselves so that we can be pure and holy. There is a striving for that pure and holy image, a working towards it, a sense of gaining ground, and a sense of losing ground.
Finally, there is another great spiritual shock, which I call “the great disillusionment.” It is the realization that all the work you have done—all the attempts to fix your character, personality, habits, and addictions—still has not touched that seeming gulf of separation between who you believe yourself to be and what you imagine to be perfection. This disillusionment gives rise to a spiritual longing, sometimes called the soul’s longing for God. There is an understanding that all your attainments still haven’t touched the depth of this longing. This understanding is crucial: you are recognizing that you will never be able to do it yourself because you don’t have the power, and you don’t know what to do.
There are many, many avenues leading away from this moment as you search for a way to fill that gulf of seeming separation. But rather than taking any of them, I invite you to fall on the double-edged sword of disillusionment and longing. Let the sword rip through your sense of separation. Refuse to take any avenue of comfort or hope or belief. Meet the sword; have it cleave open your heart.
Whenever this longing appears, fall directly into it: not into some story about the way out of it, but right into the heart of the longing itself. The disillusionment is a direct invitation into what it is you have been longing for. The acceptance of this invitation is rare. It is agreement not to move from the discomfort of the disillusionment, to neither dramatize the longing nor to deny it, but simply to experience it all the way through. It is in this radical experiencing that openness is most relevant. By not moving in the slightest from the pain of this spiritual heartbreak, you can at last glimpse what is really here, who you really are.
The willingness to receive what is already in the core of your being is the willingness to not run from your own longing, to discover right now within yourself the source of that longing. Then you will discover that the longing itself carries you to the core of yourself, where true peace and perfection are revealed as never separate from the truth of who you are.
This is adapted from Gangaji’s book, The Diamond in Your Pocket, 2007
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Gangaji is the author of The Diamond in Your Pocket, Freedom & Resolve: Finding Your True Home in the Universe, You Are That, and Hidden Treasure: Uncovering the Truth in Your Life Story.