Spiritual maturity is usually considered a necessity for true awakening, and I am often asked if there are any particular signs that mark spiritual maturity. It’s true that spiritual maturity is a necessity. This kind of maturity, however, has little to do with how people usually conceive of it. It is not related to the number of years you have devoted to spiritual practice, or the number of years you have prayed, or the number of years you have been good. At the most basic level, spiritual maturity has to do with the realization that you are not in control. This is, of course, a shattering realization, because from the age of two or earlier you have believed that if you could accumulate enough power, there might be some possibility of control, and much of your attention and energy has been funneled into the fight for control.
The desire to be in control, the illusion of being in control, and the hope of being in control, are all based on the megalomaniacal belief that you know when and what the outcome should be.
Obviously, you can control many things to a greater or lesser degree, but there is nothing that you can totally control. You can, to some degree, control your bodily functions, as well as circumstances, thoughts, emotions, position, and survival, but you can never have complete control. If what you really want is true and lasting peace, you can begin by inquiring into what it is you are trying to control, and finding the willingness to let that control go.
Letting go of control is a deeper relaxation
You need no model for letting go. You cannot do letting go. Letting go is not a kind of saintly passivity or not being bothered by anything. The mind is very slippery and can even use the desire to let go as a tactic for control.
Letting go of control is a deeper relaxation, a floating in the ocean of consciousness. You can become aware of where you are holding on, and you can let go and allow the ocean to hold you. You can become aware that all your tension and clinging are unnecessary. You can actually relax and let yourself be supported. In this same way, you can become aware of all the mental and emotional energy that gets exerted in holding on to a particular story about yourself and your life, such as all of the harm that has been done to you by others or the harms you have perpetrated, and you can just let it all go. There is a deeper intelligence than the one you have been employing for power and control, and it is present here now, just waiting to be recognized in your life, in all moments.
Different emotions may arise as you approach the possibility of letting go of control, including fear, because to let go means you could fall, or you could lose something. Be willing to lose everything. Letting go of control is the same as meeting your death. Consciously meeting your death means discovering what is bigger than anyone’s power to control, what has no need of control. Finally, you can, blessedly, surrender to that.
If what you are searching for is perfect safety, perfect comfort, or a life that is dedicated to accumulating more and more personal power, then the freedom I am pointing to is not for you. The invitation to accept the treasure of a life lived in conscious awareness is not an invitation to safety and comfort. It is an invitation to live life fully and completely, which is never ultimately safe and is often uncomfortable.
The area where you do have some power and control, and which is too often overlooked, is in the choice of where you put your attention. You can choose to put attention on consciously recognizing what does not need to be controlled to be truly free, and you can support others in that.
If your attention is on the desire to control, your mind clutches at what you think must happen, should have happened, or did happen. That mental clutching perpetuates suffering. If your desire is for true freedom rather than for control, you will catch the fire of truth. The mind will stop its clutching and will begin to open. What follows the natural opening of the mind is the most profound, the most mysterious, the most unspeakable realization.
As you investigate your attempts to control, ask yourself: What do I try to control? Be as honest as possible, and then even more honest. Be aware of any defenses to truly seeing, and be willing to drop these defenses. Perhaps you will uncover even more completely what has been hidden behind the closed doors of the mind. Through honest investigation these doors can open, offering a deep opportunity for surrender.
Open your mind to the possibility that each moment and every circumstance in your life can be a natural investigation into responding without controlling. See if you can experience the difference between responding to what occurs and attempting to control. Can you rest in your capacity to respond? Can you rest in your own innate intelligence?
Now you can ask yourself: What cannot be controlled? Perhaps through this investigation you will recognize the enormous energy and mental activity that you have spent unnecessarily in attempting to control what cannot be controlled. Can you open to the possibility of trusting what remains when you let go of any attempt to control?
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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.