From Creating Our Reality to Authentic Spiritual Awakening — A rambling introduction to nonduality spirituality
Creating our own reality is a central focus for most of those in the New Age and New Consciousness movement. But as long as we are manipulating reality, we can never experience authentic spiritual awakening.
THOSE OF US in the New Age or New Consciousness movements have spent years focused on becoming a spiritual something or someone: whether that something is to be more psychic, powerful, aware, loving, healing, empty and/or all-knowing; and whether that someone is a healer, a psychic, an authentic human, a shaman, a loving soul, a powerful master and/or a nobody. It is usually about self-development and creating a more together us, a more fulfilling life, finding that elusive soul-mate and/or manifesting money and healing power. We feel that an arduous journey is needed in order to fulfill our spiritual goals.
And so we ardently read spiritual books and articles; we ardently pray and meditate; we ardently say our mantras and affirmations; we ardently practice changing our beliefs and perspectives; we ardently search for the right guru, teacher or teaching; we ardently take weekend workshops; we ardently score the bookshops; we ardently seek out similar seekers; we ardently journey to spiritual places; and we ardently practice being kind, healing and compassionate. The journey is a long one but we believe it is worth taking so that we get someplace special, in order to become someone special — this fictitious "spiritual" person who is in an equally fictitious "enlightened" state.
For the vast majority, this spiritual search is synonymous with the happiness search. The Dalia Lama put it like this in one of his books, "The purpose of our lives is to be happy," and he goes on to say that to be happy we need to actively create happy lives: "Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions." So here we have a high-profile spiritual leader, well respected in the New Age / New Consciousness movement, telling us that to fulfill our lives we need to actively pursue happiness. We need to do something.
And whilst the Dalai Lama advocates compassion and service to others as the actions needed to find happiness, they are still actions all the same, and therefore reinforce the belief that in order to be happy and spiritual we need to work at becoming better people. In other words, it is an expression of the idea that spiritual development is a process of actively steering the ship of our lives from trouble waters into loving, happy ones.
So almost all individuals in the spiritual and religious movements are actually on the path of self-development. We are trying to become better people in order earn spiritual union, which we think will give us everlasting happiness and fulfillment. And we become better people by taking "good" actions, by following "good" teachers, by doing the "correct" meditation or prayer, and by adopting "empowering" belief systems. We actively mould ourselves into "spiritual people".
This is why the modern spiritual path is linked so strongly with self-development, and why you will find spiritual books and self-development usually side by side in bookshops. Spirituality has become something that we achieve, along with good health, high confidence and that soulmate relationship. It is just one goal in a long list of goals; another box to tick in the search for a fulfilling and comlete life. (Trungpa Rinpoche called this sort of spirituality spiritual materialism.)
The action that we need to take to move successfully along this spiritual path depends upon our spiritual and religious belief systems, and the type of person we are. If we think "god" is external to our being, then we are more likely to take external actions to realizing our spiritual goals: we try to impress our "god" with some selfless behaviour and public worship. If, on the other hand, we think "god" is internal to our being, then we are more likely to take internal actions to realizing our spiritual goals: we try to connect with our internal "god" by modifying the inner environment of the mind/body in some way, either by trying to still our thoughts or deliberately changing what we are thinking or feeling.
Most traditional spiritual beliefs focus on the afterlife. Being "good" was and is considered an important investment for our future, after death. This allowed religion to be used as a political tool, making even the harshest subjugation by a ruling class bearable. After all, what is three score and ten of hell compared to an eternity of bliss? We all know the shameful and shocking abuses of Christianity, Hinduism and Islam over the centuries, but even "peaceful" religions like Tibetan Buddhism have historically been used to control populations: before the Chinese invasion of Tibet, the people lived in a state of oppression under a ruling Lama class using religion to justify this subjugation; after the Chinese invasion, people still lived under oppression, but this time under a ruling atheist Chinese class using humanism to justify subjugation). It is this use of religious paradigm to control populations that led Karl Marx's to famously observe: "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people."
The rise of atheism was a necessary antidote to this opium — to move away from millennia of religious dogma you need to move to something pretty solid — scientific rationalism — before you can venture out into a new world of spiritual beliefs. Society would never have been able to directly move from one particular religious dogma into a more open one. Just look at the religious fundamentalism that survives (even thrives) in this postmodern world because the people who carry on its traditions were never challenged by scientific rationalism.
In today's Western secular societies, we now have new spiritual dogmas fomenting, foremost being the New Age or New Consciousness movement. In a material society that that has no interest in deferred pleasures or rewards, modern spirituality has had to offer immediate rewards rather than vague promises of an afterlife. So modern spirituality becomes increasingly practical in fulfilling Earthly life, rather than assuring a heavenly afterlife. It puts forward the central doctrine that our thoughts and beliefs literally create the reality that we experience, and uses quantum physics to justify this magical power of the mind. [For a rundown on the quantum reality map, click here.]
So "I create my own reality" has become the hallmark of the New Age movement, a position that was first made popular by channeler Jane Roberts in the 1970s and 80s. Roberts channeled an entity called Seth who proclaimed very forcefully:
"You form your experience. You form your past, your present, and your future. You are responsible for each daily moment, individually and en masse.
"En masse, your beliefs bring about the world conditions that you know. Individually, they form your intimate daily life. As I have told you before, in a manner of speaking, you are given the gifts of the gods. Your beliefs become reality. What you believe IS, and becomes real in your experience. There are no other answers. There is no area in your life to which this does not apply."
Powerful words! Whereas before, with traditional religions, we had to beg, bribe and manipulate God into giving us what we wanted, now we could boldly take it for ourselves, without apology or guilt. We had the tool — our minds — to literally make our dreams come true.
Being able to manifest any reality we desire fits so well with the me-centric and instant-gratification culture of today's Western democracies that New Age spirituality has spread like wildfire. This has in turn sparked a rash of New Age movie-documentaries such as What the Bleep! and The Secret, which play out this extraordinary power of manifestation, justifying it with the philosophy of quantum physics. A recent book that has also been phenomenally successful along these lines of magical manifestation is the Cosmic Ordering series by Barbel Mohr, a title that is now repeated in one form or another on a slew of books by different authors.
An important point to make here is that even though reality creation is popular due to the shallow give-it-to-me-now culture we live in, this does not mean that it does not work. The mind's ability to affect matter at a distance certainly has scientific backing (read Dean Radin's books). And even if we put mind-over-matter aside, there is a psychological aspect here: focusing positively on something we want, imagining we already have it, is more likely to help make it happen. For example, if we want to manifest money, believing that we have money and deserve it gives us more confidence so that we are more likely to accept and succeed in opportunities to make money that come our way. (This sort of manifestation is more the removal of psychological resistance to having what we want, a resistance that may not be immediately obvious but is usually lurking somewhere in the background.)
So today there are many thousands of people around the world who are not begging a god for their fulfillment, but who are manifesting it themselves on the back of the "I create my reality" belief system. And they are quite happy and successful doing this, using it to manifest money, relationships, health and so on.
That said, reality creation does raise some questions. For example, if we all manifested millionaire lifestyles then what would happen to the ecology of the planet? Would that alter in response to our reality creation or would Earth's ecology collapse nonetheless? And if we manifest happy lives for ourselves, are we turning our banks on the opportunities and insights that unhappy moments can give us? And what happens when we try to modify the reality of another — whose beliefs manifest?
The spiritual path is one of ever increasing consciousness. So once we have been engrossed in the story of our lives (including our spiritual lives) for a while, attention naturally starts to wander to who the storyteller is, and perhaps why they are telling the story that they do — we begin to look behind the curtain.
So whilst everyone questions how "I create my own reality" works, only a few will question who or what the "I" is that creates this reality, how this "I" chooses the reality that it wants, and why this "I" needs or wants to change reality in the first place. These insights and questions are crucial to waking up from the dream.
Even Seth never asked these questions. We all take the "I" for granted because we so so sure we know who or what it is referring to; and we never ask "why" we need to change reality because we live in a society that thinks nothing of modifying and manipulating anything and everything to get what is wanted.
The result is that "I create my own reality" becomes a mantra of dream manipulation, whether it is mediated by magical mind-over-matter powers, or by plain old physical/mental work. Most people on the spiritual path are only really looking for the dream of awakening… the story of awakening… the concept of awakening… where they can manifest the reality of enlightenment, perhaps by deep mediation, prayer or devotion to a guru. But this is all, unfortunately, just further dreaming.
So who is the "I" that creates reality - either magically or traditionally? We take this "I" for granted because we automatically think we know. The "I" is "me", how more obvious could that be? But the "I" that we think we know is a construct. The clue in the last sentence being the word "think". The "I" in this case is the collection of ideas we have about who we are, which in the realm of psychology is called the ego. It is, therefore, the ego that is creating reality (or at least thinks it is).
But we all know that the ego is notoriously bad at knowing what it is that we actually need, what it is that will bring us true happiness and fulfillment. "Ego" has become a dirty word, and for good reason. The ego-centric people we know tend not to be the nicest. Egos are never happy in stillness, always grasping for some sort of validation, which is oxygen to egos. Without constant validation, the ego starts to shrivel. That is why people tend to go crazy in solitary confinement: without validation from other human beings or meaningful things around them, the ego dissolves, and if we are not ready or prepared for that, we can lose our sanity.
Therefore, underpinning our wishes to "create our own reality" there is serious ego validation going on. It may at first seem very subtle, like bald canvas visible on at the edge of a painting, but that canvas actually underlies the whole creation if we take the time to examine the painting close enough.
This might be more obvious if we are trying to manifest something for ourselves, like the perfect relationship or that red sports car, but it is less obvious when we are focused on creating better health for a loved one. We think we are being selfless, but the manifestation of health for another actually validates our separation as distinct beings (otherwise we could not do something to someone else), and secondly it validates the control we think we have over reality, making us feel less exposed to the capriciousness of life. And thirdly, our friend lives for another day to validate us.
Not only is "I create my own reality" a recipe for validation, but it holds some other surprises. To want to change reality implies that reality is unacceptable the way it is. This sows the seeds of dissatisfaction in our being, so that we end up disconnection from reality as it is, but connecting with a fantasy of reality as it could be. So not only is "I create my own reality" an affirmation of separation — the separation of the painter from the canvas — it is also an affirmation of control and an affirmation of conflict (the conflict between what is and what we want).
Again, this does not imply that "I create my own reality" does not work. Our minds can and do create the realities we experience, but because of the hidden implications of that seemingly innocent statement, the realities that our minds create will never ultimately be satisfactory. Sure, we will love what we create in the short term, just as children love the gifts we give them for a while, but the mind will always become restless again and want to move on to something else in an endless cycle of the pursuit of happiness. The reason that no manipulation of or grasping at reality can ultimately fulfill us is because we are actually yearning for unity, for oneness with All-That-Is. And what "I create my own reality" is actually doing is driving a wedge between us and the reality that we are creating, so that we never reach true fulfillment as long as we think we are in control.
The other great strategy for happiness, apart from reality creation, is through the interaction of relationship — what we might label as "love".
When we "relate" to something we are placing ourselves "relative" to that something, which implies separation. So to have a relationship with someone or something is an acknowledgement that we are separate from that someone or something. After all, when we have a relationship we are seeing the other relative to ourselves, and seeing ourselves relative to the other. In relationship, separation is actually the underlying foundation, a separation that fuels the yearning for unity, but one that frustratingly can never be satisfied. This is why relationships can be so painful, and why they ultimately — by themselves — never lead to lasting fulfillment.
Traditional religions tend to be about relationships with God. The better the relationship, the more God will do for us, and so relationships with God tend to become quite supplicating and sycophantic. And whatever happens to us, good or bad, is seen as a mirroring of the health of this relationship with God. This is also the shamanic perspective, which focuses on the soul's relationship to beings in the upper and lower worlds.
Unlike "I create my own reality" which gives us all the power to manifest what we want, the "I love God" approach acknowledges our powerlessness in manifesting what we want and God's powerfulness in fulfilling our needs and wishes. So there is more room for a bit of humility here, but "I love God" or "I love this or that" is still an affirmation of separation because the love we are referring to in these statements is something being felt by one for another, or is being transmitted from one to the other — across a gap of separation of being.
This underlying separation involved in loving relationships extends to all aspects of human relationships. Whether we selectively love or hate another, we are not only separating ourselves from the person of our focus, but we are separating that person from the rest of humanity. We are singling them out from All-That-Is for a special label.
So "I love you" for most people is actually an affirmation of separation because it acknowledges both an "I" and a "you", and this thing in the middle called "love" that ties or relates the two together. It seems our very language is built on separation, on the subject-verb-object predicate that recursively cuts up All-That-Is into endless categories.
Authentic love does exist, but it is not the love that bridges two people. Authentic love is the ground-state of being that is realized incidentally in the process of awakening. It is not something that can be cultivated by focusing on one part of All-That-Is. When we find love through another, it is because that other has helped us to become more authentic, to wake up to our unity with All-That-Is, rather than some magical alchemy that has come from some sort of special relationship. It always comes back to the unity of all being.
Unity underlies everything when we look deeply enough. Even conventional science holds this perspective by believing that everything in existence started off as singularity or point before exploding out to make the universe. But whilst this unity is palpable in so called "peak" moments when we feel at one with the universe, our minds generally do a very thorough job in dividing up our experience into conceptual categories so that awareness of that oneness never seems to last.
So how do we uncover that basic unity that underpins creation so that our awareness of the oneness of all things lasts longer than just a few fleeting moments? How do we awaken to oneness?
If we accept that oneness is the foundation of All-That-Is, then any loss of oneness must be conceptual — in our heads. And that is precisely where those who have recovered oneness have put their focus. The head is the key!
This is because the head is the instrument with which we divide up the world into separate categories — the mind is the seat of separation. Minds organize our experience into categories of objects, cataloging them by meaning, association and relationship. Minds compare, judge, simulate, divide, deduce, create and all the other wonderful activities of human thought. But the most insidious perception of separation by the mind is that which makes a distinction between personal identity and the rest of All-That-Is — that which maintains our individuality. In fact, the I-World split is such a fundamental categorization that those who have healed this separation report that all other separations are resolved in the process. In other words, the realization of the oneness of All-That-Is requires the dissolution of the concepts we have of who and what we are.
Unfortunately, healing this fundamental I-World split is a lot easier said that done. Identity insidiously leaks into the vast majority of our perceptions and feelings, to the extent that dissolution of the conceptual "I" becomes a revolutionary act. And most of us are so focused on maintaining our individuality, on massaging our egos, that we are too comfortable for revolution. True revolution demands that we give up everything… that we let go of our whole world in order to gain our soul. And the vast majority of us are just not ready for this sacrifice. (Although we will be one day.)
The irony is that life itself is headed in the direction of dissolution of self, so that when it comes our turn to die, we are forced to give up everything including our concept of self. Most people resist this process until the near the end where they will lapse into unconsciousness. This is why the mortality of life can be our most precious ally, its shifting sands encouraging us, usually in middle-age onwards, to let go of identification with both body and mind. But it is an encouragement that most of us run from, squeezing ourselves into the latest fashionable clothes, taking rejuvenating hormones, working hard to leave some kind of legacy, and/or grasping at spiritual belief systems that promise a continuation of the conceptual self after death. Wee are constantly trying to resist the inevitable.
So how do we embrace the inevitable? How do we sacrifice our world in order to find what is true? How do we silence our conceptual selves?
There are four ways that this has been successfully done by others, and the way that works for you will depend upon your personality and circumstance.
The first, and the simplest, is just to do it: be still, let go of mental chatter, and abide in peace. This can be aided by being around someone who is already at peace, and/or being in a peaceful place. It is the direct, spontaneous method that is a little too direct for the noisy modern mind.
The second way is to keep our focus on pure self-awareness that underlies all thinking. This is the "I am" that precedes "I am this" or "I am that". An "I" is only undivided — at one with All-That-Is — when it is the pure "I am". As soon as "I am" becomes identified with things and qualities, there is a division in All-That-Is between those things or qualities identified with and those that are not identified with. For example, as soon as I think that "I am a man", then I have identified myself with the category of "men" and so the sense of "I am" is no longer free to identify with other parts of creation such as women, animals, plants etc. Or if I think that "I am spiritual" then I can cut myself off from being "unspiritual" and so there is division. The only way to experience an undivided self is to be at one with All-That-Is with no separation, and we do this by abiding in the "I am". Like the first method, this second one can also be tricky for the noisy modern mind because identification with this and that is indoctrinated in us from a very early age.
The third way, which is ideal for the modern distracted mind, is a process called self-enquiry. This is a method for putting us in touch with the "I am", which in turn will lead us to pure, abiding peace.
Self-enquiry is a mental process of questioning that takes us from "I am this" or "I am that" back to the pure "I am". The questioning itself involves asking who or what the "I" is that is having this or that thought, and this has the effect of bringing our awareness back to the source of thinking — which is a very simple "I am" awareness — rather than allowing it to be caught in the fantasy and complexity of the thoughts themselves. In other words, we are awakening to the "I am" from the dream of "I am this" or "I am that".
Here is an example of self-enquiry: we might have angry thoughts and feelings about our neighbour for putting garbage in our bin. In this moment, we become identified with angry thoughts about how unconscious and stupid our neighbour is. But with the process of self-enquiry, this problem turns into an opportunity. We ask ourselves who the "I" is that angrily feels our neighbour is unconscious and stupid. Who is the one that is experiencing these angry thoughts?
So far so good, but now for the tricky part. We have to do this with sincerity — we must really want to know out of sheer inquisitiveness (not as a means to the end of awakening); and we must not accept the trite answers that will inevitably bubble up from the mind during this process. Like a child, we need to keep recursively asking the question, for each answer that comes up, if we look carefully enough, will just be an avoidance of the truth that the "I" is impossible to find or identify because it does not actually exist. But we have to see that for yourself — really. And the only way to see that is to keep using the questioning to take us into that place of cognitive dissonance, without getting distracted by answers. For it is the questions that do all the work; it is the questions that open up the flower of our being.
But be warned… this process is easy for the mind to hijack, so that we think we know the answer or we think we know that there is no answer, and in that conceptual understanding we short-circuit the power of self-enquiry. For as soon as we make a formula or dogma out of self-enquiry, as soon as we see it as a golden key to awakening, then we have taken our eye off the ball. Self-enquiry is so deceptively simple that most people are not doing it even when they ask the right questions because when things are too simple the mind tends to jump in to make a philosophy or formulation so that it can be involved in the process. But unfortunately, the "I am" awareness is something that mind can never experience.
Back to our example: So who is the one that experiences the angry thoughts? Well, it is me, I, the mind answers. But those are just words… WHO AM I? WHAT AM I? WHO IS THIS ME? We might try to label ourselves with our name, our age, our profession, our gender etc., but each time we do, we only defer acknowledgement of our ignorance for a few moments more. Wisdom and faith encourage us to sit with the question whereas our minds, fearful of a process happening beyond its control, will keep trying to jump to answers. So we tend to defer and defer, scrambling for identity and substance, in a futile attempt to be a somebody and a something, when the awful truth that we do everything to avoid is that we are actually a nobody and a nothing.
But be very careful, if the "nobody and nothing" that you finally realize you are is in fact a conceptual "nobody and nothing", then your mind is playing a game with you because a conceptual "nobody and nothing" is actually a somebody and a something, by definition. If you find your mind doing that then you have been royally Rickrolled by your mind!
The dissonance of not knowing who or what we are, if we can face it head on without running for conceptual cover, leads us back to the basic "I am" awareness because we realize that any addition of "this" or "that" to "I am" is meaningless.
Again, this mental dissonance will NOT happen if we conceptually jump to what we think the answer should be, a process which is called spiritual bypassing. We bypass the dissonance of not knowing something, and as a consequence, we end up doing a very good impersonation of awakening. The mental dissonance of NOT knowing this answer HAS to be experienced if we are to viscerally awaken to the "I am".
Even when we realize this "I am" awareness, though, the process of our awakening is not yet complete. We still have to move to abiding peace, which is a letting go of all conceptual remains of the "I am". This step into abiding peace tends to be spontaneous, something that minds have absolutely no direct control over.
And the fourth way to silence our conceptual selves has to do with allowing everything in the reality we experience to be exactly as it is — to not be distracted by wanting to change anything or everything. In traditional religions this might be called the "thy will be done" approach. Only when we are not distracted by trying to change the world can we be genuinely curious enough to do self-enquiry. Otherwise, we can never completely focus on the "I am" — some of our attention will be wasted judging the world as acceptable or not acceptable, and trying to change it accordingly. As long as we see reality as something we can alter, we will live in a world of endless "shoulds" and cycles of dissatisfaction.
The central mechanism that encourages us to manipulate reality is that which assigns meaning to this and that. When we think we know what something means, we are basically mixing personal value judgments (mental and emotional) into what is, what we experience. Meaning makes everything personal, spinning a dream from the threads of reality. And it is these bits of psychology mixed in with reality — the dream — that give us the desire to want to rearrange reality. So, for example, having a small car is only a problem for someone who assigns it to mean that we are poor or less worthy, and so need to focus on manifesting a better car. In this way, we become a slave to building and maintaining our dreams based upon our allocation of meaning. It is this assignment of meaning that encourages us to "create our own reality".
An important point has to be made here: accepting "what is" is not the same as victimhood, for victimhood implies a particular meaningful interpretation of a situation. We only see ourselves as victims if we judge reality to have been "unfair" to us, and that can only be the case if we hold the fantasy of fairness as a template by which to measure or judge the situation at hand. If we are truly accepting what is, then we can never be victims or masters or anything… we can only experience reality, period.
The four methods described above can be thought of as concentric steps to awakening in reverse order. Some of us can just directly fall into abiding peace immediately and spontaneously; some of us need to hang-out in the "I am" for a while before abiding peace is spontaneously realized; some of us need to use a process called self-enquiry to find the "I am" that will then open up into abiding peace; and some of us will need to first learn to accept reality as it is, to drain it of meaning, in order to have the mental focus to ask the more important "who am I" type of ontological questions.
These are not actually discrete steps but more flavours of the moment, and a person usually savours more than one flavour at a time. so someone might be doing self-enquiry AND learning to accept reality as it is AND having pure "I am" moments. And that same person might even have experienced an encouraging moment or two of pure unabiding peace mixed in there somewhere. Choose which favours to use to increase our chances of awakening will come down to the type of person we are and the culture we have lived in. Most will need to put full attention on self-enquiry and reality acceptance because the chaotic modern mind will be too distracted to hang-out in the "I am" with all the fantasy buzzing around.
Now where is "I create my own reality" in this whole process of awakening? It is actually an issue that someone working on the fourth method of reality acceptance, most distant from actual awakening, would be examining. So "I create my own reality" is really the antithesis of true spiritual awakening.
Reality manipulation, or the illusion of reality manipulation, is purely and simply the validation of the ego and the maintenance of its fantasies. It directly props up the illusion of "I". This applies even when we are trying to manipulate reality for "good". Most "spiritual" people out in the world are actually trying to manipulate themselves into positions of favour with God, or Gods, or spirits, or gurus, or teachers. Many even try to manipulate themselves into oneness with All-That-Is. But as long as there is an "I" trying to manipulate reality, as long as we give energy to thinking we are plotting the course, we will never have the focus or inclination to look behind the curtain of self to see who or what we really are; we will never awaken to our true abiding nature of peace.
There is nothing wrong with focusing solely on reality creation if that is what we want to do, and people can and do have relatively fulfilling lives creating dreams. But it is the nature of human beings to grow weary of reality manipulation at some point, unless we are in a state of terminal resistance. And as the mind is the tool of reality manipulation, the one that defines identity by tagging "this" and "that" on to the "I am", this whole process of finding abiding peace is one of relegating the mind to the status of a "useful tool" rather than allowing it to define our identity. After all, only people who think they know who or what they are are sure enough of what sort of reality to create in order to be fulfilled. Once you realize that who or what you are is indefinable, then fulfilling the wishes of that indefinably no longer seems sane.
But we have to go through the process of creating our realities before we fully realize that the process is redundant. So reality creation certainly has its place in the flowering of human awakening, if only as a process to exhaust our interest in the world so that we finally turn our attention to what is really important — the "I am" at the root of our experience. We may remain in the sound and fury of our interpretations of reality, be-spelled by the magical powers of manifestation for a lifetime — some might say many lifetimes — but sooner or later the spell is broken and we come down to reality with a bump. And it is such a delicious visceral feeling!
Of course, you don't have to be a card carrying New Ager in order to be be focused on reality creation. New Agers do it quantum mechanically, whereas conventional people are encouraged to manipulate their reality with good old-fashioned hard work, or by throwing money at it. In fact, society indoctrinates us at every step to think that fulfillment derives from creating what we want out of life, that fulfilling our desires will bring us happiness. We are programmed to manipulate our way towards our goals, to believe that we have to actively pursue happiness and fulfillment. But the irony is that the more we focus on "manifestation" the more unhappy and exhausted we become because in the process itself disconnects us from All-That-Is. We end up isolating ourselves energetically, cutting ourselves off from life's source for the sake of the illusion of our individuality — for the sake of manifesting the illusion of a unique and rewarding life.
But what we think of as life is actually, for the vast majority, an endless theater play or reality TV show that is being produced and directed in each moment by our minds. And as our minds are involved in the perception and interpretation of BOTH our inner and outer realities, this show will continue in our heads when our senses are closed, which gives it a real sense of reality and continuity that is very hard to shake off. This is why the vast majority of us are so fixated by what is playing out for us.
Whereas in our past we believed that we had little control over the show of our lives because the story-board was almost entirely scripted by society, over the past fifty years, the perceived power-base has rapidly shifted from society to the individual, so that today we believe that, provided we live in a democracy, we can potentially have pretty much any sort of life we choose. And with the development of the New Age/New Consciousness movement which sees reality literally as our minds solidified, many of us now believe that we potentially have total control over this reality TV show (our limits being limits of belief rather than limits of possibility).
So most of us spend our lives fixated by the reality TV show, hypnotized by the swirling images, flashing lights and stories of intrigue — a heady mixture of our outer and inner worlds. And the illusion of control that we think we have pulls us in further, so that we literally lose ourselves in the story.
We may focus on external manipulation — building careers, relationships, money, status (including spiritual/religious status); and we may focus on internal manipulation — building elaborate fantasies and dreams about ourselves that make us feel happy and special, or inner relationships with Gods, spirits, ETs. We may even imagine ourselves to be highly spiritual and awake, at one with the universe, believing that we are awake relative to an unawakened world. So our idea of awakening is to become an experienced film director!
But all this directing leads us further and further into Hollywood fantasy, so that we end up completely lost to who and what we actually are — which is nothing to do with the show itself, neither the outer show nor the inner show, but with the awareness that is witnessing this whole charade. If we truly want to awaken, this is who or what we need to get in touch with, not with the light-show. It is only when we grow weary of spinning fantasies that we start to wake up to the reality of "I am". Often this will happen when the story of our lives becomes unbearable, when we hit rock bottom, when fantasy is no longer a comfortable (something we would miss if we merely created fulfilling realities for the rest of eternity).
So if you are growing tried of the New Age/New Consciousness diktat of reality creation and manipulation, if you are weary of seeing these smiling faces in New Age films that seems so self-satisfied with their latest quantum-physics metaphors, or if you simply feel you have failed to find happiness in trying to live "the dream" — whether that dream is one of material success or spirit enlightenment — you finally have the clear head needed to experience real awakening. For by exhausting the process of reality manipulation, by giving up the dream of a perfect manufactured life and by stopping the the spiritual/New Age fantasy, we awaken to the important question that unravels everything we think we are and everything that we believe in and stand for. And in examining this question we uncover our unity with All-That-Is.
And this question is, "Who, or what, am I?"
This article was deliberately written with minimal reference to spiritual teachers or religious traditions. This was for two reasons: first, so that it did not have a "religious" flavour which is off-putting for many people; and second, to emphasis that authentic awakening has nothing to do with being religious or spiritual, or anything else for that matter which is conceptually defined.
If you are interested in nonduality awakening and would like to experience it yourself, you might consider checking out some teachers. I am not going to recommend any so you will have to find the right one for you, perhaps by searching the internet on the following terms:
Whether you adopt one particular teacher exclusively or whether you focus on the teachings irrespective of the teacher, is up to you and your personality. There are teachers that are more traditional, who adopt more of a guru role, and there are teachers that are more modern, secular in their outlook and presentation. But always remember not to get too attached to any one particular teacher as attachment can be counterproductive to awakening, as is seeing your teacher as "enlightened" or "awake" and yourself as not (just more conceptualization).
I wish you well and know that someday, hopefully soon, you will truly realize that you are already awake, if you don't already :-)