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Snakes and Ladders

By March 2, 2013April 23rd, 2020Articles, Read

Out of our deep longing for something more, many of us find ourselves drawn into the bustling market of self-improvement and spirituality. Maybe we try to cultivate positivity and aspire to become a brighter, healthier, more present ‘me’; or maybe we hear about wonderful transcendental experiences, spiritual fireworks, colourful lights, auras, the paranormal, and we go looking for those mystical delights, go looking for a permanent experience of peace, love and happiness, and for a time it may seem to work.

But, inevitably, we cannot maintain our newly imposed structure of ‘shoulds’ and ‘shouldn’ts’, and whatever big experiences we have fade. Then we beat ourselves up for not getting it ‘right’, for having missed some vital piece of information, or else we live in denial of our ‘failure’. Either way our longing remains as we’re still locked inside a mesh of thinking, still trying to get ‘there’.

We may read all the books, the Facebook posts, watch the YouTube clips, go to the workshops and retreats, but the frustration grows as the harder we try the craftier thought seems to become. We hear the message that there are no positions to take, and thought cleverly takes the position of taking no positions. Someone gently suggests that we stop judging, and thought immediately begins judging our judging. Another kindly soul advises us to just ‘accept what is’ and off thought runs again busily working on accepting, and certainly not accepting the moments when life is so painful that it simply can’t be accepted. We observe those that seem to have ‘got it’ and compare ourselves to them, maybe even trying to model their behaviour. “Stop trying so hard” they may cry, and so we try to stop trying!

Even when thought seems to lose its bewitching power and there is a glimpse of the full, rich, vibrancy of life, thought jumps up again with “I’ve finally got it!” and engages itself with the task of trying to work out exactly what it has ‘got’ so as not to lose it, and alas we’re seemingly lost again.

What an exhausting game of snakes and ladders!

Thought is continually trying it on, continually reasserting its importance by negotiating with life as if it were the one in charge. As a last resort we decide it’s up to ‘grace’ and that there’s nothing ‘I’ can do, and so we work really hard at doing doing nothing—anything to create some framework to life; anything to avoid the sheer terror of having nothing left to hold.

Of course, thought can’t decide to stop believing in thought any more than we can decide tomorrow’s weather. That’s just more of the same game; and thought trying to not believe itself is a real recipe for confusion! However, all this seeking, all this exploring is such a precious gift. We start to see the mechanism of thought and how it operates; we notice that, as thought dissolves, what we truly are is still here, still alive, still shining. How could thought ever understand THAT within which it arises and dissolves? You can’t jump over your own knees!

And, as we become more and more familiar with life beyond thinking, our investment in our ideas, beliefs and concepts naturally softens, our attachment to our definitions naturally relaxes. Then there is nothing to split this-experience-now into pieces—no edges, no borders, no you, me, this or that, no beginning and no end—just open, undivided being; utterly simple, utterly effortless; the home we always longed for, the freedom we always craved, the lover whose arms we yearned to dissolve in.

Then thought can think what it likes. It’s not our enemy. We are thought too and can marvel at its ingenious creativity. But when it comes to who we truly are, thought is deeply deluded. It believes that we’re exclusively a limited, fragile little entity, under threat from the ‘outside world’. All of its positioning and repositioning comes as an honest attempt to find safety and security—to survive.

But now we can enjoy the joke as thought hatches its latest rescue plan; enjoy the laughter at the sheer wonderment of it all. There never was anything to get right or wrong, or anywhere to get to. The ‘there’ we’d been longing to find is ‘here’ and always was; but now we know it once more, like we’ve never known it before.