Are you Redecorating the Office or Are you Creating Real Change ?
One of my pivotal books at the moment is ‘Spiritual Enlightenment – The Damndest Thing’ by Jed Mckenna. Seems to just hit the spot about where I am and how odd it feels right now – a stranger in a world where everyone else seems to be comfortably normal. Thought I would pass on this extract… it revolves around the only practice he believes creates an enlightened individual, spiritual autolysis, which is in essence the destruction of the ego. Ego is the enemy and until it is destroyed and the illusion it creates dies, there can be no truth and so, no enlightenment (that is a really bad summary of a truly awesome book that will challenge what you think you know to be true). He is trying to explain the process of becoming enlightened to a student…
‘“Let’s try out a new analogy. I’m making this up on the fly so bear with me. Here’s the situation: You’re sitting in your skyscraper office a hundred stories off the ground thinking about how successful you are and how your life is just grand. With me so far? In terms of satisfaction, you’re very satisfied. You have it all; fancy office, great views, the respect and admiration of those around you, everything you ever wanted. Okay?”
“So, you’re like that – happy, content, sell-satisfied – for however long; months, years, decades. But then one day, for whatever reason, dissatisfaction begins to creep in. Something about your office starts to bug you. It starts with little things. You’re dissatisfied with your curtains, they don’t go with the credenza at all. “What was I thinking?’ you wonder. ‘How could I have been so blind?’ And now that you’re looking more closely, it’s obvious that the carpet is a fiasco and the artwork is just an embarrassment. One minute you’re happy, the next you’re very dissatisfied. Extremely dissatisfied. This office is simply not an accurate outward representation of your inner professional. You’ve outgrow it.”
“It actually sounds like a pretty cool office ”
“Yes, well, that’s what everyone else things; your friends, colleagues, your family. They think you’ve got it made and that you’re nuts for wanting to mess with it. Of course, you’re only dissatisfied when you’re in the office. You pretty much forget about it when you’re anywhere else. Right?”
“and you’re following the analogy, right? These things can be a bit wobbly the first time out. Your office represents your relationship to the larger questions of life and your dissatisfaction represents –“
“Good. So what’s the answer? What do you do about this very dissatisfying office of yours?”
“Uh, I don’t know.” He shrugs. “Redecorate?”
“Yeas, that sounds right. But this time you’re going to be ery serious about it. You’re going to bring in a top-notch decorator and strip the place down to the floorboards and start from scratch. You’re not going to be a mere dabbler; you’re going all the way with this. You’re a serious professional and you deserve a serious office. See what I mean ? See how what started as a gnawing little dissatisfaction has grown into a life transforming event??
“Oka, “ he says dutifully.
“So that’s what you do. You go out and buy books and magazines on interior design. You talk to people and attend lectures and events. You hire the best decorator you can find; someone you resonate with deeply. You yourself are being transformed by this experience. You yourself are growing, developing, expanding. It’s very challenging, but you’re taking a no-nonsense approach. It’s slow going, but little bu little change is occurring. Your office is starting to look and feel like a genuine outer representation of your inner professional. It may take years to get it right, but nothing wills top you. This is too important. In fact, it has become one of the most important things in our life, right up there with home and family. See what I mean?”
“Yes,” he says eagerly. “The master decorator represents the guru and the redecorating process represents the spiritual transformation we undergo when we truly begin to challenge our beliefs and seek higher knowledge. What started out as a kind of gnawing dissatisfaction has grown into the impetus for important change and although it may seem like a bad thing at first, this is how the process of change works. This is how we develop, how we grow.”
“Exactly, “ I say. “Nobody acts from contentment. We need problems to solve or else we vegetate. That great office was once something we strived to get, then it was achieved and enjoyed in contentment, but then discontent sets in to let us know that it’s time to move on.”
“So, “ Says Kamiel, “that’s what the teachers are talking about when they discuss the dissatisfaction needed to spur us on, right? It might seem bad or uncomfortably, but it
S really a good thing?”
“Sounds right,” I say.
“And that’s the sort of determination and focus that’s required in order to awaken from delusion? To become truth=realised?: He smiles, excited, like he’s just now getting the big picture. “So that’s what you mean by purity of intent!?
I smile back.
“Fuck now. That’s what I mean by recipe fore failure.”
His dismay is instantly apparent. I’ve cut him off in the first rush of a new grokkign and now he’s confused and hurt. I did this intentionally. I didn’t allow myself to be drawn into this “A lot of teachers say’” conversation just wanting to make a point’ I wanted to counterpoint. That’s what the dialogue has been up until now because I wanted to make a clear distinction. This is the critical distinction between seekers and finders. This is where the line is drawn; a line the existence of which ‘a lot of teachers’ don’t even suspect.
That’s the sort of pathetic, half-assed approach that is absolutely certain to keep you confined to your current state. That’s the sort of approach that everyone takes and that’s why they fail.”
He visibly and audibly gulps. “Oh.”
“ The very people and institutions that are supposedly dedicated to waking us up are doing exactly the opposite. They are lulling us into a more comfortable sleep. That’s what we really want and that’s what they really provide.”
He doesn’t seem pleased. “oh, God…well then…then what drives the process of true awakening?”
“Purity if intent, but what does that really mean? Oka, you’re back in the office again, totally satisfied with everything. Life is great. Okay ?”
“Okay. So now dissatisfaction starts to creep in on you, but this time the dissatisfaction stems from the fact that you smell smoke.:
“The building is on fire now?”
“Wake up and smell the coffin, Kamiel. The building has always been on fire, you were just repressing that knowledge until now. But now you’re aware of it and it’s causing you some dissatisfaction. Quite a lot, in fact, and more with every passing moment. Now for the first time you realise that the flames are right outside the door and the temperature is rising. Acrid black smoke is pouring in. The door busts into flames There is no exit. Now you’re very, very dissatisfied with your office. In fact you’re starting to hate your office quite profoundly. See how this dissatisfaction – this gnawing discontentment on the, uh, feeling level – is of a more immediate and compelling nature then the dissatisfaction brought on by the decor?”
He nods mutely.
“Sure. Now your dissatisfaction with your office is quite intense. Searing really. In fact, your dissatisfaction is so intense that it feels like you’re n fire, like you can’t stand to be in your own skin, like anything would be better than more of this. Now you have no thought at all for career, home or family. Die to a change in your personal circumstances they’ve all been reduced to complete irrelevance. Belief’s and concepts disappear and even death is suddenly small. You’re very focused now You’re in the moment, very present. The flames are feet away. Your dissatisfaction with you office is well beyond anything even a master redecorator could handle for you, agree?”
“and there’s no return is there? No going back. No do-over. The fire is here. It’s a fact. Do you see that?”
He nods again.
“And you’re completely alone in all this. There’s on rescue. Your office is engulfed in flames and there’s no one here to save you. Not Jesus or Buddha or the Pope or your mama. This is your dissatisfaction. This is your problem. This is your agony. This is you about to burn to death, okay?
“Okay/ So what do you do?”
“Your world is burning. The whole office is in flames. You’re in a hopeless, no-escape situation. The pain has started and will only get worse. I think we can safely say that your dissatisfaction is now quite pronounced. What do you do?”
“Christ, I don’t know. Go out the window?”
“Hell, I don’t know. What else?”
“Yeah, I guess so. You’re in this inferno of an office while outside the window is blue sky, white clouds and freedom from suffering. That seems like the only possible solution given your very dissatisfying circumstances. But-“
“Well, that’s not Hollywood glass in those skyscraper windows. You start flinging yourself against the window but it doesn’t give. Your dissatisfaction is of such intensity that you might break bones and crack your skull from hurling yourself desperately against the window, all to no avail.”
“Yeah, then what? What happens?”
“Well the obvious thing is that you might simply perish in the hellish inferno. No law against dying.”
He look sate me desperately.
“Or, maybe you have some object that allows you to break the window out. Or maybe the sheer intensity of your – what are we calling it, dissatisfaction? – allows you to break through the unbreakable window. So, boom!, you blow out the window. Now there’ s nothing left in the equation but you, the raging fire and a hundred story plummet to the sidewalk below. Everything is suddenly quite simple. Perhaps for the first time, your life is perfectly clear.”
“Burn or jump, I guess.”
“Burn or jump?”
“Do you see another option?”
“Burn or jump.” He says flatly.
“When you become so dissatisfied with your office that the hundred story plummet and the sidewalk seem like the better option, so dissatisfied that you actually hurl yourself out the window, then you know the level of dissatisfaction necessary to awaken from delusion.”
He is silent for several moments, head bowed, thoughtful. “I guess dissatisfaction isn’t the right word.”
“Maybe not, “ I agree. “I call it purity of intent, but that doesn’t really capture it either.”
“And that’s something every enlightened master went through?”
“You say it like there are countless enlightened masters dotting the spiritual landscape, but there are extremely few and now you know why.”
“Jesus,” he umbers, seemingly sincere in his effort to truly appreciate what he’s just been told. “Jesus”
I deliver the moral of the story in three easy pieces.
“The price. Of truth. Is everything.”’
Makes me think that until now, all I have been doing is escaping…redecorating the office, creating a temporary solution that reappears eventually…. I am fixing the symptom… not the problem… but I do not want to pay the price.