“I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost… I am helpless. It isn’t my fault. It takes forever to find a way out.
I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in again. I can’t believe I am in the same place. But, it isn’t my fault. It still takes me a long time to get out.
I walk down the same street. here is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there. I still fall in. It’s a habit. My eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.
walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.
I walk down another street.” ~ Portia Nelson
This passage from the book, There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk: The Romance of Self-Discovery, poetically illustrates the process of recognizing illusions. Thankfully, with awareness and grace you can resonate most with the last stanza, avoiding the deep hole, and walking down another street.
Sometimes, self-discovery is romantic. What’s more peaceful and tender than remembering who you really are? The space…the openness…the deep inner acceptance. It makes me swoon just thinking about it.
In the journey to embody who we actually are and not the personality, conditions, and stories we thought we were, there is a lot of brutal breakups (worse than your first heartbreak), you must breakup with illusions.
It is like the game whack-a-mole… just when you thought you bonked the final illusion, another mole pops up. So choose your weapon of choice: a hammer, broadsword, icepick, knife, bow & arrow, perhaps a revolver. My personal weapon is awareness. So today, I’m giving this weapon to you.
Here are 5 common illusions to let go of.
Using Spiritual Practices to Upgrade your Identity
This is one the most subtle illusions there are, in my experience. Imagine you are walking down a mostly smooth side-walk, so you stop looking down. Just as you let your guard down, you’re catching yourself mid-fall as the bump in the sidewalk fully registers. This is the subtlety of this illusion.
Along your spiritual path you pick up beautiful practices such as: forgiveness, compassion, self-less service, yoga, patience, presence, and deep self-awareness. As you integrate these practices into your life, you begin to witness the fruits of your practice. These fruits are crisp and revitalizing. The results will make you feel like a new person.
Here is where the trap comes in: you drop your old personality, let’s say rude, selfish and careless, for an “enhanced” identity of being compassionate, aware, and giving. But, you’re missing the point. You’re half way up the mountain. The truth you’re looking for is beyond identity or any concepts of identity.
Don’t settle for anything less than truth and the truth can’t change; it’s timeless. What changes is your self-identity (who you think yourself to be). Therefore, it can’t be the truth.
Unquestioned Assumptions about Enlightenment
Why are you on a spiritual path? What is truth? What do you think it means to be enlightened? I didn’t contemplate these questions until years after the initial spark to know myself.
I assumed that heightened sensational experiences, deep awareness, intense focus, and synchronicities were part of it or would get me ‘there’.
All are good, yet not the ultimate truth of being, beyond ALL forms. Again, anything that comes and goes is not truth. Thus, even heightened sensations, spiritual experiences etc. are part of the divine play.
Unquestioned assumptions lead to illusions. If you are ‘seeking’ enlightenment, periodically ask yourself what wisdom do I have? Are the teachings I follow becoming mental knowledge? Or am I experiencing the truth and embodying it? I hear a lot of people say “We are cosmic consciousness, beyond form. We are formless.” These words for them are often theoretically true but not experientially true.
Thus, I recommend spiritual checkups to ensure you are the walking, breathing expression of wisdom. Not a storehouse factory for spiritual lingo and practices. I highly recommend Mooji Baba. He has talks on YouTube. The pointers are simple and leave little room to collect clutter as spiritual badges of honor.
All Conditions will Become Ideal
I remember 2017, when I found Eckhart Tolle. The Power of Now turned my world upside down. I began to exist in the state of presence and only take trips to the past/future when needed.
Those first few months were bliss, than it came time to do the laundry. I felt like a wet, muddy dog covered in shit (illusions) and mediating/ conscious attention to the moment caused me to shake the mud all over. This process was messy but necessary.
At first, I was bummed. I felt like I drew the short straw. How dare I be forced out of the kingdom of Heaven back into anxiety, tension, and frustration! My ego was like “Amy, your so above this. You meditate. You know you’re cosmic consciousness.” Psh, I know nothing. I thought all conditions couldn’t affect me. But, like a dog, I had to shed. Shed the layers of illusions from outdated beliefs to people/situations that were not in alignment with my true worthiness.
Shedding is an unfolding process. It became easier the more I operated from presence instead of ego. Presence accepts conditions as they are. Ego tries to change conditions from a place of fear and asserts that if nothing changes, there can be no peace.
Every week, I find pockets of ego. I can tell because I’ll become tense, worried, and close down when certain conditions arise. I forget to have faith and instead inwardly proclaim “Conditions, you suck. I promise I won’t be happy until you change!” Ironically, they do change…once I surrender and take action from presence.
It Won’t Test your Faith
Life tests your faith. Challenges happen to deepen your knowing and seeing of truth. This seems to be especially true on the spiritual path. I’m listing this as an illusion because if you’re like me and most people I talk to, when you jumped into the rabbit hole, you didn’t realize just how much faith you would need…
You think you know how to forgive? Good says the universe, I’ll test you with a situation where before you withheld forgiveness. You think you know how to stay present in any situation? Good, I’ll shatter your old life into pieces and help you begin anew.
When I moved to LA, I had a well-paid job, and living rent free. Fast forward, eight months, I lost my job, had practically no savings, and was coming to the realization my living arrangements were emotionally toxic. I had a few weeks to find a new job, place, and the money needed.
All I had was faith. At that time, I had no prospects. I felt like marshmallow roasting on the fire, somewhere between crispy brown and about to burst into flames. The point is earth school will give you lessons to alchemize your mental knowledge into living wisdom.
Faith is needed while being cooked. This cooking process will strengthen you. You will learn to live as an embodiment of truth.
One Guidepost is Better than the Other
I used to collect guideposts. To an extent, I seemingly do but I’m not attached to one or the other. There are many helpful guides that point you back to our true nature.
Some that were most helpful for me include the teachings of Eckhart Tolle, Abraham Hicks, Sarah Blondin, Mooji Baba and many others. Each one was vital for that part of the journey. At times, I dropped one guidepost because I thought I knew it, only to pick it up again years later.
The universe packs your bags for you, so to speak. The right teachings come at the right time. Many people fall into the illusion that one guidepost to truth is better than the other, which simply can’t be true.
The right guidepost for you might not register deeply with another, thus ‘better’ is subjective. Second, truth is beyond concepts. As the saying goes, the finger pointing to the moon is not the moon. Don’t mistake a finger (pointer), as the truth.
Now, you are armed with awareness. You have the power to notice yourself falling into a hole. When it happens, don’t beat yourself up. Brush yourself off, and walk down a different street. Keep constant vigilance. The more aware you become, the more subtle holes there are to fall into.