Unlike how I’ve imagined, after awakening, our identification and attachments don’t melt into thin air in the snap of a finger. I’ve heard incidences that a few people can work through their karma load easily and quickly but for most, it takes dedication and the help of grace to clear out all the remaining untruth. Once we’ve witness the truth and know in the depth of our being that we are consciousness itself, anything that is untrue tend to float to the surface so we can take a closer look with an open heart.
Last year I found myself unable to lie. This happened right after my explosive weeks of awakening. I walked down the street and saw how people pretend to be asleep and they soak themselves in the lies they created. It is almost like a fantasy bubble – each and everyone of them protect themselves in it. People are attached to their stories and like to tell their stories – in a way they define themselves with their past and what they believe in. For a while, it was very difficult for me to relate as if I were a newborn and I didn’t have a past. My senses could only be rooted in what is happening now that I didn’t have a story even if I searched for one. I didn’t mind listening to other people’s stories as I deeply felt what they were going through. When it was time for me to share something about myself I couldn’t conjure up anything at all. My past seem insignificant in comparison to the present. To me there is only the present and nothing else. Yet nearly everyone around me lived in the past or aiming for a fantasy future. At the time I thought if people truly become intimate with one another based on their attachments, beliefs, or even their shared hopes for the future, I will no longer be able to experience intimacy with people on that level again. There were moments of grief. For a while, I tried to push myself back in the game of pretending again, unsuccessfully, every time I would say something out of alignment with the truth of the moment my body would feel all twisted up inside with nausea that I had to admit my mistake and move back to complete honesty again.
It has been one year now. What I’ve noticed is our body and our energy are all affected by the untruth we tell ourselves on one level or another. If I were to believe that I am not well, my body would shrink down, I would slouch a bit, and react in such a way to match my belief. This identification with the belief actually comes even before the appearance of a thought. In a way, any identification system formed the structure that allowed us to grow up in an environment safely. Early in life when we had to navigate into our environment it served a purposed – kept us safe. As we progress in our spiritual path these structures might become too constricting or ill-fitted all together. Like a big fish in a small pond, as the fish grows in size, it needs to find a bigger pond – a more suitable environment. The same goes for us. As we grow physically, emotionally, spiritually to our full potential, our old structures might no longer fit. This is when struggles or internal conflicts might occur. In a way, like the ever expanding universe, we are growing beyond old dimensions, so somehow, with awareness, we need to uncover the structure we need to let go, and melt into the new truth of NOW.
When we speak of untruth, it really refers to a false identification of our past belief structure that’s outdated. This is where psychology and spirituality can co-exist as we bring awareness to see what is not true that is creating discomfort within us. I have a beautiful fuchsia plant. She is tall, beautiful, slightly timid in full pale pink blossoms. Because she grew up within a structure limited her upward growth, she twisted herself around the obstacle in order to get a glimpse of the sun. She had to bent her spine in order to survive. One day, I gently moved her away from that confining structure and give her a much bigger home with plenty of sun, food, shade, and water. Within a few days, she had miraculously straightened her spine and opened up herself to now heights. She no longer looked timid, but instead, she enjoyed her newly found freedom.
We too are as such. We are also just a part of nature with innate ability to adjust to each moment anew. Yet, it is our attachment to old identifications that hold us in our old patterns unable to fully express our wholeness. Some might call it ego-identification, egoic nature, false beliefs, etc. Either way, as we progress we must reassess our current state without the clutter of old definitions that hold us back. Whenever we find ourselves contracting or shrinking down physically or energetically, we can use this opportunity to examine what we are still holding onto that is no longer true. Often times by seeing our identifications without judgement we can remember why that particular structure served us once upon a time. And how it was useful at the time. By seeing it with compassion we can then move into a more clear space of the now, with clarity to let go if that is the truth of the moment.
Some spiritual paths help us to strengthen our inner truth to push out any untruth. Other spiritual paths help us uncover untruth and polish clean ourselves to surface one’s true nature. For me, it has been extremely helpful to do both at various times. For a while, life took me onto a path with incredible grace as if the whole core of my body is filled with strength and light that is growing in size, pushing outward. Other times I feel uncourageous and small, yet with the awareness to sense the origin of these feelings, I was able to find and let go untruth – and to fully breathe again.
Many years ago I was a slave to science as I believed only science can solve life’s mysteries so I can uncover what life truly is. I laughed at the people who called themselves devotees as they blindly followed the idea that God is the force behind all existence. I didn’t know God. But I did know I can find amazing answers in a test tube. My friends shared a similar view. I remember one day I was searching in scientific medical journeys online and somehow stumbled upon a journal about near-death experiences. At first I was extremely offended how such publications can find its way to be categorized as scientific without proper documentation of truthful measurements. As I glimpsed into a few articles I was shocked to know what the scientists called data were nothing more than people’s recollection of bodily sensations and perception of events. I questioned the validity of such recalls since the biological functions of the body during such a time cannot be trusted let alone the brain’s ability to process information. I called up a friend and we continued to make fun of these so-called scientists who did not follow the proper path of science.
Did I believe science and spirituality were exclusively separate? Logically yes. Intuitively I had an inkling that all things might somehow be intimately connected.
A month later – May 6th, 2006, I was given the opportunity to experience the naked truth myself.
I had no instruments with me to collect data during the actual event but I did remember every bit of my near-death experience like it was yesterday. If I knew then what I know now, I would’ve never made fun of this instrument I call myself, my feelings, and my sensations. It was lucid and extremely real – at the time it was more real than anything I’ve ever experienced in my whole entire life. It was out of this world and into a different dimension I could not measure or even try to explain logically. When I met my doctor in the ER I was high on bliss and somehow he seemed to understand how I felt. Yes, I could say I was lacking oxygen which could cause hypoxia, ischemia, temporal lobe trauma and dysfunction and neurotransmitter imbalance, yet the visceral conviction at the time gave me more certainty than any data I’ve ever analyzed. Family and friends came to visit me felt extremely sorry for my state of being, yet somehow my doctor just stood with me and trusted my decisions without a question. The way he looked into me like we’ve known each other since the beginning of time. Back then I thought it was good healthcare and plain caring. Later on I realized he too had experienced something profound but never talked to anyone about it.
When I came back to my scientific research in biotech and carefully shared my experience with a selected few, my intellectual friends rolled their eyes and talked behind my back that I am no longer normal. I learned quickly not to speak my experience of the truth. I kept what I went through to myself. Within a year the structure in my old scientific community became suffocating. I had to move on and search deeper. I had to conduct my own experiments even when a gold standard of collecting data cannot be created. I became an outcast of the scientific community. I didn’t care. I only cared about my search for truth.
The next year I went to MBA school and found several professors who would talk to me about intuitive decision-making in their classrooms. A few of them invited me to their office and behind closed doors they shared with me they too have experienced profound mystical moments beyond the construct of the logic processor. They called themselves “closet spirituals”. The seasoned professor did not want to risk his image to deviate from his beaming intellect. The associate professor must not be too modern in her thinking in order to be on track for her tenure. One brave professor suggested to me that he had seen profound shifts in people going through holistic therapies when he worked in the office of a prestigious psychiatrist.
I followed his map and found myself immersed in psychology and psychotherapy. At that time my new job consisted embedding a glucose monitor within a cell phone to collect data for the pharmacy and health care professional’s ease of integration into the patient’s everyday well-being. During our market research we found the hardest part was not building the instrument nor an app for the cell phone, instead, the challenge to bring success to our product is how to change people’s behavior - how to make a fundamental shift in someone’s core belief, their thinking – to eventually affect the choices they make in an everyday situation. Type II diabetes is a global epidemic and there was much money to be made in this investment. I didn’t care about making the rich company richer, I only cared about truth – what makes us who we are, and if we are dissatisfied with who we are how do we change ourselves at the core level. The following year I spent all of my money into exclusive personal development classes that promised to give me answers to truth as well as solve the problem of my defective self. Soon enough using the model of men as machines gave me hope of temporary relieve but didn’t take me closer to truth. I had to move on, I was in no-man’s land. Fewer and fewer people had answers for me. Those who did offer answers like the personal development experts could no longer provide the next stage of depth I needed for my journey.
Another year has passed and my quest for truth lead me to meditation, yoga, and aikido. When I found peace within I noticed the human body is a sensitive instrument that can be calibrated to even greater precision and take meaningful data. I cannot call myself a woman of faith. I am not. I question everything. I distrust everything until I can conduct my own experiment leading to new discoveries. One thing about being a scientist is we devote ourselves to the discovery of truth, we don’t fake data to fit our own agenda. We remain pure as the observer of truth. We remain pure as the witness of nature. The more I worked to fine-tune my internal instrument the more I can become a better scientist – staying pure to what is, staying pure to witness the truth as it is. My quest for truth has led me to discover a bigger Truth and a bigger Me outside of myself by looking within. My quest has led me down a path I could’ve never imagined nor ever expected. There is no point of return. I’m no longer afraid that my view does not fit into the limits and boundaries of popular consensus. I no longer care someone else out there like the old Flo who will be offended by my scientific process. I don’t care to “fix” my data so I will be accepted. I only care about truth – as it was witnessed – in my own journey of discovery.
Here I shall share the result of my finding. I hope you will not take me experience as your own but instead stay pure, fine tune your instrument, conduct your own experiments, and stay truth to what is.
My Original Hypothesis: there is no God, no higher power than the power of our intellect
My Instrument: myself (thoughts, sensations, emotions, movement of energy)
Experimental Method: devotion to the discovery of truth; devotion to the clearing of untruth; not taking answers given by others as truth, conduct your own experiments, repeat; toss out lies but pay attention to outliers, etc…
My Conclusion: I was wrong. God does exist. God is in everything, everyone, and that is the higher power – the power of nature, the power behind all of life.
Like many of you, my first taste of awakening was in my early childhood. In a moment of clean stillness, I closed my eyes, looked within, and touched upon an eternal empty space. Intrigued, I went back to it again and discovered this presence spanned all of time and space. I didn’t tell anyone, as a child, I was afraid this powerful immeasurable presence might engulf me if I looked too long. It was even more unsettling to sense this presence has complete awareness of me. Terrified, I pulled back and talked myself into believing if I just close myself to it then it will no longer to be able to “spy” on me, and if I just close myself to it then it will not be able to engulf me.
That was my first memorable encounter with fear of the void.
For a human being, fear always appears uninvited during a burst of spiritual growth. The mind is comfortable with the past or what it knows. However when it encounters a completely unknown territory, it feels anxiety, fear, or even terror as the body tightens, heart rate and respiration increase. Regardless if a potential threat is real or imagined, the hypothalamus will produce corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) that triggers the production of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). In a series of unconscious physiological response, fear can quickly take control of the body. During the event of a spiritual growth the mind will undoubtedly enter a space of unknown causing fear in your body, without your consultation whatsoever.
Recently I went to a sathsang hosted by one of my favorite Zen teachers Adyashanti. There was one girl in particular when she voiced her fear, the body trembled. She described facing her fear is like facing a cliff where she must jump off of to find her freedom yet she was terrified what might not be on the other side. She is not alone. An Isha Yoga meditator I spoke to also wrote to me about his fear of the darkness when he looked within. Because he didn’t know what was in the dark empty space he refused to enter that space. As for myself, when I fall into extremely love and intimacy, my mind and body often encounter terror that quickly pulls me out of the experience.
Fear is natural. Fear often is a signpost to indicate that you are arriving at yet another point of exponential transformation. Well, tell that to the mind, it still isn’t very comforting. So what to do in the face of fear?
A lot of people will tell you that you must combat fear with courage. This strategy often worked when the ego was in tight control. In that stage, you can use your will to power through anything. In fact, you don’t even have to see the face of fear as you run your four-wheeler down the highway and kill any fear that might have stood in the way. As we progress in our spiritual development, we will begin to notice that the will is only an illusion. The fear we thought we had destroyed will come back in another form. With more awareness, we realize that we have no choice but to come face-to-face with our fear. We cannot fight it, yet we cannot turn the other way. We have to meet it. We have to talk to it. We have to be willing to understand it from the deepest level.
The only thing that is standing between you and your freedom is that little voice telling you to run away from or fight fear. The real courage is not to fight but the willingness to relax in the face of fear. Only from a relaxed place you can then allow yourself to dig digger into what thought might be the trigger of that fear. And next what belief you planted a long time ago supported such a thought. This is the willingness to relax and meet your fear face-to-face. This is the true expression of courage.
A few months prior to my big awakening I started to notice that everything I did and all the choices I made were being contaminated by fear. I didn’t write because I was afraid of writing an incoherent article. I didn’t do my ukemi in Aikido fearful of injuring my body. I didn’t let any cars drive near me afraid someone might change lanes and run into me. These were just the superficial fears. As I was digging deeper I found that same fear of the void never left me… In fact it had held me captive so I only pretended to meditate when I knew I was resistant to the state of yoga. I didn’t allow myself the opportunity for a deeper experience into God. What a prison I have built for myself. I finally started to become fully conscious of every single one of these fears and somehow once I know my “enemy”, it turned into a friend.
After talking to several of you on the topic of fear I decided we can revisit this old friend often. Fear is nature. It is a signpost that you are ready for the next stage of your spiritual growth. No matter what part of the path you are on, honor your fear, meet it face-to-face and know that “All is Well”. On the flip side one day, you might look back and laugh to yourself and say “what’s the fuzz?”