Learning to Fly
'Come to the edge', He said.
They said, 'We are afraid.'
'Come to the edge', He said.
He pushed them... and they flew." ...... Guillaume Apollinaire
More and more often it seems, there appears within our little game of 'birth..life..death' someone or something that points to a life more amazing than we could ever have imagined. Or maybe, just for an instance, the mind slips it's guard and we taste a love seeping through into conscious awareness that is more profound and palpable than any bus full of hippies could ever speak of.
These sublime moments of realisation invariably cast a shadow of doubt over the limits of what we have come to believe is possible or true, and when this happens we are faced with a choice. We can either be true to the Truth we have witnessed or we can use forgetfulness to pretend it never happened and return to maundering along with what Thoreau once called our "lives of quiet desperation".
But once surfaced, the memory of freedom is never be completely forgotten, and eventually a life that is torn between truth and fiction becomes intolerable. Either way, we come to learn. And after that, life on this little ball of rock spinning around the sun never feels quite the same again.
Welcome to flying school.
Fear of flying
But how do we realise our full potential - experience and express all that we truly Are - learn to fly? Each philosophy, each religion and each new book in the popular psychology section of our local bookstore has it's own take on this. But the problem is each one usually becomes another practice, one more thing to do before we let go. Even the simplest of directives - just 'be still', is taken by the mind as another thing 'to do' before we step into the unknown. It seems that most of our spiritual practices and paths end up being excuses for skipping the real flying lessons. I'm sure that no book or faith or practice can lift us free, only life itself when we turn in openness to face each day and allow everything that comes our way to lift us.
If we are really truthful, what we are usually looking for is a way to be more comfortable - a way to make nest life work better, a way to maintain a sense of balance and safety in this crumbling pile of twigs perched precariously far above the real world, and perhaps ease our collective stress by forgiving those that poop in our nest instead of their own. And each time the winds of life shake the branches and perhaps rip out another bit of nest we hunker down again, try to practice a little harder, forgive a little more and perhaps try another way. But while ever we turn out back against the wind for 'protection', we fail to hear it's whisper... 'your home is the sky, not a little crumbling nest... trust me, just come to the edge'
Think of all the things we do to resist the flow of events through our life - all the things we do in the name of 'care and maintenance', 'good organisation and planning' or for 'protection, security and insurance'. How could we possible fly when we resist life as much as we do - when we protect ourselves from, and try to 'manage', all the things that could come our way. The Course in Miracles describes our fixation with control so well -
It is, perhaps, not easy to perceive that self-initiated plans are but defenses, with the purpose all of them were made to realize. They are the means by which a frightened mind would undertake its own protection, at the cost of truth. This is not difficult to realize in some forms which these self-deceptions take, where the denial of reality is very obvious. Yet planning is not often recognized as a defense.
The mind engaged in planning for itself is occupied in setting up control of future happenings. It does not think that it will be provided for, unless it makes its own provisions. Time becomes a future emphasis, to be controlled by learning and experience obtained from past events and previous beliefs. It overlooks the present, for it rests on the idea the past has taught enough to let the mind direct its future course.
The mind that plans is thus refusing to allow for change. What it has learned before becomes the basis for its future goals. Its past experience directs its choice of what will happen. And it does not see that here and now is everything it needs to guarantee a future quite unlike the past, without a continuity of any old ideas and sick beliefs. Anticipation plays no part at all, for present confidence directs the way.
Defenses are the plans you undertake to make against the truth. Their aim is to select what you approve, and disregard what you consider incompatible with your beliefs of your reality. Yet what remains is meaningless indeed. For it is your reality that is the "threat" which your defenses would attack, obscure, and take apart and crucify."
So the problem is never how to practice, still the mind or learn a better way.... these are all things that we want to do before we let go. To experience the fullness of life and who we Are requires nothing. So what the problem really is, is this: How to overcome the fear of flying - how to let go of our need to cling so tightly to life as we know it. As Marianne Williamson put it, " ...our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our darkness, that most frightens us."
Freedom - living in a life being true only to the truth of who we are and what makes us happy [see 'Follow your Bliss'], only seems scary because it is unknown. We don't trust life to catch our fall, lift our wings and bring us only good because we have no experience of that. We don't recognise the Love that is always present because there is simply no space for the memory of who we Are to return to a mind that is preoccupied with it's need to control it's environment in protection of the vulnerable little self it has come to think it is.
Instead, we use our past 'experience' to judge life unstable and cruel. But in judging life like this we fail to see that what we think is the cause of the perception we 'experience'. Perception is never reality, but it seems that way whilst ever we think the world outside is separate from what we think it to be. Reality can only be experienced in stillness - directly, instead of the mind's interpretation of it.
Probably the best that any faith or form of practice can give us, is to bring us to the edge, to help us develop trust in ourselves and the underlying goodness of life itself. But the decision to leave the nest and free-fall into life unknown, to surrender  to the totally of all that we Are and all life Is, can only be ours. Ultimately we fly when we are ready - when we want to be free more than wanting to stay within the boundaries of our comfort zones . So really, it's only our willingness that need concern us.
It seems to me that accomplishment only really takes place when we turn away from other's paths and turn towards our own life, when we let go of our need to organise, protect, resist or attract anything and allow the flow of events through our days and our own inner guidance teach us.
So here's what I've learnt so far:
When I am willing to become non-resistant to everything, and allow what is happening in my life right now to become my teacher... no matter how bad, mundane or inappropriate that seems to be, those things start to take on a completely different light - I start to see that everything is a gift. Like kids jumping in and out of puddles, when the messiness of our life is no longer avoided it becomes much more fun.... and when it's fun we learn. When we start to embrace the unknown then every so called chance encounter becomes meaningful, each thing we formerly thought of as an annoyance .. a bug in my code, an obstructive colleague, a sentence where I am lost for words.... becomes immeasurably useful and a gateway to a creativity and joy far greater and more profound than can be described. Each and every thing becomes another opportunity to stretch our wings a little more - another little flying lesson.
It's almost as though when we turn to embrace our own life, then all of life moves to support our little willingness, and the only defense we ever need is trust in our inner guidance to see and use everything for good. But how can trust be developed in the first place?
The key for me is to recognise that it is only my ego that has a lack of trust, it's only my false self-perception that is fearful of the unknown. And in seeing this, then the solution becomes perfectly simply and clear:
Simply turn to where trust is already solid - turn to that within that already knows how to fly and trust our inner knowing to see clearly and respond perfectly to whatever presents itself. Ultimately there's no avoiding this radical act of Love.. there's no mantra we can recite that will take us there, no-one else to do it for us, nothing that will substitute, and nothing to fix up first, practice or do beforehand. It is simply surrendering our attention to the Truth of who are - that joyful longing within us, the part that only knows how to soar.
And the miraculous thing is, we can do this at any moment and in any situation. In the midst of raging fear, the most rational doubt, in the depths of suffering of any sort, and whether I perceive these things as coming from myself or another, I can call upon this inner knowing and trust it to handle things. A 'no-strings attached' invitation is all that's required in any circumstance. The simple intent of being free is all that is needed. In fact by attempting more we simply get in our own way. Or as Anne Morrow Lindbergh put it, "We need to lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach - waiting for a gift from the sea."
In doing this we learn that there is in fact no need to learn to fly, we can already do that, and it is only our belief that we can't that seemed to keep us stuck. Without doing anything, we find flow replacing effort, miracles replacing dis-ease, serendipity replacing chance and love replacing fear.
When you yield internally, when you surrender, a new dimension of consciousness opens up. If action is possible or necessary, your action will be in alignment with the whole and supported by creative intelligence - the unconditional consciousness which is in a state of inner openness you become one with. Circumstances and people then become helpful, cooperative. If no action is required, you rest in the peace and inner stillness that come from surrender. You rest in God." ..... Eckhart Tolle
There's no time like the present
What I've tried to show in this post is that anything we look for, or feel the need to do, is simply a delaying tactic of the mind to avoid the recognition of the truth of who we are right now.
But I have to admit, I don't really don't know how to awaken - do you? Let's be really frank and honest with each other here - we don't really know how to do the enlightenment thing, do we? In spite of our best efforts we have always come up short. If we tell the truth about this, we can see that this un-knowingness is something that we do have in common. We can both experience this right now. So just a few moments let's forget about waking up, forget about any spiritual or philosophical path or any practice we're involved in, and forget about making any sense out of anything I've written here.... because the truth is we don't know.
Our culture frowns upon 'giving up' but it can be quite liberating to admit that beating our head against a brick wall isn't getting us anywhere, and then stop. So just because we can, let's for a moment allow ourselves to experience our shared 'not-knowing' and the release that comes from ceasing to try or understand how this works.
Just let's be here right now and experience the freedom of giving up. Doesn't it feel good to 'not know and 'not try' anymore?
Now, instead of just reading these words, be aware of what is here right now experiencing this. What is this aliveness that is looking out through our eyes and aware of the meaning behind these words. This is 'us' awake. This Presence that is always here but almost universally overlooked is who we Are. We are not separate, we are here. Perhaps this is all we ever needed to know.
Perhaps you notice also that this awake Presence can continue to read and understand these words perfectly without another thought arising to interfere with this Self-realisation. If we just let it be, instead of returning to attempting to control our world, it will nourish us and rejuvenate our life. This present awareness ('Presence') uses everything to go deeper into itself, to grow stronger in our conscious awareness. It is only Presence that brings us Home.
To know ourselves as this pure spacious consciousness is freedom. Try finding a boundary here - there are no limits or boundaries or beginning or end - and it is the same intelligent awakeness that animates all of life. Everything the mind can think of or perceive in form can come and go but this Presence that all thought and perception-of-form arise in and fall back into, is always here. And so it is the only thing that we can truthfully call real - the only permanent thing. Can you see now why it impossible to 'become' enlightened or be enlightened in the future? We are already enlightened. Awakening is simply a recognition of who we already Are - awareness being aware of itself in this present moment.
And there's no friction here either - everything that is done in this open awareness happens naturally and easily. From here we can see without looking, hear without listening and know without thinking. We imagine that without the mind's control over our life all would be chaos, but what we find is that in letting our attention rest in our Self everything works perfectly. Problems and suffering can only arise when we return to identifying ourselves with something that appears in this awareness, and then we fear and resist whatever change we imagine could affect that thing. And with fear gone, the love that shines from here shines everywhere. For me, this is why we came and this is how we heal our world.
Looking back on the world now, it's possible to see that it's all good. Every little draught of wind helps someone rise a little higher, brings another one a step closer to the edge - one big perfect flight school. And what was all that nonsense about right and wrong and forgiveness back in the nest?... Weren't we all just learning how to fly?
Leaving the nest
The decision to fly and not go back, to express all that we Are and not return to a life of littleness and suffering in any form, is a decision to change the purpose of our lives.
We don't need to become a blob or to change any circumstance in our life to experience freedom. In fact, chances are that we'll probably be far more creative and productive than we've ever been before. We just need to alter the intent behind everything we do. When we change the purpose (the root cause) of our life then everything else follows automatically from that - every thought, word, action and circumstance reflects it's source. This shift is from 'having' or 'pursuing' to expressing what we already are right now. It's this little change of intent that changes everything. And 'intent' is everything - by attempting to add more we take away the little trust that is needed and get in our own way.
And so if you're like me, a very practical goal-orientated sorta guy, here is one 'meta' goal that can encompass all the rest and that brings immediate satisfaction. It can be the secret 'purpose' behind everything we choose to do. Just this: Live now solely for the joy of allowing our True Self to shine true, nourish us and bring us Home.
Related article: Finding Flow by Letting Go
.. 'Surrender' is probably a bad choice of word because the meaning that often springs to mind is one of powerlessness or subservience whereas in this context the opposite is true. Think of it more as a total lack of resistance to the direct experience of all that Is.
.. If freedom requires no more than our willingness to free, then it seems to me that a stretch in Rickers Island is probably far more conducive to awakening than time spent in some haven of tranquility or spiritual retreat.
.. Whether intentional or not, Eckhart uses the title of one of the lessons from A Course in Miracles here. Here is the full lesson, and a snippet below....
This thought will bring to you the rest and quiet, peace and stillness, and the safety and the happiness you seek. "I rest in God." This thought has power to wake the sleeping truth in you, whose vision sees beyond appearances to that same truth in everyone and everything there is. Here is the end of suffering for all the world, and everyone who ever came and yet will come to linger for a while."
.. I know this is true because there is absolutely nothing to do or attain. Awakening is not a change at all, but a simple recognition of what it is that's aware in each present moment. This simple recognition is available to anyone who is willing to stop seeking and look openly at what is already here right now. There can be no 'how' because we are already whole and complete and our only problem is we don't yet recognise it.
Credits: Cartoon by Andre Jordan at A Beautiful Revolution
Related Article: Nature's Law