I used to think my spiritual awakening needed me to work on myself. I thought if I did enough spiritual practices or personal growth work that I would arrive somewhere. I thought I could speed up the process, and feared I would miss the boat if I was a slacker. Then at a completely unexpected time, I experienced perfection in the moment. I felt the peace and bliss I had been looking for all along.
What surprised me was that nothing had changed. I had not changed. All of the things I thought I needed to get rid of were all still there: my capacity to feel shy and insecure, to be stubborn and arrogant, to want to be special, and to get negative and discouraged. All of my ego frailties were still part of me. The only thing that changed is I stopped judging them. I saw the perfection in the entirety of who I am and the entirety of what is. When I saw this I felt filled from the inside with feelings of love, peace, contentment and joy. It was a beautiful experience, and it changed everything for me.
I realized that awakening simply means waking up to the perfection of what is. It is not called “a working on”. It is a natural and ordinary experience of falling into the present moment and enjoying it as it is. We don’t get there by trying. It simply happens when we let go of striving.
After this experience, my work with clients changed across the board. It didn’t matter if they were a therapy client or C-suite coaching client. I could not do my work in the same way. I used to join them in focusing on the identified problems and look for solutions by digging into the challenge. If someone was feeling overwhelmed, we would analyze the overwhelm. We would explore every facet of it, like observing a gem stone in the light.
My clients would feel better from this exploration. Not because of the process, but because they would feel reassured they were not in the struggle alone. This would help them settle. They would then be better able to hear their wisdom. However, sometimes, looking at their problem would get them more worried, concerned and hopeless. It would then take time to help them settle from this anxious state of mind. I just thought this was a useful part of the process. It meant they were no longer in denial. They would be stronger because of it. It was the obligatory dark before the light.
However, after my experience of deep connection with my wellbeing, I realized I was pointing clients in the wrong direction. Fortunately, due to the incredible strength of human resilience they still found their way. Even though I had been making the illusion of people’s problems more real by focusing on the by-product of their stressed, negative, insecure thinking, they were still able to stabilize and connect with the more solid foundation of their true nature and have insights in spite of my approach.
The metaphor that comes to mind is that people would come to me thinking they are in a room full of manure. I would in the most sincere, loving, and kind way help them dig through and analyze the imaginary manure to try to figure out how to get rid of it. And in spite of this approach, they would feel better and leave the imaginary room of manure and find themselves in beautiful nature. The trouble was they never understood what happened. They did not see the room of manure was made up and not anything to be afraid of of discouraged by. This lack of understanding made them vulnerable to getting destabilized when they found themselves in another imaginary room of manure. It also left them on guard and on the look of for these kinds of rooms. This creates stress, and chronic stress does not bring out the best in us.
After realizing that wellbeing is a state of mind that is wisdom, I saw the downside of focusing on problems. I recognized that from the perspective of wellbeing problems do not exist. It is an experience of peace and acceptance. From this state of mind problems do not exist but solutions do. I saw that the solution to any challenge a client presented me with would come from them having a fresh perspective. This perspective comes from a deeper connection with the wisdom of their true nature. It comes from getting quiet and reflective so they can hear their inner wisdom and let that be their guide.
There is no need to look in any other direction than the direction of truth. Problems and challenges are not truth. They are the by-product of losing connection with our wisdom. That does not mean that there are not practical things to do in the world such as moving toward world peace, protecting the environment, addressing the consequences of climate change, eliminating poverty and hunger among many other opportunities large and small. But the direction and answers come from a shift in consciousness, a deeper connection with the infinite potential of our true nature that lights the way.
This is why it no longer made sense for me to look for the solutions to my clients challenges by digging into them. I saw that every single one of us has the capacity to experience the clarity of our wellbeing. It is ordinary and commonplace. It is our natural state when we let go of focusing on what is wrong and drop into being in the present.
When I saw this my job got very easy. I saw the one answer to whatever the challenge I was presented with is to wake up from the illusion and into the truth of what is. Nothing needs to change on the outside for this to happen. We are never powerless or without hope. We can always have a change on the inside. We are designed to wake up in consciousness and see things with the clarity of an open heart. From this waking up we experience peace. We relax and let go of our worried and insecure thoughts. We see they are the only source of our suffering. This makes room for fresh thinking. We open to a dialogue with our true nature rather than staying mesmerized by our habitual thoughts.
This is the conversation of possibility and hope. It is the song of our heart. In this experience, we dance with life and naturally express our true nature more fully into the world. The problems and challenges we were struggling with no longer look like mountains. They shrink down to mole hills and become manageable. Clients go from feeling like they have something wrong with themselves or blaming others to seeing they have innate wellbeing as does every other human being on this planet.
All that gets in the way of this is we are at the effect of our thinking and the quality of our thinking goes up and down. When this is seen, people take their thinking less seriously so it has less of a negative impact on them. This allows executives to go from feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and burnt out to reconnecting with their joy and enthusiasm and bringing that state of mind to their teams. Entrepreneurs drop out of worry and fear and reconnect with their passion and creativity. People stop seeing themselves as broken and see they just get caught up in insecure thoughts from time to time.
By simply understanding that our experience is created in each moment from our own thinking, and that negative feelings are the result of negative thoughts that are temporary and will pass, we loosen our identification with the content of our thinking and experience more of our true nature. We are designed to stabilize and return to equilibrium. From this state of mind our issues and challenges are seen with fresh eyes. We see we don’t need to fight with the illusion of limitation, and our capacity to get caught up in shadows from time-to-time does not diminish who we are.
Rohini Ross is a psychotherapist, a leadership consultant, and an executive coach. Rohini facilitates personalized three-day retreats for individuals, couples, and professionals to help them connect more fully with their true nature and experience greater levels of wellbeing, resiliency, and success. You can find out more about Rohini’s work on her website, rohiniross.com, and here is a link to her upcoming workshop, Relationship Essentials, co-facilitated with Angus Ross and Mark & Carrie Sisson.