I had only just escaped from my Catholic roots when I fell into the arms of New Age thought.
“Yay! I’ve found the truth!” I thought, “I’ve found my tribe!”
Ten years, a zillion books, and two spiritual teachers later, I knew everything there was to know. All you had to do was ask me.
Astral projection (out-of-body experiences)? Check.
Holotropic breath work? Oops! Missed that one.
Basically, I sought enlightenment—the ultimate “get it,” the Holy Grail of spirituality—because enlightenment is what all serious seekers seek, right?
Being a high-achieving, “lean-in” type, I started climbing the enlightenment mountain at a furious pace, isolating myself in a one-room cabin with no indoor plumbing in the mountains of north Georgia where I spent three years living alone, meditating. When my savings ran out, I became a freelance journalist, writing from home so I could order my life around my spiritual pursuits.
Some 20 years and 20,000-plus hours of meditation later, I discovered the joke was on me.
Falling into deep states of blissful non-dual awareness where all sense of self is absent and “knower” and “known” become one, I came face-to-face with the realization that I can never become enlightened because enlightenment is the absence of all sense of personal self.
Ha! The absence of any sense of me is bliss. Oneness arrives upon my departure. How could I take credit for that?
“Getting it” was the single ghastliest, most cosmically funny moment of my life. I mean, come on! What the hell good is ultimate liberation if there’s no me around to enjoy it?
I was pissed off (in between snorts of laughter) and confused for years, until finally I realized that liberation while still living as a human being is actually possible. We can teach ourselves to move into what psychologists call “transpersonal awareness”—a state of mind where the illusion of our separation from life and each other (and all the fears that come with that illusion) fall away.
It’s the middle ground between limited ego consciousness (a.k.a. a Donald Trump mindset) and egoless transcendence (a.k.a. the Buddha mind)—a stepping-stone state where we see and respect others as part of the “larger self.” As Chief Seattle put it 150 years ago, “What we do to the earth we do to ourselves.”
This is the transpersonal perspective.
So, how do we move ourselves into the state of transpersonal awareness?
Here’s one of the exercises I use almost every day to remind myself of my true condition as one with all life:
I call it “Hi Me!”
Mostly, I do this whenever I’m walking outdoors. As I walk and notice things—a flower, a stately tree, a crow calling overhead—I greet them, saying (or thinking), “Hi me!”
I consciously acknowledge their individual presence while acknowledging the larger truth that these beings are not separate from me: that at the deepest level of quantum reality they are me. Just in a different form.
Standing in awe of a sunrise or sunset I think, “How beautiful.” And then I open my arms wide, taking the view into me, and say (or think), “I am so beautiful!”
If no one’s around, I shout it.
I do the same thing when I meet people. This is trickier because I’m usually so busy remembering names and responding to the person that I forget. But when they walk away, I watch them go thinking, “Hi me. So nice to meet you and see myself in such a unique form doing such different work.”
And, for a few moments, I try to imagine that I’m walking away as that person. I put myself in their shoes for a few seconds. This really helps drop barriers and judgment against people who think and believe differently than I do.
They are all a part of life and a part of me—just in a different form.
Author: Cate Montana
Image: The Wizard of Oz
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren
Copy Editor: Nicole Cameron
Social Editor: Yoli Ramazzina