Take Off Your Spiritual Mask

Take Off Your Spiritual Mask

By Jeff Foster

I am in love with this blessed mess of our humanity, more than ever. I see the Divine shining through the stink and the shit, the Absolute penetrating into every pore and crevice of relative existence. I see nonduality in the hot, sticky, burning mess of duality itself, unspeakable courage and hope at the pit of our despair.

I see the sad old patriarchal spirituality, the toxic masculine cosmology that shamed and devalued the body, its desires and its vulnerability, its passion and its sweat and its tears, its needs and its gloriously awkward and often highly contradictory feelings, slowly dying and being reborn as something more tangible, and honest, and grounded, and integrated, and real.

We are beginning to understand that the teachings of Advaita and Perfectly Pure Present Awareness are beautiful (don’t get me wrong, they contain so much truth!), but so very incomplete when standing on their own. We may be the “Light of Consciousness” itself, but mere intellectual insight cannot begin to heal our deepest trauma, for we are human and wounded as much as we are Divine, no matter how much we try to hide it. Holy light must penetrate the putrefying darkness inside, slowly, lovingly, and the body and its authentic feelings must be drenched with compassion and breath. Nonduality must speak to the healing of trauma, for we are all traumatised, whether we know it or not.

Absolute truth is toxic if it does not walk hand in hand with fierce human truth. Teachers who speak of spiritual awakening as some kind of final state of total invulnerability, some resting place where we become immune to grief and pain, untouched by human suffering or wounding, the ‘illusion’ of human feeling and trauma transcended at last and the ‘separate self’ finally reduced to ashes, are misguided at best, manipulative at worst.

At some point on this path, we are all greatly humbled, brought back down to earth. Our happy dreams of ourselves as enlightened beings, invulnerable to imperfection, incapable of error, floating above all human suffering, stabilized permanently in our true nature, crumble and burn.

Yes, in the end, expert and amateur alike, we are all humbled by life. We all encounter heartbreak, and loss, and unexpected pain, and we are called to grieve our own arrogance, accept that we are not the flawless beings we thought we were, turn towards our deepest wounds - our shame, our terror, our loneliness, our own hubris - and dive in.

Yes, we are Peace and Love and Joy and Beauty and Freedom. But we are also so damn spacious and vulnerable that we contain bottomless Despair and Loneliness so huge that it makes worldly love possible, and infinite Boredom, Boredom so great that it births a thousand universes just to experience itself, and a magnetic Longing, a Longing so powerful and attractive that it can rejoin us with ourselves, even if we have spent a lifetime trying to run.

I am in love, more than ever, with the sensitive, vulnerable, imperfect, awkward, shy and shaky humans that we all are underneath the myriad spiritual masks we wear. I am in love with how damn hard we try to get things right sometimes, and how damn beautiful it is to fail.

I am in love with our vulnerability, the cracks in our armour, our raw edges, the soft fleshy parts that we try so hard to hide.

I declare that nonduality is a tantric love affair with duality, and is one with it, and is its essence and its life, and it binds the feminine and the masculine principles and renders all our ordinary moments sacred.

And when pretending to know gets too exhausting for you, friend, when you tire of being the expert and the world’s teacher and the one with all the clever memorised answers, just let yourself fall, let yourself tumble to the ground and question everything and weep out the old dogmas, and I will be here to hold you.

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