Jon Bernie, author of The Unbelievable Happiness of What Is: Beyond Belief to Love, Fulfillment, and Awakening has a very simple question for you. Would you rather be in control…or happy?
Now you might say: ‘Well, I want to be in control, because when I’m in control I feel secure, and when I feel secure I can be happy.’ And on a conditional, practical level, there’s nothing wrong with that answer. But the deeper question is: Do you want to be unconditionally happy regardless of whether or not you feel secure, and regardless of the circumstances you find yourself in? When things happen that you can’t control—maybe your partner or co-worker is pushing your buttons, or you’re facing overwhelming financial or health challenges—do you want it to make you sick, or give you a heart attack, or afflict you with nonstop anxiety? Or would you rather just be free of all of that? I already know that you want to be free because you wouldn’t be wasting your time reading this if you didn’t.
What comes to mind is Shakespeare’s famous line ‘To be or not to be.’ I think if he were giving satsang – conducting a spiritual gathering – he would actually say ‘To be and not to be’; or as I would put it, ‘To transcend and to transmute.’ Many of us began the spiritual path with the inspiration to become free, to become enlightened. For most of us, this meant to completely transcend the human condition and the suffering that comes with it. So it’s certainly very important to emphasise that most of us would benefit by focusing on understanding and realising transcendence—that is, learning to merge with the divine that we are—because even in the midst of the worst human suffering, in transcendence we find peace, harmony, and fulfilment.
But once you’ve realised transcendence, what happens to the human condition? The belief that I formerly had, and that many people have had, was that only transcendence was important, and that the human condition could be safely ignored. But I’ve had countless rude awakenings contrary to this belief, and what I discovered over time was that in fact the opposite is true. If the human condition is repressed or stuffed away somewhere, it eventually ‘raises its ugly little head’ and acts out. So how do we understand and integrate both our transcendent and human natures?
I teach transcendence as an absolutely essential step in the full realisation of our total humanity, and for that type of transmission we come into an environment like satsang because it has a certain clarity and resonant field of your true nature. In this way you can deeply let that resonance activate your own profound wisdom of knowing in being, and in that being, opening into awakened consciousness happens naturally. From the perspective of awakened connectedness, we can begin to understand how to work with that which is conditional by way of a transmutational process which itself actually facilitates awakened consciousness.
Many people who have opened into the clarity of full awareness are afraid that they are going to lose it. Or they think that if they get caught back in their reactivity, that they have already lost it or that they’ve gone backwards or something like that. This is a very common concern and fear until one is what we would call ‘established in awareness’, at which time the arising of the conditional is not really a problem anymore. The conditional can actually be met with consciousness and skill and even forgiveness. If it is, it will literally transmute in that space of acceptance and will open one more into the fullness of awareness. That’s why I often say that it’s not only okay to be human on the path to freedom; it’s actually essential if you want to be fully integrated and not just living one-sidedly in the transcendent realm.
So let the movement, the healing, the transmutation happen, and without question it will facilitate your enlightenment if you’re not getting caught back in your beliefs and your identification with them. That’s the key, and that’s why I talk about being free of your beliefs at least long enough to let what needs to move move. Embrace your humanness with your compassion and your tenderness. Let yourself know, if you don’t know this already, that becoming free is not your problem, not your responsibility. It’s not in your control. You can’t get it right or wrong. It’s our own Buddha nature which grows us, transforms us, and heals us, and that healing or transmutation is synonymous with becoming liberated. It’s the same process.