From Seeking to Seeing

By Ilona Ciunaite, author of Liberation Unleashed

I was a seeker once. I was looking for something. I did not know what that was, but I had heard stories about enlightenment, awakening, constant bliss—I wanted that. I knew that where I was at the time wasn’t it. I had an urge to find out what the holy grail was that would make my life better in every way.

Somebody once asked me straight, “What are you looking for?” And I replied, “Enlightenment.” Did I find that? No, but I am not looking for it anymore. I stopped chasing ideas and found something else instead: peace. Not in a way that everything is quiet and slow, but in a way that there is no more internal narration about what is “not enough.” Everything is just fine. There is no more judgment of good versus bad, no more fight of good versus evil. There is a silence of mind that is much more delightful than fighting what is.

The seeking pattern has stopped running. The drive that was here before, trying to get/achieve/improve something, is now absent. There is openness instead, a spaciousness that allows all happenings to pass without internal friction. If I get annoyed, which I still do, it lasts only a short time and gets resolved quickly.

Seeking is a form of striving energy that wants to get somewhere. This, here and now, is not what it wants. There is something else to get, so that the tension will cease. But it does not cease; it only takes small breaks. The “happy tomorrow” does not arrive; it feels like you are trapped in an unwanted time and place, a prison that has no doors. The seeking continues. New books, videos, talks, gurus—they all seem to have something desirable, yet not achievable. How to get off of the seeking merry-go-round?

There is a flip from seeking to seeing, and it is not what the mind thinks. It is not about making something external change so that I will feel more comfortable; it’s internal. The energy that feels intense wants to be felt—fully, openly, purely felt. When we look at what seeking itself is, rather than toward the direction of where our attention is going, seeking can be seen as a mechanism, a pattern, a strong energy. Observing it with conscious awareness, recognizing it, and then feeling the sensation melts it like a sun melts a cube of ice.

So, if you are looking for something, stop for a minute and feel the sensation that is driving the search. This sensation is here, and it does not matter so much why it is here, or who put ideas of “not enough” in the mind. What matters is that this sensation is recognized and fully felt. Seeking for flips to looking at. Once the energy is allowed to be fully present and embraced, the mind becomes relaxed, spacious, soft; it no longer feels the tension.

Try this exercise. Feel the sensation of “not enough.” Feel the sensation of lack. This sensation has a location in the body. Observe it. Allow it. Let it be as it is for a minute or two. Don’t think about what should be different or how much you dislike it; just feel it as it is. Be honest with your own feeling. Be curious about the sensation. Let it enfold you fully, even if it is intense. What is behind it?

Doing this a few times a day may feel like practice. But it’s worth it to remember and engage with this, because the more you become honest with the feelings that are arising—the more you look at what is—the less there is striving for something else. It’s a focus shift from seeking to seeing; all it takes is a conscious look at what is actually happening here and now. The mind can find peace, and that’s the end of the seeking pattern. Then a whole new world opens up—the one that was always here, always present, but was ignored or unnoticed, because of that constant nagging feeling of it not being enough. Thoughts stop running wild; there is more spaciousness felt. There is ease and lightness.

Seeking ends, but exploration continues. And exploration is a different kind of energy—it has a sense of wonder, curiosity, playfulness, and childish innocence. There is no more striving to get out of an unwanted situation, but rather resting in the situation that is neither wanted or unwanted, but simply is.

The author of Liberation Unleashed, Lithuanian-born Ilona Ciunaite has a degree in psychology and a mind-set to focus on freedom for herself and others. She’s had conversations with people from all around the globe, and has held meetings and group sessions in the UK, where she lived for twenty years. Ciunaite and her husband ran a custom tattoo studio in West Sussex until the spring of 2017. They’re in Mexico at the moment, starting fresh.

Does the Ego Die?

By Amoda Maa Jeevan, author of Embodied Enlightenment—available now!

In true awakening, there is neither a death nor a transcendence of ego. Instead, the location of self is released from its entanglement with the unconscious ego (in other words, the conglomeration of conditioned mental, emotional, and physical responses). Liberated from the prison of egoic identification, the sense of “I-ness” becomes nonlocalized and unattached. Having recognized awakeness as the inherent nature of all that is (including the self), the self becomes an “awake I,” undefined and unrestrained by relative reality.

Another way of saying this is that the self experiences itself as inseparable from the totality of existence. While certain survival-based impulses continue (protecting the body from danger, the impulse to eat when hungry, drink when thirsty, or rest when tired, and so on), these now happen without interference. They simply happen as life’s natural and intelligent movement toward what needs attention while form is alive. The “awake I” is therefore free to respond intelligently and creatively to the moment, and this gives you access to a power that is at one with life itself.

So what happens to the ego in all this? From one perspective, nothing changes. The ego continues to operate, to keep form alive. From another perspective, everything changes. In the process of liberation, the once unconscious ego transmutes to an evolved or “aware ego” and gives itself in service to the “awake I.” In other words, the ego stops being the master and bows down to awakeness.

So, yes, in awakening there is a death. There is a death of the self-identity that is wrapped around ego. But there is also a birth of a whole, integrated human being that includes both the surface sense of self as a separate entity (the self that is born and then dies) and the deeper layer of undifferentiated beingness (the self that was never born and can never die).

Awakeness embraces the paradox of self and no-self. There is no conflict in this apparent duality. While the mind finds this intolerable, the heart abides in unfathomable acceptance. When the silent mystery of spacious acceptance becomes overridingly preferable to the habitual struggle of making sense of it all, the search for a mythical state of enlightenment comes to an end. However, the ever-unfolding deepening into authentic awakening never stops.

This is an excerpt from Embodied Enlightenment: Living Your Awakening in Every Moment by Amoda Maa Jeevan, published by New Harbinger Publications. Copyright 2017.

Amoda is a contemporary spiritual teacher, author, and speaker who appeared at the Science and Nonduality Conference last October in San Jose, CA (SAND16), and is scheduled to speak at the upcoming SAND17 US: The Emergent UniverseEmbodied Enlightenment is based on both her vision for humanity and the conversations on the cutting edge of spiritual inquiry in her meetings with people from all around the world.

Shame—Dissolving This Driving Force Behind Addiction Through Mindfulness

By Scott Kiloby, author of Natural Rest for Addiction

One glance at Auguste Rodin’s famous statue Eve After the Fall tells the whole story of how we outwardly manifest our internal feelings of shame. Eve is covering her body and lowering her head as if to say, “Don’t look at me from the outside, for inside I am deeply ashamed of who I am.” Shame is one of those emotions that strikes at the very heart of our identity. Unlike guilt, which is often about feeling bad about something we have done, shame carries negative mental beliefs and corresponding emotions about who we are.

I remember from an early age that shame felt like part of the fabric of my very being. From those first moments of becoming interested in sex to stealing a bit of my dad’s Wild Turkey whiskey to trying tobacco for the first time, I learned that some things have to be kept hidden away from the judgmental eyes of the world. I learned to be addicted by repeatedly returning to the pleasures of substances and activities that helped me cope with feelings that felt overwhelming. Similarly, I learned to be ashamed of those addictions as a way to feel bad about myself. And feeling bad about myself gave me the perfect opportunity to go right back to medicating those shameful feelings. What a vicious cycle! Addiction and shame were inseparable bedfellows for more than thirty years of my life—feeding and fueling each other every step of the way.

I am neither alone nor unique here. The vast majority of clients who participate in treatment at the Kiloby Center for Recovery experience shame as one of the major driving forces behind their insatiable desire to scarf down a box of cookies in one sitting or repeatedly return to the heroin dealer for another hit of oblivion. A new study in Clinical Psychological Science reveals what many of us in the addiction treatment field have known for decades: unresolved shame is a contributing factor to chronic relapsing in addiction.

For those of us experiencing addiction in one form or another, understanding that shame is a major contributing factor to addiction is only half the battle. The more significant question is, How can we resolve shame and therefore begin to truly let go of the addictive substances and activities that are linked to it? Mindfulness is one of the best answers.

With mindfulness, especially if it is somatic based, we have the opportunity to dive deeply into the psychological and emotional imprints of shame in our minds and bodies, and gently and humanely untangle shame’s persistent knots. The great news is that we can do this without any psychoanalysis, because mindfulness uses a different approach altogether. Mindfulness involves recognizing present-moment awareness as the foundation of our experience and gently bringing nonjudgmental and accepting attention to the shame-based thoughts, emotions, and sensations that are buried within our unconscious.

Just learning this skill of mindful, direct attention can resolve quite a lot. But mindfulness affords the opportunity to go even deeper. Because shame is identity based, mindfulness—if done skillfully through self-inquiry—allows us to dismantle the shame-based ego itself, providing an even more profound freedom. Addictions fall away on their own accord, without the need for willpower, when we investigate and dismantle the shame-based ego.

For many, baring their soul in talk therapy or sharing their shameful secrets with a room full of other recovering addicts just isn’t enough to resolve the most deeply rooted shame. That was certainly my experience. I had to find a method of going deeper within myself, to root out all the memories and feelings that kept me leading two lives—the secret, private, addicted “me” that was hiding, lying, and isolating myself from others; and the public façade that presented to everyone else that “all is well.” With mindfulness and self-inquiry, I didn’t have to share anything with anyone. When we are truly ashamed of who we are, it is not so easy to simply share every little dirty secret and shameful memory. Sometimes we have to do some inner processing to relieve ourselves of the heavy burden of shame before we can even open our mouths and share the deepest secrets that have kept us addicted for years.

If you are beginning a mindfulness practice directed at resolving shame, I encourage you to work with someone very skilled at guiding you through the process. This is not for the faint of heart. You may encounter some painful memories and emotions. But diving into these issues with someone who is trained and skilled and can hold the space for you is a path to a depth of freedom that you have never known (and can never know as long as shame runs your life). Watch addictive substances and activities fall away as you watch the thoughts, emotions, and sensations of shame fall away through gentle, direct, skilled mindfulness.

Scott Kiloby is author of Natural Rest for Addiction: A Radical Approach to Recovery Through Mindfulness and Awareness—available now through Non-Duality Press. His other books include The Unfindable Inquiry, Reflections on the One Life, and Living Realization. (To learn more about Scott’s books and his work, check out his Q&A with Non-Duality Press here.)

Scott is co-owner of the Kiloby Center for Recovery in Rancho Mirage, CA, the first addiction treatment center to focus primarily on mindfulness, and co-owner of the Natural Rest House, a detox and residential center in Palm Springs. He is also founder of a worldwide mindfulness training program called the Living Inquiries. For more info, visit http://kilobycenter.com.