29 May Our Cultural Conditioning & Non-Awakening
Our Cultural Conditioning & Non-Awakening
As clarified throughout this site, Awakening or Enlightenment is the full-being experience that we are not only our minds & bodies & personal identities, but rather, we are that Pure Awareness that is “behind” all those distinctions. That Awareness is One not separated, Silent not busy, and always Present, not existing in “time.”
Most of us spend our lives experiencing ourselves as our thoughts, our judgments, our beliefs, our separate bodies & identities. That experience takes hold within each of us, and we get used to believing that that experience is us, that’s just who we are, and that’s all that we are…no room left inside for a completely different experience.
Occasionally, we may have momentary experiences that we are much, much more, that we are “present everywhere,” or that everything is perfect and we feel ecstatic love for everything in the Universe. Some of us receive these flashes of insight & bliss, spontaneously, when, for no particular reason, everything feels right and our minds are simply open & still. Others have experienced this from psychedelics, from deep long meditation or other spiritual practices. But the experience of perfection only lasts a moment, or a day, or a week. Then we re-identify with our bodies & minds, and once again they seem to fill up all the experience in us.
In truth, there is not only space in us for a much vaster experience than just body/mind consciousness, there is infinite space, and our body/mind/ego consciousness takes up only the tiniest percentage of that space. Awakening is simply our natural state when we realize that, when we allow that not-so-significant body/mind consciousness to recede into the background, and allow the full experience of Infinite Oneness and Awareness to flood our foreground.
Why, then, are so many of us “caught” in the life-long certainty that our body/mind/ego experience is all we are and can ever be, till we “die?”
A large part of the reason may be our cultural conditioning, especially in the West. In the USA and many other Western cultures, we are brought up by other people who are totally convinced that having a good life has nothing to do with discovering our Vaster Awareness beyond the body & mind, and everything to do with doing well in school & career, so we can snatch the golden rings of material wealth, raising a family, and living very comfortably till our health fails and we die.
We learn from the important mentors and peers in our life – our parents, our siblings, our close friends, and often the media. If no one ever tells you there’s another purpose to life, a vaster experience of who you really are besides being a body/mind full of cool thoughts & desires, how will you know to discover that, feel that, experience that? If none of them are doing that either, if you see them all just living out their lives catering to their bodies, minds and desires, working, eating, craving love & sex, avoiding pain…where would you get the reference point that there might be something more than this?
The Missing Life Stage
There’s nothing wrong with living a certain portion of our lives totally immersed in our bodies, our mental pursuits, building our strongly-held opinions , building our material wealth, raising a family, etc. It seems like a natural, necessary vocation in life, especially when you’re young, growing, want to experience the wide world, and need to learn some particular skill you can contribute to society in return for sustenance that allows you to keep living. My 23 year old son is in that stage right now, and it’s appropriate for him to be concerned with all those things. It may not be the appropriate time for him to do deep Reality inquiry and sit for long hours of meditation, trying to find his True Nature.
In a simplified life-stage overview, you could say he was in life stage #3. He completed life stage #1, when he was a small child, still totally dependent on his parents or other care-providers, and still soaking up there mores and beliefs. He left behind stage #2, from about 7 through teen years, where he was forming his own personal sense of himself as an individual and establishing his own independence. As he lives through life stage 3, living away from home, developing his own career and earning his own way, and possibly starting his own family, he will naturally feel very dependent on his body, his mind, his work and his desires, to forge a successful comfortable life for himself and those he takes care of.
In our Western culture, the problem is that there is so seldom a 4th stage. We make those stage 3 pursuits into the end-all and be-all of life. We never stop…till we have to because we’re getting old & decrepit. Many of us see “retirement” as stage 4, but most people in the West spend their retirement years relaxing, traveling and taking care of their increased bodily malfunctions, still thinking all they are is their bodies, their thoughts, their minds and this oh-so-short physical life.
What if important people told us, and actually showed us by example, a whole other stage, a whole other set of pursuits in life, that were not just optional, but as important for a rich life that fulfills its true purpose as any material, physical and mental pursuits? What if they all demonstrated, in their own lives, a stage where they moved away from coveting all the cultural life experiences, and spent increasing time in spiritual inquiry and having a direct experience of their Vast Infinite Nature? Then we would know to do that, too. But that example is missing in much of the world’s modern cultures, so we just do what it seems everybody else is doing, never diving deeper than this small percentage of our Nature and our greater purpose.
Older & more indigenous cultures have recognized life’s innate connection with the spiritual world and educated their children, not only in the ways & pursuits of the world, but in their infinite spiritual nature. In the West, the emptiness of lives lived only for material pursuits has produced at least 2 generations of seekers of deeper truths and a whole New Age movement. Experimenting with psychedelics, following eastern gurus, yoga classes and chanting festivals are all signs of human hunger for Awakening here in the Western cultures.
If you are browsing this site. you are already aware of your much vaster spiritual nature and already doing practices to move beyond limited body/mind consciousness. Take the time to inquire deeply into the nature of any cultural conditioning you absorbed & identified with as you grew, and practice “neti, neti” – I am not this, I am not that – actively dropping any beliefs you still have of who you are, based on parental or cultural modeling, and claim your full Infinite Heritage & Self.