Surrender and spiritual growth : becoming nobody, becoming all
A book excerpt from the spiritandflesh.com religion and spirituality online library.
On this trip I had been for weeks on end wrapped up in a tight ball inside, trying to figure out how to come to grips with myself, with life in the world, so as to make my peace, be myself, and get on with it. And so, as with all internal processes, the ugly sore would have to come to the surface and discharge its noxious puss eventually, as long as I was sedulous enough in my introverted gaze.
What happened this time came decidedly and unexpectedly, out of left-field as it were, because I had thought, for some unknown reason, that the issue- of how to be myself- would be sorted out by my finally having a clear vision of who I was, and fully accepting it, and then marching back into the world with a new found confidence and aplomb the likes of which would be instantly recognized and revered by all those who had known me as the skulking worm I had occasionally been in the past. Oddly enough, however, the exact opposite happened. And lucky I was for that.
What I mean is that instead of recognizing the exact somebody who had been living hidden and scared within me for the last many years, I recognized instead that ...I was nobody; I saw without a hint of doubt that I was not the identity or personality which I had been confused into believing I was- which was a somebody whom I had defended and acted as if it was me. I was not that personality. As a matter of fact, I was not a personality at all; not a unique, discernible package stuffed inside a figure of clay and then forced to justify itself to all the other clay figures who peered out through squirrelly eyes and into each other with judgement and condemnation. There was no such thing. I was the nobody self in the body of no one. It was unbelievably freeing. The walls which had never really existed, except in the distorted imagination of my mind, evaporated away and the self which was nobody within me leapt about like a bird who had just flown from its cage, for I, who had always been bound and determined to stay and defend myself at all costs ...I became nothing. No thing. And when that happens let me tell you- you're in for one hell of a ride.
My whole life I had forgotten to just be nothing and nobody but beingness itself. And it was only the journey out to the raw and notionless church of the spirit which healed me back to Being. And a wave of peace and understanding washed over me, for I could see what I had lost by my struggles in the world, and, more importantly, in myself. And I could see that I had been lifted out again, out to regain myself, my nobodiness, my soul, my me. My journey had been fortuitous; that specific war going on inside of me was over. The fight had ended, and it had ended because ...I had no fight left, no struggle, no panic, no thoughts. I had surrendered without trying. Nothing was left, and yet the whole realm of being remained. Not my being, although somehow I was still a part of it, because I hadn't gone anywhere, I had only worn myself out shadowboxing alone or sparring with God, and when I had no strength left in me, the effort to defend or attack was over, the battle turned into a game, the gladiator's sword into a fencing stick, the opponents became an audience, and there I was in the middle of a circus ring and waiting for the next stuffed lion to be let out of its cage.
In the hollow reaches of no thought, where the form is released from the will of the Law ...I stopped. Everything else continued. Only I stopped. I did not become, I unbecame.
Perhaps it is symbolic that I was horizontal when I hit this ground state of being; I lay there sensing existence all around me- an existence I had somehow, for some reason, been opposed to, or it had been opposed to me, but now it was over, I was finished, and that same existence suddenly took on an unaffecting, benign quality which I had never expected. I lay there in a state of immense tranquility, as if the seven demons within me had just been exorcised, and all that remained was the almost dead and yet living, emaciated carcass of the host. As if someone had come along to finally unlock the cage I was in, but I continued to sit there, because now the cage did not hold me, now it was nothing but a harmless object of interest which I had no reason to be in a panic to leave. And so I lay there, and the existence which had tortured and racked me, and which I had struggled to avoid, or take part in, or modify, or destroy, was still there, the exact same existence, only I had stopped struggling, had stopped completely, and in that total lack I was emancipated from the chains I had bound about myself. I was free because there was nothing left to bind.
Never had I understood what the word which I had read perhaps ten thousand times in my life- and attempted to accomplish but never succeeded- meant: surrender. And now I knew why I had not accomplished it, because surrender cannot be accomplished, because surrender is the absence of the struggle to accomplish anything; it is the end of all trying or attempting to conquer or understand life.
I had finally gone still inside the limitless reaches of meaning and mystery, where the atom consumes the universe, and the self devours the whole.
It's a bloody crazy mess to relate, but things change instantly when you're finished with life and yet living. Let me tell you, as I became emptied of the last vestige of recognition, purpose, or need- suddenly I ...I ceased without ending, and remained while still going on. I don't know how to say it better. It cannot be said. It's, like I said- it's crazy.
When the world you have loved, and lived, and laughed in, eventually crumbles helplessly about you- as it is certain to do with all of us sooner or later- and you stand humbly in the harmony of your song's last note, and the light's last flicker- it may happen that you will flinch for an anxious moment as if to right it all again, but if you're quick enough (and at times I was quick, and ruthless, and wild from the passion of my spiritual dismemberment, and wholly determined, if nothing more, to find and be myself, and only myself, through to the bloody bitter end) ...you let it go.
For it is in that moment- as the chastening reaches its cold zenith, and the degradation its dark nadir- when it all comes down, when you've lost everything you ever had- the hopes, promises, truths, pleasures, and words are all gone- and you're alone somewhere in the darkness- dead and yet living- and none of your life makes any sense, none of it, because all of your caring has only led to loss, that is when, as I said, the best thing to do is ...to let it go.
In the wash and fire of the spirit's healing, in the sacrificial disembowelment of the mind, in the fiery assumption of the grosser self, when you know you're done for, because the Word itself hovers hopelessly above the willess flesh- when the shit has hit the fan, so to speak, you let it go.
I let it go. I let go. And that was the finish and start of me.
I had been trying to accomplish what I could not accomplish, but which was accomplished the instant I stopped trying.
It had to become hopeless for me, without a light at the end of the tunnel, nor a happy ending around the bend. Everything had to crumble and be thoroughly destroyed. I had to be wiped out completely before the battle was done.
As truth faltered, as the lies melted from my self's fluidity, and the soul shed its worn out old mind, I was undone, absolutely disassembled. Let me tell you, I did not attain, I unattained. What else can be said? I had come apart at the seams in the midst of life, and walked about in tatters, tripping over them until I was nude.
To stand in the center of it all- without a thought, direction, or meaning, is to fall into the still point of living, and to live beyond the hollow of life.
It did not matter at that point anyway, because there was by then no such me to stop me now. There was no such me; there was only the great complexity, and the not-me not navigating within it.
I had dug myself all the way towards the center of life's tune, found nothing, then dug beyond to the other side. The other side, yes, but not 'other', since by then there was no center, only a tunnel ...no me. Which is to say, I disappeared in the act of trying to find myself.
Ah, to perish, to truly perish, to die while being lives on; to deplete oneself of all intent, understanding, and fear; to eviscerate the soul, to shed oneself, and to not be what remains in the ruins.
I saw then that when finally a person becomes nobody, they become a hole through which the universe can enter and become whole. It matters little whether the cup is half-full or half-empty, you drink it. The point of interiorization becomes the point of exteriorization, so they are the same.
All the things I thought and tried, convincing myself that they were necessary, only to find out that nothing was necessary but this: to cease trying to be something, and to dissolve into Being. For only the everlasting non-being can dissipate as such without ceasing, for it alone is the self not trapped in the form.
In those northern, coastal wild lands, where the sea and sky beat the hell out of my memory, and the birds called me by a name I had long forgotten, where the beasts and trees flipped me inside out, and the self that remained was no longer mine, I had learned to become nobody; the little man inside of me had been dragged out of the house, whipped and lynched by the delivering mob, and all that remained was a corpse now living and never again to die. I had entered the infinity of nothingness. And that made me everybody. I had become but an empty stage upon which God did everything and everyone was what was done.
When I became nobody everything inside me was gone, and the identityless nobody self within me was emancipated beyond the structure of people and things. It is hard to relate what happens when whatever you thought you were is totally cast away and all that remains is a presence behind your eyes looking out at the world. But it occurs, to be sure. To continually die into the abyss of impersonhood; to dissolve and not vanish- this is the sublime expanse of essence, anchored to the coagulated form.
At the moment I ceased struggling, and ceased needing the world to supply me with love or comfort, I began creating my own world, and my immanent universe was born. I had surrendered and become nothing, and yet that nothing was everything and was wholly alive, wholly a part of life- a fleshy, warm, wondrous, and yet insubstantial thing. That is when I began to build again the structure of the self, and to raise my own golden city to the sky.
(excerpted from In and Of: memoirs of a mystic journey, by Jack Haas)