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Ultimate Cure
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Very often we get scared by the prospect of inner work, of looking too deeply into ourselves. We may be afraid of the demons we will discover, or the changes we may have to make in our lives. Yet we cannot create change if we are afraid of change. And the demons themselves are actually illusions, perpetuated by myth and belief, by our refusal to look. The truth is that the experience of awakening is within reach of all of us. It begins to happen naturally as we learn to let go of our ego attachments, our concepts about "how" to live, and make the choice to be more present in our lives, more attuned to the subtle energy—the loving presence—that is behind reality.

It helps, too, if you can accept the view that the experience of spiritual well-being is indeed your natural state and that there is in fact nothing spiritually to "attain." Much of the information in this book is to help you re-orient your thinking so that you can begin to trust, to accept the truth of this proposition. Once you stop striving for some ideal of spiritual perfection, there is an immense unburdening that begins to happen. The ego, in giving up its struggle for control, for some idealized state of lasting peace and security, finally grows quiet. In that quiet space opens up and light—the illumination that has so long been sought—begins to pour in.

Listen, for example, to these words from Ramana Maharshi, a spiritual master who lived in India: "Happiness is inborn in the true Self. Your search for happiness is an unconscious search for your true Self." Jean Klein, who is from Europe and who has been one of my teachers, puts it this way: "True joy is not linked to outside circumstances, it flows directly from within you, from the Self." In the Christian tradition we find the same idea expressed in Jesus's teaching: "The kingdom of God is within you." Or, in the words of St. Francis of Assisi, "What you are looking for is what is looking."

These are powerful words, empowering words. When you read deeply into them, you begin to understand for yourself why the experience of spiritual awakening has been spoken of as the "ultimate cure" for human suffering. And yet what does it actually mean to be awakened? How does it look and feel in everyday life?

For me, Suzuki's definition says it as eloquently as any. Once you have had this glimpse of Reality, that you and the universe are indeed One, it starts to free you in all kinds of ways. You begin to realize that you are more than your body, mind, and emotions, more than your personality, more than the role you play in life. You begin to intuit that you are bigger than any fear, problem, or conflict you may experience. You live more and more with the awareness that there is something authentic and beautiful within you, something timeless that is the source both of your own Being and of creation itself. And that awareness guides you in your life. You live with greater clarity, certainty, purpose. You realize, finally, what you are here for, what your work is.

And regardless of how your awakening manifests in the world, the feeling that accompanies it is always the same: it is one of increasing freedom and joy, a happiness that shines on its own. It truly is a "peace that passes all understanding." In yoga it is called satchitananda, a Sanskrit term which means, "the bliss that comes from the knowledge of one's true Being."

If you look back at your life, you may recall times when you have had this feeling, this sense of infinite well-being—or at least had flashes of it. They are like little enlightenments. They usually come when things quieten down a bit, when you find yourself more present, more aware, more sensitive in the moment. Anything done meditatively or contemplatively—that is, with heightened awareness—helps you get to this place where you are naturally still inside. Thoughts and images drop away and something deeper, the truth of your inner Being, begins to emerge.

This is what frequently happens in the workshops I teach. My goal is to create an environment where people can get a feeling for the spiritual energy that is their true nature. Once the workshop begins my commitment is to be as present as I can be, attuned to the energy that is in the room. I invite the participants into that presence and then we allow the energy to work in its own mysterious way. The things we may do—movement, meditation, various awareness exercises, or simply engaging in open, heartfelt dialogue—are guided by the energy itself, the wisdom of the moment. It is all very natural and right. There is space enough in the room for anything to happen, and everything that happens always seems to be just what is needed.