An old Indian story tells of a time that the God gathered all of creation and said, “I want to hide the gift of wisdom from humans until they are ready for it. For it is the awakening that they as an individual have an authentic place in my manifestation. Once found this wisdom will give them permanent peace”
The hawk chimed in first, “Give it to me; I’ll fly to the moon and bury it there.” But God said, “No, one day they will go there and will find it.” Then the shark, “Give it to me; I’ll carry it in the depths of the ocean.” “No,” said God, “they’ll get there too.” Then the buffalo offered, “Give it to me; I’ll hide it in our dung.” Again God said, “No, they will get there. Finally the Ancient Mother in the form of mole came, this one that has not the eyes to see in the normal fashion but has the inner eye. She said, “Put it in their intuition on the inside; they’ll never find it there.” And the God said, “Let it be”.
Traditional approaches to transformation and awakening have taken the tack of looking at a conditioned personality as the layers of an onion. They start with the concept that a human being is a construction of parts that each layer should be treated one at a time. The way to move to the central essence of the individual in this format would be to peel these layers one at a time. These parts represent the conditioning of ‘woulds’, ‘coulds’, and ‘shoulds’ that have been acquired since the birth of the body mind. As is the case of all upbringings, these parts have been acquired through the help of Santa’s helpers of culture, society, parents, teachers, clergy, government and institutions. And climbing down into the layers is typically is labeled an ‘outside-in’ method. It is easy to see why this is the case.
This method focuses on one piece of conditioning at a time. First one identifies the conditioning. Secondly one moves to the recognition that the conditioning isn’t who one is. And in the recognition that what had been previously thought to be a permanent part of you, the possibility arises that the new you minus this issue is a step in transformation. Many times this approach is accompanied by meditation, for in the silence it is easier to identify what may not be you and your active conditioning is seen in contrast. Of course, this path continues as long as one thinks that they are an individual composed of a variety of layers of conditioning which in some order need to be identified. Then each piece is dropped when it is seen not to be part of the individual. In other words, one never moves beyond the identified ego when only dealing with it’s ornaments and not the ego itself.
The problem with this approach is that much like creating a mosaic in the beach sand, the conditionings that are left behind are so voluminous that they tumble downward to fill in the hole. Yes, it looks like every time a piece is extracted that the new mosaic forms a new picture. But after a time it is easy to see that the granules are innumerable. And the feeling that it is impossible to extract enough of the granules to actually arrive at any new depth is rife.It can be disheartening as it seems that the new pieces of conditioning, much like taking a number at 31 Flavors, form a never-ending line.
With this approach comes the felt experience of consciousness as a subset of the mind or intellect. Because the pieces are defined concepts held in the mind the action is always outside-in. This approach leads one to believe that intellect does in some way hold wisdom and maybe even direct it. Sadly it doesn’t do either.
But consider for just a moment the story that you, yourself, are simply an ego composition that has been extracted from consciousness itself. You are a concept all in one piece, a really big single concept. And all of these conditionings are simply ornaments or attachments to the first moment of ‘I am’ or birth.
Does this create an easier way? If one could simply stand in the essence of ‘I am’ and ask that simple question “who is aware of that ‘I am’” then all the examinations of distant conditionings could simply be circumvented. Instead of becoming aware of each appendage hanging off the ego, now one becomes aware of the ego itself in it’s earliest purity.
Many seekers have heard the notion of seeking as an engagement in peeling the onion. Each of the ‘woulds’, ‘coulds’, and ‘shoulds’ are simply concepts that we have extracted through the process of cognition. But the biggest extraction, that we constantly rearrange and gussy up, is our ego itself. Often I call the peeling the onion approach, the indirect approach. For if all we are doing is dissolving concepts held in the assumptive state, the necessity of dissolving them one at a time is clearly indirect. As the sand of the mosaic rushes in, it has to become obvious that we will never reach the ego itself. But if we know that all of the onion layer concepts are inherently connected and hang off one concept called ego, why wouldn’t we simply look at that primal ego assumption. This inquiry is what I deem the direct approach. And the direct approach is inside-out.
The felt experience of this wisdom approach is entirely different as well. It’s not a mental experience of managing parts into reality but rather experiencing reality itself as it created the one thing you are in the ego form.
Let’s use surfing, one of my favorite experiences, as an example. The beginning surfer normally holds certain beliefs. They believe that they are in charge of the surfing experience, waves and all. They also believe that they can take certain small pieces of the experience, foot placement etc, that are subpar and replace those with something better and the whole will properly emerge. But this approach is mental and the experience cannot become a wholistic flow. Thinking surfing in from the outside-in only takes one so far.
But there is a bridge to a land of wisdom that lies beyond the fractured pieces approach. Many of these early surfers begin recognize this mental limitation and, many times with the help of a mentor, begin to see surfing as an emergence which includes them as the surfer. In this new learning they begin to feel how they are simply carried by much larger forces than themselves. They are indeed just a small part of the whole thing. This moment is a felt experience of a different class. It’s a perfect flow and the possibility is to allow all that surrounds and includes the surfer to produce the emergence of the highest possibility of peace. Many surfers spend their entire life seeking this exact moment.
For us, much like our surfer, we surf the waves of life in one of two positions. In the first we believe we are moving towards mastery and that our ego will subdue and finally hold control over the wave we surf. We think that we can become a stable, immovable object of perfect non-motion on the wildest wave the ocean of life can serve up. The second is the recognition that within the motion of life itself that, when in the place for which we are authentically designed, that perfect stability is within the motion itself. All that has to happen is the surrender of the autonomous assumption we continuously make about our ego self. Have you ever been in the perfect flow and one with a wave? Is so, you have had a free sample of wisdom.
In my corporate life I would notice the difference between leaders who operated in these two ways. I could feel the turbulence of unending frustration in those who had never crossed the bridge into wisdom. They “lived in their heads” as we would often say. Meanwhile we would encounter those leaders who understood their relationship to the task, team, and organization as simply a piece of the ocean. It was these executives who seemed to rise to the top of most companies. And one could feel that turbulence was never part of their seemingly undisturbed peace. They were one with all that surrounded them.
You see the gift of wisdom lives on the inside and is unleashed by movement from the inside-out. All of our lifetime learning has unwittingly told us exactly the opposite. We have been taught to learn things and hold them in the mind inserting them piece by piece into reality to change the whole. Wisdom is finding the gift that the great chief hid. It’s where we rarely seem to look, on the inside. And the confirmation is the difference in how it feels when wisdom is in play.
As long as we believe that we, as an ego, could be in control the highest possibility is that of ego self-mastery. That possibility is an illusion. And seen through there lies the bridge to wisdom.