We must be willing to look at the “broken zones” of our personality with honesty and courage. In the last decades, several new approaches have evolved that address this calling. These are not paths to psychological healing. They are also not spiritual paths to enlightenment in the traditional sense. Rather, to some extent they all rest on a degree of awakening to be effective. They are skillful means to bring wakefulness into full embodiment.
Until recently, spiritual teaching presented an either/or choice. It was thought that if you were trying to fix, mend, heal, or release tension from your personality, you were identified with it, in a state of delusion. Awakening, in the traditional view, meant that you had seen through the personality as fictitious, and therefore you no longer touched it. This view has resulted in many people with some degree of genuine awakening but who also carry horrendous dysfunctional habits. They obstinately refuse to look at them, because to do so would display “identification.”
One of the most effective and powerful ways to address this schism is found in the work of Saniel Bonder: “It’s a particular passion of mine to communicate the extent of the brokenness of the human soul and psyche, and how gravely impaired we are by the degree to which even ‘awakened’ people continue to be governed by all that.” He describes his approach, Waking Down in Mutuality, as “not formally psychotherapeutic, but rather initiatory and mutually grounding.” Bonder’s work has three dimensions, all contained in its title.
The first is waking. He and his community help people to awaken through a variety of means, including self-inquiry. This awakening is not the end of spiritual life, as it’s often thought to be in approaches that emphasize transcendence. Rather, it catalyzes an exploration of our potential to live with sanity.
As long as you’re predominantly identified with personality, as long as you think “this is me,” you can’t really make any big shifts, says Bonder. That’s like trying to make a major renovation to the hull of a boat you are sailing in — first you’ve got to get the hull out of the water. You can’t do brain surgery on yourself. Similarly, you can’t begin to deeply mend your psyche if you overwhelmingly feel and think you are the psyche. That would be brokenness trying to mend itself.
Bonder sees awakening as the essential foundation for the evolutionary work that follows: “You can’t do that work for real without the transcendental ground of being. Otherwise, it is one part of your split-off self engaging the other, but still to some degree fearing and fighting it.” Without an awakening, we are able to accomplish only a relatively superficial mending of our human brokenness.
The second dimension is down: bringing the liberated spirit into embodiment in daily life, and integrating the broken zones:
When wakefulness comes forward and starts to wake down, to embody, to descend more fully into the psyche, there is a sacred marriage of two great dimensions of ourselves. We undergo a challenging exposure to our issues, traumas, broken zones. When we fall into them, these dimensions of our identity feel radically discontinuous with our ordinary sense of who we are. We start reacting in ways that others may find quite disproportionate to the actual realities of the present moment.
Bonder sees these broken zones as relatively untouched by a radical awakening. When we discover a deeper, unconditioned dimension to ourselves, we identify less with these old habits; we may feel they are essentially unimportant, but they continue nevertheless. He believes that most traditional spiritual approaches have tended either to ignore these broken zones or even to exacerbate them: “Under the guise of attracting people into ego-death and ego-transcendence, the teaching styles of many teachers have practically pulverized people in their broken zones. It takes an Olympic gymnast of a psyche and spirit to somehow leap over those gaps, collect enough energy and attention, and crystallize the awakening. Consequently, only a few in any generation pull it off.”
Bonder feels that traditional spiritual approaches often hole up in awakeness, shying clear of the much more difficult, messy work of evolutionary embodiment. We know ourselves to be limitless and free, untouched by birth and death. “Good,” they might say, “let’s close the book on how we live and treat other people.” Bonder feels that in order to bring forth the real evolutionary potential of awakening, we must return to how we live and heal, or make ourselves whole, from an awakened perspective.
The third dimension is mutuality, doing this work with others of like mind, catalyzing further transformations together. Bonder sees mutuality as an essential context, one in which everyone is equally vulnerable, open, and willing to see where the evolutionary impulse can be given more room: “You can’t hide out in the enlightened ivory tower of ‘my realization is superior to yours,’ or, ‘I know you better than you know yourself,’ or, ‘I’ve got a superior insight, wow, isn’t that amazing to you?’ ”
In real mutuality, the teacher is no longer one particular person in the room; the real teacher becomes the meeting itself, the highest evolutionary potential of the group, called forth by the gathering.
This has been an excerpted from my book The Translucent Revolution: How People Just Like You Are Waking Up and Changing the World. Click here to purchase your own copy today.