When the Third Eye Opens, Look Inside
I had an experience in the late 90s. I hear other people describe similar experiences and call them ‘spiritual awakenings’ or something similar. I don’t much care for that talk. It gives the impressions of some kind of lasting attainment and claiming such a thing often seems like an ego trip. An experience is only as good as it’s integration, and that you won’t know until you’re on your deathbed. It was just a weird, terrifying, bizarre time, that happened to kinda crack my heart open and supported me in learning some really important things. So anyway, when this happened, it was accompanied by what one might call an opening of the 3rd eye. I was able to perceive deeper than I was previously able. I noticed people’s patterns of behavior, I saw micro movements in their facial expressions and heard minute tonal shifts that expressed hidden emotional distress. Modern society and culture, which always seemed a tad absurd, was revealed to be even more fragile and sinister than I had previously thought possible. It was fascinating to me that nearly everything I saw managed to possess both of these qualities simultaneously. Everyone and everything was both very much in pain, and very capable of causing great amounts of pain.
Because of the state I was in, 23 years old, confused, insecure, and on too much acid, I was much more concerned about the later. I was very afraid. I didn’t know who to trust. I felt threatened by both those close to me, and also by vague, amorphous conspiracies.
The cynical part of my personality really came to the fore, I picked apart everything, saw every flaw, every subtle violence and microaggression. I pointed them out with self-righteous intensity. I was not fun at parties. It was a scary and confusing time.
Wisdom is Compassion
Fortunately, while this was happening, I was doing my yoga practice and reading my books on Buddhism. Learned about the concepts of wisdom and compassion, and that these both needed to be cultivated. I self-diagnosed myself with an abundance of wisdom, and a lack of compassion. That made sense to me, and I was somewhat satisfied. I would try to be a little nicer, to balance out my perceptive brilliance.
Not long after, I managed to find myself having tea with a Vajrayana Monk. Very Auspocious. Vajrayana monks wear red and gold, like the Dalai Lama, in case that’s helpful. So anyway, I told this guy what I had decided, that I had too much wisdom and not enough compassion, and he was far too kind to just laugh at me. He just nodded his head and took a sip of tea and told me very matter of factly, “Wisdom is Compassion”. It blew my mind the way it did the first time that someone told me that space and time were the same thing. I got a much more holistic view of the whole thing.
The issue was not what I was able to see in the outside world, the issue was what I was not willing to look at inside. The outside actually had very little to do with my suffering; it was instead an internal mish mosh of uptightness, rigid thinking, poor self-image, fear, laziness, and all of the other garden variety mental and emotional obscurations. With those three words, the monk had managed to turn my attention to where it needed to be, on myself.
The upper chakras, the third eye, the crown are lovely places to hang out in if the lower chakras are in reasonably good working order. If 1, 2, and 3 are a mess, you’re just going to see mess. All of your fear and shame and confusion bouncing around gets puked out all over everything, and you’re living in a waking nightmare. It’s terrifying. I hope you never have to live through it. May all beings everywhere be free from pukey chakras.
Do The Inner Work
The only thing that I’ve found to heal from this is to do inner work in the most simple and honest way possible. Look for fear, and own it. Look for craving, own it. Look for resentment, own it. Forget about the reasons why you think you’re angry, and just clean up the anger that happens to be in your field at the moment. You’ll never purify your field by blaming. Not in a million years.
One text I read from the Bihar School (I think it was This Book, but I’m not positive) suggested looking down the spine from the third eye at the root chakra, and drawing the breath down to the base of the spine. A practice of actually looking within, and exploring the self on that energetic-mythic level. Not a bad practice, drives home the idea of where the attention should be.
The yogis have a word for it, svadyaya. It means ‘self study’. At the deepest meaning, it means tuning into the essential, inherent nature of the pure self, and recognizing it more fully. That’s the goal, of course. But on the way to that, we study the self that we identify as. If we identify as a martyr, or not good enough, or resentful, we study that. To the best of my knowledge, there isn’t any word for ‘judge other people and blame them for your situation’. Sanskrit is comprehensive, and it’s probably in dictionary, but it isn’t in The Yoga Sutras or The Bhagavad Gita. That is not what a person of wisdom does.
I still have to practice this. Old habits die hard. I get triggered, a lot. I have a sense of egoic self that I want to protect, and when it’s challenged, it’s hard for me. The good news is, that after 20 years, there are fewer surprises. (still some, though, and I don’t expect that to change!) The way I get mad or sad or embarrassed when stuff doesn’t go my way isn’t a shock. It’s more like, ‘oh yes, this. Hello again, old friend’. I have the opportunity to sit with it, breathe into it, own it, and find some healing. One of the nicest part about this, is that I get to learn to be my own best spiritual healer. Through the simple practice of noticing and acceptance, I am expanding in my capacity to love and heal. I become a refuge for myself, and potentially others.
Recap – The Clif Notes
So, to Recap, I find the safest way to navigate the world when things become confusing is to look at ourselves with humility and simplicity. Start with basic emotions, like fear and anger. Sit with them, breathe evenly, and notice how they feel in the body. Learn how to comfort yourself. Be the friend you need. As you get better at it, you’ll be able to work with more subtle emotions and thoughts. Your mind will become less menacingly mysterious, and become more delightfully mysterious. It’s a wonderful journey, this spiritual inner journey, and I wish you the best as you embark on it.
Safety note: Owning your inner state does not mean taking abuse from others. This practice assumes basic safety. If you’re in an abusive cult or organization that doesn’t respect your dignity or safety, get out. If you’re in an abusive relationship that doesn’t respect your dignity or safety, get out. (However, if you’re staying with your mom, and she’s grumpy with you because you don’t have a job, you might just have to suck it up. It’s a fine line sometimes.)
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