Unmani, Author of Die to Love
A Path of Joy: Popping into Freedomby Paramananda Ishaya
The search for spiritual enlightenment becomes difficult when seriousness replaces simple commitment. You close the door on the joy of being by taking yourself seriously. When you discover a path of joy, however, freedom is no longer a difficult task but an effortless exploration. Approaching liberation with effort makes sense to the mind when the goal is as valuable as enlightenment, and we’re used to trying hard to achieve what we want. But understanding what you truly are works in unexpected ways, and in this lies the cosmic joke. A Path of Joy: Popping into Freedom takes a lighthearted look at overcoming the obstacles you encounter in your journey. Each topic is a kernel of truth that invites you to explore and pop into the aliveness of silence. And the path is more obvious than you’d expect.
Unmani, Author of Die to Love
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A Path of Joy
Popping into Freedom
By Paramananda Ishaya
John Hunt Publishing Ltd.Copyright © 2013 Paramananda Ishaya
All rights reserved.
Finding the Path
Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the Peace of God.
—A Course in Miracles
What is it that apparently obscures the reality of peace? What is your story?
When I first started to experience what I now call peace, it felt like an ease I couldn't explain. Looking back, I see it as a peace that began filling up every area of my life. It started to happen during the first few months after I started using the new meditation techniques I learned in Vancouver during a weekend retreat. Something definitely different was happening as I practised, most noticeably at work. All I was doing was repeating phrases of truth my teachers called attitudes whenever I could remember. What was amazing was that I was doing this with my eyes open all day and whenever I wanted. The teacher had told me I should use the technique often and with my eyes open to reduce the amount of incoming stress.
Stress was a big deal for me during the workday. The pull to go inward and rest became so strong that I would find one or two minutes every once in a while and sneak off to practise with my eyes closed. If you can't find an old storage closet, then the bathroom will work nicely. (Nobody bothers you there, hopefully.) At the time I was working in a plastics factory, and I found an abandoned old shower with a chair in it. One day I was completely blissed out while meditating in that shower when my boss came in and busted me. He said, "What are you doing?" I told him I was just taking a nap. Good thing it was on a night shift, so falling asleep wasn't that out of the ordinary.
Those little (or big) chunks of time are an investment in your eternal peace. They are precious moments where you can honestly say you did not waste your time. The only thing permanent is this peace, since everything else comes and goes. That is not just a nice idea but the way things actually work.
Why not invest in what doesn't change? This is literally the most important thing you can do for yourself, and more than that, for everyone around you, me included. When you focus on peace, you take a load off our backs. I don't have to worry so much about you anymore.
Before I started to make that investment, I would wake up to my alarm every day with suicidal feelings; I was praying to die, begging for some relief. The thought of getting up was awful. Just before waking was peace—the peace of sleep that I craved because I disappeared into the sweet abyss of nothingness. What if you could have this peace of sleep in the waking state?
Just being conscious made me angry; I didn't want to wake up and face the world. (These are just normal feelings in the morning—I am sure you know those grumpy people who need their coffee.) Instead of staying identified with the peace of sleep, my consciousness grabbed onto the same familiar thoughts. What made getting up difficult was this habit of grabby-ness, which turned into crabbiness.
Then one day a miracle happened! When the alarm went off, I did not want to kill myself. I was not as bothered by those familiar sensations and the thoughts of depression. They were there but seemed somehow less relevant now. I began my morning with meditation attitudes and a hit of coffee, and I was off on the path of joy. I have had many miracles happen since that weekend retreat, but this was one of the most amazing and most welcome ones ever. Thanks universe, for sending me those meditation teachers!
Little miracles happen when we value peace in our lives. I truly believe they began to happen because of my intense desire and commitment to meditation. At the time I didn't even recognise what the silence was or how to focus attention on it. That didn't matter at all! The teachers told me that introducing the technique into my life would automatically take me there. Now I had proof that it was working, so I wanted to see how far I could go with it. I started to use it whenever I remembered to. As I became aware I had to pee in the middle of the night, bam, I would use it and then get up to go to the bathroom. More peace! Where was the end? How much more peace could I experience? How much easier could life get? The key was to make it a fun game.
I started to be aware of myself living, getting up, going to work, and "doing the routine" as if I was witnessing everything happen. Suddenly, the puppet was my friend; some days it was like Elmo, and others it was like Oscar the Grouch. Life seemed easier than ever. I really didn't know what was happening, but looking back now, I see that I focused less attention on little me, and a natural witnessing began unfolding. To me that was proof enough that the path of joy was working, so I kept up my practice, especially with my eyes open. The only difficulty I encountered was trying to remember to look "normal"—I had to appear unhappy because I was at a job I hated.
Unknowingly, I would forget my serious face and walk around like a smiling idiot, getting comments like, "Why the hell are you smiling?" or "What are you so happy about—are you high?" Oops—engage and activate serious work face now! Pretend you are a normal person who hates his job like everyone else. The funny thing was, I still didn't like my job at all (especially the swing shift), but the peace was attracting me more than the dislike. It seemed as though I enjoyed my job more, but really I was falling in love with the silence and the path of joy. It didn't matter what I was doing anymore; I was simply happier.
I have always had this fear of doing the wrong thing or getting in trouble. As consciousness expands, the universe tends to reflect your inner experience on the outside more quickly. One day at work, we were preparing like crazy for an open house with the corporate heads who were on their way to see the operation. By accident I drove a forklift through the window of the control office. With shocked people staring at me, all I could do was remember to silently use the meditation technique while I waited for the boss's hammer to hit me. Strangely enough, I did not worry because there was nothing else I could do. Peace like I've never had surrounded and protected me. When the boss came, he didn't yell at me or freak out. (He was famous for yelling.) With ease he carried on, called a repair guy, and got the window fixed without any drama. Could life be this easy? Would it have even mattered if he'd yelled at me, proving that indeed I was a bad boy?
We sit in the middle of the kingdom of Heaven waiting to see the beauty and wonder. Playing the waiting game isn't fun, yet we get a secret reward by continuing to delay what is already the case now. We get to continually prove that we aren't ready for peace because ... blah, blah, blah. Yes, I've heard it all before. It's as if we cover our eyes in denial, not being totally willing to see, though maybe we take just a quick peek. We tell ourselves we're almost ready, almost there, and that we have just one more thing to let go of. Our journey and the world around us tend to support this position of waiting. There are so many rationalisations for waiting.
Our excuses are validated because the "I don't deserve it" feeling is too strong for us to really see the fullness of our nature. And so the excuses go on. There is no rule that says we have to wait. But there is no rule that says we have to wait for our story to vanish either. In fact, who wrote these rules, and where is this rule book?
As the peace became more common, I began to experience strange contradictions. I was told that was normal. When I went to a longer retreat, I was totally absorbed in stillness, joy, and peace—most of the time. Bliss radiated from my eyes, yet I was simultaneously depressed, paranoid, anxious, and scared of everything. What? Does this make sense? I was walking around in the kingdom of Heaven while listening to the lies in my head. There were two worlds going on at the same time. How strange this contrast between reality and fantasy was! I was sick of everyone telling me how well I was doing and praising me. I was not doing well at all—couldn't they see that? I must have been the greatest actor in the world.
Frustrated, I looked at myself in the mirror and thought, "You're no good. You'll never get there—you're sad and pathetic." But I also saw the biggest smile; I looked so happy and blissed out. What was wrong with me? No wonder people were so confused. "Damn it, I'm depressed! Nobody will believe me if I look so happy!"
It was as if my body was completely ignoring my mind and favouring the peace of the stillness over my thoughts of depression. This happiness was what people saw, not what I was thinking. I thought, "How nice of them to say nice things to me." Later I remember being told that we tend to see the beauty in others before we see it in ourselves. Now I know I am not just a beautiful face.
The peace or ease we seek is already happening within us before we seek it. Our story may continue and be seen clearly in light of what we are. We see it for what it is because of the contrast. Before we listen to the story, is it really true that peace is not here, or are we just fascinated with ourselves and our story?
Our story is very important to us because it gives us a reason why we don't have peace in our lives. If peace is more important to you than the story, then who cares why? On the path of joy, sometimes a stress release happens to clear out some of the gunk that has built up in our nervous systems. It is our job as warriors of bliss to let it go—both the story and the gunk. This process is natural if we allow it. If we choose to favour the story over the peace, then we turn off the popcorn maker before the kernels get a chance to pop. We need the silence of being to pop!
As we lose ourselves in the silence, our nervous systems shake off anything that is not for the highest good. This is part of the popcorn effect. As we let it go, we make it easier for the next kernel to pop. We are intimately connected in consciousness, and our ability to not take things personally and seriously on the path of joy is of paramount importance to the whole.
When we get caught in victim mode or stuck in suffering, it is very important to stop focusing on the little me. One way of doing this is to give yourself away. To forget yourself, give yourself. This means finding ways to help, like doing the dishes or taking the dog out for a walk. Traditionally, this has been called service. I never liked the word "service" because it always felt like work. Whenever I did find myself giving, even by accident, I was totally content because I had forgotten my BS. Of course, it took me a few years to figure that one out; I tend to be a little slow.
My tendency was to be alone whenever I had a panic attack. I was paranoid, and people plain scared me. It was as if everyone was always staring at me and judging me. The last thing I wanted to do was give, yet whenever the giving happened naturally, I would forget myself again and disappear into the path of joy.
When I was struggling with my old story of anxiety and paranoia and was taking it very personally and seriously, I felt like a total victim. I thought, "I am never going to get rid of this. Why is this happening to me?" A teacher told me the same frustrating thing I'd heard before, that everything I was going through was only to help other people. I didn't think that was very helpful to me at the time, but at least I felt less self-absorbed. It wasn't until I was in front of someone who was going through intense anxiety that I fully appreciated the truth in my teacher's words. It was like staring in a mirror.
I sense this is why most of us don't just pop without bouncing up and down for a while. We are in this pot together helping each other to pop. We help energetically because we are resting in the infinite silence but also because we can relate to each other's stories of the terrible effort we make to get free from the anxieties.
At the bottom of their hearts, we all want peace. We go through all the drama, anxiety, fear, and struggle with our stories only so we can help other people. On the path of joy, you are an example for humanity. This is because you are living in peace after having had to move through the process without skipping steps. Having transcended the story yourself, you can relate to those going through the same thing. This is magic.
If you were to skip all the steps and get struck with the "enlightenment beam" (like I wanted), what use would you be? You could only give blessings and hugs and stare at people and smile. By doing whatever it takes, you are a bliss warrior and protector of peace. In reaching the popcorn effect, there is tremendous power in doing the steps in the journey and not skipping them. (But of course we can't skip them, even if we try.) This is why you are a popcorn-effect superhero.
The mind can mimic anything. The only thing it can't mimic is Stillness.
—Maharishi Krishnananda Ishaya, who taught me meditation and everything I don't know
Who or what am I?
If we are what we eat, I am in a lot of trouble. I might turn into candy one day. If we are what we think, then we are ... yikes. I pray that we are what we are, as that would be very nice. I know it may sound simple and cheesy to say, "We are what we are," or "It is what it is." Yet this is so obvious that we tend to overlook it.
From the silence comes awareness—and content appearing within that awareness. In this awareness, we can become fascinated with the content. The content will never reveal anything new and fresh, except more changing content. Why should content be any different from what it is anyway? In the never-ending flow of changing content, our attention shifts and moves from one object to the next with no end in sight. It happens in a seamless fashion while we are thinking. The thinking includes an attraction to content that fades into disinterest. Our awareness has not been properly introduced to its source, so we perceive content as more interesting.
We become fascinated with ourselves because content is mesmerising and self-absorbing. It draws our attention like an orange Lamborghini pulling up beside us. Don't get me wrong; I love my Camry, but I usually don't catch people staring at it in the way they do a Lamborghini. Our fascination is like being in Las Vegas; before you know it, you are caught up in the shifting, bright, loud landscape. It is mesmerising and can be extremely entertaining, but also it can leave you tired, burnt out, and broke. You feel like you need a vacation after this vacation.
There is nothing wrong with fascination. Imagine you are driving, and you see a beautiful girl or guy crossing the road. It's fine to look, but if you keep your eyes on that person for more than a few seconds, you are going to get into an accident. We live our lives like accidents waiting to happen, our awareness absorbed in the show. Until something happens to break the hypnosis (like getting slapped by our partner), we keep on dreaming.
Our nature, which is pure being, is okay with or without content, yet we see ourselves more clearly once the fascination with content wears out. The content may continue, change, or vanish altogether, but whatever it does, this content has nothing to do with awakening. Again it's worth repeating: we don't have to do anything with the content in our minds. It simply is not important!
As we rest in our true nature, we are left with content but with less fascination for it. The story continues, but it loses our interest because we are more attracted to the silence. Our belief that the absorbing, story content is somehow tangible and truthful fades away and is replaced by what is. The interest is now in big Self-absorption of a type that is the path of joy.
It is important to understand that we don't need to try to become more interested in the silence versus the content. Humans are magnetically attracted to the silence. We have spent our lives resisting this natural pull. Being is infinitely more interesting, and it takes no effort at all to dive into. It only seems as if it takes effort due to the mind's habit of making an effort to achieve our desired goals. With a little familiarity with the natural enjoyment of moving inward toward the self, our efforts turn into great effortless satisfaction. Do we really need effort to eat our favourite foods or enjoy our favourite music?
Being is the source of all enjoyment, and it is delicious! This enjoyment is why traditionally we talk about the mind becoming still. It is not because we do anything to force it into stillness but because through the awe and enjoyment of stillness, everything else is abandoned. The mind actually has nothing to do with stillness. Stillness is no-mind, the Buddha Mind, or the one mind. Although the mind seems to become still through experiencing stillness, what is actually happening is that we are seeing beyond the content. In other words, mind is just another concept. Unfortunately, most of us don't know this exploration is even an option. What we have been exposed to is only a superficial part of the whole, not the fresh and alive whole itself.
Excerpted from A Path of Joy by Paramananda Ishaya. Copyright © 2013 Paramananda Ishaya. Excerpted by permission of John Hunt Publishing Ltd..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Paramananda is an Internationally known Teacher of the Bright Path based in Vancouver, Canada.
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