June 19, 2007.
I’ve recently discovered Andrew Cohen’s writings on what he calls Evolutionary Enlightenment. He posits that the ultimate “goal” for a person is to get to the place where spiritual freedom is more important than anything else. Once a person has become aware of that desire and is consistently living in that place, their desire for personal freedom transforms into a desire to propel forward the evolution of all consciousness. At that point the person becomes a “window” or a “portal” into the unknown, the way Jesus or Buddha was. Their life becomes truly significant because, in dying to self, they are able to help push the whole of humanity’s evolution to the next level.
I sometimes feel a bit scared or sad at this proposition; indeed Cohen reflects that most people do not get to that point because they would rather stay attached to the Ego, even if they choose to do so consciously. But then I think- where would we be if everyone operated out of Ego and refused to contemplate that which resides behindthe Ego? There would have been no Shakespeare, no Handel, no Michelangelo, no Galileo, no Rumi, no Socrates, no Emerson, no Ghandi, no Einstein, no MLK, no great spiritual teachers or philosophers. In short, I doubt very much whether humanity would have survived without the benefit of those seers. And I think of the awe and gratitude those humans have inspired in me and how bleak my life, and that of the planet, would have been without their contributions. There’s nothing sad or scary about wanting to join their ranks.
In deconstructing what happened in my acting class week I realized that what I actually experienced was a small death to my Ego. Cohen calls the Ego the “false veil” which encourages us stand apart, and therefore to become separate from, the whole. It is this separation from the whole (or our true Self) that causes our suffering. The Ego will fight tooth and nail to ensure its perceived safety and survival. True death to Ego involves taking responsibility for all of one’s life and experience, letting go of one’s attachment to what we think we are and what we think we know, and surrendering to the great Unknown.
In the enlightened state, there is no veil between the self and the whole, and as a result, the enlightened person expresses an extraordinarily vulnerable state of being. If you are in the presence of a deeply enlightened person, often you wake up to a deeper recognition of your own self, since their unprotected state allows us to see past the ego veil.
This is not only the definition of an enlightened person but also the definition of a consummate actor. This is what I want to do in my work! This is who I want to be. It feels so scary because, in that state, the Ego must be set aside and left unprotected. The actor must allow herself to live out situations that might be unpredictable, embarrassing, threatening, or overwhelming. And she must do so in front of an audience so that those viewers might be enabled to tap into their own higher sense of Self. However, in stepping away from the Ego, the Unconscious Self is allowed to operate through the actor- thereby doing the work for her. It really is just the moment before the plunge that feels so life threatening. After that, it’s an amazing ride.
Today I picked up a book by David Lynch, one of my favorite filmmakers (Mulholland Drive), called Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity. He talks about his 33-year meditation practice and says, “Ideas are like fish. If you want to catch little fish, you can stay in the shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve got to go deeper.” The more I start to see and understand the Unseen Field that supports every manifestation of life, the more passionate I become to dive in and to surrender to it completely. I’m especially grateful for the death of some ideas I’ve carried around about myself for most of my life. How wonderful to let go of “I can’t,” “I don’t deserve it,” and “I’m not good enough.” I can’t wait until those thoughts are gone completely.