3 Dimensions of Awakening
God gives birth to the Son (/Daughter) as you, as me, as each one of us.
As many beings, as many gods in God.
In my soul, God not only gives birth to me as his son,
he gives birth to me as himself, and himself as me.
I find in this divine birth that God and I are the same:
I am transported above the highest angels;
I neither decrease nor increase,
for in this birth I have become the motionless cause of all that moves.
I have won back what has always been mine.
Here, in my own soul, the greatest of all miracles has taken place --
God has returned to God!
Awakening: An Overview
Awakening is not a linear, one-dimensional process. In its fullest expression, awakening involves the conscious unfoldment of three primary dimensions of the soul nature, resulting in the realization of the Self as the holographic, fractal essence of God. Many spiritual traditions hold that the absolute, unitive nature of the One expresses through three primary dimensions of being -- the pure spirit aspect, the material or form aspect, and the fusion of the two, or embodied divinity. For instance, the trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is a central tenet of Christianity, while Hindus revere Brahman, Vishnu and Shiva as the three primary aspects of the divine.
The three dimensions of being correspond to the three loci of the soul, often called soul centers. These are not to be confused with the chakras, which are the means by which the soul experiences and expresses. The consciousness locus of each soul center resides at a much deeper level of being; they form the very foundation for the soul’s unfoldment as an aspect of God/One/All That Is.
The full unfoldment of each of these three centers corresponds to the paths of Enlightenment, God Realization, and conscious union with the natural soul or psyche, the mother/feminine aspect of the divine. We have come to call these three En-Light-enment, En-Love-enment and En-Life-enment.
Traditionally, organized spiritual methodologies tend to focus primarily on one or the other of the soul centers, but not all three. The sophisticated teachings on the nature of mind and highly refined meditation practices of Buddhism center around the soul center in the head, while Sufi prayers and devotional practices are aimed at awakening the heart of hearts. While the benefits of such paths and practices are legendary, many of us now feel called to explore the flowering of all the dimensions of our being, all aspects of the soul.
And everything wants to be included in this flowering -- the clear emptiness of the absolute, the soaring transcendental realms of light, the presence of God moving as love through all creation, and the depths of the subconscious from which the luminous dark light enfolds and births all of life’s multitudinous forms. The Way is simple: include and transcend always -- even, or especially, the most difficult and distorted aspects of the separate ego/personality. If God is all that is, what cannot be part of it? What can be held outside the embrace of the One?
The full flowering of the human being occurs with the realization of the true eternal Self as the composite expression of being of all three dimensions of awakening. This is what is called for as the Earth and humanity complete this evolutionary cycle. Grace is flowing forth on the planet to assist in the flowering of all dimensions of our being. The three Transmissions of Grace we have been given awaken all three dimensions. Ilahinoor unfolds the En-life-enment dimension, Love~Oneness catalyzes God realization or Self as Love -- the En-Love-enment aspect, and Spotless Mind activates the non-dual, absolute state of En-Light-enment, or Self as pure consciousness.
Oneness, Non-dual awareness, no definable self
The soul center deep within the center of the head, in the hollow surrounded by the corpus callosum, pineal and hypothalamus, is known as the Cave of Brahman in Vedic tradition. Here, awakening to the absolute Self as that which is both transcendental and prior to all manifestation is experienced. In Judeo-Christian-Islamic cosmology, this would be the domain of the Father, the pure spirit aspect of the trinity.
Awakening into conscious union with this soul center results in the experience of unity consciousness, as the oneness of all things is directly apprehended. This is classically termed “non-dual awareness,” since the sense of subject-object consciousness dissolves. There is no longer a “me” here, and the world “out there.” Attachment and identification are destroyed by this awakening, as it is seen that there is no “self” and nothing “other”, nothing outside of Self to obtain. At this level, relationship does not exist. Until this is directly experienced, such statements will be confusing and mystifying for most people.
Identification with mind itself is the very veil that obscures the pure, spotless nature of mind. In this realization, the illusion of the self as a separate, fixed being is dissolved in the ocean of pure consciousness, in which all things arise as but a temporary modification of consciousness itself.
Diving into En-light-enment
The first unfoldment that usually occurs when this center awakens is an ascent, as consciousness rises into the transcendental realms. One may experience endless vastness, limitless Presence, an indescribable Void, geometries in otherworldly colors tumbling through Infinity, and/or non-physical, higher-dimensional presences including World Teachers, ascended masters, and angelic beings. Light infuses the head soul center and upper chakras, and the veils of mind are dissolved. The term illumination is often used to describe this level of soul unfoldment.
One time-honored Way toward illumination is the path through the mind. This involves becoming aware of the attachment and identification with the forms that arise in mind, whether they be thoughts, feelings, judgments, images, or patterns of personality. Each is examined to see whether what is arising is based in absolute truth or reality. When examined, every construct of the mind is seen to be arbitrary, based in illusion.
The sum total of all the structures and processes of mind constitutes the sense of the finite self or “i”. As the layers are peeled away, one ultimately confronts the core illusion of mind -- the sense of “i/me/mine”. Turning mind back upon itself to look at the root origin of the “i” thought results in liberation from the self, the source of all suffering.
Suffering arises when the self sense is threatened -- when there is a challenge to the attachment and identification with the body, other persons, circumstances and conditions, cherished thoughts and images, or, most fundamentally, the idea of “me”. When all is given up -- when all attachment and identification dissolve, what remains is freedom. When there is no one left to suffer, there can be no suffering.
While instant awakening does occur, most people go through a process of gradual dissolution of the separate ego/personality self sense. This usually begins with disidentifying with the contents of mind, as unconscious mental patterns are examined and discarded. The mind begins to quiet; fewer thoughts arise, and unconscious reactivity based on threats to patterns of thinking diminishes.
Next, as the eternal witness becomes established, one is no longer caught inside the labyrinth of the contents of mind. Experiences of free awareness, prior to the arising of the everchanging landscape of the mind, begin to occur. All is seen as temporary modifications of the mind stuff; it becomes clear that none of it is tied to the sense of self.
Whether gradually or all at once, the dynamics of mind reveal themselves. The modus operandi of the mind is seen to center around categorizing, projecting/blaming, analyzing, and so on. It becomes clear that the separate self sense experiences fear and aversion to that which it deems threatening, while it seeks that which it views as life enhancing. Seeking and avoiding are seen as the cornerstones of the ego’s constant activity as the “doer.”
Loss of subject-object orientation follows; this can also be described as the realization of oneness. The experiencer and that which is experienced melt away into pure experiencing. What remains is the direct experience of Self as pure consciousness, pure beingness, the light of consciousness apprehending itself. Throughout the ages, this state has been called enlightenment.
Although beings from all traditions have experienced enlightenment, for thousands of years this has been the preeminent goal of the classical Eastern path. Hindu and Buddhist yogis and monks devote decades to austerities and stringent practices all aimed at one thing -- to get off the wheel of rebirth, to escape the world of samsara through moksha, or liberation. Typically, the primary focus has been to go beyond the ensnarements of the world and physical embodiment altogether. In this often lies a subtle but profoundly impactful judgment on matter and embodiment. This is the traditional shadow of the Enlightenment path.
The Limits of En-light-enment
The attempt to awaken any one soul center, without a corresponding inclusion of the other two, can result in limitations and imbalances. One possible cul-de-sac of overly focusing on the head soul center can be an attachment to and identification with ascent. In extreme, this can manifest as an addictive craving for anything that leads to a spiritual high, whether it be a meditation practice, a catalytic transmission such as the deeksha, or another spiritual tool or technique. Getting high and feeling free and detached are not synonymous with experiencing the fullness of Self realization, unfolding in union with the heart and belly soul centers. Nor should we mistake spiritual highs and blissful states for true awakening or enlightenment.
The glorious bliss of consciousness soaring free of the body-mind can be particularly intoxicating for those who are especially sensitive to the harshness of embodied existence. Seeking after transcendental bliss at the expense of earthly grounding, however, tends to imbalance the subtle bodies and chakras so that our being becomes spirit polarized.
Virtually everyone is carrying unresolved pain in their mental and emotional bodies. There is an understandable tendency to want to escape the pain in any way possible. In addition, we live in a culture that in countless ways encourages and reinforces the escape from pain. When the diversions of the world are eventually revealed as inadequate to assuage the suffering, many embark upon the spiritual path in response to the pain of earthly embodiment. Consciously or unconsciously, one of their prime motives is to get out of the pain and suffering they are in. The way beyond the pain is through it, but many do not understand this. The attempt to avoid the pain is further reinforced by spiritual paths and practices that preach that one can transcend or go beyond it all, never having to fully face and embrace their wounding. These paths of ascent promote the idea that one can rise above the lower chakras and the pain they hold. In our experience, we have never seen this work. It only tends to cause the person to create a split or attenuation in energy/consciousness, which gives a temporary sense of relief but even greater long-term suffering.
The more spirit polarized a person becomes, the greater the likelihood s/he will withdraw from a robust, engaged involvement in life, for the daily round of earth-plane existence may be perceived as distorted, limited and illusory. The personality nature can become dry, cold and austere, with a detached indifference even to the suffering of others. The warmth and aliveness of engaging everyday life can diminish, along with the desire to heal and make whole the wounded, fragmented parts of the psyche.
All is seen as the source of suffering, something to go beyond. It isn’t even real, a spirit polarized person may say, so why engage with it? Yet outer life circumstances may be crying out for someone to deal with them -- to accept their relative reality within this realm and actively engage with the situation.
In extreme cases, the lower three chakras can become shut down and virtually inaccessible to the individual’s consciousness. This results in a lack of connection with and ability to foster basic human well-being, an inability to manifest resources, and a loss of interest in or an aversion to sensual and sexual experiences. Sometimes, consciousness becomes so spirit polarized that it becomes almost impossible to engage warmly and authentically with others, or with life in general.
What drives spirit polarization is a deep fear of loss of self in the “maya” of everyday life. In its extreme form, this may manifest as a fear of being swallowed up and engulfed in the “darkness.” The deep feminine attributes of life may be judged as negative, dangerous, and to be avoided; darkness can be equated with evil. Patriarchal ways of being and perceiving can arise from this consciousness skew. Great destruction to life can result.
The more spirit polarized and disembodied one becomes, the less one may experience communion with the innate intelligence of life. The connection with that which nurtures and causes life to flourish may be severely attenuated, if not lost. This can be seen in the ancient culture of India. In this traditionally Hindu land, the realm of matter is seen as impermanent; the goal of life is to get off the wheel of rebirth and suffering. It is the spiritual realms that are sought after. The result: rampant poverty, millions homeless, buildings decaying, and death in the streets.
Just as the quest for enlightenment may not translate into embracing physical, embodied life, a head center awakening does not guarantee that the heart soul center will open. As strange as it sounds, it is possible to be awakened to Oneness and not be particularly loving. Some who have come into radically clear states seem to exist in an austere, dry realm, largely devoid of human warmth -- quite a different experience of awakening from that of those whose hearts are blossoming.
God/Self as Love and Oneness with All That Is
A few inches above the heart chakra and deep within our being lies the Cave of the Heart, the heart soul center. Entering this center, we pass into a deep, profound stillness -- the “peace that passeth all understanding.” Those who are absorbed into this sacred stillness often say that this is the soothing balm they have longed for but did not know how to find.
The disconnected, frenetic striving of modern life is brought to rest in the peace of the soul. Once it is experienced, the thirst for living in this peace becomes a central focus in our lives. And the more we merge with that peace, the more our daily lives outpicture it. Discord and disagreement diminish, both within ourselves and in our relationships. The addiction to the adrenaline rush of stress-filled living falls away. In more and more moments, we experience joy and happiness, instead of suffering and conflict.
This newfound joy arises out of being itself -- it has no specific cause or reason, and is unrelated to outer circumstances and conditons. Most of us have spent decades attempting to find and secure whatever we think will bring us the peace and happiness that are our native condition. When we realize this deep joy and inner stillness are who and what we are, all seeking subsides, and we discover that we are happy and joyful in the most mundane of circumstances.
Once this authentic joy has been tasted, we find ourselves drifting away from the activities of the personality’s quest for happiness, which begin to feel empty and false. As the realization of innate joy, peace and happiness deepens, it increasingly underlies and even consumes feelings based in separation, such as anger, fear, guilt, and despair. Resting in a foundational sense that all is okay, just as it is, our inner Mona Lisa smile gently remains present through the ups and downs of life.
As we deepen in the heart soul center, the realization that love is not only our nature, but also the nature of all things, eventually pervades every aspect of our experience. Love and Oneness are no longer experienced as distinct, but merge and join as a unity best expressed as love~oneness. The deeper our immersion in love~oneness, the more fully we experience it as a universal constant, underlying even those appearances that would seem to contradict this, such as fear, anger, and hatred. All such states are eventually seen as temporary aberrations or distortions in the omnipresent field of love, arising out of believing the illusions of the mind.
The more deeply we merge with the love that is our innate beingness, the more thoroughly we come to know that love is All That Is, the very fabric and essence of God/ the One. We become exquisitely aware that love~oneness eternally emanates from the living God Presence that forms the core of our being. The God of Love that the Sufis and Christ Jesus extolled is now a directly apprehended, living reality. This realization might be simply stated as God is Love, Love is All That Is, and I AM That. We call the full, embodied realization of these fundamental truths En-Love-enment.
Whereas enlightenment is typically experienced as oneness with pure consciousness -- a oneness of mind -- enlovenment is a felt experience of love as the fabric of Creation. This realization is powerfully transforming -- now we, as individuated being, know that all of Creation is based in love and that love is omnipresent. This ultimately dissolves away all fear and separation, and imbues us with a loving, compassionate embrace of all life.
Diving into En-love-enment
Unification with love~oneness or God becomes the path to the unification of all that is unlike itself. This process carries us right into the middle of the ego-personality, where each of us will certainly find much that has been held outside the embrace of love~oneness. The foundation of the separate ego/personality self sense is the core illusion of separation and the innate existential fear this evokes. Our primary childhood woundings, involving those who, because of their own wounding, were unable to consistently hold us in love~oneness, convince the non-reflective, infantile mind that the illusions of fear and separation are real. In response, a separate ego/personality develops in order to survive in this “hostile” world.
The separate ego goes about the work of sculpting a personality by building a mask that best gets its needs met, while suppressing in the subconscious whatever it believes threatens its safety and survival. Gradually, this personality becomes who we think we are. Of course, it is not in the least who we reallly are. At best, it is a fragmented assemblage of identities, few of which are in harmony with one another, much less the larger sphere of Life. This fundamental disharmony manifests at all levels of being -- spiritual, mental, emotional, and etheric/physical.
There is only one true source of healing and wholing -- the truth of our core being as the living presence of love-oneness. When the fragmented and dis-eased aspects of the psyche are brought into the unifying presence of love, they begin to be restored and resurrected to their innate soulful nature. Those parts of our being that were fearfully exiled to the basement of the unconscious rise up to be expressed as whole, love-infused, integrated aspects of the personality. Shame and guilt dissolve in the knowing of our true sinlessness and eternal, unquestionable value as divine souls. Where there was withdrawal, contraction and blockage, life energy flows and healing occurs.
As mentioned above, God realization and love~oneness are intimately connected, as universal love is an emanation of the divine presence. Going deeper into love, all that remains is the living presence of God the One; to separate or even clearly differentiate this from love and oneness becomes impossible.
Enlovenment, the realization of saints and lovers of God throughout history, has been demonstrated by the Christian mystics’ fervent adoration of Jesus the Christ, the God-intoxicated Hindu saints, and Sufis drunk on the Beloved. The heart aflame with a passionate love of God possesses a willingness to give all, surrender all into its fiery, all-consuming presence. In the end the separate self is immolated, burned into the nothingness that it has always been.
The frequences of energy and consciousness we hold within ourselves, sooner or later, one way or another, outpicture as our outer reality. Whatever we hold most near and dear -- whatever we “love” the most -- is what we create, whether our experience is challenging or seemingly miraculous. When we love God more than anything and yearn for nothing but God, manifestations of the divine begin to crop up all around us. In one in whom en-love-enment is blossoming, siddhis and spiritual gifts may unfold. So much love flows through such a being that outer reality can rapidly shift and morph to reflect the truth of the divine nature of whoever or whatever is experiencing dis-ease. In this way, miraculous healings occur.
The opening of the heart soul center also results in a coordination of the activities of the head and belly soul centers, for it is the center that lies between them. Just as the heart chakra unites the lower and upper chakras, so too does the heart soul center mediate the integration of non-dual, transcendental awareness with the earthy, life-engaging consciousness of the hara/tan tien or belly center. True oneness flowers through loving and including all parts of the journey, as well as all parts of ourselves, and this ongoing process focalizes in the heart soul center.
To deny the oneness of the imminent expression of God as our bodies and the earth, while seeking union only in the transcendental, can only lead to imbalance. Awakening to the heart soul center, we become able to love and include all parts of our humanness as w”holy” divine aspects of our true nature. In the soul’s “heart of oneness,” all is embraced, loved and made whole.
As previously suppressed and denied aspects of the psyche are welcomed into the “heart of oneness,” it expands and enfolds even that which we have viewed as irredeemable. Realization of this center is synonymous with knowing that all parts of us are worthy, inextricable facets of the One. We no longer need to try to fix, change or get rid of even our most difficult shadow aspects. All are seen as parts of the divine that have become distorted because of judgment and exclusion. As we bring them back into the spiritual heart center, we experience their transformation and re-integration as integral aspects of the soul.
The Limits of En-Love-enment
When this center has awakened without a corresponding state of enlightenment, a dualism or separation between self and God can remain. A higher power or source is perceived as residing above and beyond one’s own self. Even while miracles may be common in the individual’s life, they seem to emanate from an external God.
If the head soul center has not yet been sufficiently activated, the great love that flows from an awakened heart of hearts may be expressed without a corresponding sense of intelligent clarity. The kindness and generosity that flow from such a person may be taken advantage of, for discernment is lacking. There may be a desire to give as much as possible to everyone in need, which may not be the part of wisdom. Burnout can result.
If the spiritual heart has been blasted open without a corresponding awakening of the belly soul center, the enormous love that is experienced may not have sufficient grounding to support it. There may be a sense of overwhelm at feeling such extreme love for everyone and everything, and a confusion about how to live such love. As the belly soul center comes into balance with the heart opening, the great, all-pervading love can then find expression in grounded, ongoing ways. The life pattern increasingly provides a sturdy, trustworthy container in which the love can be lived. The overwhelming tsunamis of ecstatic love give way to a gentler, subtler, everpresent undercurrent of love which is deeply known to be the unifying fabric of one’s life.
The heart soul center may be quite developed, and love and intelligence may be evolving toward a healthy balance, yet one’s outer life conditions may reflect a lack of attention to and honoring of the belly soul center. This may manifest as persistent poverty, physical dis-ease, particularly in the belly region, frequent changes of address or homelessness, and feeling world-weary. Although one may be able to access the soul’s wisdom with ease, a sense of joy in living on Earth in a physical body may seem elusive. The simple, sensual pleasures of incarnation may seem distant and out of reach, available to others but somehow inappropriate for oneself.
God/Self as Form/Body/Life
We may have been blessed with tremendous upper chakra activations, and see the world through crystal-clear, awakened eyes. Our hearts may have been blasted open, and we may feel nothing but love for everyone and everything. Enlightenment and enlovenment are flowering, and we are filled with gratitude.
Many would conclude that this is it -- the journey is complete. Yet this is not the end of the story. How well are we able to live our realization? To what degree does our daily life express an integrated, full-bodied awakening that has become rooted in the lower chakras? How well are the masculine and feminine principles integrated within us?
Traditional paths of awakening have tended to center around cultivating either the clear, stainless mirror of enlightened mind, or the fervent, heart-opened states of God-realization. Because the body, along with earthly life itself, was viewed as an impediment to awakening, many paths advocated giving the physical form the bare minimum of food, sleep, and other requirements necessary for its sustenance. Any further comforts were viewed as a distraction from the real work of getting and staying awake.
Yet many of us hunger now for an integrated, full-bodied experience of awakening -- one that not only includes but actively celebrates physical embodiment. Thus, we are brought into the third dimension of awakening -- which, for lack of a better word, we call Enlifenment.
When, after years of stringent practices, austere schedules and demanding disciplines, spiritual life begins to feel arid, parched, and severe -- if not downright punishing -- enlifenment is needed. If our spiritual path has focused on the upper chakras, the spiritual ego may have convinced us that the human self, with its messy feelings and inconvenient needs, should be controlled, reined in, or transcended altogether. We may have judged ourselves for not being beyond unfinished emotional business, or labeled legitimate human needs as “not spiritual”. In our quest for the pure, rarified realms of spirit, the enlifenment aspects of awakening may have been neglected.
Enlifenment is about putting more life in our lives. When this aspect of ourselves is well-nourished, life feels juicy, delicious, and satisfying. Our bodies are well, our energy is sufficient for all that we want to experience, and our emotions are allowed to freely move through. When enlifenment is present, we feel as if we have “dropped in.” We’re not hovering somewhere above the ground in an overly ethereal, disembodied state. We’re here, in this dimension, actively engaged in physical-plane existence. We feel competent to do what needs to be done in our daily lives. And, most of the time, at least, we’re enjoying it here.
When life in the body feels like an endless round of suffering, it’s often because we’ve overlooked the enlifenment aspects of awakening. Perfectionism may have led to holding ourselves to impossibly high standards of spiritual mastery; we may have trouble forgiving our human selves for their imperfections and unresolved issues. The physical body may be shouting at us, through a variety of symptoms, to include it in our loving embrace.
Diving into En-life-enment
Deep within the belly, just below the navel lies the soul center known in various traditions as the hara or tan tien, the womb or egg, the abode of Divine Mother, or the home of shakti, or vital force. Here we can access the unified consciousness of life itself, the innate, omnisicent omnipresence that pervades all manifest forms. The prime purpose of this intelligent presence is to further life -- to see all of Creation flourish and become more abundant. As we become aware of this innate intelligence at the heart of form, we see it at play everywhere, within and without. Walking through a forest, we witness the symbiosis of the plants and animals that live within it. We watch a bee gather pollen for its hive, knowing it simultaneously pollinates the plants it visits, allowing them to flower, bear fruit and reproduce; this, in turn, feeds other forms of life, including humans. We marvel at the innate intelligence that tells migratory birds when to fly south for the winter, and the unerring guidance system that leads them to their destination. Who hasn’t experienced the sensations of hunger that signal it is time to eat, or the instant reaction that tells us to flee in the face of danger? We all know how to cuddle and stroke a frightened baby, and to sleep when the body needs rest.
We are born with this intelligence as part of our embodied being, our natural soul. Although it remains within us all our lives, our communion with it may diminish. Emotional and psychological traumas may lead us to judge, deny and separate from aspects of the psyche that might have helped us to stay in touch with the innate intelligence of life. In attempts to find the comfort that has become elusive, we may succumb to addictions and other life-damaging behaviors.
To reverse this process, the psyche must be healed and made whole by recovering the wounded aspects and bringing them back into conscious union with the soul. In the absence of this, the human expression will be distorted in some manner, no matter how fully the mental and spiritual dimensions are developed. We see this in some who have widely been considered “enlightened.” They may claim to be beyond all human illusion, while in fact they have been concealing a long-term relationship, their taste for luxury, a child born to a devotee, or other “shadow” or “belly” aspects of their lives.
Cultivating Belly Wisdom
Enlifenment has everything to do with “belly wisdom” -- that deep-down, gut feeling that lets us know what we need to know about something or someone. It’s our belly wisdom that, despite all evidence to the contrary, cautions us and protects our best interests, even while other parts of us may be ready to jump into a situation that would not be best for us at all.
When we are listening to our belly wisdom, we know how to care for our bodily temple. We know what to feed it, when it can handle an occasional indulgent treat, and when that might not be such a good idea. We care for the body and do what we can to make life pleasurable for this soul-vehicle, without overdoing that and losing touch with the other aspects of our totality. We respect our own particular life rhythms -- when the body needs rest, we rest. When a walk would feel good, we give that to ourselves.
Belly wisdom also helps us out emotionally. When it is strongly engaged, we know how to nurture ourselves in many more ways than just through food. We know how to be sweet to ourselves, so we don’t need to feed the body as many sugary treats. We actively cultivate ways to expand our self-nurturing repertoire, from admiring the beauty of nature to lighting a candle at dusk and basking in the quiet glow. As we develop true intimacy with our human self, it responds with an increasing sense of feeling at home and comfortable in its own skin. When it knows it is loved and cared for, our humanness relaxes and settles into itself, releasing the habits and addictions that were merely unsatisfying substitutes for an authentic sense of well-being.
In our spiritual quest, we may have become so fixated on enlightenment as the ultimate goal that we pursued this lofty state at the expense of our humanness. Years into the journey, we may receive a wake-up call -- in the form of illness or other imbalance -- that lets us know we’ve left our human selves lying in the dust, forgotten in the rush toward our image of the ultimate spiritual accomplishment. The degree to which we’ve pursued enlightenment through severely structured, “disembodied” spiritual practices and disciplines may turn out to directly correspond to our need to surrender to the complemetary aspect of wholeness, endarkenment.
Endarkenment asks us to drop down, to sink into the depths of being, to surrender all striving to remain “above it all.” This can take the form of a “dark night of the soul”, as St. John of the Cross termed the experience of finding that even one’s most cherished spiritual ideals and truths suddenly seem empty, devoid of meaning or substance. We may feel shattered, taken apart; with our carefully-constructed edifice dismantled, we suddenly seem utterly confused, clueless, and lost.
Much has been written about the Dark Night experience, so we won’t go into it too deeply here. Suffice it to say that all that we have been avoiding typically comes flooding into our consciousness and experience. We can no longer evade or rise above it -- now, our task is to accept, allow, and acknowledge every last bit of it. Eventually, through Grace, we find we can even love it all. As a loving embrace replaces hatred, resistance, and denial, the intensity recedes and we are carried into the next phase of our journey.
Another kind of endarkenment can follow years of holding in or pushing down a lifetime of feelings and traumatic memories. So much emotional and even physical pain may have accumulated in the belly that, when it is finally allowed to move, it erupts with volcanic intensity. We may find ourselves “blowing up” at people, situations, or ourselves. Beneath the rage lie deeper layers of emotional pain -- the tears, the grief, the fears that were never acknowledged. Through allowing it all to be what it is, we gradually master a third way of dealing with emotions, between the extremes of venting and holding in -- simply being with and feeling whatever arises.
It’s important to note that endarkenment is not necessarily a painful experience. Diving into the depths of our being can be revelatory in ways we had not imagined were possible to experience. Many who make the descent find themselves melting into a velvety darkness, enfolded in rich, moist nurturance. Some access the infinitely deep Source of all fecundity, which modern physicists call the black holes out of which all matter and light are extruded. It is now becoming well-accepted that the universe is filled with dark matter. This discovery coincides with the increasingly widespread metaphysical realization that it is just as important to access the darkness as the light. Through our inner explorations into the realms of both light and darkness, we come to embody the realization expressed in the yin-yang symbol, in which light and dark eternally spiral, each containing a bit of the other. Just as light could not exist without the darkness and vice versa, nothing in manifest Creation would be present without the infinitely mysterious union of these fundamental aspects of the One.
Tribal cultures and insulated indigenous groups exemplify consciousness focused at the belly soul center. The realization of the Self that occurs from this focus is expressed in shamanistic traditions in which capacities such as earth magic, shapeshifting and interspecies communication manifest. A strong connection with the Earth and her animate and inanimate beings is central to such traditions.
Taoism is another path of self-realization with a strong focus in the belly soul center; taoist practices such as martial arts, tai chi and chi kung aim at unifying body, mind, and spirit. Some tantric lineages also focus here. A wide variety of contemporary paths and practices facilitate getting in touch with spirit or soul through body awareness and movement. Gabrielle Roth’s Five Rhythms work is known worldwide, while Tantric Dance of the Divine Feminine, Soul Motion, and Kundalini Temple Dance are other modalities that exemplify this growing trend.
Many feminine spirituality groups focus on creating a safe, sacred container -- an energetic womb-space -- in which participants can get in touch with “belly wisdom” and other feminine ways of knowing. Women and men also gather to create ceremony and ritual to honor one another, the Goddess in her various forms, and Life itself. In the hundreds of books written about the newly emerging feminine spirituality, a ubiquitous unifying thread is the emphasis on nurturing and celebrating the rich diversity of Life in all its forms.
The White Light and the Dark Light
While the head soul center is the locus of the white light, in the hara we tap into the lumiunous “dark light”, the primordial substance that gives birth to all of life. The dark light provides the yin complement to the yang nature of the white light. It is only when the two are in balance that a human being flourishes.
Three primary energy channels, called nadis, travel up the center of the body. The pingala nadi, or white light channel, is balanced by the ida nadi, which carries the dark light. As the nadis spiral upward, they cross at seven locations, thus generating the chakras. When the white and dark light nadis are fully open and balanced, the central channel or shushumna nadi opens, and the kundalini or shakti force ascends the spine; as it exits the crown of the head, illumination occurs.
The vitally important point here is that the balance of the white and dark light is the key to awakening. Many people have concluded that increasing the stimulation of the higher centers -- through more and more energetic transmissions, for instance -- will quicken awakening. Others believe that if they only give attention to the higher centers, their emotional issues will somehow go away on their own. In truth, going after more and more white light and ascending spirit energy will only lead to greater imbalance, which can actually slow the spiritual evolution of the soul.
The Limits of En-Life-enment
Conversely, if we put too much focus on the hara center alone, we are apt to lose touch with the transcendent aspects of being, and the eternal nature of the soul. The bulk of our energy might be poured into preparing meals, decorating our home, and planning gatherings; our primary focus might rest within 3-D to the exclusion of other levels of reality and consciousness. Consequently, we might feel trapped within the minutiae of daily life, overwhelmed with the endless details to be dealt with on the physical plane. We may feel bogged down within matter, hungry for uplifting reminders that there is a realm beyond third-dimensional concerns.
When the belly soul center is overemphasized, we may find ourselves pursuing sensual and sexual practices that are expressed without a corresponding level of heart-centering. The many current distortions of ancient trantric practices marketed as “tantra” exemplify this overemphasis on the belly center. Ultimately, we may feel emotionally empty after a series of encounters that overemphasize the belly center at the expense of head and heart.
Another manifestation of belly center overemphasis occurs among those who are fascinated by, and possibly addicted to, the realm of the emotions. Relationships become the ground of being for such belly-centered people. They may spend hours dissecting every nuance of an encounter, probing the inner workings of everyone involved, and reliving or anticipating important events. Without the detached clarity of an awakened head center and the calm wisdom of the heart soul center, things can seem very muddled indeed.
An overemphasis on the belly soul center can also manifest as attachment to and identification with the human level of existence. As in tribal groups historically, awareness may remain embedded in the consciousness of the Great Mother, while differentiation and individualization are sacrificed to group cohesion. This is akin to what happens to those who never leave home and depend on their families the rest of their lives; they may never fully mature into complete human beings. At the spiritual level, in this ouroboric merging, the love and oneness that form the underlying truth of all existence are not known, much less the absolute experience that everything is, after all, a fleeting dream in the mind of God.