When Neo takes the red pill in the movie The Matrix (1999) he experiences awakening; satori as the Japanese call it. Satori is also described as an understanding or comprehension.
“In the Zen Buddhist tradition, satori refers to the experience of kensho, “seeing into one’s true nature“. Ken means “seeing,” shō means “nature” or “essence.”
Satori and kenshō are commonly translated as enlightenment, a word that is also used to translate bodhi, prajna and buddhahood.”
In my experience awakening comes as a major change (or multiple changes) in our perspective – a paradigm shift. The way we see our reality is altered and as a result we experience a feeling of awakening. Awakening to a new way of seeing ourselves and, therefore, the world.
Thus far I have experienced many awakenings some small and some larger. My time in Al-anon provided me with one major shift in my perspective. My red pill. Because once I had this awakening I have never seen things the same way since. It came when I studied the First step in Al-anon’s 12 step program.
“1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.”
Deep contemplation of this step led me to the realization that powerlessness is about control. We cannot control alcohol, we cannot control addiction. I realized that really this means I cannot control other people (which is the first step of Codependents Anonymous CODA). It didn’t take long for me to come to the realization that I really cannot control anything external to myself. We cannot even control our children as hard as that is to admit. All we do have control over is ourselves.
We only have power over our thoughts, words and actions. That’s it. That was a huge realization for me. I had spent much of my life struggling to control everything external from me. I was barely putting any effort into controlling my own thoughts, words or actions. And when I arrived at Al-anon my life did feel out of control and highly unmanageable. So this realization got my full attention. In fact, never again could I assume that it was really possible to control anything external from me.
So I decided to focus on what I can control. Our words and actions are extensions of our thoughts. Our emotions are our body’s reaction to our thoughts and our indicator of the kind of thoughts we are thinking (paraphrased from Teal Swan’s work). The examination and questioning of our thoughts is a large part of our spiritual work. As I see it, it’s our purpose to improve our life and create manageability or happiness then share what we learn with others. Internal examination is our path back to Source; our connection to the Divine.
Since my focus is on the practical application of these teachings, I asked how do I go about practicing introspection? How do I study my inner world? As Teal Swan teaches, when we feel a strong emotional reaction we need to go into a self reflective mode instead of letting the emotion just take the wheel and drive. In Al-anon they call this detachment. We need to recognize our feeling and take the opportunity to examine our internal state to identify the thoughts that led to this reaction (the focus being on negative feelings since they have the most undesirable impact on our lives).
From Teal Swan I learned that as we examine our thought patterns we discover that beliefs are nothing more than thoughts we have thought so much (sometimes starting in childhood) for so long that they continue at a subconscious level and affect our words and actions without our awareness. I recently had a major breakthrough when I realized a core belief I had about feeling I was not good enough had caused much self destructive behavior in my life for a very long time.
When we awaken we can, as Eckhart Tolle says, shine the light of awareness on our thoughts and beliefs. Anything we focus on changes so we are able to change those negative and damaging beliefs into positive ones.
Here is the Red pill. When we change our thoughts and beliefs our words and actions change too. When we change our words and actions we change our external reality. Therefore, though we may not be able to directly control our external reality we can influence it and even change it based on the thoughts we are thinking.
The world as we experience it is not something completely separate from us, rather it is an exact reflection of our internal state of being. This is the law of attraction. The thoughts we think create our internal state and that state is reflected back to us in the reality of our external reality. More on this subject can be found in Teal Swan’s book Sculptor in the Sky and her YouTube videos.
So really Al-anon’s first step tells us that the power is ours. We have more power than we know. This personal power also means we have personal responsibility. We are responsible for the state of our lives, as we have created it through our thoughts and beliefs. This is a heavily weighted responsibility. It is so heavy that many people would rather give their power away to their external world, to other people, and live unmanageable lives than face the fact that they are completely responsible for the state of their lives.
For example, if someone has an illness they would rather give the power to heal their body to a doctor and take the medication they prescribe. If they exercise their personal power they would instead recognize that their thinking and subsequent life choices created this illness. Then they would make the changes in their thinking and lifestyle needed to heal their body themselves. It takes a tremendous amount of courage and personal trust to take the second path, as a result many choose not to. This is the very message that many self-help experts share. That we need to own our own power and take personal responsibility for every aspect of our lives.
So, how can we change our thoughts and beliefs and improve the state of our lives? We practice the art of self examination and connect to self love. A person who truly loves themselves has shone the light of awareness of all their self destructive beliefs and thoughts. They are able to create a new internal world, a new paradigm of self love, that can only be reflected back to them in their reality, making life Heaven on earth.
Please note that many of the spiritual concepts and teachings I speak of are not my original ideas. I will always recognize the source of the concepts I share here as these spiritual leaders are my teachers and I have a high level of love, gratitude and respect for them all.