The First Step: Knowing Yourself As You Are

The promise of the spiritual pursuit, the idea of being free and happy and light and feeling a connection, an inner calm is very attractive, especially after you’ve read about that possibility or had a flash of that possibility. It’s very attractive, especially in comparison to the way life ordinarily is, which is filled with acquisition, pressure, tension, rushing, and so forth.

Now once we have the idea of something else that is better, then, because of our programming, we expect to go directly for it. We expect to attain it in a certain amount of time and not to be dependent in order to get it. But in this first phase of spiritual growth that I’m talking about, it cannot be done in this fashion. I’ll call this first stage “knowing yourself as you are.” That is, knowing every detail of your behavior so that you cannot fool yourself, so that you cannot deceive yourself, so that you can’t imagine something about yourself that isn’t the case. This really is the building block of aspiration to consciousness. So I’ll discuss this a bit and then get back to the issue of dependence.

All the feel-good stuff that you’ve pursued, all of it, will never take you anywhere if you don’t have the foundation of knowing yourself as you are. It doesn’t matter how well you pretend. It doesn’t matter if you teach or if you learn. It doesn’t matter what position you are in. If you can fool yourself, your spiritual development will soon come to a stop. Then you will be caught in an eddy, going around and around and around. You’ll gravitate toward people who are less experienced than you. You’ll be teaching courses in town, writing books, holding seminars, and passing on the information from that eddy, from that circle that you are going around in. But you will not be expanding.

Once you have been caught in that eddy, it is very difficult to go back and to start learning this first step because you have already proceeded like you know it. And dependence on someone or someones in order to learn that first step is even more painful because you have already imagined and pretended that you are beyond it. It’s very difficult. Think if you were painting your house and you didn’t get some of the bubbles out or you hadn’t scraped the paint below it. You paint the whole house and the bubbles start to come out and you have to take it all off and do it all again. No problem? That is hellish!

It is not a fun thing to do, to go back to ground you think you have already covered. But that is what must be done. The earlier you recognize that you are dependent to learn that first step, the better. If you have any capacity to fool yourself, you have to proceed until you don’t have that capacity anymore. Then the possibility exists for more independence. But until that point, you are totally and completely and absolutely dependent on those who can see and can tell you that you are fooling yourself. Because you cannot help yourself in that way. Cannot! Until you cannot fool yourself you are totally dependent on a team, on a group dynamic, on other people, on teachers, on somebody who cannot be fooled.

Whatever you think to the contrary, you are wrong! This formula never fails. Never! I have never seen an exception to this law, and I have seen a lot. If a person can fool themselves, when the pressure is on, they will not proceed. They will not go up. When you are going up and the pressure goes up, any of your equipment that is not as it should be will jump up and fail. It will jump up and call attention to itself. When the pressure is on, that self-deception is what will come forth, and you will exit on the note of that self-deception.

I acknowledge that this ground work at times doesn’t look very spiritual. It’s like saving money to buy a car. You are working who knows where doing who knows what for who knows whom and you’re saving the money to buy the car. You can picture the car but it’s nowhere around. You know you’ve got to keep doing the job. When you really know you’ve got to do it you can feel okay about it because you know it’s part of the process. That’s really the place that you have to get to. You have to recognize that this step of knowing yourself as you are and getting to a place where you cannot fool yourself is an inseparable, fundamental part of the progression of spiritual enlightenment. If you have any aspiration in that direction whatsoever, then you must become adept at that step.

You must practice the tools of that step, do the examination and develop the impartiality needed for that step, build the patience necessary for that step, and so forth. You have to do that because that is the ground work, learning how to be a person who does not fool themselves. You may recognize the next time you are dealing with some piddly bullshit about your self-deceptive quality and you’re thinking you signed up to examine the ethers, and you’re wondering, “What does this have to do with it? Where are the meditation retreats? Where is the silence? I remember I read this book where everybody wore white and it was all beautiful and that’s what I want. When do we do that?” Well, that is completely and absolutely up to you. I know there are some of you here who think we have a construction company, or that we do potlucks, or we’re social workers, etc. I understand. I sympathize with you thinking that. But those are the grounds, the circumstances, the fields that we use to take this step of learning to see yourself as you are, of becoming incapable of fooling yourself. Until you acknowledge the necessity of being dependent in order to learn that, learning that, and getting better at that, we will not be able to take those next steps.

I want to put the responsibility back on you because as soon as you are ready, as soon as you are willing and become competent in pursuing this necessary first step, then other things can open up and in X amount of time from now we can have a completely different program. I hope that we will. But I can tell you that it won’t be based on your imagination, it will not be based on what you assumed. It will be based on the fact that you have taken that step and you have built a foundation.

There are so many people who have aspirations but there are very few people who are willing to put in the foundation work. Very few people. I am telling you that you can go to city college, you can go to self-improvement classes, you can take the yoga classes, you can jerk yourself around and believe that you are doing whatever you think you are doing, but you are not doing shit other than making yourself feel good for a couple of hours and imagining something is happening for you. All you are doing is telling yourself a story, because you haven’t put in that time to build the foundation that I am talking about—the foundation of knowing yourself as you are, which will over and over again be the telling element of whether you proceed or not past any particular level of consciousness.

As I say, when the pressure is on to go up, to get higher, to understand more, to get freer, there will be two forces in action – the force that wants to take you higher and the force of your resistance, which will manifest in your self-deception. It will. And if your self-deception is available, those two forces will cross and you will go nowhere. You will build a little house on that plateau and call it “School for Consciousness,” or you’ll call it, “I am not interested anymore,” or maybe, “Those guys didn’t know what they were talking about.” Call it whatever, but understand that you will not proceed beyond that point.

You have to come to grips with being dependent to learn what you don’t know. You don’t know how to become a person who doesn’t fool themselves. You may be able to find a certain circumstance where you can be bon vivant and you can tell everybody what to do and you are wild and crazy. People say, “Wow! Far out person!” But then you will go to another situation you will be afraid and timid—completely different. You will blame the circumstance. You won’t recognize that you have created a little box that you can operate in, in which you feel like you are okay, strong, easy going, whatever. Freedom doesn’t have that limitation. You can’t pursue freedom and maintain that limitation. You have to face whatever comes in front of you and learn how to examine how you are as you are in those circumstances. That is a process and a science that you need to develop skills for, that you need help with, and you will be dependent on those who know more than you until you develop those skills for yourself. It wasn’t easy for me to come to grips with that dependence and it will not be easy for you. But that is the way that it is.