There are no shortcuts…

to any place worth going. And definitely not when one is embarking on a long and arduous journey of awakening.

We do live in complicated, distracting, disordered times, when everything around us seems to exponentially escalate in pace and in complexity. Together with them, or perhaps because so many are looking for something deeper, richer, and more meaningful, there are myriad invitations guaranteeing us nirvana, satori, and the Promised Land, quickly and easily, in 3 equal heavily-discounted payments of only $195.

An apt metaphor is an ad in a magazine I saw, years ago, of a series of CDs with a big bold promise to teach you to meditate like a Tibetan monk – over a weekend!

There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.

“My friend, I am not what I seem. Seeming is but a garment I wear — a care-woven garment that protects me from thy questionings and thee from my negligence. The ‘I’ in me, my friend, dwells in the house of silence, and therein it shall remain for ever more, unperceived, unapproachable.” – Kahlil Gibran

I remember times when I so wished for them. The shortcuts. The easy ways in, or out, of whatever I was facing at those times. “I thought I have dealt with it already. I healed that wound. Learned that lesson enough times. I really am ready for the next phase, the next lesson, the ‘moving on’ phase. Can we just get on with it, please? Wouldn’t it be nice to know, to have, to be, to…”

There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.

It is about doing the work – the hard work of looking into the mirror. Everything is up for questioning, for a brutally honest and authentic inquiry that leaves no corner of our selves in the dark. What we thought was “real” might be peeled away. Yes, there is fear in not knowing. There is pain when opening ourselves up to the collective injustice that is all around us. There is rawness in opening up and not numbing ourselves out any more, because we get to feel. “The world itself has pain and pleasure woven into it as night is woven together with the day,” writes Jack Kornfield, and opening to the full experience of this truth is a necessary step on the awakening journey.

There is a price to pay on such a path. The price of admission into the ever-evolving, ever-unfolding journey of awakening is the letting go. Seemingly, endless. It is the letting go of all of what we thought we are. It is the stripping away of our beliefs about ourselves, of all we thought that defines us. All the areas we thought we are good at, and also all our limitations. Layer after layer. Again and again.

It is a scary thing, this letting go business. One that I resisted (or is it, “have been resisting”) for a long time. Fear of being vulnerable and not in control (as if I ever am!) of my life, my destiny, or even my daily schedule. There was another fear playing out in the background of this first one. It would whisper, “Look at all the wonderful things you have created in your life. Letting go means you will have to give it all up. Why would you? And who would you be without all you have created, achieved, and accomplished?” Perhaps ironically, the more I accomplished, created, and impacted, the stronger and louder this voice became.

“Overcome any bitterness because you were not up to the magnitude of the pain entrusted to you. Like the mother of the world you are carrying the pain of the world in your heart.” – Sufi

And, as we deepen this peeling away, opening to and embracing the experience of (possible and very likely) pain and suffering, something else arises. Compassion, beauty, and grace, as a fluttering of the heart in the face of this pain and suffering that we have been opening up to. Powerful, liberating, enlivening. Real.

There are no shortcuts to any place worth going. It is a good thing.