Many Paths to Awakening
Many Paths to Awakening
Q: Once again I enjoyed the intensive you and Gina gave last weekend. I really appreciate what you guys are doing during this challenging time.
Something you said during the initial Q & A has stayed with me, your statement that according to Dr. Jeffrey Martin’s research, spiritual practices or techniques only work for 5% of the people who practice them, and it is a different 5% for each of the approaches out there.. My initial reaction was “man, that’s depressing!” But as I sat with it longer, I began to feel that there are many other factors besides the technique alone, that could also factor into whether a person shifts or benefits. For instance, how close is the person to awakening? In your & Gina’s case, it seems that you were both quite close to awakening, so it didn’t take long for you to awaken. I would venture to say your nervous systems, your physiologies, were quite pure, and free of a lot of samskaras to begin with. Further, what about life purpose? It would seem that maybe you were meant to be spiritual teachers in this lifetime and so, were destined to awaken early on. Then too, what of karma? Is a technique powerful enough to remove karma? What about grace? From working with Gina, she has stated that awakening happens as a matter of grace alone, and thus has little or nothing to do with the practitioner’s technique or commitment.
In addition, there is the whole issue of the wisdom of digging one hole deeply in order to find water vs. digging many shallow holes (as the Jeffery's Finder’s Course apparently recommends), though I suppose Dr. Martin suggests the other side of the argument, which would be to try other places if you’ve been digging the same dry well for a long time.
Then I wonder about his methodology. How does he measure the effectiveness of the techniques? Does he provide practitioners with a Muse brain sensing headband to check brainwaves? I tend to doubt that filling out questionnaires is a valid means of assessing level of consciousness. I imagine it would be interesting to read one filled out by a Zen roshi.
Looking at this from the point of view of a pre-awakened person who has been on the spiritual path for 35 years, I guess I’m saying that technique is a factor, as is science, but I think it has to be looked at in the greater picture that includes all these other factors; the context of what the spiritual path is all about. Once you do that, the role of science is diminished. I’d be interested in your thoughts, comments or suggestions, since I've all of a sudden begun receiving emails from Dr. Martin.
A: First, let me say that I hold everything very lightly, including Jeffery's claims. However, I have found many of his insights helpful in broadening my perspectives. As for the essence of your question, I would agree completely that there are many, many factors at play in the unfolding of a human awakening. And yet all of the formulas that have been promulgated for spiritual awakening do work.....sometimes! I wrote a blog post about this a while back (The Flower of Spiritual Awakening). In it, I ask many of the same questions you have asked.
One of the most fascinating and yet challenging things Jeffery has shared with me is that the roughly 5% rule also applies to accepting Jesus Christ into your heart as your lord and savior. His own mother had a profound spiritual awakening at a revival type Christian gathering when she was "saved". For much of her life after that she assumed that everyone who went up to be saved at similar meetings must have had the same experience as her! I know other people who have had a similar experience, including a friend who was able to see past a dogmatic interpretation of his experience and yet was transformed when he asked to be saved at a bible study group.
As for Jeffery's claims of success with his approach, I especially hold that lightly. In his unfolding model, he has identified several different types of awakening, which he calls locations. This does explain some of the rather striking differences in what some people report of their experiences, but I do think it is a bit of a stretch to call some of his locations a full awakening.
Who knows, maybe with his approach of digging several shallow holes he is able to exceed the limitations of the 5% results from sticking with just one of the many spiritual paths that have a track record of potentially working. There are many graduates of his course, and of my wife, Gina's similarly wide ranging online course, that report that they feel they were fundamentally changed.
I often say that all there is...is Truth. There is some truth in every perspective, every spiritual practice and spiritual teaching, and even in every thought and belief, although there can be a lot of truth or just a little truth, or even the tiniest amount of truth. My favorite example of a very small truth is a lottery ticket. It is undeniably true that if you buy a ticket, you could win. Unfortunately, it is a ridiculously small truth, and definitely not a good long term financial plan! Similarly, some ideas or beliefs have little truth beyond the remotest possibility that they can come true, or they can even exist as an even tinier truth when they are just a thought in someone's head. They do exist as a fleeting thought, but that may be the only truth they ever contain!
So it is true that it is all up to Grace. It is also true that your efforts have an effect. And it is also true that the particular technique you stumble upon may or many not fit for you. And even when these seem like contradictory truths, it usually turns out that they are complimentary truths. It also seems that the same truth can be a bigger or smaller factor in the awakening of two different people.
One of the things I appreciate most about much of what Jeffery shares is that it holds open this possibility that everyone's journey may be pretty unique. Similarly, a diet book I read years ago suggested different diets are appropriate for different people based on their blood type. That kind of open ended holding of many possibilities seems to naturally capture more of the truth over time than any narrow perspective that is held rigidly. And with all of these factors at play, everyone's specific path through the jungle turns out to be completely unique. The mystery does not even make two snowflakes alike. Why would it ever create a human journey to enlightenment that was the same as anyone else's?