Traps, Detours, and Rerouting Instructions on the Path of Spiritual Awakening
In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy is trying to return home from a strange land. She searches for help from a Wizard, but she discovers that the Wizard is a simple man behind a curtain, pulling levers to create an illusion of power and wisdom. Dorothy has to follow the yellow brick road and avoid many detours and traps along the way. Eventually, in order to return home, she needs simply to wake up. Here are a series of metaphors about navigating the journey of awakening, and realizing you have had the power within you all along.
We may try to awaken through reading a lot of spiritual books or understanding who we are through intellectual concepts. But our conceptual mind is about as useful as a head filled with straw when it comes to knowing awake awareness as our true nature. We need to shift into an awake awareness–based knowing.
Tin Man Awakening
Here we have a strong experience of emptiness and no-self, but there is not enough heart yet. We’ve awakened from mind, body, and emotion, but not yet into open-hearted awareness. Keep following the yellow brick road!
Cowardly Lion Awakening
In this scenario, we’re learning to go beyond the doer, opening to a new vulnerability, a new avenue for action to come through. But we can get stuck with not yet having developed the courage of open-hearted awareness to be and do in the world. People at this stage sometimes become aggressive or have a know-it-all persona, like the Cowardly Lion pompously chasing Toto, but that action is coming from defensiveness, pride, or fear. Many people have reported the big shift in doing social justice work from the motivation of love and compassion, rather than fear and anger.
Here we get stuck in perpetual seeking, going around and around on the yellow brick road, trying to get to freedom without realizing that we have been home all along.
The trap here is feeling like you are only a small animal rather than experiencing your vast, interconnected Self. Try saying “total awakening” with a Castilian Spanish accent. (It sounds like a slight lisp to English-speaking ears.) Don’t miss awakening by thinking that anything is left out or separate. Does a dog, like Toto, have Buddha nature? Dog-Zen says yes. (Cow-Zen says mu.)
The Ruby Slippers of Effortless Mindfulness
The trap here is getting discouraged and feeling lost and overwhelmed by the journey. Remember the good witch Glinda’s advice about the ruby slippers: you’ve had the power to return home all along.
This post is an adapted excerpt from my book, The Way of Effortless Mindfulness.