Life is short, and human beings do not tend to choose personal growth willingly.
That’s simple enough to understand — the self experiences the end of its ingrained patterns at best as discomfort, and at worst as a kind of death. But we’re all just patterns evolving our way thru time and space, and a dozen — or a hundred — years hence, whether we resist changing ourselves or embrace it, we’re all going to be living an experience of self very different to how we experience ourselves now.
Change is inevitable, and at its altar, we can offer up who and what we are — the parts of us that are closed or asleep or deluded or hateful or afraid — as a kind of fire sacrifice, to be burned up and transformed. What’s bright in us, of course, never goes away. It just burns clearer the more false things we offer to the flames.
Change is painful, and we instinctively avoid it. Yet in the end the best and fastest way of getting clear of what no longer fits, of the parts of us that, no matter how we cling to them, we don’t really like and which don’t really serve us, is to commit to experiences in the face of which we have no choice but to change.
There are a number of reliable ways to do this; consider some of them below:
(1) Move to a different city.
Staying in familiar surroundings, to which we have adapted our responses so thoroughly that our experience there produces no friction or reflection, remains the most popular way of remaining exactly as we have always been, especially as we approach and settle into the “middle third of life”. Moving to a new place, with its new geography, new relationships, and concomitant sense of confusion, loneliness and discovery is one of the best ways to become aware of the parts of yourself and your life that no longer fit you, and indeed probably have not for some time.
(2) Travel abroad alone, and without a guidebook.
The primary dimension of human experience is social, rather than physical. To understand this, consider the human child, who begins her life so embedded in a deep web of social inter-relationship that she spends much of the first twenty years of life just figuring out how to navigate the social environment, giving little or no thought to anything that could be termed ontological. Likewise, though being in highly unfamiliar places is an enormous goad to growth and reflection, when we travel someplace foreign in the company of someone already well known to us (and whom we are already well known by), the tendency is to experience that “safe” relationship as a kind of comfort blanket, to which we can turn whenever we experience personal discomfort or existential stress. Similarly, though we may travel alone, when we rely on a guidebook for advice, the tendency is towards over-reliance on that resource, such that our exploration becomes an exercise in imitation, and our experience often little more than an ongoing kind of confirmation or disconfirmation — this guesthouse really is as good as they say; that temple the Lonely Planet gushed about was actually really overrated. Experience a very new, very foreign place without the recourse to either a friend or a guidebook, and you will often find yourself very keenly aware of a very foreign experience of yourself as well.
Meditation isn’t about having visions. It isn’t about doing the sun salutation in Rishikesh with your guru. It isn’t something that yields results quickly, it isn’t glamorous, and most of the time, it isn’t the least bit entertaining. Generally speaking there is absolutely nothing exciting about it, beyond the very useful experience of getting thru the endless shitstorm of your own human mind, and seeing that shitstorm more clearly for what it is, composed of a generous load of nonsense, an awful lot of quite dramatic storytelling, and a fair amount of naked insanity. There you have it: meditation demystified. You want to grow as a person? Sit the fuck down for 20 or 30 minutes every day and make your mind shut up so you can see the astonishing load of junk that’s in there as it bubbles up. Do this most days for a couple of years and you’ll begin to notice that you can see that junk arising, and stop it, when you’re out in the world. Do it for ten or fifteen years straight and the source-mystery at the bottom of the mind will begin to open up. Feel free to speed that process up with entheogenics, but be hella careful — it’s a frequently scary road with its own host of potential pitfalls, dangers and dead ends, so use sparingly, and always under the counsel of a qualified guide.