Over the last couple of years I’ve travelled a fair bit with my work, and some of that travelling has been via business class, which after years of uncomfortable flights and stressed out journeys, I consider a huge privilege (thank you Universe, more please!). On my recent travels, I have finally got to understand what the airport signs that read Fast track; by invitation only actually mean…
On our journey to awareness (or you might prefer to call it consciousness…or enlightenment) there are two available paths: the progressive, and the direct. The progressive path is all about using technique and practices to create stillness in the mind and discover the quality of awareness beyond thought. The direct path is about recognising awareness and then being it – becoming it and living out of it.
The practices of hatha yoga and mindfulness meditation are based around the progressive path. They are about paying attention to objects in awareness, or even manipulating them, in order to catch a glimmer, or perhaps longer moments, of stillness.
The direct path, however, is focused purely and whole-heartedly (and there’s a lot of heart on this path) on being your subjectivity. That is to say, on being the awareness that you already are. No prerequisites. Nothing to do. Nowhere to get to. It is “just” a matter of realising the self and then identifying, associating and acting out of that place of stillness.
This direct path is like the fast-track lane. You can bypass all the endless waiting and take a more direct route to the gate (which is sometimes referred to as ‘the gateless gate’…) to awareness. It sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? That it is possible to not practice yoga postures or not learn countless breathing techniques and still enter a state of awareness – or, more accurately, become awareness. Our belief that we have to take an indirect path to reach the gate is in fact the very thing that we must overcome. That is, the only thing between the gate and us is ourselves.
The ego and the structures of the brain, even the subtle sense of proto-self, all keep us trapped to a lesser or greater degree in our sense of small self, and although this is where the progressive path is helpful (we practice techniques that can move us further away from this sense of small self and therefore closer to the gate), at some point we have to let go of our practice and simply sit quietly. We must wait for our selves to fall back into all-pervading presence. We can’t even “do” this stage of meditation: it is what Heidegger called “waiting without waiting”.
Ram Dass says if you are ripe, then all it takes is one leaf to fall from a tree to enlighten you, but if you’re not ripe, then a whole tree could fall and it would not make a difference.
The progressive path is the one that helps us to blossom and then become ripe, whereas on direct path we see that we are already ripe, and that our enlightenment requires neither a falling leaf nor tree.
So, if you’re endlessly watching your breath or thoughts in the hope that you will “become” enlightened, it may be time to stop, and instead actively explore consciousness. Ask yourself who has been watching your thoughts. And who is aware of this watching? Can you step between being the observer and the observed?
These practices are not easy, but there is nothing stopping you from doing them right now. You don’t need to perfect any particular way of breathing, or twist yourself into a pretzel, or learn Sanskrit, or understand what exactly Namaste means… you just have to let your attention turn back to itself and explore its own origins.
This is the fast-track, and everyone’s invited.