Everything To Gain by John Siddique
John Siddique, author of the new book 'Signposts of the Spiritual Journey', writes about the path from a destructive 'conditioned' way of living to a more authentic experience.
Have you ever wondered how most of us go through life unaware that there are other ways of living outside of what we learned as children? We draw on what we absorbed through our schooling and environment, and take that to be who we are. We might call it ‘conditioning,’ I like to call it ‘being a somebody’ because we believe wholeheartedly that we are that ‘somebody’ and try to assemble beliefs and values to live by which we rarely question.
If you’ve never considered this, then please look and discover what is true for you. I admit that I lived like this too, until about ten years ago when, without warning, that persona collapsed. It can happen to anyone of us, particularly around stressful triggers like relationships and family difficulties, or if someone close to us dies, even a pet. I’m sure you can imagine other scenarios where we can’t find answers in our ideas of who we are. I hadn’t realised that there were simple internal processes we can meet that can open our lives up, so we have a more authentic and meaningful experience. This is why I’ve written the book Signposts of The Spiritual Journey – for anyone finding themselves asking those fundamental questions of who they are. Questions which are key to accessing change and meaning and authenticity in our lives.
I was very ill in those days; my mind felt limited, I was angry all the time about tiny things, and I tended to blame everyone else for pretty much everything wrong in my life. There were even a few times where I tried to end it. Underneath all that, like all of us, I felt that I was doing the best I could, but I couldn’t see through my sense of struggle and limitation. I was depressed a lot of the time, coupled with intense periods of trying to get it right and do better which never seemed enough. Of course, I was trying find answers in that conditioning and failing, instead of discovering what was inside and what life was really about.
When it all collapsed in 2012, something genuinely surprising happened. I found that I admitted something to myself that I think few of us dare to admit. I remember saying out loud that ‘I didn’t know!’ ‘I didn’t know how to live, or love, or make my way out of here.’ Then, straightaway it was like a voice inside me said – ‘But I can find out,’ and that’s been my compass ever since. It’s something we talk about as a process a lot in the book, getting the ego out of the way, admitting we don’t know, and then kindly allowing ourselves the space of not knowing so we can ask basic questions and find out for ourselves. Two other compasses that are invaluable in our toolbox are radical honesty and authenticity with ourselves. We live in such an inauthentic world. The voices on television speak in false voices; we go out with our friends and too often fake our laughter; we lean into and push our belief systems as if they were our true identities without ever really reflecting on them.
What if there is more to us than this? We’ve been taught to live dualistically – that if things are not ‘this’ then they must be ‘that’, ‘if you are not with us, you must be against us’ and so on, but this leaves no space for the bigger picture to emerge from our lives. It is always deeply reductive, and this is often how we get so ill, how we head towards suicide and so on. The way back of course is the opposite of duality – which is the realisation of our wholeness. The methods of healing I share with you in ‘Signposts’ are all about discovering the wholeness that you are. I’m only alive because of some of these.
So how can you make some meaningful changes in your life right now? Here’s a process from the book that you can try if what I’m saying makes any kind of sense to you:
- First, when a situation arises, admit where you are right now with it. Ask yourself, do you really know the way through, or is that your conditioning?
- Allow for the space of not knowing. This will bring vulnerability, and I know most people fear that, but vulnerability like that is real strength. False ideas and a big ego are weak and meaningless. If you are already full and know the answers, how can you learn, or grow or change anything?
- Risk taking the step that your awareness rather than your false conditioning shows you. This gets easier and easier the more you practice it and it becomes natural after only a little while if you allow it.
- And know that if you bring your heart into the situation, it will all get easier. When we try doing things just from our heads or our egos, they never work out well. But when we engage our heart, things fly.
I simply want you to live your best life, which is my entire purpose for writing this book. I certainly don’t want to sell you another false image of yourself or a lifestyle you don’t need. If we begin to meet ourselves with greater authenticity, we will find that there’s nothing to give up and absolutely everything to gain — the life you were meant to live.
John Siddique is best known as a British spiritual teacher, poet, and author. He is the founder of Authentic Living, through which he aims to encourage people from all walks of life awaken to what he calls their “true naturalness”. He has to date published eight books. His teachings and writings have featured in Time Magazine, The Guardian, Granta, on CNN and the BBC.
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