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A radical approach to personal growth

by | Feb 2, 2022 | 0 comments

During a lecture to a group of students participating in a week-long silence retreat, Shai reveals staggering insights into what is at the core of profound emotional and personal growth.
6 min read

Real growth doesn’t happen because you overpower something within yourself. The reason is very simple: whenever you battle with yourself, you split yourself into two. Real growth is an integrated whole-being transformation that in so many ways “you” don’t do. There is a part of our being that is functioning as a manager; it is an inner doer. This manager or doer is usually necessary because we need to have some structure that mediates between us and the world, that can select from our many thoughts a certain thought that we can act on, and so on. Psychologically we need this doer to function. The problem is, this function has become ourselves. Like always trying to place ourselves in a certain position, to make ourselves better, to fix our thoughts, fix our emotions.

Yesterday I was watching through my window the clouds constantly transforming themselves. It is quite a thing to see this shape in constant movement. So flexibly becoming condensed and then dispersing and taking another form. And I thought to myself: Could we be like that? Letting something shape us without needing to force it? Allowing something else to shape us. This something else is the silence in us at the core of our being. Silence is such an intelligent and aware state. Because all the energy we are usually wasting on reacting is neutralized and then can flow slowly towards the center of our being from which we can look at everything anew. You can look from a certain distance at your patterns of thought, at emotions, all forms of habits we have throughout the day. Just look. Just look at them. Not to change them. Because you – as the manager – cannot do that. You cannot change it. You cannot do change. You can only grow in awareness. That’s it! 

Your role is to do nothing but cultivate awareness.

At a certain level of heightened and penetrating awareness your innermost being takes a look at a certain pattern, addiction, emotion, and says: “What is this?” Something that was completely ingrained in your personality suddenly looks irrelevant and then there is no pushing, no battle. There is just letting go. It is your being that has matured. It is silent. It is just that cloud that you are that has changed once again. You did nothing. The whole trouble begins when we bring our inner doer, which – again – is a function for communicating with the world, and appoint it manager of our transformation. Just like when you tell your mind you are in charge of understanding reality, and it tries to philosophize about the meaning of life and who you are and tries to conceptualize it. The thinking mind can never understand reality. Because it is not its function. Everyone needs to do what they are meant to do. And your role is to do nothing but cultivate awareness.  

It is strange that we always try to improve ourselves, to love more, to be nicer, to accept ourselves, to be more open. The more we try it, the more rigid we will become. You cannot make yourself more loving or more happy. It doesn’t work. Only when there is no doing, can our being reveal all these qualities as a simple result of availability. Really let natural forces work on you. If there is laughter, laugh, if there are tears, cry. If meditation happens, meditate. If there is confusion, let the confusion become itself a purifier just like a storm with a heavy rain that eventually washes the earth – it cleanses. Laughter and tears are made of the same energy. They are both cathartic releases. Both release tension. Both meet at the edge. Let the river of tears, like a thunderstorm, like a force of nature, push through your limitations. Just because, in a way, you have stopped doing, all the energies are finally free to transform themselves. 

Even the best technique in the world is not helpful when our innermost being is not ready.

Natural processes of change cannot happen when we become too fixed – by identifying with a certain set of thoughts, emotions and behaviors. The more we try to change them, the worse it becomes. We want to change them and at the same time we don’t want to change them. They have become ourselves. Then we begin to have a constant battle, being split against ourselves, while our personality becomes fixed, unchangeable. This is your chance, not to transform but to watch transformation. Not to change but to let things naturally die away simply because you finally give them the space. You contain them in silence, you hold them in awareness. And in silence all the structures of the personality become magnified, you can feel them, they become evident, they come out of their hiding place. I can be without this layer. I do not actually have to have it. Then it falls away just like the skin of a snake. It’s time. You watch it die naturally. The more we intervene, the more rigid we become, the slower the change. If you are a cloud, then there is the least resistance. Just invite the forces of change, gently. Your part is only to be aware. Let everything else happen. There are many techniques: do this, do that. But even a technique is helpful only when our innermost being is ready to let go. And even the best technique in the world is not helpful when our innermost being is not ready to let go. 

I remember how in my first silent retreat – not as a teacher but as a baby seeker, it was in Egypt, in a desert area called Sinai – one morning I woke up and I opened my eyes and realized that the world doesn’t need me. Just that. It was very simple but also for some reason it was shocking. Because as soon as I was deeply silent and there was no more of my intervention and my participation, I became aware the world was just doing fine. Everything was happening on its own, everything had its own momentum. There was absolutely no need for my management. The world didn’t need this little dictator. And that was a tremendous release. Because then I could just be aware. This awareness when it is set free is joy and peace itself. It doesn’t wait for everything to be fixed. It just does what it needs to do. Be aware and let nature do what it has been waiting to do: transform your being. Just have fun with awareness. Watch the stream of thought, of emotion, the squirrels, the trees, and see how the whole world is changing when you are sitting in your right position. Not as an inner doer. But as a silent being.


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