I am doing an intensive with a client this weekend. The emerging theme is following the pleasure of the formless. It is hard to imagine that following pleasure is not normal, but I understand this first hand. I used to automatically push myself. I wanted to compete. I thought being the best would prove my worth. Even when exposed to spiritual teachings I took the same approach. I was trying to get somewhere.

I would deprive myself of pleasure by forcing myself to get up at 4:30 am, taking cold showers, restricting my eating, pushing through the pain of sitting in two-hour meditations and difficult yoga poses. Then when I was exposed to the psychological model, I added to this the work of rooting out core issues. I would delve into the depths of my emotional stories looking for the pain. Seeking it out. Thinking, like the oft-quoted Robert Frost, “The only way out is through.”

But when I looked up this saying in his poem A Servant to Servants the quote sounded different to me.

“Len says one steady pull more ought to do it.

He says the best way out is always through.

And I agree to that, or in so far

As that I can see no way out but through—

Leastways for me—and then they’ll be convinced.”

“In so far as that I can see no way out but through.” That is the best the character could see, but it suggests there are other ways to see.

At times I do simply need to ride out my emotional experience. I let my suffering move through me and come out the other side. Being able to go in and out of emotional turbulence is a sign of health. It demonstrates resilience. But I was seeking out the suffering. I went looking for it. I thought there were issues I needed to heal in order to awaken more fully to my spiritual nature. I was a warrior ready to take on my darkness.

Then I came across the teachings of Sydney Banks and studied with Three Principles Practitioners. I was told that awakening is now. It is always there. And the less I look in the direction of the content of my thoughts and the less I try to manage my emotional experience, the more likely I am to feel what is beyond my personal thoughts and their accompanying emotions. Pushing and striving stir up thought. Suffering, asceticism, self-punishment have nothing to do with awakening. They are games to be played if I want to play them, but not a requirement for experiencing my spiritual nature. And then the kicker, pleasure is a compass point for the divine. Not only is no effort is required to experience my divinity, but I can also use pleasure as my compass to point me in the direction of my true nature!

It was a shock for me to learn that no matter how real suffering feels, it is always the illusion of my thoughts brought to life in the moment. Perhaps it is true that the only way out is through, but through the illusion of thought, not anything real. There is nothing that exists outside of my experience of thought in the moment. And beyond this constantly changing variable of thought is a deeper peace that is always there and unchanging. There is no need to look for it because it is there. There is no striving needed because it just is.

This rocked my world. My identity had been formed around striving, pushing, trying to better myself, trying to be the best. I defined my worth by it. I thought I would be nothing without my effort. I literally believed I would be engulfed by shame and annihilated if I stopped trying. That is how much I thought I had to earn my worth, and I put the spiritual path into this egoic paradigm. I thought I have to be the best at this now, and there were plenty of practices to engage in to give my ego something to do. All of them taking a lifetime to master.

The understanding of the principles helped me to ask the question, “Who am I without the push?” I hadn’t stopped to ask, “Who am I?” That is the best question I have ever asked myself that I cannot answer. But I do have some experiential knowing. I see that the pleasure and good feelings available to me in this human form are the experience of my spiritual nature. I was so afraid of hedonism. I was terrified of pleasure. Suffering felt safe to me. There was an illusion of control when it came to self-punishment. I was in charge. Pleasure was not safe because I could lose myself in it. It could destroy me. And this is true. It does obliterate “me” in the best way. I lose myself. My edges blur. Oneness is felt. This can be terrifying, and it can also be exquisitely pleasurable.

Pleasure, inspiration, joy — they can be my compass. I still fall into my old ways at times and push myself. I forget. I work too hard and then I remember. I remember there is nowhere to get to. There is nothing gained by pain. I am in the game of life, and I get to play it for the fun of it. There is no winning, just experience. When there is nowhere to get to and no winning to be done, it doesn’t make sense to push myself and cut myself off from the deeper feelings of love, compassion, empathy, joy, and peace. There is no purpose to sacrificing my experience of who I am. And I can still play the game of life. In fact, I seem to produce more and experience better results when I do.

What is your compass point? Are you willing to suffer less so you can experience more of who you are? Are you ready to get off the treadmill of looking for safety, security and your worth outside of you or through managing your emotional experience? Are you open to letting the deeper feelings of who you are guide your life? Are pleasure and inspiration your compass? Will you ignore your ego’s judgment of you being lazy, no good, and never amounting to anything? Will you look through your thoughts of shame to see the truth of your magnificence exactly as you are? You are more than enough. You have everything you need inside of you right now. Are you looking in that direction? Your soul sings the song of pleasure. Are you ready to dance?

Rohini Ross is excited to present The Soul-Centered Series in Santa Monica starting October 2018. She is passionate about helping people wake up to their true nature. She is a transformative coach and trainer, and author of Marriage (The Soul-Centered Series Book 1). She has an international coaching practice helping individuals, couples, and professionals embrace all of who they are so they can experience greater levels of well-being, resiliency, and success. You can follow Rohini on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, watch her Vlogs with her husband, Angus Ross, and subscribe to her weekly blog on her website, www.rohiniross.com