The Matrix 20 years later: a personal reflection

I rewatched The Matrix this past weekend, and it brought back a lot of memories and old perspectives on life.

My wife and I were both surprised at how many lines of dialogue I knew by heart. I must have watched it a lot back then. My brother reminded me: there wasn’t much else around, right? And yeah that’s true.

But for me The Matrix came along just as I was getting intently into my spiritual search. I’d read de Mello’s Awareness and was primed for anything that spoke of a deeper meaning to life, promising enlightenment and realisation.

I’d even started learning kung fu around that time, again looking for anything that promised mystery or just more to life.

Searching for freedom

When I saw The Matrix I thought “these people get it!” I was so excited and took it as evidence that I was on the right track – that there was a track.

But it also matched my bleak experience of “ordinary” life. I felt trapped, uninspired, and already weary of the reality I found myself in.

Enlightenment promised a way out. I took Neo’s death and rebirth experience at the climax of the film as a spiritual allegory. He transcended the Matrix, saw through the illusion, pierced the veil of Maya, and was liberated.

I wanted whatever it was that the sages, mystics, and saints spoke of in such glowing terms as surpassing anything reality had to offer.

But in my search I took as foundational my awareness of insufficiency, of lack. I took as my starting point the very words “there’s something wrong with this reality” and tried repeatedly to piece together the answer to that problem.

Reality isn’t broken

I depreciated reality on the understanding that it wasn’t real, and with faith that I could find the truth and the freedom truth would bring.

I took for granted that I was a soul mired in illusion, and I clung to that sense of frustration and imprisonment, inner tension battling against a world of empty appearances that somehow held sway in me.

I kept struggling to overcome, to see through the superficial and find the treasure within. I really believed that all my problems would be solved. I was taking the direct path, looking for the ultimate answers in life.

Projecting inadequacy

But the whole time my desire for greater meaning and purpose and enlightenment was clouded by my sense of personal inadequacy.

I felt like a loser, I couldn’t point to any outstanding qualities in myself, and I also felt alienated from friends and family and broader society.

Being different and having no words or concepts to explain how and why, I thought I could just leave the world behind and find my place in whatever final truth enlightenment would reveal.

The answer to my inadequacies was that reality itself was at fault. My lack of good qualities didn’t matter because life was an illusion anyway. The only quality that mattered was spiritual, and I could excel at that because everyone else was neglecting it, or so it seemed.

You create your reality

But now I’m approaching a different view of life and reality. I’m learning that I create my reality, and my thoughts or beliefs determine how much of my desired reality I allow.

In that context, feeling inadequate already, I interpreted spiritual teachings in a way that shifted the inadequacy onto reality itself. And yet I was unable to shift any further. Reality remained inadequate and over time my hopefulness dimmed and my own inadequacy returned.

I felt like I was on an important and meaningful path…yet had nothing to show for it.

In Abraham-Hicks terms I was treating enlightenment as an action pathway, a course of action I hoped would make me feel better. That’s not how it works. For twenty years it hasn’t worked. I’ve just been kicking the can down the road.

What do you want?

But my spiritual search wasn’t totally uninspired. I was genuinely drawn to a deeper understanding of life, reality, meaning and happiness.

But even though I immersed myself in spiritual teachings I was still caught in the same false premise as everyone else: give me what I want, and then I’ll be happy.

I wanted purpose, meaning, a secure identity, freedom, belonging, and clarity. I thought chasing enlightenment would give me all these and more. But the A-H prescription is simpler: find the feeling place of these desires, and you’re already there. No more action, no more resistance, no more kicking the can down the road, blaming yourself and then others and then reality and then yourself again.

Just find the feeling place. Align yourself with those feelings and enjoy what follows.

Do others need to change?

I’ve been so convinced of my need for spiritual transformation, yet early on I believed we all have this need.

Some spiritual teachings are elitist. They look down on the “great unwashed”, the masses of people who live their lives mired in delusion and governed by sin and passion.

I tried not to think I was special but I struggled to reconcile my strong desire for spiritual change with the disinterest of those around me.

Does everyone need to change? Am I special for realising it? Or are we called to different things in life?

As I grew older I began to see myself as especially needful of spiritual change, as if I was worse off than everyone else and hence more desperate to fix myself.

Judge not lest ye be judged

Anxious to not offend, I concluded that others could live without the spiritual change I needed. But for those closest to me, my expectations remained high.

I’m beginning to see that the inverse of “judge not” is also true: in judging myself as needful of change, I believed others – those closest to me and most receptive – needed to change too.

I’ve ended up seeing some people in my life as works in progress, and wishing they would try harder to improve themselves, just as I am doing.

I’ve taken for granted that they need to heed the same call, listen to the same teachings, commit to the same processes.

But I’ve been wrong about me, so I’m wrong about them too. If I’m perfect as I am then they’re perfect as they are. If I’m in my element (and just need to remember) then they are in their element too.

If all I need is my own love and acceptance then that is all they require to be perfect in my eyes.

And just like that, reality changes. I am able now to see something beautiful that was always there. I am able to appreciate the perfection I was already living in.

To appreciate the people closest to you, you must appreciate yourself first. Stop judging yourself and you can stop judging others too.

Letting go 09: when spiritual struggle is an obstacle

My fascination with solving problems and searching for deep and meaningful answers has been the central theme of my life for more than twenty years.

This is my personal form of assertion: an attempt to take control of my life after concluding that life itself could not be trusted to bring me happiness.

I embraced this struggle via forms of mysticism that encouraged my negative view of life. With a deeply melancholic perspective I believed there was nothing worth striving for, nothing worth attaining, nothing that could bring lasting happiness in this lifetime.

Except to transcend it all; to find a state of being the mystics spoke of, where reality was transformed as the individual became united with the ultimate reality, the ground of all being.

Spiritual cynicism

You know the Socratic injunction that “wisest is he who knows his wisdom is worth nothing”? That’s supposed to be an insight earned through experience, not something to memorise and move on. It’s not wise to be a kid who parrots nuggets of philosophical wisdom.

But that was me. I took onboard a slew of sayings and aphorisms. I read the books they came from. I immersed myself in spiritual texts and tried to see the world through the eyes of these enlightened teachers, saints, and sages.

But this whole effort was an epic work of assertion. I was no different from a kid who thinks he can be president or a kid who wants to be a billionaire.

The only difference is that I thought spiritual enlightenment was going to be more powerful, more desirable, and more enduring than those “worldly” aims.

My struggle resembled a strange, entirely introspective version of the kind of person who chases after “get rich quick” schemes. Get enlightened quick, I guess.

But I never found myself willing to practice or pick a pathway or a discipline. I just wanted to work it all out myself using all the available resources.

And I’m not entirely wrong

And yeah, I’m not entirely wrong. I’ve seen in other areas of life like Kung Fu a similar struggle to master or attain an answer to my questions.

The answer eventually came. I just made it more of a struggle than it needed to be. A lot more.

Desperation doesn’t yield results. If we want answers we have to be in the right mode to receive them.

My spiritual quest is therefore two things. It’s an actual path of learning, experience, and progress; and it’s a massive assertion of control as well. It’s my attempt to force reality to comply with my wishes. It’s a hammer I use to feel like I’m shaping my life the way I want it to be.

That second part just doesn’t work at all.

And it arises out of fear. It’s an action-pathway I took to assuage feelings of misalignment, hopelessness and powerlessness. It’s something I crafted to give me a sense of being more than the dismal world I saw around me, to be more than the disappointing self I seemed to be.

Reconciliation

I can give up the spiritual struggle, and profound thoughts and wisdom will probably still appeal to me.

I’ll probably still be someone who cares about meaning and purpose and existence.

What I want to stop doing is using my spiritual search as the answer to negative feelings of fear and insecurity. Because it isn’t an answer, just a course of action, an assertion of control that hinges on an outcome.

Those negative feelings need to be acknowledged and faced on their own terms, not silenced and avoided with vague promises of enlightenment and transformation.

Owning up to feelings of envy and jealousy, inferiority and shame, insecurity and fear can be really tough. But letting them fester in the background doesn’t nullify them either.

And with the Abraham-Hicks teachings I’ve learned that these feelings aren’t bad: they’re guidance showing me that my thoughts, my vibration, is out of alignment with God/inner being.

That’s actually a good thing. Our negative feelings mean we’re looking at things in the wrong way.

In the past two and a half years I’ve practiced many tools for changing how I feel. I didn’t have these tools when I was younger. It makes sense that I would seize on the ideal of enlightenment to try to overcome those bad feelings.

But now I have the strength and the skills to face them directly and soothe them. I can accomplish real vibrational change instead of looking for escape.