How did you get past the ‘gray zone’?
I’m curious whether any of you have had the problem I’ve been having, and how you got past it.
The problem, I think, doesn’t have to do with my understanding of the Course. The Course makes sense to me at a deeply intuitive level. It answers basically all my questions.
The problem, rather, is this: I think I’m what you’d call spiritually arid. (There’s a Wikipedia for it, apparently: Spiritual dryness.) I’ve never had a moment of revelation, which means, among other things, that I have no memories of revelation that I could use to propel me onward. I’d call myself spiritual, but my spirituality is virtually 100% intellectual and 0% emotional.
More and more every day, I feel that the things of the world can no longer give me pleasure. Even less-obvious stuff, stuff that could itself be regarded as wholesome if not spiritual, like music. No, nothing gives me pleasure anymore, but in a good way: the jig is up for the ego; it has no more alluring tricks for me, and I’m happy to be rid of the illusion. OK, so far so good — next stop, the Kingdom.
At regular intervals, then, I fall into a spiritually productive groove: I’m healthy, my mind is serene, I spend my free time reading the Course, etc. On the level of form, I’m doing everything right.
But it takes time to get to the Kingdom (or at least it seems to take time, subjectively). So inevitably, I start to feel a deep spiritual boredom, and that’s when I picture myself as trekking glumly through the Gray Zone. It’s a big, gray desert of nothingness, where there’s really nothing to attract me, nor even to repulse me (especially the better I get at forgiveness). Nothing is the key term. On the level of form, my days are full; spiritually, though, they feel empty of content. There seems to be nothing for me to react to emotionally or spiritually. There’s just nothing.
(And just to be clear, I’m not talking about depression of any kind or severity. I know my mind well enough to be able to say that for sure.)
Far in the distance is the Kingdom, and I do have faith that I’ll get there eventually. (Again, yes, I know that I’m already ‘there,’ and that the work that seems to take time is simply a matter of perception.) But right now, I’m stuck in the Gray Zone. And the only remedy, the only way to shake myself loose from that increasingly intolerable boredom, seems to be to fall back into the ego’s realm. In my case, that means drinking, playing mindless videogames, consuming trash internet, judging others, etc. After a day or two of that, I feel reinvigorated enough to step back out on my journey toward the Kingdom. But there’s always the Gray Zone to trek through, and so the cycle repeats. That deep spiritual boredom always sets in: I don’t walk around and see God’s Kingdom in the frolicking of woodland creatures; I walk around, vaguely content with myself for behaving well, but feeling nothing.
I suppose I’m just wondering these things: Has anyone here ever experienced a similar era? If so, what was it like for you? How long did it last? And how did you get through it?
Thank you for sharing. How lovely.
Boredom is a disguise for something else. What I call “the treadmill” which is an obstacle to true and deep rest.
If I ever catch myself ‘bored’, I immediately cease all activity that isn’t strictly necessary for bodily maintenance. No leisure activity of any kind until boredom is utterly extinguished. As per Jesus’ guidance, I’m not even allowed to drink herbal tea while ‘bored’. Water or orange juice are okay.
Edit: Boredom is the ego trying to put you off. It says “do something! Do ANYTHING!” Aren’t you curious to see what happens if you don’t? Boredom is the sign that you’re close to something worth finding. If not, why would the ego need to ward you away with ‘boredom’? You can follow the trend of the ego’s various defences as you would follow a nice smell towards good food. The more overt the defence, the closer you are. Boredom is an excellent find, it means you’re going in the right direction. So you can experiment a bit, see which activities get the most bored/uncomfortable reaction, and keep doing them in the hopes of something even more overt than boredom.
I’m going to dive into your two blog posts later, but for now I just wanted to thank you. It’s good to see someone else who’s grappling with this very same issue.
I have long thought it strange that sitting and doing nothing, which you’d think would be literally the easiest thing in the world (I mean, how much energy does nothing require?), is among the hardest, at least for me. This rule of yours seems downright paradoxical — “No leisure activity of any kind until boredom is utterly extinguished” — since the everyday line of thinking would be that leisure activity is precisely what extinguishes boredom. But I sense very deeply that you’re right about this.
I’ve been trying to work in mini-exercises along these lines: any time I’d normally distract myself for a moment (such as by getting out my phone), I just sit and think generally about God and His Kingdom. But where I’ve got a mini-exercise, you’ve got an entire routine and thought-system.
That edit is especially inspirational. Thank you!
Boredum and a sense of being driven are the same thing. It’s the impulse to change the world (magic) instead of the mind (miracle).
See T-18.VII I Need Do Nothing
This rule of yours seems downright paradoxical — “No leisure activity of any kind until boredom is utterly extinguished”
Yes. It goes against everything the world teaches. But, to be clear, this idea of giving up leisure activities, is built on the idea of giving up all work. I am forbidden from work even when I’m not bored. Only leisure activities for me.
And this discipline is built on the idea of finding whatever I least want to do and say, and doing or saying it, and also refraining from doing anything that I’m afraid not to do. Which, needless to say, has been an excercise in willingness.
And all that was inspired by Radical Honesty, in which you tell the truth, in ways that totally undermine the ego’s whole survival strategy.
For a long time, I knew that the only limitation on my growth, was my own unwillingness. There is always a way, for those who are willing.
It doesn’t usually take me long to find the limit of someone’s willingness.
But where I’ve got a mini-exercise, you’ve got an entire routine and thought-system.
It’s something I had to work up to. Willingness/courage/faith is like a muscle. You have to build it gradually, starting with non-scary excercises. That’s another way of saying that you have to forgive lots of seemingly separate and specific things before you can generalise forgiveness to “everything” or “everyone”.
When you get brave enough, you stop running away from forgiveness lessons, and start tracking them and hunting for them. It’s like, “okay, it’s cool that I can outwit the ego, but how can I trap it completely and roast it for dinner?” The goal of my excercises of late has not been to open the door to the Holy Spirit (which has long been open), but to close the door to the ego. To end the indecision. Finalise the choice for God. Give the ego nowhere to run, no wiggle room at all. What it would probably describe as torture (though literally nothing bad is happening).
But I can only do that because of the stage I’m at. You have to start where you are. Be ever so ever so gentle. Baby steps along the road of forgiveness (and don’t forget it’s always your own innocence you uncover).
That was a ramble.
Freyr adds a personal tangent
This converation (after replying to your original post) got me thinking about my own lesson here, so, thank you.
I realised today that I haven’t undone my special (love) relationship with reddit. I thought it was this subreddit (which I thought I was done with a while ago, but I keep coming back) but it’s actually reddit as a platform that I have a special love relationship with. When that’s undone, maybe I won’t feel the need to contribute my time and attention to it anymore. I have a peaceful feeling about this. It is quite delightful. This is a happy ending (or the beginning of something new - I never know what will happen next).
Thank you for inspiring a shift of perception.
You’re welcome, of course!
Regarding these two posts:
Yes, I imagine that this willingness practice of yours would help to level the hierarchy, or rather to show that there is no hierarchy of ‘productive’ vs. ‘non-productive’ activities. In short, that the thought “Man, why don’t I stop wasting time and start actually doing something with my life?” is a trap — it’s the treadmill.
And your “ramble” on ending the indecision and finally choosing God is inspirational to me. Another user suggested that I don’t want peace as much as I think I do, and perhaps that’s just it: I’ve been waffling; I haven’t finally chosen.
Regarding your two blog posts (“Learning how to rest (treadmill)” and “Not even leisure activities”):
Thanks so much for linking me to these. So much of it rings true for me. Your willingness to self-analyze deeply is also inspirational, especially since I think I’m ready to self-analyze to a similar degree.
Apologies for forcing you to step around an ego-trap I’ve set, but here are some things I loved in particular:
- That bit about how realizing what you don’t need anymore is often like walking backwards;
- Your self-awareness of sometimes “writing for others/the ego,” which is a good example, I imagine, of the sort of subtle things you find when you start going after the ego’s tricks rather than waiting around for them;
- The point about not teaching, which is well taken. That’s one thing I’m currently trying to banish — this recurring half-formed fantasy of teaching others;
- This: “However, the Treadmill is tricksy. It will try to turn everything into an achievement, including ‘overcoming the treadmill.’” Oddly enough (and perhaps dangerously?), I’ve come to appreciate the ego’s wiliness; it really can turn seemingly anything to its favor. E.g. the thought of the necessity of killing off the ego can, within milliseconds, lead to a moment of pride: “I’m pretty good at reminding myself to kill off the ego, aren’t I?” And your treadmill post, especially the “Sayings of the Treadmill” section, is a menagerie of such clever tricks.
One final thought: it seems to me that much of these two posts is related to the Theosophical (and thus Eastern) notion that one of the steps on the Path of Discipleship is to relinquish attachment to the fruits of one’s actions. Once one does that, the impetus for most action simply withers and dies.
the thought “Man, why don’t I stop wasting time and start actually doing something with my life?” is a trap
Yes exactly! It’s really the ego saying “woah you’re getting close to God, you’d better get out of here”. What the ego calls a waste of time, is salvation. Salvation is the ego’s discomfort.
Another user suggested that I don’t want peace as much as I think I do
I think that was me, but then I edited it out, because I thought it unkind (while I would not condmen anyone for not wanting peace yet, you don’t know me, so you might take it as a judgement)
I haven’t finally chosen.
There’s really no rush.
this recurring half-formed fantasy of teaching others;
I know right! It’s a train I have to keep getting off, over and over. And then I find myself back on it! I have made some breakthroughs in the last few months (none of which I’ve written about). Something from the Disappearance of the Universe that I’ve taken to heart on deeper and deeper levels: “The biggest advances are not made by being a great teacher; they are made by being a great student.” And that’s more and more what I want now. I want to be a great student. I realise the value in this. I want to use every situation for my own selfish learning. I think a big obstacle to this way of thinking, was my own sense of ‘duty’. And also I guess, the need for life here as a body to be meaningful other than for forgiveness.
relinquish attachment to the fruits of one’s actions.
Oh yes, non-attachment to outcomes.
Once one does that, the impetus for most action simply withers and dies.
That’s not quite right in my experience. When boredum/escape-focussed activity abates, a clear direction presents itself to me. A singular, specific action to perform, or more a sort of flow of actions without choice or control or attachment to outcomes. Everything just sort of happens automatically and without strain or effort.
But I guess you’re right. They aren’t the same things. For example, there’s an email I keep wanting to reply to, but it isn’t time for that. It may never be time.
Edit: Oh, here’s a great example: I have a temptation to message you privately and be like “hey, if you ever want to…” – that’s about as far as the thought gets before I smell a rat. The words “if you” are a familiar sign of attachment to outcomes - wanting things to go a certain way, not wanting to lose what I think are good opportunities for learning but in fact are just ways of perpetuating specialness. When I investigate, I find a special love relationship, for which the solution is inner celebration of the special love object (that’s you). When I forget to celebrate (which is almost always), I find myself reaching out to people, and it gets me into no end of trouble.
So, I am just watching the inner temptation now. The demand “not to let precious opportunities (for specialness needs to be met) slip away!” The longer I watch, without acting on it, the more fascinating it gets. It makes all my favourite movies and TV seem boring. Watching the ego (in your own mind) is the best entertainment there is.