In this 20-minute audio clip, Craig explores one of the fundamental obstacles to authentic spiritual awakening: the fact that deep down, most of us don’t really believe that profound change is possible. For reasons rooted in our ancient evolutionary past, we’re wired to see ourselves, the world, and reality as fixed, static, unchanging.
In this short workshop, Craig guides you through a series of contemplations and practices designed to help you break “the spell of solidity” and open your heart and mind to the unimaginable possibility of genuine spiritual enlightenment.
Below the audio is an edited transcript of the talk, if you’d prefer to engage the content in that way.
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Despite peak experiences that show us how life could be, most of us still find that day-to-day challenges pull us back into our old, unenlightened habits. But what if your entire life could become a spiritual practice—and a spiritual experience? What if every relationship, every moment at work, every minute at play could be infused with a profound sense of purpose and the freedom and clarity of enlightened awareness?
In this 90-minute audio workshop with spiritual teacher Craig Hamilton, you’ll discover the simple shift that can transform your spiritual practice and open the door to an awakened life.
A big part of our exploration in our evolutionary laboratory has been into understanding what the real obstacles are to the higher potential becoming fully manifest and then developing effective spiritual practices to help us step beyond these obstacles once and for all so that we can fully embody this extraordinary possibility.
One of the interesting things we’ve found is that although all of us have a lot of little habits and tendencies that seem to be obstacles on our spiritual path, most of these are actually red herrings. This means that the things that we tend to think are obstructing us on the path aren’t really what gets in our way. Not in a deeper sense. In other words, if we were to list what we see as the internal obstacles on the path, we might put things like laziness or a busy mind or a lack of focus or a lack of will. While any of those things can be a challenge on the path, they aren’t really the biggest obstacles to growth.
The first major obstacle to our higher evolution is going to sound rather mundane, but its implications are actually incredibly far-reaching and they affect all of us to a person. It has to do with our assumptions about change. You see, deep down, most of us don’t really believe that profound change, radical change, extraordinary change is actually possible. I’m not saying we’re cynical. I’m talking about even those of us who are really optimistic and hopeful and positive.
What I’m talking about is that whenever we think about trying to change something or about reaching for a higher possibility, because of the way we’ve evolved, most of us tend to assume things are much more fixed, much more static, much more unchanging than they actually are. It’s part of how we’re wired. During the vast eons of our early evolution, things changed so slowly that in one person’s lifetime it seemed like nothing was changing at all. Technology didn’t change. You had the same stone tools when you were born as you did when you died. You ate the same food. You saw the same people. There was no real change visible other than just a person growing up.
So essentially we’re deeply wired to look at the world around us and the world within us and see it as something that is standing still, that is not moving. Carter Phipps published a wonderful book a few years ago called “Evolutionaries” in which he explores this emerging evolutionary worldview that a lot of us are so excited about. If you haven’t read it, I strongly encourage you to check it out.
In this book he named the very thing I’m talking about. He called it the “spell of solidity.” His point was that even though we all believe in evolution in some way, there is a deeper more persistent belief that the world we live in is static. The world is unchanging, and so are we. Even today when technology is changing at such a rapid rate, we still tend to assume things are much more fixed and unchanging than they actually are.
For instance, on a societal level, when we look out at the many problems facing humanity in the world right now, whether it’s ending poverty, stopping human trafficking, dealing with climate change, we tend to see these issues as intractable and unfixable. Or on a cultural level, when we look at things like human greed, self-interest, cruelty, violence, they all seem so deeply rooted in our human nature that we have a hard time imagining how these things could ever really change. It’s human nature after all, right? So they say.
Similarly, on an individual level, when we take up efforts to try to change our own consciousness and our own behavior, we also tend to assume that our own nature is much more permanent and unchanging than it actually is.
The reason we have a hard time imagining great change, as I said before, is that we’re wired to assume things are static. To put it slightly differently, it’s because we haven’t yet really let in the implications of evolution. Now, again, I know if I ask who here believes in evolution, everybody would probably raise their hand. But just because we believe in the theory doesn’t mean we’ve truly let it in, and faced and accepted all of its implications.
The fact that everything under the sun is always changing is only just beginning to sink in for most of us. In fact, it’s not just everything under the sun, it’s everything in the cosmos. Evolution isn’t just something that’s happening within the universe. The universe, properly understood, is a process of evolution. That includes you. You are also evolution.
What I’m saying is that in order to counter this spell of solidity, this assumption of stasis or limitation, we need to begin to open ourselves up to the reality that this whole cosmos, as static and as solid as it might appear, is in fact evolution in motion–and so are we. What this means in practice is that we need to constantly question the appearance of solidity and stasis, and realize that things are not as solid as they seem.
Let’s put this into practice. When you look around and you see something that seems stuck or immovable, take a step back to a larger timeframe. When you do this, you can see that it hasn’t always been this way and it won’t always be this way. Whatever it is, it’s going to change.
We have to realize that if you took a snapshot of the way things were at any point historically, you would have never imagined where they were going. Imagine if you had been present in the moments before the Big Bang when there was basically nothing going on and someone said, “Hey, pretty soon this is going to all blow up into this big huge cosmic fire.” You would have said, “Right. That’s preposterous. Nothing like that has ever happened before.”
Or imagine you were here about half a million years after the Big Bang when there were just chaotic burning gases flying around and no sign of order at all. If someone had said, “Hey, pretty soon all this chaos is going to start to organize itself into stars and galaxies,” that voice of limitation would have said, “Where’s the evidence for that? This is just burning chaotic gas.”
Or let’s say you were here about six billion years ago shortly before the emergence of life and all that existed was just dust and rocks and water, and someone had said, “Hey, believe it or not, pretty soon this amazing thing called life is going to explode into existence and it’s going to be green and lush. There will be plants and animals with eyeballs and teeth.” For something like that to be born out of basically just dust and rocks and water, would have seemed impossible.
Or even on a cultural level. Think back to when slavery was publicly condoned and accepted as a natural part of civilized life. Imagine how it seemed just a decade or two before slavery was abolished in the US. If you had said, “Slavery is going to become outlawed in a short time,” people would have said you were dreaming. It seemed impossible from that vantage point.
So to begin stepping out of this assumption of limitation or the spell of solidity, here’s a little practice that you can try. I want to invite you to take some time to think about the things in the world that seem the most intractable, the most immovable, the most unchanging and stuck, and just bring them to mind one at a time. For each, step back and look at it in evolutionary context, which means seeing each of these seemingly intractable issues as really just a current step in a progression of evolution.
You might all have different lists. I know some people will say, “Oh, there’s no way we can change things because corporate greed or the military industrial complex runs everything.” What does it mean to look at that in an evolutionary context?
We don’t have to step back very far to realize that corporations and big industry are relatively new inventions. They only came into existence within the last couple of hundred years as social inventions in response to a certain need and a certain opportunity. Are they going to stay the same way as they are now? No. They’re going to change over time as they fail to meet the needs of our changing world. That’s what drives evolution. Old structures don’t meet new needs, so they fall away and new structures are born. How long is that going to take? I don’t know. Is it going to happen? I guarantee it.
Or you might think about something like war. War has been around in some form pretty much from the beginning. We’ve had isolated moments here and there where it wasn’t happening. But what has changed? The number of people willing to go to war with each other is decreasing dramatically. It used to be that everyone was fighting everyone else. In his book “Guns, Germs, and Steel” the anthropologist Jared Diamond said there was a time when if you encountered a member of another tribe in the woods there were only two responses. Either you would try to kill them or you’d run away from them before they killed you.
Now we have alliances and treaties and economic partnerships between most of the human race. How long will it be before we no longer go to war with each other? I don’t know. But if you look at the gradual trajectory, it seems quite certain that we’re going to get there eventually.
Now, you might wonder what all this has to do with spirituality and your own transformation. I’ve been talking a lot about societal evolution. Well, the reality is that when it comes to our own transformation and awakening, most of us have a hard time imagining how dramatically things can change for us as well. We’ve had a certain experience of life up to this point and tend to think things will remain more or less the same, even if we’ve already changed in a lot of positive ways over time.
When it comes to the possibility of spiritual transformation, most of us can’t really conceive of how radically our own consciousness, our own experience of living, and our own response to life could shift. Part of the reason is that we aren’t really in touch with how much we’ve already changed in our life. It’s just a funny thing about human psychology. When we look back in our memory and try to remember what it was like to be 10 years old or 20 years old or some younger age, we tend to re-imagine that event as though the person we are now was having that experience back then. But that’s not what was happening. We’re a profoundly different person than we were when we were at age 10 or 20.
We’re in a process of emergence. In fact, it would probably be more accurate to say that we are a process of emergence. Anything you could say about the kind of person you are or what defines you isn’t really a statement about how you are in any static or solid sense. It’s just a statement about how you are now. You’re fluid. You’re a process. You’re not a stable, unchanging thing.
I know that that can be a little disconcerting to the part of ourselves that imagines us to be a permanent static being. But if you can stay with it a bit, you’ll start to feel the thrill of being in motion. That’s what’s really true about us. We’re in motion. We’re a process of unfolding. It’s much more exciting than just being a static entity anyway. And it’s true.
It’s only when we can begin to open to this reality of unending change that we can really make room for the possibility of dramatic transformation. So I’m inviting us all to look at ourselves through evolutionary eyes for a moment in order to make room for the kind of awakening and transformation that we’re exploring here today. From this evolutionary perspective, I want to invite you to consider that the highest possibilities you sense for yourself are also real, living possibilities. They’re visions and glimpses of who you can become, of how extraordinary life can be. We need to be true to them.
I already mentioned one practice you can do to begin to work on this assumption of limitation, and there’s a second practice I want to leave you with. There are two parts to it.
First, I want to invite you to become what I call an evolutionary detective, doing evolutionary detective work on yourself. This means going through your day (and your life) noticing all the ways that you’re buying into this spell of solidity or this presumption that things really can’t change. Notice all the ways it shows up in your own experience every day. Just pay attention. You can document it if you want. If you’re really a rigorous detective, you can write it down and begin to study it.
The second thing is: whenever you notice this assumption of limitation asserting itself, take some time to look at the situation through evolutionary eyes. Expand the timeframe and realize that radical change has always been going on and whatever change you can envision is certainly possible if you’re willing to make room for it. I encourage you to engage in these practices both in relation to things in your outer life like your projects, your relationships, the world at large, etc. And also in relation to your own inner life, your own spiritual transformation.
The goal of this practice is to begin to live in what I call a consciousness of possibility; rather than an assumption of limitation.
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