Review I wrote for Vibrance magazine:
In Jim Dreaver's new book End Your Story, Begin Your Life, he gives the key to inner peace and eventual enlightenment: dis-identifying with the "stories" that we think make us who and what we are. The basic practice, which keeps us grounded in our true state of being, is stepping back with our awareness. This reminder is given throughout the book in various forms, i.e.: "Do it now. Step back with your awareness...Stay in this place of pure, witnessing awareness, and the story loses its power over you."
The litmus test of awakening or enlightenment, he asserts, is in how we deal with
life's difficult changes and challenges--what Hamlet referred to as "the slings
and arrows of outrageous fate." The mantra given in the book when facing such
difficulties is: "Ah, I welcome, or at least accept, the presence of this conflict in my life. It is showing me where I am not yet free." As an example, he relates his own experience of having three strokes within several months (which according to him, came out of the blue), each worse than the last. Rather than allowing himself to fall into fear, he was able to retain his stability and inner peace, as he knew himself as pure consciousness that is never born and never dies. Secure in this understanding, he was able to marshall his energies and focus them on his healing. The book itself is a
testament to his success.
In the chapter on love ("Each Day Becomes Rich In Love"), Dreaver also shares
his journey through pain and anger after his girlfriend left him for another man. She had lied to him about her affair, and he felt betrayed. But with time and focused
intention, he was able to let go of his story about her and their relationship. He moved on, having reached a state of peace, understanding and acceptance.
Our suffering becomes something useful to us, an "agenda for being present," as he puts it: "The power in adopting a truly welcoming attitude is that it indicates that you accept where you are right now. You may not like it but you accept it. Acceptance, in turn, brings an immediate relaxation, an ease of being and an allowing that may then open the door for the shift in perception called awakening."
Dreaver studied with the Advaita Vedanta teacher Jean Klein, who he frequently
refers to throughout the book. The ultimate teaching of this path is that there is
actually no individual "person" or independent self. "The psychological entity we take ourselves to be doesn't really exist, except as an idea, a story, a fictional creation between our ears. " According to this teaching, up until the age of two we were psychologically free; the "fall from grace" equates to identifying with and believing in our "self" and our stories (including our belief systems). Suffering drops away when we return to our natural state as pure consciousness; in that state, there is nothing in us to resist the flow of life, and there is literally no "person" that can suffer. It all comes down to freeing ourselves from duality and experiencing our Oneness on a deep level. He quotes Kunihiro Yamate on our oneness with all "others" who are "actually mirror reflections of our own self."
Indeed there is an "own self," an individual and distinctive self, albeit one that is in a state of constant change. I feel we can release attachment to the stories, while still experiencing them as real in their own right. That's part of what makes life interesting, I feel. At the same time, I agree that for many, perhaps most of us, the ego (the face we show the world) has become a "counterfeit self" and should never be taken as who we really are.
Jim Dreaver's vision is that connecting with our essence, through disidentifying with our stories and our egos, will ultimately lead to the much-prophesied shift from separation to unity consciousness, from conflict to peace, from fear to love. I fully agree with this perspective, and I am sure that those who embrace the teachings in the book will be among those leading the way in this transformation.