The Transcendence Models
Related to the immortality and bliss models, we have the transcendence models, which essentially promise that you will have the best of both worlds—you will get to be in the world while not of the world, be able to enjoy all pleasant things while being immune to pain and difficulty, and thus live in a protected state of partial, selective transcendence. A lot of people try to emulate such a state in their practice. When presented with suffering they either look away from it or try to make their attention so broad or vague that they don’t notice it or really allow it in, and when pleasant things arise they try to hang on to those experiences and increase or expand them. While this is a perfectly natural thing to do, it is the exact reverse of insight practice, and yet they may deeply feel that this is practicing for the transcendence they have been promised.
As stated earlier, the predictable and obvious truth is that transcendence is bought at the price of a very deep, direct intimacy with life, all of life, both “good” and “bad”. Similarly, this deep intimacy with life is bought at the price of transcendence, since the notion of a stable reference point that will be there to hold onto things will finally be gone. While everyone nearly automatically looks to the good side of both, few consider that realization brings a deep, direct experience of all that is painful, and the reluctant understanding of how hollow and fleeting pleasure is. We must be careful here, as I don’t advocate buying into either extreme. Our ordinary lives have all this already, so don’t look for something that is different from what is going on.
Instead, examine your life as it is and see the three characteristics of it directly, instant by instant: this is the gateway to the resolution of the strange paradox that all this is pointing to.