From a friend who got me thinking on a subject I stay mute on…but now it’s nagging me. Thanks to the Reverend D’ for the kick…

We talk about enlightenment the same way we talk about a city where we have never been to. We think we know what it’s like and we build up many assumptions based on so very little actual knowledge or experience. So I ask you: if you are not enlightened, how is it that you are so sure that you even know what it is? It’s a fair question, one I’d like to dig into.

We think we know what it’s like to be enlightened and we draw assumptions from old (ancient, really) accounts. But here’s the thing; if you follow Gautama Buddha’s own experience, he discovered that once he did become enlightened, no one could tell he had been to that fabled city. He didn’t have crumbs on his shirt, a tell-tale sign, along with a dribble of mustard from those hotdogs they only sell there. It might sound silly to read my writing about mustard stains, but it’s just as silly how we determine whether a person is enlightened….or not. Like we know. 

The problem with a word like enlightenment is how it’s used. It‘s a poor descriptor for a much more involved experience. 

Enlightenment is much more like a divine spark that gets unleashed in your body, mind, and soul. It reaches into your tiniest places, clearing out the memory of shock and trauma (and all of our emotional reactions to them such as anger, rage,fear, jealousy, loathing, etc). It moves through the subatomic to your macrocosmic, and this takes time. It also preserves the most precious parts of you, like your humanity (which on the shadow side also means a total lack of those things!). It does this to the degree that you allow it to happen, and this is why we have such a range of development amongst the enlightened…if you still think that word is even useful to use…

That’s because the actual process of waking up is just that; a process. We step into that fabled city block by block, wary tip-toe by wary tip-toe most often. We hang along its borders for decades never fully aware that we were so close. We have peered over its gates never fully realizing that the lock on the gate is the lock inside of us, with no clue that there’s a key given to each of us. Awakening can be gradual, and it can come all at once. Some even get shot out of canons to get there, ejecting not just themselves, but their entire lives whether wanted or not.

I know this was the case for me. I was three years old and falling into these trances where I’d go out of my body and watch as souls came into this world to inhabit new bodies. I can also remember choosing my parents before being conceived, floating above the treeline looking down at them and being filled with this sense of joy about the love they had for each other. In the case of my “edge of the world” experiences where I watched souls coming into our world, it seemed for some  reason that a presence near me felt it was important for me to do, to witness. Why? And who has these experiences in full wakefulness? 

In later life my dream world would be full of my helping people who had died to get comfortably and safely to the other side. Weird for a mere earthling, maybe, but I suspect this was my awareness of my macrocosmic self, my higher self, who is off doing other things like this work of helping people come and go safely. The thing is, we all have things like this….but most aren’t aware. Through all of this, I hadn’t awakened. There is a reason why, and a word such as “enlightenment” can’t hope to explain why.

Awakening is, in part, about moving into a greater awareness of who and what you are. Now why didn’t I wake up at three years old? I was seeing energy in my teens, I was an ardent seeker, wasn’t I? I KNEW there was more. Why didn’t I find it until later in life? I now know that awakening is brought forward through a subtle trigger that relies on a number of conditions to be met. It’s what keeps so much of this shrouded in mystery for some, which is an invitation for people to formulate theories about it without knowing much more beyond the fact that it’s a thing. “Enlightenment” feeds our need to quantify and put everything in a box so we can move on with our lives. The problem is, enlightenment changes the lives we want to get back to, and it also won’t stay in the box. 

One misconception centered around awakening is an idea that it grants you a kind of perfection. In fact, those who do become enlightened are still stuck with dealing with their unsettled accounts, and this is about our being all so human. I think people expect enlightenment to change you so that you get this irrevocable branding of your spirit that guarantees against only being…..perfect…and smelling of a lovely scent or something. But the truth is more nuanced. People will fall in love with the idea of enlightenment, and this is what is popularly known as “the stink of enlightenment.” It’s a hard term to use because it can be misunderstood as much as enlightenment as a word is not well understood. I’m about broadening our awareness, breaking down old cognitive barriers in order to see more clearly so we can be clear with ourselves. So lets do some expanding of awareness and tear down a few misconceptions!

Those who awaken begin to learn, however hard it may be, how to accept this world in all of its messed up colors and tones. More and more, those who are awake contribute less and less to aberrant behavior because it chokes off the bliss that is the experience. It is the bliss that is what heals all manner of dysfunctions, neurosis and the desire to firebomb their neighbors homes, or to engage in the kinds of behavior that are hallmarks of our lives here. When the bliss truly heals, it’s as though the old impulse from the shadow self has simply vanished. It doesn’t need to be controlled, it no longer exists to be a concern for “getting a handle on.” You miraculously give up-permanently-what “hooked” you and sent you into fits of rage or upset because someone wronged you, or behaved a certain way, or that the world short-handed you. No, for the first time, maybe in your whole life, one by one, the knots and triggers are released. It is truly salvation and it leads from being spiritually dead to spiritually vibrant. But this takes time. Being reborn in this way is a major project despite what the fairy tales say. It is, instead, “the great work.”

I have personally disliked the term. I dislike it because it leads to so much misunderstanding. It’s like the term “ascension” which sounds as much like a fairy tale as the rapture where people are supposed to—voom—get sucked up in the clouds, no clothes, while really bad stuff happens here on earth. I mean…really??? The amazing thing is how many people who have awakened buy into this idea that our molecules will magically shift into another dimensional aspect when the time comes. The problem with this thought is that it misses that we are already there. We are already multidimensional. Now do the work so you can be aware of it! 

Further still, religions all claim a handle on enlightenment while tending to say that their brand is the only worthy one, and some insert scary things to keep their flocks from departing for more heathen fields. But lucky for us, religions were created after enlightenment was a thing, so this condition really is available to all and predates all belief. It is also a destroyer of belief. 

Enlightenment destroys belief because you don’t have to believe in it to know it. You are also equipped with a new panoply of tools that makes inquiring into the mysteries of life possible. You don’t have to rely on belief, you can inquire. You can know. What everyone finds are the errors inherent in belief, and that belief serves as a veil to authentic knowledge or experience. Hence, in most traditions the entry into the fabled land of enlightenment involves “secret knowledge.” Its only secret because people have never bothered to inquire, to do the work, or to illuminate themselves. You don’t find out any of these things outwardly because they cannot be discerned through the physical senses. This is why the living will always feel an emptiness when someone dies; their physical senses tell them that physical life has ended here. Physical senses do not have the capacity to show you what is beyond. The physical senses are made from physical matter and are not made to sense beyond it. 

People believe that this city is real where people go to be enlightened. They believe in it because they really don’t know anything about it, so belief stands in for authentic knowledge. People want to believe that there is an afterlife, but they won’t ever bother to inquire or do the work that would render belief unnecessary. Do you see what I mean? Why use belief as a substitute for knowledge or experience? There are cultures where this inquiry is considered healthy and normal, expected, even. These cultures trust inner experience because this is where the inner senses emerge. But to use these senses, you have to begin to know how to use them and also to trust your experience. Now I ask you, in Western culture, where is it that we pay slip service to this realm within?

What is even more curious is that when people do seek to inquire, it tends to fall outside the norms of religious thinking or belief so that it falls under mobbing criticism, or bias. It’s no wonder enlightenment has been so rare on our planet. 

We believe it’s like a place we have never been, and once someone has gone there, we argue over whether they really even got there. And all along its not a place “out there” but a place within, taking up no space, no time, and thus serves making discussing it here nearly impossible. Imagine what happens to millions of souls who die only to find that heaven is a state of mind, not a place that you go. Taking up no space, unbound by time, where do you think the soul goes? 

This experience is infinite, ineffable. To know it, you can’t grasp it with your hand, but once you open your hand (your innermost being) it flows like all the rivers of earth flowing there, or all the sands of the deserts. Try to grasp it, and all you get is a little bit of grit, or a drop of water.  How anyone thinks you can apply normal rational thinking to this is beyond me. And trying to understand it without having known it is like a flock of parrots all copying each other…repeating words that are sounds with no comprehension of their meaning. There are many people who do this, and the sign is that they quote everyone but do not formulate ideas beyond rehashing, often with grave distortions, the words of others whose wisdom was being conveyed by the words. The difference is like the difference between a Walt Whitman poem and reading the instruction sheet for how to sow fescue grass for your yard. And it isn’t even that one is poetic while the other is not; one is capable of carrying you right into the ineffable while the other will never dream of doing so. One contains wisdom while one includes instruction. One has a soul carried by a body while the other is a corpse. 

Since enlightenment comes by degree, so too does wisdom. 
The great secret and great gift is that it’s in everyone, and it’s yours when you are ready. You do not even need to believe in it to gain it. Having attained it is the essence of all religion and it requires no belief, no incantations, prayers or mantras no matter what any teacher may have told you. Since it can ask more from you than you can give, it is normal to find the bubbling spring that is in each of us where the source of our lives spring because it is the supporter of all life and vitality. For anyone drinking from it, they will know that to seek to ascribe a name or deity of one kind over another is like a blasphemy. It is beyond all description. That’s how fabulous it is. And since it emerges into you, it becomes your teacher, your priest, your priestess, guru, or friend, and it guides insofar as you are willing to listen to it. It could care less about labels.

Enlightenment here is rare because once it comes, people tend not to remain here for very long. Those who do, often return as teachers and we tend to wrap religions around them. These are rare individuals who remain concerned about the situation here, working to improve our understanding of just what we are capable of. While we want to call them saviors or gurus, each of them try to point out that the real deliverance resides inside of us. The less successful religions or schools put the responsibility on someone else’s shoulders because that’s how bad things have gotten here when it comes to self accountability.  It is also completely expected until one is struck by the light. 

The best way to enlightenment is to accept that you do not know, that there is no rational method for grasping it. Accept that you do not know, then cease with all belief because it does not exist in belief. It exists in direct experience, and this experience is not guided by the rational. 

Once you have that down, then remove what divides you inwardly. Give up hate, give up your grudges, give up what frustrates you. When you do enough of this kind of work, along with meditation focused on feeling for that ineffable well-spring I mentioned, it is like removing stones from the path of that bubbling spring within you. In time, removing one stone can lead to the water of life creating a cascade of stones that fall away, which are composed mostly of stuck emotion and limiting beliefs about yourself and what you think you are. Until you remove stones like those, you will never fully know the wildness of the universe now alive in you. This is called cosmic consciousness.

This is not a Hindu or Taoist, Christian, Muslim, or Zoroastrian experience. Regardless of culture or belief, the result is the same, minus whatever your belief system serves to limit you in your readiness for embracing the cosmologicaly-scaled ramifications of such an event. This is why an enlightened person can read the words of another enlightened person and relate to it instantly instead of having an intellectual grasp of the material. 

The ancients had methods for assisting in this process, and some of them work when you are ready for what will come. Many are frightened by the rush of these life-giving waters that has no compunction about penetrating into every inch of your hidden inner self once the flood-waters are released. It will illuminate every inch of your shadow and this can be hard when you aren’t ready to relinquish it. It illuminates your thoughts, your greed, your jealousy, your sloth, as well as your sex. It doesn’t care and it has no shame. It heals as it goes. So anything you have been hiding will become known if you accept that this well-spring is something that you want in your life….or you simply turn around and it comes of its own accord. But however it comes, it saves, renews, and corrects as it goes. And yes, you can hold on to your shadow as long as you need, but it gets harder and harder the longer you do that. You can be awake while also being deluded with one foot in and one foot out.

Enlightenment has layers and levels to it. It isn’t a fabled city, and it doesn’t do everything you think it does. It does not require you to change anything about your personality, but it does lead you to many other changes that fit where you are with it.I t releases you from fear, all fear, since there is nothing that is that is not divine. There is no reason to fear anything in the world being a glitch in the creation. Trust in the creation in order to be a conscious co-creator with it. Do you know what this means?

 A shining truth in the beginning is seen later as one of millions of grains of sand on the shore. One summit is surpassed by still higher ones. But by being powerfully present, you can soak up a lot in each moment that this experience affords us in such a way that the error in emotion and belief is reformed. Great truths can be known, but the Tao remains in an unmovable place of silence as it’s presence looks out through all things. By sensing this presence, your life can change utterly because you attain the vigor that exists in the Tao which supports and invigorates all things. It is boundless and it’s power and grace is available to all—a power which is bound up in grace and beauty.By loving yourself, you have a direct line to the Tao, the Brahman, the God, and the Christ….within you.

People who say others are not enlightened tend to be the ones that aren’t focused on their own work. It’s easy to criticize and shut down others. We love to point out the more in our neighbors eye while ignoring the beam in our own. The great work happens when you focus inwardly such that the concerns or calamity in the world moves you less and less. When there is injustice, you can right wrongs, but you never right them by seeking vengeance. Correct a bad law, stand up for your brothers and sisters, show how love can conquer ignorance and how it heals all misunderstandings between us here. The path forward is not by the sword but by the heart. Tend to your own back yard before you point out the deficiency’s in others. I can promise you that you still have a mess yet to clean up on your end (and you may have been ignoring it).

The world is a bit of a mess, and it’s this way because we have forgotten who we are. We have forgotten that we each have a compass that tells us right from wrong, and we most often ignore that compass. So the best thing is to inquire within in order to find it. It is not found by way of rational inquiry but through every fiber of who you are; your feeling self knows and instead of being in the head, it is felt all through the body as an effervescent presence that is easy to drown out by focusing on the physical senses. You dont have to take my word for it.

Enlightenment is who we are. We have become estranged from ourselves such that we only know the outer appearances instead of the inner truth. If you want to know enlightenment, you can gain it but it will never come by reading about it. It’s attainment is much more simple than that. And who reading this will make it their imperative? I hope that you make it soon.