What Is Enlightenment?
People love miracles and shows of power. Even a whiff of the spectacular makes us perk up and take notice. The more awe-inspiring the tales of power, the greater the numbers that flock to sit at their feet. You see this with the Eastern masters as well as the Christian saints. We expect an enlightened person to be flawless, to heal incurable conditions, have the ability to be buried underground for many months, or to manifest watches, pull food from the air, change gross metal into gold, fast for 40 days and be able to withstand any hardship. It’s no wonder why there’s tremendous confusion about what it means to attain enlightenment.
If enlightenment isn’t about performing miracles, shunning sex and money, or being able to be buried underground for a year, then what is it?
First of all, I don’t even like the word. I prefer awakening, since waking up to our true nature is all that’s really happening.
Awakening is when living life is a gift. Your heart becomes more loving and open, and your inner senses turn on. You feel grounded in your body, you stop fighting and toiling, you let go of control, and experience peace and joy for no reason except that you are blissfully alive.
Awakening is an inner shift where you become aware and perceive life through the inner eyes. People speak of enlightment as if it were a huge attainment. That’s a spiritual joke because there’s nothing to attain that we don’t already possess. We just have to realize what we are.
All of us have glimmers of awakening all throughout the day. If you go out at night, the moon is full, there’s dew on the grass and a slight breeze whips up, suddenly you’re completely enchanted by nature. Your mind shuts off, your body falls away. The inner part, your real self, is awake, aware, witnessing life. As pure consciousness you are in perfect joy.
But then the mind clicks in quickly, thought ensues, like an alligator’s jaw clamping down, and you are right back into the ego mind. It all happened so quickly you missed the gap of time where you were awakened. It doesn’t even register. Giving to others is another way to feel a glimmer of happinesss. Giving, of course, takes the attention off yourself.
The more introverted one is to their seperate ego self, the more tight and nervous one is. Sickness may introvert so that all that can be thought of is your pain. Ambition may be another. What you want to do is so important it keeps you introverted in yourself. Introversion in your ego self is a prison, and behind the bars one is never really in blissful joy.
The glimmers you may get from times that you feel more open are pale reflections of the incredible high you get from true awakening, when the boundaries between yourself and life disappear and you have the experience of being one with life, you will never be the same. It’s not a metaphor, or any technique that involves prayer, belief, or faith. It’s an actual experience.
Enlightened people are described as being clear. Clear, in this case, is not a description, but an energetic reality. A clear person has untied the inner knots, removed obstructions in their inner circulation, and so people feel good, just sitting in their presence. This is represented in all the pictures of the Eastern Saints. The Halo of Christian saints represent the same clarity.
The Internal Switch
To be clear is not an outer phenomena, but an inner one. Inner knots are untied and the energy field becomes unobstructed. This process happens not only to spiritual masters, but to warriors and people of all walks of life. The same phenomena occurs regardless of what prayer or meditation is used, whether one is vegetarian or meat eater, whether one believes in one god, many gods, or none at all.
Obviously, it’s not so much what one does on the outside. Rather, an internal switch is thrown, consciousness wakes up on the inside, and the increased energetic activity stirs up repressed emotions––obstructions––that are stuck. The process of untangling is rarely smooth and has the potential to severely imbalance the person undergoing the transformation. It’s the basis of the spiritual struggle.
Method Or Non Method?
One may awaken at any time, for seemingly no reason, and with or wthout method. But there is one truth: one awakens when they are ready. Some spiritual masters insist that methods are useless for awakening, and in the deepest sense they are right. However, if there is no method, most will have no inlking what to do. Most need a place to start.
Methods such Qigong, meditation, and yoga begin with effort. They are brilliant because they give you something to do that is not only extremely beneficial, but also occupies your mind. They make you healthy, promote calmness and poise, and give you tools for harmonizing with life. These methods are, in a sense, providing you with the expected prerequisites or conditions necessary so that awakening may flower. Just as you would give quality soil and water for plants to grow well, these arts help to make you strong, loving, more sensitive and aware. But developing your energetic body is not synonomous with awakening. Though it may be complimentary, it is a seperate phenomena. One can awaken without being physically healthy. But why not have it all?
Awakening Comes When You’re Ready
When you practice Tibetan Tantra, Kundalini Tantra, or certain forms of Qigong, much greater energy begins to flow through your energy body. The extra flow of energy is much like the spring rains make a river swell and overflow its banks. Trees uproot, rocks tumble down the river, and the land gets rearranged. With the increased flow of Qi in the energy body, all the emotions get dredged to the surface. All the repressed emotions that have been hidden away are now in your face, and clearing them is essential.
In Kundalini tantra, it is said that the chakras (the energy centers) must be purified before the energy rises to the next level on its final route to the crown chakra. What this means is there is no way to bypass facing your demons and fears. One must go inside and pierce their darkest shadows and litterally untangle thier own shock. (The untying of the inner knots are what makes one ready for surrender.)
There is never a guarantee that a yogi or meditator will become awakened. In fact, most don’t. Those who diligently cling to methods will bypass true surrender, and therefore never quite awaken. With methods, one is performing an action, there is a trying… a goal to accomplish.
The Point Of Surrender
As one gets deeper and deeper, there comes a point where effort shifts markedly into surrender. There’s no choice, it has to be a total let go. This “death” experience is the surrender of ego, a transition of the separate self into oneness with all life. Surrender can’t be intellectualized or philosophized. It is not a method but a true giving up of all control.
After the let go, you will never be the same, hence the expression “you have to die before you can really live.” The famous Zen koan: “Before enlightenment chop wood carry water. After enlightenment chop wood carry water,” is brilliant. After you wake up, your outer life is the same. You still have work, deadlines, and problems to solve. But now the chopping wood and carrying water are a profound gift, all of life becomes a celebration because you see with your original eyes.
Some paths say to kill the ego. It’s not that the ego is destroyed, the ego will always be there as a shadow. You just don’t take your ego-self too seriously any more. The ego is de-throned as master. Consciousness, your real self, takes it’s rightful place as captain of the ship.
9 steps of unlearning:
• An inner, non-intellectual decision is made that you want truth and freedom more than you want to protect yourself.
• Accepting where you are now.
• Activating the witness. (Discover your inner self and learn to stay in the body.)
• The unlearning process. (Observe your mind until you see the non reality of it, and stop following it like the pied piper.)
• Observe your shunting mechanisms. (The comfort-seeking devices you use to distract yourself from your mind.)
• Penetrating fear and shock. (Shock is the deepest elemental fear. You learn to enter it and see that’s it’s not real.)
• The cliff. (The moment of truth: either let go to bliss or shunt and continue to be tortured by the mind.)
• Surrender. (Letting go of the self; like a river emptying into the sea, you become one with life.)
• Stop Toiling. (The deep realization that you don’t need to create conflict brings peace. You stop fighting with others, yourself, and life itself. You become a heart-centered, spontaneous person, your vision becomes clear and you know your path in life.)