Before Enlightenment, The Invitation

Dock going out into the water.

People have asked me what led me to seek enlightenment and if there were any indications along the way that I was heading to that destination.

There were things happened along the way, though for me this never felt like a gradual process.

I was asleep one moment and awake another. It’s quite a stark contrast. However, when I was a Sleepwalker there were many times when something would pierce the veil of my dreamstate and communicate with me. I’ll start at the beginning…

One ring to rule them all.

Since I was a small child, there was this presence I will call The One. I would fall into a kind of trance where I could almost just perceive it. It told me, “I am The One. The one view, the one understanding that contains all views and all understandings and transcends them. I am the one single answer to every question. I am right here. Look. You will find me.”

The word One would drone in my head, like a self-generating mantra, for hours. My earliest memory of this is around 8, though in my memory, this wasn’t a new experience so it must have started earlier.

This was a constant throughout my childhood. As an adult, the verbal communication ceased, but the presence was still always there. This may seem really astonishing to some people, but I had lived with this all my life. It was always there, so it never felt foreign or “supernatural” or anything. It was a constant feature in my awareness.

I never bothered to give it a name. I didn’t think of it as something related to spirituality or God or enlightenment. I know that seems unlikely, especially being born in a Buddhist country and culture. But I never connected this with whatever the Buddha was banging on about. Nirvana, enlightenment, Clear Light, and all that, sounds really far away from our daily reality. It sounds nice, but very pie in the sky. And of course, these lofty ideals always come with the caveat that we have to be extraordinary to achieve them. We have to exhaust our karma, accumulate merit…for many lifetimes.

But this was imminent, not far away. It was easy, not hard. This was intimate, not remote. The One never said that it would be a struggle and I’d have to move mountains and shave my head and eat dust for ten years in a cave. Its message was that it was Obvious, and that I would find it. By looking. Not looking hard, not seeking, but just by seeing.

Where to look? Not through dusty old books or by siting in lecture halls. It was right in front of me, always. Just look.

It felt a bit maddening, yet at the same time I felt completely assured that I would eventually find it. It was a bit like forgetting a name, and trying to remember it. It’s on the very tip of your tongue and kind of driving you nuts because you know it, and it’s right there, but you can’t quite get hold of it. So you leave it, let it go and turn your attention elsewhere so that it can come to you. It’s just like that, only much more intense.

I had no idea what this was about. When I was a teenager I thought maybe I’d become a scientist and discover the origin of life, or something. I didn’t know. But I did not connect this in any way with spirituality. It also never occurred to me to ask, “Why me?” The feeling was that I needed to remember what I already knew, so it was already mine, in a sense, just at the edge of my awareness. Not something I had to be worthy of or attain. It was already mine, so I didn’t need anything added to me. Just look. Just see.

Even though this was at the very center of my being, the most important focus of my life, I never talked about it with anyone. It was an entirely private matter.

As an adult, I did connect this with spirituality, though looking at all the available options led me away from anything organized. The desire to see reality directly became so powerful, I couldn’t even call it a desire…my being, my existence, was inseparable from this directive. I never had any doubt that I would remember. But even then, I didn’t quite equate it with enlightenment.  Enlightenment still seemed to carry all this baggage with it, so I didn’t concern myself with enlightenment, whatever that was.

The One, not what I expected.

When I finally saw the One, directly, I woke up. In one instant. It wasn’t really a process. I was asleep and then I was wide awake. I laughed for at least an hour, just laughed and laughed like a silly goat. I couldn’t believe that I had not seen the One…it was so obvious, so plain, so imminent. Instead of feeling like some big attainment, it was actually hilarious.

As a side note, I know some people are going to read this and interpret this to mean I was special all along. I assure you, I was not a saintly child. Quite the opposite, I was a totally beastie rascal. The One was no more imminent to me than it is to you. It’s always right on the tip of your tongue. I guess what is different here is that I was able to feel that my whole life, it just seemed normal.

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