The Reality of Spiritual Enlightenment
Even people who have peak spiritual experiences can quickly retreat back into their heads.
When you finally drop out of an unreal relationship with spirituality and into a moment by moment intimacy with life, there is a profound shift.
This doesn’t look like fireworks and isn’t a fat slice of samadhi pie. It’s magical, no doubt, but in a very grounded and normal way. You have a visceral, in the moment relationship with Time, with Karma—with all the stuff that used to exist only as Lego pieces in your head.
It’s totally normal for you to try to accredit the awakened status of various people who claim to be enlightened.
From my perspective, this is just a quirky thing that Sleepwalkers do.
It’s like a Tinder thing….yes, no, left, right, swipe, swipe, swipe. And in the end, what? Will you collect a database of authentic awakened people? To what end?
One thing that happened when I awoke is that my heart emptied out.
This may not be what you expected to hear. We’ve been told that enlightenment is the pinnacle of self improvement, so that should mean that all the good and noble feelings are amplified while the base and negative feelings disappear. That sounds great! Only, that’s not what happened. All personal emotions disappeared, leaving me with an empty heart.
“We did not wake up just to haunt the world. We take up our fire and live.” -Me
Seriously? Am I quoting myself?
Who better to quote than oneself?
This sounds vaguely motivational, but if you’re in Spiritual Limbo—a wacky quarantine zone that many of us take our turn in—this is meant for you. It’s not that we go too far into Emptiness, it’s more that we get unbalanced, leaning into it rather than remaining in the dead center—integrating Emptiness and No Self with Authorship and Essential Nature.
Exercising sovereignty over your own mind is like a muscle you’ve never used. At first, the slightest exertion of will seems like a Herculean effort.
People don’t make it past this initial trial. Once you get stronger and more limber, it’s not that much work, and you are thus able to gain more ground with less effort. Eventually, it is nearly effortless, and just becomes a way of life.
Waking up has nothing to do with experiencing your happiness or revealing how your life circumstances are created or anything like that.
Those are all very interesting topics, and worthy of exploration, but it’s not even categorically related to the experience of waking up, which is not so much a destination at all, but a threshold.
When you wake up in the morning, is that moment of waking up your destination? Of course not. Whatever epiphanies or experiences you had when you were asleep, no matter how profound, revelatory or practically useful, it has nothing to do with being awake or asleep.
Your endgame is being awake.
Not a more loving, evolved, productive, motivated version of your current self. You will not maximize your potential or find yourself or reveal the divine within yourself or anything like that.
You’ll be wide awake and experience a clarity that on occasion is almost too much to bear. Side effects include: bliss, ecstasy, the reflex to avoid people, the inability to carry on with the life you built for yourself, unknowing pretty much everything, rarely being truly seen or understood by anyone ever again.
Paradoxically, you can’t get out of your own way.
You can’t allow awakening to happen. The you that imagines itself to allow and disallow and follows this path or switches to another tactic…this is the you that is seen to have never been real when you awaken. So it’s just this weird little kink where that very same “self” imagines it is going to get out of the way.
Some people will exit The Cave at this point.
Some will do it gracefully and others, not so much. For some The Cave, which is the movement of passivity into withdrawal, is self reinforcing. The longer you stay in the cave past your exit date, the less possible it seems to leave. You can feel trapped in amber while life is passing by. This is not the same as profound inner stillness. This is being stuck.
When I woke up, I became an alien species. That’s what it felt like. As though I was at once just kicked out of the human race. Or, perhaps like being turned into a vampire or something.
That is a lot to deal with, but I had the advantage of realizing completely that this was a done deal and there was no looking back. I couldn’t even have normal, casual conversations with people anymore. I had to learn to “be human” or pass as human.
Here’s my sales pitch:
If you wake up, the result will be that you will be awake.
Attain clarity and the result is that you will see the world and life as it is. You will give up everything and you will gain only awakeness and clarity.
Waking up means being awake. From there, you will see what you see and know what you know. Anyone who pitches you with any other benefit or endgame of enlightenment is selling you something else.
The experience of waking up is not possible for sleepers to understand...at all. If you could understand it, you would be awake.
Understanding it does not precede waking up, it is waking up, they are not two things. Understanding it doesn't happen through someone explaining it to you, or gaining information from any source outside yourself.
Waking up, really waking up, you find yourself in a whole world of people who are in fact run by programs.
Some are rudimentary, some are very mechanical, others read the New Yorker or The Atlantic or The Economist, go to interesting parties and conferences and are more sophisticated programs.
Being awake can be pretty freaky at times, especially at first. It can feel like being lobotomized, but it is not that.
I promise you that the end of it is not supposed to be you staring out the window for hours on end, unable to rouse yourself to engage with this world in some way. Can you imagine a life in which you get through the disorientation and arise to meet the world as it comes to you, fully…even though it is pointless? Can you imagine expressing your ever-evolving true nature moment by moment, not merely acting out the tired empty pantomime of the persona? Can you imagine doing whatever it is you will be doing and feeling whatever you will be feeling, being fully alive and awake…even though there is no point?
You are once again reaching for that golden ring of enlightenment to remedy your self made drama—which is just a clever way of getting out of doing the work to get control over yourself and stop creating these dramas.
You want to stop being at the mercy of your programs, but you don't want to do the work to deprogram yourself. Enlightenment is your distraction, delusion.
It's not to say your entire interest in enlightenment is driven by this motive, but think of all the instances in which you feel enlightenment is some kind of solution to being out of control, or a solution to the problem of being "you".
If you wanted to deprogram yourself, you could start right now, and do it every day, like a full time job, like your life depended on it, like it was the cure to some terminal cancer that was eating you alive.
But there is resistance to that. That resistance is really common, almost to be expected. The program is made to protect itself. It will do whatever it can to keep you from seriously doing what it takes to deprogram, and instead will send you off chasing enlightenment.
This is a sensitive subject. Because sometimes I'm talking to you, and sometimes the programming is so dominant that I'm really talking to it.
We put so much effort into keeping the show going.
We don’t want to see the cracks, the creeping mold, the actual motivations that make up the foundations of the cherished edifices of our lives. We diligently maintain them so that others won’t see the flaws, but even more importantly, so that we don’t have to look at them directly.
Who cares if you are awake or having a lovely journey in which you believe you are "awakening"?
You seem to appreciate your journey, so in that case, why wake up? Is being awake better than having a dream you are enjoying—a dream you find worthy or somehow valuable?
I do not advocate enlightenment. For some people, there is no other option but to wake up.
Learning about Enlightenment can be an interesting pastime, but that is what it is.
A hobby. There is nothing wrong with that, except that so many people seem to believe that it is "spiritual" and special—and perhaps even sacred.
They revere people they deem to be Enlightened, whether they are contemporary or some long gone figure like the Buddha. They have a bookshelf full of writings by such people, well worn and dog eared. Some can even quote them with great accuracy and felicity.
Collecting all the super hero cards will not make you a super hero. It makes you a collector. Learning about the awakened state can be interesting, for sure, but it won't make you awake.
If you want to spend your time and effort learning about something that will make a qualitative difference, turn your attention to the state you actually inhabit rather than one you cannot understand with the mind. Enlightenment doesn't yield itself through learning. However, investigating your current state of somnambulance—becoming an expert on its mechanisms, tricks and peculiar physics—will produce incrementally a more lucid dreamstate, a less heavy torpor.
People who are “on a journey” want that journey validated.
I have never come across a person who had this paradigm of being on a spiritual journey who didn’t feel the urge to validate it, and seek validation for it.
I don’t doubt that you have learned many valuable things along the way. I don’t refute your epiphanies. What I’m saying, only from personal experience, is that there is a state of awareness after which there is no more seeking. One is finished, done. It’s over. That will sound like a “destination” to you. It is not. But it’s also not a state which one who values their journey, identifies with their journey, can easily comprehend. If spiritual seeking has become an identity for you, a life in which you’ve found, and seeking is finished, will not compute.
When you are awake, it is so stark and different. There exists no notion that one is in some process of waking up or that one is operating on various levels of being awake.
Only Sleepwalkers make these distinctions because they are still dreaming and do not have the experience of being truly awake by which to understand the difference. People are awake or they are not.
In a mundane sense, you can understand this: A brain surgeon is awake or he’s not. The pilot flying you from Los Angeles to London is awake or she’s not. In those circumstances you would never think to apply and accept some kind of gradation of how deeply or lightly asleep these people are.
People often confuse Persona Remodeling, Repair and Maintenance with Enlightenment.
People are desperate to relieve themselves of this miserable “I” by becoming awakened, and people who are awakened are in suicidal despair because they’ve lost their “I”. Whatever you think this is a solution for, it’s not. There are people in blazing despair on either side.
When I woke up, I was a spiritually literate person…very much so. But no understanding I thought I had gained from study or gathering information even approximated the reality of waking up. I could have read and studied and gathered the whole rest of my life without adding anything to my true understanding of being awake.
If you’re gathering knowledge, you will surely become an expert on Enlightenment. But if you think that represents your movement toward Enlightenment—that’s just a trick the Program plays on you.
The minute you understand what being awake is, you will be awake. They are the same.
You suffer because of your programming, and because you don't have command of yourself.
You'd like to be relieved of this suffering.
You don't want to do the work to deprogram yourself (because, perversely, the program is protecting itself by making that path seem vague or unappealing).
You need to feel like you are pursuing a solution, and you've latched onto the one that is most unlikely (statistically) to occur anytime soon...enlightenment.
And...you also have a sincere calling toward spirituality, but this content has been thrown in the compulsion machine, so it's hard for you to separate what part of this is really you and what is just a product of the machine.
My suggestion would be to make enlightenment a neat side interest and pursue deprogramming like everything—and I mean everything—is riding on it. This will be ridiculously hard. Not because it is so difficult or complicated, but because your programming will do everything to prevent you doing this.