by Robert Lee Camp
November 25th, 2014
We certainly could use a world with more enlightened people in it. Looking around, it seems the news of the world just gets bleaker each day. But alas, enlightenment becomes this goal, something to happen someday in some future moment.
Enlightenment is never actually now. There are things we have to do, spiritual practices of some sort or the other, before we can achieve that elusive goal. This is what most spiritual teachers tell us.
We are given exercises, physical, mental and emotional, to practice. These include yoga, chanting, rituals, meditation, affirmations, psychedelic drugs and a host of other ‘to dos.’
This is supposed to lead us to enlightenment. For most spiritual seekers, this is enough. Most are happy to practice these practices. And if they have the occasional spiritual experience, they feel gratified and can feel like they are making some progress.
But there is another type of spiritual seeker that is not satisfied with the occasional spiritual experience. This is the one who truly wants enlightenment. He or she has observed carefully. And this seeker is ready and willing to question everything – even the notion that one must practice spiritual things in order to become enlightened. This seeker dares to ask, “Why is my enlightenment being made into a future goal? Why is it not now?”
Other questions may also appear in this seeker’s mind such as “Why is no one that is practicing these things actually becoming enlightened?” and “Where are the enlightened followers of all these spiritual teachers?” and “Is enlightenment only for the enlightened? Why can’t I achieve this too?”
Words are limited when it comes to enlightenment. At best, words can only point us to it. They can never give it to us. But as pointers they can be helpful, until such a time when we must let the pointers go in order to have the full experience itself. To become attached to the pointers would be foolish. It would be like valuing the menu at a restaurant more than the food. But our minds are very clever and are hell-bent on keeping our attention no matter what. And words are what the mind uses too.
But let’s imagine for a moment that enlightenment can be yours, right now. What would that be like? Could you allow that into your life? How would that be possible? It is easy to see that enlightenment is an experience, is it not? If you or I are to be enlightened, we would have to have the experience of it, not just some idea or concept of it.
I like what Eckhart Tolle says. He says that no one ever achieved enlightenment by gaining something. A new concept, idea, or thing has never done it. It has always occurred by losing something and in most cases, everything. But what does that even mean, in practical terms?
It is a fact that when we move our attention from experience to thinking, our level of awareness decreases. Thinking is a lowered state of consciousness. For example, we may see something amazing, something that gives us chills because of its beauty and for a moment we are in the experience of really seeing it.
Then, our mind steps in and starts labeling it or discussing/comparing it and now the experience is lost. In this example we were, for a moment, enlightened. Then our mind stepped in and we lost it. Everyone has experienced this. It is a part of life. But we rarely examine this sort of thing carefully to really get to the heart of it. And yet, it is pointing to the very heart of it.
Our society, our parents, and the world around us teaches us from an early age that thinking is the answer to everything. And those whose minds are the best developed seem to be the most successful in the world.
Having a better mind is the key to success and happiness in the world, or so we are taught. The truth is just the opposite. Though it is true that the mind can bring worldly success, such as more money or a higher position in life, the mind also carries with it incredible suffering.
Many who achieve worldly success realize this, sometimes so late in the game that they feel doomed to a lifetime of suffering, in spite of their material gains. Suffering is an integral part of the mind-dominated state of living. It is something that we all experience, at least until we don’t…
Let’s talk about what is happening right now, for a moment, just to create some perhaps useful pointers. At this very moment, we each have some level of choice. Right now we can choose where we put our attention. In reality this may be the only choice any of us really has. And an important facet to this is to realize that everything in our lives has a feeling component.
Even if you are working on a mathematical problem, you have some relationship with that problem on a feeling level. For example, you might be enjoying the problem or you may be fretting with worry over it. There are many possible relationships you can have with any and every life situation you encounter in your day, and even with your reading this, right now.
In fact we have a feeling based relationship to everything we encounter and in each moment those feelings are there to be experienced. That is, if we choose to pay attention to them. At the same time, there are the thoughts about whatever is happening. And for most of us, this is all that we experience all day long – our thoughts about everything.
These thoughts may or may not be about anything that is actually happening. They can be past memories or fantasies about the future. So we have this duality in each moment. We have what can be experienced and what is being thought. And we have the choice as to where to direct our attention.
All true spiritual teachers tell us that enlightenment is something that can only be experienced. So, why don’t we move into experience? There are many reasons and there are no reasons. There is nothing that can stop you or me from going into a higher state of consciousness. All we have to do is seek out the feeling relationship we have with whatever or whoever is appearing in our lives right now. It is really that simple.
There are many feelings that we don’t want to have. Most of us avoid anyone or anything that will cause negative emotions or feelings in us. And I am not suggesting that we seek out the people and things that do this. But when these do arise, they deserve as much of our attention as the good feelings and experiences.
And each time you do this, even though your mind may label your experience as ‘bad’, you move into higher consciousness. You will have to experience this. My words here in this article are just pointers. Without your direct experience, they are just more mental chatter and have no real value. The missing ingredient is you, as it has always been.
Being enlightened is available to all of us, right now. All that stands in our way is our tendency to avoid feelings that we don’t like. Did you think enlightenment meant only bliss? Or better yet, did you ever imagine that the things you resist experiencing the most in your life might just be everything you have been looking for?
Grace guarantees that each of us gets exactly what we need, when we need it. It is operating at 100% all the time. Right now is the grace interface. What is appearing for you and what is your relationship to it? It really can’t get any better than this!