Friday, August 28, 2015

Enlightenment, Or, Coming Back to Where You First Began

Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water

The lights are on; are you home?
"You're as blind in all light as in all darkness. Darkness, then, is the beginning of the journey." Guru Da

Some of us may have the idea that spiritual awakening means, suddenly, you can levitate, or walk through walls, or predict someone else’s future. People who are "spiritual" are somehow very different, set apart from the rest of the mundane world, superior in some mystical, galactic way. God or Buddha or Krishna or Yahweh now holds them in special favor, in a brighter light. 

Your everyday world has changed to continual bliss, no more troubles, no more pain. You’re already in heaven. It’s just a matter of sending in your change of address card. Well, this may come as a surprise but people who are spiritually awakened know that the journey has just begun. 

When the spiritual eyes and the spiritual mind open, the one who is waking up realizes that, to this point, little progress has actually been made. It’s back to Square One. The beginning. Kindergarten. Now the real work starts. 


Almost immediately, the demons strike. “I want what I want when I want it. And I don’t beg anyone’s pardon.” Yes, the ego rears its frightened head again in ways we never thought possible.

Everything that you think is the right way, the spiritual way, the holy way, becomes the ego’s target. "Who do you think you are? There’s no real spirituality in you. You’re the one who thinks only of herself, the one who thinks helping others is a sign of weakness. You’re the one who hides the truth of himself from the rest of the world. How can you be spiritual?? You’re such a liar…and a hypocrite." 

If you think the Spiritual Walk is a piece of cake, guess again. Your demons will do everything to bring you back into conformity with the old ways, the safe roads, the familiar paths—even the ones that continue to bring suffering into your life. They’ve become habits that the ego is reluctant to release. 

The spiritual path, the awakened path, is a path we must re-choose  daily. Jesus told Peter not to take his eye away from the Light. Peter became afraid and looked down. Immediately he began to sink into the depths. But he looked up, saw his Light, rose out of the water, and started again. Just like us. Each day.

Like Peter, we, too, can keep our eye on the Light since it shines only through the darkness and the darkness is always close at hand. Besides, where else would you find the Light but in darkness? It's where we still live. As the opening quote reminds us, we're as blind in all light as in all darkness. 

So, what happens when we begin to awaken? We do the same work, interact with the same people. We continue to chop wood and carry water, as the saying goes. Awakening then, is not about leaving the world, but recognizing it as our home and as our responsibility. Darkness and all.

Right here, right now This is where the work is. This is where awakening takes place. Within the mundane, within the daily plodding, within the daily connections with each other. The spiritual path is the path we have been on all along. Only now, we see it for what it really is: The Teacher. The Mentor. The Master. 

Awakening then, is finding yourself right back where you started, only this time with a reminding bump on your spiritual head. Pick yourself up, join the hubbub. Consciously choose to serve the world. You’ve arrived.

Are you willing to start from the beginning each day and let everything and everyone be your teacher? Can you see your daily experience as the gift it really is? Look closely. Look deeply. The answer is there, ready for you to find it. There is no longer any need to fear the darkness for it is only through the darkness that your Light can shine.

"Almost the entire world is asleep. Those who are awake live in constant amazement." From Joe vs. The Volcano (featuring Tom Hanks), paraphrased slightly.


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