“Enlightenment is ego’s ultimate disappointment.”
— Chögyam Trungpa
I’m putting together a course on enlightenment. I think it’s funny, odd really. We hold the notion of enlightenment in such high esteem that we make no effort to achieve it. We don’t even know what we’re talking about. This is true even if you’re not motivated by the idea. Enlightenment is a sacred cow.
Personal growth is the foundation of social health, neither of which are in good shape these days. Science asserts internal health is an external state rather than an internal process. Politics asserts social health emerges from good government. The result has been slow or no progress on the whole.
Enlightenment is an achievable goal. The falsehood that it is unachievable is put forward by authoritarians—both religious and secular—to enforce bogus patents on the process and to exclude you. These institutions sell behavioral enemas for emotional dysfunctions: your servitude awaiting their endorsement.
Enlightenment is a natural process, if you can recover what’s natural for you. You are led away from your natural abilities. Because you’ve been led fairly far, there are many “natural abilities” that will seem unnatural to you..
“Your greatest awakening comes, when you are aware about your infinite nature.”
– Amit Ray, Indian author and spiritual master
Defining one unknown in terms of another unknown is useless advice. To salvage something useful from Amit’s statement let’s instead say, “Awakening comes from expanding your awareness.” That, at least, talks about things we understand.
“The undeniable fact of its emergence…forced me…to open up ‘actualization’ as a process and close down the idea that it is a theoretically achievable state or condition.”
— Clare W. Graves
Enlightenment is a rather humble process. It’s as involved as your are, and it’s as accessible as you are. It’s a set of skills like the joy of sailing which is available only to those who sail. There is no one “right way” to engage in the process. You can enjoy sailing even if it’s just going around the pond. But even so, there are basic skills like watching the sky and swimming in the water.
Many of us are inaccessible. This is a problem. We’re encased in beliefs and attachments for the purpose of self-defense. If you can’t change, you won’t grow. You need to know enough to get yourself safely into the water. Attend to safety first and the rest will follow if you persevere.
“Feel nothing, know nothing, do nothing, have nothing, give up all to God, and say utterly, ‘Thy will be done.’ We only dream this bondage. Wake up and let it go.”
― Swami Vivekananda
Of the many great things Vivekananda said, this is one of his less useful. We dream everything. We call it reality. Give it up, do nothing, go nowhere? Not likely and not wise either. Yes, if you don’t evolve then evolution will come to you as it did for the dinosaurs. “Thy will be done,” may mean you’ll get your head handed to you.
Let’s go back to the humble route: emerging from your shell and growing. Let’s go back to the basic skills of being able individuals. These are the skills of mind, body, emotion, and spirit. But there is another level of skill below these which we are fast losing, the skills of perception, awareness, regulation, rhythm, and attention.
“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. The latter procedure, however, is disagreeable and therefore not popular.”
― C.G. Jung
Leave it to a Christian intellectual to see discomfort in the darkness. There is the question of when to make judgments and what to make judgments of. If you look only at the darkness, then that’s all you see. But if you look widely enough to see the dark and the light, then you start to see balance. And if you stand back farther still, then you discern cycles that repeat, but not exactly.
It’s not the dark or the light that defines your state, nor the cycles themselves. Enlightenment is in the changing of the details, the drift of change that blows through the cycles. You can be part of it if you’re aware of it, but to be aware of the change you must see beyond the dichotomy, beyond the cyclicity, and see the trend in the change of the whole.
Enlightenment in mind is insight into thought, feeling, spirit, and sensation. In each, you are limited by your focus, attention, and imagination. This is the horizontal direction that involves attending more to what we already do.
There is vertical enlightenment which involves controlling brain rhythms, recollections beyond memories, and explorations beneath awareness.
Most of us are arrows flying through a 3-dimensional world, multi-dimensional beings limiting our awareness in order to be more effective. In order to feel part of the collective, we reduce an infinity of possibilities to a small multitude of things we share.
The more we’re involved with, the larger the effect we have, and the more careful the consensus must be. The drift of culture in an expanding world is toward smaller and more specialized minds. The faster things move, the narrower your sight must be. It’s the tunnel vision phenomena. The only way out is to be more aware.
We see this in the Covid-19 phenomena: the more pervasive and complex the situation, the less information you’re given, and the more you’re expected to respond in a programmed manner. This is a single instance of a larger drift toward greater complexity and less autonomy. You are being evolved away from enlightenment. You are increasingly asked to take solutions rather than make solutions.
Whether you’re relaxed, confident, capable, and complete, or anxious, uncertain, imperfect, and apprehensive, there is no such thing as doing nothing.
- What defines who you are?
- Can you modify your abilities?
- Can you see your blind spots?
- Do your skills support your goals?
Whether you are well-defined or undefined, there are opportunities. Whether you’re active or passive, you’re engaging the world. Engaging is the skill of being aware and responsive.
Let me introduce the details of this course on Saturday, July 31 in a free, virtual meeting. The course will be offered online in the coming weeks.
On Saturday, I’ll explore the vision of enlarging your awareness.
The meeting is free, click to register at Eventbrite: