“Do not think that enlightenment is going to make you special — it’s not.” — Adyashanti
It is easy to get caught up in the ecstasy of a profound spiritual experience. But experience is not a measure of your awareness. It is a sign that something could be happening, but it’s not proof.
Our consciousness is fluid, not static, and this fluid design enables it to grow and expand. We look forward to those Eureka experiences when awareness grows in leaps and bounds. But these aren’t a common occurrence. Our growth is usually gradual. So, the path of enlightenment isn’t all extraordinary. We are supposed to grow. It’s supposed to occur.
Spiritual Awakening is Not Special
Our culture places a great deal of emphasis on being unique. But your uniqueness must be something the culture can use to make a profit. Because of this, it is easy to identify our growth as something out of the ordinary. Instead, we should focus on the new vantage point of observation.
Ask yourself some questions about your experience. Does it provide a lasting change in awareness, or is it fleeting and temporary? Does this experience come from an emotional reaction? Or does it emanate from intellectual understanding?
“If you feel special in any way, then enlightenment has not occurred. I meet a lot of people who think they are enlightened and awake simply because they have had a very moving spiritual experience.” — Adyashanti
It’s important to remember that experience is not a measure of truth. Our experience of life is a product of the mind, not reality.
Enlightenment is Natural Growth
Awakening should be a universal occurrence, not a fluke. The real Eureka comes when you realize that it is a never-ending path, and this path will have its highs and its lows. It will take you down to the dark night of the soul, and it lifts you to moments of great spiritual clarity. The path includes many types of experiences. Take them in stride.
They wear their enlightenment on their sleeve like a badge of honor. They sit among friends and talk about how awake they are while sipping coffee at a cafe. — Adyashanti
When our spiritual awakening becomes a fixation, we lose what we gain. Pride is an emotional response of the Ego. In contrast, our awakening is the natural process of growth. It’s the real you, the Observer coming from behind the mask of the Ego.
Enlightened People are Authentic
So, if enlightenment is not exceptional, what is it? Why isn’t it extraordinary?
“The funny thing about enlightenment is that when it is authentic, there is no one to claim it. It is very ordinary; it is nothing special. Rather than making you more special, it is going to make you less special. It plants you right in the center of a wonderful humility and innocence.” — Adyashanti
Here, authenticity is the awareness of yourself that relates to a bigger picture. It is the realization that everyone and everything is extraordinary. Our existence is remarkable. Enlightenment is not special. It is normal.
It does not mean you will be happy all the time. You will probably feel the full range of your emotions more intensely. Showing emotions runs against our culture, which insists we be non-emotional.
“Everyone else may or may not call you enlightened, but when you are enlightened, the whole notion of enlightenment and someone who is enlightened is a big joke. I use the word all the time — not to point you toward it but to point you beyond it.” — Adyashanti
Side Effects of Spiritual Awakening
Join the ranks of those with their eyes and hearts open. It should be our natural state of awareness. There are, however, some unintended side effects. This state of awareness brings about a greater degree of clarity. It illuminates both internal and external issues.
Greater bandwidth of awareness means you’ll see your personality’s mechanisms more clearly. You won’t have any obstacles blocking the virtues of the spirit. As your awareness expands, you’ll see the social and economic disparity more clearly. You won’t be able to ignore environmental issues.
So, being enlightened also brings with it great responsibility. Enlightenment can make you a better person if you follow through on correcting the issues you find. Enlightenment should drive you to engage in positive social and environmental changes.
Enlightenment is not special, but being awake is preferable to remaining asleep. Spiritual awakening is when you become awake and then grow to be more aware.
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(1) Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia