Enlightenment is a natural process, and it’s supposed to happen. See if you are growing or staying stagnant. See if an extraordinary experience is a sign of development or self-delusion.
“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 spiritual awakening. But experience is not a measure of your awareness. It is a sign that something could be happening, but it’s not proof.
To be enlightened is a term from the 18th Century that describes a person or a future that uses reason to create a better world. Today we associate the word with those who attain higher levels of consciousness and wisdom.
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 is not special, but It is a sign something positive is happening. We are supposed to grow. It’s supposed to occur.
Spiritual Awakening Is A Sign
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.
Because the culture can’t profit from your internal growth, it overlooks it altogether. Organized religion can’t bottle and sell it either because the tools for change don’t exist with mythology and superstition.
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
Here again, we confuse self-esteem with self-compassion. Self-esteem is a by-product of the Ego, which distorts everything. On the other hand, self-compassion is the expression of the higher values of the human spirit. You immediately recognize someone in this original state of being. They exhibit the characteristics of being realistic and forgiving. Self-esteem is all about bolstering the Ego, and it does not support The Ego does not support either of these virtues. The cultural narrative teaches that these are weaknesses and not strengths.
Awakening is just a first step. You finally stop sleeping. You are not supposed to live your whole life in the default mode.
“To awaken, one must realize that one is in a state of sleep, a state of self-hypnosis. And, in order to realize that one is indeed in a state of sleep, one must fully recognize and understand the nature of the forces, which operate to keep one in the state of sleep, or hypnosis. It is absurd to think that this can be done by seeking information from the very source in which you induce the hypnosis.” — George Ivanovich Gurdjieff
Enlightenment Is Not Special
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 lows. It will make you confront your fear of death, but it will lift you with eureka moments of great clarity. The path includes many types of experiences. Take both occasions 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.
The advertising profession of our modern culture knows well how to use pride as a tool to sell you things. Many people spend their entire lives buying the things advertisers present as means of satisfying the Ego. But, the Ego cannot be happy; that is how it stays in control.
Enlightened People are Authentic
So, if enlightenment is not special, 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 exceptional. 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 the result of healthy growth.
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. It can and should make you a better person if you follow through on correcting the issues you find. It should drive you to engage in positive social and environmental changes.
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(1) Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia