I heard about “enlightenment” when I was 21 years old and my life was never the same. I felt an innate desire to attain a state of being that would take away my pain and suffering and give me eternal bliss. I became a seeker.
I had just graduated college and won the draft lottery. The government was going to send me to Vietnam. How I avoided going to the jungles of Southeast Asia can be told another time. But this was an important event in my life because it was a major impetus for questioning everything that I had been taught about our American culture and its values.
I started my journey to enlightenment with transcendental meditation and for the first time in my life I recognized that my mind could actually become quiet. Like a lot of young people during the early 1970’s I was dabbling in counter-culture activities like drugs, free love, rock concerts and philosophical discussions geared to tear down what we thought we knew about our world.
I was rebelling and redefining myself. I had long hair, a motorcycle, wore the uniform of the hippy culture and began to develop a spiritual practice. I turned my back on the corporate world, attained an advanced degree and dedicated my career to helping youth and families.
I thought I was on a path to self-discovery. After all, I was consuming spiritual books, reciting ancient mantras, following a spiritual master and attending lectures about out of mind and body experiences.
Through the years I married, had children and advanced in my career. In the perceptions of others, I appeared to be a normal upstanding citizen of our world. But internally, although my community activities had changed, I never stopped seeking enlightenment. I was dedicated to mediation, but the form of that practice was now driven by Kriya Yoga taught by Paramahansa Yogananda.
Through the years my seeking was reinforced by intense but short lived magnificent glimpses and experiences into the true nature of who we really are. But not all of these experiences were blissful. Some experiences brought me to a state of deep fear as my mind was not going to easily relinquish its grasp of reality.
Having a “peak” experience is truly wonderful but coming back to the mind’s reality is downright dark and depressing. I remember reading a book by Jack Kornfield that describes this. It was titled, “After the Ecstasy, the Laundry”.
These experiences eventually brought me to a new practice of exploring my mind and learning how it keeps me from seeing the truth of who we really are. I gave up the need to find enlightenment and was determined to watch my mind. My meditation even changed and I no longer sat for hours to quiet my mind. Now I was determined to watch how it kept me from being who I really am. In essence my practice changed from seeking enlightenment to seeking the seeker of enlightenment.
Eventually, as my mind relinquished its grip, I truly “realized” that enlightenment is a “concept” that is created by the mind and is part of the illusion we call life. Anything that is conceivable or perceivable in the mind is not who we are. We are beyond all thoughts, memories, ideas or concepts.
The mind is the seeker but it can never know what we are and never bring us to the state of being that the concept enlightenment portrays. But it can help us to look at what we are not. And when we realize what we are not, this takes us to back to our true being. And that true being is beyond the concept of enlightenment, beyond the mind and body and beyond consciousness itself.
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