How to Get Enlightened
by Michael Mamas
Life can be viewed as having two energetic components. The first is a stream, carrying everything in existence back to oneness, carrying you to enlightenment. The other force resists. It is as if you are in the stream being carried to enlightenment, yet clinging to the roots and rocks along the bank, resisting the current. As simple as that may sound, it is profoundly challenging and highly elusive to implement the process of getting enlightened. Some may say, “Well, it’s just a matter of letting go.” Yet, they then hold onto the idea of letting go, which resists the process. So, the question becomes, how do you navigate these waters wisely? How do you work with this in a practical day-to-day manner? Some guidelines follow:
1. Be willing to change.
There’s an old expression, “God created humans in his image, then humans created God in their image.” You have notions of what enlightenment should be like. You have notions of proper behavior, right and wrong, good and bad, healthy and unhealthy. If anything doesn’t resonate with your notions, the initial response is to reject it. You would do well to work with the understanding that the nature of enlightenment is beyond your grasp. This requires more humility than you may imagine. All too often, people accept spiritual teachings that align with their notions and call them truth. Consider the possibility that they are not truth. They are collusions passed down through the generations.
I speak of the flywheel effect. Your life has a momentum like a flywheel. It’s what you believe. It’s that with which you are familiar and comfortable. It’s very difficult to get off the flywheel. Anything new that is introduced is cast aside. This may not be the case across the board, but more often than not, when push comes to shove, people fall back on what is familiar. The question becomes, what can we rely on if our current way of evaluating things is invalid?
2. Be willing to think.
The great saint, Adi Shankara referred to evolution as the path of discernment. Discernment means looking and feeling deeper. All too often, we rely on our initial reaction. How something hits us initially determines what we think of it. We look no further. Sadly, that initial reaction is referred to as “your truth.” Knowledge is a deep ocean. Truth lies at its depth. When someone pursues Truth, he may put his big toe in the ocean, find the water to be cold, and never go any deeper. Are you willing to go deeper? Are you willing to pursue the depth of your being? As you go further into the ocean, the currents may catch you and carry you in any direction. Those currents can be likened to the emotional response you have to diverse things in life. Do you allow yourself to be carried by such emotional currents, such as fear, aversion, judgment, hurt, anger, rage, belief systems, world views, traditional codes of conduct, religious or New Age principles, or are you willing to move past that current and swim even deeper? Truth, in fact, is stillness. It lies beyond the grasp of things, be they tangible objects or concepts. It is a field of no-thing-ness. It is highly elusive. The path of discernment is the path of integrating the totality of your being, the integration of your thoughts with your emotions, the harmonization of all that is.
Even the word, “harmonization” should be reflected upon. Harmony is often viewed simplistically. In actuality, harmony embraces contradiction, conflict, confusion, and all other aspects of life. Like Unity, all too often, harmony is thought of as embracing all of the good things and the annihilation of everything we don’t feel good about. Harmonization and unification are the coming together of all things with seamless integration. It is difficult to comprehend and vastly more difficult to live.
Discernment, then, is not just an intellectual process. It is an integrative process. It is the integration of the depth of your feeling with the profundity of your thought. You might say, it is the fruit of the integration of the left and right brain. Never let anyone tell you that the right side of your brain is the spiritual and the left side of your brain is the intellectual. The spiritual aspect of your brain is the integration of the left (intellectual) with the right (emotional). This is a physiological state. It does not mean that a spiritually advanced person is a great dancer and a great scientist at the same time. That is an individual matter. However, it does mean that both aspects of life are fully integrated within the individual.
3. Do not allow yourself to be distracted.
I can’t tell you how many times people have come to me saying, “I’m so thankful I finally found you. I will never miss another class, retreat, or anything else you offer,” only to have them walk out the door, never to be seen again. It is very easy to be swept away with life’s distractions, the greatest of which, being of course, the flywheel of your own conditioned world views. Keeping in mind that world view is used here in the most expanded sense, including your emotional relationship with life, the nature of your ego, belief systems, etc. Ours is the world of distractions. They abound. They push upon you from every direction. They make up the roots and rocks that line the stream of life, calling out to you like muses, inviting you to cling to their fleeting promises of happiness, righteousness, wealth, pleasure, fulfillment, and yes, even enlightenment. How many times have you ventured into the world, thinking this time the distraction will prove fruitful, this time things will be different, this time you will find the perfect spouse, the perfect career, the ideal home, the ideal community? Isn’t it a wonder that though you have been disappointed so many times in the past, you allow the process to continue? The force of these distractions is unbelievable. Through discernment, overcome all of those distractions and stay on course.
4. Understand that it is a culturing process.
There is still another distraction. We could call it mistaking the beginning for the end. Sometimes, when people begin to understand what I’m saying, they decide they have become enlightened. That is mistaking the beginning for the end. An intellectual understanding of enlightenment is just a beginning. Actual enlightenment is a physiological state and it is cultivated over time. Knowing all about it and actually embodying it are two radically different things. Interestingly enough, after it is actually attained, the understanding of the very words that were used to describe it will be completely different. Yet, you would likely use those very same words. The nature of enlightenment is just that subtle. Use of the intellect is a very good tool, but it is no substitute for enlightenment. It is just one of many tools that can be used along the path.
Like the culturing of a fine pearl, enlightenment takes time. How much time you have invested in enlightenment is not measured by how many years you have pursued it in this lifetime. It is a process that has gone on through the millennium and beyond. I know this can be very difficult for many people to accept. How do you accept something you long for so desperately that may be many years away? There is even the inclination to find a teacher that promises instant enlightenment or enlightenment within a certain period of time. Do not allow such temptations to distract you. Understand this is a culturing process. Find comfort in the reality that creating a life that is carried by the current leading to enlightenment is the highest attainment in life. Pursue that and know that enlightenment could possibly come with the next blink of an eye. Also, find comfort in knowing that once you have created a life carried by that current, the momentum will continue after death and beyond.
5. Avoid the temptation to collude.
The path to enlightenment has been compared to climbing a huge mountain or traversing a vast desert. Though the underlying principle is simple, the process is not simple. One of the greatest distractions is the temptation to collude. You are crossing a desert in thirst of water. All along the path, sirens and muses call out to you, offering refreshment and all the comforts of life. They are very clever. These things are offered in a guise that resonates with your current world view. The temptation to move in that direction is huge. You feel tired, thirsty, hungry, desperate, alone, and sometimes afraid. Do you have the strength to avoid the temptation of collusion? So many people you see beside the path call to you as they share the same world with which you resonate… Sometimes pursuing enlightenment can feel like turning your back on almost every impulse you have. You may want to run away and forget the whole thing or look for an easier way out. And, so many are promising that very thing. Indeed, though the path of enlightenment is simple in concept, it can be most challenging in daily life.
6. Cultivate a healthy relationship with emotions and feelings.
This is a very challenging one for many people. So many look to spirituality as an escape from life, somewhere they can go to just feel good. That sort of mentality prompted Karl Marx to refer to spirituality as the opiate of the masses. Spirituality does not escape life. Spirituality embraces all of life. Spirituality is the vessel that holds all aspects of life, all fields of knowledge, all aspects of human emotion in a unified whole.
Some think of the spiritual path as the path of emotion (bhava – devotion to God). This must be handled most delicately. It is certainly true that communion with God brings forth profound emotion. It is a most beautiful thing. It is the path of bhava. Yet, it is not to be confused with emotional indulgence. Such indulgences, even when done in the name of God, actually prevent one from communing with God. It is simply an opiate. As I look out at the religions and New Age movements throughout our world, it saddens me to see how few are truly willing to look deeper. Even those who attempt to take a discerning view, oftentimes do little more than an intellectual exercise that, in the final analysis, is of very little value.
Some have seen me as being too intellectual. The truth is that my love of God is vast. It overtakes my life. It permeates my life. That I see God in all of you is what motivates me to take the time to speak and explain to help you move forward to a deeper understanding. It is not condescending. It is not patronizing. It is not arrogant. It is an expression of my love. There is no need for all of the confusion. Yet, to move beyond the confusion, it is important to reflect upon the points and move forward accordingly.
7. Proper meditation.
Meditation feeds and enhances the stream of life that carries you to enlightenment. If the current is not strong (if the flow is weak), resistances to the flow can be nearly impossible to overcome. If the flow is strong, enlightenment comes quickly. However, the word “proper” is crucial. There are many, many forms of meditation. Most have some value or purpose. However, for the purpose of enlightenment (evolution), a very specific and unique type of meditation must be practiced. Though all the points I have mentioned here are important, proper meditation is the essential key to life. (Learn the Surya Ram Meditation online, free of charge.)
The complexities of life abound, even though they are rooted in and founded upon perfect simplicity. Be willing to change. Be willing to discern. Be willing to look deeper. It is truly the final frontier. Be among the few who are willing to do what is required.
© Michael Mamas, September, 2010