Friday, July 22, 2011

A Simple Path

“Nothing is more honorable than a grateful heart.” ~ Seneca

Mary Beth and I enjoyed a rare mid-week date last night. The typical Wednesday night is spent shuttling Emily to and from activities, preparing dinner, and making sure homework is finished. But summer’s slower pace found us home, alone, and without the usual chores to do.
With our younger daughter at summer camp, we had time to do as we pleased. My wife and I selected an Italian café where we sat at a high-top table. We shared a Caesar salad and sipped Peroni beer while waiting for our entrees to arrive.
Mary Beth and I chatted about Caitlin’s move to Miami. We both agreed Brandon’s recent visit home was a particularly pleasant one and we started planning Andrew’s return to college.
For a few moments on a Wednesday night, my wife and I took a break from the ordinary to celebrate the extraordinary life we share.
After dinner, we stopped by the new Trader’s Joe. The low-priced specialty grocery store recently opened in our neighbor and we were eager to see what the fuss was all about.
Walking through the aisles of organically-grown broccoli and low sodium chicken pasta soup, we held hands just like we did 27 years ago when our appetites where focused on foods a little less healthy. We settled on frozen mint peas and 2% milk before leaving the store.
Driving home I found my hand still connected to Mary Beth’s. The splendor of our four children, my wife’s thriving practice and the satisfaction of my recent promotion made the evening, on a not-to-so typical Wednesday night, extraordinary.
Sometimes the simple path to an extraordinary life is taking the time to recognize exactly what you have – and then appreciating every moment of it.
Summer will be ending soon. The shuttle service will be back in action and the ordinary Wednesday night’s will return. And on those Wednesday nights when we’re checking homework or checking in with our other children, I will gratefully enjoy every moment because I know we have a life that is extraordinary – a life that is brighter than diamonds.

What is A Simple Path?

This post is in A Simple Path, a series of short pieces inspired by my own life experiences. Each post is a simple path to experiencing something wonderful: maybe seeing life from a different perspective, or celebrating its beauty. Click here to read all posts in the series.
Alex Blackwell
The BridgeMaker Founder

Thursday, July 7, 2011

What Comes After Enlightenment

Enlightenment has become a fuzzy word, so for the purpose of this article, let’s define it as the realization of Oneness. Not the knowledge nor mind-level understanding that “yes, we are all One; isn’t this wonderful” but the realization based on direct experiences. When you are enlightened, you know it as clearly, solidly, and directly as you know your heart is beating. There is no doubt, no room for discussion, period.

So you want to be enlightened?

If you are still in the illusion of separation, enlightenment (again, meaning this realization of Oneness), especially the first glimpse of it, can be wonderful. You’ve been looking for ways to come home and suddenly you realize you are already home. No more struggles to find your way.
However, the truth is enlightenment is not the end. If it is, we didn’t need to bother to be incarnated at all. As I explained in this article of who we are, we started as the one being.
What would be a good analogy? It’s like making jigsaw puzzle from a picture. If appreciating the beauty of the picture is your purpose, you wouldn’t want to break it up to puzzle pieces. You already have the complete picture. Yet some people actually like to make puzzles — because they want to play with puzzles. It’s fun.

Truth is in ambiguity

So enlightenment is only half the truth. For example, Eckhart Tolle’s “A New Earth” is a great book. I agree with everything in it. But it’s only half the truth.
The other half is about our individuality.
We tend to think “If one is true, the other is wrong”. Well, in this case, both of these statements are true in its full meanings;
  • We are all One.
  • We are individuals.
This may be hard to grasp because we are so conditioned in the monic thinking. Take your time to get use to this perspective.
Because otherwise, you could be stuck in enlightenment.

After Enlightenment

Many so-called spiritual people are stuck in enlightenment. After they see the Oneness, they cannot make sense of their life as it unfolds on this Earth.
Surely, we are better off by dropping certain ideas. So if you find yourself not caring about worldly achievements or how you might appear in others’ eyes, great. It may take some changes in how you steer your life and you may feel disoriented for a while, but that’s just usual with major changes.
This kind of change is common after enlightenment and not what I mean by being “stuck”.
What I mean by being “stuck in enlightenment” is ignoring the meaning of why we are incarnated with physical bodies, with different interests, likes, etc.

The nature of life

By definition, being in this physical world means we choose one over the other. Whereas you have both male and female energies as a spirit, physically you are either a man or a woman. Whereas you could be anywhere and everywhere as a spirit, physically you are either here or elsewhere.
As a spirit, you already know Oneness and you can experience everything that ever happened and ever will. You have every possible perspective. As a physical being, you experience one thing at a time from a fixed point of view.
Being physical is restricting but also fun. We choose one piece of the puzzle over the other.

Being fully here

After enlightenment, it is essential to learn to be fully here. To experience what is happening right here and now.
Learn to switch the modes. I have three modes: my individual existence mode, my psychic mode in which I choose specific perspective other than my own, and the Oneness mode.
You may have just two (without the psychic mode) or may have more that I don’t know yet. That’s okay. The point is to realize that all these modes are equally important and to be able to consciously switch the modes.
If you have prejudice, such as one favoring the Oneness mode, you miss the joy of this physical world. You also fail to exercise your power you potentially have. This undermines the purpose of this incarnation.
If you cannot switch modes consciously, you are at the mercy of whatever is happening around you or in the shared common consciousness. This is super disempowering.
How much time to spend in each mode? This is up to you, but for most people, I recommend spending sufficient amount of time in your personal mode, while spending enough time in the Oneness mode so you won’t forget it. (Here is another article about the two modes, the absolute and the relative, that you may find helpful.)

True Enlightenment

Come to think of it, true enlightenment should mean this conscious and free shifts in our awareness. Realizing there is another mode besides the separated individual mode is only the beginning.
And what happens when you have this true enlightenment? Freedom! You realize very few things, if any, matters and you can be fully yourself.
You could be singing and dancing all day long. (By the way, this is close to what I’ve been doing since I got a piano. I am on voluntary sabbatical, not making any money, just going crazy with music ♡ I heard Rumi did something similar, too.) Or maybe you have something else you like doing — isn’t it wonderful we each have different likes?
And if you think I’m so conceited — well, what do I care? This is so much fun!
Also I have forgotten most of the things I use to write. Seeking cannot be a part of this being, and even the memory of it means so little now. (And mind you, this blog has been my life.) In order to place some links in this article so that it would be helpful to some readers took quite a lot of time because of this.
Soon, I will forget enlightenment. That is true enlightenment.

The Music of This World

Meditating with the natural sounds of nature will help you connect to something larger than yourself.

The tool most commonly used to focus our minds in meditation is the breath. When we sit down to meditate, drawing our attention inward counteracts our habitual tendency to be scattered. Meditation on the breath helps us gather our energy into our bodies, centering and grounding us in the present moment. Almost as readily available as our breath are the sounds of the natural world. From rain to wind to the ocean and birds, meditating on these aural manifestations brings us not only a sense of peace, but also an experience of connection to the physical world.

It is easy to get stuck inside our own heads and our individual lives. We get caught up in our goals and plans and almost forget that we live in a world that is always there, humming away in the background. There is an internal shift that occurs when we tune into that background and really give it our attention. It’s as if we are discovering a more expansive world, because we are. We are also experiencing ourselves in relation to something larger. This discovery makes us feel rejuvenated and more expansive.

The vast and ceaselessly churning ocean is an ideal place for meditating on the sounds of nature. Sit quietly and surrender to the sounds of the thundering, crashing waves. Let go of your ambitions and listen. Rivers and lakes also sing their own songs. Even if you live in the middle of a city, the wind howls and whistles and the rain taps out a variety of sounds depending on where it falls—on the sidewalk, a tin roof, a car window, or a muddy slope. Tune into these sounds next time you hear them instead of letting them fade into the background. Stop and listen as if you are hearing a sublime piece of music. Let the music of this world take you on a journey of natural sounds.