Q: I was wondering why so few people reach enlightenment. It seems that most people who have individual enlightenment moments can’t hold onto them. They can’t make them a regular part of their lives. It’s like they get a high, they come back down, then they want to get high again. But they just can’t make it a lasting experience. Why is this?
Because the necessary preliminary groundwork hasn’t been laid. Someone like that might be top-heavy spiritually, but they don’t have enough deep roots to hold them upright. So, when they have that experience, they just topple over from the immensity of it all. They can’t maintain it because they don’t have enough of a stabilized base. For that person, the question becomes, How do I build a solid root system? What are the processes?
Each path to enlightenment, whether it’s dual or nondual, has its own rules. Christianity is different from Islam is different from Buddhism, is different from Hinduism. And there is an inside joke that if you claim you can “become” enlightened, you don’t understand what enlightenment is. Placing all that aside for now, there are some universal agreements on steps that can help get you headed in the right direction: neditation, a focus on the divine, right living, right thinking, right speech. And so on.
The consciousness that we all have is much greater than the physical reality. But in the physical reality, we get easily trapped by believing that we’re separate from everything. That’s the problem. As long as you feel that you’re in a separate body with a separate life, with a separate identity, you can’t stay in enlightenment because enlightenment is not “separate,” in its simplest explanation, it’s all that there is. It is the All-That-Is. Is one.
It’s learning how to release yourself from that separateness, and there’s a whole process to do that.
Q: So there is a program, and someone like a monk is living that program?
Yes, but monks have what I’m going to call the luxury of having a completely supported spiritual lifestyle. They have no other goal. Their goal is enlightenment, and everything they do, including their worldly concerns to help others, as part of being a good monk, is all to support their goal to reach enlightenment.
Q: Okay, but what about the rest of us? How do we make the reading and seminar-going, all we do to try to get beyond the “getting high” stage? How do we get centered, stay in a spiritual life, and not get stuck yet again?
That goes back to what you were saying about people wanting to get high. They want to have that spiritual feel-good experience, so they go to a seminar, or they go to a workshop, and for that period of time, they feel elevated. They feel as though they remember what they want spiritually and what they need to do to get there. But that usually lasts for a relatively short period of time. Then life closes back down around them and they go right back to the old ways again. Everybody means well; everybody says, I’m going to start meditating. But after a period of time, most people’s spiritual practices go the way of New Year’s resolutions—they last about that long.
You can’t just have it be a want, “I want.” I want to be spiritual and live a spiritual life. It has to be: “This is everything to me; this is what matters, and everything else is a distraction and a lie and takes me away from who I am and where I want to get to.”
Until somebody is really at that point where they’re ready to at least mentally walk away from it all, walk away from capitalism, walk away from the nine-to-five job, walk away from carrying the cultural trap of lookism and keeping up with the Joneses and all of the poisons that we deal with on a daily basis. Until somebody can really walk away from that, their progress will be limited.
People say, “But that’s so extreme.” But enlightenment is extreme. You don’t casually become enlightened.