Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Spiritual Awakening and Enlightenment

I figured now would be a good time to make a brief explanation of terms that I use. When I'm writing, I typically stay away from using the word enlightenment because I feel like it's been given a limited purview. Primarily, it gets linked into Buddhism, and with the way a lot of people seem to think about it, enlightenment is a purely mind-based experience. For me, this is too narrow of a term, and when I do occasionally use the term "enlightenment," I mean it in a much more holistic sense--encompassing the heart, body, mind, and soul. If I'm using it, I'm using it synonymously with "spiritual awakening." However, I respect that this is term that a lot of people are already bringing a lot of additional meaning to, so I usually just use the term "spiritual awakening."


The Broadness of Awakening
I think "spiritual awakening" has enough flexibility that someone from any religion or spiritual practice can connect with the idea. It's not just something that happens in Buddhism. Generally speaking, I think it can speak to Christians, Jews, Wicca practitioners, Tantric followers, Taoists, Hindus, Muslims, and many more. Maybe not. Language is, after all, a limited tool, but I can talk about the limitations of language another time.

Quite simply, spiritual awakening can come to anyone through any tradition. No tradition has a lock on one path to awakening, and any tradition that claims to be the only way to God has really lost their way. God didn't create so many spiritual traditions and religions to booby-trap the spiritual world around us. God created them to encompass the many different experiences and path to return to God. It's like a big choose your own adventure, but all ways lead back to God. You can't do this wrong.

Enlightened Bodies and Hearts
As I said, I don't use the world enlightenment very much because people only tend to think about enlightenment in terms of the mind. An enlightened intellect is important. It knows when to get out of the way and how to hold space that go beyond the reaches of our rationale and ability to understand. The mind is indeed a very limited tool. Where people have gotten lost is when they think that it is the ONE AND ONLY tool. Subsequently, anything that doesn't fit within their ability to rationalize, they discount and denigrate, blocking out a lot of life. Because a lot of life simply doesn't fit within our abilities to analyze or perceive through just our part senses. Which is why part of what the enlightened mind does is learn to simply accept the vastness and unpredictability of life and that it can't know everything.

Along with that, the mind learns to accept that the enlightened or awakened heart and body have their respective languages and processes. So much moves for me when my heart moves, and it almost invariably drives that thing inside my skull crazy. Many of you already know the old saying that "The Heart has ways the Mind will never know." It's true. So too does the body. The body learns and communicates through touch, action, movement, and such things. It's part of why I'm a big fan for everyone to get some kind of conscious movement practice (yoga, dance, etc.) as well as a personal sexual practice. The body understands these things. You can feel lots of love, and you can know the truth about love. But when the depth of love hits down into the fabric of your body, everything really changes in how you act with yourself and others in the world.

The Integral or Embodied Awakening
Lots of people are using terms like "integral" and "embodied" around awakening. Quite simply, it means this integration of heart, body, mind, and soul. The enlightened mind can talk a good game, but if you don't really feel your truth in your heart and understand it in your body, then you aren't embodying your awakening. Some people will see hypocrisy in what you're saying. For instance, it's like saying cigarettes are bad for you, but you still smoke. You're aware of the truth, and you can talk about it. But in your heart, you still feel like you need them to feel good about yourself, and you obviously aren't listening to your body when you're coughing up half a lung from of smoke. For you to awaken in this situation, cigarettes stop being an emotional support, and you can truly physically feel how bad they are in your body.

This becomes true of a lot of other things as well. I seem to end up in conversations around bread. Maybe it has to do with gluten, but a lot of us as we awaken more fully really want nothing to do with bread. It doesn't feel good going through the digestion. I know it sounds odd, but it's true for quite a few of us (and some of you are probably nodding your heads or saying, "Oh, is that why?"). Nonetheless, this is part of the body awakening and actively telling us what it does and does not want to eat.

Anyone Can Be Awakened/Enlightened
It's so important to remind everyone that anyone can awaken. This isn't only for really smart people (which is another reason I don't use the term enlightened much--it makes it sound like you have to have book smarts to attain that space of awareness). This space of awareness is always within you. Everyone has it. It really is a big letting go process. Let go of all the layers of expectations and desires and fears. Let go into that space that you truly are. It's a scary shift for the ego, which is watching someone take all its toys away. But you never needed all those toys to begin with. Actually, they became burdens that you tripped over or tried to constantly preserve from damage. They made you expend a lot of energy for, ultimately, very little in return. The ease and effortlessness that comes with awakening is beautiful. You don't have to be anyone other than who you are. And you are perfect.
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