What Happens During Spiritual Enlightenment: You are the Ocean, not the Lotus Flower
As we journey towards the path of enlightenment, what can we expect from our lives? What can we expect to happen inside of us? What is going to happen? In truth, there is nothing that we must do. Life just unfolds and we are merely the witness to that unfolding.
So then how do we live our lives if we’re seeking the path of awakening, to truly be awakened to who we are and live an enlightened life? How are we to live our lives if we aren’t the doers of the living but merely the witness to that doing?
For me, I actually wasn’t even seeking enlightenment. My background is of the Western tradition. I was raised in the farm belt in America and had a normal, Christian background. The goal of Christianity is really one of seeking. There’s a strict duality in Christianity: Christ is the exemplar, someone who we are to strive towards. We’re never going to be Christ, even though Christ Himself was in many ways a non-dualist. He said, “The Father and I are one. I can do nothing, except if the Father allows me to.” If we study the Christian mystics, they really ended up at the same place as Jesus. One of my favorites is Julian of Norwich. When you read her writings, there really is a sense of a non-separation from herself and God. I think that is why many Christians are frightened by or concerned with mysticism – it is far more non-dual.
Even though I was familiar with the mystics, I still saw life as a constant journey until I was exposed to other types of non-dual thinking. I realize what is constant is that which always is (it’s permanent) and what is impermanent can’t be real because it changes.
Although in my meditations I had many experiences of one-ness, of the non-dual relationship with the entire universe, I didn’t apply it to my whole life. But when my teacher said “Embrace it. Be that”, within a matter of weeks something happened that allowed me to see the non-dual nature, the one-ness of all that is. People around the world seek enlightenment, and I wasn’t even seeking it yet I was blessed with having an experience of awakening. Now this being, who I am, resides there. So how do we live our lives?
What’s going to happen is that growth will occur. It’s inevitable. Perhaps it will happen in this life, perhaps in the next, or when we die or are in heaven. We don’t know. But what we do know is that we’re on this journey and the journey is leading to who we are. It’s really a sense of discovery. It’s natural and will happen, with or without our effort.
So why don’t we live a life far less concerned with finding enlightenment, but rather focused on waking up and just living our lives? In living that life of freedom, we become free. What may happen is that we’ll discover who we are.
I don’t know if you’ve ever seen it but there’s this really fun Chinese game that you can buy. What you do is stick your finger in one end and another finger in the other end, then you pull. The harder you pull to let your fingers out, the more stuck they become. The efforts keep us stuck. Life is the same way. If we relax and just flow with life while trusting that where we’re headed is exactly where we’re supposed to be, two things can happen. First and foremost, we’ll live a beautiful life because we’ll just flow with it. We’ll dance with life and it will move beautifully. When we don’t fight life, we enable this to happen. Second, what may happen is we may discover who we are. We may wake up, just like Jesus, Buddha or Julian of Norwich did. Our lives may unfold into the discovery of who we are. When we discover our true permanent self, everything that is and everything that always has been is what we are. Life, then, can be love.
But, more importantly than this, life is. We live in that pure beingness and we flow with life beautifully. It’s a lot like being a lotus flower. If we’re in a river and we start floating towards the ocean, fighting the current will cause a lot of scrapes and scratches along the way. But if we just float, we’ll find that sometimes we stop, sometimes we hit a whirlpool, sometimes it’s a little rocky, but mostly we just float along until we end up at the beautiful infinite ocean of who and what we are. We discover that the lotus flower which we thought we were was really just an illusion; who we truly are is the infinite ocean.
We have always been this ocean, but we forgot. Life is a journey of discovering who we are. It can be a wonderful, beautiful journey if we just flow with life and stop fighting it. Even when the fighting occurs inside of us, just don’t identify with that part of you that is fighting. Realize that it’s a conditioned response and if you don’t identify with the fight inside of you then you can become more relaxed. You can also allow life to flow again.
It’s not so much the journey that is important. What’s really important is discovering the journey as part of the whole, vast infinite ocean. Even the lotus flower floating down the river towards the vast ocean is still connected to and part of the vast ocean. Everything is connected. Everything is not two, non-dual, and when we reside in that, then we just flow with life and life truly becomes beautiful. If, on the journey of life, this makes sense to you and resonates deeply within you, then let go and just be.
Open up and allow yourself to just be. That’s all it took for me. When I was ready, when I was placed at that right stop, someone came along and explained this to me and I was able to discover who I am. Perhaps today you too will discover who you are, who you’ve always been and who you will always be. It’s not challenging; you just have to let go of everything. This includes everything you have believed yourself to be. Just be – it’s really that simple. Everything resides in that beingness. All there is, is. Be that.
Dr. Robert Puff, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, author, international speaker, and meditation expert who has been counseling individuals, families, nonprofits, and businesses for over twenty years. A contributing writer to Psychology Today, he has authored numerous books, including Spiritual Enlightenment: Awakening to the Supreme Reality and creates a weekly podcasts and articles on enlightenment, spiritual enlightenment, nonduality, Advaita Vedanta at: http://www.EnlightenmentPodcast.com