April 17, 2011

11 Essential Ebbs of Enlightenment.

Let’s start with a simple truth: it is unlikely that you will ever walk on water or levitate off the meditation pillow by repeating mantras or observing the breath.

Photo: H. Koppdelaney

With practice, however, spiritual levity can be attained in this lifetime. Just by showing an interest in spiritual progression, you attract the same illuminated energy that surged through historical figures such as Buddha, Jesus Christ and Haile Selassie. Dedication to the external message of any dogma, combined with listening to that innate identity which speaks to us from within, reveals the massive potential for any person to spiritually embody any of the apparent human deities who claimed earth as their stomping ground.

For each moment through the expanse of an entire lifetime, here is my personal daily reincarnation to Nirvana:

#1. Accept That You Are Already Enlightened.

Photo: Sophie Ffrench-Constant

I have always considered human intelligence and curiosity to be a universal paradox. We are given the incredible gift of consciousness, yet we use this gift as a tool for questioning its purpose and attempting to justify it with religion, philosophy and science. (I do, however, find them beautiful and equally essential for the human experience). There is certainly space for progression along this path. I recently heard Bhagavan Das say, “You are the way and the only thing in your way is you.” Guiding your spiritual life with meditation, yoga, worship and information collection is an integral part of the ultimate realization, but the mere presence of your individual self on this planet is an absolute miracle. The ability to recognize that presence is an even greater one. Keep this in mind above all else: the path to enlightenment and enlightenment itself are the same thing.

#2. Throw the Golden Rule Out the Window.

The saying, “Do unto others as you would do unto yourself,” is outdated and overused. As my mentor once told me, “Not everyone wants to be done unto like you do.” Instead, I (and perhaps many before me) have now enacted the Platinum Rule: “Do unto others as if they were God.” Seriously! How would you treat your spouse or best friend if they were God? Imagine that every person on the planet is acting in this manner. In many ancient philosophies, we are all part of a oneness that, in totality, is a supreme being. You, your imperfect family and the world of war-faring and impoverished nations are all parts of this ridiculously unfathomable perfection.

#3. Befriend All Aspects of Your Mind.

To paraphrase Shakespeare: “There is no good or evil. It is only the thinking that makes it so.” So don’t be too hard on yourself. You are here in this moment. Therefore, it must be perfect. Your thoughts will come and go—some will please you and some will not. In your life, sometimes you will be brave and other times fearful. You will love and you will rage. Inherent human characteristics such as fear, anger, anguish and suffering help keep life real. Jesus rampaged through a temple while the Buddha walked out on his wife the day after she gave birth to his son, but we all know what happens in the end of their stories. Even the sixth Dali Llama was known to sneak out of his palace and into the city streets, where he would get as drunk as a monk and womanize ‘til sunrise. So don’t feel too bad if you inhaled another quart of “Chunky Monkey” last night; perhaps it is just an aspect of being a supernatural life force.

#4. Embrace Your Past. Act in the Now.

Mistakes are definitely one part of the enlightened human experience. Furthermore, it is completely natural to rationalize our errors. We externalize blame as something that has happened to us, whereas in reality, it has actually happened for us. We wouldn’t be such incredible people if it weren’t for the trials and tribulations that caused heartache and suffering. So skip the online self-psychotherapy session (I am not denying psychological illness, as I highly respect the field of psychology). Maintaining mindfulness in the moment places all responsibility in our present-time consciousness as decisions are being made. Awareness is the true Nature Of Wisdom (NOW), which allows us to embrace the past that has shaped our experience while empowering us to choose who we are in each moment.

#5. Predict the Future—For Better or For Worse

Photo: Kelly V.

Sure, “life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get”—unless, of course, you have previously eaten from that box of chocolates, Forest. The dark bumpy circles are coconut and the skinny rectangles taste like Twix bars. Life repeats itself and even new experiences can teach you different versions of the same old lessons. If the past was perfect, why wouldn’t the future be perfect, too? Yeah, you’re going to make more mistakes because you’re not finished learning yet. Let’s just hope you’re not making the same mistakes again and again, like choosing the chocolate squares filled with pink chalk dust.

#6. Speak as if We Were One: Stop Saying “I”, “Me”, and “My”.

Don’t get me wrong…individuality is sacred. One of the most amazing aspects of this existence is that no two souls are exactly alike, and this fact should be celebrated. Everything is better in moderation, though…especially ego. The words “I”, “me” and “my” are the “trio of ego.” Try to reduce these self-identification symbols and begin reorganizing your language to embody a more universal perspective by using words such as “we”, “us” and (my personal favorite) “everyone”. What began as an impossible task will unfold into a joyful experience of selflessness. Paradoxically, through this universal perspective, one may discover the true individual contribution to the greater cosmic scheme.

#7. Release Your Negative Projections of Other People

I can hear my mother now, “If you don’t have anything nice to say…” It doesn’t matter if it’s your best friend who can’t get past his or her old relationship hang-ups, or an entire group of political adversaries. All people are perfect just the way they are. Their status is perfect; their flaws are perfect; their hatred is perfect. We are all brothers and sisters. Those who act outside the realm of social norms (or your perception of “normal”) are people who need love just like you do. The least you can do is send them some peaceful vibes, rather than the exact opposite.

#8. Meditation is for Practice Only.

Photo: Umberto Salvagnin

As stated by Kabat-Zinn, “The real meditation is your life.”  Your level of enlightenment is directly related to the level of awareness you maintain as you live it. This awareness exists in many forms, beginning with breath and posture. Breath awareness elevates your perception, both on the pillow and off. In conversation, for example, breath awareness is important since voice sounds are a biological function of breathing (try talking without exhaling). Postural awareness elevates your yoga and “stance” when choosing to act in a situation. These two elements of breath and postural awareness can directly stimulate the brain centers that initiate emotional healing, spontaneous creativity and instantaneous divergent thinking. Practice does make perfect, so next time you’re slouching over your Facebook page or cursing the clover that’s crowdin’ your veggie patch, remember to sit up strait, stand tall, breathe mindfully and acknowledge with appreciation the ever-present intelligence that we spend so much time recognizing when we are on the mat or at the alter.

#9. Live Out Loud.

Once my yoga guru told me that this was a mantra of hers, I immediately chiseled it into my heart. What’s the point of a life spent sitting on a pillow always looking ahead and waiting for the next big moment of epiphany? Stop for a second and look behind you. There are other frustrated human beings who are stuck at that same place you were recently stuck. If the opportunity to teach arises, be-careful; it’s easy to get excited and “should” all over your student.  Speak with precision, gentleness and honesty and avoid a lecture filled with “you should” and “have to”. The true essence of learning can only be achieved when the teacher asks open-ended questions, which elicit thought and self-realization.

#10. Depend on Nothing Else But the Self.

If you want something done right, do it yourself. When it comes to enlightenment, your true self-discovery is exactly that: discovered by thy self. Only you can put one foot in front of the other and walk towards the inevitable truth. Amazingly, becoming self-sufficient helps us to develop the patience and skills necessary to help other people do the same. Another universal paradox emerges from taking independent actions—an eternity of support emerges from the universe around you.

Photo: Greg Riegler

#11. Drink Lots of Clean Water. Eat Clean Food, and Less. Think Clean Thoughts.

Thank you to all my teachers who continually enlighten my experience and who inspired this list.

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