There are two ways that you can experience the intoxicating joy, profound peace, and ecstatic wakefulness of the Ground of Being: spontaneously or through effort.
Spontaneously, like an unexpected visit from God, for no particular reason the doors of perception can open, expanding your awareness to reveal a higher and deeper dimension of consciousness. This kind of event often happens in the company of an enlightened master who has access to this unmanifest ground, or in a group of dedicated individuals who have come together for a higher purpose. But you can also experience the ground of being simply through your own disciplined effort, through choosing to step beyond the conditioned mind.
A spontaneous experience is a source of tremendous inspiration because it proves something to you, directly. When you unexpectedly discover the shocking clarity of bliss consciousness, without having made any effort to attain it, it compels you to acknowledge the existence of a deeper, higher dimension of your own self. But extraordinary and miraculous as they are, spontaneous experiences are rarely enough to finally liberate us from an unenlightened relationship to the mind and emotions. More often, they will simply reveal how extraordinary our potential for liberation is, here and how, and simultaneously expose how deluded we are most of the time.
A spontaneous experience of higher consciousness is like a free ride to heaven. But to stay there we have to be willing to pay the price. That means that at a moment’s notice, we have to be willing to do battle with the demons of fear and doubt. True liberation is something we all have to be willing to fight for. Sometimes it may be easy, but at other times you will find yourself overwhelmed by fear, doubt, confusion, narcissistic concerns and materialistic desires. So the willingness to make effort has to be unconditional in relationship to your own mind. That willingness is what creates receptivity to higher consciousness in each and every one of us. When you are willing to make the noble effort to liberate yourself, to consistently struggle to make the right choices for the right reasons, it creates a receptive inner atmosphere. Through the disciplined practice of meditation, the conscious, consistent renunciation of the mind and emotions, you create a fertile ground within you for higher consciousness.
In the end, no matter how profound your experience of revelation, the only question that matters is “Am I going to be ready to change, based on what I have seen, or not?” Only if you are ready to change will the spontaneous experience of liberating insight become the initiation that leads to lasting transformation. If not, it will soon fade into nothing more than an inspiring memory. When you fall back into a state of unenlightenment, in an instant the fears and desires of the ego overwhelm you once again. This is why it is so essential to cultivate the habit of making noble effort. You need to assume an inner posture that is going to ensure your victory. If you are not deadly serious about this, you are not going to make it. That’s guaranteed.
Andrew Cohen is a spiritual teacher and founder of the award-winning EnlightenNext magazine. Click to learn more about his new book Evolutionary Enlightenment: A New Path to Spiritual Awakening.