Let’s face it, everything is for sale.
The Kardashians are selling downloadable videos of their weddings for $12 (for the four-part set), mason jars full of air are selling for $150 and 10-part video enlightenment courses are 50 percent off if you purchase on the internet today!
When I first embarked on the spiritual path in the mid-90s, I thought enlightenment was the ticket to universal consciousness and mystical miracles. Monks were driving Ferraris and mystics were still doing laundry. I thought being enlightened meant you were something special—you could talk to the dead, foresee the future, heal the sick and win the lottery.
Anthony Robbins was hitting his stride and James Van Praagh was just getting started. Neal Donald Walsh was an unknown having conversations with God. Deepak Chopra was writing his books, but not well known, and Dr. Phil had not shown up as the flavor du jour on the Oprah Show yet.
I started on the spiritual path tangentially while counseling addicted lawyers for my state bar association. The religious view of addiction was that it was a sin and one would rot in Hell for it (unless God gave you a “Get Out Of Jail” card). I was an ordained deacon in the Southern Baptist Church, whose religious ideology did not reconcile with a spiritual recovery model for addiction, meaning SBC was too restrictive in their beliefs for any spirituality to leak in.
Ironically, in a great leap of faith I left the SBC and started trudging a spiritual path, complete with meditation, mysticism and magic. Back then there was only a rudimentary internet and no downloadable shortcuts to sadhana, the path from ignorance to bliss. My wife would have none of it (being a devoted Baptist) and as a result I ended up divorcing in 2000 to explore the mythical path to Nirvana.
When I quit practicing law in 2004 to become an energy healer, the path to enlightenment was still far different than it is now. The spiritual industry, as I call it, was just getting started. There was not a lot of spam offering meditation, consciousness or mindfulness (the new buzz word). Boy have things changed. It seems that everyone is selling their version of consciousness and enlightenment.
The question that I ask myself is whether their version of enlightenment is any better than mine?
After swallowing the bait and taking a few of these online spirituality courses, my answer is no.
I have studied Eastern philosophy with several highly regarded leaders of the spiritual movement and read a boatload of articles, testimonials and historical texts seeking to understand this elusive concept of enlightenment. The Bhagavad Gita, The Koran, Autobiography of a Yogi, The Power of Now, Conversations with God, A Course in Miracles and The Celestine Prophecy were all on my nightstand and I devoured every word. Truthfully, I can’t say I know any more about the concept of enlightenment now than I did back when I got started, but I sure do feel a lot different.
One should not confuse the attributes of enlightenment with the Kool-Aid being sold by New Age entrepreneurs. (However my video course will be coming soon).
People are getting rich telling stories that most intelligent people would classify as bullshit. One of the more popular games these days is writing books with ghost writers about visions had during sleep or a coma, calling it a near-death experience and claiming a special knowledge of Heaven. Other people are selling healing powers from strange ancient hand movement techniques or magic words. Another category is people who claim to be able to teach others how to talk to the dead, angels or spirit guides. Please—unless I can talk to Elvis. I find no guidance from these people who have no care for integrity and are only selling beads and trinkets to the locals.
What is enlightenment? It is whatever you think it is. Everyone has a different and unique perception of it and no one is right or wrong. For me, enlightenment is a feeling, a state of being. It is the ability to go bankrupt and not give a damn. It is the ability to believe in a mystical and special relationship with another being after having my heart broken one more time.
What prompted me to write this article was the realization that nothing bothers me anymore. I recently devoted a huge block of time as a favor to someone who wanted help writing a new workshop, which I’ve done for many others over the years. After all was said and done, the parts of the workshop I had written were removed without notice or explanation. For the first time in my life I did not care. After all, it was their manual, they had the right to include whatever they wanted.
I did not react at all, and didn’t lose my temper as I was wont to do in the past. I moved on and said “What’s next?” Hallelujah!
I walk around these days in a perpetual state of happiness. I laugh more because I don’t worry what anyone thinks if I laugh—when is an “inappropriate” time to laugh anyway? I am more honest these days because I am not afraid that someone won’t like me if I say something they don’t like. I guess that is what we call being authentic.
I realize that being enlightened doesn’t mean that I will avoid challenges or difficult experiences. However, I know to the depth of my being that whatever happens does not reflect who I am. That is reflected in how I think about myself and what I do next.
If you are seeking enlightenment, consciousness or mindfulness, all you have to do is relax, let your life unfold and pay attention. The only difference between an enlightened person and other people is an enlightened person knows life is all part of a great game that we were born to play, and they enjoy the hell out of it. Criticism, problems and speed bumps are fun to an enlightened person. Death is irrelevant because it does not exist. People will come and go in our lives and there is no point falling apart over it. This is how enlightened people transcend the problems that would ordinarily destroy us.
I ask you, how do you define enlightenment?
Get your crayons and fill in the blank:
Author: James Gray Robinson
Apprentice Editor: Elly Woods / Editor: Nicole Cameron
Image: Kendall Lane/Unsplash