Never mind this enlightenment business

Looks pretty, but pretty won't last

This is how things changed:

One morning about 20 years ago, I was standing in front of my bedroom closet, looking for what to wear to work. Nothing in my life was going the way I wanted it to, I was intensely dissatisfied with just about everything around me, and I couldn’t see a way out of any of it. Not immediately, anyway.

I hated my job. I was doing work that didn’t suit me at a company I deeply resented. I wasn’t making nearly enough money to support my household, but the economy was unfavorable, and I didn’t feel I had the skills or the time or the energy to go out and find another job.

I didn’t like any of my clothing. It was all worn and boring and not very stylish. It didn’t suit me at all.

I didn’t like the apartment where I lived. It was full of fleas, the building where it was located was cheaply constructed of flimsy materials, the refrigerator kept icing up, my landlord was a hard-ass, we had trouble making rent, the neighbors were loud and obnoxious, and the space was too small for my family.

I had money problems. I was deeply in debt, my credit rating was abysmal, I could never seem to get ahead, and the expenses just kept piling up. My partner and I had lost one of our beloved cats while living in that apartment, because we didn’t have the money to get her the necessary medical treatment when she needed it.

I had relationship issues. My partner was usually angry with me, we were fairly estranged, and we couldn’t seem to overcome our differences. Many of our problems were related to money and social isolation, and those problems didn’t seem to be going away anytime soon.

Everything around me seemed to be falling to pieces. My car had been nearly repossessed, and it wasn’t even worth the $400 I paid the repo man to keep it from being towed away. We had nearly been evicted from this apartment for a check that bounced, and there was never enough money to do anything we wanted – or even needed – to do. My partner was not able to get adequate medical and dental care, and they had a lot of physical ailments that had been problematic for some time. I couldn’t see my way out of the mess we were in, and any kind of positive change seemed miles away. I was operating in a constant state of low-level desperation, just trying to keep a few steps ahead of total disaster.

Now, I meditated regularly, but frankly it just pissed me off, when I “came back” to the everyday world around me. I did feel bliss when I was “away” in my meditative state(s), but the real world with all its aggravations was always waiting for me when I got back.

By no means was I in a mental, emotional or spiritual space that prepared me for what happened next.

As I stared resentfully at my clothes closet, suddenly I was suffused with a Light and a Knowing that I cannot fully describe. The heavens themselves seemed to open up above me, and I saw the dark and luminous universe filled with pinpoints of starlight cascade down towards me. I also felt myself opening up to it, melting into the celestial heavens above, and from above and below we merged as one. In an instant, the shirts and pants hanging in front of me blurred and melted away, and I felt all the world around me blend into one continuous, uninterrupted whole. There was no them, there was no me, there was no separation, there was no differentiation. There was nothing but the Truth that I was One with All.

In an instant, everything was revealed as right and in Divine Perfect Order. Everything was whole. Everything was intimately meshed with All That Is, and I was smack-dab in the middle of it. There were no hangers, no fabrics, no shirts or pants or shoes in the closet in front of me. There was no job, no apartment, no schedule, no bedroom, no indoors, no outdoors. There was no separation at that instant. There was only Wholeness, Completeness, the Knowledge that All Is Well and Everything Is In Its Right and Proper Place.

At that moment, I knew – I felt – I was ONE with All. I was One with my crappy, demeaning job, I was One with my unattractive wardrobe, I was One with my estranged partner, I was One with my rusty, dilapidated car, I was One with my flea-infested apartment. All was One. I was right in the middle of it. And everything was in Perfect Divine Order.

I stopped for a few moments, transfixed by the realization. I said nothing. I had no words for what I was experiencing. I could not move. I could not speak. All I could do was simply stand there, staring at my clothes, feeling the expansiveness grow and swim within me. I felt cells come to life, pulsing with light that unfolded to the stars… into the earth… melting and melding into the flowing vital essence that permeated everything in that room, all my atoms mixing and blending with the atoms of every created thing on this plane and all others. The universe in all its immensity expanded around me, then made itself known in my heart. In that moment, it felt as though years, even lifetimes, of blame and fault and error were wiped clean and made completely new. Everything that was or had ever been “wrong” in my life, no longer mattered. Not in the least.

At that instant, the truth about my essence being One and the Same as that essence which animates everything in the implicate and explicate orders, came front and center and went from being an abstract quantum concept (which I hadn’t yet encountered and wouldn’t read about for years, yet), to being a living, breathing reality. Indeed, I believe that much of my research over the following years stemmed from my innermost desire to explain just what had happened to me.

From that unexpected moment, I have never been the same. In the following weeks, months, years, I would frequently get surges of bliss while I was standing in front of my clothes closet, thinking about what to wear, first thing in the morning after I got out of the shower. That same type of realization of the truth about the universe would pulse through me, enlivening my cells and thrilling my entire being with an exhilaration that still to this day amazes me … and frightens me a little, too.

Nothing about my experience of life has been the same, since that moment. My entire world view changed “in the twinkling of an eye.” I’ve tried to describe this experience many times in many pages of writing, but it hasn’t been easy – again, it’s difficult to describe in words something that is visual and experiential and lots of other people have no concept of — or that the common assumptions of separation and alienation stubbornly attempt to ignore or suppress or wipe out, day after day, month after month, year after year, generation after generation. The best I can do, is try. And I have. But I have rarely succeeded to my own satisfaction.

Words cannot do that experience justice.

Ever since that day, I sense no real separation between “myself” and others. I sense no division between religions or faiths. My life has since been marked by a combination of earthbound disorientation, divine indifference, lack of attachment, unconditional acceptance, cosmic consciousness, moral weightlessness, peace that passeth understanding, and a sense of Love that is unparalleled by any human interaction I’ve had. It is both personal and impersonal, transmuting and transfiguring my life, yet wholly transcending it. If nothing else, there is… Love.

That experience served to turn me into someone quite different than I had been before. And yet, as much as it benefited me, it also hurt me. Because the more caught up in my “enlightenment” I was, the less involved in my everyday life I became. It was like I was in a trance of some kind, thinking that the only thing that mattered was my own elevation, my own perfection. It felt great, but it was hell on the rest of my life.

Bullshit. What matters is how I carry that into my everyday life. And the best thing to do, under the circumstances, is to remember that what I experienced is really, truly, nothing special – it’s the right and possibility of every single person. In fact, it’s the only true thing about us all – that we all have this capability, if we just quit trying to engineer something that fits our “logic” better than what life puts in our path.

Like Shosan, I have “decided it didn’t suit me. It was nothing more than a realization based on a particular state of mind. So, I [have] discarded it and returned by my previous state.”

It took me a number of years to get back to where I can just take it all in stride, and those were years of much hardship and inability to truly participate in my life as it presented itself to me. I caused others pain and disappointment and I failed to live up to my potential in so many ways. But now things are different. I am still a disappointment in many ways, and I fail frequently. But I am HERE. And that’s something.

Because even though that sense of newness, that sense of connection, is still with me, it is now in every part of my life. It’s not separate, it’s not reserved for special times away from the everyday. It’s not something that needs to be sheltered from the everyday and protected. It IS the everyday. It just is.

And like Shosan, I have deep reservations about putting it up on a pedestal to be revered and regarded as something unusual. It is very usual. It is normal. It is how we are, based on our states of mind — and body.

Thank you Suzuki Shosan, for talking sense to us.


One thought on “Never mind this enlightenment business

  1. This could be said of me also – “years of much hardship and inability to truly participate in my life as it presented itself to me. I caused others pain and disappointment and I failed to live up to my potential in so many ways.”

    While I have not had any enlightenment experiences, I, too, am trying to focus on now, this moment, in order to better live and be with those around me.

    Thanks for sharing!

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