Very often, enlightenment happens in the mind as a recognition of the absolute truth of emptiness in which a separate “me” does not exist. Whilst this realization is undoubtedly a profoundly transformative experience, living this truth is frequently more of a challenge. Awakening itself is simple. Of course, from the point of view of the ego it’s not so simple because the ego, being time-oriented, has an investment in enlightenment as a future goal. But once the mind recognizes itself as radiant emptiness, then awakening is absolutely natural and effortless. It’s as inevitable as a flower blooming from a bud.
But awakening is just the beginning: the embodiment of this awakening is the real journey. The adventure begins, not in the rarified atmosphere of transcendence, but in the midst of the chaos of life. And living the truth of awakening has perhaps never been more of an imperative than in today’s rapidly changing world. Most of us live complex, multi-faceted lives with jobs, careers, financial responsibilities, relationships and families. Many of us are also attempting to pursue our dreams, live our highest potential, and make a contribution to the world. At the same time, we’re increasingly aware that over half the planet’s population lives in abject poverty and horrifying circumstances. Somehow, all of this needs to be included in our awakening.
If awakening is to serve a real purpose in our lives, it needs to find new forms of expression through our everyday interactions. And if this awakening is to serve a purpose in the bigger picture of birthing a new humanity, it needs to engage us fully with the evolutionary impulse of existence. Enlightenment is no longer a secret reserved for mystics nor a luxury indulged in by privileged Westerners seeking to become “more spiritual”: it’s a necessity if we are to survive and thrive. If enlightenment is to be of any use, it needs to come down from the mountaintop and get its hands dirty in the market-place of human affairs. It’s an uncompromising embracement of both the waves of phenomenal expression and the ocean of inner stillness that brings us into deep intimacy with the creative force of life. This deep intimacy doesn’t mean you get lost in the story of the world, but it does mean you’re willing to wholeheartedly meet the world without a story. The enlightened mystic Osho called this “becoming a Zorba the Buddha”: in other words, the new evolutionary human being is someone who is utterly anchored within the light of awakened nature yet passionately committed to the bittersweet juiciness of earthly existence. Yes, the truth is “I am not my body”: but my direct experience shows me that my body is here and that consciousness moves through it as it every time I walk or run or jump. Yes, the truth is “there is no self”: but how come I answer when you call my name? Yes, the truth is “I do not exist and neither do you”: but isn’t it true that it matters whether I see and hear you with open-heartedness rather than with judgment? And isn’t this what we call relationship?
Rooted in the stillness of our being-nature, what is so unspiritual about opening to the movement of our life’s journey? Authentic awakening is not static: it’s a fresh moment to moment awareness of that which is unfolding within our direct experience. And what’s unfolding for so many of us within contemporary culture is an increasing complexity, interconnectivity and creativity at an exponential rate. Today we have the opportunity to become so much more than previous generations had ever dreamt of: for most of us, there are more resources, more technologies, more information and more wisdom available to us. What is so unspiritual about opening to embrace this evolutionary movement of our becoming-ness?
Authentic awakening is radical. It’s not about “spiritual practice”. It’s not something that we do for 20 minutes twice a day and then tick off our “to do” list: it’s a 24-hour a day, 365 days a year job that calls us to be ruthlessly honest. You either meet life consciously – that is, as the awakeness of your true nature – or you get lost in the dream. There’s no half way: you can’t be semi-conscious, you can’t meet life consciously when it feels good or you get things to go your way but then get lost in the story when it all goes wrong or it hurts. But you can become aware of what is still unconscious in you. This resolve to vigilance is the fertilizer for a deeper awakening.
If awakening is to be complete in you – if it’s to be a radical awakening – it must become alive in every cell of your being: your being-ness must sing and dance with the discovery of its light-essence. As this light filters out from mind into heart and further into the density of physical form, there’s a purification of all that is not yet living the truth of this awakeness. This is where it gets tricky. This is where the ancient movement of ego wants to claim ownership of the light, where it wants to hold onto an image of awakening as a transcendent or positive or blissful or never-ending experience. Purification means that everything that is unconscious in you will be brought to the fire of awakeness to be transformed. This is where confusion, doubt and fear come in: “Surely if I’m enlightened, I shouldn’t be having these unenlightened thoughts or these painful feelings?” It’s at this point that there’s a danger of re-identification with the story of your life. And it’s exactly here that the invitation to the greatest adventure holds out its hand to you. Right here, in this moment – and in each moment as it unfolds, whether it be an enlightened or an unenlightened moment – you are invited to rest more deeply within the One that expresses itself as everything: you are invited to willingly open to the divine mystery and mess of that which we call the human experience.
If you choose to be unequivocal in taking up this invitation – remember there is no half-way – your life will no longer be your own but will be given in service to this invitation. If you are radically sincere in your surrender to awakeness, the light of your innermost being will come rushing to meet your outermost expression and everything that stands in the way of this truth will be dismantled. In some people, this happens like a meandering river that gently but persistently reaches its destination. In others, this happens like a tidal wave that obliterates anything fragile or weak in its path. Either way, if the demolition job is thorough, an incredible silence will emanate from your core and reverberate through your environment, your community, your culture and your world. This silence is your true power because it is inseparable from the silent core of creation. It is the same as the light of God.
The embodiment of this light is the start of authentic living and it has the power to give birth to a new world.
(from Amoda Maa’s forthcoming book “Radical Awakening”)