Enlightenment and Excite(n)mentPosted: August 12, 2012
In Zen circles you can hear people say that enlightenment is the moment-by-moment ability to rest and rejoice in the simplicity of the (super-)ordinary. Although this sounds unspectacular and simple, it nevertheless eludes most seekers of enlightenment forever. Why is that so?
I have found that most seekers seem to confuse enlightenment with excite(n)ment. Thus, in the pursuit of enlightenment they are looking for some kind of pleasant and continuous consciousness-altering experience. Unfortunately, though, the chase for such a gimmick -which ultimately serves no other purpose than distraction and stimulation- disqualifies them from getting the ‘real deal’, the goody of blissful peace and rest in the ‘Now’. It seems to me, therefore, that the simple reason seekers don’t get enlightened is that they don’t really want it. What they actually want is their idea of enlightenment, which involves extra-ordinary excitement rather than super-ordinary peace.
The question then becomes as to why seekers seem to prefer excitement over blissful peace. My conclusion is that, again, there is a fundamental confusion between the two. Whenever we distract or stimulate ourselves we get a break from our busy minds. The pleasant feeling we derive from this is what we usually call bliss. Most new-age and many spiritual methods and concepts are sold to gullible seekers exactly in that fashion. They promise (and, I admit, often do also deliver) instant gratification through quieting or transcending the mind. In the end, though, these methods work like a drug. Every quick blissful high always follows a reincarnation into the old complicated mind-state of likes and dislikes and reactive patterns. What we get when we seek excite(n)ment is simply Samsara reloaded.
True bliss, though, is never derived from manipulating the mind but reflects the health of our psyche. As our psychological wounds are healed, the mind ceases to be busy, permanently, not just temporarily. Rejoicing in whatever ‘is’ right now then becomes as natural as breathing.
It is very important to understand that the business of our minds is but a reaction to our ideas of how life ought to be, as opposed to how it actually ‘is’. In that sense, our minds point us to our hang-ups. They are our true gurus. So, whenever our minds are busy, that is, whenever our minds are in opposition to what ‘is’ we can usually trace this business back to a particular concept or to a particular coping strategy which we came up with to defend one, or a set of unhealed psychological wounds (that’s why seekers with ‘heavy’ unresolved ‘stuff’ are usually complicated, otherworldly and arbitrary).
One of the most popular coping strategies to avoid dealing with our wounds is the search for distraction and stimulation, that is, excitement. Seekers of excite(n)ment, thus, do not only miss enlightenment and recreate the cycle of Samsara, they actually strengthen an unwholesome behavioral trait which takes them even further away from blissful peace.
To be able to have our psychological wounds be healed we have to carefully and slowly disable our defense mechanisms, that is, we have to find a way to let go of our concepts and reactive patterns (which make up the ego). That’s exactly what ‘real’ spirituality is meant to do. It provides the tools to see through these mechanisms (e.g. by becoming mindful) and it diminishes our fears (e.g. by realizing all is ‘One’ or by cultivating love and compassion) so that we can ‘open up’ and be more embracing towards our emotions and feelings.
The spiritual way, thus, is not easy since it leads one to come face-to-face with repressed emotions and even traumas, both causing so much (if not ultimately all) of the psychological suffering in our lives. Only when our painful ‘stuff’ sees the light of that consciousness which knows no fear, it can be released and healed (some people speak in this context of the ‘inner healer’). As I wrote in my last post this process will take time and it won’t be fun and fluffy. For this reason most seekers don’t want to go through it. They are afraid of the real ‘work’ and much rather keep on dreaming about the ultimate quick fix. This is why most remain forever stuck in the spiritual candy store.
“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”