I get tired just thinking about the regimens people go through to feel like their lives have value. While balanced discipline allows us to see and hear more of Life, regimentation has a completely different feel to it.
The drive behind regimented spiritual practice is, in reality, toxic. The practitioner creates yet another illusion: “If I meditate, do yoga, eat these foods, fast, and cleanse – I will qualify as an advanced being.”
There is no way to say it except straight up – being attached to a routine and restrictions of any kind is just another thing to let go of when one realizes that attachment doesn’t work. Similarly, being attached to living for the day has the exact same effect – it is superficial freedom. Such practitioners acquire a superiority complex, a sense of “beating life at its game” and obsessively conquering what they consider to be human weaknesses – meanwhile immersed in the delusion that they are living Truth. One may get enlightened despite this mindset, but not because of it.
Buddha decided asceticism and zealous regimentation did not work to free him, so he stopped these practices. Doing whatever and avoiding responsibility and commitment does not work either. There is a middle ground, where one studies balance and active listening to their unique Life, answering its call. The yearning to be free, as vague as it may be in the beginning, does evoke a response from Life to invite the relationships that will ultimately interconnect and free us.
In reality, it requires much more discipline to be available to Life in the moment than waking up to a 5 AM alarm to meditate or do yoga. It is much more challenging to respond to the needs of Now, than to react out of habit – to let go when the tendency is to hang on.
Life – the power, energy, and force permeating everything – has everything to do with our evolution. If we pay attention, the very circumstances of our existence are giving us endless opportunities to be free, whether it be feedback, inspiration, change of routine, or support and loving gestures. Life that is open to the unpredictable and new is the toughest training ground for seeing through illusion. A sensitivity to timing develops with intuition of when and how to engage Life’s opportunities.
People nod when someone says change is the norm, but do not actually respond to change in a way that demonstrates this motto. However, disruption of regimented living is the greatest gift to spiritual practitioners – in proportion to the level of frustration such a change generates. The irritability and anger evoked by change show what is truly lurking behind the controlled facade. Then, there is the opportunity to let go into Life, which is truth – plain and simple.
When I was seeking enlightenment, I didn’t really know what I was seeking. I imagined the state to be something extraordinary – superior knowledge and understanding, freedom from pain, and freedom from suffering. But these were vague goals because I still suffered, felt pain, and knew my ignorance. I wanted to help the world to achieve freedom, having no understanding of what the world needed. And that’s the truth.
When the identification with Soul and Spirit stabilized, I realized that now I had to re-enter the world – Life – as That. There is no running off to secluded places, and there is no donning of white or orange robes to broadcast achievement. Freedom is to be Lived – expressed, not savoured in isolation and separation. Not today. Not anymore. In the past, people ran off to enjoy their bliss, but it is more difficult and requires further evolution to integrate into Life without pomp and fanfair.
It is true that the personality becomes impersonal, and that the embracing of All unconditionally becomes natural. It is true that one can see more clearly through situations, but attachment-based love dissolves and is supplanted by insightful response to need. It is true that one may no longer feel human, but – more than anything – one wants to relate ever more deeply (and not sit on a pedestal). And all this because one knows that one is no different from Life, and not separate from Life. Just as there is the rocky “ascent” to liberation, there is also a necessary reintegration period to establish real and humble relationship from that perspective.
At every transition, there are tests and temptations. Unfortunately, many get stuck there without pushing through. They teach misunderstanding and model disturbance, even if they have many followers. Why would anyone want to be a follower anyway? The whole point is for each person to reach realization, and not to glorify and worship someone else.
Some teachers have announced degrees of enlightenment – stages. Of course, every Ego latches on to those as a grading system to fortify the Ego’s position. In spiritual groups, practitioners actively judge and compare each other to decide who is the most and least evolved, without realizing that such an activity further distances them from freedom. But the Ego loves to judge and compare, and this very act allows illusion to become more entrenched.
Enlightenment is the exact opposite of feeling superior, extraordinary, entitled, and all-knowing. Instead, such a state is the continuous listening to Life and seeing Life with innocence and clarity. No comparisons, no posturing, and no self-deprecation or self-aggrandizement (which are fundamentally the same). The freedom is the strength to look into the eyes of the unknown and respond with clarity without judgement. The response is one of understanding and acceptance based on experience, rather than preaching wise quotes without having the actual experience of the words.
It is remarkable that the very process in which we continuously engage – Life – is seen as something to be controlled and overcome, rather than lived. The quality of openness is snuffed out by the should’s. If enlightenment is what you want, then fully engaging everyday Life – including the seemingly mundane – has everything to do with it. The universe does not know the future because we are all creating it.