Enlightened Acceptance

I have read many books and articles on enlightenment. And there are so many ideas as to what ‘enlightenment’ really means and how to get there. For some it is achieving a sense of Nirvana or having some sort of ‘mystical’ experience. Some see it as achieving ‘persistent non-duality’ where we are ‘one’ with everything and the self, or ego, is subsumed by the spiritual. Teachers suggest that it’s achieved by certain methods of meditation, or yoga, or chanting. Others say that we need to dig deep into ourselves and remove all that is untrue until we arrive at truth. Every guru, every religion seems to have a unique way to attain enlightenment, often at the expense of the teachings and practices of others.

Enlightenment: The Age of Reason

In looking at the word itself, ‘enlightenment’ I believe that it is a lot simpler than much of the information I have consumed over the years. It simply means allowing more light onto a subject. History refers to the 17th century as the Enlightenment because of it’s focus away from the magical thinking and onto the intellectual practices to arrive at truth which swept away the cobwebs of the middle ages. The latter part of the 20th century began an new enlightenment in a return to the spiritual aspects of our lives, turning away from the material excesses. Eastern mysticism and spirituality came to the west, and Western beliefs in democracy and economics moved east. A movement of the pendulum back to the centre.

If I could define enlightenment briefly I would say it is “the quiet acceptance of what is.”

Wayne Dyer

I really like Wayne Dyer’s definition of enlightenment. And I think it is what we are all called to be: human adults who quietly accept the who, what, when, where, why and how of the present situation. It’s not pretending to be someone from our past or anticipating who I might become in the future. It is being in the present, using the power of this moment to find peace and know that at one’s core being all well and there is serenity. It means that I have ‘light’ in my life. It also means that I can change to allow even more light into my life.

Dyer used the same definition for enlightenment as I use for the word ‘humility’: the quiet acceptance of what is.

Are humility and enlightenment the same thing then? Quite possibly.

We often mistakenly equate humility with humiliation. They are not the same. Humility is a state of being, a character trait if you will. Humiliation is an emotion, an abasement of our pride. Humility is a character trait that I seek to cultivate in myself. And, if I truly know and accept where I am in life, nothing can humiliate me. If I really know myself, then I am solid upon the ground. I accept where I am in life.

However, Enlightenment, Humility and Acceptance do not demand that we must stay where and how we are in life. In fact, I think it is a challenge to improve. When I know how little I know, I am challenged to find out more. If I see that my lifestyle is not providing the health that I want in life, I am challenged to make changes in what I eat and how I exercise. If my financial situation is below where I would like it to be, I can alter my earning and spending beliefs. But I can’t make any of these changes if I don’t first ‘know’ how things stand at the present moment in time. The proverbial ‘light bulb’ comes on and we see exactly where we stand. We become ‘enlightened’.

That is why Enlightenment is the acceptance of how things are. It is the first step on a new journey to greater knowledge, greater understanding and infinite wisdom. It is a journey that I can work at every day and is, therefore, not a state of being or a moment in time. I became enlightened when I realized that teaching at an elementary school was not how I wanted to spend the rest of my working life. I became enlightened when I started a small business and grew it from the ground up. I became enlightened when I ended a relationship that was no longer nurturing to either of us. I look at my sobriety as a gift of enlightenment. And I can be enlightened by the little things in life too, like walks with the dogs, a sharing of like minds, or a new experience. All of these contribute to my own enlightenment journey; they add a bit more ‘light’ of knowledge, understanding and experience to where I am standing today.

Enlightenment is a process that takes time and patience as well as humility. It is part of my ongoing journey of becoming just a little bit better version of myself today than I was yesterday and for that, I am grateful.

A Very Persistent Illusion

Is it a fact or is it a belief? The more I seek and delve deeper into the world around me, the more I realize that most of what I think I know are not facts but beliefs. Things in this world are not as they seem. I am not what I seem. As Einstein said, “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” What I thought were facts are, I am discovering, nicely packaged theories that work for a time, but which are only an approximations. They are not facts. They are not the truth. All of this reinforces my need to be flexible and not close the door on any subject.

I was taught that North and South America’s native population all came across Beringia, the land bridge between Siberia and Alaska some 13,000 years ago. Recent archaeological study, combined with radiocarbon dating and DNA analysis now proves that homo sapiens were present in the Americas up to 130,000 years ago . I was taught in high school that the number of brain cells that we have as an adult will only decrease as we age. That has also been proven to be false. Neurogenesis is our ability to form new brain cells throughout life. Coupled with neuroplasticity, the ability to form new brain restructure and reorganize nerve pathways means that we can always grow and learn. And I was taught that Antarctica was ‘discovered’ in 1820, yet the the Piri Reis Map of 1513 clearly shows its existence. Theories, it seems, come with an expiration date.

There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance — that principle is contempt prior to investigation.” Herbert Spencer

I came across this quote a number of years ago. It’s a reminder to me that if I believe I have the ‘truth’, then I close my mind to any future discoveries. It’s a reminder of what institutions like the Catholic Church did when it persecuted Copernicus and Galileo because their new discoveries did not fit with their view biblical of the ‘facts’. It’s a reminder that I don’t have all of the answers and that I may never have them. And it’s a reminder to stay away from any dogmatic ‘fact’. The ‘facts’, as illustrated above, can change.

So maybe some of the new theories about life and humanity, past and future, are the new truths for today. Perhaps our world really is a simulation or a type of holographic projection. Perhaps light-speed travel is possible. Are there parallel universes? Who knows. As long as I am open to the possibility, then I have a chance of finding the new ‘facts’ of tomorrow. With a closed mind, I’ll never have a chance.

I have been using this extra ‘time’ I have on my hands to investigate many things, past, present and future. One video on YouTube leads me to a book which, in turn leads me to another discovery, a podcast or series. There is so much out there that I didn’t know about the world around us, our reality. Some of these things have lead me to try new things. I learned how to make my own yogurt (easy) and sour dough starter (relatively easy) and to work out again (I ache all over right now). I’ve taken a one week, self-guided retreat. I subscribed to a 50 day introduction to meditation (on day 48 today).

The world we live in is as wide or as narrow as I decide to make it. More than ever, I have found that the further I dig into something, even something I think I know a lot about, I discover how little I really know. This reality, illusion or otherwise, contains of lifetime of awe and wonder. I am grateful that I have the time to discover it.

Suggested Links:

Piri Reis Map A 16th century map based upon earlier, now lost maps.

America Before, by Graham Hancock. Hancock’s book about pre Clovis civilization in the Americas. There’s also a link to an entertaining lecture he gave on this topic.

Becoming Supernatural, By Joe Dispenza. Brain-heart link with consciousness.

Matt D’Avella, on YouTube. He’s the latest guy I’ve been following.

Secrets of the Soul

A former sponsor of mine used to say, “I’m as sick as my secrets.” It took me a long time to really understand what he meant and after a few years in recovery, I think I have a better handle on it. We all have some secrets and they have the power to lead us deeper into darkness.

The secret of my sexuality kept me from living a full and healthy life before I emerged from my closet. ‘What if they find out? What will they think? I have to be careful so that no one will find out.’ These thoughts were constantly with me. It lead to a distrust of others. It kept me isolated, alone and lonely. The only time I felt that I could be released from my secret, earlier on, was when I was high. The rules and norms of society be damned. When I was high I didn’t care what anyone really thought.

Of course, the next morning arrived and along with the spitting headache I had the moral hangover of regret. Over the years, my secrets changed and varied, but they were always there, guarded and hidden. I wouldn’t say I was dishonest and openly lying, only that I wouldn’t disclose my real truth about what I felt or thought about situations. I rationalized that what I really wanted and how I really felt were best left unsaid. I didn’t want to cause pain in others but was unable to see the pain I was causing in myself because I wouldn’t open up. I felt it was better to keep that inside.

I kept my secrets bottled up so that everyone would like me and so that they wouldn’t feel hurt. I wasn’t able to see that they were making me sink deeper and deeper into addiction. My thinking was inverted: I didn’t want to cause you any pain, but it was okay to cause my own and for me to suffer in silence. And my ‘suffering’ was always a good reason to self medicate.

Through the program of recovery I am able to see that my ‘suffering in silence’ was an ego trip, as if my suffering would save the rest of the world. It was all about me and all about my justification for loading up. In the process of Step Five, sharing my past and the ‘exact nature’ of my character with another person, I was sharing my secrets. And a funny thing about a secret: once it is told to another person, it’s no longer a secret.

I didn’t realize how much energy I was using to keep my past thoughts, feelings and actions hidden until I stopped. Going through Step Five, sharing with another person helped me to open up to another person and prepared me for Step Nine where I made amends to those I had harmed. My program of recovery helps me to recognize when I am falling into the same patterns creating little secrets by hiding my feelings and thoughts and to know when I need to talk to my sponsor again about these things. I know that keeping things bottled up inside will lead to resentment, anger, fear and a relapse. The sooner I disclose my secrets, the sooner I return to health.

Thank you Marshall.