An excerpt from EMBODIED ENLIGHTENMENT
INTRODUCTION - An Invitation to the Most Precious Discovery
There is a momentum pulling us toward an emerging future, and this future holds the potential for a collective awakening that catapults us into the next stage as a species. For the first time in the known story of the cosmos, consciousness is becoming conscious of itself. But consciousness can only become conscious of itself through the vehicle of a living form that has the capacity for self-reflection. This includes being able to reflect on the nature of its own thinking and feeling, its own past and future, its own life and death, and on the nature of awareness itself. As far as we know, human beings are the only life-form on earth with this capacity of self-reflection. Consider then the possibility that a new consciousness and a new humanity is birthing itself through you as you. If this is so, could it be that you are the single most important factor in this birthing process? Could it be that you are the vehicle through which existence itself is attempting to re-create itself on the next highest level … and that your awakening absolutely matters? This book is an invitation to the unfolding of this awakening.
Awakening is the most precious of human experiences. The discovery of this truth is like finding a priceless jewel in the one place where we’d never dream to look: in our own pockets. Once it’s found, the trajectory of our lives is irreversibly altered. It is a radical and profound revelation that literally enlightens us by breaking the spell of identification with form to reveal the truth of who we are. This enlightenment means that an ancient burden is lifted and we are finally free to live from the core of our true radiance.
Awakening, or enlightenment (these terms are used interchangeably), is traditionally and historically the pinnacle of all spiritual paths. It’s also the holy grail of the modern-day spiritual seeker. The journey often starts when we’ve had enough of the voices in our heads telling us we’re not rich enough, not successful enough, not loved enough, or not good enough, and we attempt to find ways to alleviate this type of internal torment. Our investigations may lead us to walk down any number of paths that open the doorway to personal growth. We may invest ourselves in self-help methods, immerse ourselves in ancient and modern meditation practices, or follow a trail of metaphysical philosophies and disciplines. Each one of these promises to provide the key to eternal happiness. While this is a good start, because it gives us a golden glimpse into what is possible beyond our habitual thought patterns, if we continue to be seekers of a spiritual high we never break out of this beautiful prison.
If we’re lucky, somewhere along the way we get exhausted by the endless grasping for bliss, and our attention turns inward, to the genuine desire to be free not only of the story of “my suffering,” but also of the story of “my happiness.” The honest inquiry into both the validity of the story and the validity of the story-maker has the potential to end the journey. It ends when we stop searching for something outside ourselves to save us. It ends when we stop looking for a spiritual practice or a guru or enlightenment or God to give us freedom. In this stopping, we wake up to the reality that we are that which we have been seeking. We are already free.
Whereas awakening is always a surprisingly original experience for the individual, there’s nothing essentially new about it from a historic perspective. Individuals have been awakening throughout the ages. Early messengers such as Jesus, Buddha, and Lao Tzu have led the way by pointing to an inner dimension of consciousness. Since then, many enlightened masters have shared the same timeless message in their own unique ways.
This awakened consciousness, although still relatively uncommon, is now flowering within countless ordinary people around the world. Some of these people are becoming the new spiritual teachers; others are expressing this awakened state of being in a very down-to- earth way, through their relationships, their work, and their everyday interactions. And some people are at the leading edge of a new culture that is bringing an enlightened perspective to social, economic, and other global issues.
If you’re reading this book, then you, too, are undoubtedly on the journey of awakening. Perhaps you’ve already tasted the sweet nectar of true liberation and are thirsty for more. And perhaps you want to ask the one question that so many others are asking: “How can I anchor myself within this awakened state when everyday life keeps pulling me back into old ways of thinking?” The very fact that this book is in your hands means that there’s a real possibility that discovery of the radiant jewel of your true nature is closer than you think.
The invitation to this momentous opportunity is offered to you right here, amongst these pages. This book does not offer more information to add to your already busy mind. Nor does it offer yet another method or spiritual practice to add to your collection. And it certainly doesn’t promise instant enlightenment. Instead, it invites you to consider that something irrevocably new is being birthed from within you in this very moment. This “something new” is the fulfillment of your true life’s purpose—and this has enormous ramifications for you not only as an individual, but also for humanity.
Traditional spiritual teachings have all emphasized the cultivation of an inner state of stillness that awakens us to the truth of our being-nature. And they say this is achieved by turning away from worldly activity. While the recognition of our essential nature as this beingness is the foundation of awakening, what was relevant thousands of years ago is not so relevant today. An exponential increase of pace and pressure in today’s world brings a radically new perspective to enlightenment that asks us to reframe our understanding of what it means to be an awakened human being. What’s important now is that awakening is no longer about abandoning or transcending physical reality in order to live a spiritual life; rather, it’s about the fulfillment of our divine destiny by living the truth of our inner radiance while in earthly bodies.
What’s emerging today is a whole new relationship to life that gives birth to an authentic human being. It is a refreshingly contemporary viewpoint that acknowledges the imperative to anchor ourselves within the ground of being while celebrating the emergence of that which we are becoming. Another way of saying this is that it’s an embracing of the absolute truth of stillness and the relative truth of the movement of life. The evolutionary impulse that drives the ever-unfolding nature of existence is calling us to awaken to the pristine perfection of our inner light, and then to fully embody and express this light amid the imperfection and darkness of the world.
The invitation of this book is for you to collaborate in the birth of something new, for you to take a step toward your divine destiny by being willing to unwaveringly embrace the evolutionary process that wants your awakening to happen … because it is also the awakening of humanity.
Participation in the Awakening Process
Something that has never happened before is happening today: we can participate in the awakening process. For historical and cultural reasons, it used to be that enlightenment was an extraordinary experience that happened after many lifetimes of self-purification through seclusion, renunciation, celibacy, and religious vows, which have been the traditional hallmarks of a spiritual life. Mostly this would also demand a guru-disciple relationship, or at least some kind of transmission through a lineage. Today, enlightenment is no longer dependent on external factors, such as spiritual discipline, a monastic life, good karma, or finding the right teacher. However, sometimes a teacher is useful in deepening the awakening process; even reading the words in this book can be a catalyst for that which is already awake in you to more fully reveal itself.
Although awakening itself is the same as it was thousands of years ago, the good news is that it’s now more directly available to us in the midst of ordinary life. If you are on any kind of path of self-inquiry, self-healing, or self-help, it’s hard to deny the infusion of spiritual awareness into contemporary culture, mostly thanks to the Internet. Although it doesn’t always seem so if you read the daily newspapers or watch TV, an increasing number of people are turning their attention to the possibility of awakening in this lifetime.
While awakening is always an act of grace and not something we can “do,” there is a frequency field of awakened awareness created by the momentum of individuals who have awakened throughout the ages that makes a transformation of consciousness more available to each of us now. What used to be something mysterious and elusive has now become much more familiar. Spiritual books, videos, teachings, and conversations about enlightenment are now easily accessible. But something more than words and abstractions needs to be in place for this frequency field to penetrate you. Awakening hinges on your genuine desire for it. If awakening is to flower in you, you must truly want liberation from everything that is false in you. You must want to give yourself totally to the inquiry into what is true beyond all inherited concepts, ideas, and beliefs.
Perhaps this wanting has already been ignited in you. And maybe this spark has already burst into the flame of desire. When this flame becomes an untamable fire, it flips a switch inside you, and the direction of your destiny is irrevocably altered. It’s like turning on the light only to discover that you are the light. This in itself is extraordinary. Even though you may have heard words that point to the truth of who you are a thousand times, nothing can prepare you for the naked reality that is revealed when it is experienced. And yet, the living experience of this revelation is also very ordinary. You have simply become consciously aware of the innocent wholeness of your essential nature, which has always been here. It is the you that never was and never will be separate from anything at all.
This discovery is the end of suffering and the beginning of freedom—for both you and for the world.
The Purpose of this Book
In my role as a spiritual teacher, I meet an incredible variety of people who seek truth. Some of these people have been longtime seekers, some have sat with countless spiritual masters, and others are curious newcomers. They are young, old, and everything in between. They are from all walks of life. I have met yoga teachers, therapists, artists, entrepreneurs, firemen, builders, mothers, fathers, grandparents, and many more. Although I teach primarily in the Western world, I also receive numerous emails from people in other parts of the world, such as Africa and the Middle East. What unites this broad spectrum of people is the burning desire to discover that which is deeper than surface reality. What does it mean to awaken in the midst of ordinary life? Certain questions come to the forefront of the dialogues in my meetings over and over again. Mostly they are questions about the relationship between awakening and the body, love and intimate relationships, money, work, and creativity, as well as questions and concerns about the suffering of the world. It seems that a transcendent experience of enlightenment is not enough these days; people need guidance and support in embodying the light of awakeness in every aspect of their lives, as fully functioning human beings in the modern world with all its complexity.
I wrote this book to address some of these questions and to speak directly to the new paradigm of awakening that is emerging amid challenging times today. What is needed now is not more of the ancient spiritual wisdom passed down through the ages, but a cutting-edge conversation that acknowledges this wisdom as the foundation of awakening and goes beyond that to include a dialogue about topics traditionally excluded from spiritual teachings. Some of these topics and questions include: What’s the difference in the way awakeness is expressed in men and women? What happens to sex in awakening? Is there such a thing as an enlightened relationship? Does physical well-being matter in awakening? How do we live selflessly in the modern world? How can money and spirituality be friends? This is uncharted territory. What is coming alive in the minds and hearts of those I meet with is an increasing helplessness in the face of escalating world horrors and a desire for personal empowerment and spiritual awareness. There’s an urgency to end the insanity, both within and without, and to find peace in our hearts and on earth at last.
If you, too, are asking these questions, you are undoubtedly ready to join this new spiritual inquiry. This book is divided into three parts, each with its own offering to the conversation.
Part One: A New Consciousness and a New World shares a vision for humanity that embraces an evolutionary perspective of enlightenment, inviting us to consider that the personal and collective darkness so prevalent today is a catalyst for transformation and liberation. While there’s an undeniable need to evolve beyond ego’s identification with the world of form, there’s also a need to make space for the expression of consciousness through the ego and the world of form. Can these two seemingly opposed approaches sit side by side?n Many spiritual teachings say that suffering is an illusion and that the world does not exist, but is this really true? Part One explores the validity of this strictly nondual understanding and asks if it’s possible to open to a wider perspective that embraces the totality of the human experience.
Part One also explores the possibility that a new evolutionary frequency is expressing itself through the feminine face of awakening. As an increasing number of women awaken and step into the role of spiritual leadership, what’s emerging is a juicier, more fluid, and more holistic expression of the age-old mystery of enlightenment. It seems that awakeness itself is pushing the frontiers of a new conversation that includes the earth-centered wisdom of the sacred feminine. The feminine is more attuned to the subtle physical energies that permeate life and so is concerned with a practical spirituality that includes the messiness of intimate relationships, the body and its well-being, the sustainment of a healthy ecology, how money is used, community, communication, and creative expression. Perhaps this new feminine frequency will allow us to collaborate in the awakening process, in service to ourselves and to humanity. And perhaps it will give us the power to finally take responsibility for whether this world is at war or at peace.
This responsibility starts by stopping the war inside. And this means uprooting all false self-concepts that keep us imprisoned in the illusion of separation, and discovering the luminous truth of that which is unendingly whole and free.
Part Two: Fully Awake and Fully Human explores the journey of inner transformation, busting some of the myths of enlightenment that stand in the way of authentic liberation and illuminating some of the common pitfalls along the way. It investigates important inquiries such as: Does awakening mean the death of ego? What happens to the personality? Does all pain disappear? How does one deal with feelings and emotions? Is there a meeting place of psychotherapy and spiritual inquiry? Is there a relationship between healing and awakening? Is meditation necessary for awakening?
Part Two also explores what happens beyond awakening, when the recognition of awakeness matures and returns to the world as love, forgiveness, and compassion. And then, how the light of that awakeness emerges into the world to give birth to a new humanity.
Part Three: Living the Truth of Awakening in Everyday Life reveals how the embodiment of awakened consciousness can be anchored in the very fabric of our lives, as it permeates the mind, the heart, and the body, and expresses itself in the world. Here, the conversation becomes more personal, and you, the reader, are invited into an honest personal inquiry, to expose anything that stands in the way of living the truth of awakening in everyday life.
The conversation starts with an investigation of love and intimate relationship (which is where many people experience pain and struggle) in the context of the spiritual search. Pointers are offered toward a transformation from the prison of codependency to the freedom of authentic relating, and toward the possibility of a new paradigm of enlightened relationship. The conversation continues with an investigation of whether health and well-being actually matter in spiritual liberation, and how pain, illness, and death can be met in awakened perception. Questions such as “Is there such a thing as cellular enlightenment?” and “Does caring for our planetary home become part of an awakened life?” are addressed here. The final part of the conversation investigates the role of work, money, and finding your true life’s purpose. Often, these very earthly concerns are precisely the ones we’ve been told we should turn away from on the traditional spiritual path. Today, however, there’s a new conversation happening that includes awakened action, what it means to be of service, the role of passion and joy in work, and transformation of the relationship to money.
The new spirituality, arising from an evolutionary perspective, is unafraid of getting its hands dirty in the world of human affairs. And so, too, this book is unafraid to bring these once-taboo topics out into the open.
Are You Willing to Say Yes?
As you read the following pages, dear reader, allow the words to be like sparks that ignite your own awakening. (Or, if you are already on fire with that which is awake in you, then allow the words to fan the flame even higher.) Devote yourself to living the truth of this awakening—radically— in every aspect of your life.
Awakening calls us to the edge of who we think we are and challenges all our habitual responses to life. It’s easier to turn away from this edge and stay in the comfort zone of our own limitation. The invitation is for you to stop running away and instead turn around and face this edge with an unadulterated yes.
Out of this yes, a new you will be born, a you that lives an authentically awakened life in which your actions are aligned with your true divine nature. And out of this new you, a new world will be born. It is unlikely that this world will be created overnight, as many New Age teachings propose. It is more likely to be built brick by brick—metaphorically and literally— as increasing numbers of people embody awakened consciousness. As old-world structures become obsolete and die and are replaced by social, cultural, political, and economic structures that reflect the highest expression of human potential, there’s a high probability of great upheaval. Certainly, birth (whether it is the birth of a child or the birth of a new paradigm of consciousness) is messy and there is no guarantee of the outcome. But it’s also inevitable. Once the contractions have begun, there is no going back.
With the possibility of the birth of a new world, it’s also very possible that life as we know it completely destroys itself. Perhaps the quantum leap into a higher order necessitates the end of the current structures created within an old paradigm of consciousness. Perhaps humanity has to be totally obliterated before something new is born, like a phoenix from the ashes. There is no way to absolutely know. Although this book invites you into the collaboration with the evolution of consciousness, it’s not about clinging to the hope of salvation. It’s about being willing to open to the deepest truth of who you are, to live a radically awakened life … even if it means the end of “you” as who you think you are, and the end of “the world” as you believe it to be.
Despite the unknown and unforeseen challenges, are you willing to say yes? Are you willing to wholeheartedly embrace the possibility that this is the most exciting time to be alive? And that your awakening is the sole purpose of your life?
If your answer is indeed a resounding affirmative, then this book will support you in the realization of true freedom and the fulfillment of a life lived in the infinite openness of this yes.