The Embodiment of Enlightenment

An Article written by Amoda Maa, published in Watkins Mind Body Spirit Magazine, Winter 2017

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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. 

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. 

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 being-ness is indeed the foundation of awakening, what was relevant thousands of years ago is not so relevant today. It seems that a transcendent experience of enlightenment is not enough these days; people need guidance and support in embodying the light of awakened consciousness in every aspect of their lives, as fully functioning human beings in the modern world with all its complexity.

In my new book Embodied Enlightenment I 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 then 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 awakened consciousness 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.

Enlightenment or awakening (I use the terms interchangeably) is no longer a secret reserved for mystics, nor a luxury indulged in by privileged westerners seeking to become “more spiritual.” Awakening is a necessity if we are to survive and thrive in a world gone crazy with ego’s voracious appetite for “me” and “mine”. To rise above this erroneous identification with form (“my body”, “my thoughts”, “my feelings”) and recognize the eternal truth of an inner dimension of formlessness is to evolve out of ego into an enlightened consciousness. But if this enlightenment is to be of any use, it needs to come down from the mountaintop and get its hands dirty in the marketplace of human affairs. It’s in the darkest places — where it hurts, where there is fear, where we are triggered — that we either choose to succumb to the reactive mechanism of ‘fight or flight’ or have the courage to rest deeply in an unbounded openness that brings an end to the war both within ourselves and within the world. It’s right in the midst of political opinions, religious dogma, social rights and wrongs, and in the push and pull of intimate relationship that we are offered the opportunity to awaken out of the dream of separation. 

Many spiritual seekers who experience a glimpse of enlightenment believe the world is an illusion. While this is true at the absolute level of pristine emptiness prior to form, the attempt to transcend the world and its messiness often leads to an “existential numbness” that is mistaken for spiritual liberation. There’s no real peace in this, but a subtle and pernicious war that perpetuates both inner and outer conflict. If awakening is to be more than just a state that comes and goes, if it is to be an ongoing reality with a very real impact on our everyday world, there must an intimate meeting with the depth and breadth of feeling that arises in response to the vicissitudes of our human experience. In other words, the light of awakened consciousness must filter out from the mind into the heart. 

It’s right in the midst of the raw tenderness of the heart — those places where old patterns of withdrawal, closure and self-defense may have a grip on us — that the cloud of denial and avoidance can be transformed into the clarity of unbounded acceptance. It’s right in the midst of revulsion, regret, shame, and horror that we are called to surrender to what is here as the naked truth of our experience. When this surrender happens, over and over again, eventually the heart overflows with the light of awakened consciousness which then pours into the belly and comes to rest in an uncompromising embrace of both the waves of phenomenal existence and the ocean of inner stillness. It’s at this point that enlightenment is embodied. And it’s at this point that a new world can be born. 

Embodied Enlightenment is an invitation to discover this new world … by devoting yourself to living the truth of your awakening in every aspect of your life. It’s an unending invitation because the embodiment of enlightenment is not static but an ever-deepening intimacy with life itself. If you are willing to wholeheartedly embrace this invitation, then perhaps this book will support you in the fulfillment of a life lived in the infinite openness of awakened consciousness.