You have to give it all up,” my new teacher reiterates many times during a story he tells me about waking up.
Labels. Limitations. Attachments. Expectations. Fears. Doubts. Judgments. Desires.
They are all obstacles to enlightenment. They are all obstacles to freedom.
I do not resist his word because I know that it is true. Not because he says so. But because I Know so.
The path to enlightenment is a trap.
Its difficulty keeps spiritual fakers who lack the toughness to see it through away. Its intoxicating promise of liberation keeps spiritual seekers in their own way, sabotaging their progress with their mental limitations of what enlightenment looks like.
“You and I would not even know what enlightenment was if it hit us in the face,” I tell one of my students recently from the other side of the teaching table.
I hear her tighten, then relax. In that moment, she understands what I mean.
Enlightenment is a moving target. We cannot define it, as it lives without judgment and beyond limitation. More so, it is unique for each of us. The moment that we label what it is “supposed to” look like, we have lost it.
I know enlightened beings. I even may flirt with being one in occasional moments. This does not matter, for enlightenment is not the goal.
Enlightenment cannot be a goal. Rather, it is an experience in that present moment.
These enlightened beings appear as great teachers to some and naive students to others. They eat meat, drink beer and swear with all of their souls. They also fast and abstain with the same amount of effort, conviction and nonattachment.
They themselves are moving targets. We cannot pin them down to being one thing or even any thing. These beings do not look, act or see the world in a way that most people would recognize as enlightened.
Why? Because most people limit enlightenment to the pictures that they have painted for themselves. I used to too.
Months ago, I confessed to my longtime teacher: “I am extremely uncomfortable, unable to focus and unable to be present. I have worked so hard for many years to be present, and now it is slipping away. I’m scared that I am loosing all the I have gained”
My teacher smiled and gave me a spiritual bop on the head: “Drop your labels of what present-moment awareness looks like.”
I laughed, took a deep breath, and got out of my own way.
That may have been one of the most present moments of my life. I just could not see it because my labels would not let me.
You have to give it all up – your labels, your limitations, your expectations – if you want to free yourself from, well, yourself. If you want to free your spirit from your personality.
Instead of seeking enlightenment, savor the present. Practice present-moment awareness. Rather than resisting your thoughts, emotions and circumstances, be with whatever is. Accept it all and trust that it all will pass.
Present-moment awareness is more tangible than enlightenment and, therefore, can be a more accessible place to start. It is where we can clean up our personalities so that our spirits can emerge.
If you are ready to get out of your own way and get your ass enlightened faster, here is how to develop present-moment awareness:
1. Replace your expectations with appreciation:
I am not saying that you need to abandon your standards or dreams. Rather, drop your expectations around how they will unfold. How can you be fully present in any moment if you enter it with old mental constructs and limitations? You cannot. Be grateful for what you have in front of you and act from there with abundance and appreciation.
2. Release your attachment to the outcome:
The outcome of any event does not define who you are. Your soul is already full. All you need to do is to Know this. When you are attached to the outcome of anything, you give it power over your external life and your internal joy. Give 100 percent to whatever you do. Just do not let the outcome dictate who you are. You are eternal and greater than any outcome.
3. Get off of your own back:
Give yourself a break. Life can be hard enough. You are doing a better job at being you than anyone else is. Stop comparing yourself to others or telling yourself where you should be. You are exactly where you are supposed to be. If you were not, then you would be somewhere else.
4. Get yourself around people who have their spiritual shit more together than you do:
Like attracts like. If you want to grow, then get around coaches, teachers and other leaders who have already done what you want to do or who embody how you want to be. Seek advice where you feel stuck to move forward faster. Take your teachers off of their pedestal too, they are on their own journey as well.
5. Disregard everything that I have just offered:
I am writing from my perspective. Ultimately, my perspective will not help you because it is not yours. Take what is written here and test the shit out of it. See for yourself whether what I am saying is true for you. Discover new truths on your own. Move from understanding to Knowing.
The moment that you stop striving for enlightenment and eradicate your expectations of what it looks like is the moment that you step closer to experiencing it. If you are destined to become enlightened, you will arrive at that moment when you are ready for it – and not a second sooner.
So relax. Breathe into your Knowingness. Give yourself a break.
Stop giving yourself an enlightenment complex. Instead, offer yourself present-moment awareness.