I Searched for Enlightenment — and Got Lost Along the Way
Imagine one day you wake up and have this burning desire to find the ‘truth’. This desire pushes you up a winding road to seek out spiritual enlightenment. The urge to find out the essence of who you are and what your body and thoughts represent. The answer to the question ‘Who am I?’
This is the path I found myself on searching for enlightenment or awakening. It was the hardest journey I have ever embarked on (until becoming a parent surpassed it, that’s another story for another time). It was a mountain climb of jagged rock face in the dark. I was on your own physically but mentally was face to face with all my demons. Each belief I owned was dismantled by stripping back the layers of thoughts, experiences, and conditioning I had. My life to date was left in a pile of ruins.
‘There was no time where I experienced walking around in any kind of blissful state.’
Why seek enlightenment?
What is enlightenment? Does anyone really experience it? If it’s real do you really feel the need to speak about it?. Before I took action, I read plenty of stories of people who give up friends, family, money and hours in meditation to be enlightened. They were after this mythical state of pure ecstasy. The best way to describe the feeling I was after, was that brief moment after orgasm. That second or two where you just cease to be anything or anyone. I wanted to take that moment of release and make it last 24 hours.
The two versions of enlightenment
I went through life telling myself stories of what and who I am. Wearing many different masks for many different situations. A ‘home’ mask along with sweats and a lazy carefree attitude. The ‘work’ mask, watching what I say, always in dress code, and master of practical efficiency. The list of masks are endless, where we adjust ourselves to different people and different surroundings. These masks are based on and reinforced by parents, school, friends, work, culture, and environment. Until we know nothing else, this is our truth, and we believe it.
One school of thought says that if you remove all these masks you will be left with your true self, enlightenment. It’s not something you can achieve or get as such, but its something that is already in you and appears when uncovered.
‘There was nothing left; no friction, no fighting, no pulling, no pushing.’
That is the route I chose. I completely surrendered my thoughts and experiences to the universe, trying to lift one mask at a time. Each mask has its own energy and detracts from your spiritual balance. I accepted everything that happens from there on because that’s just the way it is. I was trying to hone my energy to a universal wavelength that broadcast to everyone and everything. I didn’t feel like an individual anymore. Some might say I never was individual. How can anyone be separated from the whole (of the universe).
The masks of my life I had accumulated from the moment I was born were stripped back. Each one of these layers that gave life its colors was bleached clean. My vision of life and all my beliefs I held to be true were taken. There was nothing left; no friction, no fighting, no pulling, no pushing.
This complete surrender was brutal on those around me. It was a lonely path of complete acceptance, where ‘I am’ is just an accumulation of masks. As the masks went so did all those who stood in the way.
The wise men
Enter the gurus, the wise, the enlightened. They will tell you you cannot search for or get enlightenment there is no process to it, but then go ahead and explain how they did it. And without a pause between seminars, convince you that it’s something you can achieve too. Do this, don’t do that , and you’ll be happy, fulfilled, peaceful, and my favorite word, blissful. They’ll tell you it’s not about running off to a cave and spending months alone, (or else how could you earn dollars and spend it on books and other goodies).
I never did understand how you can be enlightened living in a blissful state and live a normal life. A blissful state does not go hand in hand with daily life such as raising children, working, marriage, or driving!
It takes courage to take this route to enlightenment or awakening. It is made harder as we are programmed since childhood to follow dollars instead. Our first questions are not about the ethics and morals of a situation. The questions will start with areas such as culture, society, education, and peers. We buy things to feel free, gain respect and recognition, and secure status. Until recently, we have not asked about the ethics of what we consume or use.
I left the place I was born to find a spiritual life. I followed many gurus, experts and enlightened ones. I stripped away all the masks I had accumulated throughout life, and I was free at last. I was able to be aware of everything around be without ever reacting to the situation. If I chose to engage it was on my terms, without any tainted emotions.
When I moved abroad, I left behind my family and friends, and the work I spent years building to a success. But I was ‘blissful’. My day would start with a 5am meditation and yoga session. Followed by a simple breakfast and fresh air. I rarely engaged with people, because you can become pretty choosy when you are awakened. It was a five year long journey and one that I knew had no return to the way I was. I had made it to the promised land. Success! Or in truly enlightened state of mind, just ‘ohm’.
Here’s the thing about my journey, I was the loneliest I had ever been. I did not expect it to hit those around me so hard. I was selfish. After I freed myself of all the masks in my life, my interactions with everyone and everything was only ever on a cosmic level. There were no people or things, there were interactions with energy. It was a huge transformation, and one that I had wanted more than anything.
I had climbed a mountain and sat meditating at the top. Did I find the light or was it darkness? Or was it just a perception and neither existed anyway. The cold facts were that I had left behind my home, business, family and friends. I was alone through my own choices. I had abandoned the whole world and stripped it down to units of energy. Anything that didn’t align with my idea of enlightenment was thrown out of my life.
The guru will ask you to surrender to your suffering, bend into it not away from it. They would say in soft mellow tones, phrases such as, “ be accepting”, “stop fighting it”, “be aware of what you feel”, “let it be”, and “it is what it is”.
I was suffering and surrendering. Surrendering and suffering. It was a vicious circle that removed any traces of ‘I’ or ‘me’ from this world. I didn’t speak to my family or friends, and socializing with others was too dangerous. Life was one meditation.
‘Enlightenment may or may not be real but without connection to others or our environment we are nothing.’
Enlightenment was what I wanted. But now it was my worst nightmare. It took one act for all this to turn on its head. I witnessed a person blush when confronted by a moment of random kindness. A wave of emotion flooded over me and I just wanted to burst out and cry. It took one act to help me come to the realization of what it means to be human. It is our unique ability to show empathy, be compassionate, build sophisticated cultures and personality, show morals, and contemplate or imagine a future. But above all it was about accepting who and what I am, as I am. I am me, because no one else can be me. That is awakened.
I since started the acclimatization back into life. Enlightenment may or may not be real but without connection to others or our environment I was nothing. To live with an ethical code, to be compassionate, forgiving, and loving is the only thing I needed to be awakened or enlightened. I didn’t need to be transformed. I am a bundle of energy and each decision I made just added to who I am. Another layer of uniqueness.
A healthy and happy life depends on balancing my ability to manage my energy levels. Feelings such as love, compassion, empathy, giving, and kindness adds positive energy. Whereas feelings of anger, rage, jealousy, and hate deflated my energy. That’s it, who would have known that simple accounting is the key to my happiness and peace.
Peace at last
So now I chose to walk a crowded road and seek as many connections with people, animals, and the environment as I can. It is these connections that are the keys to having a wonderful life. It’s not about money, status, or ‘likes’. It’s about my energy and my connections. No amount of reading will get me there. I have to make the effort to find and nurture life inspiring connections and keep my energy positively charged.
If the road to enlightenment defeats the purpose of living, then it is a useless one. It should not be about destroying who I am, about how much suffering I can endure, or necessary to give up everything. It’s about sharing, collaboration, and joining positive forces. That is true enlightenment.