The purpose of most spiritual teachings is to reach enlightenment, a state of pure awareness and inner joy. This may appear unattainable when compared to the likes of the Buddha, the Dalai Lama, or the wise yogis, but those of us on the spiritual journey diligently meditate and follow well-trodden paths so we can also touch on awareness and peace beyond understanding, freedom, and unconditional happiness. For within all of us is hidden the potential for such awakening.
Yet, at the same time, we are human beings dealing with human issues. As we wrote in a recent blog: “Saints have headaches and the Buddha had stomach upsets.” So the question arises: does enlightenment mean the end of all neurosis, or is it possible to be awake and aware while also having some measure of hang-ups? This question was the topic of a conference in England that we attended, and the resounding answer was ‘YES!’
Ed trained in India with a brilliant yoga master, and other luminous beings. He immersed himself in the teachings, tasted the sweetness of essence, and experienced vast radiant emptiness. Even so, he saw how he could be as neurotic as anyone else, and learned that the only difference between an enlightened being and a madman is the enlightened one knows he’s mad!
Awakening doesn’t mean we become perfectly compassionate, infinitely generous, always understanding, kind, wise and wonderfully peaceful all of the time. Becoming more aware, kind, and compassionate arises naturally as we witness the suffering and confusion in others, but we also get to see, accept and befriend our own humanness, whether it manifests as anger, grief, insecurity, or doubt, to name but a few.
Our humanness doesn’t just dissolve the more aware we become. We still feel everything that happens, still get angry, frightened, sad, just as we also feel happiness, joy and laughter, as these are all part of the human condition. But whatever we are experiencing is just that, a feeling or a thought, and not the whole of us.
A young man was eagerly sitting at the feet of his enlightened meditation master, when the master was told that his son had just died. He started weeping. The student was aghast. He couldn’t imagine that such a luminous spiritual being would be so affected by ordinary human feelings. He asked his teacher why he was crying. His teacher replied, “My son died.”
As awareness develops and awakening occurs, so there is an inner spaciousness around whatever we are feeling or going through that allows us to embrace the feeling without owning it; we can witness the story without becoming an actor in the drama. We attended a ten-day meditation retreat at Suan Mokkh ‘Garden of Liberation’ monastery in southern Thailand. The abbot, Ajahn Po, taught us: “Whatever arises, whether fear, hate, or any other feeling, you can see this as just that. No need to identify it as ‘my fear’ or ‘my anger’. Then it can come and go without disturbing your mind.”
One of India’s greatest teachers, Ramana Maharshi, urged his students to meditate on “Who am I?” He likened our true self to a white cinema screen before a film starts. Then the lights go out, the film goes on and we experience every feeling and emotion played out in front of us. When the film is over the lights go on and the screen is white again.
We view the dramas of life in the same way, often taking them so seriously that we get drawn into every emotion, every scenario being enacted, but who we truly are is pure awareness, awake consciousness that is behind and beneath the performance. In this way we are both enlightened and neurotic at the same time, just as are both human and free at the same time.
In our Be The Change Meditate e-Conference we interviewed neuroscientist Richie Davidson who proves how meditation affects the brain; we also spoke with Congressman Tim Ryan, who shares how to practice mindfulness with politicians, the armed forces, and others. Altogether we interviewed 30 meditation practitioners, teachers and experts, all of whom happily confirmed that their meditation practice keeps them sane and balanced by connecting them to a greater awareness and expansive consciousness. They spoke about their neuroses, while also sharing profound truths and deeply moving awakenings.
Be The Change Meditate e-Conference will uplift and inspire you. It includes Marianne Williamson, Congressman Tim Ryan, author of Mindful Nation, Sharon Salzberg, Gabby Bernstein, Gangaji, Joan Borysenko, Seane Corn, neuroscientist Richie Davidson who proves how meditation affects the brain, and us, Ed and Deb Shapiro, authors of the conference companion book, BE THE CHANGE: How Meditation Can Transform You and The World. Expect your life to never be the same again!
For more information: www.edanddebshapiro.com