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The lie of “If I were more enlightened”

Have you ever thought to yourself “if I were more enlightened I wouldn’t feel hurt, or scared, or annoyed. I wouldn’t mind this kid kicking the back of my seat on the plane, I wouldn’t be hurt that my partner doesn’t want to sleep with me, I wouldn’t want to leave my soul-sucking job. If only I were more enlightened”.

What a delightfully spiritual way to make yourself wrong and deny your humanity.

Where did we get this idea that enlightenment and spirituality mean being passive, beige, undefined, without preferences, never making a scene, and never being moved by life?

Depending on my mood, I sometimes feel like it’s a conspiracy, designed to keep us stuck in our little hamster wheels, divorcing spirituality from all that is alive and pulsating, all that is dark and dangerous, leaving us with the mental, sanitised version where we meditate to be more productive at work.

Other times I think it was a misunderstanding. That we hear all this talk of peace and silence and don’t realise how wild peace can be or the fullness in the silence. We imagine a world of nothingness, no pain, no needs. A bit like the adage of the sea being in motion on the top, but being quiet underneath, when in fact there is life and movement beneath the surface too, powerful currents rather than strong waves rule under the surface.

The basic idea is that if you were more enlightened you wouldn’t have any problems or preferences, you’d never feel anything “negative”, you’d never cause a scene, and you’d be oh so palatable at all times.

Ha. Ha. Ha.

Firstly, you’re not more enlightened than you are, and you can’t 1, 2, skip a few, 99 enlightened your way there.

It doesn’t work like that, I’m afraid. You can’t live your life from a place that doesn’t exist for you.

That just leads to faking it, and mimicking the perceived symptoms of enlightenment. It becomes super fake, and leads to that love+light superficiality and spiritual bypassing that I’m sure we’ve all encountered.

It’s symbolic of our desire to do things from the outside. To “learn” about spirituality, rather than live it. To get it “right”, to be beyond reproach.

In many cases I think we take our old ways of doing things, copying what the successful people are doing, studying and remembering facts, or pushing ourselves as hard as we can, and apply these tactics to the spiritual journey.

Mimicking the cool kids might have bumped you up a few social pegs, but it won’t help you on the spiritual journey. Study and facts might have gotten you your degree, but facts and other people’s experiences of bliss, samadhi, nirvana et al does not mean you experience that, and pushing yourself might have gotten you a high paying job but you can’t force your way into peace.

Secondly, you don’t know what you’d do if you were enlightened. How could you possibly know how you’d react if you were in a completely different space of awareness? Maybe you really would be unmoved and unaffected by your annoying boss, maybe you’d tell them where to stick their spreadsheet on your second day on the job.

Who knows. I kind of want to find out though!

The enlightened people I’ve met are actually super defined and clear. Take Adyashanti. I remember being on a retreat with him a few years ago, and there was an alarm going off in the meditation hall. One of those annoying beeps every 10 seconds or so.

I did the whole “If I were more enlightened” routine in my head, whilst physically tensing and actually getting more and more annoyed. Firstly at the noise, and secondly at my annoyance to the annoying noise.

After about 5 minutes Adyashanti announced that the noise was no good, it was actually jolting for our nervous systems, and let’s take a break while it gets fixed.

Well that was a revelation! I’m allowed to have preferences? I’m allowed to not only not enjoy the beeping, but to take myself out of it?

Oh-em-gee. What a game changer. Thank you Adya.

Also, when did bland, undefined, beige-ness become the goal?

When did it become the goal to not be moved by life, by death, by pain, or fear, or joy?

Life is moving. Life is much. Life is touching, and raw, and fun, and weird.

By demanding that we not be upset by life, we condemn ourselves to a life of numbness. We either get lost in the transcendence, you know the type. The kind of person who says “Yes, it might look like I cheated on you, but really we’re all one so how can the One cheat on itself? Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to meet a yogi I met on Tinder. #AllOneCantGetMad”.

Or we go into that shallow space. We cut ourselves off from our depths, and exist in a superficial love+light space. Where we don’t understand why we feel upset that our mother died, we thought we were beyond such low vibe emotions. We spend so much of our time surprising anything other good vibes, and miss the very real signals and signs life and our own systems are sending us.

All of this I think begs or demands the question, of what actually is enlightenment? What are all of us seekers, yogis, meditators, free spirits, and indigo children actually moving towards?

My favourite definition of enlightenment is intimacy with the 10,000 things.

Which actually means with everything.

I just love that.


Not indifference.

Not transcendence. Or numbness. Or un-move-ability.

No, intimacy.

Being close to life. Letting it in. Letting it move through you.

Letting it see, touch, and feel you, and being seen, touched, and felt back, like with the tenderest of lovers.

That’s what it about.

It’s not about being perfect, or blissed out all the time. It’s not about locking ourselves away in safe towers made of perceived perfection. It’s about getting up close and personal with the 10,000 things.

One moment the 10,000 things may be your boss, the next your child, then a lover, then a cup of coffee, and then in your quietest, most intimate moments, you yourself are the 10,000 things.

Go for intimacy. Let yourself be touched.

What fun is it otherwise?