Taking the Spiritual Path? The Challenges and Cosmic Humor in Pursuing Enlightenment

There are lots of days when I think running to a mountain cave and meditating all day is where I want to be, never to return to "civilization." It's the place I feel most comfortable...alone, no pressure, no judgment and free to be me.

And yet I've come to realize that for me, and for many, this is a trap. In the name of all things holy, this path to self-awareness is fraught with challenges and traps like these. Here's just what I have experienced thus far, in my cosmic humor kind of explanation.

Euphoria. Man I am so enlightened! I love life, I love the world! The world is an awesome place! Let's get together and change it one hug at a time! Burn some incense, do yoga! Spray some Archangel sprays to lift my vibration! Save trees, save animals, eat organic!

This is the awakening of consciousness. It's funny. It's fun. It's a high. This whirlwind of intense energy is necessary to push through the initial barriers of the illusion we live. So as much as I'm poking fun at it, it has extreme value. To be conscious of something simply means to be aware. Your awareness grows, your awareness of yourself becomes stronger and things you didn't see before, are now in focus. It's kind of like, "Whoa, there's my hand. It has some serious wrinkles." And yet, it's been there the whole time.

Dark Night of the Soul. Self-awareness at some point moves into this phase of, what feels like, darkness. There may be more than one dark night. There may be weeks of it, or months of it. I thought there would be just one episode. My first lasted about one week. The next time it was three months. The next time it was four weeks. This is still the process of enlightenment even though it feels really gritty. It's definitely not fun. It truly makes you want to run back to the world of ignorance and illusion.

Why is the night so dark, you ask? Well, as you become aware of the world, become present, understand presence, and who you are in this moment, the things you become aware of start to release. The things that have been hiding from you finally understand, "Oh shit, she sees us and we can no longer hide." These things, or self-concepts, which present themselves as low self-esteem, shame, anger, resentment, bitterness, or likewise, finally realize they have to let go or else the spiritual and physical bodies cannot move forward. The soul wants to move forward. It's the natural state of the human spirit so something has got to give.

When you discharge these lower energies, they sometimes are felt all over again as it comes up to be released. For example, I have struggled with depression most of my life and over the years have been able to manage it, though it never really disappeared. When I became aware of the root causes of it, and I mean really saw it for what it was and why I felt that way, it started to release. In the process of releasing, I went through a whole day of suicidal thoughts.

Drive off the side of the road, wouldn't it be nice if you just didn't have to live anymore?

I wasn't actually suicidal in the present moment, nor would I act on it in this phase of my life, so there was nothing to be afraid of. However, these deep-rooted feelings and trapped emotions were coming back up in my awareness and setting themselves free to be transformed in the Universe. The awareness of it means I also feel it for the second time. If it is your first experience with this process, you will think you are really "in it" all over again and get worried, but I've had enough run-throughs of these dark nights (or days) to know the lower stuff was just being let go. As painful as it was, it was all for the better and I just hoped back then that it would release quick. Then suddenly, it was gone. And all was right in the world again. The dark night also is about the realization that you are losing the divine euphoria that came with the epiphanies, which leads me to my next experience.

Peaks and valleys. Peaks and valleys. This is the spiritual path. This is the evolution of the soul. For me this looked like, "Hey Mom, I have this great idea of what my life purpose is and how I'm going to launch this incredible thing that will change the world," and my poor mom gets so excited too and supports me. But then the very next week I'm like, "Oh mom sorry, I was just riding my ego on that. My ego wanted fame and recognition and darn, now I'm aware, now I don't know what path to take at all. Oh wait, there's nowhere to go but here. Just be present, sit in my heart center. Oh okay, I'm calm again." Sorry, not sorry, Mom. Cosmic humor of spirituality in practice.

When we are not attached to sticking to one phase (usually the peak) then we can move through it with more ease. This is sadhana, or ongoing spiritual practice. Eventually the peaks and valleys even out, or so "they" tell me. I'm still coming out of the last valley, so ask me in a few weeks how it feels.

Nowhere to go but here. I am a huge fan of Ram Dass' book, "Remember Be Here Now." I came to understand through reading this book that sadhana is a full time thing, it's about being where you are and practicing it in all moments. Practice living life without attachment to the meaning that we normally ascribe to our experiences.

A door hits my car, it's ok, I have no attachment to it because there is no meaning or significance to it. The person didn't hit my car cause they were mad or vindictive or discourteous, it's just an event. It's just a car. It has no energy until the moment I put energy on it.

The guy I like doesn't text me back for an hour. Oh no, he doesn't like me. Am I being too much? Did he change his mind? Did I say something that offended him? Is he gonna break it off soon? Whoa. It's just a text, calm down. The event has no meaning. He probably is just busy, and no matter what the reason, it probably has nothing to do with me. Let it go.

The practice of living in healthy detachment in the present moment is a part of sadhana. There's only now. There's nowhere to go to experience enlightenment except to practice right here right now. Everything you are living right now is a moment of sadhana, there's nothing else to do in life.

I gotta hurry, I have to make something of myself, I'm 36 and what do I have? What are people gonna think of me??? Did I achieve enough enlightenment???

Paranoia. Complete paranoia. Stop. Be here now. That is sadhana, again, spiritual practice in the here and now. The rate at which you wake up is the rate at which you wake up. There's no forcing the process. As Ram Dass says, "You can't rip the skin off the snake. The snake must moult the skin. That's the rate it happens."

I'm so spiritual. We see this so often it is hilarious and yet I myself get caught in this. It's as if spiritual is a destination, that you got "there" after tons of meditation and charitable practices and years of organic eating. That one level of spirituality is "better than" another. That's all bullshit that your mind plays on you. There is no "there" it's all about who you are right now, and what you are in practice of right here, right now. This whole, "I'm so spiritual" crap is just ego disguised as purity. The purity trap. Holier-than-thou trap. New age version of elitism. Cosmic hilarity.

Let it go, no path to enlightenment is better than another. In the end we are all still right here, right now, thinking we are getting somewhere only to realize we are still...right here, right now.

Meditate all day every day in a mountain in Asia. I wanted to do this. I wanted to remove myself from society. I wanted to live the life I felt most comfortable...the one where no one was around me to judge me or tell me I was weird or that I didn't fit in. I researched living in Tibet (no joke). I wanted to give up all materialism because it seemed to be confining me and preventing me from living a spiritual life. I couldn't have a conversation with a "mortal" because I couldn't communicate in plain English anymore. I convinced myself this was me seeking enlightenment. That is, until some 2x4 hit my ego and said, "No, that looks more like running away. Let's face it, Staton, you're running away from the fact that you're not not exhibiting mastery over your life, over your finances, over your relationships with those closest to you, and over yourself. And guess what, you just wanna be right about it all." I also realized that lots of people remove themselves from society only to be still seething with desire. Spirituality is an internal process and is done right where you are, no mountain needed.

Darn, this ego gets so tricky. Layers and layers of it. Peaks and valleys, peaks and valleys, keep working on it.

No peak, no valley? Am I stuck? I don't feel any movement, something must be wrong. What if I'm not moving? What if I've lost my connection? The worst thing is to not move. At least if I'm in a peak or valley I know I'm going somewhere.

Darn ego. I just got attached to "movement" itself.

It seems the more clear we become in our awareness, the deeper and more complicated and more serious the next layer of impurities lie. It's a paradox. Life is filled with them. We watch and become aware of the illusion that we live, only to uncover another layer of awareness and illusion. We sit and watch in meta-awareness, only to catch something at the level of meta-awareness. The observer caught the observer. Trickier and trickier, and yet in the confusion and meta-levels of thought, somewhere somehow, we get closer to truly just being.

That, my friends, is my truest of true experiences in seeking enlightenment. It's a process. It's the work we are all here to do, which is not necessarily to seek happiness as many of us are told, but to reconnect to our divine selves.

See you on the path to nowhere to gain nothing. Laugh through it, it gets you through the tough times.