What is spiritual enlightenment anyway?

8 Aug

We hear a lot about New Age stuff, and one of the things often tossed in that large and irregular shaped bin is “spiritual enlightenment.”

So what IS spiritual enlightenment?

It’s a very individual thing, and yet…its not.

It’s one of those things with many shades of meaning.

At the core, enlightenment implies something magical is going to happen, some sort of inner “lighting up” as though your switch is turned on.  As long as you don’t take that too literally, it is rather true.  Your switch is turned on.  You are more aware, not only of your own singularity, your own spirituality, but your oneness with everything, your unity with all, and your utter lack of singularity.

I did tell you it wasn’t a simple answer, didn’t I?

I once asked someone who was riding the New Age horse as hard and fast as she could, claiming the enlightenment had already blessed her, what spirituality meant.  She replied after a moment of silence that it was doing good deeds.

Okay, good deeds are a great start, but is that enough?

I’m sure that everyone has their moment and does a good deed here and there…does that mean they are spiritual in nature?

Not hardly.  There are a lot of motives to do those “good deeds” that have nothing to do with spirituality.  The answer was far too simplistic and short sighted.  How many politicians have we seen who do “good deeds” for photo ops and to ensure their voters remain their voters?  Does that mean that many politicians are spiritual?

Don’t choke, please.  We have a lot more to think about.

Spiritual enlightenment doesn’t happen by accident, and it doesn’t happen overnight.  You can’t sign up for a weekend seminar and expect to come home enlightened.  You can’t go spend a year in a monastery and come home to have a lifetime of enlightenment either.  It’s not a one-time event, like a vaccination for measles.  Comparing it to medical conditions, it is probably closer to a case of Type 1 diabetes–it’s a lifetime treatment and management program.

All roads lead to Rome was once a common saying, as the Romans were the great road builders of the ancient world.  It is a saying with another nuance of meaning too.  It means that all (or many/most) paths lead to the same destination.  The same is true of spiritual enlightenment.  Religion, which is a separate concept from spirituality, doesn’t have a monopoly on spiritual enlightenment.  That means, that contrary to their practices and “advertising”, no religion holds the sole key to achieving spiritual enlightenment.

The same is true of the practices used in the search for the right path to that elusive spiritual enlightenment.  What works for one doesn’t mean it will work for everyone.  It might be meditation, prayer, self-deprivation, silence, solitude, exercise, or whatever…

You don’t even need a guru to take you there.  It’s always a self-made journey, even when its done with the guidance of a mentor, the best they can do is supply you with the tools and a map to strive towards your goal.

To make it even stranger, perhaps, once you have knocked on the door of spiritual enlightenment and been allowed within…that doesn’t mean you have a lifetime pass to re-enter.  Universal mind experiences are nice, but they are singular points if they are not followed up on.

In a sense, spiritual enlightenment is rather similar to an athletic achievement.  Just because you could run a three minute mile a decade ago, and climbed Mount Everest five years ago…doesn’t mean you can compete in the Olympics next year.

If you wanted to remain a contender for the Olympic team, you would continue to train, to work your body, to expand your abilities to their maximum, and to strive towards being faster and better.  You couldn’t just sit at home and tell everyone how you had achieved physical perfection as you dined on chocolate bonbons and rich pasta dishes without expecting to lose ground for lack of conditioning and gaining of weight.

It’s the same thing with our “spiritual bodies.”

They need work outs too, on a regular basis.  They have to be kept limber and fit, well conditioned and with rapid reflexes.

So what are YOUR spiritual calisthenics these days?

Think about it a while.  Maybe your inner light needs to have a new bulb?

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2 Responses to “What is spiritual enlightenment anyway?”

  1. Tristan August 8, 2011 at 2:54 pm #

    Spirituality for me is finding my inner truth – my purpose here, beyond the material. It’s about transcending whatever adverities we’re born with and creating something beautiful out of it. Meditation’s helped me immensely and simply being present to each unexpected moment.

    Thanks for this post – it pushed me to think deeper about what is truly spiritual.

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