I’ve had a lot of acquaintances take my course, but very few friends, and absolutely no family. The acquaintances find that strange, because they notice a very big difference in their lives and they assume that friends and family would have been first in line for that change themselves. But because the students are looking at it from a non-ego perspective, they forget that there are very obvious ego-reasons why that would not be the case.
Firstly, family and close friends have the longest running relationships with us, so in my case, they knew me before I had made this shift. So they have an idea of me that is historical. I do this to them too when I think about them in ego. I recently wrote a blog post about how all families do this. Identities are ideas. And we form those ideas very early when we meet people, and we’re generally not very good at adjusting them over time. And that’s because we’re watching for what we believe instead of just being openly aware. So just like my students, I’ve made enormous shifts in how I perceive reality, but that would entirely invisible to anyone living in ego, especially those closest to me.
The second reason they wouldn’t look for that sort of wisdom within me is connected to how people elevate the idea of spiritual development. Contrary to what turns out to be true, most of us—me included—thought or think that this is the highest of achievements, and therefore anyone who does it must be of the highest order. So we don’t like it when people are a lot smarter than us, richer than us, more popular than us, or more spiritually developed than us. We’d rather think that it actually isn’t true. We’d rather think there’s a catch….
Because people mistake what being enlightened means, they often believe that they have evidence that another person isn’t. But that’s not how it actually works in the world of enlightenment. The Dalai Lama loses his temper and gets sad. That’s not outside the boundaries of enlightenment. Enlightenment isn’t what you’re doing, it’s how you’re being.
Those who’ve taken this path eventually come to realize that the big realization isn’t so much AHA! as it is a head smack and a “oh you’re kidding me, it’s that easy?” Leading an enlightened life isn’t difficult. It’s easier than an egoic one. You only feel stress as much as you want to, same with sadness, and fear. You still have pain. But even that’s just another sensation. It all gets kind of movie-like from an enlightened perspective.
So it’s time we took the shroud off this idea. We should stop talking about it as though it’s unattainable. That’s ridiculous. Anyone can have it. You can learn this when you’re 90. My Dad knows it and no one even taught it to him. Every little kid is enlightened. And you can be too. You just have to be humble and learn. Everyone can do the learning part. It’s doing the humble part that’s challenging.
I have a lot of awesome, big-hearted artful people in my life and they spiral out into a variety of groups. And a lot of those aforementioned acquaintance-students notice that a lot of people I know are very “spiritual.” But they think it’s funny that some of those friends will trade ancient quotes and dress and talk the part, but it’s still all posing as spiritual because being enlightened is ordinary. It’s a simple verb. But it has this responsibility with it. And people avoid that responsibility like crazy.
People would rather just read quotes and recommend books and hope that Buddha will somehow do the transforming for them. Which is why they would rather try to relate to translated ideas from another language from thousands of years ago, rather than just ask a friend today if he knows how to be happier more of the time. And I’m not just talking about me. The students who studied with me two years ago, who’ve been living very consciously since then, could easily be helpful to anyone who would ask. But just like me, they’ll wait for people to ask.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s also a lot of people who think they understand me but they don’t. They think they’re living this way but they’re not. But that’s okay. Because there really is no being wrong in this game. You’re always in. It’s just a matter of whether you realize you’re in or not. So it’s not like enlightened people perceive unenlightened people unfavourably. We’re regularly you anyway. We take a turn at the ego trough. We feed on some unhealthy thinking for short periods of time. That’s what reminds us to be peaceful inside. And it reminds us of the roller coaster you’re on.
Far from watching others judgmentally, once you can see the innocence in ego you learn from it. You realize that everyone is a teacher, and everyone plays a role in this drama of life. And every single person you know gets way more fascinating, even if you’re someone like me and you’ve always thought your friends were fascinating. Everyone makes more sense, and you understand their priorities and values and decisions better. And knowing all of that, you just want to contribute to the success of their life in whatever way they see it. You love them unconditionally. And you can do that even if they don’t love you.
Don’t complicate your journey. Don’t see enlightenment as challenging or difficult. You relax into enlightenment. You let your judgments go and there it is. Just stop talking to yourself inside your head and in that space you’ll begin to take in Now. Once you have enough filters down and you’re taking in enough Now, you’ll begin to change without even trying. You’ll remember how to be enlightened. And you will become more childlike.
When you’re enlightened your priorities will change. They will seem strange to others. You will have seem to have lost your drive. They might even say you’re weaker because you’re not so set in your views. But to say that any of those things prevents you from enjoying a successful life is like saying Bruce Lee couldn’t fight because he wasn’t angry. You don’t need a dust cloud of thought around you to live fully. You can have the ups and downs of a roller coaster, or you can have the expansively winding course of a river through a plain. The choice is always yours. It’s simply a matter of how often you choose to approach things with a quiet mind.
So go be enlightened. Go listen to the world around you. Have no opinions. No expectations. No judgments. Simply Be. Be for as long as you can. And each time your ego interrupts, just go back to your quiet mind as soon as you’re able. Your spirituality is a verb. Exercise it and it will become stronger than your ego. Because that is the shortest route to happiness there is. And it’s always only one thought away from where you are.