Welcome to 2018! May this be your best year yet!

Recently I’ve been reflecting on the term “enlightenment”. It’s a big word that holds a lot of meaning, power, and misconceptions. I honestly do not know what enlightenment means, nor am I focused on reaching it. In fact, I think the whole idea of achieving enlightenment is a diminishment and insult to consciousness itself. If there is an “end game” called enlightenment, is that something we’re supposed to be going for? Doesn’t that suggest that we are deficient and somehow flawed as we are now? If you believe that, then you might also believe that the universe is flawed. And if the universe is flawed and has made a mistake, then you might subscribe to the belief that YOU are a mistake. Yikes! This kind of view really smacks of a shame-based paradigm that is outdated and no longer useful. The superficial understanding of enlightenment to me is tinged with perfectionism, hierarchy, and judgment.

In the Tantra, you are already free.

Enlightenment is not something other than you that exists somewhere else. It’s a state of recognition that comes from the heart with clarity of perception of what’s happening now. It’s like trying to tune into a radio station (non-digital) with a fuzzy connection compared to a clear, pristine, static-free connection. When your connection is clear, you hear the music. When it’s fuzzy, you hear the static. Instead of being a state of consciousness or a place you go, to me enlightenment is a simple experience of clear perception, free of past conditioning, free of the angst of worry, free of any pattern of unworthiness or personal struggle through your willingness to embrace all states and experiences (light and dark) as divine. Enlightenment is the embrace of what exists underneath the veils of our own self-limitation, as well as, our self-limitation.

Two things support the experience of enlightenment

  1. Regular deep practice
  2. Enjoying the simple pleasures of life. In my experience, there’s no other way to remove obstacles to clear seeing except through regular deep practice. Whether your practice is the Ashaya Sadhana Practice or walking your dog in the woods, whatever helps you clear your mind is a good place to start. Of course, because of my experience and interests, I favor the powerful practices of Tantra, which include many different yogic practices, among which the main one is mantra meditation. It’s through the repetition of mantras handed down in a sacred way from teacher to student, with specific skillful practice instructions, that gives the mantra its power.

The point is…

But the point is, no matter what practice you do, when you do it with regularity, dedication, and precision, you will begin to clear the primordial channel of divine light (the sushumna nadi) of debris, karma, and samskaras from the past (which take the form of regret, resentment, anger, jealousy, sadness, unworthiness, depression, and all negative emotions that pertain to something not being right, not being enough, or being coated with shame). When the obstacles are removed, you enter into a clear space of consciousness that allows you to receive the unimpeded flow of Shaktipata (the descent of Shakti or life-force energy). This is our natural state. It is the shakti, or grace, that gives you the experience of enlightenment. Whenever you experience freedom from suffering, you experience joy. In Tantra, ananda (bliss, joy) is your true nature. Joy is both what’s underneath it all and what’s on top of it.

Freedom is the natural state of the Self. Joy is the natural state of freedom.

The other thing that supports the experience of enlightenment is the conscious enjoyment of simple pleasures. We live with so much complexity these days – busy schedules, complex relationships, complicated health issues, work issues, and complex family dynamics. We are bombarded day and night by the media with information, advertisements, and data that floods our mind. In general, I’d say the art of enjoying a simple pleasure is lost.

But I recently had two experiences that were amazingly fulfilling yet so simple. For years I’ve been wanting larger bowls at home for my meals. Most people know this about me, but I have a huge appetite and am often seen with a heaping mound of food on my plate. By the end of the meal, small bits of food have fallen off the plate leaving a ring of tidbits behind. I prefer eating out of a bowl. But most of our bowls are too small.

Simple Pleasures

Ann and I were out doing errands one day, stopped by Pier One Imports, and low and behold, the perfect size bowl appeared. We bought four of them. I think they’re called pasta bowls – plain white and totally simple. The next morning, I was so excited to try out our new bowls. I felt like a little kid about to ride his new bike for the first time. I filled up my pasta bowl with my favorite breakfast foods (steamed vegetables, brown rice, eggs, and avocado) and sat down to the most enjoyable breakfast I’ve had in a long time. I chewed longer and savored each bite. Maybe it was my imagination, but the food even tasted better! My whole body relaxed. The bowl comfortably held all of my food without any spill over. In that moment, I was content. I felt perfectly fulfilled and complete. I was satisfied and I felt an incredibly warm wave of relaxation spread over my entire body. My face softened and I noticed a faint smile spontaneously emerge from deep within.

After that experience, I reflected on what just happened and laughed to myself. “Oh, this is the experience of savoring a simple pleasure.”

Regular Practice

In the Tantra, you don’t have to go anywhere different to experience joy. It’s all right here. Enlightenment is your capacity to live in your heart without letting expectations or negative emotions of the past color your experience of now. Grace is constantly being dispensed. But are you receptive to it? Have you cleared your channel to be able to receive?

In this new year, I invite you to commit to a regular practice that clears your mind and then start noticing simple pleasures. Take delight in savoring the simple moments of your day. Of course, the real challenge is how to remain calm when things don’t go your way, when you are challenged. Whatever is happening, bring your awareness into the present moment. Try to be with what’s happening rather than trying to change it or get out of it. A teaching I recently heard was when you start to resist the moment or feel frustration coming on, just say to yourself, “This is how it is right now.” Then take a deep breath and let go.

I also invite you to practice these potent mantras which I’ll be repeating continually before and after my surgery. Click on the links below.

Om Aim Klim Saraswataye Nama(ha)

Om Gam Ganapataye Nama(ha)

May you have a beautiful and joyous new year. May you light up the sky with your deepest desires and may you bring more light, good health, relaxation, joy…..and “enlightenment” into this world.