I receive many messages from people that carry a vision of what an enlightened life might be like. Often it’s a lovely vision, a heavenly vision, a very peaceful vision, free of worry, free of care, having all the person’s needs met, free of challenge, and full of serendipity. Reflecting on these messages, I wonder, is that really how it goes when you open up spiritually? Is that really what happens?
This past week I was speaking to someone about moving to Sunrise Ranch, the spiritual community and conference center where I live. In the middle of the conversation, she said, “I’m scared.” And I said, “Good!” Good, because she has some real appreciation for what she is getting into. She senses that her life is going to be turned inside-out. Her reality, as she has known it, is going to be devastated by the power of universal love. And she’s ready for what really happens when a person walks their spiritual path—she wants that in her life. I think she has less illusion than many people about the cushiness of that experience.
The spiritual path is not cushy and it’s not comfortable. Probably, most people would do better if they found a way to eliminate all the ideas they have of what it is like to be spiritual or enlightened, or what it is like to be a fully awakened human being. Maybe it’s just like this. Just how it is for you, here and now.
Usually when people think about what it would mean to live a spiritual life, they think about what is outside them: “I will be in a state of enlightenment because everything around me will be nice and cushy. There will be good people all around me.”
Taking this a step further, I notice that people can have a lot of imagination about their own capacities of consciousness, their thinking and their emotions. It is easy to have imagination about what that will be in a spiritually realized state; all very calm, with never a ripple emotionally, unbothered by busy thought or troubled feeling.
What would happen for a person if they could let go of any imagination about what it might mean to experience spirituality? Freeing the mind of all that imagination opens the door for a person to be fully present right now in the face of whatever they really are thinking and feeling, and in the face of whatever is happening in their world.
The first place to start having a spiritually awake experience is right within the worried and distraught mind and turbulent emotions. And if you’re waiting for your mind not to be worried and your emotions not to be turbulent before you bring the spiritual, you’re going to be waiting a long time.
The enlightened person is bringing the spiritual right now—into those feelings that you have right now, and to whatever your thoughts are. The enlightened person isn’t identified with all that thinking and all that feeling, never mind all the things that are happening in the outer circumstance. An enlightened person says, “I’m here for this, right now. This! I’m scared—I’m here for that. I’m here in that.” Something remarkable happens when we’re here for whatever is occurring in our life. We are not that; we’re not all those thoughts and all those feelings, but we’re here for it and we’re here in the middle of it. We’re here to upset that applecart, if you will—our own applecart, to begin with.
Something happens in thinking and feeling when we really show up spiritually, when we aren’t waiting for nirvana, however we think it might come. We’re here now—we’re awake, alive and aware now, and we’re bringing awake, alive and aware consciousness to all the things that are happening for us. If we really do that, it is a total game changer in terms of what is happening, first of all, in consciousness. All those thoughts settle down, and the feelings now have a spiritual presence around them that can hold them and that can tell them it’s okay that you feel that way. It’s fine. You feel afraid about coming to Sunrise Ranch—it’s fine, it’s all right. We feel many things. It’s all okay. And the more our presence is there with our feelings, the more our feelings become entrained to that presence, the more they open up to that presence, the more they calm down and truly are at peace—not because we’re waiting for them to be like that, or depending on them to be like that. They just are that way when we stop waiting for it or depending upon it, and we are fully present.
We are the presence of universal love. We are the presence of love for other people, and we are the presence of love for our world. But where does all that start? We have to be the presence of love for this human being right here. That’s what self-love is about. Self-love is about being the presence of love forme. Not just comforting love, although love is comforting; not just nourishing and caring love, although love is nourishing and love is caring. I’m also the devastating love for me. I’ve changed my life on that basis. How about you? Because my presence demanded something different in my life. My presence said, “This is enough. This is not okay. This is over for me. This is it. I’m not doing this anymore; I’m not having this anymore in my life. I am bringing something profoundly new that is true of love, that is true of me.”