Some of us like to know where we stand. Am I making progress? How do I know? Am I further along than [fill in the blank]? So here is a list of stages that I suspect many of us can relate to.
I Want It
The allure of awakening has caught our attention and we set out with determination to attain it. We read books, go to workshops, find a teacher, find a different teacher, listen to podcasts, buy a beautiful meditation cushion, chant mantras, pray with mala beads. We are drawn to anyone or anything that sets out clear steps to follow, with the assurance that at the end we will reach our goal.
I’ll Never Get It
After an initial period of enthusiastic dedication, we begin to tire. How long does this take? Is there a faster way? What am I doing wrong? Maybe I’m not trying hard enough. Maybe I’m just not good enough. [Fill in the blank] is more advanced than I am. It sometimes feels like we are getting further away rather than closer. We begin to despair.
I Got It!
We have a grand spiritual experience and laugh/cry with ecstasy and relief that we finally made it. We have arrived. We are chillin’ in the kumbaya zone. Smooth sailing on the sea of serenity from here on out.
I Lost It
Oh no! Despite our efforts to hold on to our moment of blissful awareness, it slips through our fingers. Where did it go? How do I get it back? We try to recreate the experience…and fail.
I Never Had It
Doubt sets in. If it was real, it would have lasted. I wouldn’t be feeling this way again. I would do better, be better. I would never have these problems anymore. Maybe I just made it up. I must not have awakened after all.
I’ve Always Had It
We begin to understand that awakening isn’t something we attain. It is our true nature, our essential being. I don’t have to do anything or be anything. No one can give it to me or take it away. I can’t lose it. It is closer than my breath, the life force in every cell, the energy of creation we all share, connecting all aspects of existence to each other and to the source. It is what is. That’s all.
It Doesn’t Matter
“Before enlightenment chop wood carry water. After enlightenment chop wood carry water.” We practice because we practice. We breathe because we breathe. We love because we love. We are here, now. There is nowhere else we can be. There is no other time than this moment. Occasionally I am aware of that. Sometimes I’m not. Either way, I am still here, now.
Have Some Tea
So make some tea and welcome whoever and whatever shows up at your table. Keep the water hot. More will surely come.
[The following quote is not the one I was looking for, but it showed up here, now, and made me laugh.]
So shut up, live, travel, adventure, bless and don’t be sorry. ~Jack Kerouac