During the first dozen years of my spiritual journey, all I was really interested in was the possibility of “enlightenment”, which to me meant “direct, unmediated contact with reality.” I had to “get there,” no matter what.
Then, at the age of 29, I was catapulted into an enlightenment experience or state, which lasted (at differing degrees of depth and intensity) for several months. As a result, my search was replaced by the joy of discovery, and later by an inquiry into the implications of this discovery for my life.
Fast forward thirty years and these days, at the age of nearly 60, I find myself again burning with the same fire: reading, contemplating, meditating on, speaking about and searching for enlightenment. Outwardly my current search is mellower, more mature, maybe humbler, but beneath the surface… I’m not sure it’s that different.
I read excerpt like this one and my heart sings:
“The change that enlightenment entails is a transformation of the whole inner life of a person—cognition, motivations, desires, emotions, dispositions. Emotions based on the false sense of an ego (such as the passions, fear, anger, and anxiety) melt away as one realizes the true state of things and accepts them for what they are. Thus, one’s inner life is completely reorganized. The mere intellectual acceptance of a proposition is not enough—we do not need a mystical experience to accept that “all is impermanent” or that we are all tiny specks in one interconnected natural whole with no ontologically distinct entities, or to follow the analogy of a dream and its dreamer to envision there being a reality underlying all of this world. But only with a mystical experience can we experience the world as it truly is. The variety of enlightened ways of life from different traditions suggests that doctrines and values are internalized in these states of consciousness, even if depth-mystical experiences are devoid of all conceptualizations.”
(Jones, R. H. (2016). Philosophy of mysticism: Raids on the ineffable)