Enlightenment is the crumbling away of untruth.
—Adyashanti, American spiritual teacher, author, speaker
Enlightenment is defined as "the state of having understanding"; consciousness as "the state of being aware."
Enlightened consciousness, then, is a phrase that might be interpreted as "the understanding of awareness." The term—and the philosophy itself—carries infinite layers of meaning. Each layer adds depth, nuance, shades of meaning that vary among individuals.
The definition varies because each of us is a spark in an infinite universe, unique and shaped by our experiences.
But it is also true that our Selves (intentionally capitalized!) are interconnected in a cosmic weaving beyond comprehension.
That very incomprehensibility forms the path to awareness of the infinite. It's a journey of spiritual growth that fundamentally changes who you are.
Because the journey inward and the resultant expansion of consciousness are inherently individualized, let's examine some of the commonalities, some of the sights, and some of the rewards.
Let us seek not the what but the how and why. Then you can decide if you're ready for an awakening like nothing you've ever experienced.
What is the Self?
You may be wondering about your "Self" as opposed to the infinitely more common "yourself."
Your Self, on the other hand, is a tributary of the energy of the collective consciousness that exists in your physical form and mind. It's the sum of your
- creative energy
It's what makes you, you.
It's the Self, capital S, that's the subject of our conversation here.
Your Self and my Self are separate, but they're also joined. The concept may sound simple to you or it may sound terribly complex. That journey toward understanding is what matters.
As soon as you tell yourself, "I have arrived. I am enlightened" you've lost something.
That seems rather mysterious and grandiose, doesn't it? Let's for the sake of simplicity accept the absence of a finish line in this quest and press on.
Separating Self-Help From Enlightened Consciousness
The self-improvement industry is a $9.6 billion market. Surely we can agree that anything—book, seminar, movie, website, coaching—that encourages you to look inside yourself is of great personal benefit.
But the lion's share of self-help devotees seem to be looking for business success, physical beauty, a can't-miss gambling method, more friends, financial gain: external improvements that contradict the self of the label.
This focus, skewed as it is toward tangible stuff, is shifting as people are more and more looking for change within themselves.
The search for enlightened consciousness—or living deliberately, spiritual awakening, aligned living, conscious living: call it what you will—is an intensely personal walk. It is, in fact, a journey of discovery that is its own prize.
To view enlightenment as a destination rather than a gloriously wandering odyssey of continuous self-discovery is to make the journey much harder for yourself than it needs to be.
Because we all have a different starting point, we all travel a different path. But as with many activities, there are similarities that, when recognized, help us along the way.
Words of Caution, Words of Encouragement
Someone who mocks your declared objective of enlightened consciousness is probably someone you should shed from your life. Negativity must be expunged.
It's possible this person considers his or her motivation purely selfless. If this turns out to be true, you may realize the very person trying to stop your growth needs your help.
Opening yourself to this possibility is in itself a step toward awareness. It is a symptom, if you will, of the beginnings of intentional release into the infinite.
There's a very real red flag you must watch out for. It's not at all uncommon, and once you recognize it, you can make a conscious choice to buckle down and reset your priorities.
The danger is becoming that person who, desperate to quit smoking, chooses to instead wear an armload of nicotine patches for forty years.
The danger is becoming addicted to self-help. To read book after book; attend seminar after seminar; watch video after video; study under master after master—
—But to never apply what you've learned!
In other scenarios, the condition is sometimes known as analysis paralysis. You find yourself incapable of moving forward until you feel you've researched every atom of every how-to in existence.
It's fear that drives this, but it's in no way an irrational fear. Think about it:
Change is hard. Starting a new job, buying a new car, or worst of all, moving house, are external changes.
How much harder, how much more frightening, is the change within?
It takes great courage to bare your Self so you can scrutinize the most hidden bits. By deciding to embark on a journey into the unknown, you have already displayed more power than you know.
Spirituality ≠ Religion
It's important to understand a fundamental truism here. When we use the term "spiritual," we're not referring to any divinity of any polytheistic, monotheistic, agnostic, or even mystic system of religious expression.
Instead, we are referring to that eternal ocean of higher power from which all universal energy flows. If it helps, you can call this divinity, or Divinity, if you prefer.
The important point is to separate the idea of the truly spiritual from "organized religion." Though these aren't always mutually exclusive, it's critical to comprehend them so in order to begin work on spiritual consciousness.
The Road to Spiritual Awakening
Before you can begin the inward-directed examination necessary for enlightened consciousness, you need tools for your travel bag.
You need access to an appropriate vocabulary to describe, even if only for yourself, what you experience.
You need to know what to expect.
Most importantly, you need to learn how to get your house in order before you seek to knock down all its restrictive walls.
In short, you need a guide. You probably need a guide. Farbeit from me to say you can't auto-enlighten.
But like almost any endeavor that involves leaving a here to journey toward a there, a partner who has been there before and notched some trees along the path can be an enormous asset.
The many and varied benefits of meditation are well documented.
But not all meditation is the same.
The emptying of the mind, releasing yourself into the limitless divine, is fundamental in the journey toward enlightened consciousness.
This involves non-physical perception intended to still the mind. Only in this boundless quietude are we able to master the mind.
In this way, we are able to recognize, and if necessary, reinterpret, events in our lives that have shaped our thinking.
In the re-examination, then, we can dispose of judgments, prejudices, and opinions that distract us from taking positive control over our lives.
Conversely, the conduit between our Selves and the universe opened by absolute stillness may lead you to relinquish that same control in favor of the peace, compassion, and love of the effortless state of being.
The spiritual awakening of enlightened consciousness is an ongoing pilgrimage along an ever-widening spiral of awareness. It connects you to your newly discovered deepest Self, to the universe, and to the rest of humanity.
And remember: Your journey and your awarenesses will look different than those of fellow seekers of deliberate living.
Are you ready for the journey?