This article is directed at the disastrous notions in our culture that 1) enlightenment is reserved for the selected few and that 2) it happens once and then said selected person is forever changed. Hang with me. If these ideas rub you the wrong way, you are only guilty of being Western. What if our belief systems got it wrong? More likely, what if in the 2000 years since our religious books were actually written, if they have been increasingly misinterpreted? We have been given the gift of several experiences that allow us to taste “divinity.” The problem is, these experiences typically just happen by accident. Be aware when these following things happen, get comfortable with what you are feeling, and then actively pursue that feeling through meditation, tai chi, qi gong, yoga, prayer, or your activity of choice.
Awareness creates a knowing, but not the type of knowing that turns into beliefs or ideas. It is a deeper knowing that is more significant. This is knowing that we associate with words like epiphany, insight, or ah-ha moments.
When we experience an ah-ha moment we respond with our entire body. The epiphany enters our minds, we gasp, get chills, smile, clasp our hands together, and enjoy the deafening silence in our brain that surrounds this brilliant new idea. We are flooded with adrenaline to type, record, or write fast enough to capture our thoughts.
It is an instantaneous harmonization of the body and mind. We have all had this feeling and man is it enjoyable! A-ha moments are typically infrequent but I am happy to tell you that an increase in awareness corresponds to an increase in epiphanies. By calming the mind, we actually create the space for these “strokes of genius” to hit us.
I think it is interesting that the word epiphany rarely refers to its original intention. The “the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi (Matthew 2:1–12) still celebrated in early January. The old-new connection is obviously there.
Neuroscience now offers us insight into why a creative experience makes us feel so closely united with the divine. Brain imagery shows either a lighting up of both hemispheres or a temporary domination of the right hemisphere over the analytical half.
We all have been there. You are so engrossed in an activity that you forgot to eat. 6 hours of a Saturday are completely blown away as you work on your hobby. When you finally look up, it’s dark outside. Your wife taps you on the shoulder as you toil on something you love. You say she scared you and she says she called your name three times.
Creative acts have the power to completely unplug us and fuel us with so much energy that we temporarily forget about food, water, and rest.
Personal Memory – Will the real you please stand up?
In your life you may have been a child, a morose teenage, a soldier, a college student, a mom, a sister, a spouse, an employee, coworker, and boss. If I lined up pictures of these 10 “people” and asked you who they were, you would name the 10 people as I just did. But what if these were all pictures of you across time? What would you say? “Well, that’s me!”
How is it possible that you can be all of these people? And when you remember yourself at any one point in time, who is the YOU that you are remembering? What is the thing that remains the same across time? What is the being that remembers being a child and doesn’t feel like the old man who is looking at you in the mirror?
You want to easily understand awareness? This is it: For all the highfalutin ideas about meditation, it is nothing more than getting in touch with this YOU, sitting there, and really enjoying that company for as long as you can make it last.
I would even venture to say that this is the reason behind much of the discontent in life. We intrinsically know WHO we are. When our actions or our life do not match this, we feel like we lost something. We love our childhood friends because they know the real YOU despite all the external changes. We endure the ribbing from our siblings and close family because they love YOU no matter what you look like or how you change. Even when family share their advice it often hurts or helps the most because they want you to be “true to yourself.”
Consciousness, awareness, free thought, no-mind; whatever you want to call it, the purpose is to free your “self” from the constant deluge of the mind’s constant chatter so you can enjoy what is right in front of you and/or get down to business. And yes, it takes some effort and work. To stay the course and enjoy the course, you need to be very clear about WHO it is you want to be and where your efforts are leading you.
Readers of Tai Chi Basics consistently ask for resources to start meditating or improve their practice. I have become a big fan of the Art of Mushin Meditation Study Course because it is accessible to everyone – everywhere and is a good blend of hands-on practice, explanation, and science.