It is certainly not easy to consciously be on the path of awakening. Our lives are so filled with activities, distractions, and people that lead us away from our center and our serenity. It takes a real commitment to regularly reserve time to go inside and shut the world out. It is not easy to have a normal Western life and not be dragged by the materialistic, entertainment and stressful wave. Being in the world and not of this world is perhaps our biggest challenge.
In my case, the choices I have been making in the last years have been helpful. I started with giving up my comfortable bourgeois life in Paris, being willing to start from scratch, leading a simple life for many years and accepting complete uncertainty as a companion. Relinquishing so many things I used to think were indispensable prepared me to focus on the essential, on the unchangeable, on the core of existence. At a certain point in many people’s lives, they feel compelled to seek some kind of depth within themselves, within life itself. Something inside impels them to search and look for greater depth and greater understanding. That happened to me too.
There comes a time in the evolution of every person when the main concern is no longer the survival of the physical body, the accumulation of stuff or winning praise and worldly success, but the growth of the soul.Spirituality is a lot more than visualizing your perfect husband or manifesting the house of your dreams. It is seeing the essence of light and perfection in all situations, in yourself and in everyone you meet. It is something that takes a good guidance and serious practice, study, and dedication.
Getting closer to enlightenment does take a lot of relinquishment, and there is no way around it. Nevertheless, if you do it willingly — not as a mandatory sacrifice — it can be very liberating. It takes quite a few changes in the outer world to leave time and energy to cultivate the path of awakening. You need to make enough room for the search, the preparation, and the training. If you change your inner world, you must be prepared to change the outer life and its old structures in one way or another.
In the beginning, this is not an easy journey, because we have to let go of external certainties to be able to get to the core of ourselves. Once we arrive there, we find out that we are Spirit. Only then will we experience a deep sense of trust, peace and surrender. The difference appears on the path, since the ego is not willing to give up external clutches so easily, and it may show great resistance and anger. We all have to go through it. It is a long process of shedding our limiting ways of thinking and our egotistic thought system. Only by dissolving the old, can the new blossom.
It is also a gradual process. There are moments of alignment with our higher Self that can be lived as peak experiences or instants of fulfillment. As we keep feeding our deepest nature and developing more positive virtues, they become more lasting states of awakening. Eventually, the final stages of complete alignment with our divine essence take place. This is what is called enlightenment.
In my experience, you do not need to become a Buddhist and go through a 3-year period of silent retreats, follow a guru in India, or completely give up your life in society. However, it does take serious adjustments, changes in your material life, and some difficult choices. This cannot be sugarcoated. How many people are willing to do that? Voilà, that is why there are very few enlightened people in our society. Because samsara (in Buddhist terms, the cycle of repeated birth, mundane existence and dying again) is very sticky, it is easy to get stuck on its mirages life after life.
It takes great commitment to an inner path, because not only is it not commonly accepted, it is also often despised and shunned. It means solitude. It entails walking off the beaten track. You often feel you do not belong anywhere. You may even feel like a weirdo, a member of a rare species that does not share the same values or interests of the vast majority.
Throughout history, sages, saints and mystics have been the outcasts of a society that could not understand, let alone respect people taking alternatives to living. Nowadays, you are not going to be burned on a stick or tortured by the inquisition because of it, but at times, it can take a toll on you. You need to learn to live with it and hold on there. The path is long and bumpy,but there is light at the end of the tunnel. That light is so powerful, so joyful and so peaceful that it is worthy of all the renunciations.
In fact, all those seeming sacrifices are just the way of getting rid of your useless and heavy armors accumulated over time, of all the burdens that did not allow you to fly high, of all the tethers that bound you to the soil and kept you crawling.
As Joseph Campbell wrote, “When we quit thinking primarily about ourselves and our own self-preservation, we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness.”This amazing transformation is so worthy. It is our final destination anyway. We can get distracted and lost for a long time. We can refuse to liberate ourselves for as long as we wish. We can suffer as much as we decide to. We can use our free will to choose how fast we get there. Nevertheless, in the end, all of us will reach Home.
** This is the first chapter of THE JOURNEY OF AWAKENING, a book to published soon