After my father’s sudden death from lung cancer prompted me to seek ways to ease suffering and related existential questions which led me to live with a meditation master from India, my goal seemed to be to reach a plateau of perfection, where once you arrived, there was no suffering, only bliss. I now see my 32 year spiritual enlightenment path from a bit different perspective.
While this is by no means a scholarly discourse, I want to share my personal musings on the topic to help you better recognize and define which enlightenment stage you may find yourself in most often, and to perhaps prompt you to notice and reframe your transformational experiences.
Why is Understanding Enlightenment Stages Important?
Once you have a working framework to describe and define the more esoteric or spiritual possibilities, you can become more intentional about how you choose to call these higher states of consciousness forth, as everything is fundamentally energy plus intention. And perhaps, too, forgive yourself the supposed “slips” along the way which may make you feel you “fell off the path.”
Now I am noticing there seems to be an ebb and a flow, even with the higher states of awareness. It is more fluid and, as a result, I am more forgiving and accepting of the peaks, the pits, and the plateaus of “sadhana” or spiritual journey.
Enlightenment Stage 1: Becoming
The caterpillar is becoming the butterfly. You are on a spiritual path, or at least aware that you want to be and are searching for one. You are both excited and afraid – your world seems to be changing rapidly. The experiences, friends, and work that used to interest you seems flat or has been falling away.
You long for stillness, more centeredness, more awareness. You know a higher consciousness exists. You seek out places, people, courses, and teachers that speak to your soul. You are aware that your overactive, rational “monkey mind,” which jumps from thought to thought, and tells you reality is limited to your five senses, is not always your friend!
You long to discover your Higher Purpose and to live your highest potential, though you may feel like you have no clue what that is. You know you are not just this body, this personality, not even these thoughts. You want to be “in the world, but not of it.” “Who am I?” no longer seems a silly question, but a burning desire to experience more awareness, deeper wisdom, connection, and intuition. To strive to become more open, more accepting, more certain. You begin to claim a deeper responsibility for your state, your circumstances, and for becoming happier.
Enlightenment Stage 2: Being
You stop feeling like you need to arrive anywhere. You let go of all striving, all the busyness, all the doing. You may even feel momentarily like you failed in your spiritual seeking, yet you don’t seem to care so much about becoming “enlightened” or liberated or Self-realized, as you are not even sure you know what it means for you. You release preparing, purifying, practicing, pranaming.
You rest….in BEING. YOU ARE ENOUGH. The past is gone, the future never comes. You are fully PRESENT.
As you collect your consciousness into the here and now, the fullness of each moment blows you away. Where were you running to (ohm-ing to, praying to)? It is all right here. It was ALWAYS right here. So much love swells in this NOW moment. In this stillness without striving, everything comes to you. In the non-movement, the non-doing, all is done. The mind quiets and the heart knows. You are no longer seeking peace, you are BEING PEACE.
You are in the flow where things happen with great synchronicity and little effort.
Enlightenment Stage 3: Embodying
In your journey of Becoming and Being you begin to notice something beyond extra-ordinary. Other-wordly even. Everything around you seems to sparkle. You realize that you are radiating a purity of essence that can only be described as divine, as you hold more light, more love, more high vibrational energy than you ever imagined. With each in-breath, you are in bliss for no reason. With each out-breath you are blessing the world. You don’t wonder, you know.
Your very molecules are resonating with such a high frequency that your very being uplifts and harmonizes all life. Each step on Mother Earth energizes and purifies the planet. You live in the mind-blowing awareness that you and ALL THAT IS are one and the same. Nothing is truly separate; nothing is solid.
Everything is scintillating with consciousness. You know without a doubt that your very being here in form IS the blessing, and there is nothing you need to do or become to receive the fullness of creations’ abundance in all forms. You have become a pure vessel, an evolutionary catalyst for cosmic inspiration and wisdom, divine light, and holy breath, and you transmit this naturally with a look, a touch, a whisper.
You may feel you are experiencing more than one of these enlightenment stages intermittently, which is probably the case. Which of the stages do you notice you are currently spending the most time? Watch out for self-judgment and comparison here. We all first learn to crawl before we walk, walk before we dance.
What do you feel you need, or what shifts would need to occur, for you to live more fully in your current stage, or to spend more time in the next stage? Dream the big dream here. Call it forth now. Create an intention that describes what YOU truly desire. Write it down in your journal and refer often.
Let your heart’s longing for more Soul and Spirit bring to you the inspirations, the teachers, the guides who will show you the way. And don’t forget to recognize the answers to your longing when they appear….and seize the opportunities that present themselves!