First Enlightedment, Then The Dishes

The Challenging State of the Enlighted
23 Jun 2011
An American Doppel-Ganger
28 Jun 2011

There is a story about a young man who had spent years seeking enlightenment and was, one day, walking up a long road up a mountain range to engage with the wise beings at the top. En route, he past an old man coming back down the path, his body bent under the weight of a heavy sack. Sensing that he had finally found one of the wise, a being who could answer his heart’s deepest questions, the younger man asked excitedly, “Please, Sir, tell me the meaning of true enlightenment?”

After a moment’s thought, the old man smiled. Fixing his eyes on the youth, he slowly swung his heavy burden off his back, laid it down and stood up straight and majestic, a strong look on his face, and joy radiating from his body.

In awe, the young man replied, “Ah, I understand! But, Sir, now that you’re enlightened, what comes next?”

Taking a deep breath, the old man picked up his heavy sack, slung it over his shoulders and, bent over, continued on his way.

My spiritual journey began early. Born into a Hindu family who spent regular time fasting and meeting for group worship both in temple and at private homes, I grew to enjoy the bhajan singing, the rich mythologies, and the idea of the power that the gods bestowed on the devout. These ideas started eroding as I questioned the ways of the people who gave me this information. By the age of nine, I’d rejected religion even though I found a calling to spirit.

Over the course of the next two and a half decades, I explored and investigated various religions and ideas on spirituality, seeking my own sense of enlightedness. Come the end of my schooling period, during which time I was steadfastly against religion even as I’d formed my own sense and ideas of how spirit and gods worked in our lives (mostly inspired by the ideas of fantasy novelists), I actively joined groups engaged in new-age styled religions.

Realising that even though I found an attraction to the principles of these new-age religions, the people were very much the same in their ideas to the “old-age” religions, I eventually extracted myself entirely from such groups, instead focusing on metaphysical lessons and esoteric, non-structured ideas. These were presented to me in courses, workshops, and through people engaged in alternative and spiritual healing.

I found my sense of enlightedment through healing modalities. And the interesting thing is that as spiritual as I have come to be, I still engage very fully in everyday life. I know that the two are not mutually exclusive, of course, but there was a time that I had thought spirituality had no place in the regular, mundane world.

The story that I’ve opened this post with has been slightly adapted from a version I read in No Ordinary Moments, a book by Dan Millman on the idea that every moment is special. In terms of spirit, my traditional religious upbringing (at home and at school) implied that there were only certain conditions and spaces in which one connected with God or Spirit. My metaphysical and esoteric teachers taught otherwise. Every moment, whether you’re in bed, tying your shoelaces, washing the dishes or meditating beside a tree, every moment is a moment of connection.

In Aikido, lower white belts and higher black belts worked together to sweep the mats and wash the floors. The action does not determine the level nor the worth of a person. Our Sensei’s and black belts understood this better than the white belts who, at the time, considered the work a chore. Lower white belts (myself included) thought that once we’ve proved ourselves, we no longer need to do the menial stuff. We didn’t realise that there is no such thing as menial stuff. Everything is an opportunity to grow and connect with the essence that powers us, whether that essence is seen as being outside ourselves or within.

My entire life up unto this point has been dedicated to reaching and finding a strong spiritual connection to whatever it is that governs, oversees, and gives life to our lives. I can honestly say that I’ve reached a space where I have discovered spiritual enlightenment, a space where I feel connected in most moments, and I no longer have an issue doing the dishes.