What is Mysticism?

“The psychotic drowns in the same waters in which the mystic swims with delight.”

-Joseph Campbell

 

“Theologians may quarrel, but the mystics of the world speak the same language.”

-Meister Eckhart

 

Mysticism, it sounds somewhat supernatural or otherworldly doesn’t it? But it’s really more mundane and earthly than it sounds. Let’s look at mysticism and what it’s all about.

The definition of mysticism can be very loose and impossible to express with words. The word Mysticism is derived from ancient Greek, meaning to “close” or “to conceal”. Covering the biblical, spiritual, contemplative, and liturgical aspects of early and medieval Christianity.  in the middle ages, the term also came to mean having extraordinary experiences and states of mind. In today’s world  mysticism has a more narrowed down definition, meaning to work towards a union with the absolute, the infinite, the one God.

Looking at it broadly, mysticism can be found in every religious tradition from folk religions like Shamanism and Paganism, to organized religions such as Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Jainism, to modern spirituality and the new age movement.

To use the word mysticism gives an explanatory meaning to mystical and visionary experiences, trances, etc. Mysticism relates to any kind of altered state of consciousness. A mystical experience is “an intuitive understanding and realization of the meaning of existence.

Mysticism is “a constellation of distinctive practices, discourses, texts, institutions, traditions, and experiences aimed at the Human transformation, variously defined in different traditions.

Tom Robbins, the American novelist said: Religion is nothing but institutionalized mysticism. The catch is, mysticism does not lend itself to institutionalization. The moment we attempt to organize mysticism, we destroy its essence. Religion then, is mysticism in which the mystical has been killed, or, at least diminished.”

According to scholar of eastern religions Robert Zaehner: “There are three basic types of mysticism, these being: Theistic, Monistic, and Panenhenic or natural mysticism (all in one). Theistic mysticism includes Jewish, Christian, and Islamic mysticism. Monastic includes Buddhism and Hindu mysticism. Nature mysticism refers to examples that don’t fit into these other categories.

There are two types of mystical experience according to British philosopher and epistemologist Walter Stace: Extrovertive; an experience of the unity of the external world. Introvertive mysticism is an experience of no-thing-ness.

There are several ways a mystical experience may come about, some being; a spontaneous episode, or through religious practices like meditation or mantra repetition. They may come about through the use of entheogens (psychedelic drugs), or they may be neurophysiological in nature such as temporal lobe epilepsy.

Science hasn’t delved too far into mysticism, an exception being the neurophysiological explanations. Bram Stoker said: “Ah, it is the fault of our science that it wants to explain all; and if it explain not, then it says there is nothing to explain.”

There have been many mystics throughout history. Some include: Rumi, the thirteenth century poet; Teresa of Avila, or Saint Teresa; John of the cross, a Roman Catholic Saint; Thomas Merton, an American Trappist Monk ordained to the priesthood in 1949.

Mystics feel the need to serve others,  but not everyone can be a mystic. It’s not something you can learn. Do you think you might be a mystic? Here are ten subtle signs you may be:

1 You value experiences above all else.

2 You question existence.

3 You are comfortable with uncertainty.

4 You value intuition.

5 You are uncomfortable with spiritual hierarchies.

6 You have your own set of rules.

7 You value internal growth.

8 You believe you are a conduit for power, not the source.

9 You believe love is the source of life.

10 You know you don’t know everything.

So there we have it. Mysticism doesn’t sound that mystical anymore. Mysticism is a part of everyday life, especially if you lead a religious or spiritual life. You don’t have to be a saint to have a mystical experience or be a mystic. Just have an open mind and live your life for the higher good. May God bless and protect you and…

 

May you always be

Healthy, Happy,

Safe and Comfortable.

 

Kelly Curtis

 

Hope

“Hope is seeing light in spite of being surrounded by darkness.”

 

The dictionary defines hope as “A feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing.” That sounds kind of neutral. Not optimistic, not pessimistic. But it’s really more than all that. Hope can be an optimistic state of mind if you base it on an expectation of positive outcomes. So, in this light Some definitions of hope could include : “To expect with confidence”, or, “To cherish a desire with anticipation.”

The flip side of this may be a kind of unsure optimism, to wish for, expect, but without certainty of having it fulfilled. You really desire something, but have no assurance of getting it.

So when we hope, It really depends on our attitude. A strong hope, when we wish for something with every fiber of our being, or a somewhat mild hope –  “I hope you have a nice day.” We can hope for the future, Or hold someone in our hopes and prayers.

H  hold

O  on

P  pain

E  ends

Hope is the little voice you hear whisper “Maybe”, when it seems the entire world is shouting “no!” Now take that “Maybe” and put in its place: Definitely, Positively, Unquestionably, Certainly, Undeniably, or, No ifs ands or buts.

Hope is remembering that there is still light even though all is darkness. Always remember, you are stronger than you think.

Sometimes we must accept disappointment , but we must never lose hope.

Hope is like the sun, it casts the shadow of our burdens behind us as we walk toward it. It’s like a star, you can’t see it when everything is bright and sunny, only in the darkness of hardship.

You can be optimistic, or pessimistic, but remember, the road that is built on hope is more pleasant than the road built on despair. But keep in mind, they both lead to the same place.

Someone said: “Have hope, be strong, laugh loud and play hard, live in the moment, smile often, dream big. Remember, you are loved, and never ever give up.”

The dove is a symbol of hope, coming from the story of Noah’s Ark, when Noah sent a dove out to see if the waters had receded. The Bible says about hope: For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.

The Buddhists look at hope as the opposite of doubt. It relates to our desire to convert suffering into happiness and awakening. Hope and doubt are only views, therefore only reklative.

Social scientists define hope and optimism as the notion of dispositional optimism, meaning a relatively stable expectation that good things, not bad, will happen. They also have terms such as: The optimism of everyday life, big optimism, little optimism, private optimism, public optimism, the list goes on. In science, unlike optimism, curiously, there isn’t a widely accepted definition for hope.

I hope this blog finds you well.   May god bless and protect you. And…

 

May you always be

Healthy, Happy

Safe and Comfortable

 

Kelly Curtis

Suffering

“To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.”

-Friedrich Nietzsche

 

Suffering seems to be a part of life on this planet, we can’t get away from it. We all have to deal with suffering in different forms and levels, from mild to intolerable.. But what is suffering, and why must we?

From suffering we get experience, yeah, but who needs that kind of experience, right? So, look at it this way – suffering is a gift, if you believe we are here to learn and grow, and to gain experience. Suffering tempers the soul for when we finally leave this school and go out on our grand adventure into whatever awaits us out in the universe. Just try to remember that you’re not suffering because of what is happening to you, but because you think it’s not supposed to be happening. Ah! Let that sink in. In suicide, most don’t want to die, they just want the suffering to end, whether the pain be physical or mental.

Let’s look a little closer at suffering. Theologians believe that God allows us to suffer because of free will, or, freedom of choice. Others believe that the cause of suffering is attachment. The Bible says that during times of suffering we should look beyond the present and focus on the latent benefits we receive rom it. The Bible also refers to another aspect of suffering called Time and Chance. Basically that good and bad things happen to people regardless of whether they are good or bad . For example: The Bible tells of eighteen people who lost their lives when a tower fell on them. Jesus said about this: “The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all.” He said that the accident at the tower was not divine punishment directed at the victims for their sins. Although poor construction may have played a part, it was strictly time and chance as far as the victims were concerned..

In Buddhism, suffering or, Dukkha is an important concept. It refers to the basic pain and unsatisfactoryness of everyday life. Dukkha is one of the four Noble Truths, and one of the three Marks of Existence. Dukkha, translated as “All is all”, is the foundation of Buddhism, and all of its teachings are based around it. The Buddha said: “I teach suffering and the end of suffering.”

The three marks of existence:

1: Dukkha – suffering

2: Anatto – no-self

3: Anicca – impermanance

 

The four noble truths:

1: Suffering and pain exist in life.

2: This suffering is caused by selfish craving and desire.

3: This selfish craving can be overcome.

4: The way to overcome this misery is through the Eightfold Path.

 

The eightfold path:

1: Right view.

2: Right intention.

3: Right speech.

4: Right action.

5: Right livelihood.

6: Right concentration.

7: Right mindfulness.

8: Right concentration.

In science, suffering is categorized as physical or mental, but I’m writing about suffering in the broad sense; any feeling, sensation, or emotion that is unpleasant, be it mild, or intolerable. The theory of Hedonism states that good and bad consist in pleasure and pain. Epicurus’s doctrine states that we should first seek to avoid suffering, and that the greatest pleasure lies in a profound state of tranquility.

In the brain there are many structures and physiological processes involved in suffering. According to studies using neuro-imaging, the Cingulate Cortex activates when the person feels suffering from physical pain as well as social distress.

So now we know what happens in the brain when we suffer, why we suffer, and why God lets us suffer. My personal belief is that we are here to learn and grow and be tempered. It’s kind of like a boot-camp, if you will, to get us ready for the universe. I endured US Marine boot-camp, and believe me, those Drill Instructors made us suffer! But we knew it was to get us ready for what may come later. I survived boot-camp and four years as a Marine Infantryman, thankfully in peacetime. Although our bodies won’t survive our incarnation here on earth, our souls will. And they will go on to soar out into the universe, to shine as a spark of God. And shine we will because of the lessons and suffering we endured on this beautiful, but tough planet. God bless and protect you all.

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”

-Khalil Gibran

 

May you always be

Healthy, Happy

Safe and Comfortable

 

Kelly Curtis

What is an Empath?

“I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I myself become the wounded person.”

-Walt Whitman

 

So what exactly is an Empath? According to  the American Empath Association, empaths understand the mental or emotional states of others in a way that defies conventional science and psychology. Empaths have the ability to sense the feelings, thoughts, and energies of people, plants, animals, places, or objects. In addition to sensing, empaths absorb the energy of those around them. Empaths often experience stress or illness if they are bombarded by too many negative emotions. Empaths can also use their abilities to help others by imagining themselves in someone else’s situation and connecting with them on a deep level.

There are seventeen different types of empaths according to the American Empath Association. These are: Emotional, Medical or Physical, Animal or Faun, Nature or Plant, Intellectual, Precognitive or Intuitive, Geomantic or environmental, Spiritual, Claircognizant, Medium, Psychometric, Chrystal, Telepathic, Mechanical, Astral, Law Enforcement, and Molecular.

So, empaths seem to be super-sensory beings and can feel others emotions, in a sense, they see with the others eyes, listen with thew others ears, and feel with the others heart. Everything an empath experiences hits them hard. They really feel the energy of others. Empaths use their gift intuitively. They feel they can heal their loved ones, their communities, and their planet. They feel more deeply, more intensely, and more persistently than those around them.

Stephanie Gagnon describes her experience as an empath: “An empath truly feels what the other person is feeling. So if someone is constantly negative, bitter, or upset all the time, I end up feeling negative, bitter, and upset all the time. Or if someone is happy and cheerful all the time, I feel happy and cheerful too. I absorb the emotions of those I interact with. It can be wonderful, but it can also be very exhausting. And it can be incredibly confusing to determine which feelings are my own, and which ones are from someone else.”

Some famous empaths include: Jesus Christ, Teresa Caputo, Mahatma Gandhi, Jane Goodall, and Mother Teresa.

You may be an empath. Have you been labeled as too emotional, or overly sensitive? If a friend is sad, do you feel it too? Feelings easily hurt? Are you emotionally drained by crowds, then need time alone to recharge? Do you hate loud noises, smells or too much talk? You might tale your own car places so you can leave early, or you may overeat to cope with emotional stress. Yo may not want to be engulfed in an intimate relationship. Some more traits of an empath are being highly sensitive, introverted, intuitive, giving, committed, a good listener, self-sufficient, or easily overwhelmed.

While most of us have the ability to empathize, Dr. Elaine Aron, in 1991 discovered that highly sensitive individuals make up approximately 15-20% of the population. So if you have ever felt like your personality almost continually attracts those who need guidance and help in life, you may be an empath.

Some sources such as Wikipedia place empaths in the realm of science fiction, or at best parapsychology, presumably because of the connection with E.S.P., chrystals, etc.

I love to tie in the esoteric with science. In today’s world more and more things that used to be considered out there are being explained with science. Let’s look at the science behind empaths.

In an article in Psychology Today, Judith Orloff MD explains: Researchers have discovered a specialized group of brain cells that are responsible for compassion called Mirror Neurons. These allow people to feel another’s joy, fear, pain, etc. Empaths, it turns out, have hyper-responsive mirror neurons. On the other side of the coin, Psychopaths and the like have what is called empathy deficient disorder, they lack the ability to feel empathy, caused by an under-active mirror neuron system. Another finding is that, as is known, both the brain and heart generate electromagnetic fields. These fields transmit information about peoples thoughts and emotions. Empaths may be sensitive to this input. Another example is called Emotional Contagion, i.e. picking up the emotions of others, as we’ve already seen. Examples of emotional contagion: Someone in the workplace in a bad mood, thus spreading the bad mood to other workers, or a baby crying in a hospital setting off a wave of crying. It has also been found that empaths are more sensitive to dopamine, the feel good neurotransmitter. . Another finding is a condition called Mirror Touch Synesthesia, a condition where two senses are paired in the brain. For example, you can taste words or see colors for music, both documented conditions. This is what allows empaths to feel the emotions of others in their own bodies.

With all these findings, it looks like there may be a solid case for empaths. In any event, we can all try to be a bit more empathic. As the Dalai Lama says: “Empathy is the most precious human quality.”

 

May you always be

Healthy, Happy

Safe and Comfortable.

Empathy

“Learning to stand in someone else’s shoes, to see through their eyes, that’s how peace begins. And it’s up to you to make that happen. Empathy is a quality of character that can change the world.”

-Barack Obama

Empathy: The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another, of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.

There seems to be a lack of empathy in today’s world. Just look at the headlines, with both foreign and domestic terrorism on the increase. On top of that, our leaders sure don’t show much of a capacity for it. But what exactly is empathy? Let’s look into it.

With empathy, you feel with the other’s heart, you see with their eyes, you feel with their emotions. It’s about standing in their shoes. It’s opening your heart to the feelings of others. So instead of putting others in their place, put yourself in their place. In a world full of people who couldn’t care less, be someone who couldn’t care more. When we help others, we let them know that there is still love in the world.

Political theorist and philosopher Hannah Arendt said that “The death of Human empathy is one of the earliest and most telling signs of a culture about to fall into barbarism.”

How you make others feel about themselves says a lot about you. Bill Bullard, member of both houses of the Michigan legislature, has this to say about empathy: “Opinion is really the lowest form of Human knowledge. It requires no accountability, no understanding. The highest form of knowledge is empathy, for it requires us to suspend our egos and live in another world. It requires profound purpose larger than the self kind of understanding.”

I mentioned earlier that empathy is like standing in someone else’s shoes, well, that should not be confused with sympathy, which is feeling sorry for their aching feet. So, let’s look at the difference between empathy and sympathy. Empathy is experiencing someone else’s feelings, it’s emotional in nature. Whereas sympathy is understanding someone else’s feelings, and is cognitive in nature. Empathy is feeling with someone, while sympathy is feeling for someone. Empathy shouldn’t be confused with pity or compassion either. Pity is – Oh no! you have a cold. Sympathy is – I am so sad that you have a cold. Empathy is – I understand that having a cold is uncomfortable. Compassion is – I want to help you with your cold.

When you show empathy toward another their defensive energy goes down and their positive energy goes up. Research shows a positive connection between how much empathic concern people report feeling  for another person and their willingness to help those people even when helping requires some sacrifice. It’s possible to boost your capacity for empathy, but some think that having too much empathy can be harmful to ones well-being or even to the planet. They believe that too much empathy can interfere with rational decision making, causing people to lead with their hearts rather than their heads. I personally think we should lead with our hearts and stay out of our heads.

Let’s look at the different classifications of empathy. There is Affective or Emotional Empathy; the capacity to respond emotionally to another’s mental state. Then there’s Cognitive Empathy; the ability to understand another’s perspective or mental state. Finally there’s Somatic Empathy; a physical reaction, probably based on Mirror Neurons in the Somatic Nervous System. Mirror Neurons? Neuroscientists are studying the concept of Mirror Neurons, which, they believe enhances the ability to read or mimic emotional signals from facial expressions and body language. These Mirror Neurons may help people share emotional experiences and become more empathic.

Other studies show that empathy isn’t just in the domain of Humans. There are many recorded instances of Dolphins saving Humans from Shark attacks. Cetaceans of all things have three times as many Spindle Cells in their brains as we Humans do. Spindle Cells are the nerve cells that transmit empathy. These Cetaceans are highly social. This means that they may have an awareness of one-anothers feelings, such as they are. Primates have been observed with many empathic behaviors in the wild, and in captivity, with Bonobos being the most empathic. Even rodents have shown an intent to benefit others evoked by empathy. Other animals with the ability to empathize include Dogs and Cats, but we knew that already.

In Humans, children begin to display empathic behaviors by the age of two and have some fundamentals of empathy. Toddlers have been seen to comfort others or show concern at two. And of course females tend to have more cognitive empathy than men.

Buddhism teaches the practice of compassion called Karuna. This is the idea of sharing suffering, having concern for another, but essentially, “feeling for and not feeling with the other.”

In the Bible, the Apostle Peter counseled Christians to have compassion for others; love as brothers, be tender-hearted, and courteous. The Apostle John asked if anyone has material possessions and sees a sister or brother in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person.

We could all do well to grow and become more empathic. In the next blog, I’ll cover just what it means to be an Empath.

 

May you always be

Healthy, Happy,

Safe, and Comfortable.

Giving

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”

-Winston Churchill

 

There are many ways to give. You can give a concert, a party, or give up on someone. You can give someone the shaft, the bird, or you can give ’em the ol’ Robert Bell – which, I’m told, means leaving a text or instant message conversation without ending it. By the way…stop doing that! You can do all those things, but I’m talking about giving. From the old English Giefan. Being big hearted, altruistic, benevolent, and bounteous. I’m talking generosity here, largess, being open handed. Give voluntarily, and without expecting compensation, bestow good upon someone.

According to the Buddhist tradition the ideal conditions of giving are: to give a pure gift, with pure intentions to a pure recipient. This quote from the buddha perfectly sums up the way we should live: “The way to happiness is: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry. Live simply, give much. Fill your life with love. Do as you would be done by.” And this: “Before giving, the mind of the giver is happy; while giving, the mind of the giver is made peaceful; and having given, the mind of the giver is uplifted.”

The Bible encourages giving as long as it is voluntary and with the right motive. God doesn’t like giving when it it is done to impress people, to receive something in return, or to try to buy salvation. Jesus said: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” God loves a cheerful giver.

Remember, no one has ever become poor by giving, so find what gift the universe has bestowed upon you… and give it away. As Tony Robbins, master motivational speaker says: “The secret of living is giving.”

If you have nothing else to give, give kindness. True kindness is in the act of giving, without expecting something in return..

Giving is a natural response of love, the measure of a persons life is the effect they have on others. Give a piece of your heart, not a piece of your mind. Even if you’re weak you can still give. There is great power in giving as opposed to taking, so, make a donation if nothing else, it makes a difference. It benefits not only the recipient, but also the giver. We’ve all heard the expression ‘what goes around comes around. Open those channels of giving and the universe just may be obliged to return the favor.

We all have two hands. One to help ourselves, the second to help others. When all’s said and done, it doesn’t matter what you’ve accomplished or what you have, it matters who you’ve helped, what you’ve given. The great ones aren’t that way by what they have, but by what they give.

I joked earlier about the different ways of giving, but there are more ways to give than money. You can give love, you can give aide. You can help someone out, volunteer, or give someone your time. Just help your fellow human. That being said, there’s nothing wrong with helping our animal friends either.

Most philosophies and religions include a strong belief in giving back to the world, and it’s one of the most therapeutic things we can do for ourselves. A study from Northwestern University shows that people with a purpose sleep better, and it’s good for mental and physical health and longevity, and it’s even good for the genes, producing higher levels of antibody and antiviral genes.

Another study found that having a purpose like being philanthropic,or volunteering was linked to better cognitive function, and longer life in people from their thirties to their eighties. It also improved memory and executive function. It produced a more positive self-image in teens, not to mention less delinquency, and they transitioned into adulthood more easily, regardless of personality type.

An article in Mind Body magazine shows us five ways that giving is good for us:

1: It makes us feel better.

2: It’s good for our health.

3: It promotes cooperation and social connection.

4: It evokes gratitude.

5: It’s contagious.

So give until it hurts, and the next time you feel like giving someone the finger, turn it around and give ’em a smile.

 

May you always be

Healthy, Happy,

Safe and Comfortable.

Forgiveness

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”

-Lewis B Smedes

 

I’m writing today about forgiveness because I feel that it is a very important attribute to have. Yet forgiveness is sometimes a hard pill to swallow, especially if the person you’re forgiving isn’t sorry, that takes strength. You have to be strong to say you’re sorry, but even stronger to forgive. After all, the weak aren’t able to forgive, forgiveness belongs to the strong. You have to have courage and strength to forgive a mistake. Remember, the first to apologize is the bravest. The first to forgive is the strongest. The first to forget is the happiest. As a bonus, forgiveness also brings inner peace.

It would be a shame to give up on someone just because they made a mistake. We expect God to forgive us, so we should be able to forgive those that hurt us.

I know it’s very hard to forgive sometimes. It kind of feels like you’re rewarding them for what they’ve done. But really, you’re giving them and yourself a gift. It’s not about them getting away with something. When you forgive, you let go of the negative energy that ties you to them. So, if someone stabs you in the back, don’t pull the knife out and use it on them – Forgive.

Someone said that forgiveness is like crossing monkey bars, at some point you have to let go to move forward. I know that forgiveness won’t change my past, but I’m pretty sure it will improve my future. Just remember, we always have three powerful resources available to us: Prayer, love, and forgiveness.

In talking about forgiveness, Bryant H McGill, bestselling author on the subject of human potential says it nicely: “They caused the first wound, but you are causing the rest, this is what not forgiving does. They got it started, but you keep it going. Forgive and let it go, or it will eat you alive. You think they made you feel this way, but when you don’t forgive, you are the one inflicting the pain on yourself.”

According to a 2010 study, the most common unforgiven offenses are betrayals; like affairs, lying, unkept and broken promises, and unkept secrets. You have power over the way you react to wrongs perpetrated against you. Scientists call this ‘Decisional forgiveness’. It is simply you deciding which way you intend to act toward the person who wronged you. It changes the way you feel toward that person, negative emotions giving way to positive emotions. Resentment giving way to empathy, sympathy, and compassion.

The science of forgiveness is very interesting. For example; it’s known that unlike ten and eleven year olds, seven and eight year olds don’t need an apology; they look at those who have apologized and those that haven’t in the same light.

In another study, researchers in the Netherlands poled people as to a time when they either forgave, or withheld forgiveness. They were then asked to jump as high as they could. Now I think this is really cool. Those who forgave jumped highest. About 11.8 inches, while the grumps jumped just 8.5 inches. The disparity comes from the unburdening of holding a grudge.

In the animal kingdom, primates such as Bonobos, Mountain Gorillas, and Chimps often show friendly behavior such as embracing or kissing after confrontations. Goats and Hyenas show similar behavior. In fact, the only species that shows no sign of forgiveness is, drum roll please… The Domestic Cat. Who’d’ve thought?

Samereh Alinejad from Iran, had nothing but retribution on her mind toward the man who murdered her teenage son. But at the gallows, moments before the killer was to be hanged, she made the decision to pardon the man. She is now considered a hero. If Samereh can find it in her heart to forgive, we should be able to.

 

May you always be

Healthy, Happy

Safe and Comfortable

 

Kelly Curtis

 

Enlightenment

“To know yourself as the being underneath the thinker, the mental noise, the love and joy underneath the pain, is freedom, salvation, enlightenment.”

-Eckhart Tolle

 

Enlightenment, the Holy Grail, if you will, of spiritual seekers. It is the endgame of the serious student. Gautama Siddharta, later known as the Buddha, is probably the most well known person to have reached enlightenment. Born a wealthy prince c. the 6th-4th centuries BC in what is now Nepal, Gautama was shielded from the sufferings of the world such as sickness, old age, and death. His life would change however.  At the age of twenty-nine he asked to be taken through the city. His father agreed but had all the sick and elderly removed from the streets. Gautama however, saw an old man and was told about old age. Afterwards he took more trips outside the palace. He saw sick people and even corpses on these excursions. Gautama decided to leave the palace and entered the forest where he studied meditation for the next six years. He vowed that he would sit under a tree until he found the state beyond birth and death. Mara, the god of desire attacked and tempted him, after two nights he finally reached enlightenment, understanding the four truths: Suffering, the origin of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the path to the cessation of suffering.

One doesn’t have to be a Buddha to reach a state of enlightenment though. This begs the question: What is enlightenment?

To be spiritually enlightened we must passionately strive to awaken spiritually, gain precise knowledge of our true nature with God. We must obtain knowledge of what we need to do to allow our inherent potential to awaken spiritually, for we are a part of God. There is no separation, but we identify with incorrect mental states and outside conditions. This sustains the illusion of independence from God. If we can fix this incorrect perception, we can align our awareness to its correct state. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that we are mortal beings, we, and God are one.

So, what can we do in our striving to reach enlightenment? Spiritual awakening can be gradual, with small insights coming before discoveries, or they may occur instantaneously. In order to be more receptive to these insights we can practice meditation to clarify our awareness, we can live an orderly life, practice mental calmness, emotional peace, rational thinking, enthusiasm, and self-discipline. To grow spiritually, we must practice compassion, be truthful and honest, we can cultivate healthy habits and practice meditation.

Some of the positive results we receive from walking this path are: Improved imagination, improved thinking, and ultimately, the liberation of consciousness.    So we can take small steps to enlightenment and break up our journey. Be happy and give love. To be a loving person you must accept where you are in life, and accept yourself as you are. Understand that your self-deprecating thoughts aren’t true, you must accept others as they are, and don’t believe the opinions of others. “The enlightened person doesn’t measure success because there is no failure.” God neither rewards or punishes. Your experiences go hand in hand with your actions and state of mind.

Some obstacles to spiritual growth are: Addictions, laziness, emotional unrest, and doubt and confusion. So, we can work on alleviating these qualities from our lives.

The Yogis practice Samadhi, a superconscious state that may be cultivated to purify the awareness and mind. The Samadhi state can be reached when the mind is calm, thoughts cease, and the emotions are settled. There are a couple of things we can do to become aware of our true nature. One is to use our intellect and intuition to learn the differences between ourselves as the observer, and our normal state. The second is again, practicing meditation to the level of superconsciousness.

Then there are epiphanies. An epiphany is: “A small awakening where your mind stops thinking and you know and feel something beyond logic.” Thinking bigger: “Enlightenment is the direct perception of knowing the nature of the world in one great epiphany.” Another way of describing it is: The moment of realization that what is within is that which is without. It is a sense of wonderful expansion that includes everything in the cosmos.

Charles A Francis, the co-founder and director of the Mindfulness Meditation Institute has come up with a list of the twelve qualities of an enlightened person.

Enlightened people are: Happy, peaceful and serene, loving, kind and compassionate, not self-centered, emotionally stable, patient and understanding, humble, insightful and open minded, have inner strength, have leadership skills, mindful of health, and committed to spiritual practice.

So there you have it. Enlightenment is something we can all strive for. I’ll close with Paramahansa Yogananda’s eloquent description of enlightenment:

“Imagine a bottle full of water, sealed by a cork, and thrown into the sea. Now imagine that cork is opened and the water inside the bottle has merged with the sea. The bottle is our body. The water within the bottle is the soul. The cork is the ego, the ignorance that makes us believe that we are different from the cosmic energy around us. The sea is the cosmic energy, differently called God, Supreme Source, etc.

Enlightenment happens when the cork is opened. The merging of the water within the bottle with the sea is the experience of expansion of cosmic oneness.”

 

May you always be

Healthy, Happy

Safe and Comfortable

 

Kelly Curtis