“Make no mistake about it – enlightenment is a destructive process. It has nothing to do with becoming better or being happier. Enlightenment is the crumbling away of untruth. It’s seeing through the facade of pretense. It’s the complete eradication of everything we imagined to be true.” –Adyashanti
The first thing to remember, here at the outset, is that enlightenment is not a destination but a direction. It is not a truth but a process. It is both imaginary and real. It is not an either-or, but a both-and. It is only achievable when it is understood that it is an unachievable thing. Once we can let go of the need to achieve it, then we free ourselves to allow the process to unfold, and we become the achieving. It is the constantly expanding horizon of human flourishing. But it can hurt like hell.
Indeed, enlightenment is no walk in the park. The first teacher met on the path toward enlightenment tends to be Pain itself. Enlightenment is both a reckoning and a wrecking, both an expansion and an annihilation. The following four steps are just the tip of a much deeper iceberg of trials and tribulations, fraught with menacing thresholds and sinister Rubicons. Thin-skinned, faint-of-heart, status-quo-junkies addicted to comfort, need not apply. And if you decide to apply, leave your invulnerability behind. It’s an illusion anyway. Here then are four of the scariest, but secretly wonderful, steps one can take on the path toward enlightenment.
1.) Vulnerability and Self-Honesty
“There’s a whole category of people who miss out by not allowing themselves to be weird enough.” –Alain de Botton
Vulnerability is downright scary. But in order to gain the ability to learn from our mistakes, to have fun with our inherent hypocrisy, and to have a good sense of humor in regards to our fallibility as an imperfect species, we must first have the capacity to be vulnerable, which requires brutal self-honesty and ruthless self-interrogation.