Happily Never After

“I appreciate your efforts to try and demystify this whole enlightenment deal. But part of me remains unconvinced. Part of me is going, “Yeah, yeah, easy for you to say! You’ve already had the big fireworks awakening. I want that too!” I’m not saying I’m justified in feeling this way. It’s something that I’ve been craving for a long time. I can’t seem to get it out of system!”
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Right now, there are literally hundreds of thousands of women out there who have been dreaming all their lives of their wedding day. They’ve envisioned it hundreds of times in their heads. The person, the place, the pastor, the procession, the presents, the guests, the aisle, the food, the cake, the dress. It is the single most significant event that they imagine they will experience.

For these women, the wedding day signifies a specific moment in time where an old life ends and a new one begins. A life of struggle and loneliness ends and happily-ever-after begins. And as hard as it may be to believe that this sentiment is still prevalent in the 21st century, it absolutely is. The wedding is the big fireworks type event that separates the ones who’ve “made it” from the ones still struggling to get there. And once the wedding has happened, well then the actual experience of being married is just something one figures out. But according to this mindset, happiness MUST be the default by virtue of the very fact that one is now “married” as opposed to “single”.

Replace the word “single” with “seeking”, “wedding” with “awakening” and “married” with “enlightened” and you’ve basically captured the spiritual seeker’s situation in a nutshell.

Except, that’s not how it actually works and those women are in for a real rough road ahead if they believe otherwise.

A wedding could be a big blowout type affair or a quiet and intimate event. Regardless, the kind of wedding one has has absolutely no bearing on how the marriage will unfold. And if one is actually of the belief that one is destined for happiness simply by virtue of the fact that they have gotten married, then a world of pain awaits.

Similarly, awakening can be a big fireworks type event that lasts for days, weeks or months (like a big fat Indian wedding) or a brief, subtle and intimate revelation. But if there is any conviction that simply by virtue of having said awakening one is now destined for a life of inner peace and enlightenment, then a world of pain awaits.

Just as a relationship of commitment between two people has little to do with the kind of party they have thrown in order to commemorate it. So also, ones “process of enlightenment” (enlightenment is the process of evolution of consciousness that every sentient being is involved in, not some mythic state) has little to do with the kind of awakening experience one has had. Crucially, there are plenty of people who haven’t even had that sort of profound experience yet are enlightening into the nature of reality and self all the same. Just like two people can commit to one another and grow in relationship for years without even getting married in the first place.

What those young women dreaming of a happily-ever-after don’t realize is that such a place only exists in fairytales. There is no handsome prince who is going to whisk them away. Similarly, the seeker doesn’t realize that “enlightenment” is a place that exists only in mythology. There is no enlightened guru who is going to whisk them away to the blissful self-realized state. Yet, the fantasy persists in both cases.

Because fantasies fascinate us. And fantasies can be capitalized upon and monetized. Which is why the wedding industry, like the spiritual industry, is a multi billion dollar market. It is always the fantasy and not the reality of the situation that is advertised. Because that is what people want.

Escape.

The reality, however, is what you hear from couples who have been happily married for decades. While many may remember their wedding days fondly, it is hardly of any significance when compared to the decades of mundane everyday living that ensued immediately after. The marriages that they built required tremendous honesty, intimacy, challenge, doubt, conflict, despair, camaraderie, trust, loss, grief, fear, frustration, laughter and a willingness to transcend their individual egos in order for a greater synthesis to emerge between them. These couples will confess that there was never a sense of “resting on any laurels”. Only a perpetual sense of learning, growth, error and challenge in endless cycles of repetition. And the love that emerges from this sort of bond is several orders of magnitude more substantial than the giddy love of newlyweds.

The same is true of people who have realized the nature of self and reality. The honest ones will be forthright in saying that even if the awakening experience is a treasured memory for them, it pales in comparison to the day-to-day mundane process of gradually clarifying the view over a lifetime, removing one obstruction at a time. Such a process requires tremendous self-honesty, openness with ones own fears, intense periods of doubt and confusion, conflict, despair, faith, trust, courage, error, relapse, grief at the piece-by-piece loss of ones identity, acceptance, fulfillment, conviction, uncertainty and a willingness to be guided despite every desire to control.

These individuals will confess that there is never any sense of having “arrived”. Only a sense of perpetual learning, growth, error and understanding in endless cycles. And the clarity that emerges from this sort of process is several orders of magnitude more substantial than that sudden flash of awakening, no matter how revelatory…

…But don’t take my word for it. I sound like a boring old uncle at the wedding giving dull “realistic” advice to the eager couple on their wedding day. Instead, tell me:

What you planning to wear on the big day?! Is it an indoor or outdoor awakening? Will there be others present or just an intimate affair? Do you think you’ll go for the whole awakening package of oneness, no self and bliss or just the lite version?

Oooooh I’m so excited! I’m totally coming to the after party where you announce your enlightenment to everyone!

Shit’s gonna be ennnnn-LIT!

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