The Path to Self-Realization & Enlightenment

Recently, the subject of enlightenment has come up several times by students and friends.

I stumbled upon the idea of enlightenment in my teens through my grandmother, Rowena. She was a direct student of Paramahansa Yogananda, the gentleman from India who introduced the concept of Self-Realization to the States. His book, Autobiography Of A Yogi, opened the minds of a great many people and his teachings through his Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) centers has help to sustain his presence here in this dimension.

Being a university Psych major/art minor in California’s Bay Area during the late 60s put me on a collision course with all things wildly different. After consuming the required under-grad and then grad course materials, I started to explore the concepts of self-realization (as propagated by Yogananda) and other firsthand accounts of classic enlightenment scenarios. Reading the various accounts of awakening being penned by masters from the traditional Hindi linages, Sufi paths, esoteric Christians, and native shamanic peoples made my mind ache for its own release. So, I set out to find my teacher. This was an aspect of my journey that I enjoyed―physically tracking down gurus, and otherwise proclaimed members of the spiritually elite club of awakened individuals, the Enlightened Ones. Hearing their lectures and watching how their etheric energy played with each word, I came to know how the universal presence flowed into this dimension through each of us. Reading about the personal accounts of awakenings, and then being able to talk with those individuals, allowed me a glimpse into their quandary―to be relatable, or not to be relatable to other humans.

My life’s goal became being awake, no longer dreaming of what it must be like to be unencumbered by expectation driven senses, and the intellect’s need to be right, that is so much an aspect of our species consciousness. This became my no-matter-what goal. After years of admiring the many amazing descriptions of awakening, I realized those stories belonged to the individuals offering the recounting of their unburdening from their self-imposed slumber. I realized that enlightenment is a static state congealed within the individual by the integration of their eternally constant soul with their evolving human spirit as it relates to all life through its instinctually intelligent body. This state is witnessed from the outside by others as an unlimited knowing of the nature of life itself and our humanly place within the all of nature.

Phases of Awakening. Through my discoveries, what I have come to know about the concept of human enlightenment is that there are apparent steps to this grand awakening. First is Self-Knowledge, then Self-Actualization – these two phases are basic to all humans. Most humans stay fixated on the two first steps. It’s difficult to move beyond these first two levels of understanding our human predicament because we are pushed into seeking inclusion with others as a means of determining our worth, our value. We are not taught to observe ourselves as unique individual beings.

Self-Knowledge. To have self-knowledge, we must be able to take a full inventory of our experience as it relates to our condition and circumstances.

  • Look around you. Look at your relationships, look at the things you have purchased to satisfy a perceived need or an emotional desire.

  • Are you easily aware of the intersection of your thoughts and corresponding feelings?

  • Do you take full responsibility for your thoughts and feelings?

Self-Actualization. Do you wish for changes in your life?

  • Are you able to achieve your imagined future?

  • Do you have what you want within a determined timing?

  • Are you basically satisfied with your condition and circumstances?

  • Are you contented with how your life is unfolding?

  • Do you feel that you command the mental, emotional and physical details of your life?

Unfortunately, our childhood training engenders a deep sense of self-pity more than an understanding of the potential contributions that reside within our unique being. To keep us ‘safe,’ our parents overly protect us from the harsh realities of life, “Don’t do this, don’t do that.” “Do this, do that.” As a result, we are rewarded and punished within the boundaries of those determinations. We learn to please others to fulfill our desires – to personalize life. Yes, it is important to learn the right actions to keep our bodies safe. But the determinations used to protect us usually go beyond physical safety issues. In the process, we forfeit our higher eternal nature. We do this to survive our human experience. By the time we can step out into the world, in the West, this is usually after graduating from high school, we are adept at personalizing every moment―each event and subsequent reaction/response. We do this with the lack of knowing our deeper nature as a collaboration of soul with spirit within a human body.