The Examined Life

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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Why do we fear enlightenment?

Alan Watts speaks a lot about enlightenment in his talks and books. What his words always convey to me is that enlightenment is not something to attain but something to recognize and acknowledge in ourselves and in others. To know we are already enlightened beings is indeed what it is to be enlightened and this realization is always but a heartbeat away for us.


But to act in this world from that enlightened place is a challenge. People rarely act from enlightenment that place of greater understanding of what life is and what our place really is as opposed to the small isolated place of the ego.

To act from a place of enlightenment takes trust and courage. We must first trust that we are enlightened beings and then summon the courage to speak and act from that place regardless of what or who would have us do otherwise.

Yes it seems easier to pretend that we are just small and insignificant like everyone else around us is doing. But when we do that, all we have done is join in the masquerade. But we know who we really are and we know that we are pretending. The price we pay for hiding this truth in side of us instead of living from it is that a vital part of us always feels lost and separate.

So how did we come to be so deluded that we feel so separate even though we are all connected? Alan Watts answers this in his book “The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are”. In the book he tells us about how an all-powerful mythical character called “God” who, in a moment of great boredom, invented a game of hide and seek that he plays with himself.

Here is an excerpt from the book…

"God also likes to play hide-and-seek, but because there is nothing outside God, he has no one but himself to play with. But he gets over this difficulty by pretending that he is not himself. This is his way of hiding from himself. He pretends that he is you and I and all the people in the world, all the animals, all the plants, all the rocks, and all the stars. In this way he has strange and wonderful adventures, some of which are terrible and frightening. But these are just like bad dreams, for when he wakes up they will disappear.

"Now when God plays hide and pretends that he is you and I, he does it so well that it takes him a long time to remember where and how he hid himself. But that's the whole fun of it--just what he wanted to do. He doesn't want to find himself too quickly, for that would spoil the game. That is why it is so difficult for you and me to find out that we are God in disguise, pretending not to be himself. But when the game has gone on long enough, all of us will wake up, stop pretending, and remember that we are all one single Self--the God who is all that there is and who lives forever and ever.

Now, can you honestly tell me that you don’t remember who you really are?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Looking for God in all the Wrong Places

Maybe if we all went over to the window opened it up and stuck our heads out and yelled, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it any more!” , maybe God would hear us down here and fix this mess. Oh yeah, that suggestion was tried wasn’t it? I guess it didn’t work because here we are still.

So maybe if I write a letter that will work. I’ll bet there is a big basket at the post office where they put all the letters that people write to God. It’s probably right next to the one for the letters to Santa Claus. So if I decide to write, when I finish it, I might as well just tear it up, throw the pieces in the air and save the cost of a stamp.

But who knows, it can’t hurt to try…

Dear God,

Wait a minute, this has all been done before too! And it turned into a book called “Conversations with God” and the author, who had fallen on hard times made a fortune from it. So now that you are all set Mr. Walsh, what about the rest of us, what about me!

Ok! I’ll start again.

They told me God, that if I visited you regularly I could get saved, whatever that means. Back then I didn’t even realize I had been lost. I came to your house every Sunday for years but you were never home. Of course I don’t blame you because I finally discovered the place was full of hypocrites. One day I asked them why there were no black people allowed in the church, except on Monday to clean the place. The minister called my mother and said that the devil had me and was making me ask these questions. At that point I left, for good. And I do mean “good”.

My mother told me you were everywhere so I would often go for long walks in the woods to see if I could find you there, maybe hiding behind a bush or in a tree. Sometimes I would lie on a huge rock in a field near my home looking up at the clouds. A couple of times I thought I saw you there but then you turned into something else and blew away.

I always enjoyed looking for you in the places where my mother said you would be. It was a kind of hide and seek game I played. I think my mother was a very wise person or maybe she just wanted to get me out of the house. But some how, I always came home feeling that I had spent time with you even though I never managed to meet you face to face.

Then I tried to see if I could catch you at home again. I had no idea you had so many houses, so many churches where you could just hang out without paying any rent. But if you ever actually dropped by I never saw you in any of them.

Finally, some nice people at a Quaker Meeting House took me in. They told me I could ask all the questions I wanted and say what ever I wanted to say. I really liked that. I asked them if they had seen you around or knew where I could find you. They told me to keep coming back and I was sure to eventually meet you.

Several months went by and I asked about you again. A nice Quaker man sat me down and handed me a mirror. He told me to gaze deeply into the eyes of the face I saw there. After a few minutes, my face began to melt into the background of the darkened room and in its place I saw you there.

I am sorry I haven’t contacted you for so long. I had forgotten how close you are. I don’t need the mirror any more to see you. Now I can find you right where my mother said you would always be, in everything and everyone. Some nice folks I met recently suggested that I write you. I am glad they did. I’ll try not to forget again that you are always right here with me.