"It's not a spectator sport!"

What would happen if someone walked up to any of us and said, "I'm enlightened."

This is an interesting question to ponder. What would we do? Would we be willing to change our idea of enlightenment to include this person? What would it take for us to believe them? What would our excuses be for rejecting them?

If this person was a charismatic teacher gathering disciples we would be afraid that they were trying to control us and lock us into a suicide cult. If they were very ordinary, maybe someone we had known for years, we would think that an enlightened person couldn't possibly be that close, couldn't be that ordinary, that available. They must be deluded or trying to pull a trip on us. If they were homely, bashful and stuttered we would think they weren't good enough to be enlightened.

What would we recognize as an enlightened person? It's an interesting question to think about. Do we have a threshold of belief that they would have to cross over to us, or is it our responsibility to cross our own threshold? To believe they are enlightened would they have to be dead first and we hear of them through the stories of others? Even if they were alive would we first have to hear about them through others; would we have to hear stories of the magic they had created and how beautiful their ashram was? Would we then save up our money to go sit in the crowd and hear their words? Is the sign of an enlightened person how many disciples are gathered in admiration around them?

To recognize an enlightened person on the street would they have to be covered in a radiant light with angels singing over their shoulders, or have eyes so deep that we faint and have to be carried away from looking into them? Or could it be the bag lady, sitting in the shadows and muttering to herself?

I've been wondering about this sort of thing for awhile now. I go around in my area to different workshops, Dances of Universal Peace and meditation groups. At some of these events I'm a participant, at some I'm one of the teachers. Always in these groups there is the teaching that God, truth and awareness is in us. We do exercises of looking into each other's eyes to see the divinity that is in the other and also in us. We do this one thing, and yet everyone always says and thinks the other. People say, either directly or indirectly, "I may have God in me, but I still can't see it. I'm not enlightened yet and neither are you."

I'm starting to wonder about it. Why do people preach one thing, and yet do another?


In my life I have never been accused of taking the easy road or doing things half heatedly. When I was eighteen, instead of going to college I slung a pack on my back and headed out into the wilderness to find the truth of being human. I felt that our modern world was not natural, that we could not find our true nature in traffic, and that was why we were all so confused. The place for a person to find herself was in the wilderness. Now I discover that Meister Eckhart said the same thing in the 12th century. He said, "Every single creature is full of God. Every single creature is a book about God. The only way to live is like a rose. Live without why." Our beautiful contemporary Sufi mystic, Hazrat Inayat Khan, the man who brought sufism to the west in the 20's, told us to, "read from the book of nature." I think I would like to add that we are nature and reading from the book of nature at the same time.

I lived by myself in the wilderness for three years and then married a man who also wanted to live naturally. We had three children and lived on an isolated ranch for seven years. Those years were not full of marvelous and wonderful revelations, instead they were full of ordinary moments, lots of boring work and sometimes heartbreak. More important than my living in nature was my attitude about nature. I felt that cities and people were not natural and so God could not be found there. I felt that trees, rivers, snow and air were natural. God did not have to be found there, God was there already in every molecule. A very deep habit grew in me of seeing everything around me as divine.

A good example was my attitude about food. Living in the wilderness I grew, raised and cooked from scratch almost all of our food. Doing this gave me a very deep bond and understanding with my food. My hands and my soul nurtured it, ground it, kneaded it, cleaned it and chopped it, all on the way to my mouth where it was chewed and swallowed. Even on the days that I wasn't happy with my work, my hands kept up the motion. Learning about food was not a thing that was done with my mind. It came from a place of no words. Every time my hand lifted a piece of food to my mouth the blessings of where the food had come from came along with it.

Then one day our little family traveled to town and there was a Fourth of July parade. On the street was a hotdog vendor and the children begged for a hotdog. I bought them all around, handed them out, and then lifted my own hotdog towards my mouth. Suddenly I stopped, catching myself giving this chemical ridden hotdog the same silent praise that I gave to my own homegrown food. It was a habit so deep I hadn't even known I was doing it until I saw it in relation to the hotdog. I almost withdrew the praise, then stopped myself again. Why not? I suddenly knew what saying grace meant. I smiled at my food and ate it with relish (literally I mean that, the hotdog had relish on it!). On that day I saw God in a hotdog. Even in a degraded thing like a hotdog.

In this same way I had learned, out in the woods, to see divinity all around me. I was surrounded by beautiful mountains, clear running streams, herds of wild mountain sheep, deer and elk. It became a habit to see everything as beautiful and natural. I never thought it through with my mind but I saw everything around me as enlightened.

The necessities of raising three children drove me out of the wilderness to living in a small Idaho town, but my attitudes remained deep inside. In town I met lots of people. The thing that amazed me most were people who seemed to know how to live well in society. People who did things like work jobs and run grocery stores. Some people seemed to live their lives grudgingly, and some people seemed to do it with joy and grace. I naturally decided that the people who were living with grace must be enlightened because they seemed natural in their environment. After a few years I started to also see this in myself.

This is why I have begun to be amazed at the spiritual person's duality about enlightenment. There is a silent current of saying one thing, and acting on another. All the activities I attend are billed, one way or another, as a place to come and find divinity within. Just that very subtle insinuation that we have to work to find this divinity is like a subliminal message that it is not really there, or if it is there we are unable to see it. We pay money, and yet we only get a glimpse, we don't see it for real.

Even while mouthing, "I see God in you," they are thinking, "I don't see God in YOU!" If I turned to one of these people and declared, "I really am enlightened and I know it," they would tell me I'm fooling myself. I am seeing that the very act of being a seeker of God keeps us from God.


Rumi said, "I stepped through the door, looked back, and there wasn't even a wall." Krishnamurti liked to use the metaphor of opening a window and stepping through. One day a seeker told him that his window seemed to have been painted shut. He felt like he was chipping slowly at the paint but the window was still stuck tight. Krishnamurti answered, "But sir, the house is on fire!"

We know what we would do if the house was on fire!

What if instead of asking enlightenment to cross over the threshold to us, we were to step across the threshold of our own belief and see everything enlightened as it already is? Would it shake our whole reality? Would we be able to speak about it? It seems that after one drops the belief of what they are looking for and lets it be all around them, the way nature was around my little cabin in the wilderness, the only way to speak about the change is through metaphor.

I think this is because of the way our minds are built. Our minds are like a little picture factory with the skill of anchoring us to our human reality. This brain in our skulls has fine tuned itself for survival over millions of years.

Driving my car I am always amazed that this little monkey brain of mine can sit calmly as I whiz at 70 mph down the road. Somehow all the instincts that are needed to drive a car at high speed have slowly emerged from the ooze of evolution.

Look at the difference between deer and birds in their reaction to traffic. The bird brain, small as it is, had a little seed millions of years ago that understood fast approaching motion. This seed traveled and expanded through the evolution of the bird so that it can fly, swoop and float at high speeds without hitting other birds. When you drive on the highway and come across a flock of birds sitting on the road, they almost always swoop away safely, you rarely have to slow the car.
Deer, on the other hand, never had this seed for fast motion, and never needed it. If you come across a herd of deer on the highway they will inevitably get confused and run straight at your car. Especially at night.

The human brain is suited for the fast motion of a car, and is also embedded with metaphor. These things have been with us since before we were Homo sapiens. Metaphor has to be there because words can't do the trick. Human beings had minds long before we had English or any of the complicated languages. Ancient languages had very small vocabularies, before that there may have been simple grunts, yet for eons we have understood our world and known divinity. It's built into us. We don't understand the world in English, we understand with our humanness. Our proof is our insistence on God. If we try to honestly explain God, words fail.
Science has pretty much proven there is no God. Where would he be living? We've mapped much of the universe and find no place for him. And yet we see that the universe is amazing. To express our amazement we have to go into metaphor. To get a big enough metaphor to express our amazement we go to God.

Physicists have measured the big bang and found that the universe started in a tiny spot and expanded out with a certain velocity. Because physicists like to do complicated math problems they sat down one day and asked this question. What would have happened if the universe had expanded just a little bit slower, like .00001 percent less? They discovered that it would have expanded out and then collapsed back in on itself. Life would have never occurred on earth. And what would have happened if it expanded .00001 percent faster? Why the stars would have never formed, much less life on earth. It's almost like the big bang had us in mind from a very seedling - like the big bang was God.

The human brain, no matter which way it looks, comes back to God. When the rationalizations fall away there is nothing left but song and praise, or maybe song and grief. The trap is in thinking that the words in our brain are the things that bring us to truth. But it is really the awareness under these words, the awareness that sees with metaphor, that holds the truth.

If this is so then awakening to our true nature is not a difficult task. It's not searching for what we are (because that implies that we are not really it), but more relaxing into what we are. If it's that easy then there must be aware and enlightened people all around. They could be very ordinary looking; they could be wild and scary. Changing our idea of enlightenment enfolds us in a world of possibilities where an enlightened being could walk right up and say, "Hi." Maybe this is what the mystics mean when they say,

"When the seeker is ready, the teacher appears."