A few days ago I made it a priority to reach what Zen Buddhists call Satori. My aim was to see if I could “force” myself into this altered state of consciousness. I have experienced it before, and it's a very peaceful place to be, even when things aren't going so hot, but I got there by accident, by chance, by reading or listening to something that shocked me out of my “self.” This time I wanted to find out if I could put myself there.
This sudden mining for spiritual gold coincides with an equally sudden interest in a psychologist and lecturer named Richard Alpert—otherwise known as Ram Dass. Ram Dass is an interesting topic in and of himself, but all that needs to be said here is that I am at the right point in my life to get the most out of his teachings. Just as, seven years ago, I was at the right point in my life to get the most out of Alan Watts's teachings and the teachings of Taoism. My intuition is at maximum, I have reached peak receptiveness.
So over the last few days I have meditated, and I have listened to Ram Dass lectures and clips on Youtube, and I have—as well as I can—put myself into a semi-enlightened state. I say “semi” because it is not permanent enlightenment. It is mostly intellectual (as in I “know this to be the case”), but it is yet to be known if I can apply what I'm meditating on to my non-meditative life. Osho calls this semi-enlightenment Little Satori. Big Satori is permanent.
My spirituality must be practical. I have stripped away many concepts. You won't catch me talking in New Age jargon. I don't “believe” in anything I cannot experience first hand. I am very much a minimalist.
I don't believe in deities, souls, spirits, angels, demons, good/evil, etc.
What I believe is straightforward, grounded.
I am not my body. I am not my mind. I am not my senses. I am not that which I sense. I am the experience of all of these things happening at once, in this moment.
Meaning that I am no one thing, but all things. What I seek in life is, above all else, to blend with the experience. To observe it, yes, but to understand that the observer (the “I”) is not the self.
A physical illness, a funny joke, a beautiful sunrise, emotional pain: these are merely phenomena. My purpose is to experience these phenomena.
My neurosis is Social Anxiety Disorder. Most humans live in fear to some extent, but for much of my life—throughout my teens and early 20s—I have lived in unmanageable and illogical fear. Fear of driving, flying, going to school, going to work, being sick, being healthy, dying, living, failing, succeeding—risk of any kind.
What I am trying to do is to disidentify from the self that fears. To be “no thing.” To embrace the void. The moment.
In order to get through that part of me which “stops” when it comes to doing something normal people find easy, if not outright boring, I must change my state of consciousness. Altering my mind through meditation and Eastern philosophy I can see the world in a different light. Not from the point of view of a human being, but from the point of view of the Cosmos itself.
That is enlightenment. Satori. It can last a millisecond, or for the rest of my life, however long that may be.
Living as the experience (the phenomenon), not the experiencer. Living as the event, not the observer. Then what can hurt me? What use are my old fears? What use is standing still? If I am the experience, then I will experience anything. Joy, sadness, ecstasy, pain, love, loneliness, freedom, even fear.
At the end of all of this is death. The void. But for one who lives and dies in each moment, the death of the body and the final death of the mind is nothing new.
This is the doorway to being a human being again. Walking through it, embracing that enlightened altered state of consciousness, I am free to be both human—with all of my faults, with all of my fears—and at the same time Cosmic—understanding fully that I am not the body, the mind, the senses, but the experience. The phenomena.
This thought gives me great peace. It's a contradiction to all that I've told myself for so many years, gripped by anxiety. It's strangely similar to the feeling I had when I was a six-year-old child, before my adult ego took over. When I was a child I got scared, but I never identified with my fear. It was not “me,” but only what was happening at the moment. When that moment passed I would be happy again, but I never recall identifying with that happiness. As a child, I was enveloped by the moment, every moment.
My phobias exist because I grew up and began to believe that I was my fear. That I was my uncertainty. That I was my anxiety.
Yet I'm not simply discovering a way to cope with the world. I'm not, as psychologists have people like me do, learning to cope. I'm learning how to live, more deeply and fully than I've ever lived before.