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In the book Changing for Good, Prochaska et. al describe a six stage process for positive change. What is most interesting about these six stages is that the first three, half of the process, is the personal understanding of the need for change.
It is only then that actual change, the work, can happen. I believe that this is also the process of enlightenment.
First, we understand that we are searching, and we bring our bodies into a space where we feel like we might find what we are looking for. This is the physical step.
Then, we must understand that we are “unenlightened.” This is the intellectual step. Only then, can we move forward with the spiritual step of the journey of enlightenment.
The first step is the physical process. Get in the door. Even if we don’t know specifically what we are looking for, just knowing that we are looking and that we are on a journey to find it is the catalyst.
Despite where you live in the world – Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Toronto, Halifax or Montreal, London, Madrid, Greece, Bali, Thailand, Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, New Zealand, Hawaii, New York, San Diego the physical process might begin with going to a yoga class or yoga teacher training or even, attending a meditation session, or using breathing and grounding exercises for stress relief. It is here that we find that the problem is not “out there,” it is within.
We begin to sift through the things in our life, swapping out the toxic for the healing. This is the physical stage of the journey.
Once we are in the door, we must acknowledge our intellectual emptiness. Shunryu Suzuki said that “in the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.” If we consider ourselves experts, we have nowhere new to go.
Calling out the beliefs that we hold, understanding where they come from and how we project these onto our world, then clearing our minds of these helps to make space for our intellectual enlightenment.
It is here that many think we must get rid of all materialism. But I don’t believe that this is the case. Material things not only provide efficiency, but are necessary for survival.
However, we can reflect on the purpose of the material things in our life. What are we hoping to gain? What part of the self are we satiating? Material gain for the sake of having “stuff” and showing it off is a red flag that we need to reflect on.
The Mind and Spirit
Once we have cleared the mind, we can open the spirit. This is where the work happens. I do not believe that we can “attain” enlightenment, we can only work within the journey of enlightenment.
Enlightenment is work. It is a process, a journey. I don’t believe that enlightenment is a destination or a state of being that we reach, then just get to sit on our zafu and just stay in this enlightened place.
Rather, it is an opportunity for us to celebrate the now, to understand where we are able to go, and live a life at peace with contentment, curiosity, and gratitude.