We reach our late 30’s, perhaps our mid 40’s, and something happens to us, or a lot of us. We become more grounded in ourselves and somehow – through either crisis or some kind of inner shift – shake off the received faith of our parents or childhood elders.
For some of us, this means giving up on god completely. For others, perhaps a shift of religion, or a reinterpretation of the same religion.
The god of our childhoods turns out to have been a mental construct. It lets us down drastically and miserably, and we have a crisis of faith – entering a dark time for the soul.
Where once we hid from fear of the emptiness or falsity of that god in not ‘overthinking’ our faith, now there is only darkness and an empty void. No lack of thought and fear.
Out the other side, we (some of us) have a new understanding and language for the divine; one often based on experience and more esoteric knowledge that does not come from mental constructs, but from experience as it happens. From relationships. From living.
But speaking for myself I can now see a third shift. A shift which happens when that previous awakening also breaks down because I have turned ‘enlightenment’ back into a construct. Something to achieve. Something to pray to, in a way. A god to please again.
Enlightenment is not a panacea for our problems like so many of us seem to wish for – especially today (the day before 21.12.12).
As Lao Tsu said in the Tao, the book of the way, if we seek the way we do not find it. We only find it when we stop looking; when we empty of ourselves and surrender (terrible paraphrase, sorry).
What is my enlightenment right now? Is it something I hang belief on in order to feel secure again? Something I try to please? Something I try to master in order to feel alright again and no longer be scared? Something I try to work out so that I finally ‘get it’ and everything is OK?
When that’s true, then enlightenment has been made back into the image of the god I stopped believing in when I had my first crisis; a crisis that came because I had made god in my own mental image.
Neither that enlightenment, nor that god, are real.
In Soto Zen we chant the Maka Hannya, which says (from memory) ‘ku fu i shiki, shiki soku ze ku’ – form is emptiness and emptiness is form.
Only in emptiness, egolessness, does everythingness reveal itself as always already there in every moment, indivisible from me, and showing me to be in, and be, the whole cosmos. God’s child.
The beginning of the world is at hand, in my heart and yours.