Enlightenment Your Own Way

For a period of time I enjoyed woodworking as a hobby.  I especially delighted in making things with the wood lathe.  My interest caused me to enroll in a special class to learn how to make a long stem wooden goblet from a block of wood.  Our teacher was an internationally known artisan from the United Kingdom who taught us many things to help improve our craft and ability to work on a lathe. Finally, the time came for us to make the goblet.

Following the instructions of my teacher, I first made the base and chalice. Next I would create the stem between the base and cup. This is the tricky part. As the stem gets slimmer and slimmer the tools must be used more expertly—one slip and the goblet will break in half.  As my stem became thinner I worried that I would break it. Several of the participants had already failed. It was then that I had an idea.  While the goblet was rotating on the lathe I decided to reduce the stem to its final size by lightly applying sandpaper to the spinning stem.  The teacher was a good-natured fellow who teased me about this choice.  He told me that this was the first time he had ever seen someone make a goblet in this way.  It may have been unorthodox, but I was one of only a few participants who took home a completed project.  I did not complete it the way I had been taught—I did it the way I knew was best for me. The same is true about spiritual awakening.

Before awakening it is common for seekers to read countless stories about enlightenment. I read hundreds of books and websites about yoga, Zen, Christ Consciousness, Hinduism, diet, cleansing, pranayama, martial arts, Christian and Sufi mysticism, Taoism, extra sensory perception, light working, and a hundred other things as well.  Each path and tradition  promised untold spiritual riches and enlightenment if I would follow their practices, do their spiritual exercises, eat their food, follow their master, and so on.  I chanted, toned, exercised, dieted, meditated, contemplated, held crystals, went to seminars and did all of the things that most seekers do—trying to find a path that would help me break through. It was all very confusing. Adding to the confusion was my religious tradition which proclaimed that God could only be followed a certain way.

But just as there is more than one way to make a goblet, so it is with each person’s journey of awakening.  Some awaken in a flash and others gradually over time.  Some have mystical experiences and others do not.  The important thing is not whether one walks, drives, flies or parachutes from the clouds towards the destination—its whether or not the journey has been taken.