What Is Enlightenment? - The Personal Enlightenment Journey of Jonathan Parker
THE BEGINNING OF AWAKENING
At a recent class one of the participants asked me, “What is enlightenment?” Although I have written several articles on the subject that are posted on this website, I realized that I had not told the story of my personal experience, nor given an explicit description of my enlightening experiences. This essay is my answer to that question.
In general a person who has become enlightened would never need to say, "I'm enlightened," and since through enlightenment the person disappears into the pure ocean of consciousness, in a sense, there is no one to say they are enlightened. But there is a practical side to discussing the profound shifts in consciousness that can totally change one's life, and I don't want to become stuck on the word. Enlightenment is, after all, only a word, and in this case the word conveys a description of wonderful experiences of being liberated from much suffering and pain. So I have written this short article to give some understanding and clarity to defining the enlightening shifts in consciousness I have experienced.
THE BEGINNING OF AWAKENING
My first experience happened in 1976 when I was 31. I had been on a spiritual path since I was a teenager with a goal of reaching as high a state of spirituality as possible. I was deeply sincere and relentlessly pursuing truth through self-examination and self-discovery. At the time I was a pastor of a fundamentalist Christian church in Kansas, when, like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, I experienced a shift in consciousness and I knew I wasn’t in Kansas anymore.
I can’t say I was doing anything to trigger the shift other than earnestly praying to know truth. At that time I didn’t know anything about meditation or other practices commonly associated with enlightenment. What happened to me felt like recalling ancient memories and inspirations, and they came so rapidly that my life quickly changed. Suddenly I realized my view of everything was a massive tapestry of stories, myths and perceptions that had been handed to me by others. Now I could see everything with a new clarity that those around me seemed blinded to.
The awakenings were like a series of revelations or epiphanies that came every few days. At that time I was not able to find books about what was happening to me or people to discuss it with, and since much of what I experienced seemed so radical, I had to keep most of it to myself.
BEYOND WHAT I IMAGINED
Some people consider these states of consciousness to be fantasies, delusions or myths, probably because they have not experienced them for themselves and therefore don’t believe they are possible or real. But the qualities I describe here are nonetheless my experience.
Because most people have not experienced the type of consciousness shifts I am describing here, they have no internal reference for how such a person feels and responds to life. Many, in fact, understand enlightenment in terms of their own needs, desires, and feelings. But ultimately the enlightened state is only known by experiencing it. Until then all one can do is imagine what it is like. For me, every shift in consciousness was always different and beyond anything I imagined it might be.
I have had many profound consciousness shifts—each one taking me further and deeper, and they continue happening to this day. To a large extent I believe this is true because I maintain a daily practice of meditation and do a lot of work with others in meditative states.
A COMPLETE TRANSFORMATION
I should point out that these shifts result in permanent, major transformations of consciousness. At first, some of these qualities were transitory, but in time, they evolved into a continuous state. They are far more than momentary altered states, fantasies, mind projections, channeled information, inspirations, visions, hallucinations, mental conclusions, or meditative insights or experiences. They totally transform who you are.
ENLIGHTENMENT IS AN ONGOING PROCESS
In my view enlightenment is an ongoing process not a destination, and others have echoed this observation. For instance, Ken Wilber in his integral approach to human development describes levels of consciousness that he divides into three major tiers along a rising spectrum. In Power vs Force, David Hawkins describes consciousness as progressing along a scale from zero to one thousand with enlightenment starting at six hundred.
At each unfolding level of consciousness the experience of life changes. For example, a person can feel love in many ways and to various depths. Each experience may be said to be love, but the way in which it is experienced can be significantly different for each person.
Some of the qualities I have listed are also experienced prior to the enlightenment shifts, but after the profound awakening consciousness shift, they deepen and become continuous and sustained. In addition, some of the qualities are not deeply experienced with the first enlightening experience. For instance, some people feel oneness and bliss in meditation, but they do not necessarily have their thoughts completely stop or have all negative emotions eliminated; these states may come with future shifts. Depending on a person’s commitment to spiritual practices, they may stay at their level or continue to experience further awakenings. I have personally worked with thousands of people in workshops, meditation retreats and one-on-one sessions, and have seen people make shifts at all levels, so I know it is possible for everyone.
MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
What follows is an outline of some of the qualities I have experienced in my awakening process. Not everyone who awakens experiences all of these, and I'm sure others could create their own lists of what they have experienced that would vary somewhat from my list. This list isn't exhaustive, nor is it my intent to elaborate here on each item. I merely want to list them here for you as a kind of "road map" of the territory ahead. They are not in any particular order, but points 1 - 3 are what most people think of when they think of enlightenment. I do hope you find this helpful, and I always welcome your comments and insights.
1. A sustained awareness of being One with our Source and all creation. Separation vanishes. This does not mean being spaced out or non-functional, but having an integrated awareness that is always present, and having an awareness of being aware.
2. A deep knowing that we are one with God – a conscious sense that we are an individualized expression of God similar to the way a wave is an aspect of the ocean and is one with the ocean. The experience is of a vast spaciousness that is a field of potentiality in which we create and project our experiences.
3. There is an automatic, sustained awareness of always being in the present moment.
4. There is a still, quiet, and peaceful mind. There are no unintentional or uninvited thoughts.
5. There is a feeling of being deeply in love with life.
6. There is a complete sense of well-being and being taken care of. Every day is wonderful. In fact, there is even a feeling of inner playfulness and joy, and sometimes laughing at the absurdity of situations that some choose to regard as serious.
7. There is the experience of everyone and everything in creation as deeply beautiful. Everything in the internal space is of deep, deep beauty.
8. There is the feeling of always being happy.
9. There is the feeling of loving who you truly are, and of no longer living through ego identities or masks.
10. There is deep compassion and caring for all creation.
11. There is a state of naturally living from the heart and experiencing deep unconditional love for all.
12. There is an experience of more energy and a feeling of being younger and more vital than
before the enlightenment shift.
13. Naturally and without effort, there is a positive flow of words and actions.
14. There is a naturally increased clarity of mind, perception, and intuition.
15. There is an ease and flow through life in Universal Harmony and Synchronicity.
16. There is a sense of being empowered, whole, and free, with a correlative feeling of being beyond the control of others.
17. There is a natural state free from fear, worry, anger, stress, lack, jealousy, arrogance, hopelessness, intolerance, resentment, despair, discouragement, competitiveness, addictions, suspicions, loneliness, self-pity, and feeling stuck or victimized. There is never a feeling of negative emotions, but there may be very strong positive feelings, such
as love, joy, happiness, ecstasy, and rich beauty.
18. There is a feeling of a continuous lightness of being with lingering periods of bliss and euphoria.
19. There are no longer mood shifts, and there is stability in the consciousness level attained.
20. There is an internal state that is not altered by external conditions.
21. Negative people and situations do not disturb the internal state.
22. Automatically and naturally, there is no longer judgment, criticism or blame of yourself or others.
23. There is the feeling of being safe, secure and never alone or lonely.
24. There is a realization that you are positively transformed and all experiences with others are also transformed.
25. The consciousness and body integrate and achieve balance and health.
26. There is automatic protection and safety.
27. There is freedom from dependencies, wants, and needs.
28. Karma is released and dissolved.
29. There is deep, deep peacefulness and calm.
30. There is awareness of a connection and presence of masters, angels, and enlightened beings.
31. There is inner contentment, fulfillment, and a sense of completion.
32. There is the ability to relate to others at their level of consciousness.
33. Profound enlightened insights and wisdom come, not from experience, books, or memories, but they emerge from deep stillness and consciousness itself.
34. There is no more seeking, striving, or searching. There is completeness, although deeper realizations continue to come.
35. There is a sense of being well prepared for the transition to the next life, whenever it may happen and wherever you may find yourself.
36. There is a knowing you are free from the wheel of rebirth having completed the need for further earth lives.
37. There is an ability to transmit enlightened consciousness influences to others, which assists them with their clearing and healing.
38. And the strangest one of all is that friends, neighbors and those around you are likely to have no idea about most of the above. This is because people don’t really know what they have not experienced, so they don’t have a reference to what the enlightening experiences are. There may or may not be perceptible external changes in appearances or style of living, but internally there is a vast difference from what most people experience.
39. I have also experienced the opening of many paranormal and intuitive gifts which can be directed intentionally and which have traditionally been regarded as Siddha powers such as clairvoyance (an ability to see, sense and understand subtle energy patterns in the aura,
chakras, and other dimensions), clairaudience (an inner listening ability to receive messages beyond the range of the 5 senses), clairsentience (an ability to have an inner knowing without information from the 5 senses), telepathy (an ability to sense and know the thoughts and feelings of another person), precognition (an ability to see and know
future events), remote viewing, spiritual/energy healing, an ability to sense, know and understand a person’s consciousness, and an ability to help others become more clear and awake. It is this later ability that I regard as the most precious.