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Enlightenment for the 21st Century
by Andrew Cohen

Everybody wants to get enlightened but nobody wants to change. This is the simple, daunting truth that has been staring back at me from the eyes of countless seekers over the years. "I really want to get enlightened," they insist. "But are YOU ready to CHANGE now?" I ask. "What?" is the inevitable response—surprised and even slightly stunned. And I repeat, "Are YOU ready to CHANGE now?" What follows is always a strange and surreal moment of ambiguity, confusion, and backpedaling. "But I thought you wanted to get enlightened... "

It is a very rare moment indeed when the evolutionary impulse—that mysterious urge toward unbounded freedom and our own potential for radical transformation in this life—arises in awareness, unimpeded by the endless fears and desires of the separate ego. But it is infinitely more rare that, when that impulse arises, there is a bold and fearless response that says yes and yes and yes and only yes, now and forever.

The price of radical transformation is always the same—we have to let go of fear and attachment. And, in that letting go, discover a completely different perspective on what it means to be alive. But it is these two tasks—transcending fear and attachment and being willing to embrace a new way of seeing—that most seekers find so challenging. When the spiritual experience sweeps through our entire being, spontaneously emptying us of fear and attachment and opening our inner eye to higher levels of perception, temporarily there is nothing to let go of. Temporarily, we are lifted out of our unconsciousness, and the way we perceive reality and our place in it shifts dramatically. And so it appears that a real transformation has occurred—that maybe we have indeed changed. But when the higher state of consciousness begins to recede, when the intensity of the spiritual experience becomes the simplicity of life as it is, when we discover that we have not changed as much as we thought we had, how profound is our interest in the miracle and mystery of the revelation that just descended upon us? Indeed, how much do we really want to change, even now that we have seen the yonder shore? Are we willing to pay the price of permanent transformation, when it demands everything from us?

More often than not, the spiritual experience, the taste of enlightened consciousness, merely gives us a glimpse of the possible. In other words, the spiritual experience is rarely the end of the path. But if we are sincere in our aspiration for genuine transformation, it can be the real beginning. The beginning of a completely different life—one that is free from fear and attachment and informed by revelation and an inspiration that comes from an unknown source beyond the mind. But for this to be the case, we have to WANT TO CHANGE NOW. When? Now. And now. And now. Why? Because the genuine willingness to change now is itself the letting go of fear and attachment that reveals a completely different perspective—now, and now, and now.

Enlightened consciousness not only is founded upon the desire for change but is the one and only place inside us all that ever thrives as change. That means FREEDOM itself. The freedom of enlightened consciousness is that relationship to the life process that, precisely because it holds on to nothing, seems to be changing all the time. Of course, it isn't. One who is truly enlightened never moves, abiding permanently beyond this world of time and becoming. But because of that immovable position, he or she is able, in the world of time and becoming, to be a striking manifestation of a passionate and unbridled creativity, a powerful force of conscious evolution in action.

So you see, wanting to change now, fearlessly and wholeheartedly, really being willing now, not only is the door to the freedom of enlightened consciousness but is simultaneously its expression.

So... are YOU ready to CHANGE now? But I thought you wanted to get enlightened...


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This article is from
Our Transformation Issue