So, what can you and what can’t you do to awaken? Spiritual enlightenment cannot be forced. If you want it, you won’t succeed, because enlightenment is exactly the lack of wanting. Wanting to awaken is the last barrier to actually awaken. It is a natural process, and if you don’t stand in its path, it will happen on its own.
You can’t alter your state of consciousness directly, only indirectly. Mind cannot control consciousness, because mind is also a part of it. For example, if you want to get drunk, you need something – namely alcohol – to make it happen. Making it happen is possible, but doing it is impossible.
The most important changes in consciousness, like falling asleep, falling in love, having a dream or meditating do not work by giving an order. These are relaxed states, and if you strain yourself, they won’t occur. Just try to go to sleep once by commanding yourself to sleep. Do you think it will happen?
Ironically, falling asleep shares many similarities with waking up spiritually. You need an optimal attitude and optimal circumstances for both. In the language of drugs, these are called set and setting respectively. The actual substance is only one part of the equation. If the set and setting are wrong, it can ruin the whole trip. But if they are perfect, the same experience can happen even without the drug itself.
What is needed for a good night’s sleep? First of all, your attitude and preparedness, the set. Humans have a natural sleeping cycle. If you have just woken up from a refreshing sleep, it is almost impossible to go back again. If you drank coffee, you ate too much or too little, or if something hurts, it is also very hard to fall into sleep. If you are worried or stressed about something, your mind will not let you sleep well. Thus, your body and mind need to be comfortable, relaxed and loose.
But if your bed is hard, if it is too hot or too cold, you will have an equally hard time falling asleep, even if the set is perfect. This is the question of the setting, the circumstances, the situation you find yourself in. Setting depends on two things: the physical and social aspects of your environment. Timothy Leary wrote about this in his book, the Psychedelic Experience:
„The nature of the experience depends almost entirely on set and setting. Set denotes the preparation of the individual, including his personality structure and his mood at the time. Setting is physical — the weather, the room’s atmosphere; social — feelings of persons present towards one another; and cultural — prevailing views as to what is real.”
So, what is it that you can and can’t do to wake up? Create the perfect set and setting, and leave the rest to Existence! Be an intensive seeker, but be completely relaxed at the same time. This is similar to the state of flow, intense calmness, or relaxed attention. If you keep stressing out on wanting to sleep, you will never fall asleep. The same way, if you stress out on wanting enlightenment, you will never achieve it.
Buddha became enlightened one week after letting go of the desire, and the same thing happened to Osho and many others. Although they were the most intensive spiritual seekers, they gave up meditation and every other practice after long years of work. Not knowingly, they created the perfect set and setting, and then trusted themselves to Existence.
For you, it is better not to be preoccupied with enlightenment at all. Instead, there has to be a burning desire for truth above everything else. And don’t fabricate any preconceived ideas of this truth, don’t try to guess what enlightenment feels like, because I can guarantee you that it is beyond your imagination. Besides that, remain curious and open-minded, and promise yourself not to die before you get to know what life really is!
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