Too many spiritual teachers make enlightenment out to be this state of eternal bliss you can never fall back from. But if you assume that a true awakening is the end, you’re in for a rude awakening. The harsh truth is that you can fall back and people do backslide into their previous egos and conditionings. If you also experienced this, you need to watch this episode.
First of all, I want you to know that this kind of backsliding is completely natural, you simply didn’t know about it before. Just like enlightenment itself was not what you expected, what happens after enlightenment can also oftentimes surprise you. Especially when noone prepares you for it, but I’m here to warn you that you need to watch out for this.
If you feel you lost enlightenment along the way, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it wasn’t authentic. It simply means that it wasn’t permanent, and that you still have work to do. Don’t look at this backsliding as something negative, because for most people, it’s just a part of the process. And if enlightenment was only temporary, backsliding doesn’t have to be permanent either.
My Master used to say that there’s no such thing as falling back. In a sense she was right, because once you realize the truth you can never forget it. But it’s a whole different question how you embody this realization in your day-to-day experience. And what good does truth do, if you keep on living in a lie?
Your only task is to notice these lies you’re telling yourself, to notice the ego returning on the back door, to notice when you’re enlightened and when you’re not. Enlightenment is nothing else than remembering your true nature, so if you remembered once, it will be easier to keep on remembering it again and again, until it becomes automatic.
So why does this spiritual backsliding happen? Unlike many people think, the ego is not completely destroyed at the moment of awakening, it simply gets emptied out. Although it’s mostly dead, its skeleton is still there, and it can easily come out of the closet if you give it enough energy, if you pay attention to it again, if you listen to its whispers.
Your subconscious has deep-rooted hardcore conditioning, and it takes time and patience to uproot all your dysfunctions. The ego still has its natural momentum and it can easily pull you back into its old patterns if you’re not careful enough, especially if it’s a question of survival, which the ego is all about. Most people lose the enlightened state after a highly stressful life situation.
You can think of spirituality as a relationship with yourself. And just like every relationship evolves and changes, so does your state of consciousness and spiritual maturity. As a baby, you are completely at one with yourself, but you’re immature, because you are unconscious of this connection as you don’t have a contrast.
The birth of the ego marks the treshold of separation, the beginning of duality, when you get divorced from yourself. All your life afterwards, you’re searching for this long lost connection, even though you can’t really articulate what is missing. Only when you find it again do you remember finally: yes, that’s what I lost, that’s who I am really.
But first you only have a glimpse, it’s like a beautiful girl you spot on the street, and then you decide to search for her. In the phase of spiritual awakening, you meet her more and more often, and you slowly fall in love with her. The spiritual path is like this all-consuming desire towards your true self. At one point, you become engaged towards this path, you choose it with all your heart knowing that now there’s no return.
Following this allegory, a full-blown spiritual enlightenment experience is equal to an alchemical wedding, the moment of truth, the crescendo of the relationship. This is when you finally become one with your lover, with your true self. There’s no more separation, division and duality. There’s only celebration, bliss and laughter.
This is where most spiritual narratives end, just like a cheesy Disney movie. You know, in which the lovers finally unite and they live happily ever after. But this is not how it happens in real life. The marriage is oftentimes more difficult than the casual relationship. Just like that, life after enlightenment is many times more challenging than the spiritual search itself.
Fortunately, the challenges don’t appear immediately, first you get a good taste of what this perfect relationship with yourself looks like. Just like a newly wed couple, you go on a honeymoon, and you have the time of your life. For a couple of days, weeks or months, love seems indeed everlasting.
For a short period after the initial enlightenment experience, you are certain that you could never ever lose this view, that it will certainly last forever, that you will never go back to your old ways. In this period, your realization is so crystal-clear, your presence is so grounded, your bliss is so deep, that you feel like there’s no going back.
However, it’s a whole different story of going on an amazing vacation with the love of your life and actually learning to live with her in the long run. It’s only when you permanently move in together that the first problems arise. And if you’re not attentive, sensitive and alert enough, you can be quickly alienated from each other. What started as a beautiful relationship may end up in an ugly divorce.
Most of these problems come up from previously unresolved issues. If you still carry childhood traumas, if you still have dysfunctional emotional patterns, life will get back at you harder than ever. If you notice yourself sliding back into your old self, now is the time to dissolve them once and forever.
Enlightenment doesn’t necessarily annihilate your conditionings, but it does help a lot. Once you become enlightened, you can quite easily return to that state, even if on the surface you seem to have lost it. The key is not to grasp onto the sweet memory of enlightenment, but to recognize each and every moment how you’re making yourself bitter and unenlightened.
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