“Enlightenment does exist. It is possible to awaken. Unbounded freedom and joy, oneness with the Divine, awakening into a state of timeless grace – these experiences are more common than you know, and not far away. There is one further truth, however: They don’t last. Our realizations and awakenings show us the reality of the world, and they bring transformation, but they pass. … We all know that after the honeymoon comes the marriage. After the election comes the hard task of governance. In spiritual life it is the same: After the ecstasy comes the laundry.”
-Jack Kornfield, After the Ecstasy, the Laundry
Seeing the title in the quote, I wonder if there is any point in buying the book. This quote from One Spirit winds me up the wrong way. It postulates Enlightenment as a feeling of Joy, freedom, timeless grace, oneness with the divine, in some way different from quotidian getting and spending. Ecstasy and laundry.
I should tease out my understanding of the concept from my reaction to the individual words. It is possible to have the feeling of being Present, when joyful, for example walking under the trees towards Greenbelt recently. Rather than “Chaos of thought and passion all confused” all seems integrated, with perception, emotion, thought and purpose all pointing the same way. It lasts a moment. Or, I get stressed and I get relaxed, and relaxation feels nice but is not necessarily Enlightenment. Similarly, Presence in washing up. I turn my attention to the task in hand, and it becomes beautiful. I delight in the sensations of the light on wet plates.
I would like to be more relaxed in the stressful situations. It seems to me that in those Presence moments my emotions are acceptable, and I do not spend energy suppressing them.
Oh, Christ. Even joy can be dangerous. An evening with my parents in Inverneill stands out, when we were relaxed and happy together and it seemed a moment of eternity, a Discovery. We all felt it. Dad proposed going out to the pub, to make the moment linger. Mum demurred, knowing it would not. After attempts at happiness through following conventional recipes, we had found it by accident. I did not know what my feelings were because none of them were acceptable, in my teens, but that evening I did, though it would have been hard to put into words.
I feel fear or anger when these things are appropriate, and I fear my fear and anger, because expressing them has been dangerous to me. I have said this here before. The situation is far worse from my Wrong feeling than from anything external. I know that if I feel fear like this I will die, so learning to flow with the fear is difficult. That would be the freedom and timeless grace. The Divine would be me inside, and ego-conscious me accepting not resisting it.
I have learned to accept joy. I can learn to accept fear and anger too. Ecstasy, an intense discovery, becomes quotidian, a continual process of learning and falling away. It is not that we build tents for Moses and Elijah, but that we see them walking with us.