“You may have expected that enlightenment would come like zap! Instantaneous and permanent. This is unlikely. After the first ‘aha,’ it can be thought of as the thinning of a layer of clouds.”
Every pilgrim on a journey feels the exhilaration and glow of being liberated. Then, as the work of the new world becomes real and trying, there arises a want to go back to where we lived before awakening. Because in the challenge of growing, we can feel, “Oh, God, this is too hard. I just want to go back to before I was aware.”
Even we we give ourselves completely to life’s journey, there’s always a dweller on the threshold, trying to distract us from what matters, just as we arrive. Like those among the Jews who, after leaving Egypt and experienced freedom, went to Moses to say, “We really hate the desert. What do you say we go back? Sure, we were slaves but it was clean and were fed. It wasn’t so bad, was it?”
This undertow of consciousness is understandable and inevitable. Life always seems to progress by the expansion of revelation and the contraction of hard work.
As we awaken more deeply into the pilgrimage of the heart, there are always new things to lift and new things to build. It’s not just, “Oh, we’re awake! Isn’t everything wonderful?” The path of wakefulness is rugged and slippery every step of the way.
As we negotiate the real work of staying awake, we need to be vigilant with the pilgrim in us who wants to move forward and kind with the fearful one in us who wants to go back. For all I’ve learned, for all my wakefulness and sensitivity, for all the turns in my journey, there’s always a small voice in me ready to say, “Let’s go back. It’s easier to hide.”
This is a crooked path to enlightenment: two steps forward, one step back; two days of being heartened, one day of being disheartened. This is the dynamic of being alive. This is what we work with and for.