Saturday, April 07, 2007

Thoughts About "Enlightenment"

It is well documented that HSPs tend to be "deep thinkers." In her book "The Highly Sensitive Person," Dr. Elaine Aron describes HSPs as "prone to deep reflection on inner experience."

In a sense, this is the "puzzle piece" of HSP-ness that explains why so many HSPs are on paths of spiritual discovery, often involving much self-inquiry and introspection. The average person may not care much about such ideas as "Enlightenment," but it often holds a great deal of interests for HSPs, and often becomes a topic of conversation at the annual HSP Gatherings.

There are certain funny notions attached to enlightenment, and many of them apply directly to HSPs. The one I am going to focus on today is the perception that to live an enlightened life, we must turn our back on money, and any and all desires to have anything material in our lives. The ironic thing about this paradigm is that we see "enlightenment" as an all-or-nothing proposition, in which we either become the "Guru In A Diaper" who sits serenely on a mountain top, OR we have "accomplished nothing." The irony lies in the fact that a concept like "enlightenment" has its roots in nonduality, and we immediately assign an "either/or" duality to it.

Enlightenment-- to the degree we experience it-- isn't about abandoning money or things. Enlightenment is about reducing/ending our personal suffering. And we don't really end suffering by making declarations that we must be "dirt poor" in order to see the light. In fact, we just trade one form of suffering for another.

It is true that greater self-awareness often involves a certain amount of "downsizing" of the stuff we surround ourselves with-- "stuff" we have put there because it feeds our egos. But there is a huge difference between making a choice to be a "responsible" human (in the sense Daniel Quinn distinguished between "givers" and "takers" in his metaphorical novel "Ishmael"), and choosing a modern-day ascetic lifestyle.

Sometimes we just have to stop and think about whether we are making sense.

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