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Chapter 2 - The Night I “GOT IT”

My first true enlightenment experience didn't occur as a result of chanting or meditating, and it didn't occur as a result of praying or any other spiritual practices. I'd tried all of these things and then some without success. But then on August 27, 2000 at just after 1:00 a.m. I woke from a deep sleep and was quickly consumed with an awareness of death. I had no sense of fear. On the contrary, it was an incredibly peaceful and beautiful experience. And it would be a turning point in my life.

Nothing in particular woke me. No movement, no noise, no dream. My eyes simply opened and my world had changed. I turned to my wife who lay sleeping beside me with her arm draped across my chest. As I watched her sleep, I was struck with the thought that one day this relationship would end. We could dedicate our lives to having the perfect marriage and that wouldn't be enough. Someday, death would come and take it all away. Now don't get me wrong, it wasn't that I didn't know this before. Clearly I wasn't operating under the illusion that my wife and I were immortal. But somehow, the reality of this inevitability had escaped me until this moment. It was inside this thought that I awakened to the incredible gift that was my life.

I no longer saw life as a biological process but as a spiritual one. In an instant, the thought of death no longer scared me because for the first time I felt truly alive and I knew that a physical death could never take that away. No matter what happened from that point on, for one fleeting moment in time, I had experienced the greatest gift imaginable.

I left my wife's side and went into each of my kids’ bedrooms and sat beside them. I took their hands in mine and as I watched them sleep, I thanked God for that moment of realization, for awakening me to the gift of life before it was taken from me. The feeling was so strong, so consuming, that I began to wonder if I was about to die. Right then, right there. Why else would I be having such strong feelings? I sat, listening, waiting. Was it my time? I felt absolutely no fear, only love, appreciation, and a childlike curiosity. If death was in the wings, I felt I could easily go. After all, what right did I have to expect anything more than what I had already experienced in my life? But there was nothing more for me to notice or await. Not that night at least. It was just after 2 a.m. when I made my way back to my bed and fell asleep as quickly and as inexplicably as I had awakened just an hour before.

The next morning I tried to make sense of what had happened to me. The effects of my experience had carried over into my waking hours and I wasn't sure how to handle them. Though I woke to the same circumstances that had existed the night before, their meaning and importance had been transformed. I could tell that things that had bothered me in the past no longer would. And things I'd overlooked would take on new meaning and significance. I'd studied self-help and spiritual literature for years searching for enlightenment to no avail. But in the wee hours of the morning of August 27, 2000, with absolutely no warning and no effort, it found me.

I had arrived.

What would I do now? I was clearly a different person. How would I relate to those who knew me the way I was before? How could I go back to the same old job, the same old concerns I'd once had? What would life be like from now on when I no longer feared death, when I was fully aware of the gifts and blessings in my life?

I didn't have to wonder long. If I had felt let down and disillusioned in the past, it wasn’t anything like what was just around the corner.

When you have an experience like what I just described, the first thing you feel you want to do is share it with others. You want to share it with anyone and everyone who will listen. You almost feel as if it is your responsibility to share it with others – to “do them a favor” and wake them up. At this point I'd like to give you a little piece of advice. If you do ever have an experience like the one I just described, resist the urge to share it with others, at least at first. Why? Two reasons.

First, it drives a wedge between you and others. Telling others about the experience isn't going to make them have the same experience. And without having the experience, they are not going to be able to understand your reaction to it. A person coming off an experience like this typically sounds like they're speaking gibberish. Other people will not be able to relate to your enthusiasm. You might as well try to explain Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity to a dog (or to me, for that matter.)

And second, since the experience is temporary, it is a near certainty that you’re going to set yourself up for an enormous fall. The elation and enthusiasm are going to vanish and, unless you’re careful, your credibility with yourself and others will go right along with it. I know, for this is exactly what happened to me.

The next afternoon, just hours after my “transformation,” hours after sharing my experience and newfound commitments with others, I fell into a deep depression. I was stunned. How could this have happened? I wasn't depressed about anything in particular. I was just depressed. When I realized I had already lost touch with the experience I'd had the night before, it got worse. Why didn't it stick? What will my family and friends think of me now that I've stuck my foot so firmly in my mouth? Where was that enlightened person I'd thought I'd become?

I knew I must have done something wrong, but what? I went back to the books and tapes I'd studied so often in the past in order to understand what was happening to me. But this time, there was something very strange about the messages I was reading. Something very wrong. For the first time in my life I was convinced I'd tasted enlightenment, but in its aftermath, it didn't look much like what these books and tapes had described. Soon after, I set aside my quest for answers and decided to give myself a break from the path.

Once I stopped searching for someone "out there" to give me the answers, I tried to make sense of what had happened to me without the help of gurus and wise men. I shared my entire experience, the elation, the depression and the subsequent confusion, with a small group of my closest friends. I began to keep notebooks of sporadic thoughts and concerns that arose over the next few months. And in time, a miraculous thing began to occur. In my efforts to make sense of that one miraculous hour back in August of 2000, a flood of startling insights began to fill my mind. And over the course of a few weeks, I'd stumbled across a handful of thoughts that would eventually shatter the mystery of enlightenment that had eluded me all my life.

I'm about to share these insights with you, but before I do, I want to remind you that simply understanding or agreeing with these insights will not make you enlightened. This will no more lead to you becoming enlightened than understanding and agreeing with the notion of exercise will lead to you becoming physically fit. If you want to improve your health through exercise, you must sweat and you must do so regularly. If you want to become enlightened, you must pay the price. But how? By discovering your own path. And you do this by facing the forces at work in your own life, right now, right where you are. You don't need to leave your family, give away your possessions, shave your head and move to the Far East, or join a group of people in a compound on the outskirts of town and stockpile firearms.

The most anyone else can do for you is to tell you what they have discovered, point you in the right direction, then get out of your way. So please think of the insights and ideas that follow not as being true or false, but as being tools you can use to unearth insights of your own. Agree with them, disagree with them, try to prove or disprove them using examples from your own life, but do not simply accept them. After all, if you're still seeking enlightenment, simply accepting what others have told you more than trusting your own insights may have gotten you into this trouble in the first place.

My first feeling of enlightenment

Some years ago, just as I was waking up one morning, I felt the very strong presence of my dad. He had died when I was 15 years old. His death had devastated me. The loss of my dad was (is) the worst experience I had ever encountered. I fell into a deep depression and it took me a very long time to climb out of this deep, depressing hole I had dug myself into. I did get myself back into the mainstream of life and have always kept the memory of my dad within my heart. I was feeling pretty good. So, on this morning, feeling as though my dad was in my room was miraculous to me. I felt no fear. I felt no sorrow. There was just an overwhelming feeling of love. No words were spoken. He was just there. We both smiled. I could see he was at peace.  And then he was gone. It was on that day that I realized I did not have to look “out there” any longer.  I was no longer "haunted" by this enormous loss.  He had been in my heart the whole time....truly within me.

Everything is LOVE

Beautiful, truly inspirational.  18mind's motto is Everything is LOVE!!  I love that we know each other!


I attended a meeting of "A Course in Miracles" last night. Someone spoke of her brother dying and how devastating it was and how that loss actually made her a better person...helped to make her what she is today.  Although I have found some peace concerning my father's death, it is unclear to me how the death of someone you love can possibly make you a better person. I want to understand this, I truly do! My dad is at peace, that is for sure. I find peace now because I know he has found peace. As I think about it now, I realize it concerns fear. My fear of loss.


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