Some traditions and teachers say enlightenment takes lifetimes.
Why is that when noticing what we are can literally take minutes? If we are guided, it can take a few minutes to frame the pointing verbally, and a moment to notice.
I assume it’s because they don’t just talk about noticing what we are, but living from it. They talk about embodiment, and about inviting all the different parts of our human self and psyche still operating from separation consciousness to reorganize within a conscious noticing of oneness.
To notice what we are takes no time. Making a habit out of noticing, and doing so through more and more situations in life, takes time. Exploring how to live from it takes infinite time. And allowing more of our human self – the parts formed and still operating within separation consciousness – to align with oneness and join in with the awakening, takes infinite time.
Awakening vs enlightenment
This is why I make a distinction between awakening and enlightenment.
Awakening means finding ourselves as capacity for the world, as that which all our experiences happen within and as. We can be guided into this relatively easily.
It takes a bit more time and engagement to make a new habit out of noticing this, and doing so through situations in our life. Past memories of noticing can help us remember and serve as a pointer for noticing, and the noticing always happens here and now. It’s fresh.
Exploring how to live from it is ongoing. We are never done with this. We can always discover more and be a little more skilled. And as we (hopefully) continue to heal and mature as a human self, this will change how we live from the noticing.
Many parts of us as a human self were created and operates from separation consciousness. When these are triggered, the center of gravity can get pulled into this separation consciousness for a while. And if we continue to be identified with some of these parts of us, it means we operate from separation consciousness to some extent, and perhaps especially in some areas of life.
Embodiment generally refers to living from the noticing of what we are. And it refers, more specifically, to inviting more of our human self to more deeply realign within a conscious noticing of oneness and what we are.
So what is enlightenment? Is it the noticing? Making a habit of noticing? Living from it? Inviting the parts of our psyche operating from separation consciousness to join with the awakening? All of the above?
For me, it’s all of the above. It’s a ridiculously tall order, it’s ongoing, and if we have lifetimes to work it will still be an ongoing process.
There is always more to explore. And as we continue to heal, develop, and mature, living from it will always look a little different.
We can say that awakening is noticing what we are. Enlightenment is a relatively ongoing noticing of what we are, living from it, and having our human self mostly on board with it. (I am saying relatively and mostly since there is always further to go.) And we could perhaps call the continuing exploration of how to live from it – as we continue to heal, develop, and mature – self-realization.
I don’t know. The process seems to be more or less as I describe it here, and although I find this way of using the labels helpful I also know people use them in different ways.
Enlightenment is ongoing
In any case, when people say that enlightenment takes lifetimes, this is what comes to mind.
It’s obviously not the noticing of what we are since that doesn’t need to take long at all.
It’s the rest of it – and especially inviting all the parts of our human self operating from separation consciousness to join – that’s ongoing and takes whatever time we have to work with.
Perhaps instead of saying “enlightenment takes lifetimes”, it makes more sense saying….
Noticing what we are takes no time at all, and exploring how to live from it is an ongoing process.
Or…. the path to God is finte, and the path within God is infinite.
A few words about time
Some sticklers will argue about how I talk about time here. I deliberately talk about time in a conventional sense, as most people understand it.
Although noticing what we are happens here and now, and what we find is that we are capacity for space and time along with any other experience, it does take a few minutes to set it up before we can notice. If we are guided, it takes a few minutes to frame it verbally and give the pointers.
And although we are capacity for our experience of time and space and everything else, we can still talk about time and lifetimes and ongoing explorations. They are two sides of the same coin.