Each of us has his or her favored path to enlightenment and mine is, and has always been, the path of awareness.
The path of awareness is in many ways a western development. Its closest Hindu equivalent is jnana yoga or the path of wisdom.
It traces back to the growth movement of the Sixties – encounter groups, sensitivity training, consciousness raising, the est Training, rebirthing, Zen workshops, enlightenment intensives, and many other growth activities that stressed being here now, raising one’s awareness, and breaking through resistance and irresponsibility.
Critics of the growth movement called it the “Me Generation.” Well, it was about self-awareness. But it was neither narcissistic nor trivial. If anything it led to a greater sense of responsibility for and commitment to all aspects of oneself and one’s world.
Among the consequences that flow from self-awareness, two are important to me: transparency and emergence.
By “transparency” I mean congruence between what is happening inside of me and how I’m presenting myself. I also mean acknowledging what is actually going on with me, being honest, revealing myself. As far as is prudent in a world where some opponents can be people who exploit transparency.
One doesn’t want to belabor transparency and talk about every burp and hiccup. One doesn’t want to be maudlin. But one does want to be open and clear with others.
The value of transparency is that I don’t need to manage my impression. What you see is what you get. There are no rehearsals, no attempts to make up for gaffes, and no need to keep a historical record of anything. Granted it does require keeping one eye on being graceful, which can be an early casualty, it doesn’t mean that life is a performance, that I have to keep up with anyone else, or that I need to be any other way than I am.
By “emergence” I mean standing forth from the constraints, worries, fears and other barriers that keep us hidden inside and out of touch with our own personal power. Emergence can be effected by telling the truth, sharing a withhold, letting go of fear, breaking through suppression, taking a stand, making a promise, and many other kinds of breakthrough actions.
Emergence is something I can’t do only once and I’m finished with the whole business. I have to emerge daily. Yesterday’s emergence must be followed by today’s emergence, although it does get easier.
And emergence means that I don’t prefer character armoring or defensiveness or fighting for my share of the pie over standing forth unbound by any constraint, inner or outer.
Transparency and emergence, to my way of thinking, are natural correctives to some tendencies of our 3D social life. Much of our need for wealth, acquisitiveness, and endless striving is bound up with managing our impression in the eyes of others.
There’s a very famous chapter in Erving Goffman’s Presentation of Self in Everyday Life where Preedy goes for a swim. Preedy stage manages each stroke, when to rise up out of the water, how to glide back in, how to stand looking out to sea, etc. All of it is constructed for maximum effect – to impress, influence and attract.
Yet what Preedy wants remains forever outside his grasp because he seeks it outside himself. The flow of energy that comes from congruence, the innocence that comes from honesty, the relaxed frame of mind that comes from ending seeking and acquiring never occur for Preedy. And so he must swim, and preen, and posture.
Now we’re in an era where all our tendencies to acquire, impress and posture are being shown to be empty. All the residue, the flotsam and jetsam of a life lived to impress, is standing before us, waiting to be released.
I’ve been having a great number of fond remembrances these days of the Sixties – what we strove for, what we accomplished, what we enjoyed. Somehow that age was a trailer of what is coming down the pike now. I expect consciousness raising, communication and listening skills, responsibility, breakthrough and all the matters we studied then and introduced into our lives to be raised again and this time mastered.
Only this time, what we were about won’t be mistaken as entitlement or self-fixation, but as what is required to build a world that works. I’m excited by what I conceive of as the flowering of civilization in the months ahead – from every possible perspective. We joked about it being a “New Age” then. But now it will be. And this time we will build it. And everyone, with whatever skill they have – listening, responsibility, team development, loving, healing – is invited to contribute.
I’m not waiting for the last cabal to fall. The time to let the sunshine in is now. The time to open ourselves and let love in is here. This is indeed the beginning of the New Age and we are the ones who will usher it in.