Is enlightenment possible in this day and age? Or is enlightenment a phenomenon relegated to the realm of the ancients? If it were offered to you, would you accept? How much would you have to change? How much would it change you?
Having been a spiritual seeker for two decades, Dave Oshana says that in the early morning hours of June 19, 2000, his life changed completely. What occurred, he says, was spontaneous enlightenment.
What did you experience at 5 a.m. on June 19, 2000?
Enlightenment. It is still resonating through my being like a roaring tsunami wave of energy.
Before I opened my eyes I could see the room and all the particles inside my body. Each had its own source of illumination. There were no dark corners. I knew something was different but could not immediately identify it. It seemed normal and familiar, but at the same time hugely different from my previous life. I could see my life’s mission flash before my eyes.
I could not remember what it was like to have been “me” the night before.
What was different for you physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually after this experience?
My lifelong search was completely over.
I couldn’t find problems in my mind. I experienced the space outside my mind: as I walked up a local road, the dramatic stories which normally would spring up and branch out like trees failed to appear. I was surrounded by tree stumps! I wandered through a grim part of London, the Valley of Death, and I feared no evil.
I could see how others were trapped in their mental illusions. I felt bliss all of the time even in dreams or during physical pain. I was overjoyed to wait in a long line. I could feel the energy streaming through my cells. These experiences are still ongoing and have been continuous since they started.
How did you know it was enlightenment?
I didn’t know what it was! I didn’t know what to say or think. I was incredibly amused by this. Until then I had been provocatively challenging my spiritual peers with the statement, “Enlightenment does not exist!” I had not stopped seeking; I had simply stopped believing everything that I thought I heard. I had been assuming that all spiritual teachers were talking about the same thing. Suddenly, I wasn’t sure about that.
I instinctively knew that my incessant lifelong search was over. Whatever it was, and it seemed to be Enlightenment, it was good enough for me! My mind was flooded with random quotes about Enlightenment, which I had previously completely misunderstood and now I saw what they meant.
Now I knew that enlightenment did exist, I not only had to apologize to my spiritual peers but I had to offer it to them. Overnight, I went from being a doubting person to one who could accept the possibility of anything (after inspection, of course).
Why did the enlightenment experience happen to you?
I don’t know, but I am glad that it did! Why does your lover love you? You don’t know but you are mighty glad that she does – even humble, perhaps?
After talking through it, sharing it and expanding it with others, it started to make sense. But I never needed it to make sense intellectually. It makes sense on an altogether different level.
All my life I didn’t want anything as much as enlightenment. I was willing to give up my life – but it still did not come – because I was not fully participating in life. I had to be in the world but not of it.
I never felt that this life was being lived by me until now. Now I am alive!
Was it your cumulative practices over the years that enabled you to be receptive to such a transformation?
My answer today would be “yes,” but it used to be “no.” When I first got enlightened, I considered it an irrelevant question; a person did not need to copy me. The awakened state was available here and now; I could lead anyone into it. But typically it was temporary – even if it lasted for many months. Eventually a breakthrough came in my practices when I started to drop my awareness out of mind and go on fantastic journeys within my body.
There have been gurus and seekers for ages, but it seems only few people actually become enlightened. What type of preparation or personal responsibility makes the likelihood for enlightenment more possible?
The biggest ability required is the ability to encounter the unknown and go forward into it.
Responsibility includes the “ability to respond appropriately.” For the spiritual person, the best response to an initially confusing situation is to do nothing (where practical). When the mind avoids entanglement, then true guidance can take over. This is what Jesus and Buddha did before their enlightenment: extensively hanging out and doing nothing in the wilderness or sitting under the bodhi tree waiting for true inspiration to strike, so the story says.
When you are willing to encounter the unknown, then you have Zen mind. You could fall in love with the beauty of a single cherry blossom or face your death unflinchingly. Master that, and you will have all the other necessary qualities. A healthy body and mind helps, too.
Getting it right requires discrimination, getting it wrong could burn several lifetimes (without burning karma). The guidance or presence of an enlightened person is strongly recommended; don’t practice this at home without supervision.
Full enlightenment is full responsibility for everything. Forget yourself and everything is now yours to take care of. Remember yourself and you will lose absolutely everything, including your own mind.
Start by facing your fears.
If a seeker really wants Truth above all else, they will arrive eventually. If they secretly want something else, they need to discover what it is and then either complete it or drop it.
Be a skeptic; don’t get attached to any beliefs. Notice what it is to be a seeker. Go outside your comfort zone five days a week.
Is enlightenment for everyone?
Enlightenment exists already, but it is not noticed. It is The Witness of your life. It’s yours already. Your life becomes enlightened when you notice it.
The identity has to get out of the way for enlightenment to permanently establish itself. It’s painful for a person to give up their identity. It does not even make sense.
The false identity (ego) resists enlightenment like the Israelite captives resisted freedom from slavery. Moses had to first take them through the wilderness (emptiness). They liked it for the first day; then they got bored.
The ego is like a rock holding down a sunflower. When the rock is removed the sunflower faces the sun. The sunflower is human awareness, the sun is consciousness.
An ego-free state is completely open to life.
Enlightenment is the natural state. It should be sought with the help of an enlightened guide to avoid getting lost. Christopher Columbus’ miscalculations meant that he discovered the potato and not yoga.
Must we be truly ready before we can slip into that experience, and is that why we don’t hear about people becoming enlightened very often?
People slip into awakening all the time but it often closes down because they cannot accept it. I am not only talking about in my group, I mean out there on the street, in the trailer park or the Beverly Hills mansion.
Awakening is not enlightenment but God’s tickle. Enlightenment is the climax, the point of no return. For some, the tickle is too much. I have met individuals who wondered if they were mad – until a spiritual teacher helped them make sense of their awakening experiences.
You can prepare yourself by becoming more flexible, by loosening your self-limiting beliefs about reality. The new wine will only find a permanent home in new skins, thus sayeth the Lord. Enlightenment transmission is the new wine.
What does it take for someone to be truly ready to become enlightened?
Face everything and avoid nothing.
What effect has the enlightenment experience had on your life, personally?
I don’t know my old life anymore. I don’t know what it was like to have been me anymore. It’s like an old dream.
I now live for others – 24 hours a day.
I used to be a confused, private individual who thought he was a nobody and all the time planned how he could be a helpful somebody. I am now a public individual who actually helps others by some mysterious means and does not know what a somebody is.
I feel compelled to help others even if I temporarily take on their symptoms. Miracles now happen so frequently that they are normal, everyday events.
© 2009 Tim Miejan. All Rights Reserved.
Tim Miejan is editor and publisher of The Edge magazine, based in Minneapolis, MN and manages their website. Tim lives in Woodbury, MN, with his wife Rachel, his basenji, Ghandi and his two cats, Sunti and Cleo.
Dave Oshana will be in Maine at The Landing, 353 Pine Point Rd., Scarborough, ME, October 8th 7:00-9:00pm. FMI: (207) 772-6757. Private sessions will follow for more information (612) 210-7936.