Lao Tsu said that anyone who talked about the way didn't understand it... then proceeded to write a book on it, so take his advice for what it is worth.
At the library, there are dozens of books on spiritual growth and the Tao and enlightenment. They all sound the same. They have a shared idea of what is deep and what is profound. The books on tape share a soft-spoken, educated, priveleged voice. They talk with reverance of nature. If you meet them, the people who make a living by pointing The Way, they always have soft hands.
I was raised with many people of deep wisdom. Most not only reveranced nature but had spent much of their life living close to it or wrestling their living from the land on ranches or in forests or mines. Their hands were never soft. They rarely spoke. They listened, and you learned to listen in their presence.
I'll tell you of my moment of enlightenment (but be careful, since we have all been told that it can't be explained). While white water rafting at the age of 17, I was flipped and trapped under a waterfall. Despite wet suit and flotation vest, I was pressed hard against the river bed. I was down long enough to not just realize that I was going to die and there was nothing I could do about it but for the fact to sink in.
I didn't want to die, but in a second or so I realized that didn't matter, since once I was dead my identity, including my wish to live, would be obliterated. In a matter of a minute or so, it wouldn't matter to me.
I moved on, then, thinking of my poor friends who would miss me... but in ten years I would just be at most a painful memory. In twenty or thirty no one would remember me. I didn't matter.
In perthaps a hundred years, no one would remember these friends or my family. They too would be obliterated. They didn't matter.
In a thousand years or ten thousand, no one would remember my nation. It too would share in oblivion and prove to not matter, to never have mattered.
The same for my species, and the earth and the universe and God. When the last star winks out, none of it will have mattered... and in ten billion years I will still be nothing...and equal to God.
That was the first stage in enlightenment, to understand that nothing matters. Hence everything is equal.
Since I was going to die and it didn't matter, I had the freedom to choose how to die for no other reason than my personal preferance: would I prefer to die with calm acceptance or to fight against the inevitable purely for the sake of fighting. I admired fighters, so I fought, and dragged myself across the rocks of the riverbed beyond the undertow and lived.
This is the part that authors have a hard time with- describing the clarity of perception in the moments after satori. You know that you can crush rocks in your hands, run up cliffs. You can hear individual insects under specific rocks on the other side of the valley, colors are clear and so are humans... It is also not important. It's just kind of cool.
To sum up- nothing matters, but some stuff matters to me.
Artificial priorities disappear, meaningless questions ("Why are we here?") are outed as time wasting, self-indulgent, self-centered bullshit. Buddhists speak of attachment. Attachment is the 'therefore', eg "I love you, therefore..." You must love me back? Not likely. Nothing bad must happen to you? Can't control the universe, partner.
So I love because I love without expectation of results or even meaning. I spend time with the people I enjoy having in my world and when they move on, they move on. I act the way I would be proud to act not to set an example or because I should but because it pleases me. I like strong people. I will be strong. I like skillful people, I will develop skill. I like people who take care of others, I will protect and defend and if I die doing the job, cool. Because I am going to die anyway and nothing will ever have mattered.
The first stage:The worst part about becoming one with the universe is that you can't be tickled, since you are the universe and you can't tickle yourself.
Second stage: What do you mean? Of course you can tickle yourself.
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