There is a tendency on the spiritual path to focus on the mind-qualities of illumination — such as clarity, insight, and wisdom — and to perpetuate the idea of an all-seeing, all-knowing God-like state as the pinnacle of self-realization. This emphasis on mind-illumination is prevalent in both old and new spiritual teachings of enlightenment.
But a great error is made when supreme wisdom is upheld as the most precious prize. Not only does it keep the carrot of awakening just up ahead and never quite reached, but it also ignores the vital importance of the heart. It is only through the tenderness of the heart that an illuminated mind can flow into our humanity.
The heart is what feels, and feelings must be felt in a direct way — otherwise all sorts of imbalances arise. I’m not talking about the drama of emotions — I’m talking about the tenderest of feelings, those subtle whispers of doubt and confusion and failure and rejection and loss that are inevitable parts of the human experience. Even enlightened beings have a human experience. When this human experience is not admitted, a veneer of perfection gets presented to the world while the heart either atrophies or becomes a monster. This often comes to light through a personal crisis in a spiritual teacher’s private life, or through a scandal involving power or sex or money issues in a spiritual community.
Holding up the enlightened state as some kind of supreme wisdom gained at the expense of tenderness of the heart is no different from the patriarchy of religion or of politics. In both religion and politics, there is mind over heart. There is no synthesis of the two — and in the lack of synthesis we lose our humanity, we lose our true power, and we lose our true authority. We lose our true sovereignty because we hand over our authority to an external projection — an external father figure who we believe will save us, an intermediary between our innermost and God, between our inner knowing and truth. The search for enlightenment often recapitulates that kind of patriarchy.
The time has come to admit to our humanity, so that the mind’s illumination can filter into the belly of our earthly experience. I’m not talking about flitting in and out of an awakened state and a human state. I’m not talking about a polarity, a dichotomy. I’m talking about a merging of the two — a true inner marriage.
The heart becomes illuminated when we allow our allegiance to truth to support us in seeing beyond beliefs — beyond concepts or ideas or hopes or fears — to what is truly here right now. It’s a cutting-through, a piercing of the veil of projection based on conditioning. When that illuminated view can filter in, through humility and through tenderness, into the depths of who we are, the heart stops being a reservoir of hurt and defense and need, and starts being an open vessel for love.
Now we can start to live with illuminated mind and illuminated heart. It is the end of an inner patriarchy, the end of giving our authority over to an imagined power. It is the end of the myth of enlightenment as an elevated superhuman God-like state.
It is the beginning of a new world within you. And the beginning of a new world within you is the beginning of a new world.
photo by Kavi Jezzie Hockaday