This is the first chapter if my recently released book Manual for the Soul: A Beginner's Guide. I've taken years of study on healing the human mind and body, combined with my own self development, and written a simple, practical guide to discovering your own unique form of Enlightenment.
I remember it as clearly as if it happened yesterday. My mother had just pulled up to the line at a red light and I was sitting in the back seat looking out the window at the street corner. There was nothing specifically interesting or special that I was seeing that led to that moment. It was just an empty street corner with a light pole and a crosswalk button I was passing by on the way to school for the day. But the young child of five or six, who had grown up in a world where TV was just emerging as the de facto babysitter, looked out the window and questioned, “Is there someone watching this – me – like the TV shows I watch?”
Reflecting back now, that was my moment. That was my unknown beginning. I call it the unknown beginning because it is only now, after years of my spiritual quest, that I can appreciate that moment for what it really was. It was my soul, my true being, my future enlightened self, poking through for the first time, hinting at the deeper connection that I would come to understand.
Your Unknown Awakening
The idea that I am proposing here is that there was a time in your past, likely when you were a young child, when you had an awakening. It might not have been some grand spectacle like you see in the movies, where the whole world becomes illuminated and you hear the voice of God. Instead, it was a small, subtle feeling or thought that you had one day. It could have lasted a mere second or stretched for hours, but it was the first time that your consciousness poked through into this physical life and had its first true view of the world.
It was that first awakening that led right to this moment, here and now, as you read these words. Your lifelong quest for answers to unknown questions started at that moment, most of us have just forgotten the significance. And what is most significant about that moment is that it was the precise beginning of your first enlightenment cycle.
Now you may be thinking, “How did this guy go from a random conscious moment on the street corner to enlightenment in a quick step?” And this is where we come to the first big thought introduction and change in perspective needed to get where we want to go. We must start by reflecting within ourselves and removing or changing our definition of enlightenment. Enlightenment is an extremely loaded word, one that conjures thoughts of Buddha levitating through the air or Jesus healing a crowd of people. These thoughts are precisely the things keeping us from appreciating our own evolution.
For the purposes of this book and the treasure hunt I am going to take you on, let’s just go with a basic understanding of enlightenment as being made aware of something that was previously hidden or misunderstood by your logical/emotional/reactive human mind. I know it’s a simple definition and could just be considered as a part of learning in life, but just work with me here. I am fond of telling people that enlightenment is simple. So simple in fact that it’s difficult because us humans like to make things difficult, so for such a big concept to be so simple just does not compute in our minds.
The Meaning of Life
I debated getting into the specifics of enlightenment and the meaning of life until the end of this manual (after you had gotten the full theory), but it seems best to just clear the air from the beginning. Again, don’t take it as an end-all-be-all, for it is something that cannot truly be expressed in words, but it’s a good place to start.
Working with the basic definition that I have already given for enlightenment, and pooling the knowledge gained from my outward studies of spiritual and religious texts and my inward studies in the halls of my own mind, (get ready for the big reveal…) the meaning of life is to experience it. Every now moment is as unique as the one-of-a-kind snowflake that you are, so combining each moment with your perception of it is what makes your reality. So fully experiencing that reality, wherever you are in your development, is the basic point of our existence.
Sneaky, Lazy, Enlightenment
Maybe this is what the title of this manual should be. It is basically the working premise that helped me arrive at my overall theory, and it clearly requires further explanation.
I like to tell people that I am extremely lazy, and that it’s a good thing I have some intelligence, or laziness would be my downfall. When I relate this idea to life and how many of us respond to things when we are given some task that we must complete, even when it is something we enjoy, often times the fact that we have been told to do it really makes us not want to. Like a child who just naturally liked to gather leaves in a pile. Once the parent makes it a chore, the natural interest is gone, and so is the joy.
As a workaround to this tendency, I present the possibility that during the state of the unknown awakening, the things you naturally did as a young spiritual being playing with humanity, as well as the experiences that you had, are all that are needed for you to realize your enlightenment. We just need to remember these things and connect the dots to give you your macro picture of enlightenment.
Without going too far into specifics and citing research articles (Research it yourself and you will have an enlightening journey!), studies have shown that the ability for us to remember what we are exposed to is phenomenal. For instance, if you were to walk past a store window with a display of items, look at it for ten seconds or so, and then proceed on, most people would be able to recall a few general items when asked about it relatively soon after. But if these same people were then put into a state of hypnosis, they would be able to recall every single thing in that window. We are the perfect recording devices; we just need to learn to harness this ability consciously to affect our lives.
How this relates to the topic of enlightenment and your unknown awakening is this: When we are younger, less programmed by the realities of the life we experience, you naturally act more from your “soul.” As time goes on, the collective consciousness of humanity sinks in, and we forget these early thoughts and practices, but the lessons remain imprinted on our consciousness. As you progress through the other stages described in this manual, you will revisit these early doings with new eyes, and as the mandala of your mind unfolds, you will see that you have already put in all the work required to be enlightened; all that you need now is a change in perspective.
This is why enlightenment is sneaky and lazy. Spiritual practices, meditation, energy movements… they are like spiritual homework. And who likes homework? Luckily, there was a younger version of you that just naturally did these things; you just have to find those timesheets and get your back pay. Of course, this is the tricky part. Collecting that back pay does require some effort and homework now, but a new perspective shows it to actually be lifework.
Anyone who has ever given meditation more than just a cursory try may be able to relate to this. You are sitting there, having a really “good meditation” (whatever that means), and some random thought arises of some “bad” thing you did — maybe as far back as when you were a child. First, you may question where that came from, but soon you look closer, realize that you felt guilty for doing that thing, had not yet forgiven yourself for doing it, and then proceed to do so. You realize you were a child learning to play life, and coincidentally enough, after that experience, you never did that “bad” thing again because you didn’t enjoy the feeling of the effect it had on others as well as yourself.
From the perspective of this manual, that early experience and the re-examination of it later, learning the truth about life that you learned from it, was a moment of enlightenment. That is a piece of the puzzle or a part of the picture of what your enlightenment looks like.
Remembering Your Unknown Awakening
When I first started explaining this concept to those around me who would become my soundboards and guinea pigs for the theory, one of the first questions I got was, “What if you can’t remember this early experience or don’t remember having one as a child?” My best and ultimate advice for this is to simply start with the earliest memory of a spiritual/consciousness nature and work from there.
Even if that first moment happened at some point while reading this beginning chapter, that is the perfect place to start. Look how much has changed already. If nothing else, you have this crazy new theory that you have heard and can dismiss shortly, but I’m sure it at least provoked some line of thought different from any you previously had. Close your eyes, go back to that earliest memory, and just feel what it felt like to have that shift.
Next, find some sort of meditation. Now I know I referred to meditation as homework earlier, and to this day it sometimes can still seem so, but it’s important. I have my personal preference and will get into that another time, but for the sake of speaking to as wide an audience as possible, just start meditating. Focus on your breath, repeat a mantra, stare at a dot on the wall, listen to a metronome… do something that starts to focus your mind for just a moment on a task that does not require human thought. As soon as a thought arises, which it will, and you are able to catch it, which will take practice, simply return to non-thought.
It is from this non-thought place that the thought of that “bad” thing you did as a child arises. Many are quick to jump on themselves for not having non-thought, but it’s all a matter of perspective. Every thought you have is some aspect of yourself vying for your attention. Once it is addressed, that voice will sit back down and rejoin the experience of life.
As you go through this process, practice meditation and begin to learn to quell the shouting voices in your mind as their desires are at least acknowledged and addressed, you will begin to uncover older memories and forgotten truths of youth.
Throughout my known awakening process, I would randomly remember that thought I had as a kid, staring out the car window at the corner. For years the memory would come up, I would quickly reflect on it, and then dismiss it as a normal kid experience. Then I heard it: “True intelligence is the ability to see things from a different perspective.”
As I incorporated this “enlightening” knowledge into my being, it began to transform how I looked at things and helped me realize that it was actually something that I had been doing for quite a while. Having studied psychology and worked as a therapist, my job was to try and understand where others were coming from, taking the knowledge that I had acquired about how to help them, and then relating it to them in a way with which their unique perspective would most identify.
The next time my memory arose, instead of again dismissing it as just a random moment from the childhood of a kid who liked to think about television, I instead asked myself why the memory stood out, and I realized that I related to much of the world through television, and thus that was how my higher consciousness best knew to reach out to me. “Is there another audience watching me right now, like I watch television?” And right there embedded in that sentence is a question that any spiritual teacher might use to point out the moment of enlightenment available: Who is this “I” that watches television?
Memories versus Consciousness
The immediate rebuttal that arises in my mind is, “Well, aren’t those just memories that you are giving extra importance to?” And, as with all things in this dualistic dimension we find ourselves in, I would say “yes.” And “no.”
This is not the first memory that I can recall in my life, in fact, it’s not even close. At this point, if I really try and am being completely honest, my first real memory is probably from around the age of three, and it has to do with one of those blow-up floating toys that you use in a pool. This toy happened to be shaped like an alligator, and in the scene housed in my memory that alligator was real to that little boy, and he was afraid. Perhaps it was fear itself that caused that memory to be imprinted; emotion has been shown to have a direct impact on our ability to form memories. And there are other memories between that period and the day on the street corner, but that day there was a clear difference.
It wasn’t just the conscious memory of life. It was a specific type of inner reflection, a shift, if you will, that rippled throughout time. For me, it was in the back seat of a car, staring at a lamppost, viewing my life like an audience member watches a television show. For my spiritual teacher, it was a day in his youth when he walked into a field, sat on a rock, and looked at the micro life in a pond below him. At the same moment, he saw his reflection as well as the reflection of the sky and clouds above him, with all of the space behind that, and the grander perspective became apparent.
The fact that you are here now, reading this book, I put forward as proof that you, too, have had a moment like this, and it will soon be remembered — if it hasn’t already. The theory that I wrote down after my first true meditation and Conscious Awakening was this:
“Your inner-self/guide is you in the future teaching you life lessons ahead of time. All you have to do is pay attention. Or perhaps it is the future self that you want to be, and the psychic part of your mind knows what it would take to get there, and gives you that future self as your guide to self-actualization.”
When I read that passage as I was working through the conceptualization of this book in my head, I was astonished. It was as if I could have written it yesterday, but I don’t remember it at all. I have come to the realization that like all studious researchers, I developed a theory and then went about putting in the research and legwork (or in this case, mindwork) to prove it. And while the proof in this instance is of a variety that is not easily measured, I leave it to you the readers to put it to the test and report your findings.
- In some physical form, whether with a writing utensil and paper or on your favorite electronic device, begin to sketch out or form a timeline of your life, and try to remember your earliest moment of ‘consciousness.’ It can be a little tricky because it may not necessarily be the same as your first memory. I have memories from a very young age, but that day on the street corner was different from all those other memories. See if you can locate that day. If not, don’t fret. Just remember the earliest moment of questioning “what’s going on,” to put it plainly, and start from there. Even if that is this moment right now, or some moment between starting this book and now, mark it down on your timeline. If you do this and later remember an earlier moment, simply add it in before your previously identified unknown awakening and proceed.
- Try and remember back to when you were young, and think and feel about what that version of you really wanted in life. If you can remember the first time someone asked you what you would wish for if you had three wishes, think back to the answers you arrived at when you actually gave it thought, later off on your own.
This can be tricky for people with traumatic childhood experiences yet unresolved, so care should be taken and professional help (whatever that may mean to each individual explorer) sought when necessary.