Look, Ma, I’m Enlightened! Now What? Therapy with the Spiritually Awake

If your therapist is the Buddha, you’ll become enlightened in the process.                           ~ Ram Dass

 If their client is the Buddha, the therapist will become enlightened in the process.               ~ Reworking of Ram Dass quote by Dan Metevier

I have been working lately with an individual who reports to have (and, by all appearances, has) recently gone through what some call a “spiritual emergence” or “spiritual awakening.” Their perspective on life, the universe, and everything has shifted toward one where they seem to have a “knowing” (their word) that, in fact, the universe is perfect as it is and everything is just as it should be. This person is working with me to address what I have jokingly called “Post-Enlightenment Stress Disorder” and “Adjustment Disorder with Mixed Grandiose and Impatient Moods.” Rather than me saying more at this point, I’ll share with you something this person wrote recently and gave me permission to publish here and pass along to you with no strings attached.

“In the beginning, everything was like just one thing and I didn’t know where I ended and ‘not-I’ left off. I use the term ‘not-I’ to describe how it seemed to be for others. After a while, I began to sense that others did not see the world as I did and instead saw everything and everyone as separate. I figured out later that this viewpoint was the ‘model’ they were able to imagine at that time. Anyway, they did some rather strange things, in my view, that seemed to stress them out. I didn’t know what to make of this, so I decided to keep quiet about it all and see what happened. In order to get along, it also became my habit to act as if everything was separate and, after a while, it seemed as if this was becoming true for me as well. I guess I took on that illusion.

“I grew up with this ‘separateness’ viewpoint and engaged in activities that, looking back now, seem somewhat insane. I was active in a religious organization, which told me they preached the “one, true religion” (I have since heard that other religions make the same claim). I went along to get along, or whatever the saying is, although part of me saw great contradictions between what was said and what was done. I soon became disenchanted with religious doctrine, although I saw the people involved as good, in and of themselves. Here, too, I eventually came to see that the doctrine was a model of as much as they were able to imagine at that point in their lives. Anyway, I floated around in what I’ll call an ‘agnostic mode’ for many years, not quite knowing what the real deal was.

“Then, trying to find something that made sense to me, I started reading about quantum physics, so-called Eastern philosophies, and so on. The more I explored, the more it seemed that there were many ‘paths’ to the ‘Truth’ (whatever that is) and each had both valuable things and misleading things to say. Never being a ‘one size fits all’ kind of person, I did not become attached to any one of these paths, but chose cafeteria-style from each whatever felt true to me at the time. Of course, this changed over the years, but worked for me up to a point.

“I say ‘up to a point’ because my life was not always a bowl of cherries. It included frequent bouts of depression and anxiety which, in retrospect, were probably ‘calls to awakening’ that I did not answer. Recently, however, I had yet another episode, probably the worst in my life. Somehow, with your help, I crawled out of the pit it felt like I was in. As you know, within the safety of your patient companionship, I researched quite a few more areas of spiritual practice (to use overused words), searching and somehow hoping for relief from my suffering.

“Very recently, I came to a place along my path (or paths, really, since I never settled on one) where, as you know, things seemed to turn upside down and everything that I believed was even half-way true became clearly false. All of a sudden, I went from ‘many paths lead to one Truth’ to ‘all paths lead away from the Truth.’ What the what? How could that be? Well, it dawned on me that any religious belief, spiritual practice, theological philosophy, or mystic tradition (yes, even those!) just distracted me from the experience I can only call ‘knowing’ what was Truly Real. Don’t get me wrong, I still have no real idea and have a full understanding now of the meaning of the phrase ‘don’t-know mind.’

In any case, the experience that many people call ‘intuition’ seemed to kick in more and more and I found myself doing less and less of what might be called ‘linear thinking.’ Answers just seem to be there in a blob with no noticeable rhyme or reason. They just popped up, seemingly out of nowhere. It was like I had an ever-growing connection to some infinitely large database in the sky.

“Further, the sensation of not knowing where I leave off and ‘not-I’ begins returns to me on occasion. This includes a feeling like I’m floating around, like in an ocean, being hugged by everything around me. It’s weird-sounding, I know.

“This all resulted in my experiencing what I feel are two sides of the same coin. One side allows me to experience a great deal of joy almost constantly and a feeling of love for everyone and everything around me. I still have this and it doesn’t feel like it’s going away any time soon. On the other hand, and this is where I feel I need your help, I am struggling a bit to feel comfortable living in a world where most or all of the people I encounter do not see the world in the same way I do (although, in a sense, I’m used to that by now). They all, to varying degrees, seem to believe the stuff I used to believe and continue to suffer as a result.

“I know I still have much work to do because I’m aware of my own occasional impatience with other people and my own frequent feelings of grandiosity, as if I was somehow better or smarter than they are. You’ve borne the brunt of some of that yourself. Sorry! Anyway, my work now involves adjusting to this new way of being in such a way that I don’t cause anyone else to suffer. I have no reason or desire to come across as ‘holier than thou,’ so to speak, and feel only a strong desire to make this world a better place for everyone, one moment at a time.

“For a while, I felt a bit lonely and had a mild to moderate desire to talk about this with someone who also saw the world in this way. I was not able to find anyone that I really trusted (also part of my ongoing work). But, more and more, I began to trust my own devices, so to speak, and bounce things off of my Self, or various gurus and spiritual teachers, the latter in the form of books or YouTube videos. Not exactly warm and cozy, but quite satisfying nevertheless.

“So, here I am, still on the ‘pathless path’ (clichés like that actually make sense to me now), yet also knowing that the so-called path no longer leads anywhere but right here, wherever I am. It’s like I got to the top of the proverbial mountain and only found a mirror there. ‘You’re it,’ the sign on the mirror said. With that as context, I hope you can help me, or at least be there with me, as I listen ever more closely to the ever-growing ‘stillness.’”

So there you have it! Not sure what I can really do for this person other than listen with wide-eyed attention and try to learn something myself. I suspect that this is not the end of this particular story.


Copyright 2015 Daniel J. Metevier