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Five Ways to Make Enlightenment Work in Everyday Life

By Catherine Dowling

Many of us experience moments of enlightenment—41% of us in fact, or so a 2002 Gallup poll tells us. Enlightenment is that state of radically expanded awareness where the boundaries of our individual self melt into a blissful union with the life force. We are at one with the cosmos and feel a sense connection, love, and peace that’s beyond rational understanding. Some people, the Gallup organization for example, call it a religious experience. Others call it mystical, an awakening, an altered or peak state, or (in the 1960s) a trip. But no matter how wonderful our period of radical awareness is or how long it lasts, it passes. We may be transformed by it in some way, but the life we return to is not. So how do we put radical awareness—enlightenment—into practice in our daily lives?

We arrive at radical awareness through whatever practice helps us transcend ourselves; it’s different for everybody. Meditation, prayer, breathwork, dance, sex, and psychotropic drugs are just a few of the ways we go beyond the limits of our normal waking state consciousness. But we don’t have to engage in a “practice;” the experience can and often does occur spontaneously. So, the method we use to enter a mystical state is not important. What is important is that the state itself gives us the road map for transforming the way we engage with life on a day to day basis. And even if we’ve never experienced radical awareness, this road map still works.

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