December 13, 2015 10:43 AM
Will your relationships change when you wake up to enlightenment? Will you see your friends and family and lovers differently?
The short answer is: Yes, your relationships will change dramatically, and not in a good way.
At least initially.
Here’s an excerpt from an email from Alex, a psychology student who is rightly concerned enlightenment might screw up his current relationships:
I’m afraid that if I do attain this realization then I won’t be able to have any of the personal relationships that I have with people: my girlfriend, my family, my friends. I won’t see myself as Alex, and I guess I won’t see them as who I think they are now. I’m afraid my entire societal life will become meaningless.
…But what will I be if I lose this Ego, will I even see myself as a person? Will I lose my will or motivation to help humanity? What do you think I should do? Can you have the same kind of relationships with people, or better relationships with people when you’re enlightened? Can you ever feel an emotional connection to one person, can you love them in a way that’s different from the way you love everything else? Thank you for your time.
Before I answer, we need to get on the same page with our terminology and understanding. Please review this “Map of Consciousness” and read the short descriptions of the levels. Pay particular attention to the Witness, I AM, and the Mystic levels.
What most people consider enlightenment—the initial, life changing experience at least—is the deep realization of the Witness level. So what is important to the Witness?
The only thing the Witness values is detaching from—and remaining detached from—anything that is observed.
“Neti, neti, neti. Not this, not this, not this.” You detach from everything and in so doing everything becomes One Big Thing. Everything immediately appears both outside of you AND inside of you concurrently.
Everything you witness is valued the same: A tree is no more important than a rock which is no more important than a baby or your lover.
Why? Because all boundaries are seen as mental concepts, illusions. Everything is One Thing and to distinguish between them is to fall into the Grand Illusion of Separation.
If you stop here in your development—and many, many people do because many spiritual teachers stopped here—then you will live an oddly dualistic lifestyle: You will see and experience the One Big Thing, but you will constantly succumb to Separation in order to function in the social world. You will write off these “slips” into Separation as conditioning and secretly hope the conditioning eventually wears off either through time or practice.
As a result of your desire to remain in the detached but unified state and your struggles with “conditioning,” your relationships will fall into a terrible, downward spiral.
Why? Because Absolute truth (Unity) says your relationships are no more important than rocks, so you naturally detach from even your feelings toward your friends and family and lovers. Additionally, because you can’t deny you still have feelings for them (relative truth/separation), all interactions with them will come across in an oddly, push-pull, conflicted, and confused manner.
Obviously this is not going to help any existing relationship.
This inner conflict—if you don’t stop your development by writing off Separation as simple conditioning—will take you to the next stage of your spiritual development which I call I AM.
The primary motivation of this level is to resolve the Paradox of Separation and Unity—of the differences between the manifest world (the Seen) with those of the Witness (the experiencer of the Seen).
I originally wrote about this paradox here. When you read it, replace “The Mystic” with “I AM” (I hadn’t broken these two stages apart at that point). Basically, one sees that Unity and Separation are opposite ends of the same Thread of Truth—that one cannot exist without the other, so the student at the I AM level learns to grasp the entire thread rather than just one end.
Will the I AM level—will resolving the paradox of Unity and Separation—help with your relationships?
Yes. But they won’t be nearly as solid or stable or promising (or as happy) as before you woke up. They’ll be better than when you were going through the Witness level, but they’ll still be rather… sterile.
Why? Because up until this point of your spiritual development, you’ve been developing your inner experience of the exterior world. You’ve been developing your mind. You’ve been developing the way you think.
What was important to you—your mortgage, your job, world events, the neighborhood watch, etc.—is no longer important to you. Just like your inner experiences (your past, your roles, your memories) are no longer important—are no longer taken personally—the same goes for practically all your exterior experiences.
But those things are still very important to your family and friends and coworkers. And yes, these things are very important to your lover.
Suddenly you no longer give a crap about practically everything you had in common with your friends and lovers—and the foundation of a lot of relationships is in shared interests.
Sucks. I know. But there’s hope…
While it may not be apparent from the Map alone why the Mystic level is so beneficial to relationships, it is if we think about it: The Mystic level is all about relationships.
The Mystic Level is the level of communion with the Divine.
The primary motivation of this level is to get to know the Divine better.
The main things we value at this level are synchronistic events (synchronicity implies God), communing with the Divine, and flowing with Life.
At this level, we are primarily influenced by the CAUSE of the increase in odds-defying good luck. We discover that the less there is of “me,” the more there is of the Divine (as evidenced by an increase in synchronicity/good luck).
Communion. Getting to know. Flowing.
While the Witness and I AM levels are all about opening the mind, the Mystic and all the levels above are about opening the heart.
Love. Outward flowing, radiant, unconditional capital-L Love pouring forth from you.
The main practice of the Mystics is: The less there is of “you” (the archetypical Self: self-control, self-centeredness, self-concern, …), the more there is of (your name for the Universal Intelligence), or as I like to say, “The less there is of me, the more there is of Her.”
Lots of people have an issue with this mystical side of enlightenment, but the logic is this: Practically every spiritual seeker agrees that their luck (synchronicity) increases as they become more spiritual (less ego). Synchronicity implies a Universal Intelligence is acting in one’s best interest. Synchronistic events increase a thousand-fold upon enlightenment. Synchronicity implies God.
Ergo: The less there is of you, the more there is of the Divine.
For the Mystic, it’s all about getting to know and improving one’s relationship with the Divine.
Because of the lessons of the Witness, we see everything as the One Big Thing, and so now as the Mystic we see this One Big Thing as the Divine.
Because of the lessons of I AM, we see all the separate things—the manifest things—also as the Divine.
And we come to love them all.
Suddenly, where your relationships felt quite sterile and cerebral, with the heart opening of the Mystic, you now feel nothing but love for… for everything and everyone.
You love that tree. You love that rock. You love your family. You love your coworkers. You love your lover.
Not I-also-want-something-from-you-in-return love, but I-love-you-wholeheartedly-and-unconditionally Love.
And while you still may not take the mortgage and neighborhood watch so seriously, this deep, unconditional, radiant, dare I say Divine Love that pours out of you directly toward and into your friends and family and coworkers (and your lover) far outweighs any differences in shared interests.
Why? Because the less there is of you, the more there is of love for them.
Will your relationships be the same as before you woke up?
No, because with a love like that, they’ll be a thousand-fold better.
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