Can they ever be integrated?
On my own journey one of the most challenging issues I faced was finding a way to live with, and integrate, two seemingly completely opposite types of consciousness: On the one hand there was Enlightenment, a mystical and transcendent consciousness which, by it's very nature is completely beyond the personal, and on the other hand there was personal growth – which, as implied in its name, focusses intimately and directly on to the personal.
One reason this was an issue is because one of the striking features of awakening into Enlightenment is that it immediately becomes clear that, although on the surface each of us seems to be a separate individual who is distinct from everyone else, this is not the full picture as beneath we are all actually simply aspects of the same sacred One divine source.
That we appear to be separate is just that, an appearance.
With this there is no longer a sense of identification as an individual, and instead home becomes the unchanging infinite, what need is there for any kind of personal growth?
Teachers and Gurus have for eons said the same, and in addition pointed out that to focus on the person, as personal growth or therapy obviously do, was to look in completely the wrong direction for spiritual Enlightenment.
The reason I experienced a dilemma was that whilst it was clear that any sense of identity as a person was a complete illusion, paradoxically I also knew that the personal growth process I had undertaken over many years had opened up my ability to fully realise that transcendent truth clearly.
I had been conditioned by the culture I was raised in to develop a contracted and curtailed sense of self and it was my ongoing work on myself that had freed this up and allowed the fullest opening and deepening into Enlightenment to eventually become a consistent and day to day embodied and living reality.
It is not that my personal growth work created any Enlightenment, it didn’t, but rather that Enlightenment was always there, however I was simply unable to remain awake within it since, and frustratingly, unresolved personal material kept intruding and obscuring, like a cloud passing before the sun, what was directly in front of, and within, me.
Up until now the established Enlightenment traditions have shied away from personal growth work not only because it seemingly points in the wrong direction, but also because it is only recently, with the advent of the growth in understanding of the impact of upbringing on human development, that there has been any real way to effectively address personal issues.
Both of these have contributed to the many examples of Spiritual teachers who have had both profound realisations of the transcendent nature of reality, and have also become caught up in sexual or financial scandals when their own unresolved, or undeveloped, areas of their psyche have intruded.
The Third Way
Long ago I had learned that when faced with any seeming paradox, rather than try and push for a resolution or simply pick one side, it was more useful to hold one aspect of the dilemma as though in one hand and the other aspect in the other hand, and then wait for a third way to naturally emerge from between the two.
A way that both contained, and went beyond, what had previously seemed like irreconcilable opposites.
Therefore I waited, and as I waited, I frequently wrestled with my dilemma as I was consistently being told, either directly or implicitly, that pursuing both was not OK.
Within the Enlightenment camp I was told to drop the personal work by those who had had profound realisations, and indeed that continuing with this was a sign of misunderstanding of Enlightenment.
On the personal growth side I was also being told by therapists and psychologists that any talk of Enlightenment as part of who we are was merely a form of disassociation.
Nevertheless, although not at all easy, I held my ground as I had learned long ago to trust my perceptions and intuitions as valuable pointers to truth, and I carried on sharing Enlightenment and, at the same time, working therapeutically with people.
As I did this, an evolutionary third way began to emerge. By actively exploring both aspects of our nature, the individual and the infinite, people could not only discover who they really were, previously the province of only saints and sages, they could also begin to live a fuller and more fulfilled life.
The bar was also being raised on what was really possible for us and pointing to a far greater and more magnificent potential for humanity.
Waking Up and Growing Up
It became clear that no longer was it either Enlightenment or Personal Growth. That was the old way, the new way included and integrated both into a unitive awakening, a higher order of consciousness.
Using personal growth work, parts of our being-ness that had gone off track or become curtailed could be healed, and this would also support the fullest of our human potential.
Conversely, by opening into Enlightenment, areas of contraction and places within us where we have believed ourselves to be flawed or somehow ‘not good enough’ could then gradually dissolve as the person came to rest more and more in to the heart of the unconditional and accepting source of all life, love itself.
Now there is no longer any reason not to do personal work since this can be focused on supporting the fullest and deepest opening into Enlightenment, with the freedom that this brings.
On the other hand, simply addressing personal growth and all the enhancements of life that this brings, without Enlightenment, is to miss out on our fullest potential.
Doing both together can usher in the next step of our human evolution as we move into a whole new way of being, one that takes us to a life on this planet that brings joy and peace and love.
What might that be like for you?
What might this be like for the world?