When you meet somebody new, you introduce yourself by one name. You see yourself as a single unit of consciousness, known to you as “I” or “me”.
Yet this is not the full or comprehensive truth of who you are. To regard yourself as just a single unit of consciousness is to see the forest, but not the trees.
The path to enlightenment involves acknowledging the ecosystem that is your total being. In an enlightened state, you see yourself as an ecosystem that is being called by one name.
What is Enlightenment? The Jungle of You
You are an accumulation of very, very, very many smaller units of consciousness, just like an eco-system. Any eco-system may be referred to by one name— for instance, “Yellowstone Park”— yet it comprises many, many layers.
There is the layer of the tree canopy, the forest floor layer, the mountainous regions, and the aqueous regions, which themselves comprise families of trees, plants, trees, waters, fungi, bacteria, minerals, and soils.
Any element of the forest is its own Universe of factors— and the same is true of any element within a human being.
Each of the elements within the Universe of your being has its own unique consciousness. Every cell within you has its own consciousness; every organ within your body has its own unique mindfulness.
The Jungle of You
You are the aggregate of your emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual levels, and upon each level there are many independent factors or entities, each having “a mind of its own”.
This may seem a strange idea, yet you are already aware that within your physical body, there are many living physical beings who are not “you”. There are ten times as many bacterial cells as human cells within your body, for instance, and you are utterly dependent for your survival upon many of them.
They are integral to the system you know as you, responsible for processes as critical as the digestion of your food. These microbiotas do not answer to your conscious mind, nor even to the autonomic functions of your unconscious mind, yet they are utterly integral to you.
The other you
The same complexity obtains within your Mental and Emotional nature. We commonly refer to the “sides” or a person or the different “parts” of our personality. We have needs, appetites, habits, desires, fears, and modes of relating that completely contradict our other needs, appetites, habits, desires, fears, and modes of relating.
You are not one coherent being that harmonizes and resolves perfectly into a simple and unitary expression. You are a mess of opposing parts that you cannot reconcile or explain even to yourself. You behave differently from one day to the next— sometimes from one moment to the next— because there is an internal war within each Self.
There are innumerable interacting units of consciousness, each vying for its own needs, trampling over the others if necessary. This war continues and steadily escalates unless we consciously choose the path of integration.
This conscious decision to acknowledge and reconcile the various parts of our internal ecosystem is the choice to walk down the path of Enlightenment.
Enlightenment is a state of unconditional love. In the state of enlightenment, we transcend conflicts because we transcend polarity itself. The state of enlightenment is the state beyond opposites; within this state, we are able to find harmony within the Self, even among the conflicting parts of the Self, because we resume the state of Oneness, which is the truth underlying this, Universe.
The eco-system that is ‘you’ is entirely unique. It is a set of interconnecting parts with its own configuration, and each element within you has its own unique relationship to all other parts within the system.
For instance, just as your digestive lining has a unique relationship with your mental state, your sexual expression has a unique relationship with your career ambition. Your creativity has a unique relationship to your self-esteem, and your physical body has a unique relationship to your sense of a higher power.
These relationships can range anywhere from highly functional, symbiotic, complementary, and mutually supportive to oppositional, dysfunctional, and repressive. Usually, these relationships fall somewhere in between these two extremes.
In order for the relationships among the various parts of you to be functional, you must be able to see the different factors of your nature as separate and distinct. You must be able to see and understand each tree within the forest in order to maintain equilibrium within the forest.
This involves a process of dis-identification from the various aspects of the Self. Instead of seeing ourselves as the one unit of consciousness which falls under one name, we must be able to see ourselves as, in essence, many different people.
For instance, let’s take a random example to clarify: a woman named Sally and she’s a singer.
What is Enlightenment? Dis-identification
There is an aspect of Sally that loves to be on stage. Sally is a singer, and there is nothing she loves more than playing music for an audience. Consciously, she identifies as a musician, and it is her aspiration to have a thriving music career. Yet at the same time that this is true— and it is quite true—it is also true that there is an aspect of Sally that is very shy.
There is a quieter, and less often expressed element of Sally’s nature, that would really rather stay home by herself and read a book. Every time Sally has a performance, this shy aspect of Sally is terrified.
Were Sally entirely identified with one instinct, she would make an “other” of the opposing instinct. There would be no way to reconcile each of these needs to one other. In disidentifying from each, however, it becomes possible to step into an enlightened perspective that transcends opposites.
In a state of the Total Self or Enlightened Self, we make room for both needs unconditionally, without judging or preferring one over the other. The path to enlightenment is not really a path to becoming something “more” or “better”. It is not a path of ascending or even evolving.
The path to enlightenment is a path of uncovering and integrating what you have been all along, but perhaps have not taken the time to acknowledge and care for.
Ask yourself: Who are all the beings that are a part of me? What are all the parts of my personality, and how do they get along? What are the needs, desires, and fears of each of these parts? Do I love each of these parts equally, or do I favor some over others?
What kind of trees populates the forest of my being, and am I nurturing them individually as well as collectively?