-An except from Bradley’s forthcoming guide that explains the nature of his ‘Sitting in Truth’ series
Let us imagine for a moment, that the spiritual journey is very much like climbing a mountain – and that we can break the journey down into three distinct parts; going up the mountain, seeing the view from the top, and coming back down the mountain again.
Climbing up the mountain, there are many different paths that we can take; there are many different ways that we can go. Each and every one of these paths is an equally valid way to reach the top. If the top of the mountain is the only real goal, does it matter which path we take?
And what is at the top of the mountain? Freedom. Freedom is at the top of the mountain. Liberation. Enlightenment. Whatever word we want to insert here. Whatever word you want to use. Whatever the top of the mountain is for you. That’s what’s at the top of the mountain.
And so you take whatever path you are meant to take; the path that takes you to the top of the mountain. All paths are going to get you there, no matter which path you choose. You can’t get it wrong – there is no wrong path to take. They all lead to the same place.
Even if your path just goes around and around the base of the mountain for a while, until you notice that you’re stuck at the same elevation; or you stumble and fall along the way; or you get lost, confused, or afraid. It’s all just fine – eventually you’ll find your way again. Up, up, up the mountain.
And so we finally arrive at the top of the mountain – exhausted by the climb. From the top of the mountain, we finally see. But the view is not at all what we expected it to be. There are no words to describe it, because there is literally nothing to see. It is empty; absent of all descriptive qualities.
We see through our own direct experience the vast, spacious, emptiness; the silence, stillness and quiet; the void of pure being. Something so precious and sacred – and so impossible to describe that all of these words fail to touch it – no matter how clearly they may be pointing to it.
We witness the interwoven fabric of our being – beyond the mind; beyond our conceptual notion of self; beyond our conceptual notion of the world. There is a complete falling away of the ‘I, me, mine’ that we have been entrapped within; and a deep surrender into a mystery that is beyond all comprehension.
We disappear into that which we have always been; the totality of all existence. Not just what we perceive, but as that which perceives – or rather, that which is behind and beyond all perceiving. That which permeates and animates every aspect of our existence; our perceptual reality; our very lives.
We realize that we’ve always had it backwards. We are not living our lives. Life is living us. Life is what we are. We are the awareness, that gives rise to consciousness, that gives rise to perception, that makes the experience of life possible. And it is all of one essential essence – the harmony of love.
These are just a few of the things we see from the top. And yet none of these descriptions is inherently true – they are all just pointers to the inexplicable, unfathomable nature of the Self that is realized when the Truth wakes up within us – when we finally arrive at the top of the mountain.
For many people, this is what enlightenment is – to reach the top of the mountain; to arrive at full realization of the Self. We are finally free of our pain, suffering, and misery. We are finally able to bask in the love, joy, and bliss of pure being. We are liberated from the world – we have transcended.
The thing is, that this conceptual notion of what we think enlightenment is, is just another mind made notion that has nothing at all to do with reality. Yes, we can disappear into this state of being – if that is indeed what Truth would have of us; but this is not the end of the road. It is not the end of the journey.
The experience of enlightenment is not itself enlightenment. Enlightenment is the transcendence of all experience, including the experience of enlightenment itself. Enlightenment has nothing at all to do with experience – it is about knowing ourselves as the awareness that experiences.
It is to watch the coming and going of all experience from the position of awareness – without identifying with what comes and goes, including the coming and going of identification. This realization is where we begin to come back down the mountain again – into our humanity.
At the top of the mountain, when we witnessed the falling away of the self, and surrendered the remainder to the loving intelligent awareness that moves all things in the direction of its own purpose, we saw clearly that our lives are not our own; that we are but notes within a great harmony of motion.
With this knowledge and releasing of identification with the body-mind experience as ‘my’ body, as ‘my’ mind, we are freed from the weight of ‘our’ suffering; and yet suffering remains. Everything that was present before we began the journey remains exactly as it was. The experience itself is unchanged.
As you come back down the mountain, it is your perception of experience that has changed, not the nature of experience itself. You yourself, are now beyond experience – no longer tied to the temporal flux of linear existence; or attached to any aspect of your experience, including nonattachment.
And yet you are also completely present within your awareness of all experience – aware of awareness. You are at peace with the coming and going of all phenomenal experience; even the coming and going of peace itself. You know that you are the dance of Life and need not concern yourself with anything.
Your definition of enlightenment is no longer one of perfection, but one that embraces the perfection of our imperfection. You see beyond the notional boundaries of self and other; and partake of the totality – the entirety of existence that is the one body of the one consciousness that you truly are.
Coming further and further down the mountain, and back into the beautiful miracle of our humanity, you set aside all notions of duality and separateness. You see through the dividing line between the absolute and the relative, and you know that the relative is the absolute in full expression.
You learn to embrace it all. You learn to appreciate it all. You learn to love it all. You stop concerning yourself with ‘this’ and ‘that’ and begin to allow for everything. You invite it all into yourself – using every moment of your life as an opportunity to deepen into the Life that you are.
Eventually even this fades – into ordinary everyday life. You finally arrive at that place where you accept, beyond all doubt, that an extraordinary life is an ordinary life lived with great love. But you are no longer caught up in trying to be loving – for you know yourself to be Love itself.
Once more standing at the base of the mountain, with nowhere left to go and nothing left to see, you dwell within the spaciousness beyond the mind; as a being of infinite love; in harmony with the perfection of all things, as they are; flowing as one with the effortless way of being.
You go back out into the world – follow the calling of your heart – and live your life…
…and that’s really all there is to it.