In our first book we have a chapter on whether an Enlightened person can be ill. I explained that the body remains the same, however ‘Self-Realised’ a person may be, and thus is still susceptible to all the same illnesses as anyone else. I did go on to say that, having the added self awareness, the individual is more likely to learn the lesson attached to the situation quicker than they may otherwise, and get passed it.
However, Enlightenment as a state of mind has always been seen as related to peace and tranquillity. Here I would like to talk about the subject of Stress in Enlightenment.
We are familiar with the stories of Enlightened Eastern Teachers, sitting on a hillside, or in a cave, or walking from one village to another, with no belongings, being fed and looked after wherever they go. We in the west look at them and their teachings and think ‘Sure, it’s ok for him; but he doesn’t have to bring up three kids whilst doing a job he hates and working for a boss that abuses him’; therein lies the problem with eastern teachers and teachings.
I too fell into this trap, but in a different way. Having the realisation and knowledge that all is absolutely right, and even perfect, to provide whatever is needed here, I believed that I would be impervious to stress. Sure there would be difficulties, but I would know why they happened and would deal with them, in the moment, with conscious awareness, and all would be perfect; and so it was.
But, looking back, what do we think would happen to these eastern teachers if they were taken out of their peaceful wandering life and put in a job and life like many of us face daily? With the fighting through the traffic to get to work on time; having dropped off the screaming kids at school who had lost their homework book; on our way to our job which we would love to leave if only we could afford to do so; all the time looking forward to the holidays, or better still our retirement, when finally we may find some peace; day in, day out. Do we think our eastern teachers would remain as tranquil throughout if they lived like this?
Well, I have heard of more than one Enlightened person who has stated that they feel they need to keep some space and timeout for themselves, for fear of losing their Enlightenment; and that was by one who spends their time teaching and travelling around the world. So, what of those who are indeed still ‘in the world’ like everybody else, in the rat-race?
Well, I found out firsthand last year (2006).
Following several years in sales, selling various services, from double-glazing to gas-supplies and carpet cleaning, to name a few, I got into debt collection to get out of high-pressure selling; the ultimate perhaps in the phrase ‘Out of the frying pan, into the fire’.
I did very well for a while with a good success rate, but the 14+ hours per day for this company, travelling over 1000 miles per week, often towing a trailer with cars I had collected, and the added pressure of targets having to be met combined with incorrect success figures from the office and the targets being moved so they were not achievable etc, meant the job was, potentially at least, very stressful. After 2.5 years I had to get out.
I joined the council as a Rent Officer (due to my Debt Collection experience), which I hoped would be better. The hours were better, but I found I still did not enjoy pressurising people to do anything, least of all give me money. However, the first two years passed without incident, during which I applied for other positions without success. It was the third year that brought a new IT system with huge problems putting us way behind, and the departure of one of the three rent officers resulted in an increase in the workload by over a half again when he was not replaced and we took on his work.
Missing out many of the details of contributing factors, some of which were quite serious, after 12 months of my saying repeatedly to the management that I needed help, it was discovered that my blood-pressure was 160/100 and I was signed off work. 3 months later I was back working at the council, in a new role, totally unrelated to the last, with normal blood-pressure.
It is perhaps worth saying here that during that time I had continued to write and teach, and the extent of the problem was not known by anyone, not even to me, until I was signed off. It is fitting that High Blood Pressure is given the name ‘Silent Killer’. The intermittent nosebleeds I was getting at the end were apparently a sign that the situation was extremely serious.
There was a valuable lesson in it for me, and perhaps for others, that Enlightenment does not in any way make one impervious to illnesses, of any kind; not even stress. Stress can occur whoever you are, given an extended period of difficulties. Mine had lasted for the previous 8 years with difficult jobs and employment terms, but also the personal relationship which had driven me so hard to face and dissolve emotion over 9 years (and had provided the circumstances for me to grow so much); and the 20 years previous which had driven me to the edge, to the point of demanding from life that I be shown the truth as I was not going to take it any more. Whilst throughout this time I was growing in self awareness, facing and dissolving emotion during the last 16 years in a desperate need to be free of it, but that did not protect me from the physical effects of doing so.
And how did this affect me?
Well, I was still ‘awake’ or ‘Enlightened’, in the sense that I had all the knowledge of this existence and how it works. It was the peace which had left me, and I had not noticed. I was so busy facing and dissolving emotion, doing what had to be done and changing what had to be changed, growing all the time as one must, that I had not seen the physical implications of doing so.
So what is the bottom line?
Do what you do, and you will learn as you go. One does not know what the lessons are or when they will be complete in any difficult situation. Sometimes it is only to teach you what you don’t want. In others it is simply making one stronger. I am still in the world, at the same place of employment with the council, but the job is currently far nicer. However, that is not to say I would not prefer to live on a hillside somewhere, or travelling from place to place without a care in the world, but at the moment that is not my life. Maybe it will be later.
Life is indeed perfect. It always was, both here and there. The problem is that we don’t know that the purpose of life is to give us what we need, and not what we want. Sometimes lessons are hard to learn. Sometimes we get out of one difficult situation and walk straight into a similar one. That is part of the learning. There is no failure. There is only life being lived. Stick with it. I am in it too, as you are. It is still ok.
It is 4 years since I wrote the above and a lot has happened. I continued to suffer with stress in various guises due to ongoing situations at work (but this was not due to the type of work or workload). However, all began to become clear when I was recently diagnosed as being Dyslexic!...
Around the same time I entered a new phase which I talk about here: Liberation / No-self
The revelation that I am Dyslexic and the new information that came with this gave rise to a number of new insights, one of which being a deepening of my understanding of Stress and who can be affected.