Spiritual Enlightenment: The Damnedest Thing – Jed McKenna

CONTENTS

If Awareness by Antony De Mello wasn’t enough, here’s another book to violently help you wake up to the nature of reality. In this book, Jed McKenna (a pseudonym of the author) gives us a glimpse of how an enlightened person sees the world.

This is not your typical non-fiction book, it’s more of a story. As Jed recounts some recent events in his life, he explains in detail how he sees the World and how he supports his students in the journey to enlightenment.

Be warned! This is not a new agey “energy, chakras and incense” book. Almost the opposite. Jed’s no-bullshit approach is rough and straightforward. Aiming to violently dismantle some of your deepest held beliefs.

Check the Amazon page for details and reviews.

Summary Notes


Nothing can be wrong

or “Everything is going exactly as it should”

  • Sarah labors under the same misconception everyone does. She believes, in the broadest sense, that something is wrong and that she can make it right. What that something is, what’s wrong with it, and how it can be fixed all differ from person to person, but the general pattern is always the same: The truth, though, is that nothing is really wrong. Nothing is ever wrong and nothing can be wrong. It’s not even wrong to believe that something is wrong. Wrong is simply not possible.
  • The belief that something is wrong is the fire under the ass of humanity,” is how I explain it to Sarah. Of course, wrongness isn’t entirely imagined. A certain amount of tightness and wrongness is hardwired into the human machine. Hunger is wrong, eating is right; celibacy is wrong, seed-sowing is right; pain is wrong, pleasure is right, and so on. But those are all biological directives, enforceable only within the context of the physical organism, violations resulting in progressively worsening discomfort and possibly death. Where, then, does wrongness reside outside of our physical organism? And the obvious answer is—nowhere.
  • But if this whole existence thing is to have any dramatic element to keep it interesting, it needs conflict, and so an artificial wrongness must be inserted into the mix.

Let the World Take Care of Itself

  • Too lazy to be ambitious, I let the world take care of itself. Ten days worth of rice in my bag; a bundle of twigs by the fireplace. Why chatter about delusion and enlightenment? Listening to the night rain on my roof, I sit comfortably, with both legs stretched out.
  • Jane Roberts said that miracles are nature unimpeded, which is a good way of saying that if you take your hand off the tiller, the boat will steer itself and do a vastly better job of it than you ever could. Julie seems to have that ability to relax into the moment and let the universe do the driving. If there were a secret to happiness in life, I’d say that was it. #quotesonHappiness
    • Fear and ego—in other words, ignorance—are keeping your hand on the tiller. Release the tiller for whatever reason, and the steering takes care of itself.
  • This is it. Not some other time, not some other place. Right here. Right now. I am standing at the exact center of infinity and I see perfection and beauty and absolute delight everywhere and in every thing. The touch of the slightest breeze, the sight of a single star through cloudswept skies, the howls of coyote pups in the distance, and the sheer glory and beauty of it all is enough to tear me to shreds and all I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you!

Morality, Ethics, Altruism?

  • I am moved by no ethical or altruistic motive. I don’t think something is wrong and that I have to make it right. I don’t do it to ease suffering or to liberate beings. I do it simply because I’m so inclined. I have a built-in urge to express what I find interesting, and the only thing I find interesting is the great journey that culminates in abiding non-dual awareness

Movie Analogy

  • Nothing is better or worse, so why try to adjust things? Members of movie audiences don’t leap out of their seats to save characters in the film. If the movie shows an asteroid blazing toward the earth, the screen remains unscorched and the moviegoers don’t race home to spend their final hours with loved ones. If they did, they would be hauled off to the nearest mental health facility and treated for a delusional disorder. The enlightened view life as a dream, so how could they possibly differentiate between right and wrong or good and evil?

Fear

  • Fear, regardless of what face it wears, is the engine that drives humans as individuals and humanity as a species. Simply put, humans are fear-based creatures. It may be tempting to say that we are equal parts rational and emotional, balanced between left and right brain, but it’s not true. We are primarily emotional and our ruling emotion is fear.
  • Fear and ego—in other words, ignorance—are keeping your hand on the tiller. Release the tiller for whatever reason, and the steering takes care of itself.
  • Everyone is treading water to keep their heads above the surface even though they have no reason to believe that the life they’re preserving is better than the alternative they’re avoiding. It’s just that one is known and one is not. Fear of the unknown is what keeps everyone busily treading water. All fear is fear of the unknown.

Traditional Spirituality doesn’t get you to truth

It is just another quest (like money)

  • Dedicating one’s life to lofty spiritual ideals is every bit as life-defining and purpose- giving as the quest for heaven or power or money or love
  • If your desire is to experience transcendental bliss or supreme love or altered states of consciousness or awakened kundalini, or to qualify for heaven, or to liberate all sentient beings, or simply to become the best dang person you can be, then rejoice!, you’re in the right place—the dream state, the dualistic universe. However, if your interest is to cut the crap and figure out what’s true, then you’re in the wrong place and you’ve got a very messy fight ahead and there’s no point in pretending otherwise

Enlightenment

  • The man in whom Tao acts without impediment Does not bother with his own interests And does not despise others who do. He does not struggle to make money And does not make a virtue of poverty. He goes his way without relying on others And does not pride himself on walking alone. While he does not follow the crowd He won’t complain of those who do. Rank and reward make no appeal to him; Disgrace and shame do not deter him. He is not always looking for right and wrong Always deciding “Yes” and “No.”

Enlightenment is inevitable

  • Enlightenment is your destiny—more certain than sunrise. You cannot fail to achieve enlightenment.
  • Enlightenment is closer than your skin, more immediate than your next breath, and forever beyond your reach. It need not be sought because it cannot be found. It cannot be found because it cannot be lost. It cannot be lost because it is not other than that which seeks.
  • it doesn’t require knowledge to be enlightened any more than it requires knowledge to obey the law of gravity or to be bathed in sunlight.
  • The truth is identical for both of us. I haven’t achieved a better status than you. When you hear someone say that searching for enlightenment is like fish in the ocean struggling to find water, this is what they mean. One fish may know it and another may not, but they’re both swimming in an ocean of water and always were

It’s not about becoming happier, or improving

  • Enlightenment is about truth. It’s not about becoming a better or happier person. It’s not about personal growth or spiritual evolution
  • The most common, widely-held fantasy about enlightenment is that it is freedom from suffering, the transcendence of pain and struggle, the land of milk and honey, a state of perpetual love, bliss, and peace. Enlightenment represents the collectively-shared dream of an idealized and perfect world of pure beauty and joy. It is not only New Age fantasy, it is the secret wish of all people. It is our shared dream of salvation. But it is only a fantasy.
  • Suffering just means you’re having a bad dream. Happiness means you’re having a good dream. Enlightenment means getting out of the dream altogether. Words like suffering and happiness and compassion are just bags of rocks. Eventually, you’ll have to set them down if you want to keep going.
  • Enlightenment isn’t a peak experience. It’s not an altered state of consciousness. It’s not a happily-ever-after fairy tale. Spiritual enlightenment means waking up—as simple and as difficult as that. Bliss is just the heaven myth repackaged for a slightly hipper crowd—heaven on earth, heaven here and now. It’s really too silly to talk about.
  • The experience of Unity Conscious certainly feels more like something you’d want to call Spiritual Enlightenment, but it’s not lasting, so what is it? A sweet dream. The most wonderful thing we can experience, I’d agree, but not a permanent awakening from delusion.

Going with the flow

  • Simply put, I don’t think. I don’t make choices or decisions. I don’t weigh possibilities and select one over others. Instead, I observe patterns and move with them. I have refined sense of tightness and not-rightness that guides me in all things. No decision in my life is made through ratiocination. I wait for unfolding. I sense currents and I flow with them. You don’t have to be enlightened to operate this way; you just have to release the tiller. Once you do, an entirely new way of flowing through life opens to you
  • All right, you got me. I spend a lot of time just killing time. I play video games, read books, watch movies. I’d say I probably blow several hours a day that way, but I don’t see it as a waste because I don’t have anything better to spend my time on. I couldn’t put it to better use because I’m not trying to become something or accomplish anything. I have no dissatisfaction to drive me, no ambition to draw me. I’ve done what I came to do. I’m just killing time ’til time kills me.

Kill the Ego

  • You will never achieve spiritual enlightenment. The you that you think of as you is not you. The you that thinks of you as you is not you. There is no you, so who wishes to become enlightened?
  • That essentially defines the quest for enlightenment; the you that you think of as you (and that thinks of you as you, and so on) is not you, it’s just the character that the underlying truth of you is dreaming into brief existence.
  • The question is, who is doing the dreaming and how do we wake up? How do we get real? That’s what all this enlightenment stuff boils down to. It’s about waking up and seeing what’s really true, and to do that we have to become progressively less asleep. We have to fight and scratch and claw our way to wakefulness. In the same sense, if you want to be more true, then the way to do that is by becoming less false, less full of shit. If you want to be less full of shit, then the way to do it is to go inside yourself with the spotlight of discrimination, find the shit, and illuminate it. Illumination destroys it. Lies disappear when you really look at them because they never had real substance, they were only imagined.
  • Spiritual enlightenment is the damnedest thing. It is, literally, self-defeating. It is a battle we wage upon ourselves. Truth is a uniquely challenging pursuit because the very thing that wants it is the only thing in the way of it. It’s a battle we will kill to lose and must die to win. The great enemy is the very self that wages the war, so how can there be victory? When self is destroyed, who wins

The Ego Desires Enlightenment But Can Never Find It

  • The fundamental conflict in the spiritual quest is that ego desires spiritual enlightenment, but ego can never achieve spiritual enlightenment. Self cannot achieve no-self.
  • Spiritual enlightenment gets redefined as something attainable by ego, and now the equation works to everyone’s satisfaction. Ego gets to continue the noble quest and a thriving spiritual industry continues to thrive. Of course, no one gets the grail, but if you understand the fundamental conflict, you’ll see that no one really wanted it anyway.
  • That’s how you spend your energy—your life- force. It all goes into projecting the illusion of you. You’re constantly projecting an external representation of yourself that is always a work in progress, always shifting and evolving

Not feeling real, we feel shame

  • For instance, shame. The underlying cause of all shame is the deep and unshakable suspicion that I am an imposter. I sense the absence of true-self in myself, but not in others, so I naturally assume others to be real. Seeing the outer shells everyone else has so convincingly erected and not knowing them to be hollow, I necessarily feel singularly fraudulent and, of course, shameful.”

The way To Enlightenment (Intellect and Writing)

  • Intellect is used as the sword with which ego commits a slow and agonizing suicide—the death of a thousand cuts.
    • the brain, unlikely as it may sound, is no place for serious thinking. Any time you have serious thinking to do, the first step is to get the whole shootin’ match out of your head and set it up someplace where you can walk around it and see it from all sides. Attack, switch sides and counter-attack.
    • Writing it out allows you to act as your own teacher, your own critic, your own opponent. By externalizing your thoughts, you can become your own guru—judging yourself, giving feedback, providing a more objective and elevated perspective.”
    • Communicating is a powerful key to understanding, whether it’s by oral expression or written. The mind naturally aligns itself into a more coherent state when it seeks to transmit knowledge than when it is merely processing and storing it for its own needs
  • Here’s all you need to know to become enlightened: Sit down, shut up, and ask yourself what’s true until you know. That’s it. That’s the whole deal—a complete teaching of enlightenment, a complete practice. If you ever have any questions or problems—no matter what the question or problem is—the answer is always exactly the same: Sit down, shut up, and ask yourself what’s true until you know.

We usually assume it’d be achieved with the heart

  • I am well aware that a great many of the world’s most popular spiritual doctrines advocate a heart-centered approach to spiritual development, but popularity among the soundly asleep may not be the best criterion by which to judge a method for waking up.

Life as a Drama

  • I have a very distinct impression of life as a stage drama, and I find it endlessly mystifying that anyone truly identifies with their character. I watch my own life with amused detachment. I may be doing this or that—fulfilling my role—but I’m almost always out in the seats somewhere, watching it all, as unprepared for the next thing I do as anyone else
  • I see people fulfilling their roles and “acting” like “themselves” and I tend to forget that they really identify with their character and their character’s plight.
  • From my perspective, unenlightened people seem like a characters in a soap opera. That’s what I see when I watch people with all their concerns and hopes and dreams and conflicts and dramas.
  • This is a drama, not a still-life, and no awakened being would ever suggest that everything wasn’t just perfect the way it is. To return to the amusement park analogy, imagine a group of self-pro- claimed visionaries who want to smooth out all the roller coasters so there were no scary plummets or loops, just long, slow, safe circles. Great, but what’s the point?

Q&A

  • Q: “Why am I always so dissatisfied? Why can’t I ever just be content?”
    • A: “You weren’t born to be content. Your discontent is the engine that drives you, be grateful to it.
  • Q: “But what about when people explore their inner selves? Make journeys of self-discovery? Aren’t they going within to find the truth?”
    • A: “They’re just exploring the ego—making a study of the false self—which is a lifequest as valid as any other. But you don’t wake up by perfecting your dream character, you wake up by breaking free of it. There’s no truth to the ego, so no degree of mastery over it results in anything true.
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