The pursuit of enlightenment in spiritual communities is often considered the only true or worthwhile motivation for spiritual npractice.
But what if the motivation for your spiritual practice was simply to have a happy, healthy life?
And what if the key to having a happy healthy life was actually found through spiritual practice and realization?
The concept of enlightenment seems to be based on the realization that nothing we physically experience is capital R “real,” and therefore not as worthy or valuable as our nonphysical or conceptual reality.
In fact, in many schools of thought, the physical is something for us to disregard or attempt to escape entirely.
I wonder though if this is a primarily male perspective of enlightenment. I wonder if enlightenment for women looks differently….
In her book “Passionate Enlightenment”, Miranda Shaw speaks to the feminine roots of Tantric Buddhism and explores the ways in which the paths to enlightenment pursued by women did not attempt to escape or deny the earthly, but to infuse the physical experience with as much presence, consciousness, and awareness as possible.
This speaks to me deeply, because what drives me to practice is not to attain some etheric, disembodied concept of what I think enlightenment could or should be.
What drives me to my spiritual practice is the desire for a happy, healthy life.
Here and now, in this body, on this planet, in this lifetime.
I notice that the more I do my spiritual practice, the more inner peace, balance, harmony and innate joy I experience.
The more INNER peace and joy I experience, the better my EXTERNAL life becomes.
This creates a positive feedback loop that keeps me motivated and excited to continue deepening my practice, which in turn leads to deeper levels of realization, which in turn makes my inner and outer experience of physical existence better and more pleasurable.
Human beings are hardwired for pleasure.
Yet, in many traditional spiritual paths, the pursuit of pleasure is seen as an obstacle to one’s spiritual growth.
But what if the pursuit of having a pleasurable and joyful existence was actually fuel for the path, instead of an obstacle we must overcome?
I think for those of us who are not monks, and are out here living our lives in the earthly realm, this might be the key.
For what good is conceptual realization if it cannot be applied to and actualized in your day to day life?
The desire for a joyful, peaceful, beneficial stable and secure existence is part of our human blueprint.
Instead of making this wrong, what if we instead embraced this human desire and used it as motivation to practice tools and techniques that will help us realize this happiness and peace more fully and completely in this life?
In Tibetan Tantric Buddhism, the feminine aspect is that which is corporeal, tangible, physical, in other words, earthly.
I believe there is significance to the fact that many spiritual traditions that feel a need to deny the physical, sex, and pleasure, are also deeply misogynistic and degrading towards women.
Perhaps the path to healing this imbalance can be found through embracing the physical experience fully, and instead of fighting against our denying our basic human “desires for pleasure” celebrating them and using them as motivation to realize an even fuller and more complete happiness and joy.
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