Meditation is a metaphor for enlightenment.
Rightly understood, meditation and enlightenment are one and the same. Meditation is the experience of a particular state of consciousness that has certain qualities, which are also the qualities of enlightenment itself. This is why meditation can be understood as a metaphor for enlightenment. When you meditate, you are consciously choosing to assume the enlightened relationship to your own experience, which is a position in relationship to your experience that is free—free from compulsive identification with time, thought and feeling. In order to do this, you can follow three very simple instructions: Be still. Be at ease. Pay attention.
Being still is a metaphor for wanting to be free more than anything else.
The decision to be still in meditation represents a fundamental posture in relationship to life itself. It means you are making a commitment that no matter what happens, even if the whole world seems to be falling apart, you will not move. In the unenlightened state, driven by the erratic nature of the conditioned mind and the wild and untamed emotions of fear and desire, we are almost always moving. This is what makes us untrustworthy, and it is why we are constantly losing our bearings. Not moving is a metaphor for the goal, because one who is enlightened is one who inwardly never moves from that which is most important.
Ease of being is a metaphor for letting everything be as it is.
Letting everything be means you are no longer grasping at or trying to control your experience in any way. When you experience ease of being, there is a profound release of a fundamental existential tension, which is the deep and often unconscious conviction that something is terribly wrong. The freedom of enlightenment is based upon this dissolution of existential tension. Letting everything be, you discover an unconditional freedom that has always been at the ground of your own experience—the liberating recognition that nothing is fundamentally wrong.
Paying attention is a metaphor for having no relationship to the arising of thought or the presence of feeling.
When you choose not to identify with the movement of thoughts and emotions, sooner or later you will have the profound experience of your own Self standing free from the mind—free from the compulsive habit of conceptualization and personalization. Your awareness will become so vast that it embraces all things, while simultaneously being the experience of freedom from all things. You will discover that you are resting as awareness itself, beyond all thought and emotion. It is the presence of this miraculous depth of attention that makes one who is enlightened appear to be unusually awake.
The Nature of the Soul
Awakening to the infinite sooner or later brings us face to face with our own soul. And the soul has many dimensions. In my understanding, it is different from that infinite, timeless, formless Self that we awaken to in profound spiritual revelation. I describe it as the deepest part of the self that's still personal. It is a metaphysical self-structure that is the receptacle of life's deepest wounds and greatest glories. It is that part of ourselves that carries the momentum of our past, which we experience in the present as inclinations or tendencies, both positive and negative. That's why some people seem to be born with fears and traumas that defy explanation. Or why others enter into this world with gifts and capacities that they have not been taught. Most importantly, it is the state of our soul that endows us with capacities for good or evil—capacities that come from a deeper source than those that are merely psychological in origin.
Andrew Cohen is author of Evolutionary Enlightenment: A New Path to Spiritual Awakening in which he redefines spirituality for our contemporary world--a world characterized by exponential change and an ever-expanding appreciation for the processes of evolution. Based on 25 years of groundbreaking work as a spiritual teacher and the editor-in-chief of the award-winning EnlightenNext magazine, Cohen has synthesized an original path, practice, and philosophy focused entirely on aligning yourself with what he calls "the evolutionary impulse." His message is simple, yet profound: Life is evolution, and enlightenment is about waking up to this fundamentally creative impulse as your own deepest, most authentic self--so that you can play an active role in creating the future.
Download The Evolution of Enlightenment (PDF), an introduction to the philosophy and vision of Andrew Cohen.