Thirty-five+ years ago, I was living in San Francisco, attending college at night to earn an Information Technology degree while working full time at an entry level position in a computer services company. I was out. I had a caring lover who worked at the same company, plenty of friends, a stylish apartment, and living in the gay capital of the world before the age of AIDS. It was all wonderfully exciting. I was living my dream and thought I had the world by the tail. Then a friend loaned me a book by Carlos Castaneda about an Indian sorcerer named Don Juan who seemed to live in a different reality.
Castaneda tickled my curiosity, but more importantly, he made me feel that perhaps there was more to life that a great lover and a good career. Before I could blink, I devoured three more Castaneda books, a few Seth books and a little gem by Ram Dass called Be Here Now. By that time I had moved beyond the “mildly interested” faze, and was already inching down a path that would lead me deep into Eastern philosophy towards a destination that I had no inkling of.
Before I knew what was up, I was spending time in daily meditation, reading everything I could get my hands on regarding philosophy, and repeatedly going into the California deserts to perform week long vision quests. I was very lucky, in that my lover at the time was also quite happy to travel that same path with me. In fact, at times it seemed that he was leading the way down that path, at other times he was dragging me along, as he was always quicker on the uptake that I was. It was something we did together and it did wonders for our relationship.
All those books and vision quests and talks with “teachers” led me to Zen, which seemed to me to be the cornerstone that many other religions and philosophies were built on. All the religions I’ve studied (including Christianity), once you strip away the fairytale dogma, it comes down to diminishing the ego (Satan) to let the unconscious (Christ) shine through as a way to touch enlightenment (God). And that is exactly what Zen is all about with a no frills, straightforward manner. I was a student of Zen, and Buddhism in general, for over fifteen years.
And now, yes, finally coming to the Now, I am venturing beyond Zen and tiptoeing down my path to learning the nature of the universe and the nature of life, and inching closer to Enlightenment.
After all these years, I still have no clear definition of what Enlightenment is, although I’ve had several enlightenment experiences that have given me a taste of it. The one thing I am absolutely clear about is, Enlightenment is not a matter of gaining or attaining something. It is a matter of losing something, that little, yet demanding voice in our heads we call ego.