The Paradox of Enlightenment

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By Gabriel Gonsalves

Personal mastery, leadership development, and spiritual growth with the heart in mind. 

Paradox of Enlightenment

Multitudes of people follow some spiritual path. Still, very few succeed in realizing the ultimate truth and becoming enlightened. Why is that? Why does Enlightenment feel so unreachable? What does it take to become enlightened? To answer these questions, I’d like to tell you about the Paradox of Enlightenment.


When you feel angry, confused, vulnerable, and upset, where do you go?

You go to a doctor or psychiatrist, a priest, a therapist, a coach, a healer, a specialist, a social worker, a palm reader, or an astrologer.

You take up religion, are born again, get into philosophy, become an agnostic, an atheist, take the Insight or Landmark Seminars, tap your forehead with EFT.

You get all your chakras balanced, your DNA activated, try some reflexology, some kinesiology, go for ear acupuncture, do iridology, hot stone therapy, and get healed with lights, sounds, and crystal bowls.

You meditate, chant mantras, and drink green tea. Try magic mushrooms and psychedelics. Get Reiki, try the Pentecostals, do the Rosary, breathe of fire, speak in tongues, pray, implore, declare and beseech.

You get centered, heart-centered, learn NLP, try actualizations, visualizations, feelingizations, study psychology, do a past life regression, join a Jungian or dream interpretation group.

You get into Rolfing, the Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais, jog, jazzercise, Zumba, spirit dance, trans-dance, practice yoga. You have colonics, get into nutrition, and aerobics, hang upside down, wear psychic jewelry on your nose.

You see your homeopath, chiropractor, naturopath. Or try transactional analysis, discover your Enneagram or Myers-Briggs type, get your meridians balanced, and join a Conscious Something group.

You take antidepressants, get tranquilizers, get some hormone shots and flu shots, try tissue salts, and have your minerals analyzed and balanced. Take Rescue Remedy. Learn astral projection and listen to messages from the Galactic Federation.

You become a vegetarian. Give up sugar. Eat only cabbage. Try macrobiotics, go organic, go raw, non-dairy, and eat no GMOs. Try fasting and intermittent fasting. Take amino acids and anti-acids. Go to health spas. Cook with exotic ingredients. Eat fermented foods. Take brain enzymes, Bach flower remedies, and eat only grapefruit.

You meet with Native American medicine men and do a sweat lodge. Connect with the Pleiades. Go on a vision quest. Find your Animal Guide or Spirit Guide and build them an altar. You invoke your ancestors’ spirit, the four directions, the spirits of the wild, feed elementals you can’t see.

You go to the Amazon jungle and visit a shaman. Go on a retreat. Sing tribal chants. Relive past lives. Visit the underworld and retrieve your soul. Scream primal screams. Take medicine plants, ayahuasca, peyote, San Pedro, Santa Maria, iboga. Hold hands in a circle, sing, drum, dance, and get high.

You go to India. Try to find your soulmate, eat, pray, and love. Find a new guru. Take off your clothes. Get blessed by Baba Somebody. Swim in the Ganges naked. Stare at the sun, howl at the moon. Shave your head. Eat with your fingers, get messy, and take cold showers. Sing Kirtan songs with people you’ve never met but now call your spiritual family.

You try hypnotic regression. Time-line therapy. Do psychodrama. Punch pillows. Write letters to your parents and your future self. Join a marriage encounter group, and discover your Imago. Go to Unity. Go to Agape. Go to Bible study groups. Write affirmations and stick them to a mirror. Make a vision board.

You get re-birthed. Read Angel Cards. Do the Tarot cards. Get into the occult. Study magic. Work with a kahuna. Join a mystery school. Learn a secret handshake. Try color therapy, swim with the dolphins, and listen to subliminal and Paraliminal tapes. Study Zen and cast the I-Ching.

You take a shamanic journey. Walk the Camino de Santiago. Go on a pilgrimage. Visit Mecca. Walk barefoot. Walk on your hands and knees. Hug a tree. Hike up a mountain, sit on a rock, and watch the sunrise and sunset. Read Nostradamus. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

You go to Tibet, become a monk, and sell your Ferrari. Chase after holy men. Meet the Dalai Lama. Try to find Babaji. Become a yogi. Renounce sex, watch television, go to the movies, and Facebook. Wear some yellow robes. Join a cult. You try Chinese herbs, moxibustion, shiatsu, acupressure, and feng-shui.

You try to improve the ecology. Save the environment. Save the planet. Walk for love, against injustice and war, and for peace. Get an aura reading. Carry a crystal. Carry a gratitude rock. Get a Hindu sidereal astrological interpretation. Visit a trans-medium.

You go for sex therapy. Try Tantric massage and tantric sex. Join a polyamorous group. Travel to Fatima and Lourdes. Soak in the hot springs. Wear therapeutic wooden sandals. Get grounded. Get connected. Get centered again. Raise your kundalini. Inhale more prana in, and exhale out the black negativity.

You try golden needle acupuncture. Drink colloidal gold. Check out snake and bear gallbladders, Tiger, and Lion’s teeth. Try chakra breathing, holotropic breathing, belly breathing. Get your aura cleansed. Smudge your home with salvia and sage. Meditate in the great pyramids of Egypt, Mexico, or under a wooden one you built at home.

You take more courses and workshops. Buy lots of books that you never read. Watch Oprah, TED Talks, and Gaiam TV. Subscribe to lots of journals, email newsletters, websites, and podcasts. Attend every webinar, teleconference, and online Summit you can find – especially the free ones. Download all the mp3s, mp4s, and pdfs your computer can fit. Like and share every inspiring post on your Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook feed. Become a guru yourself. 

You, me, and many of our friends have tried all these things as part of our endless search for something we call ‘Enlightenment,’ which promises an answer to our human suffering, pain, confusion, and shame.

But, have you ever thought that maybe this thing called ‘Enlightenment’ is not something we’ll ever find “out there” in the world, and that’s precisely why we can’t find it?

Maybe Osho was right when he said that every man is born Zorba the Greek and dies as Zorba The Buddha. The Greek symbolizes the human; the Buddha, the Divine.

The Paradox of Enlightenment

“That which gives light must endure the burning.”

Victor Frankl

What if there’s a Paradox of Enlightenment that says that the more you chase after the light, the more you have to confront your darkness?

What if the path towards the light requires you first to love and embrace ALL of your humanity – your light, darkness, and shadows – BEFORE you can even attempt to become ‘enlightened’?

What if Dr. Carl G. Jung was right when he wrote, “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”

This would make ‘Enlightenment’ an inside job, wouldn’t it? It would also make it available to you here and now, wouldn’t it? Why keep looking for it outside of yourself, then?

To experience ‘enlightenment,’ you first have to stop giving a darn about it and instead get shamelessly real and connected to what makes you fully human and connected to the humanity in others. All this so that you can eventually transcend it and finally arrive at the Lightness of your being.

Fully embracing both your light and darkness requires courage and radical self-compassion. Achieving this requires you to become a Heart Warrior. Because your heart is the only unconditionally loving and compassionate space where your light can embrace your darkness; and where Zorba the Greek and Zorba the Buddha can dance together.

From my heart to yours,

Paradox of Enlightenment