Other people think it can only happen suddenly to one in a billion folks—like it did to Eckhart Tolle. I used to believe both of those things, but now I know differently. Why? Because I have interviewed over 100 enlightened people, ranging from the Dalai Lama to Deepak Chopra, including many enlightened folks on my podcast, Awareness Explorers. In these interviews, I’ve learned that enlightenment can happen relatively quickly if you follow four specific steps.
Before I get into what those four simple steps are, let me give you some background. I was a very depressed—even suicidal—teenager. Rather than kill myself, I went on a spiritual search. That led me to try various paths, live in spiritual communities, and interview a lot of spiritual teachers. Yet, the results from all that searching were mediocre at best. Then I learned of the work of a Harvard trained psychologist, Dr. Jeffery Martin, who interviewed over 1200 awakened people to find out what typically led to their experience of enlightenment. His research led to some surprising discoveries.
One of the things Dr. Martin learned was there are different “types” and levels of enlightenment. He also learned that many people could awaken to the more common types of enlightenment relatively quickly. For example, after an hour a day of using specific methods for 45 days, about half of folks claimed to be in a persistently peaceful and/or loving state of being. That’s friggin’ amazing! In my own case, although I had meditated at least an hour a day for almost 50 years, I had not achieved such a sublime experience. Then, I took Dr. Martin’s course and voila! I now had access to peace and love anytime I wanted. I was impressed.
In my book, The Enlightenment Project: How I Went From Depressed to Blessed, and You Can Too, I chronicle what I learned from the 100 teachers I interviewed. I also describe the ideas and methods I learned from Dr. Martin that were key to my own awakening. While I can’t quickly describe the key methods that worked so well for me and others (they’re in the book), I can briefly describe the four key steps any seeker can take to accelerate their own awakening.
- Explore Different Methods and Find What Works for You
Most spiritual seekers make the mistake of only trying a handful of spiritual methods. Why is that a mistake? Because unless you find the “just right” method for you, your results will likely be disappointing. Dr. Martin discovered there are about a dozen truly effective methods that lead to enlightenment or persistent awakening—and most of them are not known to a wide audience. Therefore, in a course he teaches online, he has folks spend a week trying out these twelve “greatest hits” until they find what works best for them. In my own case, once I found a method I resonated with, deep peace became available almost immediately. Fortunately, the method only takes less than a minute to “do,” rather than the hour I used to spend meditating every day.
- Write About What Works For You
Once you find a technique that works for you, write about what it does for you in exquisite detail. This will help you clarify exactly how you open up to greater peace and awareness, and it will give you a helpful roadmap back to that experience for later use. For example, I found a method called The Headless Way worked really well for me. As I wrote about it, I listed the following information about what it does for me:
- I notice this method helps me dis-identify with my body, and helps me feel like I am the spacious field in which my body, emotions, and thoughts all appear.
- To do this method I simply notice that, in my direct experience, it looks like arms and a body are coming out of single field of sight. Indeed, I can’t see my own head, and the space where my head supposedly is seems like a window into the material world.
- As I continue looking through this “window,” I notice thoughts seem to appear that are not directed by something I would call “me,” but rather just appear spontaneously out of a “void” that I hear in my head area.
- If I don’t identify with the thoughts I hear or the body I see as coming from a separate “me,” then it seems that everything “I” am aware of is just appearing in a present and spacious field of awareness. The accompanying feelings to this experience are usually deep peace, joy, or love.
Of course, your description of a method, or even your description of deep peace might be very different than mine. Yet, by describing an experience or a method in great detail, it helps to give you a guided path back to that same experience any time you desire.
- Surround Yourself with Like-Minded Seekers
In recent years, a lot of studies have shown that we tend to become like the five people we hang out around with the most. In fact, whether you want to lose weight, get rich, or quit cigarettes, about the most effective method is to simply befriend people who are thinner, richer, or don’t smoke. So, if you want to become more enlightened, simply spend time with people who seem to have a high level of consciousness. In virtually all religions and spiritual traditions, seekers are encouraged to band together. By spending time with folks trying to become enlightened in a way that resonates with you, you greatly expand your chances of success.
Over the years, I’ve latched on to anyone who I thought was very enlightened or displayed attributes that I found very appealing. My friendships with such folks have not only been fun and inspiring, but have also kept me motivated to keep practicing disciplines that work for me. Without such help, it would be all too easy for me to simply fall back into the mediocre mechanical nature of ordinary life. Having friends and colleagues that are clearly more enlightened than I am is especially rewarding. I have found their guidance, perspective, and example of how they live their life to be critical for my development.
- Practice Sinking Into Peace As Often As Possible
Once you find methods that work to bring you deep peace and love, your mission—should you decide to accept it—is to allow yourself time to sink into such moments as often as possible. Of course, life provides us with endless distractions that keep us from doing what we say is most important to us. That’s why this fourth step is perhaps the hardest. Yet, it’s also the most rewarding. Once peace, love and/or joy are consistently within your reach, the road to enlightenment is clear. You simply need to bring more of those times of expanded consciousness into more moments and different areas of your life.
Many people find peace when they’re in nature, meditating, or perhaps in a temple or church. But nowadays, our challenge is to bring enlightenment into our work lives, our relationships, and even into situations that trigger us emotionally. That’s where the most personal and planetary healing takes place. To accomplish this task, we need to make a commitment to being a force for peace and love in the world. How does one do that? You do whatever it takes to practice whatever works for you.
In my own efforts to sink into the “heaven within” as often as possible, I’ve tried a lot of ways to motivate myself. I’ve put up “post-it” note reminders, set daily intentions, and had friends text me daily–suggesting I stop and sit for five minutes of deep meditation. My current best method is to use a random timer on my phone that goes off 20 times a day. When I hear its alarm, I stop whatever I was doing and tune into feelings of peace and love for two minutes. By doing this, my day becomes infused with more awakened moments and less worry or thinking.
We live in a fast paced and increasingly crazy world. The Buddha once said, “Do not look for peace in the world; peace is within.” By taking the four steps listed here, you too may be able to tap into deep inner peace within a relatively short time.
Jonathan Robinson is the author of 14 books, a psychotherapist, and the co-host of the podcast Awareness Exploreres. His latest book, The Enlightenment Project is available at www:TheEnlightenmentProject.net. At this website, you can get a free ebook and audio of his 5 favorite methods for quickly awakening to inner peace.