2016 is upon us, and resolutions will undoubtedly be abundant. But what is a resolution but a choice? And what is a choice without its due follow-through? “A choice without follow-through is but a lie,” some might say, and they would be right. Well, here is my resolution – or, my CHOICE for 2016 – A choice to be translucent.
Webster defines translucence as “letting light pass through, but not transparent.” A transparent object, like a clean sheet of glass, is almost invisible. You see everything through a transparent object as if it were not there at all. An opaque object, on the other hand, blocks light completely. A translucent object allows light to pass through, but diffusely, while maintaining its form and texture. Objects on the other side cannot be clearly distinguished. A crystal is translucent; so is frosted glass – if the sun were to shine on it from behind, you would see the light passing through it, and it would appear to be glowing from the middle.
Awakening people appear to be glowing from the inside – they appear to be translucent. They have access to their deepest nature as peaceful, limitless, free, unchanging, and, at the same time they remain fully involved in the events of their personal lives. Thoughts, fears, and desires still come and go; life is still characterized by temporary trials, misfortunes and stress. But the personal story is no longer opaque. It is now capable of reflecting something deeper, more luminous and abiding that can shine through it.
These types of people buck up against many of the spiritual concepts we have inherited from religions and seeker philosophies or traditions, but they are not hiding. They play vigorously in their relationships with others, their work, their creativity, and their political and environmental causes, but they play to play, more than to win. These folks display an above-average intelligence and generosity of spirit. Giving to other people and to the environment replace habitual behaviors based upon the lack, desire, and need foundation. Above all, they have a humorous and often irreverent relationship to their personal life, beliefs and identity.
These types of translucent people do not fit established roles and pigeonholes. They generally don’t follow one particular teacher, teaching, or group, although many have in their past. They are not “spiritual” in any way that can be obviously recognized through lifestyle choices. As a group, they display as wide a variety of occupations, appearances, and educational and cultural backgrounds as humanity itself. They generally don’t identify themselves as “enlightened” or having attained anything, and they are also not trying to become enlightened. They are not overly materialistic or spiritually cynical. Translucent folks are not uniformly vegetarians, political liberals, religious zealots, new age hippies, or self-improvement junkies. And they are not interested in a bunch of woo-foo magic rituals, myths, and formulae.
Let’s bring a fresh language to the process of this radical shift. What few words we do have for such matters have been commandeered by organized religions or packaged classes and processed philosophies, and reduced to cardboard cutout concepts, devoid of any real life. The implications and context of the current swell of direct experience demand an entirely fresh look at the meaning of spirituality. Let’s see what this might look like:
10 characteristics of translucent people
- Living outside traditional frameworks – awakening people for the most part live outside the context of organized religion and “seeker” philosophies. They no longer need to have one teacher or teaching, but rather have many teachers and experience all of life as a teacher.
- Looking beyond enlightenment – as we deepen in familiarity with our silent, limitless, real nature, and as we broaden our forays into the unchartered territories of living from here, the very notion of some final graduation becomes obsolete.
- An endless journey – we speak of life as a “riverring” process without end. Like a fountain that is always pouring forth, it is an endless and spontaneous enlightening, not a fixed state. Unlike the goal-oriented self-improvement industry that has dominated our culture for so long, this process is an endless unfolding of discovery and delight. There is no attempt to fix a problem or achieve a final higher state. It’s a direction, rather than a destination.
- Transcending self-improvement – awakening people have canceled their subscriptions to the self-improvement industry. They no longer pin their sense of well-being, their connectedness and peace, on the process of fixing themselves. Yet they fully recognize the dysfunctional habits that hurt people and create separation, and they take a tremendous amount of energy from the simplicity of this moment from being able to live fully and gift life. So they have no resistance to looking at these old habits, not as an attempt to improve the personal, but in service to moving beyond it and giving the realization space to breathe.
- The return to masculine/feminine balance – the masculine point of view emphasizes transcendence, annihilation of ego, the dissolving of limits and ultimately all form. The feminine, however, is much softer, drawn toward deep and embodied love, open acceptance, the celebration of all life as the dance of divinity. It delights in color, sex, children, dance and music. Awakening people demand a restoration of this balance. We attain it when we see that we are created with nothing to reject, and nothing to achieve.
- Embracing life and the body – until just a few years ago, the choices available to a spiritual aspirant were extreme: either renounce the world, turning your back on everything, or drown yourself in the marketplace – in sex, money, fame, power, etc. But awakening people are in their bodies and care for their bodies as a sacred garden. They practice yoga, martial arts, play tennis, ski, swim, pump iron – all for the sake of being embodied – not for trying to win or achieve anything.
- Unresisting experience – the tendency to resist life, to become a pattern of interference, is so strong in all of us that it takes considerable awareness, honesty and willingness to feel what is uncomfortable, to not resist it. This is the pivotal difference between a modern awakening person and traditional spiritual seekers. The awakened person seeks to be awake to the unchanging dimensions of themselves and reality and also willing to question and dissolve the unconscious assumptions of the mind.
- Engaging in open practice – in maturing beyond dogma and the rules of traditions and mystics, we have grown beyond hierarchy. The traditional setting of one enlightened one sitting or standing on a raised platform answering questions or instructing others is replaced by the circle, where wisdom is everywhere in the room at the same time, where the meeting is eye to eye, heart to heart. Through the alchemy of meeting with others in honesty and trust, we discover our potential to live as radiant love and humorous art with others.
- Life as art and generosity – this is our work: the discipline required beyond an awakening, to take a stand against habitual behavioral patterns and actually live what we’re talking about. However much an awakening may have touched us, if we stay entrapped in the habits of separation, the gifts that love intends to give through us will never be given. Let us be willing to do this work, not to improve ourselves or give ourselves anything, but for the sake of love itself.
- Being in good company – the number of people who have gone through a radical awakening shift is not easily measured. They do not belong to an organized group. In fact, most of them no longer align themselves with organized religions or spiritual groups. By sitting with others who have undergone this incredible shift in consciousness that comes without any conceptual framework, we accelerate our own personal evolution. “How can I have realized the oneness of things, and then experience the feeling of separation provoked by the difficult process of relationship with people?” No longer do we seek the experience of oneness, talking about it and quoting others on it, but rather its embodiment. It’s up to us to bring sanity, depth, wisdom, beauty, balance and compassion into the world ourselves, as our own person, and bring the same shift to the global community as has occurred within ourselves.
This type of radical awakening transforms lives. Repeated glimpses beyond fear and limitation naturally relax the tight beliefs that keep us feeling separate, allowing us to be more playful, generous and present. And the way we live, the degree of awareness and creativity that we bring to the humdrum routine of ordinary life, will allow our awakening either to blossom or wither. We pay close attention to how we live, not for moral or convenient motivations, but in service to the awakening itself.
This is the realization of translucent awakening – we are no longer willing to separate spiritual experience from the fabric of day-to-day existence. Our most mundane circumstances are the very context in which realization lives and breathes.
An unattended life segregates realization into a small box called “spirituality.” a well-intended life can make a trip to the grocery a sacred pilgrimage.
And this, my friends, is my Choice for 2016: A Choice of Translucence.
This article is inspired by the writings of one of my teachers, Arjuna Ardagh. To explore these ideas in greater depth, I highly recommend his amazing book, The Translucent Revolution.
Parrot-loving student of existential phenomenology and its psychological implications upon the human experience.