Four Categories of Enlightenment Progress
You are already walking the path of enlightenment, whether you consciously realize it or not. You are making progress in each new moment, and you are getting closer and closer to a realization that everyone has yet to fully understand. Your success is guaranteed, and failure is impossible. On your journey, you are joined by every other being that ever was or ever will be.
It does not matter whether you believe this, or whether you believe anything at all. Beliefs are irrelevant, and as you continue to make more and more progress, you may find yourself shedding them more often than adopting them.
So it's not important that you believe anything in this text. You will experience it all firsthand. Enlightenment leaves no one behind, and even if you resist it, you cannot forever forget your own true self. This true self is everyone and everything.
As each fragment of the whole remembers its own identity with greater and greater clarity, there are universal signs of progress along this universal path. I would assert that these elements of progress fall into four general categories: unity with all that is, unconditional love toward all that is, knowledge of self, and awareness of the present moment.
There is a great deal of overlap in these four categories, and an enlightened person may argue that they all fall under the simple umbrella of love and unity. But perhaps you are not yet at a stage of embracing these core tenets. Perhaps you still view yourself as being separate from the whole, or perhaps there are still fragments of the whole toward which you do not yet feel unconditional love, even if this fragment is only yourself.
If this is the case, you are nevertheless getting closer and closer with each passing moment. Perhaps you have not yet embraced unity and love, but you are instead simply learning more and more about yourself. Or perhaps some grand life event is pulling your awareness toward greater and greater alignment with the present moment, even if that life event now seems only like pain and suffering.
Perfectly aligning your own consciousness with the present moment is impossible to do, and yet, the closer you come to achieving it, the more you'll understand, and the more consciously aware you will become of the nature of your own self and your own reality.
There exists a higher state of consciousness that goes by many names -- cosmic consciousness, superconsciousness, Christ consciousness, or Nirvana to name a few. This state of consciousness is within all things, and you are already experiencing it now to some degree. Through mindfulness and meditation, you can experience it with greater strength and greater duration, and you can accelerate its integration into your personal field of self-conscious awareness. However, even if you are completely oblivious to this higher state of consciousness, you are still experiencing more and more of it as you inevitably progress along your own unique life path.
When we dwell within this heightened state of consciousness, we experience what some call atonement (think at-one-ment). We are truly at one with all that is, we feel unconditional love toward it, and we feel unconditional love emanating from it -- indeed, unconditional love is the default state of consciousness, and it is only our own personalities that distort the awareness of this loving energy that binds our universe together.
Within this state, we perfectly forgive ourselves and others, but ultimately we understand that no forgiveness was ever needed in the first place, as everyone is truly blameless. We understand and accept ourselves better, though it may be said that knowledge of self is required before this state of consciousness can be fully experienced in the first place. We understand that we have already died to our own past selves, and we are continually reborn anew in each present moment.
As we bring our own state of consciousness further and further along the path of enlightenment -- also called the path of illumination, the path of liberation, the path of return, or simply "the path" -- we come ever closer and closer to Source consciousness. Source consciousness is the infinite Creator of all things, and it is also within all things. Some may call it God, but it is not an entity that is separate from ourselves. It's something that's already with us, and already here, just waiting for us to discover it, as we continue to discover ourselves.
To fully understand Source consciousness is impossible, for it is truly unknowable, even to itself. However, as we come closer and closer to knowing the unknowable, we better understand certain characteristics -- specifically, that it is a creative force that exists in unity with all things and expresses unconditional love toward all things.
By mimicking this same state of consciousness within our own personal selves, we are drawn closer and closer to it. To judge anything at all as being bad, or to view anything at all with an emotion other than love is to express a distortion between our ego-level personality and our true, deeper identity -- the one that we all share.
Yes, everything deserves our unconditional love, even what we call "evil." The whole is perfect, and each fragment of the whole is already at one with the whole. However, when we see things that we perceive as being imperfect, we may feel a desire to change them. Recognize that this drive for change is also a perfect part of the perfect whole, as the whole is constantly changing and expanding in an eternal process of refinement. When you feel driven to change the world to make it more peaceful and harmonious, understand that this change flowing through you is part of the system's perfection.
We are all unique individuals with unique talents and unique life situations. Just because we're all trending in the direction of unity and love does not mean that we are becoming homogenized. As we each become more and more self-actualized, we express ourselves in our own special ways, and we make our own unique contributions to our global society. We are each here to play a role, and when we embrace unity and love, we are also embracing uniqueness, however paradoxical that may sound.
Source consciousness cannot know itself directly; it can only know itself through differentiated fragments of itself. We are these fragments, and our uniqueness is cherished by our Creator, even if we view ourselves in a negative light or believe that we have been "sinful" in the past. Source consciousness feels only unconditional love for itself, and nothing in all of reality is separate from itself.
The path can never be truly "completed," because if it were -- if we lost all differentiation and dissolved back into all that is -- then "all that is" would no longer be able to know itself through us. Instead of completing this path, we simply cycle through it. Our consciousness rises higher and higher, we remember more and more of who we truly are, we integrate Source consciousness more and more into our own identities, and we identify more and more as being all that is, but then we cycle back around, forgetting what we have learned so that we can discover it once again, then go on to experience greater and greater heights of pure awareness.
In knowing ourselves, we are assisting God with knowing itself, for truly there is no meaningful distinction between God and us. If you are in search of God, or in search of your own higher self, the question of where to look is easily answered -- look within yourself, and look during the present moment.
If you have not yet had the personal experience that verifies the core message of these words, don't worry. You'll get there. You have already experienced what are sometimes called "flashes of enlightenment" or "moments of lucidity." These moments are brief, and oftentimes awe-inspiring. They give us greater insight into ourselves and the nature of our reality, even if they're not always pleasant, and they don't always overturn our current worldviews. However, as time goes on, and further progress is inevitably made, these brief moments of higher consciousness will grow stronger, and greater revelations will be understood through direct experience.
If you are eager to accelerate your own progress, it is not necessary that you read any one particular book or adopt any one set of beliefs or follow any one set of rules. All you need to do is know yourself, love yourself, love everything else as yourself, focus on the present moment, and seek the truth with all your heart.
Ultimately, the truth is all that matters. And we're all understanding just what exactly that truth is a little bit better in each new moment.