Remember the old joke about the tourist asking directions in New York? “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” “Practice, practice, practice.” That answer could also be given to the spiritual question “How do I get to the enlightened state?” Practice—a lifelong commitment to finding peace of mind and God. Your practice becomes your life, and vice versa. And yet it is not until the practice softens and becomes a relaxed inner flowering rather than a rigid outer striving that everything shifts. The virtuoso pianist and the devoted meditator discover the sound and light within them, not on an external stage or altar. Carnegie Hall and enlightenment are not destinations; they are experiences.
Only when we let go of the need to arrive somewhere do we find that what we were looking for existed already, right in front of us. Dorothy traveled over the rainbow to Oz only to realize that “Home” was in the faces of those she loved…and in her own heart. The enlightened state, too, appears to be over some distant rainbow, yet what if it exists inside us? We only have to deepen our awareness to feel its expansive presence. This deepening is the softer sense of practice, the spiritual sense.
Growing up, we are taught that if we practice enough, we will achieve whatever we focus on with intent and purpose. Practice is seen as a repetitive routine that leads to a specific goal, like playing a musical instrument well. This meaning has a certain truth; if we practice anything diligently enough, we can achieve proficiency. But there is a step beyond proficiency that can only be reached by an almost indescribable surrender wherein we become the music (or the meditation) itself. In spirituality, diligent meditating does not necessarily lead to enlightenment. Ultimately we have to let go of trying and open to something greater than ourselves. In this opening, practice falls away, and there is only spirit. The experience and the experiencer are one.
When you come to realize that you are, as Adyashanti put it, “seeking God with [God’s] eyes,” then awareness literally opens your eyes to the truth of who you are. Beyond practice is grace, in music or in spirituality. You become one with the flow of life, and you begin to flow yourself, whatever you are doing. You see the divine light within you that is reflected in the world around you. In every person and in every thing. This is enlightenment. A state of being, not a state of practicing.
Master musicians and spiritual masters share one attribute: connection. They are connected to something greater than themselves, and that is what lifts them into a state of pure being—oneness with music or oneness with God. This is the future of all of us who were born on the planet at this time. Our destiny is to softly step beyond the edges of practice into a life of awakened presence: spirit embodied in form, fully aware of both our humanity and our divinity. In any given moment, we can shift our awareness into this peaceful space of expansive perception. It’s not as difficult as it may seem. It just takes practice…and then letting go of practice.