I had a conversation with a friend of mine who has read Answers From Silence. She loves the chapter about career, but she has a “yes, but—” issue with it. She is tired of struggling to succeed in her particular profession when there seems to be so much resistance and so little encouragement. She just wants success.
I used to have exactly the same issue, and I addressed it in that chapter about career. Therefore, I assumed that she needed a different angle on the subject.
I tried reminding her that everything in our life is our path of enlightenment, and that ultimately “success” isn’t the point; instead, it’s growth of awareness.
After our conversation, I felt like my message was received as some kind of positive-thinking rhetoric. Assuaging words about growth of awareness didn’t reach my friend’s sore spot. They just seemed like a bandage. And, like a bandage, a cover-up.
Enlightenment isn’t a bandage, and neither should information about enlightenment be used to evade genuine feelings of unhappiness. If you are really unhappy, then denying that reality by pretending otherwise would not be the “enlightened” thing to do.
What I hadn’t done in the conversation was to identify the dynamic of the question. A question needs to be answered at its own level of intention. If the questioner has one intention, it won’t help to answer with another intention.
When my friend said, “I am unhappy about my lack of success,” I took her meaning as, “Please give me the understanding to be free of my unhappiness.”
But she could have meant, “Please give me information on how to be successful.”
Or, “Sometimes I get discouraged. Can you reassure me that I’m doing the right thing?”
Or, “I need to talk about this. Please just be here and listen to me.”
Or, “I know the enlightened answer to my question, but I am resisting enlightenment by holding onto my question.”
Our conversation also hinted at another question that people seem to have about enlightenment: will it improve chances for worldly success?
Various things will happen after you are enlightened. Things always happen. But none of them will add to you or take away from you, because enlightenment is constant fullness that is independent of circumstances.
Also: can you be enlightened and still want worldly success in the way that people usually want it and for the reasons that people usually want it?
If wanting something comes from the sense of lacking something, then the answer is no. Because of the fullness that is enlightenment, the enlightened person doesn’t do things because of an inner lack. If the enlightened person wants anything, it is probably enlightenment for everyone else.
Just as enlightenment doesn’t substitute for worldly success, so does not worldly success substitute for enlightenment. If you want to talk about enlightenment, let’s talk about that. If you want to talk about success, let’s talk about that.
Or let’s not, if you are ready to look out the window, beyond the roomful of concerns you have busied yourself with all this time, and see the amazing panorama that you never suspected was there all along. I would really like to watch that happen.