I have continued my readings on Werner Erhard and his est training, which has evolved into The Forum and now currently called The Landmark Forum. I have been reading articles in his website and watching videos of his lectures; his teachings remain relevant and powerful as when his words were first uttered 10 or 20 years ago when est was in its heyday and before his self-imposed exile. It’s interesting that he is a first rate teacher considering that he never had any formal or academic training, like he had achieved his insights in the crucible of actual experience not via academic learning, although he had his start as a motivational speaker and trainer. He does not have the academic credentials that give him validity as the usual tradition in today’s society but instead has changed his name and left his family, which I suspect is necessary in attaining any relevant insights; perhaps a reminder of Gautama Buddha’s journey, fleeing a life of princely responsibility, leaving his family and journeying into the wilderness to seek knowledge.
In one of his articles, he mentioned that people are afraid to be enlightened and prefer to remain in the journey, forever be seeking enlightenment when in fact they are already enlightened. This is due to the fear of responsibility, hence, people who attend est training sometimes remain as they are or are transformed but still continue in their journey when in fact their enlightenment is already something that has driven them forward. Here are some of Erhard’s words:
• ‘I think what frightens people about ultimately being enlightened is that it's an ultimately responsible position’.
• ‘So the training is not an end of anything. It's the beginning of something and what it begins is that process of community’.
• ‘But then, instead of trying to get enlightened, you live as an expression of the enlightenment’.
• ‘To be enlightened is the ultimate statement of responsibility’.
• ‘People who'd give up anything to be enlightened, except the idea that they are not enlightened. They will not give up not being enlightened, it's too painful, and it’s too terrible to give that up’.
What does his teaching say about me and my journey to be a writer or my quest for self-transformation and improvement? I guess it means that I am already enlightened; that my efforts in Toastmaster, journal writing, mind-mapping, have already borne fruit but I still persist in believing that I still need more experience, more guidance or more learning. Hence, the reason being that I am afraid of responsibility – to live as an expression of enlightenment, to live in the process of community. Instead I am afraid to give up my quest of trying to be enlightened, living in my own world of reading, surfing the internet, watching movies and television, all in the hope of achieving some new insight instead of living in the moment, enjoying the simple pleasure of community – enjoying home life with my wife and kids and contributing to their development. The closest thing that kept me involved in my family’s development is Steven Covey’s 7 habits which talks about helping your family grow – hence our trips to restaurants, museums, musicals, plays and other travels.
I started that involvement without any feeling but as a necessary move, as an intellectual concept but now that my kids are in college or now that we have a new home, a more engaged and authentic sense of community is needed. But I had persisted in borrowing more DVDs or attending online courses because I was afraid of being enlightened, to accept responsibility and live as an expression of that enlightenment. Instead I had succumbed to fear, indulging in primal desires, narcissism and self-indulgence. Hence, the important insight is to accept the responsibility of enlightenment. This means growth not only of oneself but also with regards to one’s development as a writer. All my efforts of reading, writing, self-analysis and clarity of thought have borne fruit already but I was just too stupid not to accept it. In other words, I have to live at a higher level befitting a transformed level of awareness and responsibility. Accepting responsibility (without blame or credit) is the true sign of transformation; this is my understanding of Erhard’s teachings.