The path of enlightenment has no direct relationship with lifestyle. To mistake enlightenment for a particular lifestyle would be like mistaking the filament in a light bulb, rather than the electricity, as the source of the light. Theoretically, an enlightened person could just as easily own a Lear Jet and be a member of the Playboy Club as be a hermit in the woods eating fruit and berries.
It seems destiny for those of us new to the spiritual path to continually mistake the filament for the electricity. From buying Indian clothes and following extremely strict diets to living in huts or tents in the woods we seem always to search outside ourselves, thinking, “Well, if I do this or that life will be more natural,” or “less karma accumulating,” “more organic,” or “more real.” So on and on we go trying to change our lifestyle so as to capture that elusive something that will make life complete. Of course, this illusion is part of the path and is something to be looked at and admired, as we might admire a seductive lady of our dreams, knowing she will never quite materialize to satisfy our every desire. So compassion for ourselves becomes most important.
Yet it seems that lifestyles do change as one travels the path. Performing the same tasks and talking and listening to the same raps seems a little absurd if yesterday your greatest ambition was to become corporation president and today you seek only to experience the world as a mirror.
Enlightenment has been compared to evolution-in-reverse. You simply go back to where you came from, or you degenerate (that’s a sweet word) to when you were a child, getting off on playing in the sand or climbing a tree. This is where lifestyles reflect the path of enlightenment — not in what particular lifestyle you are into but how you relate to the world in that lifestyle. Certain lifestyles (food, clothing, how you spend your time) seem to manifest themselves in the mind as one evolves. Seeking to live out these dreams is part of the trip; for by traveling the path you get to the next place, even though you know that ultimately it isn’t what you “really” desire or want. Seems somewhat of a paradox that we are to go on traveling a path when our ultimate goal isn’t to be found on that path. So we dance the life dance so we can learn what it is that is really dancing and because we know we can’t find it by sitting back and intellectualizing about it. There’s a nice picture in “Be Here Now” of the Buddha on a surfboard with the quotation, “Surfing: either you do it like it’s a big weight on you or you do it as part of the dance.”
All you’ve got to do is tune into yourself and tune out the world and your path will come to you. At first there is that feeling, “Ah shit, it’s just another dream or a manifestation of my desire.” However, gradually, as you come to trust yourself (that inner voice) you begin to see these different paths as a dance to be experienced and enjoyed but not caught up in.
It seems as you dance you get lighter and lighter physically, mentally, and spiritually. Some people choose a strong discipline to achieve this and others sit back and just relax. You travel only as fast as you travel, for to try too hard would defeat your purpose.
If you feel you have an unquenchable desire to eat meat or make a million dollars you follow these dreams, for to follow some other’s dreams would only leave you in eternal unfulfillment, thinking the grass is greener on the other side, but I’ll never know for sure because I’ve got too much invested here. So one follows these paths and experiences them to realize they are only a means. Thus one doesn’t go through the trip with a lot of excess baggage. One doesn’t spend a lot of energy dressing up to see the king if the king himself couldn’t care less how one looks. Thus life simplifies itself and one finds a suit that best meets his needs for the journey. As this happens, one loses the appetite for heavy food (meat and fish). Eventually, the diet changes to lighter foods (fruits and leafy greens) because they are more agreeable to maintaining a higher consciousness. Finally there are liquids, and pure air. One also finds what he really wants isn’t a $40,000 carpeted house but can do quite well in a small apartment or old house with a wood stove or just a tent. Jobs also change, as we find it more agreeable to work in a supportive environment rather than just chasing money or status without considering what kind of drama you’re putting yourself into. There are always those doubts when you’re tired and washing dishes and living in a tepee that you’ve been had — but this, too, is realized as just another game of the mind, and passes.
There isn’t really any sacrifice, but rather by giving up the more demanding and complex lifestyles one finds the key to the simpler and more satisfying pleasures. By being on a lighter diet, a fine taste for foods and a higher state of health, never before experienced, begin to develop. By giving up the penthouse one finds immense joy in sitting by the wood stove or the open fire that outweighs central heating. As one turns off the radio and the TV, pretty soon the birds, the sunset, the stars, and the winds turn on.