The Goal of This Book
The goal of this book is to help not only its readers but its writer (that would be me) toward what I'm calling grounded happiness, which is hopefully a less loaded way of saying enlightenment.
When I say grounded happiness, I want you to think of your own experiences when the clouds parted in your life and you felt peace, joy, and clarity of mind. That was enlightenment – sort of.
The problem that this experience was temporary isn't irrelevant, but it is secondary. If you've had one or more such glimpses, you know from the inside what's possible. The Sanskrit word satori is used to identify this temporary or unripened enlightenment experience.
To provide an analogy, let's say that you've had the experience of falling in love. It's wonderful, and you want more. Your friends who are happily married, however, warn you that such a state of ecstatic first love is not really attainable in the long-term.
Now you're torn.
If you read that signpost incorrectly, you seem to be given a set of not very satisfactory choices: Remain alone, get married and settle for ultimate disappointment, or cycle in and out of a series of short-term relationships that eventually fail to make you happy.
But if you've ever been in love, chances are you're a good candidate for a happy marriage. Similarly, if you've experienced satori, you're probably a good candidate for enlightenment – that is, grounded happiness.
The question is less whether you are; it's how?
If you're like me, you've been frustrated because these experiences feel so promising when they arise, yet often turn out to be so elusive. You can't reliably create them or sustain them. And even if you've made undeniable progress in your life, that's not the same thing as the kind of virtually unshakeable peace that you believe is possible.
There's nothing more disheartening than experiencing what the Bible calls the peace that passes all understanding, only to have this experience evaporate over a period of days or weeks, leaving you dumped back into the turmoil of constant self-critical thoughts, painful feelings, and unhappy circumstances.
That revolving door between peace and suffering is, itself, just one more form of suffering.
If that's you, please know that you're not alone. There is a vast community of seekers who are, like you and me, stuck in this cycle, and very sick and tired of it.
I say you and me because I'm writing this book as much to lead myself out of this cycle as to lead you out of it. Think of me as a scientist who works nights as a lab rat: It's not very glamorous, but it is informative.
I'm not going to ask you to run through any mazes that I wouldn't participate in myself. Even so, you're always the final arbiter of your own experience. If something I suggest sounds absurd or unhelpful, feel free to ignore it and try something else.
This book contains what I believe to be a useful set of insights: Paths of inquiry that are more likely to lead to success attaining grounded happiness – that is, deeper peace that lasts longer with fewer interruptions of significantly less suffering. That is, enlightenment.
So, to sum up:
If you're here, it's because you've been seeking and occasionally finding the peace you seek. But the experience keeps getting derailed, landing you back in suffering. And you'll be damned if you know how, why, or what to do about it.
If that's you, well, that's me, too. I believe I have the beginnings of a road map out of here. It's far from complete, and I'll be relying on you to supply your own insights to the journey. This book is that process of finding our way out together.