Enlightenment is characterized as the “the extinction of desire and suffering and individual consciousness.” Note that the definition does not say what it actually is, it just says what it’s not.
From my own studies I’ve seen two schools of thought on Enlightenment:
The first shows that it’s state of pure bliss… In the preface of Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle is in the throes of a deep depression when he says, “I cannot live with myself.” Suddenly that sentence makes him think, “Am I one or two? If I cannot live with myself there must be two of me… maybe only one of them is real.”
At that realization he is drawn into a vortex of energy, and gripped by intense fear as he falls into it. When he comes out of it, he’s in such a state of bliss for months that he can barely do anything except take in all the joy and wonder of simply being.
This is a state I’ve hit on rare occasion, and I constantly study Tolle’s work to bring me back to it.
Now, there’s another school of thought that says true enlightenment actually exists beyond this state of bliss. This school believes that a deep nothingness is where everything comes from, and that nothingness is the ultimate truth. One of those people is Steven Norquist, the author of Haunted Universe.
The first half of the book is a long argument for why you should put down the book and stop reading it. The author actually begs you to stop, because once you know that nothingness you can’t go back. He talks about all the things that he used to love, and how he doesn’t even do them anymore because all he knows is the nothingness. But for anyone else who wants to know the truth, they should read on.
I read the book, late at night (a must for any good horror story).
It was gripping. I could not put it down. And to my amazement, I got there. 3/4 of the way through I knew the nothingness so intensely that it felt like not only was there nothing to do, but I even had nothing to say.
I felt terror because I had just started dating someone and I couldn’t imagine her reaction when all of my feelings for her were just gone. I realized how much I liked my life and how I wanted to return to it. Soon after I was somehow able to shake off the nothingness and return to my ignorant bliss.
So here’s the interesting part…
I miss the nothingness.
It felt like such a pure state. Thoughts reduced to nothing. No need to change anything, acquire anything, become anything. I desire not to desire.
So here’s the question…would you trade passion for total peace?
It’s a trick question, actually.
Is that your final answer?
The biblical story of God telling Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac always disturbed me…until now.
Rabbi Mordechai Finley of Ohr HaTorah in Venice Beach, CA gave an incredible sermon on the story of sacrificing Isaac. Here’s my attempt to summarize:
First, God does not actually ask Abraham to kill Issac. The exact translation is God tells him to make “an offering.” While one can assume that means sacrifice, it’s not the word God uses. God only wants an “offer.” And when Abraham finally starts to go through with it, it’s not God who stops him. It’s an angel. I always read this story literally but Finley argues that this a pivotal point in the bible where God changes. God actually evolves (in our eyes) at this very moment.
First think about existence this way…
In the first dimension, two points make a line. The way that we get to the second dimension is we take a third point by placing it at a 90 degree angle to the line, which makes a plane. Then to get to the third dimension, we put a plane at a 90 degree angle to the flat plane and that creates 3 dimensional space. With me so far?
So now you and I are in 3D space together. So tell me…how do we get to the 4th dimension? Where do you put the next 90 degree angle?
There’s only one way to go… within ourselves.
And that’s where God goes in this story….The reason the voice is an angel rather than “the voice of God.” is because the angel is actually a metaphor for the voice within where we can now connect with God. The bible actually makes the point to question who is your true God? Look deeper and be careful, because the act of obedience itself could be a sin.
In other words, “Never let your morals get in the way of doing the right thing.” – Isaac Asimov
I once jumped into a marathon to run 6 miles with a friend till the end.
I never run, so 6 miles was a big deal. It felt great, but for a week my knees felt so shot they would buckle as I walked.
I didn’t take up running again until now.
There’s a theory that modern shoes are actually the cause of many injuries such as knee pain. The idea is very simple… our feet were engineered to run. They are well-designed machine that takes care of everything, including shock absorption. Before the days of shoes (a couple million years worth of time in the history of the homo sapien) the bottoms of our feet were used to rugged terrain, and our toes were wide creating a stable base, so we could run on anything. Now our feet have the same design, but the skin is soft, so we just need a good cover for it and a way to spread out our toes.
Enter the vibram five fingers.
I bought the Bikilia model, named after Ethiopian Abebe Bikila who ran a world-record 2:15:17 marathon at the 1960 Olympics in Rome – barefoot. And I just went on my first run tonight. And all I have to say is holy shit. I usually have to take a break every lap and this time I kept going and going like I was flying. At times it felt like my feet barely hit the ground. I had to stop myself because I knew the muscles and feet have to get used to it (you run on the middle of your foot, instead of striking at the heel).
Beyond just running, it feels amazing for the real shape of my foot to touch the earth. It’s very grounding. I highly recommend it, even if you don’t want to run in them. (If you do buy them for running, read Tim Ferriss’ blog post first.)
I love simple solutions.
I truly have the best team in the world.
After returning from my 30 day training / initiation, the team decorated my entire area, they all dressed up like me, and then took me out to roast me (yes, as in, I sit there and listen to them rag on me – in a pimp suit, no less).
This is my desk covered in hundred balloons, streamers and graduation hats.
This is half the team dressed up like me (I either wear blazer and jeans, or blue shirt and dark pants).
This is the actual roast, and yes they made me dress up in a full pimp outfit (though I seem to look like a Las Vegas Marachi player instead). Topics included of my obsession with raw vegetables and smoothies, the times I tried my Krav Maga moves on co-workers, and my overuse of the phrase “…and such.”
Thanks everyone for such an amazing return to the Zi Lounge. I’m so happy to be a part of this team.
I hate to do this, as we’ve had so many good times. But I’m breaking up with you.
You see, the main reason I enter a relationship with a phone is… to make phone calls. And you’re just flaking on me constantly. I really believe I’ve tried here. Sometimes I’ll even completely ignore real people around me just to talk on you, and you drop me like I’m week-old Chinese food.
But I must say, I think I may never have the same excitement at the beginning of a relationship as I did with you. It’s like you’ve raised my standard for what a phone could be. And because of that, I’ve found someone new…
I know this must be hard for you to hear, but The HTC EVO really meets my needs. It has most of your apps, it has 4G cable modem speeds, and it’s a wifi hotspot. And on top of all that, it’s a lot less money every month.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking. I told you I was done with Sprint and I’d never go back. But in all these years, Sprint has improved everything. They’re a totally different company now, even their customer service.
I have to let you know, I’ll be staying good friends with your family. I love your uncle Mac Book Pro, and your cousin iPad. And hey, if you’d like, you can stick around as my iPod with benefits.
Thank you for all the great years we had together.
P.S. – I’ve heard the rumors that you’re network-curious now. I’m glad to hear you’re so open-minded to change!
4:30am. I’m up before my 5am alarm.
We have to be in our chairs, ready to start by 7. If I’m there at 7:01 I have to start the entire month over with a new class. It’s a brilliant accountability-building ritual that’s built into our training. Just one of many techniques to learn our culture.
And despite the ungodly hour to be awake, I’m excited to be a part of this group…
“Having fun?” I ask my classmate.
“All day, every day,” he says, without skipping a beat, in a tone of total confidence. I couldn’t help but smile.
I can see why some people have called the Zappos family a cult. Some find it jarring to see so many people smiling in one office. For others, it’s life changing… A few weeks ago I sat down with a world class journalist who said to me, with tears in his eyes, “I have reported on every major company and met with the heads of states, and I have never felt so welcomed and embraced as I have here at Zappos.”
“Zappos is a spiritual experience…”
I was completely taken aback when the head of Ken Wilber’s Integral Institute (arguably the most successful institution in the field of modern philosophy) had this to say:
“Zappos is a spiritual experience. This is not hyperbole. After touring Zappos for three hours I immediately recognized the state of consciousness that the Zappos environment induces is the same as the deep meaning states of awareness that are often characteristic of spiritual events.” – Robb Smith
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” – Peter Drucker
Zappos has become well-known as the gold standard of customer service. However, what most people don’t realize is that the Zappos family culture is what powers the service. The idea is simple – treat your people well and make them happy. Happy employees then make your customers happy.
Of course, the process starts way before that…
“Harder to get into than Harvard.”- jokes COO Alfred Lin.
Zappos accepts 1% of all applicants. That’s less than Harvard University.
Then there are four weeks of training before the job even begins. Many people find that absurd, to invest that much time in employees who start at less than $12 an hour (and then offer them $2000 to quit, in order to make sure they really want to be there).
I am finally now going through the Zappos customer service and culture training, after being at the company a year and a half. I had come in as a consultant to re-launch Zappos Insights. And then I was always so busy running the business with Donavon, that I never had time to take the full-time training. But thanks to my amazing team, and Scrum, I finally had the time.
“I think this saved my marriage.”
I had heard that Zappos customer service training changes you as a person. I had no idea how much that was true until I started hearing my classmates’ feedback just a few days into the process…
“I’m able to connect with people in a totally new way. I used to just mind my own business, but now I’m looking people in the eye, saying hi, asking if I can help. I talked to an older gentleman in a wheelchair at Walmart and his entire face lit up.” – Eric
“I think this saved my marriage. I’m talking to my husband in a totally different way. We used to be so quick to get on each other’s nerves, and now I’m really listening, I’m not overreacting and I’m seeing him in a new light.” – Jen
Can you believe this was three days into the training?
We learned so much that by the time we finally got to the phones I was so excited I couldn’t stop smiling. This wasn’t just customer service. This felt like a performance. How could I wow people today. What are they going to throw at me? Bring it on!
Putting on the head set, I did not feel like I was in a call center. I felt like I was part of NASA mission control. It felt that important to me.
“…we just happen to sell shoes.”
If you’ve been reading my blog recently, you’ve seen how much I’ve been writing about dreams, Inception, The Matrix, and waking up from trance states. I’ve come to believe that’s what we’re up to at Zappos. We’re about waking people up to how they can be happy. (Insider’s Hint: To get happy, try delivering happiness). Yes, that’s a double entendre (see the second half here).
Tony, our CEO, is fond of saying, “We’re a service business, we just happen to sell shoes.” I didn’t realize how true that was until I started this training. We’re always looking for new ways to connect with people, to WOW! our customers and to WOW! each other.
What’s most interesting, is that this really doesn’t take much time or money.
It all starts with looking someone in the eye, and with the utmost sincerity, saying “Hi! How are you?” When it’s done right, you can really light people up.