The Translucent Revolution

by Arjuna Ardagh


Robert had it all: the beach house in Malibu, the latest SUV, designer clothes, the right connections. He also had a small drinking problem, and a few personal difficulties to resolve at home.

He had made his money in California real estate, and when the market crashed in the late eighties, so did Robert. He went from a net worth of millions to bankruptcy. He lost the house, many of his friends, and his confidence. By 1992 he was thinking about killing himself.

Late one evening, he was out taking a walk. He stopped and stood motionless, his mood blacker than the night. He had a thought, a simple thought. "I am finished," his mind announced. He still has trouble explaining what happened next.

"I was overcome by a sense of relief," he reports. "A sudden feeling of inexpressible freedom. I even began to laugh out loud. My body was filled with happiness, as if I was suddenly getting a joke I'd been missing. For the first time I was feeling really good for no reason at all. I was totally here, in this moment. I could feel the trees around me, and hear the sounds without having to listen to thoughts telling me things needed to be different in some way. Everything was being experienced, but the 'me' was gone."

Robert's friends warned him it would pass, that he had tasted a fleeting glimpse of a state only great yogis could attain. "It didn't pass, though," Robert says today. "I still have ups and downs, of course. But this mysterious sense of well-being I found that night, this feeling of lightness for no reason, has stayed with me for more than ten years. I couldn't get rid of it if I tried. In fact, it only seems to grow deeper and deeper. It is not happening to me, it is who I am."

A similar thing happened to Mary, while she was working the early shift at a vegetable-canning factory. Stephan was driving on the freeway, while Jacquelyn's awakening came in a hospital, after she gave birth to her third child. Michael went through a similar shift serving an eighty-seven-month prison sentence in a cell with thirty-two other inmates, and Douglas was hiking in the Himalayas.

Some have come to this awakening through contact with a teacher, some from entering the depths of despair and coming out the other side, and others after years of meditation. It can occur in a one time light-bulb moment or as a gradual marinating over many years.

Over the last twelve years, I have spoken to thousands of people who have passed through similar shifts of consciousness. Their awakening has changed who they know themselves to be and the nature of the world around them.While some are notable teachers and writers, the majority are ordinary people leading everyday lives. I've checked with dentists, hairdressers, housewives, and hobos.

These awakenings initiate a gradual metamorphosis, which is both evolutionary and endless. A spontaneous generosity of spirit, an impulse to serve, and a willingness to transform living into art gradually replace the normal relationship to life marked by fear and acquisition. I call this endless process of evolution and transformation "translucence."

Webster's dictionary defines translucent as "letting light pass through, but not transparent." A transparent object, like a clean sheet of glass, is almost invisible. You see everything through a transparent object as if it were not there at all. An opaque object, on the other hand, blocks light completely. A translucent object allows light to pass through, but diffusely, while maintaining its form and texture. A crystal is translucent. So is a sculpture of frosted glass.

Translucent people also appear to glow from the inside. They have access to their deepest nature as peaceful, limitless, free, unchanging, and at the same time they remain fully involved in the events of their personal lives.

Thoughts, fears, and desires still come and go; life is still characterized by temporary trials, misfortunes, and stress. But the personal story is no longer opaque: it is now capable of reflecting something deeper, more luminous and abiding.

Contemporary translucents defy many of the spiritual concepts we have inherited from religious traditions. They are not recluses. They play vigorously in their relationships with others, their work, their creativity, and their political and environmental causes, but they play to play more than to win.

Translucents display an above-average generosity of spirit. Giving to other people and to the environment replaces old habits, based in lack, desire, and need. Above all, translucents have a humorous and often irreverent relationship to their personal life, beliefs, and identity.

They generally don't follow one particular teacher, teaching, or group, although many have in their past. They are not "spiritual" in any way that can be obviously recognized through lifestyle choices. As a group they display as wide a variety of occupations, appearance, and educational and cultural backgrounds as humanity itself.

They generally don't identify themselves as "enlightened" or as having attained anything, and they are also not trying to become enlightened. They are not overly materialistic or spiritually cynical. Translucents are not uniformly vegetarians, political liberals, religious zealots, new age hippies, or self-improvement junkies. And they don't all wear Birkenstocks.

Over the last three years, I have interviewed more than 170 translucent writers and teachers. By asking them what they have experienced with their own students, I have also had indirect access to the experiences of millions of people around the world. Finally, with the help of sociologists like Paul Ray and Duane Elgin, I have studied numerous polls and bodies of research that suggest a radical change in collective consciousness. Conservative estimates put their numbers at three to four million worldwide.

Many of the people I interviewed feel that it is in the first buds of this emergence of a new kind of humanity that we have realistic grounds for optimism for our race. Open a newspaper today, switch on your TV, and you will hear one tale after another of terrorist threats, global warming, growing economic disparity and corruption, the depletion of natural resources at a rate completely out of proportion to anything in our past. Each of these disparate and complex problems seems to demand a unique solution, in most cases still out of our grasp. But they can also be seen collectively as symptoms of a mind set that is now dying: one which simply cannot continue because it is unsustainable.

Are you translucent? If what has been briefly summarized here sounds familiar to you, then you are already a part of this evolutionary current. You are probably more a part of the solution on this earth than a part of the problem. What you do, and how you live, is not as trivial as you sometimes think. What you choose to do in the next five minutes, and the spirit in which you do it, contributes to the difference between nuclear annihilation and the opportunity for this world to return to Eden. The future rests in your hands, and the stakes are getting higher.

It is time for all of us to wake up to our natural sanity, and to live it passionately, dangerously, intensely. Translucently.

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