I am back from my trip to Manila, the Philippines, and what a blast I had! It was hot, tropical, and humid, of course... and crowded! Manila has a population of about 16,000,000.

I stayed with my friend of 33 years, Steve, in his 39th floor apartment with its magnificent view of Manila Bay and the sunset. In general everything costs half what it does in the US. We ate good food, saw some sights, spent four days at a beach resort, Puerto Galera, two hours to the south, and I met, through Steve, some of his wonderful friends. I arrived home totally refreshed, rejuvenated, and recharged!

A lot of seekers have many ideas about what enlightenment, or self-realization, is. Many envision it as some kind of blessed state where there are no more problems, and you experience a constant state of inner bliss, joy, and a profound compassion for all humankind. Others think only saints can be self-realized, and for it to happen you have to have transcended the desire realm, and be beyond sex and any personal wants or preferences.

This is why I don’t really like using the term ‘enlightenment.’ It is such a loaded word, weighed down by many far-fetched stories. I prefer to speak in terms of freedom, or self-realization. And what I teach is that the freer you are, the more you are simply present wherever you, present without any story. The freer you are, the more you know yourself as pure consciousness, expressing in this unique body, mind, and personality known as ‘you.’

You still have a story, but now you know you are not your story. You still have an ego, an ‘I,’ a ‘me,’ but now you know you are not your ego. You honor the past, keep an eye on the future, but live right here, now. You feel a tremendous gratitude for the gift of being alive, you’re always, essentially,* at peace, one with the flow of life.

Above all, you feel moved to share your good fortune with others. You see that the world needs this, before anything else.