Coyote is the Patron Saint of self-induced suffering (is there any other kind). In the Coyote tales of the Native Americans, Coyote suffers because of his dissatisfaction with whatever happens to be arising in the moment and the seriousness with which he takes himself. Coyote is me.

Coyote reminds me of why I suffer. I suffer because I’m chasing something that I’ll never catch and, even if I did, it wouldn’t really make me happy anyway. And, Coyote, like my own ego, can be a trickster. And if I can laugh at Coyote, perhaps I can laugh at myself.

I am pragmatic by nature. I get easily bored with esoteric discussion and debates over the finer points of enlightenment. While I have great respect for traditional lineage teachings and transmissions from “enlightened” masters, I’m much more interested in exploring the territory for myself through rigorous inquiry. I’m drawn to real world enlightenment—the end of suffering as a practical matter rather than a theory. Awakening and enlightenment are too often treated with too much seriousness, often masking downright foolishness.

An identity is an illusion, but it is a heavy illusion. We actually have multiple identities that we seem to need to have ready to whip out at any moment for different situations. Carrying those identities around with us all the time has a dampening effect. On the other side of awakening, the heaviness of self is lifted. Another word for the heaviness of self is seriousness or self-importance. When seriousness (which is a condition, as opposed to simply responding to what arises in a serious manner) is lifted, what is liberated is a sense of humor.

When humor arises on the other side of awakening, it is the humor of seeing our own folly and foolishness. It is GOD’s sense of humor. It is the laughter of the child discovering something surprising for the first time.

I will confess to having a litmus test for spiritual teachers and spiritual paths: how much do they laugh and how much is laughter encouraged? Of course, there is a humor of scorn, derision, and humiliation. This is the laughter and humor of separation—what makes me and mine better than you and yours. But what I am talking about is the laughter of recognition—the humor of the comic who points out the foolishness of the beliefs to which we are clinging and upon which we are building our separate little identities.

Can you laugh with patience when you catch yourself clinging to the way something “should” be? Can you laugh with recognition when you discover a persistent little “me” that somehow did not get the nondual change-of-management memo? Can you laugh with wonder at how simple it actually all is once attention returns to your “oceanness” as opposed to your “waveness?”

There is Zen quote I return to again and again: First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is. The mountain is the illusion of separateness and permanence. It’s a dream, but it seems so real, and in that dream we suffer. Whether our awakening is gradual or instantaneous, it is the moment the mountain goes away, or, more precisely, the moment we realize that the mountain was only a dream. It can be liberating or terrifying to have this recognition, but we are seldom the same afterward. But enlightenment, real enlightenment, is the gradual embodiment of that awakened truth.

And, one day Coyote will realize that, while life and pain and love and change and bliss and loss have all continued to arise, suffering, quite simply, no longer does. And that is Coyote Enlightenment