Musing about Enlightenment

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There’s a lot of talk around spiritual stuff about enlightenment. Seeking it, whether to seek it, what it actually is… I’ve met a lot of people over the years who seemed to me to misunderstand what it means in the spiritual sense. Often people attend a workshop or two, read a few books, have an amazing meditation and start referring to themselves as enlightened. In the ordinary sense of receiving knowledge about a subject, they have learned something about the spiritual realm that they didn’t know before and are thus enlightened. But in the sense that Buddha meant enlightenment, which is attaining a level of spiritual knowledge that frees you from the cycle of rebirth—or I like to think of it as attaining a level of consciousness at which you live as your divine self—I have the impression that the number of enlightened people on the planet is miniscule.

I’m actually fascinated that so many people really seriously want to become enlightened. Oddly enough, for as long a I’ve been on this journey and as much as I’ve done practices and worked to move along the path, I’ve never had even a bit of interest in becoming enlightened. I started out on the journey just deeply unhappy and struggling with health issues. When introduced to New Age thinking as part of therapy I fell instantly in love, but the thinking and the tools just served my purpose of feeling better.

I wound up taking spirituality more seriously and understanding the intertwining of body, mind and spirit enough to realize that I needed to address all three in order to get out of the health issues and into a happier space. Actually my mind turned out to be the easiest thing, in some ways, to impact because the deep unhappiness disappeared almost as soon as I learned a new way of looking at the world. And the more I understood that the way I looked at the world would determine how my life progressed, the harder I worked at holding a positive view.

Along the way I learned that emotional issues can create blocks in your body and spirit and tend to influence the mental chatter that carries on all the time. So even if you’ve decided to be positive and are careful to make only positive statements out loud, unresolved issues can keep a lot of negativity running in your head. Later I also discovered that ancestral patterns of thinking and physical holding can be passed down so that your body and thoughts can be impacted by things that happened many generations back. Until you start exploring those things are hard to note as they’re usually so ingrained in your family that you don’t question them.

I also learned that a lot of practices that move and balance energy impact both your physical being and your spiritual being. I’ve been faithful at lots of practices like yoga, the 8 Key Breaths, the Five Tibetan Rites, the lovingkindness chant, etc. because they help to move along the progress at restoring my twisted, knotted, intertwined muscles to health. I’m aware that my energy is shifting and transforming as I do the practices and that those shifts re-balance far more than just my body but the point for me is never about enlightenment.

I would say if I have a goal spiritually it arises from my belief that we’re divine beings who are here in physical bodies and we’ve forgotten our divinity. I would like to connect with that divine self, but in order to live in a body with my divine abilities. Enlightenment and reaching a state of consciousness that takes me out of the cycle of life and death—just don’t feel interested. Don’t have anything thoughts against enlightenment, just don’t personally care.

I’m curious to hear what people who DO long for enlightenment expect from it or why they want it or anything they have to tell me about why it’s desirable.

 

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17 thoughts on “Musing about Enlightenment

  1. I think I started looking for “enlightenment” meaning that I was looking for “inner peace” … and to the extent that I’ve found it, I would have to say that “Before enlightenment, chopping wood hauling water; after enlightenment, chopping wood hauling water” is the phrase that illustrates my perception. Basically, the “game” hasn’t changed; I’m just more aware that I’m playing one.

    • I like that description — I’ve always thought the chop wood… notion seemed not that far off from my idea of living in a body with a divine connection. But some people seem to think of it as something more… I don’t know exciting or blissful or something. I’m just curious about the attraction and people’s perceptions. Thanks for yours!

  2. I think we are all already enlightened. We may not all want to know this truth or be capable of remembering this truth due to disconnections in the body/mind. There is a great responsibility that comes with liberation. We have to consciously choose to remember. We have to consciously choose love. We have to consciously accept all that is without judgment. It is through surrender and acceptance of all that is without judgment that creates a state of grace. It is the state of grace that opens us to what enlightenment truly is. We can’t make it happen; we can’t force it into our experience, but we can prevent unnecessary suffering for ourselves.

    Link to my blog on unnecessary suffering….
    http://spiritualclarity.wordpress.com/2012/10/29/unnecessary-suffering/

  3. Great post, Leigh. I don’t pursue enlightenment either. I just try to get better and better everyday. Does pursuing enlightenment reveal ego that makes it harder to become enlightened? I honestly don’t know.

    • I’ve seen that argument a number of times in Buddhist-influenced books. I’ve also seen a lot of people who, if not completely enlightened, had certainly expanded their consciousness impressively, including those whose path involved ego, and the only thing they have in common that I can see about how they got there is that they believed in the path they chose.

  4. ‘Wanting’ enlightenment is a misunderstanding, as that says that one isn’t enlightened yet. We are already fully enlightened in our essence, as we emerged from pure essence. We simply forgot as we came down and took up form. Enlightenment is actually very ordinary and simple. It’s not all that complicated or a big deal like most people make it out to be. It’s just a simple awareness of self at each moment, just as we are. It’s about having our being as our authentic self – all the time. And oh… enlightenment is best to be had in this very lifetime, not after we transcend the body or any other la-la stuff, although that happens too.

      • What is the difference between choosing to “be there” and “being with self?” I find that there is nothing complicated about being in the moment. In fact, I have yet to find anything simpler. The word “enlightenment” is often used very mentally these days, but all it is is Freedom. If someone doesn’t want Freedom, it’s their choice to argue for their limitations. There’s nothing wrong or right about it, and everyone’s choice is honored. To each his/her own. Thank you.

  5. I know that I have never met an enlightened human unless the two gurus I have met are, but I am uncertain. The Dalai Lama appears to be enlightened but I have not met him. I don’t think I will make it in this life and that is unfortunate in that I have some tools to hack away at what I need to do to reach it. I keep hoping on spontaneous enlightenment~ 🙂

    ☆ ♥
    *`•.¸(¯`•♥•´¯)¸.•♥ ☆ ♥•
    ☆ º ` `•.¸.•☆ ´
    Sindy

    • The Dalai Lama just laughs when anyone refers to him as enlightened… I have met swamis and rinpoches and the occasional New Age teacher who have at least expanded consciousness to a place far beyond where most of us live but I suspect that fully enlightened people on earth are few and far between… Like you, I don’t expect to be there in this life–unless it happens spontaneously, because I’m not trying :>)

  6. Pingback: Robert JR Graham » The Mystery of Enlightenment

  7. Enlightenment is the bait in the trap, the tease that gets you to sit down and cross your legs. Then before you know it you’re sitting without worrying too much about your mind or anything else exploding into something different. My first Zen teacher, a Korean monk, used to say that reading/thinking about enlightenment was like reading a menu and never eating in the restaurant. 🙂 Ken

  8. Enlightenment to me is becoming the awareness of my thoughts. Being the observer of my physical body and mind. I think everybody has enlightenment everyday when they have fun! I don’t think it is something that it is attained. It’s always there for us, we just have to become aware of it.

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