Today, I’m going to tell you a secret. It’s one of the BIG ones. Might not be what you expected, tho. It’s one of the most sacred truths of life. It’s about enlightenment. Now, if you’ve never heard of enlightenment, you must not get out very much. Let me give you what comes up in a google search, so you can skip doing that on your own:
While there may be a dictionary definition listed under the word “enlightenment”, Google is actually spreading fake news.
Because I’m here to tell you, today, here and now, that enlightenment… is….
That’s right. Enlightenment in reality is absolutely nothing. There’s nothing there. No-thing to achieve. No-thing to add. No-thing to acquire.
This is something I’ll typically receive a confused reaction to when conversing with individuals who have no idea what mindfulness is. They’ll ask me what I do, and I’ll say “Well, I’m a mindfulness teacher” and they’ll be like “huh?”. Fortunately most of those people have heard about meditation or yoga, so I’ll drop one of those and have some kind of understanding nod or “ahh, okay”.
Most of those individuals will be confused when I describe enlightenment as “nothing”. To the lay person, and even to the mildly spiritual person, there’s an understanding that enlightenment is an accomplishment of some sort. The general idea being that an enlightened person is somehow in a perpetual state of calm or poise, emotionless yet peaceful, possession-less yet satisfied.
A typical American that’s been born and bred for consumerism might totally blanch at the idea of having little to no possessions, but an “enlightened person” seems to be unbothered by it. What’s their secret we wonder. How can they live without the need for distraction or entertainment? Even now, you read this on your phone or laptop, which you can’t even dream of living without nowadays. Surely there must be something different between them and I? There must be something wrong with me since I need all these things lest I feel empty.
This is where I, and all other “enlightened beings” laugh the great big belly laugh of the Buddha, full of kind, endearing compassion. There is no secret to this thing you think you must achieve in order to be at peace. In fact, you have been there all along. In fact, you are no different or separate from the Buddha himself. Or God/Goddess/Yahweh/Allah, all of them. What you feel to be your “self”; the person you refer to as I, that has a past, a story, dreams for the future, a collection of material things that you see as representations of “you” as well as a collection of people and ideologies, is actually not real. They are certainly real in the sense that you shape the way you see the world from these things. But this is not the “real” you.
Fortunately, in all your existence you have never stopped being the “real” you. It’s simply your being, your awareness, your presence in the here and now. Which has indeed been a constant all your life. So it’s also something that you intimately share with every other sentient being on the planet. When we arrive on earth as newborns, we are pure awareness without a brain that has developed a language yet.
This is where we originate as and where we return to when we realize enlightenment.
Let me say that word again.
Think about that word for a second. What does it mean to “realize” something? I would define realization as a knowing of something you were unaware of the moment before. This is what distinguishes the way our “false” selves view achievements or acquirement’s, and how your awareness relates to the action of realization, or enlightenment.
Let me break it down for you. Your un-awakened self will always view the accumulation of stuff as an accumulation of what makes you more you. More money means more opportunity which means more things which also means more stress, but it’s all worth it because you are suddenly more with every single purchase you make. But we have been raised believing in a lie, and this is why rich people are so often unhappy, because they think (like everyone else) that more stuff will make them more happy. This is all rooted in the fact that things do not represent the real us in the first place, so we are constantly trying to fill a hole that will never, ever be satisfied. You might abate the symptoms frequently, with every story on facebook you share, every purchase on prime or app you download. With all the things you buy and all the activities you distract yourself with.
So, if we’re living in such widespread abundance, why are we still so unhappy? You may have already caught on that our “false” selves are the ones perpetuating this misery. But what, then (or who) is our “true” selves?
We brushed briefly on it before, when I mentioned newborns. And in fact, google even gets this part a little right in their definition; the state of being that you were in as an infant was complete awareness. You had programed biological responses to eat and poop, but you otherwise were little more than a sponge of observation, taking everything in and recording everything you saw, felt and experienced physically on overdrive. Our brains learn more in our first two years life than the rest of the years we live. We were fully immersed in the now, incapable of conceptualizing anything else.
A child does not have ingrained and conditioned mental emotional patterns. Does not have long run habits of constantly checking their phones. Do not have all that stuff accumulated.
You could even say that they are empty. That there is nothing there blocking the light shining from within them.
That’s why enlightenment is nothing. No-thing. The state of being that is tied to no-thing.
So what does that mean for you?