So You Want to Be Enlightened?
Updated: Mar 2, 2018
Enlightenment is often touted as an ethereal, "other worldly" concept. In actuality, being enlightened is as simple as living lightly, free of the physical, mental, and spiritual baggage that we tend to accumulate throughout life. And how exactly do we do that? While sages have pondered that question for millennia, it seems to me that a few key practices will at least point us in the right direction (and I haven't found a sage who disagrees yet).
Jesus instructed his disciples in the art of present moment awareness when he told them, “Do not be anxious about tomorrow…” (Matthew 6:34). How many hours of your life have you spent thinking about the future? Let’s be real, it probably adds up to months! Most people place their happiness into a box labeled “future” and are completely oblivious to the fact that the only point of entry on the road to happiness is the present moment. You simply cannot experience joy that has not occurred yet. And while you can certainly recall happy moment’s from the past, joy can only be remembered, not relived.
Present moment awareness does not contradict planning, goals, or intentions. It simply means that as you work toward creating your future, you remain fully focused on every step of the journey. The only moment in which you can experience joy is this one. Yet, if you are never fully present, meaning that your mind is lingering in some future fantasy or past moment, then the gifts of the moment are forfeited. Over time, living in this way leads to discontentment, disconnection, and dissatisfaction…all three a form of heaviness (which is the exact opposite of en”light”ened living).
Detachment is NOT synonymous with disengagement. Rather it means that while staying fulling engaged with the people and experiences of life, you do not look to them as the source of your happiness. For example, if you were to suddenly lose all your possessions chances are that you would be hopelessly depressed. Why? Because you think that your happiness flows from them. In truth, positive relationships, material abundance, and life enhancing experiences are not the source of happiness but the outcome.
By detaching from the false notion that joy comes from things, you become free to connect with the only true source of joy, the nonmaterial essence of your being. There are, of course, many yogic pathways through which you can forge this connection: bhakti (spiritual devotion), karma (selfless service), jnana (profound wisdom), and raja (self realization). Each pathway contains numerous practices and tools which help to facilitate the expansion of consciousness, which in turn facilitates the expansion of lightness and happiness.
Presence brings us to the door, detachment inserts the key into the lock, but only love opens the door to enlightenment. From Jesus’s injunction to “love one another” to Buddha’s instruction to “radiate boundless love towards the entire world,” saints and sages across cultures and millennia have understood that love is the only way to access one’s highest potential, to make the world a better place, and ultimately to know God. The kind of love that we’re talking about is not an ego bound love, used to fill up our own emptiness. Rather, true love is boundless, universal, and unifying. It perceives every man as its brother, every woman as its sister, and every child as its own. It is not motivated by greed, selfishness, or personal gain. Instead, true love attends to the welfare of others with the same tenacity as it tends to its own care. It is compassionate and caring, the mother and the child, the giver and the receiver.
As true love becomes the motivation of your actions you can be sure that you are being guided by the divine compulsion within. It has been said that every actions springs from one of two states, love or fear. Begin to listen to the voice of love. As you do, you will see that true love purifies from the inside. It clarifies your path, lightens your burdens, and connects you to your Source. By listening to the voice of love, you can transform your life and the lives of those around you.
So, there you have it…three simple steps to enlightenment. What are you waiting for? Begin now! It’s the only moment you will ever have.