Enlightenment is such a nebulous word. Buddha’s simple definition is the end of suffering. Of course, we all want that, but what does that really mean? It tells us what it is not, but not what it is. How do we end suffering? In a spiritual sense, it means freeing your mind of your inner voice. We all think we are in control, but our minds actually control us with its incessant thinking. We are so identified with our mind that we ARE our mind, so much so that our sense of self is derived from its content and activity. Don’t believe me? Just listen to your mind and notice all the judgment, the opinions, the commentary, the likes and dislikes. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, then you are totally identified with your mind, immersed in your thoughts. Your mind is controlling you and you are at the mercy of its every whim, every mood, all driven by ego which is a false self. Now that I’ve thoroughly confused you, let’s take a look at the following example:
You are at the security checkpoint at the airport. You’re stressed out of your mind, literally. Let’s examine the thoughts running through your head: I hate flying, look at that gal’s ridiculous outfit, that guy is so fat, I’ll never survive the five hour flight, I need a coffee, I should have got here earlier, that idiot behind me better stop sneezing, did I bring my earplugs, did I lock my car, I need a coffee, how did I get talked into this, I better not be sitting next to that crying baby. All this inner dialogue is playing out in your mind and you are totally immersed in it, living it. Some of it is helpful, like wondering if you locked your car, but the vast majority – 80 to 90% of it – is just nonsense chatter that is often redundant. And it’s making you miserable, amplifying the negative experience at the airport. Worse yet, your mind can turn on you and become your own worst enemy, an inner bully. Thoughts like: I’m always tired, there must be something wrong with me, I wish I was thin like her, I’ll never be happy, I’m so stupid, I hate my life, I’m falling apart, nobody likes me. The thoughts just keep on coming, one after the other, many simultaneously. It has been estimated we have nearly 50,000 thoughts streaming in our mind daily, is it any wonder that all of us are not insane?
Enlightenment means rising above thought, not falling back to a level below thought. It means putting all that involuntary inner dialogue aside, into the background, rather than being immersed in it. When you are free of this inner voice, there is inner stillness. All this commentary at the airport becomes background noise because you are no longer identifying with it, you are no longer living in these thoughts. You rise above them, observing them as they pass thru like puffy clouds and then disappear. It may sound passive, like you’re comfortably numb, but it’s actually the opposite as it’s a heightened state of awareness. By freeing yourself of your thoughts, all your senses are magnified. You simply are tuned in more to your surroundings as you become so deeply present in the moment.
You can be free of thought if you simply accept the moment and stop resisting it. Observe how all the thoughts ruminating in your mind just stir the pot, making you anxious, stressed and agitated. It is active awareness. Contrast that with if you arrived at the airport fully present, accepting this moment, as if you CHOSE this moment. You are no longer resisting everything. Your mind is not magnifying the issue with all its complaints and commentary because you are not attaching to any thoughts that arise. It is as it is. You still may not want to be at the airport but the experience is far more pleasant because you’re not drawn in to all the drama your mind incessantly wants to create.
To wake up is to be enlightened. Simply said, it means you have separation from thought, allowing the stillness of the universe. You are no longer immersed in your thoughts, no longer identified with your mind. All the commentary, the noise, the judgment, the opinions, all go away. It allows you to deeply connect with the moment. You feel a heightened state of awareness.
99% of my readers may have no idea what I’m talking about. But perhaps you’ve experienced it, even for a just a few moments, when your mind literally stops thinking. It often happens in nature, when you’re in so awe of a rainbow, a waterfall or a sunset that you stop in your tracks and cease all thought for a few precious moments. But you don’t need to rely on Mother Nature as this is inherent within all of us. You just have to peel back the noise. Mindfulness and meditation are great vehicles for this. Personally, I have had episodes of a few hours at a time where I’m completely awake and can tell you it is the most blissful feeling in the world. Everything is crisper, clearer, brighter. You can hear birds chirping, see the trees swaying in the breeze, observe the stillness as all your senses come alive. It is a different frequency, a deeper dimension. It is a connection to the universe and offers an undercurrent of peace and tranquility. It is an inherent gift within us all, we just need to remove the mental noise and wake up.