Enlightened people are simply people who know how to live in the moment a lot of the time, but we slip out of that state of mind too. We get caught up in our thoughts just like everyone else. The only difference is that we will notice we’re out sooner; and we’ll be a bit better at getting back in. But we do not live free from suffering, nor would we want to. None of us is looking for some enlightenment where we don’t suffer anymore, we’re looking for the one where we don’t mind that we still suffer.
It’s very easy to intellectually understand duality. It’s easy to understand that we can’t see these black letters without the white background. But that’s recognizing the effect. We need to recognise the principle behind the cause. We need to understand the nature of duality. We cannot have a wave without a crest and a trough. They are separate yet we cannot have one without the other. So it is with duality.
We cannot know hot without knowing not-hot. We cannot know tired without not-tired. We cannot know happiness without not-happiness. We don’t have to spend much time in states of mind we don’t enjoy but, if we don’t resist passing through them on our journey, we can pretty easily escape back to grateful, appreciative thoughts.
Since appreciative thoughts are more natural, it’s as though we’re in an old motel and there’s channels on our TV of Life. Even in the techno world, there’s no remote for this TV; only we ourselves can turn our own old-fashioned dial, and the channels just go in a circle, alternating between yin and yang; between things you enjoy and things you do not.
As an example, let’s say the horror channel that we don’t like is between the happiness and love. So you’re twice as likely to grab the healthy one first but, even if we do, we still can’t get from the love story on channel one to the comedy on channel three without passing through the horror on channel two. If we simple accept that, we can flick by it very quickly.
What people’s egos will do instead is; as they switch from channel one to channel three, they’ll linger on channel two, noticing all of the reasons they don’t think it should be on their TV. But if we actually tune to it and then get mad at the TV as though it controls the station rather than us, then we are simply locking ourselves on to that channel with our dislike of it. It’s not a healthy thing to do.
We must accept that life will always present situations where there is no point in trying to see it as positive. But we also don’t have to dwell there. After something unpleasant or awful has happened, we must move our thoughts into the present moment as soon and as often as we are able. The pain is our guide. Lingering on painful channels does not promote the living of our lives. Our spiritual selves knows that, and so the bad feelings urge us to change our minds; to think different thoughts–or better yet, think none at all.
Unpleasant feelings are our sign to check in to our thinking to see if we can make better choices regarding what we’re currently inviting into our consciousness. We should learn to be grateful for them for that is how we come to experience enlightenment. We simply accept that even the things we thought of as bad are in a strange way still just a part of the things that are good, and knowing that, we can then lead ourselves to a very nice life indeed.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.