The main stumbling block for most people is that they’re working toward the wrong thing. They want to attain enlightenment to be free of suffering. They want to be seen as being wise and peaceful and beyond reproach. They imagine having no hassles. That’s what enlightenment is to most people: no hassles.
Does that seem as lame as it actually is? Because that is a super lame definition of enlightenment. I totally understand that there’s good reasons people think that, but let’s clear up right away that it is totally wrong. Working toward that will just delay you in getting to where you’re really going.
Do you think the people who know me would call me enlightened? Very few would. Most would think that was ridiculous. And I don’t blame them. Because they, like you, don’t imagine someone like me when they imagine someone enlightened. They also don’t think of themselves that way.
Most people think an enlightened person should almost float and make no mistakes and speak in Asian rhythms. But that’s the TV version of enlightenment. The Dalai Lama often talks about his bad temper. So maybe you’re not so far from where he is after all, huh?
Real enlightenment is pure freedom. The freedom to have a view and the freedom to allow others to have theirs too. It’s the freedom to be wrong, or to change our minds. Or to not be sure. The freedom from replaying narratives about —or otherwise caring about— other people’s opinions or criticisms. The freedom to make mistakes and therefore the freedom from guilt.
Enlightenment is created by focusing on the present moment thanks to having achieved temporary satisfaction with ourselves in the sense that we are confident we are good people and that any troubles we cause are inadvertent and unintentional.
When you’re enlightened you may not like everyone but you do love everyone. So you allow them to be who they are, even when that person conflicts with who you are. Because the enlightened person knows that’s like two characters arguing on a stage, in a play. It makes no sense for the actors to spend their night angry about the argument even after the play is over.
The reason that makes no sense is because that was the character’s argument. The character is just a set of beliefs the actor is portraying. But being an individual is expressed through choices based on our beliefs. So in then end, we really are all just slowly evolving patterns of choice. We’re all characters in life’s great movie, arguing from a position of who we think we are.
The important part is, our beliefs were randomly dictated by the experiences we just happened to have in life. So if our choices are informed by our random experiences growing up, why take being that person (us) so seriously? The role’s 60-90 years if we’re lucky. After that, no matter how good we were they write us out of the show.
Since it’s all just for its own sake, why not just see life like Shakespeare suggested: “All the world is a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” Don’t take yourself or other people too seriously and you’ll find life is quite enjoyable without any effort at all. And then you’ll realize that there are enlightened people all around you. Not a lot of them, but there’s people that get it.
People that have quiet non-judgmental ego-free minds. But most people live in a sea of their own instructions on how to get this or avoid that. They’re always wanting. Enlightened people don’t want. They Are, or they Be. And there’s nothing you could want that could ever be as good as Be-ing. Not even no-suffering.
Don’t try to be calm and holy and perfect. Be human. Fully unapologetically human. Including your mistakes, misjudgments and misses. That is part of being human. Someone saying you can’t ever do that is like telling the person they can’t be human. No way. That’s not how it works. We’re all born with our humanity. It is ours. The rest is just people’s ideas and opinions.
So instead of being holy or righteous or sanguine, be your whole and complete self instead. Because that is who the universe is waiting for. Enjoy.
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.