The main stumbling block for most people is that they’re working toward the wrong thing. They want to attain enlightenment and be free of suffering. They want to be seen as 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, and 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? A few would. But 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 think the 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. 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 satisfaction with yourself that you are a good person and any troubles 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 in 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. It was the character’s argument. The character is just a set of beliefs you’re portraying. But being an individual is expressed through choices based on our beliefs, so in then end we’re all just slowly evolving patterns of choice. We’re all characters in life’s great movie.
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 so seriously? The role’s 60-90 years if you’re lucky. After that, no matter how good you were they write you out of the show. So 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 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 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 his what the universe is waiting for. Enjoy.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own overthinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.