If we don’t know what enlightenment is, we won’t know when we’re there.

If you asked 100 different spiritual teachers what enlightenment is, you’d probably get more than 100 different answers feel more confused than ever. Popular culture uses the word very carelessly; many equate enlightenment with a day at the spa, a yoga class or even a smart decision. Some believe that enlightenment is the reward that comes after years of dedicated spiritual practice. Others think they’re enlightened because they have “spiritual experiences” during deep meditation. Many think enlightenment is the absence of desire. How can we sift through all these ideas and understand what enlightenment actually is?


Overcome the obstacle: There’s one thing all spiritual masters do agree on: enlightenment includes a marked shift in awareness. Like a light turning on in a dark room, enlightenment allows you to see things in the room you didn’t know were there before the light came on. But what is the shift in awareness we’re looking for? The perennial philosophy tells us enlightenment is the realization that the universe is not what it seems. When the light is turned off, all we can see a universe of separate forms. When the light is on, it illuminates a universe of interconnected oneness. At that point, we realize we’re part of everything in existence and everything is part of us, including Divine Presence.  

  We don’t know how to turn on the light of awareness.

Again, 100 spiritual teachers will give you 100 different methods. Unfortunately, they’re telling you about the method that worked for them. It may not work for you. There is no “one size fits all” spiritual method.  Hundreds of people give up on enlightenment because they’ve been told they have to engage in a specific spiritual practice. But what if you don’t like chanting, meditation, rituals or yoga? What if you’ve tried them and they didn’t work for you?

 Overcome the obstacle: Just because a certain method works for several people, doesn’t mean it’s the “right way.” It only means it worked for them.  More important, we don’t even need a method or specific practice to reach enlightenment. The perennial philosophy tells us enlightenment is the result of a mindset, not a practice or method. This mindset is willingness. It means we’re willing to set aside our preconceived notions, social conditioning and the attachments and aversions that we’ve accumulated. This sounds like a lot of work, but it really just means being willing to see things in a different way. In this state of willingness we stop arguing, forcing and telling and open our heart and mind to what Ultimate Reality wants to tell us.

  We think enlightenment is a goal.

You may have gotten the impression from some spiritual teachers or seekers that once you’ve reached enlightenment, you’re now at the pinnacle of spiritual achievement and all that’s left is to bask in your bliss. This can present a very daunting picture for someone who doesn’t feel that they’ve reached this state, or ever will.

 Overcome the obstacle: As we said earlier, enlightenment means we see the universe, and our place in it, in an entirely different way than we did before our awareness shifted. We talked about this awareness as a light that reveals something we couldn’t see before, but that doesn’t mean that awareness suddenly flashes on like a light switch. For the majority, reaching that state of awareness is a process. The first step is the willingness we talked about. As we move along in the process we notice that our thinking, emotions and actions begin aligning with our awareness. This happens gradually. We might not feel like a light turned on only because the process can be so gradual, we hardly notice it. On the very few occasions when awareness hits someone without warning, it usually takes years to embrace the insight and adapt to it. If we’re expecting a sudden life changing flash that tells us we’ve reached enlightenment, we could miss the fact that we’re already there. Enlightenment is not a goal to be reached, and it’s certainly not an end in itself. It’s one of the many shifts in awareness that eventually lead to spiritual mastery and the unlimited peace, joy and security we’re all entitled to. 

 Learn more about enlightenment, spiritual awareness and finding the joy you deserve at The Beginning of Fearlessness website and blog: http://www.thebeginningoffearlessness.com/blog

 Copyright © Lee and Steven Hager