Enlightenment is a state of being that seems to be a common goal for all forms of religion and spirituality that I’ve come across. Penney Peirce points out in her book Frequency, that enlightenment has many names. She notes that it is called satori in Buddhism, nirvana or moksha in Hindu, and salvation in Western religions. In the opening chapter of The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle suggests that enlightenment is the discovery of the deep treasure inside of ourselves. He says, “it is a state of connectedness with something immeasurable and indescribable, something that, almost paradoxically, is essentially you and yet is much greater than you.” To me, it seems like enlightenment is a heavenly state. I’d like to call it heaven, but a quick Google search returned plenty of commentary stating that enlightenment is not heaven. I’m not a religious scholar and not interested in arguing that point. So, I’ll stick to heavenly.
I’ve thought about the idea of enlightenment quite a bit over the course of my adult life. It seems like something that one has to work at to achieve over a long period of time. But the more I think about it as a destination, the further I seem to get from reaching it. So instead of trying to reach this elusive state, hoping that when I get there, I’ll finally understand, I think I’ll try and describe what it would be like for me.
For me, Enlightenment would be a compassionate, open-minded and peaceful confidence. It would be an ever-present feeling that everything is exactly how it is supposed to be. It would be freedom from fear and doubt. Confidence means knowing and trusting. This compassion meets both humility and narcissism because everything is interconnected. Open-mindedness is necessary because otherwise we can get stuck in our beliefs and become unwilling to change with new information and context. And peace is a state of calm that provides the unlimited space for freedom to occupy.
While I may not yet be free from doubting and fearful thinking, I can practice compassion, open-mindedness, and peacefulness. I can continue to learn and grow, building my confidence as I practice trusting myself and trusting the universe. Perhaps if I ever reach the point where I am living the definition of enlightenment that I’ve defined here, I might realize there’s more to it. But this seems like a good start to me. And as Zig Ziglar says, “you don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.”