No unhappiness. No pain. Constant peace, contentment, and joy. That’s how authors describe the state of being enlightened. Sounds like a fantasy, right?
When did we first start talking about “enlightenment” in popular reading? Probably different for each of us, but it seems to be a universally known term these days. In Eckhart Tolle’s book The Power of Now, he uses a question and reply format to explain what it means to be enlightened–that is, fully present in all you do, paying attention only to the exact moment you’re in. He asks, “What problem do you have right this moment?” The answer, he says, is invariably, you don’t have a problem.
How could that be, we might ask, if I am in pain? He says it’s possible to observe your body–and your mind–from the perspective of your Being and know that you–the real you, your spiritual essence– are separate from your suffering or your pain. He says we may experience fleeting moments of this full consciousness, where we feel and sense the sacredness of nature in the beauty of a forest or a flower, a child, or an animal. I think I feel this sometimes when I’m dancing or exercising to music that moves me–it feels transcendant, like nothing else matters at that moment, and also that everything is perfect as it is.
But we can, says Tolle, choose to be in this state as often as we like. Wow. What a power. So why don’t we do it? He says our minds get in our way–our hangups with the past and with the future. Here’s a great exercise he suggests:
Close your eyes. Sit quietly and say to yourself, “I wonder what my next thought will be.” Then become very alert and wait for the next thought. Be like a cat watching a mouse hole. What thought is going to come out of the mouse hole? Try it now.