This is just too good to not share.
I had not given the subject of enlightenment much thought before. Even though I’ve been studying eastern philosophies for a little while now, the thought of enlightenment really hasn’t piqued my interest. As far as Buddhist philosophy goes, I’ve mainly been focused on being aware of the present moment and not judging situations as good or bad. These two things have helped me very much in dealing with life.
But somewhere in the last couple weeks, enlightenment caught my attention. So, I started doing some reading and thinking about this idea. From what I can tell, the more common meaning of the word is what most people would think of. It’s supposed to be a state of awareness that most people are not enjoying. It can be said that it’s a greater awareness of God, or your oneness with God or with all things. A state in which you are free of the ego and live out of your essence or spirit. You are living out of your “God-self”. That kind of thing. And there is no shortage of material you can find on the internet and in books talking about the steps you need to take that will lead you to enlightenment. So it’s a spiritual state of being or experience that can be attained by hard work and focus. There aren’t man humans who have attained this state, using this definition of the idea.
I will say this before I continue. I could be wrong. I’ve learned not to be dogmatic about anything. I could always be wrong. Or just not completely right. Or have all the facts. You get the idea. That’s part of why I call this blog, shifting beliefs. Relative truth is what a person views as true, right now. As time passes and experiences happen, that relative truth usually adjusts a little as well.
Ok, so with that being said, I tend to think that enlightenment is not as spiritual and evasive as many think that it is. I think it’s a more natural thing that we can walk in on a regular basis. I found a great article on the subject on this site: http://upliftconnect.com/cosmic-joke/. This part of it really resonates with me:
The great cosmic joke is that you are what you are seeking. All the religious and spiritual seeking on this planet and you end up back where you started. If that’s not a fantastic joke worth a good belly laugh I don’t know what is. We all look for happiness, peace and fulfillment in the things of the world, yet all along these things are our very nature – our very own center of being. Meditation masters and mystics throughout history have seen the joke of it as Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh explains:
I laugh when I think how I once sought paradise as a realm outside of the world of birth. It is right in the world of birth and death that the miraculous truth is revealed. But this is not the laughter of someone who suddenly acquires a great fortune; neither is it the laughter of one who has won a victory. It is, rather, the laughter of one who; after having painfully searched for something for a long time, finds it one morning in the pocket of his coat.
Wow. Isn’t that great? I remember reading something else by Thich Nhat Hahn that basically said, being mindful of the present moment is enlightenment. If you are washing the dishes, and are as aware as you know how to be of the experience you are having of washing the dishes, you are enlightened. Along this same line of thought, he also said, “The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth, dwelling deeply in the present moment and feeling truly alive.”
I sent a text to a friend recently. I told him that I had been thinking about him and asked how he was doing. Then I asked what his definition was of enlightenment. He said that he was having some challenges in his health and some other areas. Then he said that just the fact that I was thinking about him and I now knew that he was down made him feel enlightened. I love that! Here is a friend who is not doing well, he was able to share his burden with someone, and that was an enlightened moment for him. I really think it’s that simple. When my child talks to me about something that happened that day, or what they have been thinking about, and I listen with my ears and my mind and my eyes and my body language… There is a wonderful opportunity for an enlightened moment for us both.
There is a Zen proverb that is fairly well known that I like. It says; Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. 🙂 For me, it kind of takes a lot of the spooky-ness out of enlightenment. Also, these days I kind of lean towards the fact that we are not two parts (or three parts, depending on how you break it up), soul and mind/body. I think what you see is what you get. I think we are our body, our mind, and the combination of our experiences and our interpretation of those experiences. So instead of somehow putting my mind and body through some strenuous series of exercises so that my spirit/soul can rule in an attempt to live from my “higher self”, it’s just about being aware. When I walk through my neighborhood and I’m aware of the ground under my feet, the wind on my face, my body breathing in and out on its own, am I not enlightened? This is an excerpt from and Alan Watts talk that he gave:
When you really look into yourself – There is nothing you can do. We here mutually realize there is nothing we can do to be anything else other than what we are or feel what we feel in this moment, and to be this quaking mess. However this isn’t as much as a blind alley as you think, it tells you something. Water puts out fingers and some stop because they hit blind alleys and the water doesn’t pursue that course, it never uses effort, only weight, it takes the line of least resistance. There is no way of transforming yourself to become this fearless divine being apart from the quaking mess.
The “you” that thinks itself capable of changing the quaking mess, does not exist, the “I” separate from this, cannot control it, because it is not there. As soon as you understand that, things will be vastly improved.
You can’t do anything to change yourself, to become better, happier, more serene. You don’t need to. You are all as extraordinary as trees, the shape of fire, and the arrangement of the stars.
You needn’t feel guilty – you do anyway – but don’t worry about it.
You don’t know what you’re supposed to do, so you just watch. Just watch it all.
A friend of mine, when he gets overwhelmed with life and all this stuff, likes to remind himself to just be. Just be. I think in that moment of just being, when you are aware of your just being, is another moment of enlightenment.
So, yeah. That’s where I am right now with this enlightenment thing.
I hope you all are doing well. 🙂
Ok, so I’ve had this word/idea in my head for a while and I’ve been doing some reading and thinking and such. And I thought, I should write about that! So, I am. Soon. Really. Very soon.
Oh, and the word or idea is enlightenment. Oh yeah.
I like the word, “ease”. Like might not be strong enough? I really, really like the word, “ease”. The definition is the absence of difficulty or effort. Wow. How great is that? I meditate with a Buddhist yoga instructor on Sunday mornings. He’s from middle TN and very laid back. Probably not at all what might have come to mind with the description, Buddhist yoga instructor. Anyway, the first part of our meditation time is a guided meditation. We say to ourselves, “may I be I happy, may I be healthy, may I live with ease”. Doesn’t that sound wonderful? Especially that last part… live with ease.
The drive to and from work can be hectic. My job is very stressful and hectic. The thought of living with ease sounds refreshing to me! The cool thing about what I gain from meditation (and other things like this) is that my environment doesn’t have to change at all for me to be in a place of ease. But it can be hard to get there! It’s that whole, peace in the midst of the storm, kind of thing.
In the last day or two, I’ve gotten a bit uptight reading about a certain topic. I was reading back and forth between two camps. One believes in what most people would define as free will. And the other does not think we have free will. I finally texted a friend who I talk to about these things from time to time, just to get his input. This is a portion of his response:
“Everyone wants to be right about the truth of one thing or the other. I believe both are true, and at the same time, both are not true. Our minds try to figure out the truth, but if it never did, then it wouldn’t have anything to live for. Without our minds, we would just be… I like Just being…”
It’s not so much the “truth” of the context of what he said, but for some reason, it just put my mind at ease. It helped me breathe easier. Everyone is different. What puts my mind at ease might drive someone else crazy. So I can’t tell you what that thing is that will put your mind at ease. But I encourage you, whatever it is that puts your mind at ease, do more of that. I think we are more used to what being stressed out feels like than what living life with ease feels like. For me, I think if I can spend more time in a peaceful place, a place of ease, and get more used to that feeling, it would be a little easier to bring that into my everyday life. I’ll try that and see how it goes. 🙂
I’m not sure why, but sometime yesterday I had this thought; “I wonder how I would view life if I had grown up with no religion?” I played a Christmas gig at a church over the weekend and I imagine that prompted me thinking in that direction.
I grew up in the Midwest and in the South, so Christianity has been all around me my whole life. I would have labeled myself a Christian for about 33 of my 49 years of life. Now I try to not have any labels and fluctuate between probably never being 100% that there is no God of some kind, and probably never being 100% sure that is there is some God of some kind. LOL
So I did what any scholarly, deep and free thinking individual would do. I Googled it. I Googled “growing up without religion” just to see what kind of experiences others may have had. I found a post on a blog called Scary Mommy that I thought was really good. I’m not saying she is right and others are wrong, I’m just saying that I enjoyed reading it and thought she has a pretty healthy look on life. And since I don’t think I can say what she said any better, here is the link:
I know this time of year can be fun for some people, stressful for some, and sad for others. If I don’t post again in the next couple weeks, I hope you all have as peaceful and enjoyable a holiday as possible, and safe travels to those that are traveling to visit family and friends.
I am 49 years old and have been very fortunate to have been very healthy for most of my life. I have had things that most people have had; chicken pox as a child, started wearing glasses in my early 20’s, I’ve had the flu a handful of times, colds here and there, etc. But, no major health issues at all. Heck, I don’t think I had my first cavity until I was around 35 years old. Well, now that I think of it, I had some serious back issues for a while due to a very slight scoliosis and lots of years of martial arts. But good chiropractors, tai chi and yoga have done wonders in the last few years. But overall, I am very grateful for years of good health.
Earlier this month, I was in the hospital as a patient for the first time in my life! Long story short, it appeared that I was having a heart attack and went to the ER. To the staff there, it also appeared that I was having a heart attack so I was admitted to the cardiac unit and hooked up to many machines and given all kinds of tests over the next 24 hours or so. The staff there was wonderful. But they took so much blood that I’m sure the hospital is run by vampires. 🙂 I was relieved to hear that they could not find anything obviously wrong with my heart or lungs. So I was sent home. Over the next few days, I slept about 15 hours a day. I was off work for a week, and in retrospect, it probably should have been longer. I’ve had some follow up visits and other tests done and still nothing concrete as to the cause of my symptoms. The symptoms are not as intense as before, but are still hanging around.
One odd thing is that I don’t seem to be terribly concerned about what some would consider alarming symptoms. Odd, but good, I think. I’m pretty sure that things like being mindful and living in the moment and other Buddhist type principles I’ve been reading about and practicing have helped to diminish the amount of worry that I’m doing. I am still working on that being the case in every other area of my life! LOL Not judging situations as “good” or “bad” also helped me a little with all this. And I do mean, a little! But a little is better than none. Again, applying this to other areas as well can be tricky, depending on how we normally label the situation. It’s about training your mind to think differently. And it’s not like once it’s done, it’s done. It always makes me think of the Buddhist monk at the monastery down the road from where I work saying, “we have to practice, practice, practice”. He’s right. But then there is also that element of just going with the flow of life, and being OK with it. It’s an interesting balance.
I’m noticeably better today for the first time since all this went down. I don’t think I’ve ever taken my health for granted, but I think this will help me be more grateful for good health than ever before. Feeling like shit really sucks. Being in the hospital really sucks. This experience leaves me with a greater respect and compassion for people who have had to endure chronic illnesses, long hospital stays, ongoing treatments and blood work, etc. If you fall into this category, you are a rock star!
I wish you all the best possible health for where you are in your life.
Hello all. I’m working on a couple of posts that I just can’t seem to get my thoughts together on. Maybe I’m reading too many books at once? Too busy? I’m not sure? One topic that I’m hoping to write about soon is whether or not we have a soul. By “soul” I mean an eternal version of ourselves. Tolle talks a lot about watching the thinker. I take that to mean that the watcher is the soul part of us and the thinker is what many call the ego. Other authors write in a similar fashion about living from the “real you” or your essence or spirit, etc. Then there is the idea that what you see is what you get. You are just you. There is no separate you from your body/thoughts/feelings/experiences. Often, on many topics, I find myself leaning towards the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh. At the bottom of the page, I will put a link to a Facebook post that I found that I like. The topic is reincarnation, but it covers the “soul” question while discussing it. I have been kind of flip flopping back and forth on this for a while. And that’s ok! It’s the whole, shifting beliefs thing. I’m not sure that there is a way to be completely sure of which view is more accurate. It’s quite possible that I’ll never completely land on one side or the other.
I am also recovering for a bit of a health scare. I spent a day in the hospital for the first time in my life! The staff was wonderful, but I really don’t ever want to do that again. LOL And the kicker is, we still aren’t 100% sure what the issue is. More tests next week. My doctor did say that it all could be stress related. I didn’t realize how long I had been putting in 60+ hours a week until my wife reminded me. 3 years! Yikes. So now tell myself that I can get a whole lot more work done in 40 hours than I can if I’m dead! 🙂
Back to the too many books at once. I’m currently reading “The Exquisite Risk” by Mark Nepo, the 3rd Harry Potter book, “Nothing to It” by Phap Hai, and “The Wooden Bowl” by Clark Strand. I think this weekend will be mostly The Wooden Bowl and Harry Potter. Nothing too deep.
The Wooden Bowl is a simple take on meditation. I really like how the author approaches it. He says meditation should be a hobby, not a career. He said that he likes it best when people say that they meditate just because they enjoy doing it, rather than trying to change themselves some way. I’ve had a couple very enjoyable sittings in the last few days while approaching meditation with this kind of mind set.
My family and I will be traveling over this Thanksgiving weekend to see my parents and sister. It should be a good time to be had by all. If you are celebrating Thanksgiving with family, I hope that you have a safe, drama free holiday.
If you are interested in reading the TNH post I mentioned, here it is.
If you were to ask me what I want to be when I grow up (I just turned 49), I would have to say that I still don’t know. I can’t really say that I have liked any job I’ve had enough to say, yep, I want to do that. It’s really always been about making money to live. I have a strong work ethic and can push ahead in even the worst job situation. Sometimes that is a good thing, sometimes not.
I’ve been trying to figure out what I want to do regarding the work part of my life since I was a teenager. During my time in church I was told that God has a plan for my life and I simply need to ask Him what that plan is, listen, and do what I believe He is telling me to do. That sounds great, doesn’t it? Except that, as far as I can tell, He never told me. I spent many frustrating years praying and listening. I no longer believe that there is some specific, divine plan regarding the type of work that I do. I think we are free to choose how we spend our time. Yet, from time to time, there is a tug (for lack of a better description) towards something different. It goes beyond the surface annoyance of day to day life. Lately, it’s been very pronounced. Especially when I come into work. There is a strong dissatisfaction with the way that I’m spending my time. And, a sense of, it’s time to move on. Move on from what to what, I’m still not sure. This tug, this dissatisfaction is different than just, I’m tired of my job. It’s almost like a knowing that it’s time to change. Time to do something different with my life.
So, I’m taking more time to be quiet and just listen. I’m not putting an expectation on what I might “hear” or how, I’m just going to get quiet, on purpose, a little more often and see what happens. Of course, the question arises that if I don’t believe in some kind of divine will, what exactly is that tug and who or what am I listening to/for? Hmmmm….
Going back to my Agnostic Taoism post, I like what someone said regarding this:
“That means I have no idea about the afterlife or our souls or even the nature of God, but I find the world has paths and flow to it and you can surf those waves and follow those paths if you simply stop resisting so much. There are behaviors that increase suffering and there are behaviors that decrease suffering. There are thoughts and beliefs and ways of being that can ease our personal and the world’s way through the day. I try and do those thoughts and behaviors. It makes it easier on everyone.”
But this makes me ask, who or what is behind these paths and flow of life? I really do have so many more questions than answers at this point in my life. Which makes me laugh because 20 years ago, I thought I knew the answers to most of the questions! LOL Silly human. 🙂
And, the tug could just be a psychological thing, all made up in my head. I don’t like my job or the long hours that I work, so I invent this thing that makes it seem like God/the Universe/flow, whatever, is tugging me in a different direction. Heck, up until not too long ago, most of the world didn’t have the freedom to just quit their livelihood and do something else. A large percentage of the world still doesn’t have that freedom. So maybe it’s all about perspective and gratitude? Like the sub title to a book I recently bought says; having the life you want by being present to the life you have.
Nonetheless, I’ll keep reading the things that seem to grab my attention and being quiet more often and listening on purpose. It certainly won’t hurt. Maybe some answers are in this quote, credited to Mooji;
Throw everything away, forget about it all. You are learning too much, remembering too much, trying too hard. Relax a little bit, give life a chance to flow its own way, unassisted by your mind and effort. Stop directing the river’s flow.
I will be writing more soon. I’ve just been so busy, like most everyone else I know. I’ve been working on writing about “the tug”. I’ve probably mentioned this before, but I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up (I’m 49). LOL But there is a tug on my heart that I’m not sure what to do with? There is the responsible adult with kids part of me that needs to work a “good job” and pay the bills and all that. Then there is that damn tug… It doesn’t seem to fit into the responsible adult part, not that I can see at this moment, anyway. But it just won’t seem to go away. So I guess I should pay attention to that, huh?
I hope you all are doing well in this seemingly crazy world.
I encourage you to be mindful and present in this moment. There are some amazing things going on that we won’t notice unless we pay attention. It might just be the creepy spider building a web off of the back porch, or the cat stretching, or the slight temperature change when the breeze blows at 10 at night, or noticing how cool the new floor feels on your bare feet… You get the idea. 🙂
Another interesting thing about having this Buddhist author come and stay with me (see previous post) is that he is vegan and gluten free. He insisted that my family not change our eating habits just because he was staying with us. But he also said that if we wanted to try some vegan dishes, he would be happy to cook. So, we took him up on it. Except for a couple meals at a vegan restaurant, he bought all the groceries and did all the cooking. And it was wonderful! He was a really good cook.
One thing that struck me after just a couple of days of eating this way was how good I felt. It wasn’t a super drastic change, but overall, I felt good. I never felt heavy after a meal, but was full. It was kind of nice. So, just as an experiment, I’ve continued to eat this way (mostly). Finding vegan and gluten free food that tastes good, or that you can season properly, has been a little bit of a challenge. And I’ll tell you, the cheat meals that I have eaten have tasted fantastic! LOL But on the flip side, even though the meals tasted good while eating them, I usually feel like crap later on. It’s been interesting. I had some Udon vegan/gluten free soup today. Kind of a ramen noodle thing. Eh. I probably won’t buy that again. But the white rice, black beans, mushrooms, and red onion concoction I had earlier was really good. So, sometimes the meal turns out good, sometimes not so much. But I’m learning what I like, so that’s cool.
My son jokes with me about the change in eating habits. With a cheesy, over the top southern California voice, he will say something like, “Vegan isn’t a diet… It’s really more of a lifestyle.” Or he will ask if I talk to everyone I meet about being a vegan. I heard someone say, “How do you know someone is a vegan? They will tell you.” LOL Hopefully that doesn’t offend any vegans out there. But it’s often true! 🙂
Now, if I can just not drink on the weekends, I’ll bet that I will feel even better! That will be the next phase of my food/drink experiment. I’m certain it will make a positive difference. It’s just about doing it. Heck, so far, I’ve lost a decent amount of weight and I’m sleeping better. Just that much is really great!
If anyone reading this has any vegan/gluten free food suggestions or recipes or anything like that, I will gladly accept them. 🙂
Oh, and I found out that Ben and Jerry’s makes gluten free ice cream. And it’s really good! Cherry Garcia. Oh yeah.
Until next time, I hope you and yours are doing well.