In a Buddhist practice I joined a long time ago, they say (and I paraphrase here) that Enlightenment is Your Life Itself.
Enlightenment. What is that? Who has time for that? My life is not enlightenment – you may say these things.
So I thought I would try to break it down here.
All religious practices are trying to connect our lowly, earthly selves with the Universe – you may call that God, Allah, Jesus, Buddha, Fill in the blank.
What is this ________________? (fill it in). It is the fact that everything in the cosmos is connected in ways that we cannot even comprehend with our little minds. If you are an atheist, you might say that it is all chaos and unconnected, randomness, every man for himself, let the big fish eat the small one.
If you believe in God, you might think that He, She, or They is helping you out, watching over you, like a father or mother, and you just have to devote yourself to them. I like this idea – but it also involves guilt, which is no good, and also fear, equally bad.
Guilt and Fear – the two bogeymen of our lives – the two culprits that rob us of happiness.
But you might say that Guilt is necessary – not so. I believe that if you do something bad, it’s gonna come back and get you, and then you will learn that it hurt you. Once you learn, that’s it – well done! You can let it go. But, if you are stupid enough not to see how the bad thing is hurting you, you will continue suffering until you will get up one day and not even know where to unravel yourself from all of your misery.
You may also say that Fear is necessary – not so. Fear is a natural emotion that keeps us from getting killed, true. Honor that. But if you start letting yourself fear the wrong things, you become paranoid, angry, depressed, anxious, and many other states of life that are a waste of your time. Again, you will wake up one day and wonder why you feel so horrible and full of dis-ease. Diseased.
SO, back to Enlightenment is Your Life Itself. I feel those tiny moments when I am in a life-state when I can appreciate a memory – like when I found a book in my local library, a piece of literature from the 50s, I cannot even remember the name or who wrote it, about an English couple traveling through France immediately after WWII, and the story of who they met, where they stayed, and what they all talked about. Beautiful to read. The fact that I came across it totally by chance – and loved it – and it came from my local library in Brooklyn, that is now closed, and has been since the pandemic — it’s one of those “it could only happen to me” experiences.
Or my oboe reeds, which I never talk about. I’ve been playing oboe since I was 12, and still do it for a living. I studied in Europe as well as the US. I have developed my own style of reeds that is a combination of European and American, which only works for me, but it makes me happy, therefore enlightened, because I created it myself. That means I fought my fears, in order to make my own way, which is only my way. Don’t get me wrong, I learned what ever I could from the masters, my teachers, but always incorporated it into who I was, even if finding that way took years.
I started thinking about enlightenment when I was a kid. There was a time period when I was 9 when I used to meditate on the gym floor after gym class, before the next class started. I didn’t care what my classmates thought of me, sitting there cross-legged with my eyes closed. I was being myself. I would sometimes stare into a candle flame, or a leaf, and surmise in my little mind that the Universe was somehow connected to that flame, or leaf, and so if that was true, it was existing in and connected to everything else too.
That led me to Buddhism – a philosophy, a practice, concerned with having a deep realization that everything is connected in ways we cannot understand. Our thoughts alone, can influence the world around us. When we change, the world changes around us. Is this prayer? I think it is. So what makes what I do different than a Christian? I’m not sure – but read what I wrote above about GUILT and FEAR. That may be the difference.
My husband Humberto, the artist, talks about that the art that you create which is the best, and most authentic, is what YOU EXPERIENCE, that NO ONE ELSE DOES! For me – that does it for me, that is my enlightenment – to have an experience that ONLY YOU have, and then share it somehow with the world.
Leave a Reply