Everybody is enlightened. Some people notice it, some people don’t. Those of us who do not feel enlightened think that there is something about us that just doesn’t get it. We think enlightenment is something that happens to other people. We worry that we are not smart enough. We worry that we don’t have enough will power. We worry that our brains are faulty. We worry that we worry. That worry, fear, angst, self doubt, self loathing, and depression is all enlightenment.
In any moment, all we have is our experience. It takes no intelligence or special skill to feel pain. It takes no more intelligence or insight to feel happy. All we can do is feel what we feel. We feel all the time. We perceive the world around us. We think about the world. We act in the world. That is our enlightenment.
If our pain is so great that all we can concentrate on is our own pain, then that is our focus. That is our experience. When we get a break from our pain, we can notice others feeling their pain and we feel compassion. When we act with compassion for others, or ourselves, we are enlightened. When we act with malice, to harm ourselves, or others, we are still enlightened. When we are able to recognize our enlightenment, we will be filled with compassion and we will only act with kindness.
The ego has a strange relationship with enlightenment. One of the byproducts of enlightenment is the ability to see through the ego. One of the obstacles to enlightenment is the ego. For anybody seeking enlightenment, their ego is their companion and guide. Besides causing all kinds of problems, the ego is also responsible for success. This is one of the little discussed aspects of the ego. Learning to watch for the ego, wherever it hides, is part of the path to enlightenment.
All kinds of bad attributes are assigned to the ego. That way it will seem more like something worth losing. Ego is not something you ever lose. If you could lose it, then it would never have existed in the first place. Ego is how we talk about our interface with the world. Because there is no actual interface, there is no ego. Because we think there is an interface, we have an ego. Enlightenment is the realization that there is no separation and so no interface.
As long as there appears to be separation, you will have your ego. In this ego driven world, we need a good reason to do something. Enlightenment isn’t necessarily a good enough reason. Feeling better is a much more reasonable goal. If you want to feel better, entertaining the notion of an ego as the root of your problems will help you feel better. The idea that an ego, a separate, possibly non-existant entity, is causing your problems is quite hopeful. It means that there is something to blame for all the trouble. It also suggests a solution.
The solution is to watch your ego until you understand it. If you don’t want to be a negative person, and you want to look at the positive side of life, then that is where you should look for your ego. Looking to your ego as the cause of all your successes is a good way to locate it. Many of us would gladly get rid of all of our failures, but we would want to keep our successes. Ego though, is the source of your success. When you feel yourself being proud of something, look for your ego. It can be amusing to spot your ego on the pride side of the pride-shame continuum.
If you examine all of your accomplishments, there is no shame in feeling pride. It is important to understand that the entity keeping track of all of your wonderful accomplishments is your ego. When you set out to accomplish enlightenment, there is no bigger supporter of you than your ego. As you practice, hand in hand with your ego, you will set out on your journey together, and together you will arrive.
Ego feelings are strong in your pride and shame, and so those feelings are good places to spot your ego. As you follow your ego’s activities on your journey toward feeling better, you will notice the kinds of things that you do to make yourself appear a certain way. When you see a proud ego moment clearly as an ego moment, it is strangely amusing. Ego moments are fairly constant, so an ego sighting shouldn’t be a rare occurrence. A clear ego sighting though, is one where you noticed it in a novel hiding place.
As you become more and more adept at observing your ego, whether in your pride or your shame, you will think less about how everything impacts you. This will make you feel better. A practice focusing on watching your ego could then lead you all the way to enlightenment.
Once, when I was younger,
I was sitting with my younger wife.
She was my girlfriend at the time.
We were in a younger love.
We were intensely interested in our younger selves.
We talked over beers about immortality.
What would you do, she asked youthfully, if you could live forever?
I answered, all full of me, beer and youth love,
The first thing I would do is become enlightened.
I would end my suffering, then live happily forever after.
Now, looking back, its hard to believe,
That young, in-love me, thought I was suffering.
Life’s purpose is to help others. If you want to attain enlightenment, your practice should be to help others. After you attain enlightenment, your practice should be to help others. It is impossible to help others without others’ help. A great way to help somebody else is to let them help you.
Babys are one of life’s greatest joys. This is partly because they are totally helpless. Parents get the gift of helping to nurture life. There are no expectations on a baby and so help is given with no thought of what help the baby deserves.
We are still part baby. We all need help. By being open to receiving help, by asking for help when we need it, we invite others to nurture our lives. That makes them feel good. By getting help, we help. Full circle.
It is fun to fantasize about a better reality. That is an important part of our lives. Most of our fantasies take place in the easily imaginable near future. We may fantasize about how life would be if a certain person loved us better. We may imagine how it will be when we get a new toy or a bit of cash. We can fantasize about how happy we’ll be when we are three or thirty pounds lighter or heavier. We may look forward to lunch hour or happy hour. We may even look forward to total and complete, perfect enlightenment. Whatever.
Fantasizing about other, more terrific realities is a wonderful feature of this reality. It is how we move between realities. It is how we try on our options. It is what we do.
The Buddhist idea of ignorance, where we exist in this wonderful reality that we cannot perceive is tantalizing. How do we get rid of ignorance? We get curious. Why can’t I see this reality if it is all around me? Is there really another reality? What is time? What is love? What is self? What is ego? What am I?
If we take it on faith that we are being gently and compassionately carried and caressed by this other reality, and that we will eventually recognize it, that belief can ease the sting of our regular lives. I know it’s all in my head, but my head hurts! OW! Wow! om…