There has been a lot of talk recently about enlightenment, and how to achieve it.
It’s common to think of enlightenment as a state of being that you add on to who you are now; or as something you can become – a goal that you can achieve by doing certain things. However, according to spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle, this is a flawed approach.
The state of enlightenment – or the ego-less state – is not something you can chase (any more than you can chase happiness). It isn’t a goal that you will achieve in the future, and thinking of enlightenment as a goal (something in the future) prevents you from being it, in the present moment.
Enlightenment is “now” and it can only be accessed by giving up the search, and being in the present moment, with intensity. Yes – give it all you’ve got, to be in the moment. Release your thoughts of the past or future, and be here, now, 100%.
You cannot become enlightened (because becoming means at some time in the future, and enlightenment is now)… so, you ARE enlightened when you are fully present. The essence of who you are, is already perfect and complete. You can only access your true essence… now.
What happens when you realize your true self and enlightenment?
You become peaceful. Your perception of the world comes through a clearer filter with less labeling and analyzing of what you notice through your senses. Your mind becomes less prone to the incessant noise of the inner monologue that you are so used to. In other words, you experience the world as it is, not clouded by the filters of your beliefs, and without the “noise” of thoughts, images, feelings and analyses generated by the mind.
You see a cat, for example, and you don’t start thinking about it. It’s just there, and you experience seeing a cat. Or you experience rain, and you don’t start thinking about what rain does to you or where it comes from. Or, you enjoy a conversation with someone without judging them and everything they say. You realize, there is nothing you can add to the experience by interpreting it. So your experiences are stripped of the noise, and they become pure, and peaceful.
People sometimes feel uncomfortable at the idea of not thinking all the time. It’s because they have identified with their thoughts, and can’t even imagine life without thought. But…
Have you ever stared into a campfire, watching the dancing flames, and found that you were so absorbed in them that you stopped thinking? Have you ever been so involved in a project and looked up only to find that many hours had passed? That is being fully present – and no thought was involved except thoughts necessary to the moment. You weren’t thinking about some drama or worries. You were 100% in the moment.
Nothing diminishes in your experiences, when you are enlightened – on the contrary, experiences become richer, because there is no interference from the mind, and you no longer identify with your thoughts. Your experiences and awareness seem to expand, without the constraints of thoughts and the labels we put on everything.
Most interestingly: thoughts, which will arise when needed (instead of a constant running monologue) become more inspired and meaningful. So when you are enlightened you are no longer at the mercy of repetitive, and to a large extent destructive thoughts, because you have released the need to judge everything and you aren’t thinking from behind the veil of your beliefs. You realize that it is possible to be awake and alert, without constant thought.
The best way to become fully present is to meditate. In meditation, you uncover the real you – the you filled with light and love, the you beyond the layers of beliefs you have, and beyond the constant mental chatter. Enlightenment is already within you – it IS you – you just have to peel back the layers and recognize it.