Instant enlightenment sounds cheap in the worst sense of the word. Like something you could get in a drive-thru at a fast food restaurant.
Or like bad coffee. Or mashed potatoes in a box.
“For a limited time only, instant enlightenment is only $1.99. No fuss, no muss. Just add water.”
But I am proposing that instant enlightenment is available, and it is not what you would imagine.
Whereas instant enlightenment conjures an image of some cheap consumable, what I am talking about is that which consumes you.
It consumes you, leaving no trace. And it does so in an instant.
But the catch is this: it is only instantaneous. Try to grasp it or possess it, and it disappears.
First, Let’s (Un)define Enlightenment
When I was most desperate for enlightenment, my sense of urgency was so great that I didn’t take the time to patiently contemplate what the problem really was and what the supposed solution (enlightenment) would be.
All I knew was that I was experiencing what seemed like unbearable, chronic psychological torture. And I wanted relief.
I first started experiencing strange obsessions and compulsions – such as feeling that I must do things to the count of thirteen or that I must turn clockwise only – when I was still a child.
And over the years it had grown into an unthinkable nightmare. Everything I did in an attempt to cure the problem only worsened the problem.
I meditated for hours each day. I prayed and chanted for another few hours every day. I read spiritual books. I attended satsangs and retreats.
Yet things grew worse, not better.
It wasn’t until I had given up everything and lived out of a cargo van, roaming the country on a bizarre search for perfection that I really warmed up to the idea that I might have defined enlightenment incorrectly.
And it wasn’t until I was practically paralyzed and starving from Lyme disease that I was actually willing to begin to explore directly what the actuality of enlightenment might be.
I had, as many of us innocently do, defined my goal – enlightenment – as the extermination of the unwanted states.
I innocently believed that it was possible and desirable to get rid of fear, anger, sadness, anxiety, depression, unworthiness, and all the rest of what I didn’t want.
And that was how I defined enlightenment. That was my goal.
Everything in my life was based upon achieving that goal.
I was failing to achieve that goal, and I believed that was a problem. The more I failed, the harder I tried. But eventually there was no more to try. I was too exhausted.
So I had to look right in the face of what I’d been trying to avoid. And not only look it in the face, but welcome it with open arms as I might welcome my own children.
Welcome it so thoroughly that eventually I realized that it wasn’t the face of fear, anger, sadness, and all the rest of it that I was looking at. It was myself. I was looking at my own face.
This is my own face.
And this is what I would call true enlightenment. In many respects it is the opposite of what many of us have imagined enlightenment would be.
This is the complete allowing of whatever feelings and emotions that may happen.
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How to Do Instant Enlightenment
I have claimed that enlightenment – the enlightenment of complete allowing – is instant.
“Okay, prove it,” some might say.
Okay. So now that I’ve talked about what enlightenment is (or is not), let’s talk about how to do it (or not do it, as it were).
Fundamentally, enlightenment – at least what I am talking about – is an undoing. It is the release of all unnecessary effort to resist what is happening. Or, more accurately, it is the discovery that the effort is unnecessary, the problem is not real.
So it begins (and ends) with seeing how you make this unnecessary effort.
Once you see the unnecessary effort, in a sense, that is enough. Because simply knowing that it is unnecessary Is all that is needed. Then you know that it is not being done to you. It is no longer suffering.
But in the beginning, most people will dismiss this seeing. It is so easy to dismiss because it does not produce the euphoric absence of unwanted feelings that we are typically conditioned to expect and seek after.
In essence, we respond with a kind of, “Just this?” And then we’re off and looking for a euphoria, an absence of unwanted states.
Even if this single glimpse is, in fact, instant enlightenment, we once again resist whatever is.
Remember, in the beginning of this post I warned that instant enlightenment is instant and if you grasp at it or make any effort, it seems to disappear.
If you want instant enlightenment to persist, the secret is to remain as this instant. Not *that* instant. Not the one that is a memory. But this instant. This right now.
And the best way I know to do that is to simply attend to what is happening directly.
Most of us are accustomed to thought fixation. We habitually look to thought to give us a story about what is happening.
But if you attend directly to what is happening, without a commentary, without a story, you will begin to see the impulses to resist or escape what is happening.
And remember, just that seeing is enough.
Sometimes people who aren’t yet willing to actually try this experiment for themselves will instantly turn to thought and fixate on objections. One of the most common objections (but certainly not the only one) is that what I am proposing sounds difficult and dull.
All I can say is that is not my experience at all. To resist what is happening is difficult and dull. To simply attend to what is relieves that difficulty and dullness.
What I find is effortless aliveness.
But don’t take my word for it.
Try it out for yourself.
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