When you think of enlightenment you probably envision a cataclysmic light-bulb turning on in your consciousness, one so brilliant that it explodes out of all confines and can never be turned off.
Legend has it that this life-altering moment does happen to a blessed few, however, the absence of an incessant brightness doesn’t preclude enlightenment. In fact, I’d like to argue that it’s irrelevant. Sure, it would be great to have a huge Ah-Ha! moment that shifts us so profoundly that we never go back. But holding this as a goal might not be the best approach in this lifetime.
The fact is, if you have built up an intellectual understanding regarding interconnectedness, the obsolescence of the past and future, the vitality of compassion, and if you have integrated these concepts into your life-view, you’ve probably also deepened your understanding through experience.
Perhaps you’ve caught yourself reacting brashly and then, when you step back and observe, realize the trigger isn’t such a big deal. Or perhaps you’ve marveled at the ability your body has to turn on the water faucet, and proceeded to fully embody that experience with singular focus. Or you’ve let hours slip by unnoticed as you immerse yourself in a painting.
These seemingly small moments are actually enormously important! Our minds and bodies are ethereal habit machines, churning out repetitive thoughts and behavior in the most efficient possible manner. Most of the time we are operating on autopilot, but when we wake up to these patterns we gain access to the ability to observe our reactions. When we observe our reactions and begin to identify with the observer rather than the reactions, we free ourselves from what our thoughts tell us and can more easily choose our reactions. And the more we do this, the easier it becomes.
Becoming like Buddha is not a goal, it is a practice, and if you wait for the end result you have missed the point entirely. Moreover, this practice doesn’t necessitate yoga or silent meditation (though they can serve as great reminders). It is a practice of every moment, right now! And now! And now! It is a practice of waking up to the moment, of training your brain to turn off autopilot so you can steer the vessel of your being.
As with learning an instrument or foreign language, practice takes time, and everyone’s process is different. But when we are able to remember and fully embody our experience, we are actually enlightened, for the moment.