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What is enlightenment?

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“Knowing others is wisdom. Knowing yourself is enlightenment.” – Lao Tzu

Photo by Elijah Hiett on Unsplash

Simply put, in western culture, enlightenment is using one’s own mind, without the guidance of someone else. It refers to solely relying on independent thought. It means standing for one’s own thoughts, regardless of the thoughts of others.

In eastern culture, the Buddha was considered to have gained enlightenment when he realized that want, or craving, could never be satisfied and only created suffering, and thus mentally detached from it. At least that’s how I understand it.

Whichever direction you approach it from, enlightenment requires inquiry into one’s own thinking and feeling state. It requires one to watch these things:

  • thought patterns
  • feelings attached to those thoughts
  • behaviors attached to those thoughts and feelings

Once you can start to recognize the thoughts your brain thinks regularly, you can develop a deeper understanding into the active creation you are, and an understanding of the way out of your suffering.

The next enlightenment

Is it possible that we are on the verge of leveling up in our enlightenment as humans? It feels like, at least to me, that we’re on the verge of a paradigm shift in society. 

Whether it’s an enlightened shift depends on how many humans decide it’s time to break away and think independently of our cultural norm.

As I sit here typing this, an international pandemic is underway, an African american man named George Floyd was unnecessarily killed by a white police officer which has sparked several days of peaceful protests and riots, the current president of the United States is handling things in a questionable way, and human culture just feels like it’s unstable and at a tipping point.

This strikes me as the perfect combination to create an opportunity for enlightenment. People are outraged and suffering, but so tired of it they might just be ready to question the utility of it all.

There has to be a better way

It is in these moments minds start to think “there has to be a better way.” After preventable tragedies, people question the rules of society.

But as often happens, the mind only thinks this for so long, and then the normal routines of life take back over. Enlightenment happens when the push is momentous enough that people are shifted fundamentally, and their normal patterns just don’t feel normal anymore.

Being in the middle of a pandemic that has forced us to shift some norms might actually be opening the space to consider a new normal elsewhere. I mean, if we’re having to think of new ways of existing in a society where a pandemic is active, and the minds of everyone is being forced open to some change, could this be the perfect time to explore other areas for change as well?

If you’re not a fan of change, the answer may be a resounding no. But if you’re being forced out of your comfort zone, and you have to be uncomfortable right now, why not use that to your advantage for a bit of enlightenment?

Are you ready?

If you are saying to yourself enough is enough, and you’re feeling motivated to be part of a fundamental change in society, you’re probably ready for some enlightenment. Do know that enlightenment isn’t something that happens all at once. It is the result of sustained effort. It comes with work done every single day.

If you want a few tools to help you out, click here

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