For most of us it isn’t possible to spend 40 days and nights in a cave halfway up a Himalayan mountain. We have responsibilities and can’t, or won’t in my case, leave our families to go into a desert or to a retreat and spend a year in silence. So does the absence of these acts negate us normal folk from finding the same level of enlightenment or at least enough of a level to feel the difference?
The enlightenment which is open to all of us, regardless of personal circumstances, is that which allows us to live in the here and now. That means that the majority of the time we are fully engaged in what we are doing in the present moment and we aren’t worrying about the future or regretting the past.
When I first thought about being in the now it concerned me a bit. How was I to plan for the future? How was I to incorporate the past in order to learn from it? Then I realised that these things can still be thought about and acted on. The one thing which should be given as little airtime as possible is negative thinking, whether that is about the past or about the future. That sounds so peaceful…could it be the enlightenment which many of us seek? I think it could be. Just as easy as that.
By learning to choose our thoughts carefully and direct them somewhere else more positive when they go astray, we can lead lives which are easier to cope with on a day to day basis. If we think about the past it should be only to make sure we don’t repeat the same mistakes again. If we think about the future it should just be to decide how we can grow as individuals and as a species and about how we can treat the Earth with the respect it needs to enable it, and its inhabitants, to survive.
There is one thing I am starting to believe. There is no actual path along which we are all meant to suffer and sacrifice in order to be the best we can be spiritually purely so that we can be given the gift of the touch of the Divine or whatever we ourselves feel enlightenment is. Enlightenment is here already, it is the divine spark we all have in our souls and we recognise it by the way we find it. For some that means sitting in a cave or walking across a desert. For others it may mean spending time meditating or in prayer in isolation. For the rest of us it could simply mean finding a way to BE with the challenges of living and still be in our truth. It is learning to live and not just exist and yet exist whilst learning to live.
I believe training ourselves to think in this way can make for better mental health and a more positive outlook for us as a species. I think it is unrealistic to expect happiness 100% of the time…life is far more interesting than that…but I do believe we can turn our everyday lives around by realising that enlightenment is simply being in a moment which is as beneficial to us and our surroundings at that time as it can possibly be and leaving other cares behind us in the past where they belong. The past is done with and the future is not yet here. We can change neither right at this minute. The only thing which matters, which we can directly influence right now, IS the here and now. This present moment. Let’s not waste it by immersing ourselves in regret, guilt, fear or ‘what if’s’.
Do the best you can. Some days will be harder than others but be kind to yourself on those days not judgmental. Forget trying to be perfect, forget striving for the unobtainable, just concentrate on enjoying your life in the here and now and, despite outside trials or day to day challenges, seek joy in all you do.
Enjoy the journey, you have already arrived.