In surprising ways, the notion of enlightenment is important in everyday life. In the West, the word “enlightenment” remains fuzzy, and most people would consider it exotic, foreign, difficult to reach, and reserved only for people with strong spiritual motivation and tremendous self-discipline.
If all of these assumptions are wrong, everything surrounding enlightenment would have to shift. In fact, each of these assumptions occupies a spectrum. There are yogic teachings that require strong motivation and enormous discipline, but there are also paths to enlightenment that are much easier, and these fit everyday lifestyles quite well.
If you clear away all your assumptions, the path to enlightenment consists of something you are already familiar with: personal growth. If you make choices that further your evolution every day, no matter how casual or focused you are about it, you are heading towards enlightenment. We should also adapt the word “enlightenment” to fit the modern secular world, and the best way to do that is to think in terms of consciousness. There are 12 milestones in consciousness that mark the state of enlightenment, And since these are on a sliding scale, you can move toward each milestone at your own pace. In fact, the more enjoyable and effortless your path is, the likelier you are to stay on it.
Here are the 12 milestones, first expressed as the final goal, second as the direction to take in order to make progress.
If you were enlightened, you would sense yourself as unbounded Being without ego.
To make progress, you favor simple awareness, meaning that you rest easily in being yourself, as much as possible setting aside ego.
If you were enlightened, you would experience a steady state of bliss. The ups and downs of emotion, both positive and negative, will have vanished.
To make progress, you diminish the emotional drama in your life.
If you were enlightened, your thoughts would be functional, serving to move you towards correct decision-making.
To make progress, you don’t worry and overthink things. You let yourself be guided by positive thoughts and intuition. You turn away negative thoughts without acting on them.
If you were enlightened, you would perceive the physical world as a manifestation of consciousness constantly in the process of creation.
To make progress, you focus on becoming more aware of the creative intelligence that flows through you and the entire creation.
If you were enlightened, you would have little need for memory, because your awareness is in the now.
To make progress, you focus on the present moment. If memories come up to warn you or make you afraid, you let them pass with as little notice as possible.
If you were enlightened, all of creation would speak to you, giving you insight into anything you wanted to know.
To make progress, you rely on what is going on “in here” as a guide to be trusted.
If you were enlightened, intuition comes as easily as thought and is always reliable.
To make progress, you begin to trust inner impulses by how they feel. Intuition becomes the test of right thinking.
If you were enlightened, your vision of life has been fulfilled, whatever this vision might be. You live the reality of your own truth.
To make progress, you choose a vision that inspires you and keep your attention on it every day.
If you were enlightened, you would view reality as a flow of creative intelligence at every level.
To make progress, you seek a creative outlet that brings you a sense of joy and fulfillment.
If you were enlightened, any event, inner or outer, is part of the same flow of consciousness.
To make progress, be more allowing and accepting; let situations play themselves out with less interference; and stop being a source of resistance to others and their ideas.
If you were enlightened, bliss would be a steady state either in the forefront or the background of your mind.
To make progress, actively find ways to experience joy at least once a day. Realize that bliss is the doorway to expanded awareness and higher consciousness.
If you were enlightened, there would be no fear of death.
To make progress, meditate in order to experience silent awareness as your true home, not the physical body.
This list sketches the primary changes that occur on the way to enlightenment, but they have the advantage here and now of improving everyday life. In the Vedic wisdom of India, existence is founded on pure bliss-consciousness, which in turn makes enlightenment the most normal state of awareness. We don’t realize this because we are caught up in obstacles of ego, desire, anxiety, self-involvement, self-judgment, anger, envy, fear of death, and other mind-made obstacles of collectively known as Vrittis, which distort your vision of who you truly are, which is a conscious agent through whom bliss and creativity flow naturally and effortlessly.
Reprinted from San Francisco Chronicle with permission
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