May those who seek, help others find;
May those who sorrow, be compassionate;
May those who are lost, light a path for another;
May those who question or doubt, give guidance;
May those who worry, lift the burden of another;
May those who hide, see their own light in the eyes of a stranger;
May we all give peace, no matter what.
I believe in enlightenment. I think that enlightenment is real and attainable for me, and for you. These articles and Journeys are really just recording the steps on the path to my own enlightenment. If you are reading this, this is one of your steps too.
Today, though, I had a big shift in how I think about enlightenment. I don’t even know all of the ramifications and implications of this shift. I have to think about it, let it sink in, let it work on me, lead me, and guide me, where appropriate.
Here it is, as best I can describe it: I used to think enlightenment means I reach a point of mental-emotional-physical experience where nothing bothers me, nothing hurts me, nothing troubles me; in that state of experience, I just have all the answers and know exactly what to do, and I’m always right (in that “higher-spiritual sense”, of course). In this state, life is always blissful, carefree, peaceful, harmonious.
I still think this is basically accurate—this is the experience of perpetual enlightenment (let’s just call it that for now). It is the “Ultimate Enlightenment” that I am striving for.
What shifted is how I saw the context and the method, both of which are given in today’s guiding thought.
The Context: In a way, the context is simplified by the phrase “it’s the journey, not the destination”. What this means is with every moment, every step, every interaction there is a choice between the experience of perpetual enlightenment or… not.
There are 3 ways this choice can happen:
1) Not deciding, not making a choice, letting your default actions/habits/thoughts make the choice for you. You go on at the whims of all of the previous choices you’ve ever made in your life that have established themselves as patterns in your mind/body.
2) Make a choice that puts mental/emotional/spiritual/physical distance between yourself and another. This choice is made by preferencing “otherness” or exclusion.
- (for example) “They are them and I am me, and what we want is mutually exclusive, so I have to look out for my own interests, because if I give in, I won’t get what I want.”
- (for example) “You were just really rude and inconsiderate to me; I am going to be rude and inconsiderate to you, to show you how it feels!”
- (for example) “If I don’t stand up for myself, you’ll walk all over me” ~or alternately~ “If I stand up for myself, you’ll walk all over me, so I’ll just be quiet and not resist the inevitable”
3) Make a choice that includes another’s interests in with your own. See your interests as compatible, not contrary to another person’s; join your interests with another’s in a way that benefits everyone, including you.
Notice that I am not talking about this in terms of making a “loving”, “compassionate” choice, as I so-often am inclined to do.
This is about pure practicality, in the interest of interests. Because that is a large part of how people interact (at this point in human evolution…). “What are my interests?” What do I get out of this?” “What do I have to lose?” “What have I lost?” “What do I need to fight for?” These thoughts are behind a LOT of human decision-making, whether we like it or not.
The point is that the “enlightened” choice is to include another’s interests in your own (which is actually the loving, compassionate choice). You can both have what you want. No one needs to lose. There is enough for all. We are working toward the same ultimate goals. This is unity; this is Oneness at a micro-individual level.
That’s why it’s a journey. “Well, I only chose Oneness 10% of the time today…maybe tomorrow I can choose it 11% of the time”.
With every interaction we have the opportunity to make a choice for Oneness, for enlightenment…or not. But we will never get to Ultimate Oneness without doing it every step of the way, 100% of the time.
Think about Ultimate Oneness: Every single human being making a choice to include another’s interests with their own, 100% of the time. And we have a way to go. (Or we could just all do it now, then we’d be there.)
The Method: In a sense, the method is what you hear so often from spiritual seekers, gurus, teachers: “Love.” “Be kind.” “Help others.” “Be compassionate.” Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. We got that. The difference is when and how we do it, within the context above.
For me, it’s not too difficult to give love, be compassionate and kind when it’s someone I like, at a time when things are going smoothly, when my emotions are stabile, when I am not worrying about this or that.
But I’ll be damned if it isn’t a bitch to try to be compassionate when I’m the one who’s hurting—especially to be compassionate to the person who hurt me?! Uh…hell, no. You know what I mean?
But the guiding thought is saying this is precisely when I need to be compassionate, when I need to choose not to put distance between myself and another. That is precisely the moment I need to take a step toward enlightenment by thinking and choosing an action that joins rather than alienates.
When lost, help another find; give encouragement; light a path. When in sorrow, be compassionate;
Sometimes this means just being patient, sitting and breathing with someone going through a rough time; sometimes it means holding a hand, giving a hug. When you feel lost, what do you wish, in your heart of hearts that someone would give you? Give that. When you are sad or grieving, what do you wish, in your heart of hearts, that someone would give you? Give that.
When questioning or doubting, give guidance;
You may be experiencing doubt, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have wisdom to share. What encouraging, reassuring words would you like to hear? Give those. It’s ok if the context is completely different with another person. Encouragement and assurance, given from the heart, are received in the same spirit.
When worrying lift the burden of another;
“How can I help?” Sometimes just saying that sincerely to another person is enough. They may just need to hear that someone is willing to help. They may just need to vent, or to cry to an uninvolved person. They may need a ride somewhere, maybe a babysitter, maybe a sandwich. The solution in the moment may be simple and painless for you. You can’t solve their problems; you can’t lift their worry—they need to do that for themselves, but many times what will help in the moment is a small demonstration of care, of showing them they are not alone.
If you are “worried” about not having the time/energy/resources to be able to help someone at that precise moment, don’t verbalize the question. Just say to them in your mind, “how can I help”? This, too, is a connection, a willingness to share the burden. Sometimes something concrete will come as an answer in your mind, like, “offer to run an errand” or “buy him a cup of coffee” or “say, ‘I felt that way too, when >this thing< happened to me’ (but don’t make it about you)”. An answer always comes: “how can I help?”
When hiding, look for light in the eyes of a stranger.
When you are hiding, the last thing you want is to be seen (I’ve been kind of into tautologies lately!). That’s why looking for light in a stranger is safe. You never have to interact with that person again. But it still reinforces the looking for light. Thus it reinforces your light (and the strangers). Just try it.
This is how we “arrive”. We are always both on the journey and arriving with every choice we make in every moment. We make the choice to be what we want to become, to unify, and to join with others. Each time we make a choice which unites rather than separates, we are enlightened, until we all finally, reach ultimate enlightenment.