In this post I reveal my ignorance about enlightenment. I understand enlightenment to be the state of being free of delusion.
Using that definition several things become obvious. The first is that we need not seek enlightenment. We already have it, but it is obscured. Another way to say that is that enlightenment is not being withheld from us, and we need not pray to anyone asking for it.
A delusion is a belief held with strong conviction despite superior evidence to the contrary.—Wikipedia
I can now trace a path, of sorts, to being free of delusions. Let’s start by taking a quick look at dreams.
I notice when I wake up from a dream how real the dream seemed while I was “in” it. Dreams are, for me at least, quite delusional. The one last night was typical, and I became deeply involved emotionally with the activities in the dream. Robert Bly said enlightened people do not dream. That makes complete sense to me being that enlightenment is freedom from delusion.
The dream stream, so far as I know, operates continuously whether we are asleep or not. What influence does it have on my view of myself and the world when I am what I so optimistically call awake?
There is a force equivalent to dreams that operates in the waking mind. It is thought itself. I have a constant stream of thoughts floating through my mind. A common mistake, according to The Mindful Way Through Depression, is assuming that thoughts have power. They only have the power we give them. It is easy to assume they have some authority and are in our heads to reprimand us.
The effective approach to dealing with depression is built on affection—for ourselves. This excerpt from Mindful Way is informative but somewhat intense:
Mindful awareness and learning to be with unpleasant feelings are not about striving for some ideal of happiness in the face of the difficult—that would be just another goal we are fixating on. Rather, it is as if we are bathing the difficult situation, and even our aversion to it, in an open, compassionate, and accepting awareness, just like a mother embracing a suffering child. We can take this stance not only toward physical discomfort but also toward emotional discomfort.
I experience unpleasant thoughts as twinges that I feel physically, and which provoke anxiety. Mindful Way tells us that thoughts are passing mental events, not reality itself. That is a very helpful bit of information.
The exercise involves noticing as many of the twinges as possible and remembering that the accompanying thoughts do not define reality. I now notice that I have dozens of these twinges in a typical day, and more if I am confronting some kind of hurdle.
The path to freedom is described in the previous quote from the book. The authors suggest looking for patterns in the thoughts that pop up in our awareness. I have a cluster of thoughts that accuse me of being ineffective. That might be why I was inspired to launch the Rosie the Riveter series of portraits. Anyway, for now I am calling this cluster of afflicting thoughts Sourpuss.
Patanjali called the mechanism we are discussing here modifications of the mind stuff. Swami Satchidananda tells us in The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: “The entire outside world is based on your thoughts and mental attitude. The entire world is your own projection.”
The swami tells that ending the modifications results in an “extraordinary” experience. That sounds good to me.
I will close this post with something I wrote many years ago on the title page of the swami’s book.
We all have buried treasure on this earth. I was fortunate that mine was buried only one foot deep. I was also fortunate that I started digging from the far side.