What is Enlightenment, anyway?
Enlightenment gets a bad rap. It’s a scary word. It sounds kind of holier-than-thou and all…I don’t know…special or hard or for-Buddhas-and-Yogis-but-not-for-you.
Enlightenment isn’t any of those things to me. It’s not about being silent or meditating or being at peace when things outside of you turn to shit.
*Learning to be honest and kind and patient with yourself (Note: not Being honest and kind and patient, but learning to be)
*Having the courage to become more of Who You Are everyday
*Finding peace in the knowing that life is Right Now. This is It. And finding joy in that.
*Knowing that everything you need is inside of you and not looking to other people or circumstances to do it for you. Taking responsibility, basically.
There is no one definition and there is no one path. Part of your job is to find your own path. Discovering your own unique course is kind of the point.
With that in mind, I’ve been thinking a lot about what Enlightenment looks like to me. This is my path. My ABC’s of Enlightenment.
I think many of my points are common so many of these might resonate with you. But they won’t all. In the comments, let me know what you think. What did I miss? What are some of yours?
Overall, I want these ABC’s to show that Enlightenment is Achievable. In fact, Achievable could be A (except there’s much a better choice for A).
So, here they are
A = Acceptance
So appropriate that Acceptance starts with an A. It’s the mack-daddy of Enlightenment.
Accepting reality means stopping the fight. Stopping the fight against what is, not wasting perfectly good time and energy trying to change people or circumstances that don’t want to be changed. Stopping the fight means peace.
Acceptance doesn’t mean settling or condoning or approving or agreeing with reality. Just the opposite, actually. It’s using your perfectly good energy to make the changes you want.
Honorable Mention: Abundance. It’s the state of the universe if you choose to see things that way. Abundance is always only a mindset away.
B = Baby Steps
Baby Steps are how things get done, but they’re kind of the ugly step-sister of progress. They aren’t sexy or dramatic; they’re slow and boring. The ego hates baby steps.
But don’t be fooled by your ego: Every huge accomplishment is the result of many very small steps. Success often isn’t doing huge things; it’s having the stick-to-it-ive-ness to hang in there with the small stuff.
C = Compassion
Everyone is struggling with something. If you knew their story and the issues that have shaped them, you’d love them. You’d have compassion.
Compassion is like forgiveness in that it heals you to offer it. It has little to do with them. You have to feel it to give it, so you get all the benefits.
Honorable Mention: Celebration. Celebration is Gratitude in action. When you celebrate the good things—big and small—they multiply.
D = Decision
The starting point for any change is Decision. Making a Decision puts the wheels in motion. It clarifies. It shows you and the Universe that you’re serious, that you’re going to stand for something, that you have a real intention that’s not just talk.
Decision is the biggest catalyst I’ve ever come across.
Honorable Mention: De-Clutter. What does clutter have to do with Enlightenment? The state of your living space is a reflection of your state of mind. And, extra stuff steals your energy. Test the theory. De-clutter and notice the new thoughts and ideas that come to the surface.
E = Energy
Your energy is one of your best natural resources. When you generate a peaceful, loving energy, you become physically stronger, better understood, and able to influence things in a non-manipulative kind of way. Your energy is felt and responded to, always.
F = Freedom
Freedom is the end result of Enlightenment. It’s what it’s all about.
Emotional Freedom comes from not believing your painful thoughts and learning to stay present so that you aren’t a slave to your patterns.
Honorable Mention: Forgive. Like Compassion, Forgiveness heals. It’s the way of Enlightenment when other people are involved.
G = Give
Research shows that people who regularly give or help others live longer and are happier and healthier than those who don’t. Giving triggers gratitude and shows you that your existence makes a difference in the world. It’s a good drug.
Honorable Mention: Gratitude. Practice it, any way you like, please.
H = Honesty
Honesty comes in many flavors. It’s Enlightened to be honest with other people because when you tell the truth, you come face-to-face with the possibility of disapproval. Choosing honesty proves that you’re okay with what others think.
And then there’s being Honest with yourself. Scary at times. Usually not the easy choice, but always the Enlightened choice.
Honorable Mention: Humor. Humor says the world isn’t about to end. It’s how you can accept reality and see that reality isn’t all that bad. You can better any crappy situation with humor.
I = Imperfection
Striving for perfection is a funny thing. It’s almost beneficial. Except it rarely works, because you’ll almost always up the ante just before you hit “perfect”. Oh, and there’s also the fact that “perfect” is subjective, so it’s really easy to change the definition at the end. Then you’ll almost always consider yourself having “lost” or “failed” or some crappy word like that.
Don’t you think Perfectionism is kind of 1980s, anyway? Being okay with Imperfect almost always leads to a better end result.
J = Joy
It’s the whole point of everything you do. It’s what life is supposed to be filled with. Really, it is.
K = Kindness
Giving it to yourself and to others. “When the choice is to be right or to be kind, always make the choice that brings peace”—Wayne Dyer.
L = Love
A Course in Miracles teaches that only Love is real. Where there is no Love there is fear, but fear is only an illusion. Fear is what happens when we don’t view something with Love. But only Love is real.
Honorable Mention: Let Go. As in surrender, hands off, allow. Deep breath…you can do it.
M = Mindfulness
Being here now is boring. It’s old news. It’s hard.
So do you ever wonder why it’s preached by almost all teachers, authors, coaches, and people who study Enlightenment? It’s because mindfulness makes you happy and helps you be alive in your own life.
N = Non-Conformity
Enlightenment is knowing yourself. Knowing what you love and what you believe and choosing what you want to do, not blindly following someone else’s “right” path. It’s not believing something because you heard it from an authority figure. You are the authority figure. It’s not following a religion your whole life just because you were born into it, or going to college just because some people believe that’s a worthy pursuit. Non-conformity is Enlightening.
Honorable Mention = Neuroplasticity. It’s how your brain literally, physically changes when you change your behavior. It’s how the work you put into rewiring your patterns and forming new positive habits and thinking differently is so worth it. Because once you form a new pattern, it sticks. Your brain changes when you work toward Enlightenment.
O = Openness
Openness looks like trying new experiences, questioning your automatic beliefs, stepping out of the mold in which you were shaped by your surroundings, purposely trying on new perspectives. Being open has hugely contributed to the quality of my life. Consider how you might be even more open than you already are.
P = Patterns
How you do anything is how you do everything. How you do anything and everything are your patterns. Some patterns are great. Some patterns are done in full awareness. Others run on default in the background. Being aware of them and choosing them is your ticket to a life you design.
Honorable Mention: Play. If you’ve forgotten how to truly play, observe a kid. Really watch, and then do what they do. It’s very immature and irresponsible to not have play in your life.
Q = Quiet
Enlightenment comes from taking some time each day to be quiet. Just be. Quiet.
Drop out of your verbal mind and into the quietness of the present moment. Tune out the chatter, turn off the TV, and just be. Quiet.
R = Rest
Muscles grow in the time between the hard work, when the fibers rest and begin to repair. Same is true of your growth. Rest is not a just a treat, or a luxury, or an optional step you can choose to forgo. Rest is when the actual growth occurs.
Honorable Mention: Revise. Remember imperfection? You don’t have to do it right the first time. Don’t let imperfection stop you. Do it imperfectly, then revise. Over and over. Forever. That’s how things get done.
S = Self-love
Enlightenment isn’t really on your radar when you don’t love yourself. It’s like caring about putting a pool in the backyard when you live in a tent.
First things first. Self-love is the foundation that makes everything else possible.
T = Thoughts
Your thoughts create your life. They directly influence your emotions and your emotions directly influence your behaviors. Your thoughts stop you in your tracks when they’re fearful and propel you into action when they’re sure; they’re what make you describe life as stressful or happy or lonely or easy or hard or fun or boring or lucky or unlucky.
Enlightenment is nothing more than a series of thoughts. Choose your thoughts wisely so that they work for you instead of against you. They determine everything.
U = Universe
Einstein said, “The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.”
I believe in a friendly universe. What do you believe?
V = Visualize
It’s not just some cheesy practice that only life coaches talk about. And it’s not about the Law of Attraction or metaphysics or even voodoo. Visualization is a powerful tool used by top performers in virtually every possible arena.
Successful people see things happening before they happen. They pave the way in their mind, which helps the mind create the picture they’re painting. And it works.
W = Worth
Do you believe in your own inherent worth? That it’s not something you have to earn…it’s not a privilege, but a right? That you have just by showing up on this planet? I do.
X = eXceptional
If your focus was on being exceptional, you wouldn’t end up average. No way.
Your results are a function of where you set your own bar. Set it high. (Exceptional is worlds away from Perfect. Exceptional people are accepting of Imperfection…that’s part of what makes them exceptional).
Y = Yes
Most people I know either say yes way too much or (as in agreeing to do things they don’t really want to do, usually for fear of disappointing someone), or not nearly enough (as in failing to step up and take a chance or try new or uncertain things).
There is a sweet spot when it comes to saying yes. Cheryl Richardson says if it’s not a ‘hell yes’, it’s a no. That’s a great rule of thumb when it comes to doing things others ask of you.
When it comes to challenging yourself and finding your own way, say yes more than you say no. Follow clues. Knock on doors. Affirm and Add. Saying yes sends the message that you’re open and ready for business.
Z = Zen
Zen is about Quieting the mind and Accepting the moment as paths to Enlightenment. Sound familiar?
We’ve come full circle in the ABC’s of Enlightenment. And in Zen Buddhism, the full circle symbolizes a mind that is free-flowing, not fixed to rigid beliefs. That sounds like something to (imperfectly) strive toward.
What did I miss? What are some of your Paths to Enlightenment?
Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.
okay, first of all – what would you charge if i hired you as a personal therapist who lives with me/goes to work with me/fits in my backpack? KIDDING, i’m not THAT creepy.
second of all, this post is awesome (duh).
third of all, just a simple question. i’ve read a lot of “inspiration” books, like eckhart tolle & other “mind over matter” stuff. and i also do a crap-load of yoga (seriously, i’m always doing yoga. like, always). what i’m getting at is that some sources say that “you are not your thoughts,” while others, like you, say that “Your thoughts create your life. They directly influence your emotions and your emotions directly influence your behaviors.”
i see the arguments for both views. but which one is right? or is good ol’ “moderation” gonna take the cake once again? (not trying to sound cynical; moderation really IS the answer to most things…)
I think both are true, Lisa. That “we’re not our thoughts” makes it possible to separate from them…they’re just electrical impulses that fire through our brain and as long as we know we are not them (we’re much more than just a collection of impulses) we start to gain that little bit of separation from them that lets us chose thoughts that serve us.
And we go to all that trouble to choose thoughts that serve us because “our thoughts create our life”.
So no need for moderation–moderation sucks 🙂 We get to go all in both ways.
Love it… and the fact that you fit mack daddy and enlightenment together is icing on the cake!
Wow, what a great post Amy! I absolutely love how you break down your path to enlightenment they all make soo much sense. You are right in saying that enlightenment doesn’t have to feel unattainable or even that far off! I am printing this off and putting it up in my office! Fabulous stuff!
Lori, Yes and EXACTLY! I am printing my ABC’s to Enlightenment as I type. This was so well written; every word worthy of quoting, sharing and being apart of my everyday life. Thank you Dr. Johnson! THANK YOU!
I love the ABC’s!! Awesome way to break it down!
And I agree with you – enlightenment seems to get a bad wrap! With this post though, it helps clear up the fog around that word.
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