by Peter Russell –
Being able to experience reality as it is, undistorted by our hopes and fears, is often referred to as “enlightenment.” The reference “light” in this word is usually thought of in the sense of illumination. A mind that is enlightened is said to be an “illumined” mind. It is a mind that has “seen the light,” or sees things in a new light. There is, however, another sense of the word “enlighten” that is equally appropriate. That is “a lightening of the load. ”
The heaviest burdens in this life are not our physical burdens but our mental ones. We are weighed down by our concern for the past, and our worries about the future. This is the load we bear, the weariness that comes from our timefulness.
To en-lighten the mind is to relieve it of this load. An enlightened mind is a mind no longer weighed down by attachments; it is a mind that is free. Being free, it is a mind that is no longer so serious about things — it takes things more lightly. Could this be why enlightened people often laugh and smile more?
A Shift in Perception
Enlightenment is waking up to the illusions contained in the belief we have been fed with since birth; the belief that whether or not we are at peace depends upon what we have or do in the material world.
This alternative way of seeing is to be found at the core most of the great spiritual traditions.
1. We all experience suffering in some way or another — mental, physical, emotional, spiritual.
2. Suffering is self-created. A consequence of our desiring things to be other than they are.
3. It need not be this way. We have a choice as to how we perceive the world and live our lives.
4. There are systematic ways to set about changing how we think and perceive.
The Greek word that we translate as “sin” is amartano. This, as Maurice Nichol pointed out in his book, The Mark, is a term derived from archery and mean to have missed the mark, to have missed the target. The target we are each seeking is inner fulfillment but imagining this will come from what we have or do, we aim in the wrong direction and so “miss the mark.”
Nor is it just religious teachers who have proclaimed this truth. The Greek philosopher Epictetus, living in the first century AD, made one of the most succinct and powerful expositions of this wisdom when he wrote, “People are disturbed, not by things but by the view they take of them. “
Choosing to See
If there is a willingness to look at things differently the answers to these questions are nearly always “No” and “Yes” respectively. Then, having let go of our anxiety about the future, our attention is once again free to return to the here and now.
That much is easy. The difficulty comes in remembering to stop and ask. It is in this that we need practice. For most of us the aspect of life that offers us the most opportunity for practice — and where we most need help — is in our personal relationships. For it is here that we come up against some of our deepest conditioning and some of our strongest judgments.