Letting Go of Nothing

Relax Your Mind and Discover
the Wonder of Your True Nature

Reframing Enlightenment

Spiritual enlightenment is often seen as some far-off goal, attained by a few, after years of dedicated practice, or, on occasions, from some good fortune. It is something we get or achieve; another state of consciousness we are blessed with, supplanting our mundane everyday consciousness. But enlightenment is not some new, amazing or ecstatic experience. Nor need it take years of practice. It is simply awakening from the dreamworld of the ego-mind. It is the result of fully letting go.

Our primary reality is the world of our sensory experience; what we see, hear, taste, smell, and feel in the present moment. Along with this, there is the world of our thoughts, the stories we tell ourselves about what is going on, what is needed and how to achieve it. This is the world of the imagination where we dive into the past and the future, reflecting on our experience, ruminating on possibilities, making choices and plans.

There is nothing wrong with being in the world of imagination. It is most valuable to be able to think about our experience, dream of different futures, and plan how to create them. It lies behind so much of what makes us human—our culture, science, technology, art, and philosophy. It is a realm to go to when needed. And then, when we are done, return to the primary reality of here and now.

But our imagined worlds are so engrossing, and seem so important, most of us spend most our time there. Our attention becomes dominated by the stories we tell ourselves, our hopes and fears, our desires and aversions. It is the world of the ego-mind, looking out for our survival, for what will make us safe and secure, meet our needs, and bring us happiness. Such thoughts overshadow our present experience, veiling our true nature. Worse still, they traps us in seeking happiness through what we have or do

There can, however, come a time when we realize that all our seeking for possessions, fame, fortune, or whatever else we believe will make us happy does not bring lasting satisfaction. They all serve to perpetuate samsara, that endless wandering on from one temporary gratification to another. This realization is, for many, the first step in waking up.

We may then be drawn to some spiritual teaching that promises a more permanent happiness, independent of the material world. So, we get involved in a path seeking to get enlightened. More often than not, the ego-mind kicks in. It thinks this is the answer to the search for happiness. This is what I must find and achieve. I must get enlightened.

One might criticize people for pursuing spiritual paths with such egocentric motives. However, as Indian teachings are wont to point out, it can take a thorn to remove a thorn—it can take the ego-mind to motivate us to set out on a journey of awakening that ultimately takes us beyond the ego-mind.

Various approaches may be tried, and there may well be some remarkable experiences along the way, but sooner or later there comes the recognition that enlightenment is not some new experience. Not some exalted state in which I will be transformed. It is simply awakening from the dream.

This is what mystics of all times and cultures have tasted, some fleetingly, others abiding in its grace. Repeatedly, they attest to the peace, love, and freedom that come with awakening. To the discovery of their true nature. To a sense of the sacred. To the timelessness of the eternal present. To the dissolution of boundaries, and oneness with the cosmos.

Some wake up, and that is it. They remain awake. For the vast majority of us, however, we get glimpses—maybe in meditation, perhaps through some intense elation, or some other circumstance that results in a profound letting go. But it does not last. It is not long before we find ourselves once again caught in the throws of discontent. And the moment of awakening becomes but a memory.

Yet we have tasted it. And that can be a motivation to return. Each time we do, it becomes more familiar. We are able to recognize more easily when we’re stuck in egoic thoughts, and more able to let go.

Indian teachings liken the process to dying a cloth. The old vegetable dies were not that fast, and quickly faded. So, a cloth was dipped in dye, and left out in the sun to fade. Then dipped again; and left to fade again. Gradually, the color built up until it eventually became permanent.

Similarly, we dip into the ease and freedom of our true nature. It fades some as we engage again in the world. We dip in again. And again, and gradually the freedom grows.

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