Enlightenment. The E word. The state of consciousness all spiritual seekers hope for.
And yet wishing for enlightenment is a wonderfully paradoxical experience: craving the state of non-craving, trying for effortlessness. There is something fascinating about this conflict between “wanting” and the way it nullifies the state of enlightenment. And yet enlightenment is achievable, and it is much closer to us than we might imagine. To realise how we could achieve it, we need to begin with an understanding of what is enlightenment. The concept of spiritual enlightenment is among the spiritual concepts that are most frequently contemplated, and often awakens controversy. An enlightened way of being represents the essence of spiritual transcendence. It means living a life in which analysis by the mind is continuously transcended, evading any interference. An enlightened existence means oneness with experiences, devoid of any duality, where the self is known to be an illusion, and life is experienced completely independently of it. This state has been given different names. It is referred to, for example, as the state of Nirvana, Unity Consciousness, Samadhi, Awakening, and Enlightenment. Whatever name is used, what matters is that it is regarded as a state of freedom from the tyranny of the mind and the illusion of the self.
Do you remember yourself as a child? You were basically fearless, intrinsically willing to say “yes” to the adventure of life.
At that time you had an incredible ability to let go of any difficulty, you were able to move smoothly from one experience to another because you never identified your self with any of them. We often see two children fight as if they were the worst enemies on earth, and a minute later they play together as if they were the greatest friends. This demonstrates the ability of children to switch effortlessly from one moment to the next without emotional response. Each moment is tackled separately and completely as a whole. This is a wonderful manifestation of the state of enlightenment.
We are all born enlightened; as years go by we keep accumulating self concepts, and slowly move away from that primary innocence, from the deep feeling that life could be anything and everything. With every bit of conditioning our experience of life, which originally embraced whatever came its way, slowly shrinks to accommodate the limitations of our own mind and self. For some of us this may begin earlier than for others, and the rate of accumulation and conditioning is individual. But this learning process is inescapable, and we unavoidably move away from our original state of enlightenment and enter a state of illusion.
I say that this process is inescapable as it is truly impossible to avoid this conditioning at a very young age. In many ways, the entire spiritual journey is based upon that learning and conditioning – because at a certain point along the way, you begin the process of unlearning. This may happen at different points in life, at different ages, and for a variety of reasons, but the connecting thread is the deep feeling that “I am not experiencing life’s gifts in full”. This is a nagging feeling that tells you that you have lost what you once had as a young child. You have awakened to the fact that your life has been incomplete. Something within you is inviting you to recall your awareness and return home, to let go of illusion and pretence, and regain your original state. This is when the journey of unlearning begins; the journey whereby you strip yourself of the layers in which you have been wrapped, like an onion, to reveal, at the end, your authentic self, the state of enlightenment.
This idea is tremendously challenging. You might be thinking: “Nothing? I am nothing? How could that be?” And yet remember that this nothingness was the foundation of freedom during childhood. Back then, free of definitions and expectations, you experienced life as an adventure. By engaging with spirituality, meditation, and self-awareness, you will have begun your process of unlearning, whether you recognise it or not. And this is our path towards freedom – this is enlightenment.
Dr Itai Ivtzan
You can read more from Dr Ivtzan in his upcoming book “Awareness Is Freedom: A course in Psychology and Spirituality”.
If you wish to get additional information about Dr Ivtzan’s work, or contact him, please visit www.AwarenessIsFreedom.com