5 Myths About Enlightenment

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1. Enlightenment is a long journey that takes many years, decades, or even lifetimes to achieve.

Enlightenment is realizing that what you are, have always been, and in fact cannot help but be is pure Consciousness. That you are not the “self-image” you have of yourself, nor your thoughts or even your body. Rather, your original nature, your unconditioned essence, is timeless Awareness.

Because it’s fully what you already are, you cannot “do” anything to get there. Thus, the journey to enlightenment is one of no distance. An analogy would be: How far does the ocean need to go to find water? The answer is no distance. It just needs to clearly recognize what it already is.

The reason it is so challenging to awaken to our original infinite nature is because we have been told/conditioned since birth that we are our body and/or the image we have of ourselves in our mind, i.e., our “self-image.” We are not. What are we? We are THAT which silently observes or is AWARE of everything we experience. This includes all thoughts, feelings, sensations, images and perceptions that arise within, as well as “the outside world” (in fact, we could say that we are not in the world, the world is in us!). For example, how do you know you have a body? You know because you are aware of it. How do you know you have thoughts? You know because you are aware of them. Simply put, your nature is AWARENESS itself.

2. I will be enlightened as soon as I learn how to stop my thoughts.

This is a common misconception. The reality is that you don’t need for your thoughts to stop to awaken; you just need to stop identifying with them. But this is not so easy because most of us have spent a lifetime doing just that. The key is to observe them; to silently watch them. Get some space between you and the arising thought and notice that you are present before the thought, during the thought, and after the thought, so the thought cannot be you. In fact, are you not fully present even when no thought is arising?

3. Enlightenment means I will be free of the ego.

The ego is necessary for the body’s survival and is what tells us when to run from danger or defend ourselves. However, although we rarely find ourselves in actual physical life or death situations, the ego approaches our psychological disturbances with this same fight or flight response. If someone insults us or cuts us off in traffic, the ego kicks in and feels threatened.

The key is to see that we are not our ego. By observing it as it gets triggered we can start to get some space between us and it. The more space, the less pull it has over us. Pretty soon the ego begins to feel like a spoiled child who is always whining and complaining because it wants what it wants when it wants it. The ego’s mantra is, “Me, me, me!”

Rather than get angry at “the child,” we can begin to love it and assure it that it’s safe. By not taking our ego so seriously, we literally begin to lighten up. Again, no need to get rid of the ego—clearly seeing it is not you is enough.


4. Once I am enlightened my life will be free of problems.

When one is awakened, it’s not that only “positive” things come your way, rather it’s that you stop labeling things as positive or negative because all is seen as Life unfolding exactly however it unfolds. You realize you are not in control of Life, Life is; and you are not separate from Life. (Even if we feel separate, that doesn’t make it so. A wave can feel separate from the ocean all it wants; that doesn’t make it so.) And so you learn to trust Life fully and completely. You learn to “go with the flow” and enjoy the journey. A roller coaster has both UPS and DOWNS. You cannot have a roller coaster with only UPS!

As you get older you realize that Life goes by very quickly, and so the urge to whine and complain about every little thing suddenly becomes a waste of energy—energy that you no longer take for granted.

Remember, everyone is a good captain when the seas are calm… so let us not shy away from storms. We can view a storm as an insurmountable problem or as a challenge to go deeper and find out what we are truly made of. As the saying goes, ships were not designed to stay in the harbor. Regardless of the outcome of the situation, you will learn something about yourself that you didn’t know. And when you awaken, you realize that what you are at your core can never be harmed. As the Bhagavad Gita says regarding your true nature:

“A sword cannot cut It, nor can fire burn It; water cannot wet It, nor can wind dry It.”

5. I will know that I am enlightened because I will be in Bliss 24/7.

While bliss or supreme happiness is wonderful experience, like all experiences it will come and go. The idea that being enlightened means being blissed-out all the time is simply not true. To be awakened means to be fully authentic with the present moment, HOWEVER it appears.

Because the enlightened being is not living in the past or future, they fully embrace whatever thoughts, feelings, sensations or emotions are presently arising. So, for example, if they see an animal being abused by a human, they may indeed cry at seeing such an unconscious act. What we discover is that what we are is the SPACE for whatever experience is presently happening.

Final Thoughts

It’s important to realize that you cannot locate Consciousness, you can only BE it. Just like an eye can see everything but itself, whatever Consciousness is aware of is not IT. For the moment you say “this” is Consciousness, you then have to ask, what is aware of this? See the dilemma?

And so in Advaita Vedanta the Sanskrit term, “neti neti,” meaning “not this, not this” is often used as practice to finding your way back home. For example, you would look at a tree and ask, “Am I the tree or what is aware of it?” Since you are aware of the tree you know that you cannot be the tree. And you do this with every object your eyes land on, including your body.

At first the mind will try to say, “But ‘I’ am aware of this!” But then you have to ask, “And what knows or is aware of this ‘I’ that claims to know the tree?” And the mind says, “me!” And you ask, “And what is aware of this “me”? If you keep asking, “And what is aware of this?” to whatever answer the mind comes up with, eventually the mind quiets down as it sees that it has run out of answers. And so, you end up in silence.

The key is you have to actually do this exercise so that the understanding goes from being intellectual to experiential. It is known not by believing what someone else says, but is confirmed by your own direct experience. And you keep doing it over and over until it becomes obvious that whatever you are aware of cannot be you. And suddenly, it can dawn on you that what you have always been looking for is THAT which is looking… and you rest in/as this.

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CE provides a space for free thinkers to explore and discuss new, alternative information and ideas. The goal? Question everything, think differently, spread love and live a joy filled life.

  1. Gernold

    Thank you for this great summary. I have already experienced this bliss one time, after an one hour mediation and I only can say: It was the best feeling i ever had.
    Now it its very difficult for me to mediate as I did it, because I have this expactation of it.
    But I keep on doing it and I hope to create this state again. 😀

    • Chad

      I think the mistake here is craving that state you once had…you have to accept it as just another experience. You’ll have many more and its about how you face those experiences with a “so what” attitude. You’re living in the PAST by trying to find that blissful experience, which denies you the present experience. Good luck with your practice :)

  2. mergon

    television used to be 405 lines then 625 now we have digital although we now see pics in pixels if they were placed in rows and counted and then compared with the old system we would see that we can see far more detail than we could with the old system .

    MUSIC it is said should be heard at 434 hts because of the difference in percevied quality .

    So what we have here is a question of frequency ,that said the human can adapt to a frequency giving them a differing view on whats really happening .

  3. awesome. so brief and so full! thank you

  4. Anon

    There is so much peace and bliss in just beeing present. It’s like one can “feel” everything as part of himself. It’s true. Nothing seems good or bad anymore, but for me, to be present means overflowing happyness.

    While it’s still true, some “bad” things do happen. They only appread bad if you identify with those thoughts (arising from a certain situation.) If one doesn’t.. happyness consists. It’s important to note here that there is a difference between happiness under certain circumstances, or just BEEING (happy). The happy feeling comes afterwards without any effort, as if it would be a natural state.

    And it’s possible to actualy “Stop” thinking. If your awareness is on your thoughts, its like they’re beeing fueled by energy. The more aware you are of the present, the less energy flows into your tought. Its one of the most beautiful things, i can tell you!

    For me it was like.. just woke up and it was just pure SILENCE.

    Om Mani Padme Hum
    May every living beeing expirience the end of all suffering!


  5. As God is One the Universe is One and One is the light is me. = is

  6. I Appreciate your guidance Michael :) <3

  7. philipp

    oh yeah, i was in this bliss two days ago. i have never felt something like this. it was like a gateway to heaven opened inside of me. i experienced the feeling of immortality as i became aware of my in infinite nature in this present moment. i didn’t identify with my mind any longer, i was the eternal awareness of everything that has ever happened.

    it was one of the most wonderful and blissful feelings ever. i feel that this will change my life from now on forever. i’m so thankful for this experience :)

  8. Beautiful, succinct statement of the truth about “enlightenment,” Michael…

  9. Lyell

    Namaste. I see more evidence of awakened individuals all the time. Behold the Age of Enlightenment

  10. Great article xxx

  11. Stephen

    The suggestion, that “one” should explore the “I” or “me” or “one” to see what it really is, seems to reinforce the “idea” or thought that there is a “me” who can direct attention or do something that will reveal itself to be false. This has always been a problem when reading about a prescription for awakening.

  12. Feeling grateful for the quality of this piece. Feeling inspired by the idea of enlightenment. Thank you for these wonderful pointers :)

  13. Another myth – that enlightenment is the goal of a life. We will experience ‘enlightenment’ when we cross into death and regain our spiritual sight without the encumbrance of our physical. But in the meantime, human evolution is about the development of FREEDOM which does not exist outside of the spiritual grouping we know as humanity. The reason the full reality of spirit is dimmed to us is because if we know full truth, light, etc, we will not be faced with the development of freedom through choice, which leads to heightened consciousness. Our mythology is about eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evill and being turned away from the face of God, needing to find our way back. ‘Enlightenment’ is a byproduct of our development. The work can’t be bypassed. Otherwise why wouldn’t we simply prescribe a diet of LSD? Many thought that was the answer in the 70s.

  14. “Because it’s fully what you already are, you cannot “do” anything to get there.” vs
    “The key is you have to actually do this exercise … & And you keep doing it over and over … ” This is the conundrum Advaita is unable to solve.

  15. nikx

    thank you….

  16. After 7 days of meditative practice the new apprentice came to the master and said: “My meditation doesn’t work; I’m bored and my mind never stops.” The master replied: “It will pass.”
    A week later the student came to the master once again and cheered: “Thank you so much! My meditation now works brilliantly!” And the master replied: “It will pass.”

  17. gulshan rizvi

    Very nice choice of writing an article upon, points 3, 4 especially ponder worthy.


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