If you asked me a year ago if I would be writing about enlightenment I would have laughed. Sure, I hoped one day I would touch upon this state of internal bliss. Never knowing I would stumble upon it mid-day in isle three of the grocery store. I have to admit,I had fantasized about enlightenment. I pictured it happening far away on some remote piece of land, a mountain top, amongst the rows of sunflowers in Italy or a quaint little village in France. Isle three, five miles from home, umm, not exactly what I expected.
Enlightenment, for the most part has been put up on a pedestal, hands off to regular folks.
Lord Buddha, (formally Siddhartha) was considered an enlightened being. I often wonder what exactly Buddha experienced when he sat under the Bodhi tree? How did he know when he had attained enlightenment? Is enlightenment an eternal state or can one touch upon it temporarily?Do you have to be a certain age and is it available to regular folks like me? Although his teachings have stood strong through the passage of time, certainly Lord Buddha wasn’t the only one who has insight on this subject. Other seekers and philosophers such as Immanuel Kant, describe enlightenment as “A man’s emergence from self imposed immaturity.” Kant’s contributions speak to the lies and lack of understanding which contribute to our immature behavior.
Looking back now, I realize the enlightenment I experienced had been a culmination of a string of awareness.
Similar to bulbs on a Christmas tree each one had to light up on its own before the entire strand could be seen. Rather than bulbs I experienced them as a ha moments, one right after the other over a period of several weeks until finally the big bang in isle three.
Now I must confess my bang started out with a bit of discomfort. It actually began in the parking lot outside the store.
I was inside my car talking on the phone when the other person asked me a question. Immediately, in my head, I thought, I am not going to talk about that. If I talk about that, I will start to cry and this is not the place or time for that. So like many of us, I held it back so I could go on with my day, only to find myself moments later staring, blankly at the packages of tea in isle three.
Similar to a little kid, who says, I am not talking to you anymore, my moment of immaturity, bubbled up into immense discomfort.
It was as if my mind said, keep it quiet while my bodily sensation said, oh no, I’ve got something to say and it did. A tremendous surge of discomfort moved through me like a freight train.The feeling was so intense I considered abandoning my shopping cart and heading out the door. Instead, I paused, looked at the fresh food and newly packaged fish in my cart and somehow managed to tap into Buddha’s no harm philosophy. I simply couldn’t sacrifice all I had gathered (at least without telling someone). So, I stood still and allowed the nervousness, anxiety, shaking, nausea and lump in my throat to move through.As this occurred something wonderful began to happened, nirvana.
In the past, if feelings such as anxiety came about I would have been a bit concerned.
I might have started self diagnosing my symptoms as a panic attack, dehydration or a hot flash. However, something intuitive told me to be still and allow the intensity to move through. As this occurred,the discomfort transformed into sheer beauty. It was a feeling, I had never experienced before. I felt like I was floating, kind of like an out of body experience. Certainly, I had released strong emotions before but this time felt different. Rather than feeling better, I felt lighter. For a moment, time stood still and I was able to observe myself from a higher state of mind. Thoughts I normally would have were suspended and I, dare I say, felt complete bliss.
One might think landing back in my body would have been quite jolting and I am sure some would argue whether I touched upon nirvana.
I would like to believe I did. If this experience can happen to me it can happen to anyone. According to Author Steve Hagen, “You can’t want enlightenment like you want other things. Unlike archery, hitting the center of the bull’s eye of enlightenment does not require skill, in the usual sense. Just put your effort into being awake in this moment.” (Buddhism Plain & Simple, 1997, pp. 100).
This experience left me curious about the possibilities that rest within our deeper emotions. It made me rethink holding back or ignoring my feelings. What left the most impression on me is the sneak peek I received, at the limitless range of our love.