There is an old Zen saying. “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”
Nothing about my life points to my being enlightened and nothing in my being wants to be enlightened. The term seems a little silly to me in some ways. And, if the saying is true (as Zen proverbs seek to disperse truth), there is no way of knowing. Except, there is a way of knowing.
While you may not see my enlightenment, it may be available for me to see. If I speak of my enlightenment, however, it proves that I have not attained enlightenment. Another quote from Lao Tzu, “Those who know do not speak, and those who speak do not know.”
If I supposed that spirituality was some sort of contest, I would be concerned with enlightenment and its attainment. If I were worried that it was a goal I needed to reach, I would study what it meant in a deeper way. It sounds really cool, but who knows what it really means. Perhaps the first step towards enlightenment is, the letting go, of the goal of enlightenment.
I study a lot of deep thinking, well respected (in some circles), well known authorities on a variety of subjects, but those I learn from the most are under the age of ten. I enjoy a good story about growth, but in some very real ways, we are all “full grown”, right now. You are what you need to be right now, because you are what you are, right now. I am where I need to be right now, because I am where I am, right now.
Yes, every new day will bring experience in a fresh way, but also, we are doing okay today. With things like peace, enlightenment, contentment, happiness, and all the usual things we want to obtain, we forget the secret to their being made manifest in our lives. The more we seek those things, the more we are unable to receive them.
Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God, and all else will be given.”
The “kingdom of God”, as it is called, is not what we believe about heaven. Seeking the kingdom does not mean to strive to make a reward for yourself in some future incarnation or in some future place. Seeking the kingdom first is a mindset that allows us to be concerned with one thing, as all others things, like peace, enlightenment, contentment, and happiness, are added without our even knowing.
We should not spend our time waiting for some moment of transformation. Nothing will be gained by our profession of some teacher, savior, or religion. Having grown up in the Christian tradition, I always that I must repent to be “saved”. Not only this, but that if others did not repent, they could not be “saved”. By worrying if others are “saved”, we rob ourselves of the joy of the kingdom. By worrying if we are enlightened, we rob ourselves of glimpses of enlightenment.
There are times in life, and struggles in life, which are not fair nor fun. What we seek in these moments is what makes us who we are. Do we complain? Do we seek comfort first? Are we bound to help others in our times of strife? We may believe we care about others, but we may seek only for ourselves in hard times.
There is, though, a simple way of looking at all things.
Without judgement as to whether an event is good or bad, be grateful first. Without believing there is a reason for what is happening, express gratitude before participation in experience. We are always free to step away from our involvement in our lives, and observe, as if we were not only made up of what we do, who we want to be, and the way others see us.
Once we have achieved gratitude, there are other simple actions that might help. Doing all things happily.
Rather than saying, “I have to,” say, “I get to.”
Blessing others in your mind. Thinking wild and over-the-top thoughts about how good it could be. Smiling, even when you do not feel like smiling. Doing all you can to see the positives in the things we take the time to investigate.
Be the person you would like to hang out with if you wanted to get better than you are now. Listen. Speak the truth in kindness. Reserve the right, not to have an opinion, on everything.
Just let go.
Let go of what you think you should be. Let go of what you think others should be. When you are tempted to judge yourself, let go. When you are tempted to judge others, let go. If you are inclined to say something is either, good or bad, then let that go, too.
Life is kind of like a playground. Some of us like to swing and some of us like the ladders. Some of us like to huddle up in the fort and talk about days and dreams. There will always be a bully kicking sand, but the sandbox is over rated anyway. There will always be that kid who mumbles to himself under a tree. Take care of that kid. There will always be those that are better at kickball, four square, and freeze tag. Celebrate their success and be a friend to everyone.
You may be wondering what right I have to speak on such things. Fair enough, but I could blow your mind with stories of ups and downs, triumphs and defeats.
The important thing is to wonder what right you have to consider such things. Your life should make sense to you. Nobody can figure it out for you. Your kingdom is waiting also. Seek it. And, as you do, understand that all of heaven and earth is for you. If not all of heaven and earth, then at lease this guy. I am for you. You got this.