There are days when life is so absolutely ordinary, that I wonder if Enlightenment happened at all. Enlightenment, however, is only recognizing what was always already here, inside and outside of ‘me.’ So, why would it seem extraordinary to know what has always been true?
If I look at what has changed in the day to day experience of life, it is that I am no longer paying attention to an endless stream of mind-generated ‘problems’ and the accompanying negative emotions they produce. Generally my mind is quiet, or if it’s working, it’s because I’m reading something (and trying to determine how subjectively true/false it is), writing something, or doing some tasks that requires organization. Occasionally there is a relationship problem that arises with my clients (I’m a counseling psychologist) or my spouse and the mind is called on to help communicate and solve the conflict.
Though I do spend some time planning future activities, the planning is not because I have to get OUT of this moment. It’s looking at other things I might do with the time in each day, or how I might serve differently, or literally a thought about what I want to do in the next moment.
I notice flashes of happiness and sometimes joy at odd moments: playing with our dog Maya is one time I often notice this. Walking her on our relatively quiet road in the morning is another. Eating a blackberry that I’ve just picked off the vine, smelling a rose, and wandering around in the garden is another set of activities that seem to be associated with happiness.
No one I know who’s enlightened: walks on water, pulls gold out of thin air, is able to do healing ‘miracles’ or is particularly extraordinary. Enlightened people continue to exist in the three dimensional world of time and space and continue to have relationships with that world and its people. No one builds an ashram around most enlightened people, we just continue to live and work. While other people may not be aware of the totality of their nature, they are nonetheless still the Absolute in its many forms, and worthy of compassion and respect.
There is an oft-repeated phrase that makes more sense as awakening lives itself out, ‘before Enlightenment, I chopped wood and carried water; after Enlightenment, I chopped wood and carried water.’ What changed wasn’t the activity but, the loss of the sense of a ‘doer’ with ‘problems.’ That is fading away to nothing.