When we look back over ancient scriptures and refer to people throughout history who seem to be at their most content and able to connect to others regardless of status and wealth, it’s easy to think enlightenment is only for the chosen few.
The good news is, you don’t have to go on an ashram to become spiritually enlightened. Nor is it about having out of body experiences. And you don’t even need to chant. Or join a cult. Or even exclude yourself from reality.
So what does that even mean to be spiritually enlightened anyway?
Basically it’s about recognising all is as it should be… this means developing a non-judgemental awareness of yourself and others, in every moment of your life. It also means having an open heart that is able to receive everything, especially yourself, in its perfect state of imperfection. It’s the acceptance of the ongoing invitation of life, to excel in being able to reflect and let go moving toward total compassion with full presence in every moment.
Those with true contentment are able to leave behind the past, letting go of that which does not serve and embrace this journey of life with all its joyful bliss and painful sorrow alike.
The deep set knowledge that your soul is interconnected and interwoven into the very fabric of existence and humanity and the wisdom that you exist to connect in love.
Rather like Rumi said “You are not a drop in the universe. You are the entire universe in one drop”
If that sounds like what you want in life, we offer up some suggestions in how to move toward spiritual enlightenment in modern day life…
1. Live in the moment
Sometimes we get so busy re-living our past and imagining and planning our future we completely miss what’s happening right before our eyes.
What’s past is gone and although it’s there to learn from, there’s not much to be gained from constantly looking back. Equally when someone is always looking ahead, chasing the next adventure, thing or relationship with anticipation and expectation, they can miss the beauty of the now. We could spend our entire existence on what’s already gone and what might never be. The fact is we can’t truly control either.
How about being absorbed and genuinely intrigued by what is happening right here in this moment? Every sensation from sound to taste, from touch to smell can be noticed, appreciated and nurtured. If you’d like to learn how to live in the moment, Mary Ann Weeks Aveda Studio in Guildford is hosting a wonderful one off workshop “Live in the moment” all about this very topic, hosted by a qualified mindfulness practitioner & life coach.
2. Realise that suffering is all in the mind
Unfortunately our mind has a habit of manifesting negative emotions. By dwelling on stories of how we have been upset, misunderstood, mistreated and threatened in some way, telling ourselves over and over again of the pain we experienced until it has embedded within our psyche. Worrying about the potentials of things that could go wrong, imagining ourselves suffering even more.
Make no bones about it, this creates more suffering. In yogic philosophy this kind of self-perpetuated misery and refusal to release the pain we have experienced, creating barriers to our own contentment is known as the Kleshas.
In brief, the Kleshas are based around the truth that we ourselves choose the outcome of each situation, depending on how much we allow things to distort our reality. The five kleshas or obstacles, include ignorance, ego, avoidance, desire and fear of endings and make for an interesting and truthful philosophy on how we behave.
3. Realise that you are not your mind!
A lot of our perceptions, judgements, theories, opinions and summaries are just an expression of our own awareness, and often we’re completely wrong. How many times have you fretted about something you’ve done or said only to approach the person you thought you’d upset to find they hadn’t even noticed? The mind is a hugely complex multi-faceted miracle, but it’s not you. Just as there are waves in the oceans, thoughts arise and fall back spontaneously and suddenly and as soon as we can start to look objectively at our mind, greeting every one with the same gentle observation as you might do with your other senses, the more you can be non-reactive. Your thoughts cannot be edited, deleted or controlled, but by accepting that fact and being mindful of your thoughts, you are no longer restricted by or controlled by them. You will be able to accept your mind as being a part of you, but not the essence of you.
4. Acceptance of everything. Yes, everything.
Life is filled with uncomfortable sensations, emotional, mental and physical which we tend to avoid at all costs if possible. But there are lessons within discomfort. If we’re able to embrace the whole – not just the parts that please us, and welcome in the tender areas, infusing them with love and life, then perhaps we will know true liberation. Acceptance doesn’t necessarily mean the unpleasant thoughts or feelings will go away, it’s not something that you need to do as such. More acknowledging it as a part of who you are. This reality might not be the one you choose, but it is the reality and our willingness to readily accept is what allows us to find peace within our circumstance.
5. Contentment has nothing to do with goals
Spending time constantly telling yourself ‘you’ll be happy when’ is not conducive in how to be spiritually enlightened. Remove your focus from the things that you feel are missing and be present with your reality, even if it’s not the picture you would choose to paint. Trust in the notion that the universe will deliver everything you need all in good time. Befriend yourself in this moment and approach with compassion and self love. You are already perfect. You are already enough. You already have enough.
6. Let go of comparison
Comparison is the thief of joy. If you compare, you only ever end up with an over inflated ego, or the sense of failure that you aren’t good enough / don’t have enough. Every time you compare, you devalue your own experience of life, which is as unique as you are. You might never know what experiences another person is living, so what lies beneath the surface is often very different from the presented version.
Stay on your own journey with a humble heart and focus on your path and how you can be the best version of you. Your definition of success might be a world away from another person’s, which means you create your own contentment which is non-comparable. You can’t go far wrong if you let go of the preconceived idea of what’s right.
Of course, spiritual enlightenment is a long (sometimes life long) journey of discovery rather than a check list or yet another list of things to do. Certainly there will be moments of true realisation and pureness beyond anything material, but other days where we are simply a part of this machine that our western culture has created. Be sure to breathe deeply, every day and look around at the miracle of this wonderful life.
Yoga is a beautiful philosophy and practice as written in the ancient texts the Bhagavad Gita “Yoga is a journey of the self, to the self, through the self’.
If you’d like to explore how to develop your spiritual health and become a happier, more contented and well person, then do book into a class sometime in our beautiful boutique studio on Guildford high street. All our lovely yoga teachers are waiting and willing to share their passion with you.
For more information, please visit our studio timetable and book yourself on to one of our many weekly classes. From restorative to yin, to more If you’re new to yoga, try one of our beginners yoga workshops We are always delighted to welcome students of all levels into our lovely sanctuary of a studio.