As John Harricharan so wisely cautioned, “Don’t seek instant enlightenment. Instant gratification is the curse of modern civilization. Growth and learning take time. Sometimes what is gained in speed is lost in strength. Build strong at your own pace.”
At this stage in my journey I measure progress by the standard of how long it takes me to become the observer of my thinking and how long I remain in my old reactive behaviors before gently and compassionately setting them aside and reconnecting with the gifts and blessings I have all around me.
Enlightenment is a process not an event. It is not achieved through one titanic effort of will but by a thousand daily decisions that gradually begins to loosen our grip on the faulty assertion of the world, that in order to be truly happy something outside of us needs to change. As we grow in comfort and familiarity with shifting our attention inwards we discover that our daily experience is more frequently one of gratitude and appreciation brought about by the realization that genuine happiness begins on the inside and is actually independent of external conditions.
It is our ability to consciously recognize the small miracles around us, and not external conditions, that frees us from the tyranny of the incessant message of needing something different outside of us. Beyond our basic requirements for food, shelter, and clothing, there is remarkably little else we require. While there are lots of nice-to-haves there are very few need-to-haves. Once we realize this and understand that our experience of genuine happiness arises from an internal appreciation of the love, respect, value, and meaning we have in our life, then the grip of the world lessens and our living experience shifts from, fearing we won’t get what we need, to valuing and appreciating the gifts we already have.
If I might offer one suggestion it is that you accept enlightenment as a life-long journey of increasing reliance on your internal, unconditionally loving nature and a diminishing reliance on the messages you receive from the world. As this shift expands you begin to notice you experience greater joy and genuine happiness from the quality of your relationships with yourself, others, and the world rather than from external conditions which are incapable of bringing us the deep experience of connection and genuine happiness we yearn for.
Take heart when you realize that you have found yourself falling victim to the demanding “voices” of the world. The world is a very noisy place and unless you choose to live on a mountain top it is virtually impossible to block out the relentless call to purchase your way to happiness. This is a tragic message that has left countless millions wondering what they did wrong to find themselves surrounded with stuff and still searching for the illusive happiness they were promised. They did nothing wrong except believe the faulty message they received from the world. It is often only after we have finally secured all the things the world tells us we need in order to be happy that we finally understand that all the things in the world cannot give us the happiness we seek if we are feeling empty and isolated on the inside.
The good news is that the moment we choose to seek genuine happiness on the inside we begin to get a more satisfying experience. Perfect enlightenment is not a requirement for genuine happiness. Every baby step we take to awaken our sense of gratitude, appreciation, and authenticity brings with it an expanding sense of joy and fulfillment. The more we consciously focus on our internal qualities, characteristics, and blessings the more we experience the genuine happiness and contentment we have been seeking.
Please be compassionate with yourself. You are doing the best you can and as you continue your daily practice you will notice how the quality of your life-experience steadily improves.