It was within predictable circumstances that I achieved a moment of enlightenment.
The house was silent, and I took a scalding hot bath, soaking for half an hour. I spent the time feeling grateful for my life, from the grand unexpected circumstances that brought me to living in Costa Rica, to the small mundane aspects of existence I traditionally take for granted, like having toes and the joy of breath.
After drying off and spending some time sitting in a chair, basking in gratitude, I found myself in the state of mind that has been called enlightenment.
Whether I achieved the degree of enlightenment that ascended masters have attained, I cannot know; the state of mind was so markedly different from my traditional mindset that at least, I can call it my own version of enlightenment.
I was blissed out.
Joy was suddenly infused with every fiber of my being. I was happy and joyous with every thought, and every observation.
I paused, in this blissful repose, to examine the experience.
Enlightenment is something that is available to every human creature, in every moment. We all have the capacity to attain this state, and we can even make the choice to do so, at any given time.
Why do we continually choose to ignore this mindset of bliss, in favor of our everyday?
First, this flesh is strong. The circumstances that we exist within take our attention continually, urging us to solve the problems instead of bask in the existence of them.
Our bodies are finicky organisms, continually demanding food, rest, and sex; our egos are equally demanding, requiring regular inputs of praise, excitement, and satisfaction of curiosity. Satisfying all of these differing demands takes up the bulk of our attention in life, and unless we hardwire into our minds the workaround that the cravings and desires that take our attentions are themselves the cause for feelings of bliss, we can get caught up in the existence of the mundane, forgetting the sublimity of the divine.
I recognized all of this from a state of bliss, and asked myself to make the decision: do I want to remain in enlightenment?
My answer, hesitantly, was no.
It is not impossible to remain enlightened while existing in the everyday world, but it is certainly much harder. Secluding oneself in a cave on a mountaintop creates an atmosphere where one can spend time in introspection continually, and allowing the sage to moderate the effects of the environment upon the body and the ego.
There’s an old Zen saying: Chop wood, carry water. That’s what you do before enlightenment. And then after enlightenment: chop wood, carry water.
Having a simple set of circumstances within which you live your life allows for a simpler structure built around the enlightened life.
My life…it’s not so simple.
I have 2.5 kids (literally – stay tuned for an update on #3 in a couple of weeks). My house is loud, my wife is a conversationalist, our love life is active and vigorous, and my business, the means by which I support my family, involves hours spent every day on the computer or talking with people about their business dreams.
The moments I carved out for a silent bath and blissful enlightenment the other night were an anomaly; I do not live in a secluded cave on a mountaintop, I live in a loud, boisterous house on a mountaintop, full of the laughter of children and the excitement of new ideas.
Enlightenment is not appropriate for me, at this stage of life.
I do not doubt that it could be done, in my current set of circumstances; it would necessitate a change in my personality to such a degree that I would cease being myself, and instead become an enlightened version of myself.
This is an appropriate change for someone who is older, who has given his children the experience and lessons of having a father who gets mad and frustrated, who laughs and gets silly, who has an entire range of emotions.
And besides, I do not feel ready to give up the gamut of emotions just yet.
I have plenty more to learn about mastering my emotional self, lessons that I would sidestep if I were to remain in bliss throughout the rest of my life.
I owe it to myself, and to my own path of personal development, to refrain from enlightenment for a while yet.
But I will still enjoy tasting a moment of enlightenment, now and again.