11 Essential Ebbs of Enlightenment.

Via Brent Binder
on Apr 17, 2011
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Let’s start with a simple truth: it is unlikely that you will ever walk on water or levitate off the meditation pillow by repeating mantras or observing the breath.

Photo: H. Koppdelaney

With practice, however, spiritual levity can be attained in this lifetime. Just by showing an interest in spiritual progression, you attract the same illuminated energy that surged through historical figures such as Buddha, Jesus Christ and Haile Selassie. Dedication to the external message of any dogma, combined with listening to that innate identity which speaks to us from within, reveals the massive potential for any person to spiritually embody any of the apparent human deities who claimed earth as their stomping ground.

For each moment through the expanse of an entire lifetime, here is my personal daily reincarnation to Nirvana:

#1. Accept That You Are Already Enlightened.
Photo: Sophie Ffrench-Constant

I have always considered human intelligence and curiosity to be a universal paradox. We are given the incredible gift of consciousness, yet we use this gift as a tool for questioning its purpose and attempting to justify it with religion, philosophy and science. (I do, however, find them beautiful and equally essential for the human experience). There is certainly space for progression along this path. I recently heard Bhagavan Das say, “You are the way and the only thing in your way is you.” Guiding your spiritual life with meditation, yoga, worship and information collection is an integral part of the ultimate realization, but the mere presence of your individual self on this planet is an absolute miracle. The ability to recognize that presence is an even greater one. Keep this in mind above all else: the path to enlightenment and enlightenment itself are the same thing.

#2. Throw the Golden Rule Out the Window.

The saying, “Do unto others as you would do unto yourself,” is outdated and overused. As my mentor once told me, “Not everyone wants to be done unto like you do.” Instead, I (and perhaps many before me) have now enacted the Platinum Rule: “Do unto others as if they were God.” Seriously! How would you treat your spouse or best friend if they were God? Imagine that every person on the planet is acting in this manner. In many ancient philosophies, we are all part of a oneness that, in totality, is a supreme being. You, your imperfect family and the world of war-faring and impoverished nations are all parts of this ridiculously unfathomable perfection.

#3. Befriend All Aspects of Your Mind.

To paraphrase Shakespeare: “There is no good or evil. It is only the thinking that makes it so.” So don’t be too hard on yourself. You are here in this moment. Therefore, it must be perfect. Your thoughts will come and go—some will please you and some will not. In your life, sometimes you will be brave and other times fearful. You will love and you will rage. Inherent human characteristics such as fear, anger, anguish and suffering help keep life real. Jesus rampaged through a temple while the Buddha walked out on his wife the day after she gave birth to his son, but we all know what happens in the end of their stories. Even the sixth Dali Llama was known to sneak out of his palace and into the city streets, where he would get as drunk as a monk and womanize ‘til sunrise. So don’t feel too bad if you inhaled another quart of “Chunky Monkey” last night; perhaps it is just an aspect of being a supernatural life force.

#4. Embrace Your Past. Act in the Now.

Mistakes are definitely one part of the enlightened human experience. Furthermore, it is completely natural to rationalize our errors. We externalize blame as something that has happened to us, whereas in reality, it has actually happened for us. We wouldn’t be such incredible people if it weren’t for the trials and tribulations that caused heartache and suffering. So skip the online self-psychotherapy session (I am not denying psychological illness, as I highly respect the field of psychology). Maintaining mindfulness in the moment places all responsibility in our present-time consciousness as decisions are being made. Awareness is the true Nature Of Wisdom (NOW), which allows us to embrace the past that has shaped our experience while empowering us to choose who we are in each moment.

#5. Predict the Future—For Better or For Worse
Photo: Kelly V.

Sure, “life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get”—unless, of course, you have previously eaten from that box of chocolates, Forest. The dark bumpy circles are coconut and the skinny rectangles taste like Twix bars. Life repeats itself and even new experiences can teach you different versions of the same old lessons. If the past was perfect, why wouldn’t the future be perfect, too? Yeah, you’re going to make more mistakes because you’re not finished learning yet. Let’s just hope you’re not making the same mistakes again and again, like choosing the chocolate squares filled with pink chalk dust.

#6. Speak as if We Were One: Stop Saying “I”, “Me”, and “My”.

Don’t get me wrong…individuality is sacred. One of the most amazing aspects of this existence is that no two souls are exactly alike, and this fact should be celebrated. Everything is better in moderation, though…especially ego. The words “I”, “me” and “my” are the “trio of ego.” Try to reduce these self-identification symbols and begin reorganizing your language to embody a more universal perspective by using words such as “we”, “us” and (my personal favorite) “everyone”. What began as an impossible task will unfold into a joyful experience of selflessness. Paradoxically, through this universal perspective, one may discover the true individual contribution to the greater cosmic scheme.

#7. Release Your Negative Projections of Other People

I can hear my mother now, “If you don’t have anything nice to say…” It doesn’t matter if it’s your best friend who can’t get past his or her old relationship hang-ups, or an entire group of political adversaries. All people are perfect just the way they are. Their status is perfect; their flaws are perfect; their hatred is perfect. We are all brothers and sisters. Those who act outside the realm of social norms (or your perception of “normal”) are people who need love just like you do. The least you can do is send them some peaceful vibes, rather than the exact opposite.

#8. Meditation is for Practice Only.
Photo: Umberto Salvagnin

As stated by Kabat-Zinn, “The real meditation is your life.”  Your level of enlightenment is directly related to the level of awareness you maintain as you live it. This awareness exists in many forms, beginning with breath and posture. Breath awareness elevates your perception, both on the pillow and off. In conversation, for example, breath awareness is important since voice sounds are a biological function of breathing (try talking without exhaling). Postural awareness elevates your yoga and “stance” when choosing to act in a situation. These two elements of breath and postural awareness can directly stimulate the brain centers that initiate emotional healing, spontaneous creativity and instantaneous divergent thinking. Practice does make perfect, so next time you’re slouching over your Facebook page or cursing the clover that’s crowdin’ your veggie patch, remember to sit up strait, stand tall, breathe mindfully and acknowledge with appreciation the ever-present intelligence that we spend so much time recognizing when we are on the mat or at the alter.

#9. Live Out Loud.

Once my yoga guru told me that this was a mantra of hers, I immediately chiseled it into my heart. What’s the point of a life spent sitting on a pillow always looking ahead and waiting for the next big moment of epiphany? Stop for a second and look behind you. There are other frustrated human beings who are stuck at that same place you were recently stuck. If the opportunity to teach arises, be-careful; it’s easy to get excited and “should” all over your student.  Speak with precision, gentleness and honesty and avoid a lecture filled with “you should” and “have to”. The true essence of learning can only be achieved when the teacher asks open-ended questions, which elicit thought and self-realization.

#10. Depend on Nothing Else But the Self.

If you want something done right, do it yourself. When it comes to enlightenment, your true self-discovery is exactly that: discovered by thy self. Only you can put one foot in front of the other and walk towards the inevitable truth. Amazingly, becoming self-sufficient helps us to develop the patience and skills necessary to help other people do the same. Another universal paradox emerges from taking independent actions—an eternity of support emerges from the universe around you.

Photo: Greg Riegler
#11. Drink Lots of Clean Water. Eat Clean Food, and Less. Think Clean Thoughts.

Thank you to all my teachers who continually enlighten my experience and who inspired this list.


About Brent Binder

Thank you for reading! Please use this link to visit my website or click here to friend me on facebook or twitter.


102 Responses to “11 Essential Ebbs of Enlightenment.”

  1. yogiclarebear says:

    nice brent! very down to earth relate-able.

  2. drbinder says:

    Thank you yogiclarebear. That's the Taurus in me… very earthy energy…

  3. Meng Liu says:

    Agree with the #3. Befriend All Aspects of Your Mind.
    everyone will be fearful, angry or emotional sometimes, no one is perfect, we should accept all the aspects of our mind, and keep loving us, that is the true life.
    yesterday is history, tomorrow is mystery, only today is the gift.
    enjoy the exact moment when u are!

  4. Tiffany Hitz says:

    Love #2 and totally agree with #10. You shouldnt do unto others as you would like them to do to you because they may feel, wish, and think differently than you. Also when you want something done right or a certain way then you have to do it yourself because people may not understand what you are trying to say or may think it should be done a different way.

  5. Enjoyed this, Brent. Look forward to more.

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Bob W.
    Yoga Editor

  6. Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

  7. drbinder says:

    Yes Meng! Today is a gift! That's why it's called the PRESENT! LOL…

  8. drbinder says:

    Great Perspective Tiffany! Thank you for your comment. It is hard to know what other people are thinking, asking them is a good start. In a way, asking them also makes someone think about how they want to be treated. I'm not sure if everyone thinks about how they would like to be treated on a daily basis. Perhaps it would be a good start for someone who wants to be treated differently.

  9. drbinder says:

    Thank You 🙂

  10. Michelle Dauksha says:

    I definitely agree upon most of this article. I feel as though I can strongly relate to it. Number ten is definitely my favorite point made in this article. I view myself as a highly independent person that is self-reflective in multiple manners. Striving to be the best person and becoming that "best person" is a task that is forced upon you to obtain if you wish to do so. Overall I think this article is well-written and some great points have been made!

  11. Alex Shuey says:

    very good list. I think #11 is under rated by many. It is short and to the point and if you do just that you will feel totally different.

  12. drbinder says:

    Thanks Pamela. When I was first presented with the "platinum rule" my mentor had suggested to "do unto others as they would do unto themselves." I feel deeply in love with the idea that we are all unique and therefore would prefer customized treatment from the people in our lives… However, modern society does a great job of bombarding us with advertising and artificially heightened drama of reality TV. Sometimes… we don't even know what we REALLY want.

  13. drbinder says:

    Awesome Michelle, the solutions are internal. It's just a matter of utilizing them.

  14. farisa says:

    Great article! Number 6 and 7 is what I have most trouble doing! But as always its great to hear your encouraging perspectives on life and its various aspects

  15. b. bragg-from class says:

    i think this is possible Dr. B but it sounds like it would be very tough. But i guess if it works then it is worth it.

  16. drbinder says:

    Not just Feel totally different… BE totally different! thanks Alex

  17. drbinder says:

    With every challange there is an opportunity for growth, Farisa!

  18. drbinder says:

    As long as you "think its' possible" then it is.

  19. drbinder says:

    I just saw this quote on a friend's facebook. “There comes a time when the mind takes a higher plane of knowledge but can never prove how it got there.” –Albert Einstein… Thanx Oatmeal

  20. Jennifer Gordon says:

    I love number 10, "Depend on Nothing Else But the Self"
    You cannot count on people these days, especially group projects for class. If you want an A in the project, you basically have to do the project in its entirety by yourself. Today, a lot of people are lazy, or you get stuck in a group with people who do not care about their academics. They don't respond to e-mails, they never show up for group meetings, and they do not do their fair share of the project.
    Also, if you "Depend on Nothing Else But the Self" you feel as an individual. You are a unique person. Eventually people will see that when you "Depend on Nothing Else But the Self" they will join the ban wagon.

  21. Courtney Miller says:

    Great article! I really liked #4 "Embracing your past. Act in the now." and #10 "Depend on nothing else but your self". I completely agree with both of these statements. Everyone has hardships or things that they wish they could take back, but in the end, it only makes you stronger and realize not to do those same mistakes in the NOW of life. Also, depending on yourself is important because its the only way you can be certain something will get done. Independence allows you to move forward, isn't that our essential goal in life. Awesome Article!!

  22. Karla Browne says:

    #2. When I unroll my husband's dirty socks at the washing machine I always think: "What if these were Jesus' socks?" And love floods my heart for that silly guy. Thanks, Brent for saying it better.

  23. drbinder says:

    Thank You for keeping it real, Karla! I have a huge smile right now because of YOU!

  24. drbinder says:

    Very Nice Joe! #7 is a hard one for sure. But with time and practice (in awareness) you will smile at arrogance and you will befriend condescending people without even thinking twice. Of course there will be a time when someone pushes our buttons just the right way at the right time and then all of the sudden SNAP… It happens. We are right back where we started… The trick is to refer back to number 3 and smile at yourself for being human… and then continue your work on #7….

  25. Kelly Jackson says:

    The one I automatically responded to was #11-drink lots of clean water, eat clean food and less. Think clean thoughts. I realized that has a college student with a hectic schedule and constant stress, I do really think clean or positive thoughts, I do not drink enough water, and I never really appreciate and think about my food as I am throwing it into my mouth. I need to take the time to appreciate the food that is available to me. I realize that I could be living an extremely healthy lifestyle by doing these simple steps; however, I seem to be lazy to even try to change or at least think about what my body is going through. Everyone should learn to be more positive and stop thinking about all of the negative stuff out in the world that could potentially hurt you. I need to appreciate life more and give more respect to my being. I think the key is being aware of the problem or the change/ goal I am trying to achieve. I hope that as I get older and perhaps learn more about my purpose and the environment around me I will be able to live more purely and cleanly.

  26. Karina Reyes says:

    my favorite were 2,4, and 5! I love these blogs, they always get me thinking!

  27. Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

  28. snyderce says:

    I absolutely love this. You did a fantastic job of using complex concepts (for example, Buddha's theory of equanimity, # 6) and making them understandable and applicable to everyday life. Thanks for the spiritual uplift…very inspiring.

  29. Kaitlin Rando says:

    Love #9. As an education major, I will take into account that no student or learner HAS to do anything. Teaching with experience and an open mind as opposed to saying you "have to" do this will make a greater impact on the individual. Also, within my own personal struggles, looking "behind me" at the other frustrated people will help me to take a deep breath and stop cursing out the coffee pot when I swallow a mouth full of grounds. This list is extremely insightful and helpful on the care and keeping of "you".

  30. drbinder says:

    Sweeeet! Way to point out The NOW of Life… that was an off the cuff remark and it just seemed to fit… Thanks for noticing!

  31. drbinder says:

    Excellent story Joe. It is quite a fine line with children becasue they do need someone to teach them how to act in a place like the parking lot. Do as I say and not as do never works… kids are sponges, they pick up the emotion, they inherit our actions as core values.

    I definitely agree about the family/ community factor in societal progression. Great Point!

  32. drbinder says:

    That's right Lauren! After you make a mistake you have a choice. Either you get over it and learn from the experience, or you get stresses and frantic. Sounds like a no brainer to me. It's also good to see you LOVE the idea of releasing negative projections, this is also known as "Dont Talk Schmack about other people."

  33. drbinder says:

    Kelly, just by putting those words and intentions out there, just by acknowledging which direction in life you wish to take, you are already preparing for the journey ahead. #11 is a great way to detox the body which will inturn detox the mind and your thinking. All the better for the intense spititual journey we call life. As your time passes you can choose to learn more about yourself and your environment, then chooses to act on the knowledge you attain. In the end, you decide. I love this response!

  34. drbinder says:

    Thank You snyderce for acknowledging that I was not the originator! LOL. These are the emergent themes throughout the human archetypal energies. There are many more themes. Many saints and scholars have talked about them. Many books have been written from the same stories which were passed orally for thousands of years. But in the end, we're all talkin about the same thing.

  35. Cierstin Dixon says:

    After reading your journal article I really enjoyed reading numbers 4, 10, and 11. All of these are good life lessons that you should keep in mind. The best way to learn is from making your own mistakes. You should never dwell on the past and your past experiences or decisions, but learn from them and live in the present. Also I completely agree with number 10 "Depend on Nothing Else But the Self". This is so true because in today's society, you can only rely on yourself to get things accomplished. Being an independent person shows yourself that you are a strong person and can achieve anything you put your mind to. I also agree with number 11, drinking clean water, and eating clean food and thinking clean thoughts. College can be a stressful time but also one of the best experiences you will ever have. A way that might make things easier is by doing all of these things. Not only thinking clean thoughts will make you feel better but also eating healthier food and lots of water will give you so much more energy. Eating right doesn't only make you look better, but feel much better as well.

  36. drbinder says:

    Awesome Cierstin! Love it. And aren't we happier when we feel better?

  37. Max Hrip says:

    I really like number 6 because there are many people in the world that only think about themselves and if more people thought about people as a whole you and the other people would feel better about themselves. I think that these are good life lessons that people can adopt.

  38. Renee Taylor says:

    I think that everyone can learn something from reading these life lessons. I enjoyed reading #6, many people are so self-focused they forget about the well-being of their loved ones and just other people we come in contact with everyday. I believe that #7 is also very important because I believe that when you cast negative energy out onto other people it will come back to you. If you remain positive and respect that everyone has flaws it not only makes it better for you, but for everyone around you

  39. Jackie Warden says:

    Very good Dr. B. Number 2 and 6 made me think. In this world everybody is always focused on themselves. We dont look around and see anybody else or think about other people.

  40. Justin Drew says:

    Hey Dr.B,
    This article evoked a lot of emotions. For example, #2 “Do unto others as if they were God.”I disagree with that statement, because i wouldn’t treat a terrorist who is out to hurt me, the same way as i would treat a family member or close friend.

    See you in Class!

  41. Zach Friesner says:

    #11 Always annoys me the most. Working at Wal Mart I see people make bad decisions every 5 seconds. It gets old and sad seeing overweight people keep making bad decisions and opting for the Snickers bar (overrated btw) instead of getting fresh produce. #10 – If you want something done right then do it yourself. That can not be stressed enough.

  42. Dee says:


    Every point that you made is significant and each part weaves through the others. The beauty of enlightenment is that it's happening all the time, every second of our lives and we don't even realize it.
    My steps to enlightenment revolve around the question that every person has been asked at some point in their lives, and that is "What do you want to be?"
    I believe that a person’s identity is reflected by their intentions and how those intentions are fulfilled by their actions. An identity is formed by an individual’s self-realization based on their interest in the world around them. I think that real life experience and the choices I make will help to shape my identity more than anything I will learn in the classroom. I don’t think I will ever know exactly what I want to “be.” Being is living and life happens every minute of every day. What I am today is not what I will be tomorrow because I am constantly learning and evolving. This brings my thoughts to a quote by Roger Waters (bassist and lyricist from the band Pink Floyd) in an interview about their album “Dark Side of the Moon,” he talks about the song “Time” and where the meaning came from for him. He said that, “I suddenly realized then that year that life was already happening. My mother was so obsessed with education and the idea that childhood and adolescence and, well, everything was about preparing for a life that was going to start later. And I suddenly realized that life wasn’t going to start later, it starts at dot and it happens all the time, and then at any point you can grasp the reins and start guiding your own destiny.” Waters explains so concisely how I feel about this stage of my life and I always think of this quote because it’s such a beautiful observation of the human condition.

  43. Kimberly S. says:

    Living in the moment is one of the hardest things to do in today's society. We are all so concerned with what is happening tomorrow and how we are going to achieve the goals of tomorrow that we forget to stop and enjoy today. We miss the most important things in life when we don't focus on today. Thanks for the reminder!

  44. Katie Musella says:

    After reading this blog entry, a quote dawned into my head “It's never too late to be what you might have been”—George Elliot. I really think that these points radiate the notion that like you have said before it is all a choice. As I was reading through each of these #4, 9, and 10 I reread several times and really concentrated on their messages. I have found that too often we look back on what happened and not forward to the possibility of what is to come. It struck me when you said that things are happening for us not too us. This simple message has so much truth and knowledge packed in it…it is almost mind blowing of a concept! In being a psychology major and often giving advice to friends #9 has been put on a post it note for me! It really is about self-discovery and allowing yourself to grow as a person independently. Beautiful and empowering thoughts and life changing messages. Thank you so much for sharing all of your knowledge.

  45. Brandon Messner says:

    Very cool, i always feel more relaxed after reading your articles. I really enjoyed the idea of treating everyone as if they were God–its an interesting concept that I've never considered before. Although, I'm sure some people do not deserve that sort of indiscriminate care or love. Overall, great article!

  46. J.D. Intrieri says:

    I enjoyed this article, especially number 10. It really inspires me to take care of things myself and depend on myself en route to enlightenment.

  47. B. Carter says:

    Great post, Dr. B. Through my experiences, it seems that many issues in my life are recurring themes. Being able to learn from my past mistakes is key in my path to my "happiness." As a young adult, independence has grown exponentially more important. I believe that through self-discovery and taking responsibilty for myself is the time when I learn from past mistakes and begin to make better decisions. I also believe that sending positive vibes to the people we think negatively about will help everyone not only involved, but also help the random person that just catches a smile from a passing person that can brighten their day.

  48. Kelly Flack says:

    i really enjoyed #'s 9,10,11. especially #10. i really need to start doing that so reading this really helped out. thanks dr. b!!

  49. Amanda Batista says:

    Dr. B. I really enjoy reading your articles and taking in everything you have to say about life. I feel as you explain things so differently and it makes me (and others) think and create a better understanding of myself, life, and heath. Every step is important and I know you will impact other lives as much as you have done with mine. My favorite is #10 "Depend on Nothing Else But the Self". The only way to achieve things or goals in life is through self. Yes, people will be a mentor or teach you things along the way, but only you can choose what you want to do with all the knowledge and experiences that you gain from others. ONLY YOU can make bigger things happen in your life or change things that you are unhappy with.

  50. drbinder says:

    Thank You Zarina, your totally on your way in this life… I am so happy the moment is presenting it's endless opportunities to you and that you are open to receiving them!!! Excellent!