We are all on a journey.
If you are reading this, then you and I have at least two things in common: We are above ground, and we are breathing. And so our journeys continue, though perhaps not along the same route.
We all have light inside. When we are at our best, it shines and warms the spirit of all, even those not in our immediate circle of life. One person living well does make a difference.
But even though each of us is a being of light, this illumination is broken into infinite shards, shining differently through everyone, in as many ways as there are people. And this diversity is beautiful, really. Each of us has an individual approach to this journey that is our life here and now.
A Sanskrit proverb tells us: “Look to this day, for it is life, the very life of life. In its brief course lie all the realities andverities of existence…”
Some people grab this idea and run with it. They keep running with it, gazing with wonder around them, and this is inspiring. It is no mistake that we call this type of shining life en-light-ened.
Others are born with challenges to overcome—or not. These difficulties include physical and mental disabilities, from deafness and blindness to Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality. They also include the tendency toward addiction. These people may eventually lead enlightened lives, if they work hard to clear out the rubbish that has been piled atop their intrinsically glowing spirits.
And some choose to be miserable. They choose worry, they live in dread of—and yet are fueled by—the next tragedy or trauma. For those in this sad condition, their inner light grows dim and their pits of despair get deeper day by day, week after week, on to the end of their days.
But the good news is that we can change.
We can allow our experiences to teach us, to serve as the vitamins that nourish us so that we grow tall and strong and bright. When we let our lives feed us, rather than drain us, we can do amazing things. We can climb mountains, invent new quantum theories about the very nature of the universe, carve out a new society through leading a noble movement.
Change, however, does not mean we stop being everything we are. Qualities and traits, some positive, others destructive, compose the totality that is us. But we can choose not to act on certain drives, not to act out particular previous behaviors.
For example, once an addict, always an addict.
I am told that, even after decades of sobriety, the urge to use does not go away, not entirely. In moments of stress, at 2:00 in the morning when sleep eludes, while unpacking from a move and that favorite brandy snifter is unwrapped and staring back, empty, begging to be filled…
Sobriety is a full-time job. Triggers pop up everywhere.
But I do not have to act on them. Nor do you.
Rather, I can busy myself with focusing on my own light, not worrying about how you shine yours, because I will never be able to do it just the way you do. And that is good.
If we all shined our lights the same way, in the same direction, at the same strength, the end result would be one illuminated area, blasted halogen bulb-bright, so bright that the details might actually be lost. All else would be dark and unexplored.
But lights shone at diverse strengths in all directions allow us to truly see our surroundings, to continue the journey with a quiet knowing, to gain a more complete understanding of where we are, right now.
This keen, loving awareness of the very moment is the essence of enlightenment. And with enlightenment comes all things, because in this state, we realize all things already are in us.
Helpful and destructive, ugly and pleasing—all exist within each one. Learning the totality of who we are is the journey toward enlightenment, a journey, in the end, toward ourselves.
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Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photos: Flickr, elephant journal archives