When someone says something like "I’ve been trying to become enlightened" it sounds goofy. I get it. I even cringed a bit when writing it just a few moments ago.
But hear me out. Maybe we're all giving"enlightenment" an unfair rap. Because when I say “I've been trying to become enlightened", all I'm really saying is that I've personally been thinking a lot more intentionally about being alive, consciousness and all that heady existence stuff—stuff that, if we’re being honest with each other, kinda seems much more important to mull over than all those shiny distractions & superficial anxieties that fill our social feeds on the daily. When you think about it like that, not trying to become enlightened sounds like a much goofier choice.
So just take a moment to think about it like that.
Because there really is much more to consider about being alive than modern society gives us the time and space to consider.
For example, when was the last time you stopped and contemplated how everything around you is made up of the same stuff? You, the air, your chair, that dog outside peeing on that tree, this screen, EVERYTHING—when you get right down to it, it's all just a bunch of tiny ass molecules. The lot of it. Wherever you are, if someone put the entire scene under some kind of super microscope, all you would see is a bunch of dots circling dots. And that's not some stoner theory, that's science.
If your brain is like mine, it might struggle to wrap its head around this truth and try to flat earth you with a - "maybe this 'everything is made up of tiny ass molecules' theory is just some hippy fantasy, I mean, have we ever even seen this so called 'Atom' guy before" - so if that happens to you, just think about all those times you've experienced something like beaming the audio & visual of your person all the way to the other side of the world *in real time* and you've had someone do the same thing with the audio & visual of their person back to you (also known as ‘Skype’ in Sanskrit). And don't let your brain give you a - "duh… the signal just gets sent to a satellite in space and back down again" - because that is not an explanation that makes things sound any less mind blowing if you really give a second of thought to how crazy it is to be able to shoot digital information to a metal disk *IN OUTER SPACE* and have it shoot back down to a different specific rectangle, in the hands of the person of your choosing, *wherever they are on the planet* all in a matter of seconds.
That shit is bananas and we all need to stop acting like the ability to pull off a modern miracle like that doesn't reveal just how far out the fabric of our reality is really constructed. And don't even get me started on how our Oxygen-CO2 relationship with trees technically makes plant life 50% of our respiratory system, because just wrapping your head around how it is possible to Facetime through multiple walls and 1000s of miles is enough for us to try and comprehend for one blog post.
The problem is, even if you can get to the point of looking around and going "woah…ok…WOAH" — what exactly are you supposed to do with that realization?
We live in a world where thinking about this sort of stuff is left for the stoned and/or crazy (and a few cool nerds). The rest of society is too busy focussing on keeping a job that lets them give up 40+ hours of their week in return for just enough money to cover the ever-increasing bills plus a little extra to put aside for when they're too old to do 40+ hours every week - AND ANYWAYS - who has got the time to think about the interconnectedness of existence when there are all these different 'Us vs Them' battles to get divided by: Politics, religion, sex, sports, class, race, nationality, left, right, left, right, left.
If only there was a better way.
You can't change the world, You can only change yourself.
Whenever you feel the many problems of the world starting to weigh you down and overwhelm your barely-holding-it-together nervous system, take a minute and remind yourself that the world's many problems are simply too big for you to take on yourself. It's literally impossible. This doesn't mean that you should just give up and not be concerned about what's going on outside your walls, this just means that you need to recalibrate your daily worries & battle plans appropriately. Turn your problem solving inwards. Start uninstalling all those negative social updates you've downloaded over the years. Be the change you want to see. Vote with your wallet. Fix what you can reach. You can't be of service if you're not fit to serve. Et cetera and etc.
Of course, before you can even begin to shine a light on the areas of your life that need work, you first need to be able to pull your head out of the fog long enough to get a look at where the problems are. Luckily, a daily meditation practice is still the best 'Head Fog Removal' product on the market, and it's free and relatively simple to use (I wrote a blog post about starting meditation if you're interested in what worked for getting my routine going). The other important thing about meditating every day is that it acts as a reset and reminder of how most of the answers & directions for your path come from looking within (it can be easy to forget that, so it's vital to take a few minutes every day to remember).
Of course, there's more to "trying to become enlightened" than just a daily meditation practice, but everyone's journey will require a different looking map. For me, it's involved exploring a lot of books, a good chunk of which have dipped heavily into spirituality (try exploring meditation & yoga without getting your hair wet with Buddhism and Hinduism) and self-help (because we've all got hang-ups & shit from our past that needs to be worked out of our system). Which means I've had to be extra aware of my old gag-reflexes for New Age topics and try to counterattack them with an open-mind-reflex. Prepare to do the same when your path inevitably takes you down similar aisles, as a lot of the spirituality/self-help stuff can get pretty far out there in parts (but, as we discussed earlier with all those tiny ass molecules, reality is pretty far out there too, so just give in and embrace the weird).
I've personally found that whenever I've fought the urge to bail at the first sign of hippy-dippy-woo-woo trigger words (words like "chakras" and "manifest" and "feelings") often times there ends up being a lot more baby than bathwater. True, sometimes it will feel like there's so much bathwater that it's not even worth the effort of panning around for the baby—so maybe the more important thing to remember here is that you can totally read all kinds of teachings and topics without ever having to sign up for any memberships or join any cults. If something feels right, use it; if something feels dumb, ditch it. If the 'feels dumb' starts to outweigh the 'feels right', throw the whole thing out and move on to something else (having a subscription to an unlimited audiobook/ebook site like Scribd helps a lot with this strategy - so maybe you do need to sign-up for a membership after all).
I've read and listened to a lot of different stuff these past few months—from Ram Dass to Brene Brown, Deepak to Sadhguru, Stephen P to Stephen C to a whole smattering of non Stephens in between—and I've yet to go from cover to cover without the cynical side of me attempting at least one eye-roll to the nearest exit. But because I held strong and didn’t run for the exits every time I ran into a 'something feels dumb' bit, I've been able to accumulate a large collection of 'something feels right' bits deep in my subconscious—a place where a lot of important re-wiring gets done. Or so I was told by one of the books I listened to.
Which leads me to the best part and a tidy conclusion: when you focus your energy on bettering yourself, the positive personal changes you make eventually start seeping out into your surroundings (like your friends, your family, your community, etc). And sometimes that sort of stuff can snowball.
Which means that even though you can't change THE world, you can change YOUR world. And if enough of us get on the same "change YOUR world" strategy, by looking inwards and working on ourselves, eventually that capital (wh)Y starts fading from the YOUR WORLD and—oh shit—now we're changing OUR WORLD.
I know, I know…
(but looking into this goofy ‘spiritual’ stuff might be the only way to right the ship)
PS - If you're also on that goofy path towards "trying to become enlightened", I'd love to hear what things (books, teachers, methods, etc) have resonated with you along the way. Leave a comment or shoot me an email — or just holler at me on the socials and I will also start sharing some of the things that have caused little "aha moments" for me on the HI54 blog / socials.