Be kind to yourself in the midst of uncertainty. If you meditate, meditate, if you pray, pray. Go for a walk, practice yoga, clean your house, cook something nice. Be kind, and know that self-compassion is a way to also to open to a greater truth. Here is a fresh way of to look at enlightenment.
The night of the Buddha’s enlightenment lasted a long, long time. There was no single blinding flash of certainty that lit up the sky. There came a series of unfolding illuminations, a slow dawning. In the end, his long and colorful quest came down to a willingness to open his heart in the darkness of the unknown, allowing everything to be seen by an awareness that didn’t judge or reject anything. Sitting very still under the sheltering tree, he patiently watched, opening to the myriad ways over myriad lifetimes that he dealt with pain, sometimes fighting and striving, sometimes running away. He sought the deeper truth of his life.
The root of the word courage is cor–the Latin word for heart. The original meaning was not heroism in the sense of brandishing a sword but heartfulness, living from the whole of ourselves, in touch with the truth of our deepest felt experience. This can take a long time. It helps to know this, and that it is a practice of moments. It also helps to know that there is a deeper presence in us that sees without judgment.
As the sky grew lighter, the Buddha grew lighter. His enlightenment was not a thought, not a set of beliefs, but a dawning. Really. Dawn as a verb. As he practiced opening his heart, being willing to be with the truth of his life without striving to change anything, the light of another kind of attention grew brighter. During his long night, the Buddha saw how life is braided with grief, loss, with not getting what we want. The root of grief is weight or gravity, and the Buddha felt that heavy sorrow. But it slowly dawned on him that all of this was being witnessed by an accompanying awareness. This presence had a subtle action, like a loving gaze or hug.
Enlightenment is a lightening. The Buddha discovered a way to lighten the burden of grief and lonely separation that comes with living. Opening our hearts, shifting our focus from our fears and defenses and their stories and just being with the truth of our experience one moment at a time is practicing enlightenment. It draws us into the light of a greater presence. Allowing ourselves to open even for a moment is an act of daring. But in the moments when we dare to do this, we discover a greater truth. There is a light in us, a source of wisdom and compassion, and nothing that happens can dim it.