I know enlightenment as a verb is grammatically incorrect. Enlightenment is a noun that, in a spiritual context, indicates an egoless, awakened end state. It is an ideal attained by the very few, the masters, mystics and gurus in our midst. Therein lies its problem.
Enlightenment as a noun is beyond the reach of most of us who travel a sincere path of spiritual healing and evolution. If we think we have reached a state of enlightenment, the very act of naming and claiming it indicates the presence of ego, and ego is the antithesis of enlightenment. If we want to reach this state but can’t get there, we are probably short changing our spiritual accomplishments.
Either way enlightenment can inflate or deflate your spiritual process.
Though this may sound like blasphemy, I think enlightenment is a red herring that can distract us from the very important business of healing our own soul. Each of us comes into this life with soul work to do. For the vast majority, this work is to heal and to grow. For the very, very few, it is to achieve the rarified state of enlightenment. All of this spiritual work is essential to the greater healing of our humanity, and the only piece we can claim is our own.
This brings us back to enlightenment as a verb. My suggestion is that you think of enlightenment, or its verb form of enlighten, as the process of becoming lighter.
Imagine your soul being buried under the accumulated debris of your old stories and habituations of beliefs, thoughts and life choices. What your soul fervently desires is a free-flowing alignment between your deep inner self and your outer life. But this is only possible if you lighten your soul’s load by cleaning out and healing the debris that weighs you down.
An Exercise in Re-Visioning Your Spiritual Work
For this exercise, I invite you to re-vision your spiritual work as a process of becoming lighter/enlightened through little steps and small moments of cleaning out and healing those things that weigh you down, and allowing your soul to shine forth in your everyday life.
- Start with a small event or exchange in the recent past where you were challenged or you experienced positive change.
Look for instances where you acted with courage or shifted something inside of you. It doesn’t have to be anything momentous or even visible from an outside perspective. Maybe it was allowing yourself to feel something you usually repress, or to speak your truth, or to seek out help, or to stop doing a negative behavior, or to say yes to something new, or no to something that doesn’t serve you.
Journal the details of what happened and how you dealt with it.
- Consider the roots of this small event or exchange.
What deeper issue or part of your personal story is present in this situation? How did your actions and choices shift this deeper issue or story piece? Did you unblock, heal or clean out anything that has gotten in the way of your personal pathwork or of living from your best, soul-based qualities?
How did you become lighter?
Even if you felt stuck or made choices that you are not happy with, leave your self-judgment behind and look for the positive. What did you learn from this situation? How did it wake you up to things that you would like to heal and change in yourself and your life? What did it teach you about the other person(s) or your external environment? How will these lessons and insights affect your future behavior?
How can you use this situation to unblock yourself, become lighter, rather than continuing to re-enforce your old stories, behaviors and choices?
- Select a longer period of time or a bigger event or exchange from the recent past where you experienced a greater degree of challenge and change, positive or negative.
Go through the same process and questions as you did for the smaller event/exchange. Keep your attention at the micro-level of individual incidents and exchanges that are part of the bigger situation. And also look for the connection or domino effect between these individual incidents.
A Little Steps Journey of Becoming Lighter
The importance of this exercise is to realize that small events and little shifts matter, even when considering a longer period of time or a bigger, more complex situation. We don’t go from a wounded state to an evolved, healed state in one leap. We take little steps and make little changes. These shifts and changes can happen in a negative or positive situation, and when we handle things well or badly. As long as we are paying attention and looking for our healing and unblocking lessons, change will happen.
Over time these little things can add up to big leaps. Or a big leap may seem to come out of nowhere, but if you look closely, you will be able to see all the little things that came before. You get lighter, enlightened, a bit at the time.
Perhaps in this soul work, you will have moments of crystal clear awareness, an enlightened glimpse into the most profound secrets of life and the Universe. Perhaps you will step beyond the bounds of ego and self into an awakened state that we have collectively named enlightenment. Perhaps this will be for a moment, or forever. But do not look for this, or cling to this notion. Whatever comes to you is your journey of soul, not to be compared with outside constructs or the soul work of others.
And perhaps a master, guru or mystic, an enlightened one in its traditional definition, will be a source of wondrous of information and insight along your way. But you can be equally inspired and guided by the everyday people in your life who face their hardships with humor, grace, love and presence, and who bravely choose to live bigger, more fulfilling lives — people who are becoming lighter and more soulful in the course of the ordinary events of life.
So put aside your ideas of what your spiritual journey is supposed to look like and any idealized end state you are trying to achieve. Instead of judging yourself when you make a mess of something or seem to be resisting rather than embracing change, take a deep breath and let yourself know this is a learning moment. Your awareness and willingness to shift your perspective make this an enlightening opportunity.
Step by step, issue by issue, you clean out the debris that weighs you down, and you naturally become more present, more powerful, more aware, more beautiful and more soulful. You become lighter, or enlightened, and in this new lightness of being, your soul shines through a little bit brighter and you bring new light into this world.
Honor and celebrate every bit of yourself you heal and reclaim on your journey of becoming lighter. Enlightenment is the journey itself.
The Path of She is published on alternate Saturdays; follow it via RSS or e-mail! If you like Karen’s work, like her page on Facebook or maybe buy her book, Tale of the Lost Daughter, a fictional spiritual adventure into the life-changing world of magic and the sacred feminine.