What is the definition of enlightenment? This is an important concept for me. After all, this website is all about finding More Inner Peace. Enlightenment is a concept that is so connected with inner peace.
There have been many spiritual teachers throughout the ages that have discussed and attempted to define enlightenment. And, there are many facets of enlightenment and ways of describing it. Part of the issue we have when we want to define enlightement or the essential nature of our being is that we are really trying to assign words to something that can’t really be defined by language. A spiritual teacher can only use language as a signpost to point towards enlightenment. The reality is that spiritual enlightenment cannot be fully described, or just believed on an intellectual level. It has to be experienced. Having said that, I am going to provide some quotes and definitions of enlightenment from Eckhart Tolle below. He has helped point me in the right direction in the simpliest and most practical ways. I will then conclude with some of my thoughts on enlightenment, in humility, based on my experiences in walking this path for a while. (Not that I am claiming to be enlightened or to have found enlightenment!)
Eckhart Tolle Quotes on Enlightenment
“The word enlightenment conjures up the idea of some superhuman accomplishment, and the ego likes to keep it that way, but it is simply your natural state of felt oneness with Being.”
“Enlightenment consciously chosen means to relinquish your attachment to past and future and to make the Now the main focus of your life.”
“So the single most vital step on your journey toward enlightenment is this: learn to disidentify from your mind. Every time you create a gap in the stream of mind, the light of your consciousness grows stronger. One day you may catch yourself smiling at the voice in your head, as you would smile at the antics of a child. This means that you no longer take the content of your mind all that seriously, as your sense of self does not depend on it.”
“On a deeper level you are already complete, and when you realize that, there is a playful, joyous energy behind what you do.”
“As far as inner transformation is concerned, there is nothing you can do about it. You cannot transform yourself, and you certainly cannot transform your partner or anybody else. All you can do is create a space for transformation to happen, for grace and love to enter.”
“Ego is the unobserved mind that runs your life when you are not present as the witnessing consciousness, the Watcher.”
“Death is a stripping away of all that is not you. The secret of life is to die before you die and find that there is no death.”
“Being spiritual has nothing to do with what you believe and everything to do with your state of consciousness.”
“The outer purpose of the world is to create form and experience the interaction of forms … The inner purpose is to awaken to its formless essence”
“Just as the sun is infinitely brighter than a candle flame, there is infinitely more intelligence in Being than in your mind.”
“True change happens within, not without. Find the Now within. Everybody you come in contact with will be touched by your presence and affected by the peace that you emanate, whether they are conscious of it or not.”
My Thoughts and Experience on Enlightenment
My awakening began and continued to develop for years prior to me understanding what was actually happening to me. It started with self awareness. As I began to journal daily, I started to become aware of how distorted my persception of reality really was. I began to work through the false narratives in my mind and started to get relief from my lifelong depression. You can read more on the work I did to gain victory over depression and find more inner peace here. Videos, books and workshops from a variety of teachers, including Wayne Dyer, Kyle Cease, Matt Kahn, and Paul Selig started to point me more in the right direction. Regularly meditating and listening to brainwave entrainment audios was also helpful in quieting my mind. You can read more about that here:
More recently, reading The Power of Now, by Eckhard Tolle really put it all together for me. He helped me understand why meditating and quieting my mind was important. I also began to understand that each moment can be a meditation. Meditating is not just sitting in the lotus position with your eyes closed and focusing on your breathing. It is more about learning how to be in the present moment, free of incessant thoughts that pull you to the past or future.
First, realize that your thoughts are not you. When you are experiencing negative thoughts and emotions, try to observe them. Be the watcher. Do not judge them or yourself. We tend to get our identity from the past and our interpretation of it. But, your true self is much deeper than that! Most people’s minds run them instead of the other way around. By observing your thoughts and realizing that you are not them, you bring the awareness of your deeper being to them. You then have the power to make a choice. This includes not being ruled by those thoughts! This is not resisting them. You accept them, realize they are not you, and that you have a choice in how to respond to them.
How do we exercise that choice? By focusing on being in the present moment. This takes lots of practice, but over time, you can be present more and more often. When you are focused on the present moment, your mind quiets. You are focused on accepting and being present in the here and the now. Quiet the mind. Let go of regrets from the past or imagining the future. Don’t try to escape to present, saying “When I have this or that, then I will be happy.” or, “If only I had done this or that, I would be happy.” Pay attention to the sights and sound around you, your breathing, feelings in your body. Notice the silence in your mind between thoughts and try to expand that silence. You may only be able to do it for a couple of seconds at first, but stick with it.
As I have made a habit of focusing on the present, I can tell you that everything about my life has changed for the better: so much more inner peace and joy that is not dependent on outside circumstances.
This article was an introduction to the definition of enlightenment, including quotes from Eckhart Tolle and some of my own thoughts and experiences. If you would like to learn more, I would suggest reading The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle. You may also be able to find the complete audiobook on YouTube.