Enlightenment, a term often stemming from Hindu or Buddhist roots, is defined as the extinction of human suffering. Wow, that’s a tall order. Although when we sit down to actually consider this term, it’s merely an aspiration that can serve as a beacon to direct us in the direction that can be most effective for us.
Acclaimed author and peace activist, Thich Nhat Hanh says, “There is no enlightenment outside of daily life.”
This is what rings true most for me. He grounds the concept into something tangible, something we can all get our hands dirty with. At the end of many mindfulness-based groups that I run, I discuss how we can truly engage with becoming more present in our daily lives. A common objection with the concept of doing meditation is that “I simply don’t have the time or discipline.” Ok, fair enough. While it is suggested to make time for practice in order for it to seep more effectively throughout the day, we might ask, where are the spaces throughout the day to practice?
- While driving a car in traffic, the common habit might be for thoughts and feelings of frustration to arise along with tension in the body. What would it be like to use red lights as reminders to just stop, check in with the mind and body, and intentionally choose to bring the focus to the breath and relax the body?
- While waiting on hold with a company (e.g., phone, internet, computer, credit card, take your pick) that bounces you from one department to another can be a source of exponential irritation, what if you understood that it was a space during your day to practice being present, acknowledging your frustration, not judging it as good or bad, and bringing awareness to the sensations as they arise in the body. Notice what happens.
- If you find yourself constantly rushing while walking from one place to the next, understand that is also a space where you might choose to walk slightly slower, bringing attention to the sensation of walking. You may even say to yourself, “breathing in, I calm my body, breathing out I relax” with every few steps.
There are so many opportunities in the day, so many spaces to weave in mindfulness to move in the direction of what some people might call “enlightenment” while others may simply call “peace of mind.”
Question: What are some other spaces you can think of that might be a place to stop, take a breath, and bring mindfulness to that moment to transform it from a moment of dis-ease to a practice to be present?
As always, share your thoughts, stories, and answer to this question below. Your interaction here provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.