Doesn’t happen once. It’s like that ticket stub you keep because you saw that movie with your first love and it was a perfect night and every time you see it, you think everything is possible because there was that one moment where everything fell into place and there wasn’t a single thing you’d change. So this ticket stub. You had the night itself and every time you find the ticket stub again, you can close your eyes and embody the memory. There are days you go looking desperately for it because you need to remember that perfection is possible, and those are never the days that you find it. Other times, you’re dusting around the books, you pick one up, open it, and the ticket stub flutters from the pages to the floor and you’re instantly transported to knowing that everything is possible again.
That’s enlightenment. I think. Unless someone has found it full-time and ever since, has never had to struggle to get themselves back into alignment with taking a deep breath.
I found it driving to work months and months after my ex husband left. The sunlight came out of nowhere and irrational joy was mine again. It lasted for all of 20 seconds, and it hit me. This is the point. Joy is the point. Getting to the place where you can let it find you (since chasing it rarely works) and accept it without question when it comes… This is why we’re here. The bad stuff that happens just carves out room in our experience so we can take in more joy when it reappears. And for 20 seconds, I was 100% at peace with everything, exactly was it was.
Of course I lost it again. I lose it all the time. I get wrapped up in the dumbest stuff: people in the pool who occupy a lane only to stand on one end and talk. Can’t you see that you could just as easily stand and gossip in the part of the pool that isn’t cordoned off for laps and let someone who is serious about swimming use the lane? And I get irritated even when I’m perfectly situated in a lane of my own. The mere existence of this selfish oblivion, coupled with the failure of the pool management to step in and point the offenders in the right direction, is enough to upend my internal balance while I’m swimming. And it doesn’t have shit to do with me!
Trust me. The enlightenment thing didn’t stick. This might be a solid argument against my claim to have experienced episodic enlightenment. Perhaps true enlightenment is the kind of thing you only have to do once.
But I don’t think so. Just about everything worth having must be revisited again and again. You can’t work out once and then be done with that for the rest of your life. You can’t commit once and be done. Commitment is a practice that you must show up for one day at a time, and every morning, you have to make that decision all over again: you. No one eats once and call it quits, or bathes once and call that sufficient for the rest of their life. Any of these things that go into living… love, health, spirituality… they all require maintenance. I just don’t think you get to taste enlightenment once and then you’re good forever and ever amen. In part, because I’m pretty sure enlightenment, like a lot of the best things in life, happens in small experiences and not in the big events.
Or at least that’s been my experience.
I do realize that it is a lot to claim enlightenment, even incremental or episodic enlightenment. I’ve been the most unenlightened person ever this week. The pool incident is recent. My rage dreams are recent… Enlightenment did not show up and decide to stay.
But maybe the idea that you can be submersed in everything for brief periods of time and then struggle like mad to get back there is okay for me, and if it is okay for me than maybe it is okay for you too… And that’s mostly what I wanted to say. Take it how it comes, and if enlightenment comes episodically, well, that counts for something too.