“You may have expected that enlightenment would come ZAP! instantaneous and permanent. This is unlikely. After the first ‘ah ha’ experience, it can be thought of as a thinning of a layer of clouds.”
~ Ram Dass
This week’s quote from Ram Dass contains a very important lesson. You might think of enlightenment as a sudden and profound revelation about the true nature of the self- one that comes to you in a flash and continues for the rest of your life. However, Ram Dass reminds us that enlightenment is neither instantaneous nor permanent. Instead of being a single moment of insight that imbues your consciousness with everlasting clarity, enlightenment is more like a series of realizations, each contributing to the gradual awakening of your inner wisdom.
If you imagine your consciousness as the expansive sky, you can see how your thoughts are like little fluffy clouds, gently passing by. However, any fear based beliefs or misconceptions that you held about yourself or the nature of reality would act like layers of clouds in the sky that obscure the sunlight. The purpose of the spiritual path, therefore, is to dispel the clouds of ignorance that prevent your radiant inner light from shining through.
How exactly is this accomplished? According to Ram Dass, after the initial ‘ah ha’ experience, enlightenment becomes like the thinning of clouds. But, what exactly is the first ‘ah ha’ experience? Perhaps it is the realization that you are not the clouds, you are the sky. In other words, you are not your thoughts, you are the consciousness that is aware of your thoughts. Or, perhaps the first ‘ah ha’ experience is best summed up by Thich Nhat Hanh who once taught that, “Enlightenment is when a wave realizes it is the ocean.”
Either way, the most important takeaway here is to embrace the journey itself, rather than focusing solely on the destination. You don’t want to spend your whole life chasing after enlightenment, only to realize too late that the answer was right there in front of you the whole time. Keep in mind that enlightenment is not like a sudden lightning strike, it is more of a gradual process like the blossoming of a lotus flower. Just as a flower blossom reveals the beauty of a plant’s inner essence, trust that the process of enlightenment will do the same for you.
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About The Author
Nick Hughes is a massage therapist, yoga instructor and co-owner of Well Being. Influenced by the ideas of Alan Watts, Eckhart Tolle, Ram Dass, and Deepak Chopra, Nick presents his unique take on human existence with the goal of helping others live a happier life.