The 44: Seeing Everything as Enlightened
One of the main objections to the idea of “accepting everything” is that some things are genuinely horrible, so why should we accept them?
This is a valid objection, but the problem with this kind of thinking is that it can lead to so much unhappiness — if we decide to reject this one kind of experience, then we are constantly evaluating our experience for whether it’s “good” or not. Instead of just experiencing it and finding the delightfulness in it. And yes, pretty much all of us are in the habit of evaluating everything for whether we like it or not, whether it’s worthy of our praise or criticism. It’s not a good recipe for happiness.
What if, instead, we explored a different way of being?
What if we saw everything as enlightened?
How could this be? So many things are obviously bad, ignorant, tragic, painful. But what if pain was enlightened? We could see it as terrible and unworthy of our praise, but let’s take a look at this idea of enlightened pain.
By assuming that pain is enlightened, it forces us to re-examine the pain. We must ask ourselves how pain could possibly be enlightened.
Some possible answers to that:
- Pain helps us to grow. If life were painless, we’d never learn anything, never get stronger, never find new ways of loving or living.
- Pain is a part of love, a part of life, a part of being in a relationship. The alternative is to never be connected to anyone, never feel love, not be alive. It’s mixed with everything else in life, and so we must take it as a whole package, or leave it.
- Pain is just pure experience … it’s only “bad” when we judge it to be so. By seeing it as enlightened experience, we teach ourselves to just experience. Just receive the sensations of our present experience without judgment.
- If we can learn to be grateful for pain, we can find gratitude and joy in anything.
- Pain is our edge. We can stay in our comfort zone, or we can always seek the edge of our discomfort zone. Pain can be the way to touch that edge, and expand our range of being.
- Pain teaches us about how we isolate ourselves, how we harm ourselves, how we try to protect ourselves from pain, how we enmesh ourselves in patterns of protection that are actually harmful. This lesson helps us to free ourselves.
These are just a few ideas, but you can find your own answers, I’m sure. The question is the important thing: how can I see this experience as enlightened?
How can I see this person in front of me, who is angry or frustrated, as enlightened? How can I see my loss and my grief as enlightened? How can I see my self-criticism, my dissatisfaction with myself, as enlightened? How can I see everything as enlightened?
This doesn’t mean everything is enlightened — perhaps it’s not. I don’t have the answer to that. But asking the question can force us to see things in a new and beautiful light.