Sometimes words no longer open the window they are meant to open. Instead they become themselves walls of meaning. When words that were intended to be windows become instead walls, it’s time to let the word go and create another word.
The word enlightenment is a made-up word. It only seems normal to us because it’s as common as our walking shoes. What about the word Enlifenment? Does that sound funny to you? My spell-checker in Word thinks it’s a misspelling. It doesn’t think that enlightenment is incorrect. This word has become part of our dictionary of common use.
I recall philosophy courses I took at Harvard and how painful it was to read philosophers like Kant because they made up their own words to describe things. And intellectually one can understand why its necessary to make up new words if you have ‘discovered’ or ‘noticed’ new phenomena not previously identified. And the new words have the power to make us pay attention.
A new word is challenging to our existing order of things, the schedules and structures of our mind. A new word upsets the apple cart. It requires attention, like a needy child, until we learn how to smooth the new word into our vocabulary and wash it over with the energy of our mental field until we wear it round like a stone in a river.
So it is with this now ancient word, Enlightenment. It’s a word to describe something that had never before been known directly or experienced. And it’s a word pointing to a state of being beyond the mundane, work-a-day reality of close-minded, task-oriented living. It’s attempting to point to an opening, a window out of a mind trapped inside a plastic shopping bag. What would it be like if a light when on? What would it be like if you turned to face the light and walked out of the shadowy cave of your flickering existence? And if you’ve never experienced this for yourself, then how could you or would you possibly understand what it’s like to breathe into a wide open vast horizon that is only blue sky and you floating like an oxygen balloon.
Only now this word enlightenment is bandied about like the world salvation in a revival tent preaching. Come up to the altar and get enlightened! Invite enlightenment into your life. Just use the law of attraction. Read my book. Buy my DVD series and attend my workshops and you will be enlightened. Maybe. Maybe not.
The word enlightenment has become a part of the furniture of our minds. We move the word enlightenment around like we move a chair around to look up into the top cabinets when we’re trying to reach the good wine glasses. And hence, the word doesn’t point to the same experience that Buddha might have wanted to point to when he used that word.
How might we point to the same life experience of being fully alive to the wide open infinite potential of life? How might we put into words the possibility of living a life where we are light and free and breathing deeply and honestly with love and joy and satisfaction with the work we do, where life is fun and exciting and fresh and lovely.
Let’s say that what we want is total Enlifenment. We want to be enlifened, fully and completely. We want to have all the infinite potential of life flowing through us, tuning us like a master musician tunes an instrument. That in us the vast undifferentiated potential of life becomes uniquely kinetic.
The key, the true key that unlocks total Enlifenment is to become comfortable with the unknown. As we increase our comfort level with the unknown, then we increase the possibility of infinite potential in our lives. It can be terrifying to sit with the unknown, and yet this is the necessary ‘dark night of the soul’ before the dawn and the rising of the Sun of Life. Just as the Sun lights our world, the infinite potential of Life enlifens us, literally. And, we may say quite clearly that the spiritual path of every human being is to be fully enlifened.