This is one of the greatest misconceptions I had about “enlightenment” before I got there. I might have been in the minority here, because I hadn’t ever been concerned with all that spiritual stuff myself and had never actually believed in it, but still, for those of you who don’t know how this works, like me, I put together a little graph.
This is what I thought “enlightenment” meant:
I thought “enlightenment” basically meant balance. In life, you would have your highs and lows, ups and downs. Like, you know, like a normal Person. Some People might not be as erratic like the Person pictured above, but in general that’s how things work out. Think of the highest high as the greatest orgasm ever in that graph, while the lowest low would be the deepest depths of depression. Outside circumstances are always what you think are responsible for your mood swings, and so they seem totally out of your control. “Enlightenment” or “Nirvana”, as pictured in that graph, seems like boring apathy. Anything would be better than being such a boring robot with no emotions, right?
Except, the graph is wrong (despite me labelling the axis. Always label your graphs, kids, not doing so is impolite). That’s not what it feels like. While “enlightenment” is still boring as fuck (and there’s no shortage of spiritual teachers who will admit to this) that boredom does not feel bad. In fact, what you have come to know as “boredom” is simply your mind being restless. True silence and stillness feel amazing. I could just sit here for an hour with my eyes closed and a happy smile on my face. It would make no real difference to me. I don’t do this because I do enjoy seeing the world, but I no longer need to to feel good, I just want to.
Here’s the correct graph:
You see, it’s all about that baseline level of feeling. Once you have all your bullshit balanced out (and this is an inside change, it doesn’t matter how turbulent your outside life appears to be) the baseline significantly rises. This is because you’ve quit all your addictions. It feels counter-intuitive, but if you’ve ever quit an addiction, you might know what I am talking about.
There’s many addictions that prevent you from reaching enlightenment, but the most persistent one of them, the hardest one to get rid of, the one that has come to be known as “the human condition”, is not to a substance. Well, I guess, technically it is, I’d say it probably produces dopamine, like pretty much all other addictions. For most People who reach “enlightenment” it’s probably the last one to go. (It wasn’t for me, but only because I’m extraordinarily stupid. Might tell you about that sometime)
The addiction I am talking about is the addiction to thinking. And yes, I think thinking and obsessing about our problems really does release dopamine in the brain. I don’t have any studies to back this up, but now that I’ve given up the nasty habit, so to speak, that’s what it feels like.
Think about it (haha, I’m enabling you, sorry): Can you stop thinking any time you want to? Can you control your thoughts? Sounds so impossible, right? You’ve come to identify with your thoughts so much, they’re an integral part of your being. But they are not. You are not your thoughts. Once you can see that, you’ve taken your most important step out of that prison. It’s a long way, though, and there’s a distinct lack of support groups, while almost all the self help books have been written by addicts. In any case, I wish you good luck on your journey!
(and to end it on a bright note: once you’ve quit your addiction, it’s no problem if you go back and think as much as you want, it’s not like alcohol that way. It’s just that you’ll find that you *want* to think a lot less than you thought you did. Hahaha)