Enlightenment may seem like some sort of super power when viewed through the lens of modern-day media, the truth is that it’s much more simple than that. Enlightenment is just a mind-state where the present moment is all that truly matters to the person. All of humanity’s suffering arises from either interpretation of the past, the expectation of the future, or begrudements of the present moment. To sum up Buddhism’s four noble truths, all suffering arises from attachments and it can all be alleviated after severing these desires. To reach true enlightenment, the only secret is to abandon all attachments.
Attachments in the context of enlightenment don’t only include attachments to material things like money, cars, or even electronics; The mental attachments to the past and present, the construct of time, and even identification with one’s thoughts must be deconstructed to truly rid oneself of attachment. Though this method may seem overwhelming to say the least, and seemingly impossible, the potential for enlightenment lies dormant within every one of us; it’s just a matter of awakening the presence of the present moment.
Eckhart Tolle realized the significance of the now in his book “The Power of Now”, he breaks down how achieving the enlightenment state is misidentifying with the self. Through the assertion that all past and future moments are all just recollections and anticipations of different present moments, Tolle concludes that there’s really no need to become a slave to the past and future. If someone is constantly in the now, they don’t have the weight of the past and future to hold them down and are free to experience a more unfiltered present moment. In the same way, humanity need not be a slave to the construct of time, as the past and present, time is useful as a reference guide, but should remain as such.
Tolle expands on his idea of constructive misidentification with the self to include the many thoughts and emotions that seem to constantly dilute the present. Tolle reasons that just the mere non-judging awareness of one’s thoughts works to separate the consciousness into two separate components, the thoughts themselves and the thinker witnessing them. By becoming the witness of your own thoughts, you consciously and subconsciously misidentify with them and are no longer a slave to a constantly rambling mind. Tolle compares the mind identified with its thoughts to a schizophrenic, the only difference being that the schizophrenic thinks that their constant flow of intrusive thoughts is external in origin. By creating this gap between the thought and the witness, the person is able to experience an even more unfiltered present moment and rise above ordinary experience. Tolle prescribes the same witness and thought separation method to the constant flux of emotion that dominates the human experience. By becoming the non-judging witness of any rising emotions, the individual is able to separate themselves from them and become more of a master of their consciousness. He also recognizes how emotions often lead to physical pain, so he prescribes the individual to then become a witness of that pain by externalizing it in the form of what he calls “the pain-body”. When pain or uncomfortable experiences arise, he urges that people witness that pain with no expectations or assumptions like all other misidentifications, then identifies this pain as a temporary date with the pain-body.
Though the many roads to enlightenment offered, carry the same prerequisites and procedures, the expectation to live up to these standards are still high. Many of the spiritual teachers who experience enlightenment and bring there message to the people (including Tolle) experienced a profound state of enlightenment in one random moment. One of the most common things said about enlightenment is that the only moment that it’s achieved is the same moment that the practitioner stopped trying to achieve the state (attachment to enlightenment is still attachment). So the question remains, how can the average person reach this level of consciousness even with all the seemingly impossible means to the end? The secret is to live every present moment as presently as humanly possible, really feel the power of the infinite amount of life constantly radiating around you. Don’t expect to float a few inches off the ground and develop a glow after reaching this higher state, the Buddha himself said: “Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water; After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water”.