Enlightenment is living in the light of awareness, in the present moment, in a State of Being beyond the ordinary mind, which is simply to say, unaffected by passing unconscious thoughts and emotions; in Eckhart Tolle’s words, your natural state of felt Oneness with Being … your true nature beyond name and form. The Buddha defines enlightenment very simply as the end of suffering.
If you are enlightened, you have awakened to your heart, to the light, to your connection with Source. Enlightenment gives you the power to bring light to darkness in the present moment, relinquishing attachment to past and future, and saying yes to “what-is.”
In surrender, there is no mind resistance, which effectively means that this is the end of the ego-mind as master. This is a state of grace and lightness, a state without struggle. Pain can be felt and observed without making a story out of it, thereby causing pain to lose power and dissolve.
Enlightened people “don’t mind what happens,” and are free from the psychological suffering that can emanate from unconscious reactive mind patterns, or thoughts and emotions connected with potentially disturbing situations, people and physical pain. Enlightened people accept their completeness, (already fully “enough” as forever-Being), sense the abundance of the universe/ life force, and do not feel the need to cling emotionally, thereby avoiding pain or suffering.
Spiritual masters advise that enlightenment cannot be a goal, because it can only be our experience this very (present) moment. Making enlightenment into a goal is to ensure that it will always be in the future and therefore elusive. Yet at some later now, enlightenment may happen to you, and this could be as a result of disciplined inner work or, in comparatively rare cases, can be a spontaneous, natural reaction to severe emotional turmoil, (as discussed a couple of paragraphs below). You will know if you are truly enlightened by the joy and peace that you feel, and your acceptance of all that is without stress You would experience no fear of so-called “death,” and an absence of worry about things, that hitherto, would have made you feel anxious. Yet being enlightened doesn’t make you into a god, albeit you would be identified with true self, the formless, timeless, invisible life force or essence. You would not be totally immune to the death of loved ones, yet you would bring in acceptance a lot more readily than hitherto and feel at peace. Knowing that nature’s cycle is continuing as normal, and that their essence has just moved on to the next of life’s mysteries, would help lessen your time spent in grief.
Rather than making enlightenment a goal, what you can do is make freedom both a value and a goal. We are talking of freedom here as transcendence of, the ego-mind of past and future, and living in a state of presence and relaxed surrender, of non-resistance to what is. Basically, nothing bothers you, yet you will help to bring about change where you feel it is necessary. This is more than a dogged determination not to be fazed by anything, it’s more a realization that there is nothing to be bothered about. Nothing bothers you, even if you recognize the need for it to change. And, with your inner change, the outer world will change to. You need to observe the ego, both thoughts and emotions. Unconscious thoughts arising are only for your consideration, and subject to your conscious modification. Painful emotions once observed, tend to dissolve as mentioned earlier.
It is generally recognized that people will avoid change until they have really had enough. Indeed, Eckhart Tolle and Byron Katie are two well-known people that went through the hell of being possessed by their own minds; this got to a point that a sudden radical change or conversion came over them, opening them to a new consciousness or awareness, where they were no longer attached to, and identified with, their painful unconscious thoughts and emotions. It could be said that they transcended their ego. Unless you have a transformative experience that leads to instant enlightenment, you will have to accept that it would take a lot of practice and time before you tip the scales so to speak, and sense the enlightenment that you are. We need to question and break free of old conditioning that doesn’t serve us, and be conscious creators in the here and now. And, rooted in the knowledge that through evolution, you are both God’s child (form), and essence (formless). Realizing the need to not-resist life, surrender is key to allowing the vibration of joy to be felt within your body. This is the “kingdom of heaven within” that surpasses the pursuit of pleasure alone.
On the journey from ego to forever-Being, from conditioned unconsciousness to non-conditioned consciousness, I believe that you are only as enlightened as you can be this moment. Some people have had glimpses of enlightenment and it is rare for anyone to remain perpetually in the enlightened state. Our state of consciousness, and propensity for enlightenment varies with our mood and mind in each moment. Learning to live in presence, acceptance (non-resistance) and complete trust in the universe are essential prerequisites.