Enlighten up!

Laughter is the Sun - Victor Hugo Quote

Image by Chiot's Run via Flickr

Enlightenment. This is serious business. No room for jokes. Or is it? I had the privilege of seeing the Dalai Lama speak, twice, once in Calgary and once in Vancouver. Both times I was delighted by his sense of humor. I found it surprising how effortlessly he wove lighthearted humor in with some very serious discussions. It was the perfect example of taking your work seriously, but not taking yourself seriously.

One of my favourite books that helped me out of a deep state of depression many years ago is “Lighten Up: Survival Skills for People Under Pressure” by C.W. Metcalf and Roma Felible. One of the best things I have read was their chapter ‘Escape from the Centre of the Universe”. In it the authors drew a rectangle, representing the known universe; then drew a dot in the centre, representing the centre of the universe; and then mark an X waaaay in the corner, and marked the X with the words “You are here”.

It cracked me up. In that laughter I broke through months of self-imposed loneliness and isolation and started truly living. I was no longer content to wait until I sorted out my problems before I could be happy. I decided to be happy. It was a completely radical thought that I could just choose my thoughts. It worked.

The more I study Buddhism, Taoism and many other wisdom traditions, the more I am convinced that enlightenment can be chosen, just like happiness. The key to both is the continual choice to remain in that state in each moment. The true challenge is not getting happy or having a moment of blissful union with the Divine oneness, but staying there. It takes consistent training and practice to live from a place of altered awareness, like happiness.

When we are new to this happiness thing, it can seem forced and silly. Just the same when we are new to any other spiritual discipline, like compassion or forgiveness, it feels odd and unnatural. But all these mental and emotional states can be trained by changing our behaviours. A small subtle shift in perception can be the first step.

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