“If nobody has reached Enlightment, how do we know what it is?” OMie Rachel asked that question in class yesterday. I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
Her question stemmed from our class movie night last week. We watched “Yoga Is,” a documentary by Suzanne Bryant in which she embarks on a spiritual quest to help cope with the loss of her mother. I wasn’t enthralled with watching another story of a privileged person leaving their life behind for six months to find herself in India. As an OMie pointed out, it was very “Eat, Pray, Love.” However, the movie presented the perspectives and experiences of many well-known western yoga gurus. I found them interesting. I’m at the point in my own practice where I’m curious about how others in the western world integrate yoga – the spiritual practice, not just the exercise – into their lives in a society that continually challenges the Eight Limbs. From guru to guru I heard similar words – groundedness, peace, contentment. And that big mystical word: Enlightenment.
In response to Rachel’s very big question, OMie Alec reminded us of something from the movie: Enlightenment doesn’t mean perpetual happiness. The human experience must include darkness with the light. Bad with the good. Enlightment, as I understand it, means an ability/willingness to experience the darkness and the light with a steady heart and mind. Accepting them both for their importance and finding the gifts in both. (I’m oversimplifying, I know.)
I think I understand the concept. But I’m struggling with how Enlightenment looks at a day-to-day level. Does it mean we’re never sad in the face of tragedy? That seems unrealistic. We’re human. Sometimes we feel bad. I don’t believe traveling to India and consulting western yoga gurus wipes the personal tragedy slate clean.
Clearly, I haven’t reached the state of Enlightment. But, I won’t be heading to India anytime in the near future. My learning and journey are in St. Paul, Minnesota, where I’m content to continue looking for lessons in the small things and wondering about this great big thing called Enlightenment.