enlightenment and distractions

enlightenment and distractions

I used the word “enlightenment” a lot, and I also write about it a lot. Yet I use it cautiously, because as I get older and get a better understanding of myself and how my mind operates I simultaneously come up with new meanings of the word.

The classic definition of the word “enlightenment” is basically just an opinion. I can tell you my opinion of what enlightenment is, and there are probably at least 10,000 other opinions about how to define it. But I'm going to give you my opinion anyway. To me, enlightenment consists of moments during which I can be present in what is. I consider enlightenment to be the state of being in the moment. I can be in enlightenment when I’m swimming, when I'm typing on my keyboard, when I’m in the airport getting ready to board a plane, when I'm in the bathroom, when I'm on the phone, when I'm walking down the street, or when I'm driving in my car.

But I also believe that there's more to it than that. To me, knowing that I'm in the present moment opens up a whole field of awareness for me. That awareness closes down when I drift away from the current reality of the present moment. And even when I'm talking about this stuff or thinking about it at a deep level, then perhaps I'm missing the moment, but perhaps not.

When I don't engage in the practice of staying in the present moment, I default to being back in other moments in my history. I've determined that there are three places that my mind can go to other than the present moment. I can drift into the past, I can creep into the future, or I can get lost in distracting thought bubbles that come at me one after another.

I've noted that experiences with my body, particularly pain and discomfort, can bring me out of present moment focus quickly. Yet I can usually stay focused on the present when I'm experiencing pleasure. This is certainly understandable, because I, like everyone else, want to be experiencing pleasure. But there are exceptions to that rule. Sometimes when I'm enjoying something I drift mentally because I'm worried about my pleasure coming to an end, or I just become distracted in my head during times of comfort.

Reality is where we need to be. We must develop the mental ability to bring ourselves back to the present moment—where reality is—when we find ourselves drifting away from it. Distractions cause us to drift away from the present moment.

It's difficult to fight distraction, and that's the case in large part because we’ve had the tendency of becoming distracted within us since we were children. Distractions serve children well in a number of ways: They keep children from becoming bored, and they help them learn things as they engage in activities such as playing with toys or climbing on playground equipment.

But distractions almost never serve adults well. As adults, we might be doing physical things all day long and never really be present in what we’re engaged in. Instead, we will do things out of habit without contemplating those things, or we may become beset with worry or anxiety while doing them.

Distractions because of our own improper mental or emotional processing of present moments are very common. And it's also common for us to experience distractions coming from circumstances happening in our external worlds. Just as an example, if an earthquake occurred, then your focus would be on the earthquake while it was happening. You would then go into “fight or flight” mode in order to do things to enhance your chances of survival. Your anxiety and adrenaline would take over, and rightfully so.

“Normal” day-to-day experiences are a different matter. Every single day I have distractions that pull me away either from something I'm supposed to be doing or from keeping my mind in a place where it should be. And complicating this situation are the cravings that my body has. Some of those cravings are easy to satisfy—food items, for example—and some are not. Among those that aren't easy to satisfy are emotional needs linked to childhood longings.

I live in a modern world, I engage in modern comforts, and I have modern problems. I've been bombarded my entire life with modern day philosophies, modern day thought processes, advertisements, systems of government, and other things. And I've come to realize that enlightenment is vitally important to me. I am willing to engage in whatever struggles are necessary for me to arrive at enlightenment and spend most of my life deriving satisfaction from that state of being.

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