Enlightenment is a reckoning. It isn’t really as romantic as it’s been commonly depicted: a quiet, contemplative leaning against a Bodhi tree. Enlightenment is about the burning desire to clean up our own ignorance. The work begins when we realize the extent of just how much we don’t know. There is humility in this. And surrender.
“When you can look a thing dead in the eye, acknowledge that it exists, call it exactly what it is, and decide what role it will take in your life then, my Beloved, you have taken the first step toward your freedom.”
― Iyanla Vanzant
Whether we’re talking about ignorance on the personal level (like denial of certain feelings or truths within ourselves) or ignorance on a cultural/societal level (like internalized racism) our healing can’t take place until we shift our efforts from looking away to looking toward. Many of us would rather stand in the breakers and complain about how hard life is than raise our own standards for ourselves and cultivate the courage to dive through the waves and swim out where the water is deeper.
When we equate the term “ignorance” with the notion of stupidity it becomes supercharged like a burning hot coal. We can no longer hold it. We have to deflect it or deny it’s true about us. But what if we could hold the idea of ignorance as a deficit? A space where a critical understanding is missing and badly needed? What if we could be gardeners of our own minds? Filling in the holes with seedlings. Growing and expanding our wisdom with self permission and self love, ultra abundantly?
To be “enlightened” is not to be a monk on the mountain top, living in some kind of impossibly elevated state. And it’s not to live without ignorance either. It’s to be a whole hearted human who has dropped the fight against their ignorance and has yielded to it instead. It’s to be a person who acknowledges that all of us live in the currents of our particular social and emotional conditioning and we have natural blind spots and misconceptions as a result. When we stop making ourselves wrong and ashamed and shut down about this, we can get serious about the real work which involves educating ourselves and holding ourselves to new, higher standards. Shutting down is like retreating back into the darkness of a safe, small place. Enlightenment is about living in the light of clear-seeing, brave-seeing and radical acceptance. It’s a choice. And it’s available to every single one of us, every moment of our lives.