Is Enlightenment A Myth?

by Tricia Acheatel, AHG, CCN

The term enlightenment is the western translation of the Buddhist term bodhi which means awakening.  Is enlightenment only accessible to the masters, a myth for the rest of us? No, I don't believe it is. So how do we become enlightened then?  Enlightenment is never far away and out of reach in each and every moment. It is freedom here and now, to be tasted whenever we are able to open to it.  A choice in each moment. Some touch what Buddhadasa called “everyday nirvana.” Others come to know a deep purity of mind and to experience a taste of liberation directly.

I recently attended a retreat where I was blessed to be able to witness suffering as a pathway to enlightenment. As humans we suffer and because of that pain, we search for enlightenment, to awaken from the suffering. The grasping and yearning for enlightenment only then leads to more suffering as we see how we fall short. Over and over. 

There are four paths or stages to enlightenment, according to Buddhist philosophy. What I witnessed is one of these four paths, the path of Kensho. Inspiration allows for a subtle shift in perception about how we view the shame, guilt or pain of our past. We are able to see the stories we have been telling ourselves over and over about something that happened in the past.  This event or series of events no longer exist however we relive it every day or multiple times each day by reliving the thoughts or beliefs about ourselves because of that event, beliefs we emphatically accept as truth.  

When we begin to examine the thoughts that we previously believed to be true beyond questioning, for a lifetime, we begin to see that we are not our thoughts. A crack of light enters where only darkness resided.  Hope expands.  Freedom.  We realize in that moment that enlightenment was always there as a choice. Kensho literally means seeing into one's own nature.  

Byron Katie is an American speaker and author who teaches a method of self-inquiry known as "The Work of Byron Katie" or simply as "The Work".  While in a halfway house for women with eating disorders, Byron Katie experienced a life-changing realization: "I discovered that when I believed my thoughts, I suffered, but that when I didn’t believe them, I didn’t suffer, and that this is true for every human being. Freedom is as simple as that. I found that suffering is optional. I found a joy within me that has never disappeared, not for a single moment."

The Buddha declares, “If it were not possible to free the heart from entanglement, I would not teach you to do so. Just because it is possible to free the heart, there arise the teachings of the Dharma of liberation, offered openhandedly for the welfare of all beings.” We suffer in order to awaken.  The gift of suffering is to make it unbearable NOT to be who you truly are.

Suffering is a path to enlightenment and is one of the most effective ways to dissolve ego-based identities. To continue to exist, yet not exist in the same way, ever again. As we allow ourselves to shine a light on our deepest fears, based in shame or guilt, and allow them, we begin to disbelieve these closely held beliefs about ourselves.  Here begins the process of self-acceptance.  The grip that the thoughts or beliefs based in past circumstances have on our present moment begins to loosen and light begins to shine in the inner most parts of that which we haven't been willing to look at or allow anyone else to see.  Bit by bit, the fear begins to dissipate and the space created allows for light and joy and self-love to enter. We discover our enlightenment. Simply a matter of what thoughts we choose to believe, not as the mind but as the wise one, the watcher, the higher self.  It has always been there.

Enlightenment tastes free. The truth feels light.  If your thoughts feel sad or heavy in your body then they are a lie.  Your body is the ultimate truth barometer.  The next time you notice your chest tighten or your gut sink, pay attention to what your last thought was. Ask yourself if you can be absolutely sure that thought is true.  The more you are aware of and question the ticker tape of thoughts going across your mind, the more you will be free. Let the warmth of the truth of your beauty come in.  There is within you an invincable summer. 

I have come to a point of truth in my life.  This is my manifesto - I have suffered enough!  I will follow my joy now!  

May your path be blessed with love.


Tricia is a Martha Beck Life Coach, Registered Herbalist and Clinical Nutritionist, working with women, men and teens who may be challenged by a recent life transition or catalytic event - entry into the workforce, divorce, empty nest, retirement, illness, or the loss of an identity. She helps her clients to find confidence, remove blocks, and gain clarity. Tricia’s laser coaching will help you turn life’s messes into magic so that you can understand and navigate the next steps, move forward successfully, and deliver on the beautiful legacy that only you can bring to the world.