Elements of Enlightenment

Written by Kathy Jacobson

May 2, 2024

I first heard the term “enlightenment,” in high school. The Age of Enlightenment was a period during the eighteenth century when Western philosophy focused on reason as the stronger legitimacy for authority than inheritance. That seemed pretty enlightened to me.

When I began to hear it in connection with spirituality, my sense of it grew foggier. It seemed to mean an esoteric connectedness, achieved only by a few and only through intense meditation and after years of practice. I puzzled over that one for years.

When I did an Internet search on Enlightenment, I saw the term used in dozens of different ways. Most usages have to do with knowledge, awareness, insight, moving to a higher plane, reason, or connection.

I figure my own personal definition fits right in: Enlightenment is listening to the truth of your heart.

To me, the process begins with learning how to listen. . . . And then my questions begin to expand. How do I listen? How do I distinguish my voice from all the other voices in my head? How do I know if what I’m hearing is true? What exactly am I supposed to listen for?

I suggest the following factors to help sort through the mix.

Owning our personal value system.

Many religions claim moral and ethical behaviors derive from a belief in a deity. Non-believers who live according to a strong moral or ethical code maintain human beings are genetically inclined to moral behavior. Whether we acquire our moral sense from the teachings of a church or because we are naturally so inclined, the results are the same. Some behaviors and qualities of character improve societies and inspire us to make better choices, other behaviors create conflict in society and lead to personal chaos.

All human beings are strong in some areas and weak in others, and our true value system will not include every trait or quality someone at some time has considered a virtue.

If we find a certain quality to have value yet believe we do not currently possess it, we can choose to make it our own. We decide it is something we want to incorporate into our lives, and we visualize what it represents to us. Say, for instance, we want flexibility. We need to consider the benefits of more flexibility. Less stress? More peace? More room to maneuver? If so, we can then focus on the results of flexibility – the peace, the room, the freedom, the lightness. We can bring those qualities into our meditations until we know we have acquired them

If a certain quality is not true for us, or if we are not aligned with it, we will experience confusion and self-doubt. If it is true for us, and we are aligned with it, it will enhance and empower our lives. Our task is to become more aware of what is true for us and become more attuned to it.

For greater alignment within yourself, I encourage you to make a list of the qualities or virtues you believe you possess. Journal about each one and explore what it brings to your life. Observe the emotions that flow within you as you write about each one. Any that are not true (or not yet true) for you will probably evoke emotions of judgment and struggle. True values are more likely to evoke emotions of cooperation and creation.

Following One’s Intuition

We all have an inner voice that speaks truth to us. It’s been called many names at various times including conscience, the holy spirit, spirit guides, a spirit animal, the ancestors, the still small voice, etc.

This voice obeys several rules in its communication with us, including

  • It responds to and with whatever energy we’re emitting. When our energy is positive, we open a clear channel and the messages come through without interference. Negative energy acts like static, interrupting and distorting the messages, sometimes making it difficult for us to discern them, sometimes obscuring them completely.
  • It speaks in the language we use. The language(s) we communicate in, and also the language of our thoughts. This inner voice uses our metaphors, our analogies, and our symbolism. Sometimes we may hear it as an actual voice speaking verbal words. More often, we will get an idea, or feel the need for caution, or know it’s time to act, or just know one choice is better than another. Sometimes our inner voice uses something we’re already focusing our attention upon to provide some profound insight. Our work or avocation may be the metaphorical structure for the lessons of our life.
  • It works from within our worldview. If our worldview is narrow and specific, so is our inner voice. If our worldview is curious and expansive, so is our inner voice. Our inner voice wants to speak to us in expansive ways, to encourage partnership and creativity. The less we judge the world, the more we allow our intuition to speak truth to us.
  • It is limited or not limited by our sense of our self. The truer we are to ourselves, the truer the messages we receive from our inner voice. If we are confused, conflicted, or specifically focused, our inner voice must speak from wherever we are at a given moment. Our intuition can communicate only within the scope of how well we know ourselves and how much we trust ourselves. The truer we are to ourselves, the better we know ourselves, and the more open we are to knowledge and growth, the more straightforwardly our inner voice will be able to speak to us.

If there is an area of your life where you don’t fully trust your own judgment, I encourage you to choose to become more attuned to your inner voice in that area. Practice pausing to listen before making a decision. Stop. Become calm. Review the possibilities as you know them. Invite your inner voice to speak. Proceed without haste. At first, you may not recognize the difference between instinct and impulse, so simply watch what happens. You will begin to notice that your instinct speaks truly, and as you trust it, it will speak more often.

Responding to One’s Desires

Our true desires are not only within our reach; they want us as much as we want them.

Here are some of the ways we can differentiate a true desire from one that is not:

  • A true desire will not be attached to a “should.”
  • A true desire comes from the heart.
  • We already have the talents (if not the skills) to achieve a true desire.
  • A true desire will fit within our value system.
  • The universe is always our ready partner when we pursue a true desire.

A true desire is not necessarily easy. It might be extremely challenging. Pursuing a true desire with a whole heart will always bring rewards greater than we imagined when we began. We might not get exactly what we thought we wanted, but whatever we achieve will exceed our wildest imagination.

Serving in All We Do

Some forms of service are particularly well-marked as “service,” such as volunteer work, donations to charities, ministering to the poor, and anything identified as charity. Other kinds of service are much less noted, but of equal value: spreading good cheer through a smile or a touch, laughing together, staying connected, showing respect and appreciation, receiving gracefully, extending unconditional acceptance, etc. By these actions and attitudes, we raise the energy level of wherever we are, of whatever we are doing. When we lift someone’s spirits, their energy expands, and together we send more goodness into the world than either one of us could alone. This expansion of good energy becomes exponential, as each person carries it from the starting place to the next person, the next activity.

In this way, being the truest person we can be becomes the greatest service we can give. Being true to ourselves expands us energetically, and as our energy expands, our goodness reaches more people. Our goodness embraces people with love, which frees their good energy. Good energy always has more power than negative energy, so in this way we expand peace and love in the world. In this way, we serve ourselves, our neighbors, our community, our country, and the world itself.

We can, of course, continue in forms of traditional service, donating money, volunteering, and ministering to those in need, especially if those ways are true for us. We can also bring our good energy, our joy, our love into everything we do, and multiply the service we provide with our hands and our wallets.

These are just some of the ways we can open ourselves to greater enlightenment. Please feel free to share your insights, and I will happily pass them along.

Look at the world with wonder and at yourself with warmth.

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