One of my yoga teachers told us while he sat in lotus posture, bare white legs twined up like ivy and slender fingers pointing to the sky, that we would never really want to obtain enlightenment. It’s not for the householder, the everyday yogi – which of course I am. Mother, Daughter, Lover, Sister, Friend. Writer. It means you must give up all your attachments.
“Enlightenment is about giving up all your stuff,” he says. He doesn’t just mean my cool lace up leather boots. He means give up my stories about who I am and dissolve the unseen forces which propel the meaning which is my life. Creativity, shame, ambition, passion, love, anger, sadness. Give up fighting for causes.
“True enlightenment,” he says, “You would never really want that.” It’s as if he knows things. My lumbar spine is aching from the long hours of sitting in this advanced yoga teacher training workshop. I refuse to shift my seat to bring relief from the aching. I don’t want him to see me struggle. To see my imperfections.
I’m attached to many things
Especially being good.
I’m attached to the sound of the ocean. Its wild language of abandon soothes me even when I am bitter. I’m attached to my partner although I blame him for broken feelings and household messes. I can’t live without a glass of white wine or the warmth of my dog’s head on my lap. I stop breathing when I think my children are not safe. I think guns should be banned in this world and know there is such a thing as evil. I would lie to your face to get what I want in the moment, like yoga pants with bright colors and soft boiled eggs. I am scared of dying.
I am attached. I have a body. I’m attached. I want it all. The good with the bad.
And so I suffer.
We carry this mistaken belief that enlightenment means we do not suffer. But it is possible to suffer with a loving heart. The two are not mutually exclusive. Enlightenment is about growing in compassion and compassion means, “suffering with.” Enlightenment has something to do with not running from our own pain or the pain of others. When we don’t turn away from pain, we open our hearts and are more able to connect to the best part of ourselves and others because every human being knows pain.
I’m not sure what enlightenment is, but I’m sure it has something to do with turning fear, sorrow, and pain into love.
Maybe true enlightenment is possible.
We want that.