Awaken Your Brain

A vibrant well-being

What is Enlightenment?

Is it a myth, or the very definition of mental health and wellbeing?

What is Enlightenment? Tomes have been dedicated to answering this eternal question. Even the title of a modern magazine: What is Enlightenment? The search for this exalted state has been the “holy grail” of humanity. Whether it’s been called Enlightenment, Awakening, Nirvana, Transcendence, Transformation, Cosmic Consciousness or Heaven Within and Paradise on Earth, it has been a goal of most of humanity for millennia.

So, is it real or a myth or even a singular phenomenon? People have been describing extraordinary states since time immemorial. Although they attribute it to different causes — some religious, some not — they seem to have some common threads.

For example, these lucky few describe a sense of opening and understanding, of seeing the world in new ways they had been overlooking before. Feeling liberated, with a dramatic release that is at once blissful and tranquilizing. They tell of realizing they are connected with everything and everyone born of losing any self-consciousness. And they recount feeling so immediately alive and immersed in the moment that each moment seems like an eternity unto itself.

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Trippy stuff to be sure. Psychedelic even (which actually just means ‘mind expanding’). Unless it was you. If you were there now, it would seem normal. Obvious. Self-evident. A place you’d wonder why you didn’t reach long ago.

So, is it even reachable, even a possibility for someone living a busy, modern life with kids, responsibilities and competing priorities? The short answer is ‘yes, definitely.’ Although…it is not quick and easy, like we’ve come to expect from our solutions.

Having spent decades reading Enlightenment accounts, studying various Eastern and Western paths and glimpsing it in meditative moments, I can share this. It is elusive. Tricky to get to and even trickier to stay at. Like a greased seal in the ocean, trying to grab onto it can be an exercise in frustration or futility. Until it’s not. That is, until you are practiced at accessing that level of realization.

Patience, practice and persistence is the order of the day for learning any skill —whether taking up a musical instrument or investing in real estate. One thing is for sure, modern century understandings of psychology, the brain and human development — such as in my SatoriWest Method — can reinterpret this ancient discovery in a new light. It can view what has been previously a cryptic path as the result of realigning the brain, of strengthening specific neural circuits.

But is it practical? Is it relevant to modern lives? You might even think, “Yes, bliss and tranquility are great, feeling connected is wonderful, being in an eternal now is lovely, but I don’t have the time to be blissful, connected and eternal, I have a life to maintain and goals to accomplish.”

I could write volumes in response to this question. In a nutshell, the answer is that Enlightenment is very relevant — much more that you probably think.  It begins with this: The singular realization that seems to be at the center of Enlightenment is how insanely unlikely it is that you got to be born and here right now experiencing this.

Consider a few key things it took for us to be born — the universe arising, Earth possessing the perfect temperature with rare chemicals including water, life igniting, species evolving to unspeakable complexity, your parents meeting, the billion to one sperm to egg lottery. Sensing even a sliver how of unlikely it is that you are able to be here let alone able to know it forces the realization of how crazy lucky you are! It’s like winning a mega lottery!!!

It immediately rearranges your priorities away from the small stuff towards the more fulfilling and fundamental. It sets your compass towards more rewarding values. It defocuses you from trying to avoid or delay death by making life as perfect as you can get it, to appreciating each second regardless of what is happening. To being so fulfilled and happy that you could die in the next moment satisfied that you had really lived.

You’d drink in your loved ones rather than neglect them for “more important things.” You’d find a well of creativity and talent that was previously being spent trying to prove yourself. You’d allow yourself to be yourself, your authentic self, rather than someone in desperate need of approval to be happy. (Because you’re already happy being suffused with gratitude.) You’d be a lot less stressed if you were at all! Your health would improve, etc., etc.

So, is Enlightenment a myth? It doesn’t look like it.

Is it reachable? It is, more than ever before in history.

Is it practical for a busy life? Not unless you consider it impractical to have physical health, mental wellbeing and improved relationships. Not if it’s impractical to reach more of your talent and creativity, to act out of crystal clarity about what is important to you and to be able to live a life of fulfilling moments!

Find more information about Dr. Jeff Skolnick and The SatoriWest Method at www.satoriwest.net.

Jeff Skolnick, M.D., Ph.D., is a psychiatrist. He is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Washington.

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