Not Enlightened But? – Lion’s Roar


As part of our #MeditationHacks series, writer and musician Miguel Chen comforts a practitioner who doesn’t seem to be getting any closer to enlightenment.

Woman meditating in the desert

Photo by Patrick Schneider.

I thought the goal of spiritual practice was to gain some kind of enlightenment or wisdom, but I don’t seem anywhere near that. What am I doing wrong?

Miguel Chen: Maybe you will reconsider. Let us look at “enlightenment” or “wisdom” to mean simply seeing things for what they really are. If your goal is that things are different than they are, you have already missed the point.

The truth is always right before us. We’re not trying to change it; We’re just trying to connect with him. It’s much less about achieving something and more about removing obstacles.

Setting high goals can create additional barriers. Having a goal like “enlightenment” brings expectations. Expectations carry a lot of weight. Let go of that weight.

In fact, setting high goals can create additional barriers. Having a goal like “enlightenment” brings expectations of what that might look like. Expectations carry a lot of weight. Let go of that weight. With this simple step, you have removed some obstacles and this will surely help you connect with the truth.

If in doubt, simplify. Perhaps the goal can be better understood than a moment of silence. It doesn’t sound as fancy as “enlightenment,” but even a moment of true silence can have a profound effect. When you are really silent, there are no obstacles between you and the truth. At that moment, what you are looking for can reveal itself. Just be careful not to hold onto that idea either, because the moment you realize you have reached that moment is the moment you fell out of it.

Read more from our #MeditationHacks series …

Author and musician Miguel Chen comforts a practitioner who does not seem to be getting any closer to enlightenment.

Rev. Angel Kyodo Williams, founder of the Center for Transformative Change, offers advice on what to do when too many decisions are made.

Author and psychoanalyst Pilar Jennings advises a practitioner who continues to feel unworthy and unloved.

Vipassana teacher Konda Mason answers the question: “Is it okay if I can find other ways to be meditative than sit on a pillow and follow my breath?”

Anita Feng, a teacher at the Blue Heron Zen Community in Seattle, helps a practitioner find the path between sleepiness and daydreaming.

Buddhist teacher Mushim Patricia Ikeda suggests alternatives when meditation becomes too painful.

Lila Kate Wheeler, author and trainer at the Spirit Rock Meditation Center, answers what to do if you don’t enjoy meditating.

A Mahayana Buddhist who is encouraged to practice for the benefit of all living beings feels that he is only practicing for his own benefit. The Venerable Thubten Chodron answers.

Josh Bartok, a Zen teacher, suggests what to do when meditating leads to an unstable mind.

A reader asks Sylvia Boorstein: “What is the use of practicing if it doesn’t make me a better person?”

A new meditator’s spouse disapproves of his newfound practice. Susan Piver, founder of The Open Heart Project, answers.

Author and lay Zen teacher Susan Moon is asked, “Should I stop meditating when the emotions overwhelm me?”

An isolated practitioner asks Dharma teacher Mitchell Ratner where to look for fellowship.


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