Today we see enlightenment as a quest, a bit like a treasure hunt. You know this quest that will bring you to one of the highest peaks of the Himalayas where you will risk your life to find a cave where a great master stays in meditation all day long. As soon as you enter the cave, you will hear telepathically a voice telling you: “I was waiting for you. If you wish to discover the greatest secret of enlightenment, you will have to stay in meditation outside for 72h straight without interruption or movement.” So here you are under the rain, the cold, the tiredness, the wind, the pain, the sun, and of course, those annoying mosquitoes, trying not to move to find enlightenment. Well, this little story ends on the fifth hour of meditation when the seeker was about to leave and drop everything. Suddenly, a realization struck him; enlightenment was part of him all this time, and this whole adventure was only a pretext to discover it.
This whole quest is just the result of a “special tag” we put on enlightenment, and it’s one of the reasons why only very few people discover it. We are in a society where we have to work hard and do everything in our power to reach our goals. Well, that’s the way we have been taught, and of course, we tend to apply this principle to our spiritual quest. Ironically, enlightenment works the other way around. It starts with a realization that leads us into disillusion. This realization comes by doing nothing.
If we look closely at the most common techniques to attain enlightenment like meditation, prayers, mantras, etc. Are they not the closest “doing-nothing-activity”? Since we are used to non-stop doing things, it’s nearly impossible to grasp the idea of doing absolutely nothing. The great masters understood this obstacle. That is why they shared these transitory techniques. If we have run all our lives, it is almost impossible to understand the complete stop of movement. We must start by slowing down before we can stop.
We are composed of several spheres. They can be summed up in two: the outer sphere and the inner sphere. We rarely separate the two. Some spiritual techniques teach external stillness to help us divide the two. Doing nothing on the outside can help us to achieve inner quietness, but it’s not always the case. Try it, you will find it rather difficult. Sitting in stillness is one thing, but even if our physical body does not move, our mental and emotional bodies can get crazy on their own. Those techniques are there to help us understand that those two spheres work together but are independent of each other.
Many people who are asked to talk about their awakening experiences will tell you something like: “I was doing my practice, and I was about to let it all go, tired of not having any result. When suddenly, I had my awakening.” These are the perfect example that by dropping the outside doing, they dropped simultaneously their inner doing and realize the inner stillness. But now, if they do not understand that it is neither the technique nor the absence of external movement that guided them to the awakening, but the inner stillness and letting go. They will be stuck unable to recreate the experience.
Enlightenment, this permanent inner stillness, is for everyone. We don’t need to go on a three-year silence retreat or spend countless hours in meditation to grow closer to it. We simply need to separate our inner sphere and outer sphere. Enlightenment is nothing more than this complete and constant separation that allows us to be in inner stillness, no matter what we are doing or what is happening on the outside. So yes … to reach the awakening and the enlightenment, we simply need to do nothing.