I define enlightenment as having overall peace, clarity, and contentment in life. It is not separate from the world or only for spiritual gurus. It’s achievable for everyone.
In February of 2015 I awoke to the truth of what my life had become. At 24 years old I was overweight, unhappy, and anxious. For the previous two years I had been constantly numbing myself with gambling, cigarettes, alcohol, over-work, and fast food. I did this because I hated who I had become and wanted to avoid thinking about my actions. This all changed when I admitted to my ex-fiance that I cheated on her. I also had been hiding this secret life from my family and friends. Instead of running from the pain, I sat with it and was transformed. Sitting with the pain allowed me to see the truth of my past and present situation. There was no one else to blame but myself for how my life had unfolded, I was only victim to my own unskillful actions. Self-compassion and forgiveness were some of the hardest things to cultivate after the many years of negative self-talk. I was so miserable that I had to take action to improve my life. My old life wasn’t produces the results I wanted so I knew I had to change. I felt like an empty canvas. Ready to start new habits and have an open mind to new ideas.
In the following months I changed my life. I meditated an hour a day, eat healthy, worked out, volunteered, and started reading Buddhist philosophy. A book titled Buddhist Bootcamp by Timber Hawkeye changed my mindset from entitled to grateful. The book helped me forgive myself of my wrongdoings and show self-compassion. I lost 35 pounds and felt amazing spiritual, physically, and emotional. I felt peace I had never felt in my life. I felt enlightened.
Fast forward to November 2015 and I’m drinking right after work, smoking cigarettes, gambling, and partying every Friday and Saturday night. So what happened?? How can you go from feeling enlightened to partying in a couple months. It was quite easy actually, it all started with thinking I was cured of my suffering. That I didn’t need meditation, exercise, and I could relax my diet. I also took a sales job which I knew deep down would cause me suffering. I was soon depressed, lonely, and miserable again.
A few more months pass and I hit another rock bottom around March 2016. This one wasn’t as harsh because I knew what I had to do. I had a template of how to decrease my suffering and be at peace again. I once again started meditation, long walks in nature, working out and eating right. I felt good again and was at peace. Old habits don’t die easy though because this peace did not last long.
I move to San Jose in August 2016. Sadly, I don’t even try to connect with the community or try to make new friends. I felt lonely once again and start drinking more often. This was a time of nothingness, of no growth and very little memories. Maybe it was meant to be this way, a time where I could make my next move. I decided I wanted to move to Maui in December of 2016.
From Jan-April 2017 all my focus was on saving money to move to Maui. I was blessed to be around my family and friends back in Sacramento,CA though which helped me feel connected. My diet was horrible though and once again was overweight. I moved to Maui in April 2017 with my eyes wide open! I felt a sense of exploration and joy.
I fall once again into old habits. Soon I’m smoking cigarettes, drinking tons of alcohol, and eating spam musibis. I feel anxious, stressed, and lonely once again. I knew something had to change and fast. My first step was my health. I decided after watching the documentary Forks Over Knifes that I would persue a more plant-based diet. I switched my diet to a pescetarian diet, meaning I only eat fish, dairy, fruits, vegatables and legumes. I lose 25lbs and feel amazing. Presently I’m working on becoming a vegan and becoming more active in my local community. I meditate, write, read and go on long walks every day. I’m working on getting stronger by going to the gym regularly. I still feel lonely at times and would love to meet other like-minded people on Maui. This is my next step to feeling a sense of community on Maui.
Big picture take away from this post is that peace, enlightenment, contentment or what ever you want to call it takes hardwork, consistency, and you will fall down alot. The key is to rise everytime you fall. Don’t judge your unskillful actions but learn from them. Find a template that works for you to thrive and try to follow it as best as you can. I’m just sharing my template in hope that you can take one piece of it and apply it to your life.
Growth is life. If we are not growing we are dying.