If you’ve been reading up on spirituality and spiritual enlightenment, you might be wondering, “How can I become spiritually enlightened?”
The journey to spiritual enlightenment is arduous and long, and it requires honesty, bravery, and vulnerability. But the truth is that anyone can become spiritually enlightened.
The path to enlightenment is just that: a path. It’s a journey that one must walk each and every day. NO—you do not just have one epiphany and suddenly you’re spiritually awakened! Spiritual enlightenment is the practice of daily mindfulness, unraveling your past and traumas, being honest and open with yourself and others and always acting from a place of love.
Here are 5 simple steps that can help put you on the path of spiritual enlightenment.
4 Steps to Take to Become Spiritually Enlightened
1. Increase Your Knowledge
If you’re hoping for some first steps to take toward spiritual enlightenment, start by reading about it.
While Buddha may be the original one to discover spiritual enlightenment, thankfully, we have myriad spiritual leaders who have gone before us to show us how to get there.
Start with the definition of spiritual enlightenment. Essentially, spiritual enlightenment is awareness of the world (mindfulness), a release of all pain and suffering, and an adoption of elevated emotions like understanding, compassion, healing, peace, and love.
Spiritual enlightenment happens when we no longer run from fear, anger, or hatred, and approach it with objectivity, compassion, and understanding.
This is, understandably, very hard for most people.
Most people curse at traffic, call themselves names when they break a glass, and express frustration at loved ones when they haven’t met our expectations. But spiritual enlightenment releases all of these “negative” behaviors in favor of understanding and love.
Reading can help us understand the path to enlightenment, how others achieved enlightenment, and what it looks like in the world around us.
2. Add mindfulness into your daily life
Knowledge without application gets you absolutely nowhere.
The second step you can take toward spiritual enlightenment is to take your knowledge that you’ve been learning and apply it to your daily life.
Begin by noticing things around you. Notice your own emotions and the emotions of others. When do you feel love? When do you feel fear? Awareness is often the first step into a much more expansive world.
You notice these things by living presently in the world around you—being an active participant. This means putting down your phone, stashing away your planner, and turning off the TV.
Once you’ve observed these emotions and behaviors for a while, you will begin to see patterns in behavior. More importantly, you will begin to understand how your own and others’ behavior and emotions work.
Although this is technically Step 3 in this list, it should be done simultaneously with the step above. The more you can quiet your mind, the more you will be able to observe emotions in yourself and others.
So what is meditation?
We think of the monk meditating on the mountain, sitting cross-legged, eyes closed, with hands in a mudra on his knees.
But honestly, there are many types of meditations. You can practice things like movement meditation, mantra meditation, or mindfulness meditation, among others. Be sure to check out and try all different kinds that resonate with you.
Meditation is a practice. This means that you do it every day, for increasingly longer each day. An old Zen Proverb, made popular by Dr. Sukhraj S. Dhillon in his book Art of Stress Free Living, says:
You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes everyday – unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.
In other words, if you’re under stress, you need more meditation! And actually, meditation has many scientifically proven benefits to our health, including lower stress and anxiety, improves sleep, fights addictions, and can even lower blood pressure.
4. Unravel your past traumas
While you are working on increasing your knowledge of the spiritual and physical worlds around you, you also need to look into the world of yourself.
Our own personal psychology—why we do what we do—has been greatly impacted by the way we were raised and the lessons we were taught as children. Did you receive love and comfort when you were in need as a child? Were you taught to cope well with the stresses of life? Or did your parents neglect your emotional needs?
Understanding where we came from can help us know where we’re going. And although these things happened in the past, you can learn to listen to your inner dialogue to gain clues about your childhood and the holes of knowledge or love that you may need fill now, as an adult.
5. Adapt your behaviors
Once you’ve practiced meditation and mindfulness, and learned all about the qualities that a spiritually enlightened person possesses, then you can start putting it all together to make some changes in your life.
Because let’s be honest, if we had all the knowledge and understanding, it would mean nothing if we didn’t apply those principles and walk the talk too.
(Can you imagine the Buddha or Jesus preaching kindness and understanding and treating people like dirt?)
We can apply these changes by actively practicing non-judgmental mindfulness. This is how we can learn to, before reacting to someone with anger, ask the other person some clarifying questions that you might understand them better.
Or lean into patience through difficulties, and fully experience joy and wonder in the positive moment. Don’t forget to extend your practice to include unconditional gratitude.
When your emotional reactions exemplify understanding and love, and you try to understand the situation or person in the present moment, then go back to the definition of spiritual enlightenment, do some more reading, and start all over again.
Spiritual enlightenment is life-long work, it’s not the final place in a destination.
Anyone, from any walk of life can become spiritually enlightened. (Actually, if you’ve suffered in life, the more likely you are to reach spiritual enlightenment. They call it the law of lotus mud.) The goal is to focus on the elevated emotions like love, compassion, and peace, and to not engage in the more “negative” emotions like anger, frustration, resentment or disappointment.
According to Thich Nhat Hanh, each little step on your way to becoming enlightened is an awakening itself. So embrace each small awakening and epiphany as you have it.
Understand that you will not become spiritually enlightened by “trying”. “Trying” is naturally an outward action and it implies trying to reach a destination in a certain amount of time. Only through inner reflection and allowing yourself to go at your own pace will you reach spiritual enlightenment.