Rightly understood, meditation and enlightenment are one and the same. Meditation is the experience of a particular state of consciousness that has certain qualities, which are also the qualities of enlightenment itself. This is why meditation can be understood as a metaphor for enlightenment. When you meditate, you are consciously choosing to assume the enlightened relationship to your own experience, which is a position in relationship to your experience that is free — free from compulsive identification with time, thought and feeling. In order to do this, you can follow three very simple instructions: Be still. Be at ease. Pay attention.
Being still is a metaphor for wanting to be free more than anything else.
The decision to be still in meditation represents a fundamental posture in relationship to life itself. It means you are making a commitment that no matter what happens, even if the whole world seems to be falling apart, you will not move. In the unenlightened state, driven by the erratic nature of the conditioned mind and the wild and untamed emotions of fear and desire, we are almost always moving. This is what makes us untrustworthy, and it is why we are constantly losing our bearings. Not moving is a metaphor for the goal, because one who is enlightened is one who inwardly never moves from that which is most important.
Ease of being is a metaphor for letting everything be as it is.
Letting everything be means you are no longer grasping at or trying to control your experience in any way. When you experience ease of being, there is a profound release of a fundamental existential tension, which is the deep and often unconscious conviction that something is terribly wrong. The freedom of enlightenment is based upon this dissolution of existential tension. Letting everything be, you discover an unconditional freedom that has always been at the ground of your own experience — the liberating recognition that nothing is fundamentally wrong.
Paying attention is a metaphor for having no relationship to the arising of thought or the presence of feeling.
When you choose not to identify with the movement of thoughts and emotions, sooner or later you will have the profound experience of your own Self standing free from the mind — free from the compulsive habit of conceptualization and personalization. Your awareness will become so vast that it embraces all things, while simultaneously being the experience of freedom from all things. You will discover that you are resting as awareness itself, beyond all thought and emotion. It is the presence of this miraculous depth of attention that makes one who is enlightened appear to be unusually awake.
Andrew Cohen is a spiritual teacher and founder of the award-winning EnlightenNext magazine. His new book is called Evolutionary Enlightenment: A New Path to Spiritual Awakening.