Buddhists call it enlightenment. Christians and Jews call it salvation. Hindus call it nirvana. It is the place in religious experience in which one comes to fundamentally see and experience reality in a new way. One of the earmarks of that altered state of consciousness and of authentic spirituality is the recognition of the divine in every moment and every movement of life.
After our enlightenment we may continue to do the same work and live the same lives but do it in a fundamentally different way. Anthony de Mello makes the point by retelling a little parable: The young seeker asked the guru, “Before enlightenment what did you do?” The wise teacher responded, “I chopped wood and drew water from the well.” “And after enlightenment what did you do?” “Oh wondrous marvel,” the guru responded, “I chop wood, I draw water from the well!”
After we find enlightenment/salvation, most things remain the same. The tree is still a tree. People are just what they were before and so are we. We may continue to be as moody or even tempered, as wise or foolish. We may go to the same jobs and eat with the same people. The one difference is that we see things with a different eye. We are, at once, more detached and more engaged in each moment. Our hearts are full of wonder in each moment and with each person we encounter.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning said, “Every bush is afire with God, but only those who have eyes to see know they’re standing on holy ground.” We sometimes cry out to hear or see some evidence of the presence of God in our lives and in our world but equally often fail to see and hear the little epiphanies that fill our daily lives. Such was the case with one desperate seeker:
The man whispered,
“God, speak to me,”
And a meadowlark sang
But the man did not hear.
So the man yelled,
“God, speak to me!”
And the thunder rolled across the sky
But the man did not listen.
The man looked around and said,
“God, let me see you,”
And a star shone brightly
But the man did not noticed
And the man shouted,
“God, show me a miracle,”
And a new life was born
But the man did not know.
So the man cried out in despair,
“Touch me, God, and let me know that you are here!
Whereupon God reached down and touched the man
But the man brushed the butterfly away and walked on.
Remember, enlightenment comes in unexpected forms.