Jack's photo of sunflower outside his shop

Jack’s photo of a sunflower outside his shop in Cambridge, NY

For so long, I believed that being spiritually awake meant never having another negative thought. Sometimes, after getting on a very strict and complicated program/practice of meditation, diet, exercise, or whatever I thought at the time was THE answer, I’d feel like I had attained this most elusive state. I’d feel delighted until I inevitably fell off the spiritual wagon and then I’d think, “You are right back where you started! You’re never going to get it, are you?”

One day I realized that my approach to life wasn’t working. I wondered how these seemingly enlightened people “got there”. I knew (intellectually) that we were all, at our deepest level, divine beings and thought, “It can’t be so hard to be who we really are. Why does it seem so complicated?” The answer that came surprised me. It was, “Stop feeling bad about yourself.” My pattern had been to notice when I was thinking a crappy/critical/judgemental thought about someone or something and then after I’d noticed it, I’d feel bad about myself. That self-critical thought would lead to more self-condemnation and then I’d just spiral down.

I believed that the only way I would change was by being hyper vigilant; catching every negative thought or action, and then treating myself like a tight-lipped school master would treat a misbehaving child…but one day I saw all of this differently. I would notice a crappy thought and say to myself something like, “Whoa, that is some thought! Are you having a rough time, Mary?” Softer, gentler, and more loving thoughts started to be my response to my thinking (instead of following hard, harsh, and mean thoughts with more of the same).

I began to realize that I was awake/enlightened many times a day. It wasn’t the “once and for all” way I’d thought it would be…but it was enough…and it was so simple.

People think that they need to get ‘enlightened’ in order to be free, and nobody knows what enlightenment is. Yes, it’s in the sacred texts, and yes, this guru or that lama says he has attained it, but that’s just a concept; it’s the story of a past. The truth is that there’s no such thing as enlightenment. No one is permanently enlightened; that would be the story of a future. There’s only enlightenment in the moment. Do you believe a stressful thought? Then your confused. Do you realize that the thought isn’t true? Then you’re enlightened to it. It is as simple as that. And then the next thought comes, and maybe you’re enlightened to it as well, and maybe not.” page 29 from A Thousand Names for Joy, Living in Harmony with the Way Things Are, by Byron Katie


Jack's sculpture going to be on display as a part of the Albany NY's

Jack’s sculpture is going to be on display as a part of the Albany International Airport’s, “Folk Modern” exhibition. The reception is on October 23rd from 5:30-7 pm. If you are in the area on October 23rd, we’d love to see/meet you!

11 thoughts on “enlightenment

  1. I always need you to remind me, Mary, to be gentle with myself on this journey. You’ve just done it again. Thank you for being a voice in the wilderness.

  2. Just this morning before reading Mary’s post, I was reminded by Andy of Headspace, an online guided meditation practice, to approach each day with ‘beginner’s mind’. It’s a phrase often used by yoga instructors as well, and I love its gentle reminder to invite wonder back into our lives, to let each day unfold in its newness, knowing that even with our arsenal of life experiences, we are perhaps better off to wipe the slate of our “enlightened selves” clean, so that like children we can still be open to the ‘ah-ha’ moments. I picture enlightenment as a flower unfolding, infinite petals opening up, but never a state to be fully realized or ‘achieved’. There will always be another bud waiting to unfold. . . Beginner’s mind. . .

  3. Dear Mary, this post really touches my heart today. Being gentle with myself is so hard! It is so easy for my mind to create absolute havoc with me, one negative thought after another…..until I am defeated by my own self! Yet when I truly pay attention, noticing how negative and hard on myself I am being….and follow it right up with loving, thoughtful and kind thoughts towards myself, the nasty thoughts melt. They have no power against love. Thank you for your always insightful and loving energy.

  4. Mary, why is it that we are always a ‘work in progress’ and then we die? On days when my life is smooth going, I feel I can handle just about anything that mars the surface of it in a calm and reasonable manner. And then there are days when I flap around about this and that and feel I’m back to square one. Seems to me that no one person achieves Nirvana and I wonder if the Dali Lama has his days too, who knows. We’re only human.
    SandyP in Canada

  5. Thank you Mary for the wise advice to be more gentle with ourselves, which I need desperately. Susan, what a wonderful thought to begin each day with beginner’s mind. I love that concept.

  6. Hi Mary! I really liked your blog today. I have had similar thinking. Often, I just want to “get there” so I can stop all the working at it!!! Bob and I won’t be around for Jack’s reception at the airport. I would have really liked to attend. We will certainly make an effort to take a look though. Miss you!

  7. I am just now reading this and I love it. Thank you Mary! And “beginner’s mind” is great concept.

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