How to Become Enlightened


Becoming enlightened can mean different things to different people. In general, most people think of enlightenment as a greater awareness of the world or a higher consciousness. Although becoming enlightened may not be an easy task, you can move a little closer to enlightenment every day. You can become enlightened by being in the present moment, expanding your understanding of life and the world around you, and meditating to expand your awareness.

Part 1
Being in the Present

Being in the Present on How to Become Enlightened

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It’s normal to want to distract yourself from your life and your feelings with activities like drinking or overeating. However, these strategies won’t make you feel better. In fact, they might make you feel worse over time. Instead, start being present in your life so you can change the way you think about it.[1] Think about the distractions you use to escape. They might include things like shopping, drugs, sex, alcohol, partying, or sleeping too much. Consider if these things are helping or hurting you. Then, decide if you want to make any changes to your habits.

Being in the Present on How to Become Enlightened

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Simply put, being mindful means being rooted in the present moment. To practice mindfulness, shift your thoughts to what’s happening in the here and now, not in the past or future. You can become more mindful by doing the following:[2] Think about what you’re doing right now. Describe the environment around you. Notice what you’re feeling. Actively listen to others when they speak. Focus on your breath to root yourself in the moment. Tip: If you want to become more mindful in your daily life, you can find books, magazines, and websites to help you. Additionally, there are apps with mindfulness help, such as The Mindfulness App, Headspace, and MINDBODY.

Being in the Present on How to Become Enlightened

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Your senses of sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste will help you root yourself in your present environment. Go through each sense and list what you notice around you. Then, think about how that makes you feel.[3] For example, you might say to yourself, “I see pale gray paint and mustard-colored curtains, as well as abstract art prints with black, gray, yellow, white, and red paint. I hear crickets outside the window and the faint hum of an air conditioner. I smell fresh baked cookies, and I can almost taste them on my tongue. Also, I feel cool from the fan.”

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You likely live a busy life, so it’s helpful to designate time for yourself. As little as 15-30 minutes is all you need to have a nice experience every day. Use this time to do something that reminds you why you enjoy living your life, such as listening to a favorite record, playing with your pet, or enjoying a special treat.[4] For example, you might set aside 30 minutes after dinner for a pleasurable activity.

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Thoughts can be a great source of distress, especially if you hold onto them. Overthinking will prevent you from finding wisdom and mental peace. However, fighting your thoughts won’t make them go away. Instead, acknowledge what you think and feel, then let it pass.[5] For example, let’s say you’re worried that you won’t do a good job in an upcoming presentation. Instead of dwelling on that thought and letting it upset you, acknowledge how you feel. Say to yourself, “It makes sense that I’m nervous because this is important to me.” Then, try to let the thought go.

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Practicing gratitude will help you combat negative emotions, like envy and jealousy, that can block your path to enlightenment. Instead of focusing on what you lack, acknowledge what you have in your life. Think about the people you know, the talents you possess, and the opportunities you’ve been given, as well as your possessions.[6] For example, you might list three things you’re grateful for every morning. You might say, “I’m grateful for a warm breakfast, a cat who loves me, and comfortable bed.” Tip: Listing things you’re grateful for is a great way to remember all of the blessings in your life. You could write your list on paper, speak it aloud, or record it in your phone. To keep track of your gratitude lists, try keeping a gratitude journal!

Part 2
Expanding Your Understanding

Expanding Your Understanding on How to Become Enlightened

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Extending loving kindness to yourself and the people around you can improve the way you think. Plus, it spreads goodness around you. Change the way you speak to yourself by replacing negative self-talk with positive self-talk. Additionally, assume the best about others, and forgive people when they slip up.[7] Instead of judging people, you can “assess” them. For example, you might notice that a particular coworker is often late in meeting deadlines. It’s okay to recognize this habit and adjust your expectations when working with them. However, you don’t need to judge them by making assumptions about why they are late or thinking badly about them.

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To figure out what’s important to you, do a self-inventory. List your goals, core beliefs, and what you want in life. Additionally, think about what you think is most important in life, such as how you want to live and how you think people should be treated. Then, make choices that reflect what’s important to you.[8] For example, you might believe experiences are more important than things, people deserve respect, and animals aren’t meant to be used by humans. To reflect these ideals, you might spend any extra money you make on travels, volunteer or donate to help others, treat others as you would like to be treated, and become a vegetarian. Tip: When you catch a negative thought, like “I can’t do this,” pause and question the thought. Say, “Why do I believe this?” Then, replace that thought with something positive, such as, “If I keep practicing, I’ll improve.”

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It’s really easy to get trapped in a narrow perspective of the world, but this can block you from becoming enlightened. Every person is filtering the world through their own mind, so each person’s experience of the world and how it works is a little different. In some ways, this means that truth is relative. The only way you can really understand things is to open your mind to how others see the world.[9] For example, approach cultures and religions outside your own with a goal of learning and understanding, not judging. Similarly, don’t assume everyone has had the same experiences as you have. Be open to learning more about how others live and why. You can be more open minded by reading more and venturing outside your comfort zone.

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Every person makes mistakes, but there can be value in your slip-ups. Instead of being down on yourself, think about how that mistake can help you grow and progress toward enlightenment. Additionally, look for ways you can avoid making that mistake again in the future.[10] You have to make mistakes in life in order to learn the lessons you need in order to become the person you’re meant to be. Sometimes experience is the best teacher. Ask yourself questions like, “What can I learn from this?” “How has this changed me?” or “What can I do differently next time?”

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You may not be able to become enlightened purely by reading the words of others, but learning what others think can help you understand more about your own thoughts. Read books written by great philosophers and teachers, especially those you believe have reached enlightenment.[11] Remember, you don’t have to believe everything someone says. For example, study great philosophers and teachers, such as Gautama Buddha, Jesus, Lao Tzu, Shunryu Suzuki, Mohammed, Dante Alighieri, and Sir Francis Bacon. Similarly, it’s helpful to learn about the Noble Eightfold Path and the Four Noble Truths, which can help you find enlightenment.

Part 3
Meditating

Meditating on How to Become Enlightened

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While meditation can help you gain enlightenment, you’ll need to do it on a regular basis. Luckily, you don’t need any special tools or massive amounts of time to mediate. You can sit or walk in meditation wherever you are. Just focus on your breath.[12] Initially, set a goal of doing 5-10 minutes of meditation a day. Over time, you can expand the length of your meditations if you desire.

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Sit in a calm, quiet environment with your legs crossed or in a comfortable position. Close your eyes and notice how your body feels. Then, focus on the sensation of your breath. When your mind wanders, return your thoughts to your breath as soon as you notice.[13] Don’t judge yourself for letting your mind wander, as it’s a normal part of meditation. Tip: If you’re struggling to stay focused on your breath, try counting each inhale or exhale.

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A walking meditation changes the way you think. You can either wander or walk in an established path. As you walk, thoughts will come into your mind. Let them pass without judgement or holding onto them. This allows enlightened thoughts to enter your mind and raise your awareness.[14] Don’t try to think about anything in particular. Just let your thoughts come and go. You might also focus on your breath or on your footsteps to help you calm your mind, if it’s racing.

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You may prefer a guided meditation, depending on your experience level and goals. Fortunately, you can find many options online or through the app store. Experiment with different meditations until you find one that works for you. For example, Headspace, Calm, and Insight Timer are all meditation apps that offer a free version.

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Although you can meditate on your own at home, you may prefer to work with a teacher. You can find one by searching for classes in your area or looking for a local meditation center. As another option, you might go to your local buddhist temple or community center. You may be able to take classes online. Additionally, check sites like Meetup.com or Facebook.com for meditation groups that meet in your area.