Dear reader: In this Painless Poker excerpt, the discussion at the Painless Poker Clinic turns to the word “enlightenment.”
I wrote HANGUPS on the board and said, “When you hear the word meditation, what negative thoughts come to mind?”
“There’s this reg at the casino,” Sonny said. “We call him Fast Frankie. He went and got all enlightened on us and now he drives everybody bonkers. I’m afraid if I got jacked up on this meditation thing, I’d end up like him, with people rolling their eyes behind my back.”
“What does enlightenment even mean?” Victor said.
“Enlightenment is a word,” I said, “so it means whatever we say it means. In Buddha-speak, enlightenment is the absence of desire or suffering, or a revelation or insight, or a change in consciousness that sees all as one.”
“That’s a lot to ask of one word,” Charlie said.
My hand shot up. “But wait! There’s more! Thich Nhat Hanh and Shunryu Suzuki teach that when a person is mindful, they are enlightened at that moment. I like that take on it. It’s knowable, and doable. Suzuki even says that anytime you assume the straight-spine posture, you are enlightened.”
“What about being an enlightened person?” Charlie said. “Are you that?”
I slowed down a bit.
“When I started counting breaths and I saw just how frenetic my mind is all the time, that was enlightening. So was the first time I saw someone else’s busy mind as the cause of their troubles. That new perspective shrunk my stress. It was astounding, and still is.”
“And that makes you enlightened?” Victor asked.
“I think the E-word has an unnecessary syllable. The first one. The word lightened says it just as well. Anytime I shed mental weight, I lighten up. I become a lightened being.”
2019 update: I have a new book out, about meditation. It’s called Dailyness − How to Sustain a Meditation Practice. You can get it in print, ebook, and audiobook at all the usual places.