The Everyday is Enlightenment
- Jan van Rossum -

One of the most prevalent misunderstandings about enlightenment is that everyday life has nothing do with enlightenment. The opposite is true. Enlightenment is nothing more than going 'lightly' through life so that nothing remains sticking to you, because no someone-is there to whom something could stick. Beyond that, nothing changes so that there is 'chopping wood and carrying water' before the enlightenment and there is 'chopping wood and carrying water' after the enlightenment.

This simple as well as deep truth is really beyond the reach of most of us so that all kinds of things are invented and put in its place in order not to have to see this simple fact. By doing that the mind gets tangled in a jungle of concepts and survival strategies, which putting it mildly only causes that the troubles that we think we have to go through just become worse.

Everyday life or everydayness offers most people too little material to write home about. There is, I have ascertained a slight feeling of shame that there is nothing to share about what happened today, because apparently nothing special or exciting has passed in review. Thus, life is boring, (we think). Because after all you can't cook up anything with the ordinary to make it seem more perfect. The ordinariness of life was once beautifully put into words by Queen Elizabeth of England. She once asked a text writer to compose a speech for the occasion of her visit to Kingston. 'I am very happy to be in Kingston today', to which Elizabeth reacted with: 'Make that just: I am happy to be in Kingston. Not very happy.'
What it's about is clear. We want to beautify reality and we are at the same time not satisfied with the feeling 'just plain happy'. If it can only be really happy, we run the risk of also allowing the ordinary happiness pass us by. Said otherwise, the images we have in our minds about reality hinder us from experiencing reality in its ordinariness. This way we deny the possibility of being ordinary, and that the ordinary is exceptional enough. Because we think that we are missing something there is the inclination to set conditions on life, it has to be like this or like that and not otherwise. And even if the conditions that we set are satisfied, then there can remain feelings of incompleteness and emptiness. Then next these have to be 'explained'. But, there is nothing at all to explain, because whatever happens just happens; because explanations, have to be explained further in their own turn. You achieve nothing in this way. Apparently existence is as it is whether we like it or not. There is no way to escape or flight route. Also, the question asked by the spiritual seeker, how ordinary life relates to enlightenment can only be put as long as there is a (spiritual) seeker. Because daily life does not compare itself, it just is. Nothing can be added or taken away from it. It is enough onto itself.
For those who have not realized themselves, what has just been described can be an enormous disappointment and disenchantment. Enlightenment is the last offence to the ego. The empty hands, because you can't hold on to consciousness, look as if they are indeed really empty. That is the moment in which life lets itself be seen as it is. Again and again different, but still always the same. Because if the cramp and the (gripping) movements of the ego have disappeared, the relaxation ; 'descends' as a soft coverlet of love over us. Only then an unannounced spontaneous feeling of being 'really happy' makes its appearance, because life can be enjoyed as it presents itself. Because what is special about enlightenment, and that's what nice about it, is that it is so ordinary, so unadorned.
Again, said differently; the whipped cream that we want on our desert has already melted into it. We just have to be ready to taste it. With the entering of enlightenment, reality is nothing different from the reality than what we call 'daily life'. Enlightenment is only 'reached' in order to live the life of everyday as it presents itself. Because then there is surrender to what is. That gives me again and again and on an ever deeper level a really happy feeling. Everydayness is therefore my favorite occupation.

 

[Jan van Rossum - june 2002]