“women's blue and white floral surplice neckline camisole” by DESIGNECOLOGIST on Unsplash

I Will Never Be Enlightened

Last night I woke up in the middle of the night and looked out of the door of our bedroom. As I looked, I was not able to understand what I was looking at. It was like a mirror was looking into a mirror, looking into a mirror, looking into a mirror. There was just nothing, nothing being endlessly reflected in itself. It felt like I was tumbling endlessly into an abyss, into complete chaos.

There was a tightening or a bracing, a holding on. “I’m not letting go.” I thought. That thinking, like the seeing, joined the cacophony of emptiness. It had no meaning either. It was just what seemed to be happening. This chaotic aliveness seemed to build and build, a constantly crescendoing zing, until the words came, “Wow! That’s pretty intense.”

I took a deep breath and looked at the yellow slats of light falling diagonally across our bedroom wall. Again, I had no idea what I was looking at, but it was endlessly engaging, endlessly new. I lay still in bed, just looking at the wall for a long time.

None of this is important. I suspect that this is just one of an infinite number of experiences that could happen as the sense of individuality begins to let go, when what appears to be happening is seen without the filter of imaginary knowing, understanding, and meaning.

One of the things I’ve been struggling with in the last few years is not knowing who I am. Other people seem to have an impression of me, or a sense about me, but I cannot see any of that. I’m starting to realize that I have always felt like a hollow shell, without anything of any substance inside me. I used to think that there was something wrong with me because I could not “see” myself as others could.

Now I’m beginning to wonder if the reason that I could not see myself is simply because I do not exist. Sure, seeing happens, hearing happens, movement happens, thoughts and feelings happen, even what seems to be “taking things personally” happens, but I have never been able to actually find myself.

I’m beginning to suspect that what’s been happening all along is that others have been anthropomorphizing this human body, and I wonder if I have been anthropomorphizing all the other human bodies.

I have a memory of trying to meditate while on vacation with an ex-partner. I wanted to meditate, and she wanted to watch TV. It was not practical in the tiny hotel room for us to do both. I became so frustrated that I think I yelled at her. She told me, “You will never be enlightened!” I took that as a curse, and for a long time after that I was not able to focus my mind in the same way that I had been able to before.

I now see the wisdom in her words. I understand, even if only intellectually, that I will never be enlightened. I understand that enlightenment or liberation is all there is. I understand that the only thing that seems to be preventing that from being known is the illusory sense of self, the I, the me. Enlightenment happens; it’s the only thing happening; but it’s happening for no one.

An engineer-psychologist focused on machine intelligence. I write from my own experience to support others in living more fulfilling lives | duncanriach.com

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store