Enlightenment — a Privileged Lifestyle?

Let’s reconsider the term “enlightenment”

6 min readNov 20, 2020


I call this: “Enlightened Like The Buddha“

An initial response to this question may be a resounding YES. It was for me. But the problem with first responses is that they are often shortsighted — based on stereotypes and the ego-experience.

Formed theory on enlightenment

Enlightenment is demanding

After almost a decade on the spiritual path, I had come to three conclusions regarding enlightenment:

  1. Spiritual Enlightenment requires complete detachment, living beyond and behaving outside the fringes — social norms and structures be damned!
  2. The enlightened life demands hour-, day-, week-long meditations, without a care for the material, illusory things of life (see image above).
  3. To be enlightened means escaping karma to ultimately end the cycle of birth and rebirth (that might take awhile).

Given the demanding nature of enlightenment, how would it ever be possible for the average person, with careers to establish, relationships to manage, and happy hours to attend, to reach higher states of consciousness? Certainly, attaining enlightenment was nearly impossible and meant only for a unique few. Further evidence of this conclusion existed also in the social sciences.

Enlightenment in Psychology

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (plus self-transcendence) provides a structure of understanding how one reaches higher states of consciousness, asserting that Self-Actualization and Transcendence can only be achieved after a host of other needs, such as food, water and loving relationships, are met. The theory’s sequential and hierarchical nature would lead one to believe that only the advantageous are able to attain the highest states of existence, including enlightenment.

Image source

How might a single parent working two jobs and living in poverty, achieve enlightenment?

Could a survivor of child sexual abuse, fighting an ongoing battle with chronic mental illness, transcend into an enlightened state?

Can a young professional, who has met many of her basic needs, but finds herself in ongoing cycles of emotionally abusive relationships, experience enlightenment?

How could I, with a history of anxiety and an inability to express love, reach higher states of consciousness?

Suddenly, this was becoming personal. Was life on the spiritual path all in vain?

Prerequisites for enlightenment

If my conclusions paired with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs were used in the understanding of enlightenment, the response to each of the above scenarios would be depressingly negative. This would serve as evidence that spirituality is reserved for a unique few, namely those with:

  1. Time — to sit in meditation, read and research spiritual texts, reflect and pray, and attend spiritual workshops and gatherings (read: no job, or their job is that of a spiritual teacher or leader.)
  2. Money — to afford the basic human needs of life while they spent the greater part of the day engaging spiritually. By the way, has anyone noticed the going rate of a yoga class ($20+) or spiritual coaching session ($200/hr)? Not. Cheap.
  3. Space — both emotional and physical. Try centering and elevating to higher states of consciousness after being intellectually degraded at work or in a room with a napless toddler.
  4. Good health — consider the last time you were sick. Did you take time to sit in meditation? Were you able to ignore the throbs of your brain to engage with the higher self? Were you able to express joy, peace, or love towards your family? (Or am I the only person who reverts to infant status when sick?)

If there were in fact requirements to achieving enlightenment, we were all on a path headed towards failure. I had a sudden, desperate need to prove this theory wrong. After several days of reflection, the Universe came through, as It always does, and an alternative understanding of enlightenment came flooding in from every direction I turned.

Truth 3: Our worldly-work is as holy as our soul-work

Getting enlightened on enlightenment

Truth 1: All are enlightened

…a truly enlightened person will always tell you that there is no difference between you and them. A flower will bloom when it’s ready. A flower that has bloomed would never compare itself to a flower that hasn’t: they will all bloom eventually.— Mohamed Moussaddak, Friend

The potential to achieve enlightenment and engage with the highest self exists within all of us, at all times. Being that Spirit is our true nature, enlightenment is actually much more simple and straightforward than we realize. As humans, we can complicate our spirituality as much as we complicate our humanity. Because we continuously walk the line of our humanity, experiencing enlightenment is not an all or nothing state. Like a plant, there are periods of dormancy and bloom, but the seed, which is our truth, is always there.

Truth 2: Experiencing enlightenment was meant to be easy

All great spiritual teachers have something to teach us that we can work to apply in our everyday human lives. We take what we can from them and do our best to use their recommended tools and strategies for the good of ourselves and others. — Book Club Buddy

Siddhartha did not sit at the riverside for hours in meditation, anticipating that all of humanity moving forward would do the same. Christ did not exile himself from civilization for 40 days and demand the same of his followers. Modern day spiritual teachers, who dedicate their every day to spiritual research and knowledge, do not recommend that we do the same.

Quite the contrary. Spiritual savants are on a path of divine destiny — one that holds space and time for ongoing enlightenment. However, just as important are the insights that they bring back to humanity — the tools, techniques and knowledge that can inspire and impact entire civilizations, which are meant to be useful and practical for the everyday human.

Truth 3: Our worldly-work is as holy as our soul-work

“This pathway [The Star] tells us that working outwardly in life can be just as important as doing inner work. “— The Sufi Book of Life

“There is no existence but the one existence.” — Ibn Arabi

It does not matter whether we are engaged in deep meditation, conversation with our colleagues or wiping our child’s butt. In all that we do, we are interacting with God, the Universal Spirit. Therefore, in all human engagements, we must begin to witness the divine, making space for the experience of enlightenment.

The truth that we are spirits trying to having a human experience has never rang more true. There is a reason for the syntax here. We are spirits first. Our humanity will disguise that truth with its host of responsibilities, roles and anxieties. And the more of each of these we have, the more difficult it may be to access our higher states of self. The key to enlightenment is not to sit alone in meditation, but rather to show up in our humanity in an awakened way.

I suppose it’s time for me to throw Maslow’s theory out the window. Yes, it may be easier to reach an enlightened state when all of our triangular blocks are stacked neatly in our favor, but it is not necessary.

In fact, those with more blocks stacked against them are likely enlightened in even more powerful ways. They are true Spiritual Warriors — battling the everyday darkness of humanity and surviving the fight over and again with the power of their Light.

Care to chat more about Enlightenment and our odds of attaining it? Let’s have coffee!
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aspiring Spiritual Warrior writing for my tribe | credentialed in Journalism, Education & Leadership | experienced in Wine, Motherhood & Partnership