A lot of classic stories have been told that are variations on the same theme: someone searches for something and then realizes that they already have it. It may be a precious jewel, or the ability to do something, or in the case of Dorothy’s ruby slippers, it is the way to get home again.
This could be read as a metaphor for becoming enlightened, and you may hear the same theme from spiritual teachers. The variation goes like this: you already are enlightened, but you just don’t know it.
That can be frustrating. How could you not know it, and what good is knowing that you have something if you can’t access it?
The resolution of this problem has to do with the word “know”.
There are different types of knowledge.
Intellectual understanding is one type. You can have the intellectual understanding that you are already enlightened. But just thinking the words, “I am already enlightened” won’t do it for you.
Another type of knowledge is experience. Experience is wordless.
You do already have the experiential wordless knowledge of one aspect of enlightenment. It is part of your everyday life, a little 1% of something that is at the back of your mind, something that you really never pay attention to, something that you take for granted every waking moment, something that you carry around with you all day without noticing it, something that is automatic, something that is totally free of charge, and which if I were to point it out to you and ask if it’s there, you would answer, “yes.”
First, let me explain. This aspect of enlightenment is the aspect where each thing refers just to itself and where each thing is self-sufficient. In enlightenment, one’s true self is experienced as being complete and full, and that extends to all other things as well.
Because of that, for example, there is no need to finish the statement, “I am” with another set of words that gives a label to “I” such as, “I am a professional.” You are not your work. You are you. The work is the work. Each thing is each thing, unto itself.
God said it best and most simply with the statement, “I am that I am.”
And now, here is the experience of this aspect of enlightenment that is at the back of your mind:
Interestingly, thinking the words, “I am conscious that I am conscious” won’t do it for you. At that point, you are conscious that you are thinking. Thinking actually takes you away from the experience.
Just let your attention rest in the experience. You don’t have to go searching anywhere. Not even into your thoughts.