Siddhartha searched and searched before finding his enlightenment as the Buddha. Once on the path he did not say, “No more lessons!” Whether your path to enlightenment is through Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, yoga, or any of the many other traditions that are out there, it is up to you to pursue the teachings and to apply them in your everyday experiences. Look at everything as a lesson custom made for you—to be learned from your particular vantage point.
I was sitting at a table on the coast of Spain when a friend pointed across the restaurant toward the beach and sea saying, “Look at that thing!” I looked and saw a rock jetty—the last object before the Mediterranean melted into the infinite blue sky. Linda looked and saw a beautifully detailed sandcastle, built where the boardwalk met the sand. Our friend, however, was pointing at a non-symmetrical, iron tower art installation midway between the boardwalk and the edge of the sea. Certainly we all had different vantage points, but what I discovered was that each of us saw only one of the three objects and not the other two. When I suggested that there was a lesson to be learned from this I was cut off by a resounding, “No more lessons!”
I accommodated by resisting the urge to point out that if three middle-aged women from similar socio-geographic, religious and economic backgrounds, sitting within a few feet of each other cannot look out and see the same “thing,” then how can we expect disparate nations, religions or cultures to see common ground for peace? The answer is that it is possible, but not if in our individual lives, we refuse to examine our own underlying perceptions and perspectives. Maybe we have to shift our gaze or refocus until we see the other person’s point of view. Maybe we have to shift in our seat or walk over to where the other person is sitting to see what they see. We find enlightenment by being brave enough to accept the possibility that perhaps none of us has the whole truth. We find it by having the courage and the fortitude to look at everything as a lesson. We find enlightenment through patient introspection—not by jumping to conclusions or by judging. Jesus, according to St. Thomas, said, If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.
We no longer have the luxury of saying, “No more lessons!” We never did.