We all know the image: a wise man sitting on a mountaintop. A hermit who has left the world behind in order to contemplate life in isolation, and therefore reach “enlightenment.” It’s such a widespread notion in our collective consciousness that it’s become more than a cliche: it’s been used to sell soup.
Google the phrase “guru on mountaintop” and see how many comic strips you get as a result.
Sure, it’s possible to reach a state of inner peace and self-knowledge if you take yourself away from the world. With none of the distractions of our interconnected age, who couldn’t attain nirvana?
The problem is, chilling out alone on an actual mountain for years on end isn’t an option for many of us. And even if it was, would you really want to be up there forever? Even the wise man has to come down sometimes, whether it’s to get some food, some Starbucks, or upgrade his smartphone. Heck, what if you just get lonely, you social animal?
Then there’s the imaginary mountains we often climb, when we mentally check out from life. When we separate ourselves from others with our anger, cynicism, and mistrust, we’ve scaled a peak taller than Everest. We think we’re safe up there, and maybe we are…for a while.
But what happens to your mountain zen when you step back into the bustle of the human world?
When you’re not wrapped in your cozy blanket of solitude, does your inner peace evaporate? If it does, maybe it’s time to think about some more practical enlightenment.
Consider this: what if “real” enlightenment isn’t a rare thing that you can only obtain through self-imposed exile from other people?
What if the exact opposite is true: real enlightenment is believing you have the mental and emotional skills to keep your cool no matter where you are in life.
Practical enlightenment is knowing how to keep yourself happy in the middle of life’s incredible whirlwind. The trick is giving yourself permission to be happy. After that, it doesn’t matter what fulfills you, as long as it keeps you living instead of just existing in an aloof shell.
We’re not meant to freeze our butts off on some unreachable height. Because the true meaning of life is to live it. Yes, living brings you into contact with other people. And that’s okay.
It’s okay to lose your temper, get depressed, or lose faith in humanity at times. If you remember your practical enlightenment, you know those feelings are natural and temporary.
No, people aren’t going to stop being those beings all around you who can thrill, frustrate, disappoint, enrich, hurt, love, betray, and motivate you. That’s the way things are supposed to be, because without those challenges, your life would truly become like living on mountaintop: unchanging, utterly silent, and boring.
So come on down, before the wise man grabs our usual table and nurses a coffee for three hours for the free WiFi.
About the Author
Anthony Simeone is a writer, speaker, personal development activist, and social change warrior with over two decades of experience studying the practical application of literature, philosophy, psychology, and other disciplines. The culmination of his work is the Live the Hero concept, which he offers as a “life path” for use in overcoming daily obstacles. Live the Hero combines the wisdom found in the arts and humanities with the latest discoveries related to modern neuroscience. You can contact Anthony and learn more about his work at livethehero.com.