Enlightenment and the Water Bottle

by Brian Tom O'Connor


In the prevalent paradigm of enlightenment, we meditate in order to become enlightened, and we imagine that when we do, we will become a different sort of person--an enlightened person, an awakened person, a self-realized person.


But wishing for enlightenment is like wishing you will become a person who never has to drink water ever again. Much better that you figure out how to always have a water bottle with you or that you find out where there is always water handy.


So let's say you try to become a person who no longer needs water, and you fail. Are you going to despair? Better to keep water handy wherever you go.


But what if you discovered that you had a hidden water bottle with you that is never empty—it always refills itself, and never disappears. Or a portable infinite well of joy that you carry around within you wherever you go.


That's pure awareness itself. It's always handy. It never disappears. It's infinitely self-refillable. It's the connection between your individual mind and the universal mind. And once you get the hang of drinking from it at will... voila! You can stop trying to become the sort of super-human person who is permanently enlightened and never has to drink.


This infinite well of joy is Awareness itself. In order to connect to the infinite well, two things are needed: One, just for now, accept everything in your present experience to be exactly as it is. And two, shift your attention from the content of awareness to awareness itself and know that that is the real you.


Awareness is the field within you that notices all of your experience. Some call it the witness. When you connect to the witnessing or noticing field within, and allow this moment to be exactly as it is, joy bubbles up in the heart.

So, not only can you give up the idea of becoming the sort of person who never has to drink, you can give up the idea that in order to stay hydrated, you have to be drinking from the bottle constantly, 24/7. It's simply there whenever you want it or need it. So you can go about your life, hydrated and worry-free, and simply drink when you're thirsty.


Awareness itself is like the infinitely-refillable water bottle. It's an infinite well of joy. It's the clear unconditioned field within you that notices all of your experience—that witnesses all of your experience.


And you can connect to the witnessing or noticing field within in three simple steps:

  • First, just for now, accept everything in your present experience to be exactly as it is.

  • Second, shift your attention from the content of awareness to awareness itself—that which knows all of your experience.

  • Third, turn around again and look at the world from that knowingness which is the real you.

And for extra credit…

  • See the world you're looking at—which indeed, appears in you, awareness—as none other than yourself. You, looking at yourself. Awareness being aware of awareness. The universe seeing itself through your eyes.


And the universe is totally happy with itself.




Photo by Damir Spanic on Unsplash

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