by Anthony De Mello

Before enlightenment life is spent not in living fully but in courting applause and admiration; not in blissfully being yourself but in neurotically comparing and competing and striving for worldly success. This is the mechanical life that was stamped into you. Oh, this is hard language, but reflect on these words. Observe these negative impulses. When you’re aware of them, you’re free from them. They may raise their ugly head, but you’re not affected by it, you’re not controlled by it. You’ve have regained your natural urge to be free, your natural urge to love. That’s the difference.

When the Zen master attained enlightenment he wrote the following lines to celebrate it:

            “Oh wondrous marvel:

            I chop wood!

            I draw water from the well!”

After enlightenment nothing really changes. The tree is still a tree; people are just what they were before and so are you. You may continue to be as moody or even-tempered, as wise, or foolish. The one difference is that you see things with a different eye. You are more detached from it all now. And your heart is full of wonder. That is the essence of contemplation: the sense of wonder. Contemplation is different from ecstasy in that ecstasy leads to withdrawal. The enlightened contemplative continues to chop wood and draw water from the well. Contemplation is different from the perception of beauty (a painting or a sunset) in that the perception of beauty produces aesthetic delight, whereas contemplation produces wonder—no matter what it observes, a sunset or a stone. This is the prerogative of children. They are so often in a state of wonder. So they easily slip into the Kingdom.