Photo taken by the author in Meiji-no-mori Takao Quasi-National Park, Japan
Enlightenment is not a ‘thing-in-itself’. Indeed, it is actually a ‘no-thing’---no-thing-ness. It is the complete absence of thought, conditioning, materialism and all other limitations of time and space. It is living with choiceless, unadorned awareness. Yes, enlightenment is mindful living. In that regard, I am reminded of what Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn, Emeritus Professor of Medicine, and founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society, at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, had to say about mindfulness. He said, ‘Mindfulness is about falling awake rather than asleep.’ Falling awake. Yes, and also staying awake. That is mindfulness. And that is enlightenment.
A disciple once asked his master, ‘What is the path?’ The Zen master replied, ‘Walk on!’ Yes, the ‘meaning’ of life lies in the living---that is, the ‘walking’---of life from one moment to the next. Enlightenment is staying awake while you are walking your path.
So, don’t ask ‘how long’. Instead, ask yourself this question, ‘What is standing in the way of my waking up and experiencing enlightenment right now?’