I distinctly remember the moment. It must have been 8 years ago, and I can still remember the subway station and the escalator I was riding.
I was deeply into buddhism and self-improvement back then, and I was trying to meditate or at least working on my mindfulness every second I could spare.
That moment on that escalator, I was enlightened.
Of course, a few moments later, the experience was over. I tried to get back into it, but to no avail. On the other hand, I couldn't quite shake the feeling that this was actually it, the real thing. It had lasted a little longer than those experiences usually used to, and it had felt as if it actually were to last this time.
There is a certain humor in buddhist books when they talk about enlightenment experiences, a kind of humor I tended to enjoy, and which I still think provides a certain safeguard against fundamentalist idiocy. They talk about how nibbana is not a state of being, and how reifying it is itself a block on the road to nibbana. They revel in the paradox, and that's fine and very appealing.
But still, I did believe that enlightenment was a real possibility in some way, a goal to be reached at some point.
Looking back, I think that this is a huge problem, but nog quite in the way the buddhists say. It is a problem because, from what I have read in the meantime, and from what I see in the world and in my own life, I gather that enlightenment is just not possible. Our brains just don't seem to be wired in a way that would allow them to overcome their own illusory self. The oh-so-bad discoursive monkey mind will always kick back in.
Looking back on what you might call my "spiritual journey" (blargh), I think that this change of mind has proved to be a good thing. Very good indeed. Now I judge my mindfulness - and boy, do I judge it! - based on whether it is useful to myself, my life, and probably the lives of people around me.
I think that this is way more down to earth, realistic and mature. It certainly has me use less of the jargon, even in my internal monologue (I always tried to avoid it in public anyway). Less attachment to enlightenment. It was an act of letting go, disentanglement, un-identification, de-attachment.
It has me pretend less, see more of how things actually are. And that's ultimately what enlightenment is about, isn't it?