Human life can be described using five modes.
We can lead an enlightened, a driven, a normal, an ordinary, or a broken life
We are all born enlightened
To infants, toddlers, and even children, innocence, acceptance, joy, lack of worry, are all ruling the day and time does not matter.
Humans have to learn to become selfish, to discriminate, to worry, to cheat or to lie. Unfortunately, it does not take long to learn all that. It is often called growing up.
It is my contention that we may die enlightened as well. We tend to make huge advances in our comprehension of life and its values when facing our own mortality. Testimonies from survivors of Near Death Experience seem to confirm that passing is an enlightened event.
Most of us rarely stay enlightened for long after birth. To get back to that state of mind will take time and effort. It will take daily practice.
The Broken Life
This the life mode of substance abuse, debt, paycheck to paycheck, major problems. This is the life of domestic drama, violence, late fees, bad credit, job loss. This life mode is like a ship sinking. Its passengers keep bailing out water to barely stay afloat. People in this life mode do not understand what is going on, their questions remain unanswered, Life is a puzzling affair and a constant struggle.
The Ordinary Life
Ordinary life is like a ship floating around. It is not sinking but not going anywhere either. Their boat is bobbing around following the waves and tides. Life is simplistic. Get up, go to work, get back home, pay bills, go on vacations. Rinse and repeat until retirement and death. Submission and fatalism is the way life is understood. Some topics are never addressed. Whenever a question arises, the answer is that nothing can be done about it.
The Normal Life
The boat is cruising at an even speed and docks at scheduled stops. Everything is fine. Any question that may arise has its preset answer: it is the way it is supposed to be. Conformity is key. Concerns are about career path, corporate ladder, good credit, neighborhoods with good schools. Life is understood as a series of benchmarks to meet. This life mode is the most shaken by a midlife crisis.
The Driven Life
People in this life mode have a purpose. They get up in the morning with a to-do list. They have goals and give themselves the means to meet them. Life is an adventure to be lived fully. They never fail. Instead, they have setbacks, receive life lessons, or gain experience. They seek an answer to every question they ask themselves. Forget boating, they are flying.
The Enlightened Life
Enlightened beings understood that Life cannot be understood in its wholeness. They gave up on that quest. Questions no longer need a definitive answer. Problems are dissolved and outgrown. Their purpose is to serve others and enjoy the day. Their formless vehicle is gliding. They follow the winds and are happy with every destination. They are happy no matter what.
These life modes are states of mind
Social appearances can be misleading. Many driven people are in fact leading a broken life. Some seemingly enlightened beings are often only justifying their ordinary lives. Anyone can be trapped in a normal life.
These five life modes are independent of social status or wealth. It is indeed easier to find purpose and solace in a wealthy position but there is no direct correlation. Money cannot buy happiness, yet money can contribute to it.
Everyone has a dominant mode but all five are present in life. We can move from one to another from day to day.
Even the most enlightened persons have their moments of weakness and doubt. How they face their anxiety and their fears is what makes them enlightened in the first place.
Even the most devastated low life can be rich in wisdom, but that is often coming out in incoherent bits and pieces and is too inconsistent to build a better life out of it.
Practice every day
The only way to lead a better life from whichever state we are in, is to work on it. I call this work the Personal Practice. Temptations are everywhere to shun the efforts for spiritual elevation, so awareness is key. Once aware, we need to accept the state of things, reach out to find a proper way out and then practice daily. Nothing will change without doing something about it.