One of the questions that gets often asked by seekers is, “What does spiritual enlightenment or self-realization feel like? I am republishing the answer I wrote on Quora for the same question.
Life is usually felt as a journey in time. You experience it as if you are travelling from point A to point B in time, with hopes, expectations and dreams. It is an unconscious search towards becoming boundless.
Human beings are running in a hedonic treadmill. Everyone returns to a base level of happiness as soon as the effects of a profit or loss, success or failure, pain or pleasure fades away. So, no matter what you try to do, you really do not reach the place where you are left with complete fulfillment. If you stop running on this treadmill, even your base level happiness seems to go low. So there is a constant need to run behind a next achievement, next success or even next spiritual experience. This concept of hedonic treadmill is now a psychological fact.
What spiritual enlightenment or self-realization does is, it liberates you from the hedonic treadmill. Because you actually reach the completion or ultimate fulfillment that you have been searching for. Suddenly, the psychological time stops. You are not looking forward to the future anymore. So you neither search fulfillment in worldly affairs nor search enlightenment. Because every search is searching something in the future. At self-realization, the past and the future becomes collapsed in the present. You do not even feel like you have travelled all the way through time to reach that place. You feel like you have been always there. Do you think you can imagine this state? No, you can’t!
You also lose the psychological boundaries between you and the existence. Normally, you feel a difference between being alone and being in a room with another person. You feel it in your bones because your consciousness is trapped inside an idea of being a person or an entity that is distinct from the ‘others’. But after self-realization, you no longer sense the ‘other’ this way! The psychological wall that stands between you and the other breaks and melts away, leaving you in an ocean of oneness. This is what they call as oneness of God.
It feels like, the world and the life runs like a movie, and you are just acting your role, without even feeling that you exist (as a person or an entity). In fact, the word ‘I’ now becomes just a point of reference rather than an experiential identifier of your body and mind. You no longer feel that you are a character in a life story, experiencing it personally.
The distinction between inside and the outside disappears too.
It may sound too boring when you have not realized it yourself, but it is actually quite fulfilling, just like you feel during the end of a movie. After a movie is ended, you don’t regret that it has ended; so enlightenment is not something that will break into your life all of a sudden. It happens as a natural process after the game is over; after the drama is over.
How do you feel after removing a tight shoe that was hurting your toes for the past three hours while walking? The sense of separate self is like a tight shoe, and it puts a lot of pressure on you. You do not realize it since that is how you have lived your life from the beginning. But only when this pressure is gone, you really see how much pressure, strain and weight it was putting on you. You now feel like a free bird.
But words can certainly betray the actual meaning intended, when anyone who is free tries to describe it. This is beyond words!
There is a light inside you. Just follow it, walk where it takes you and you will find the source of the light one day.
There is something called seven-fold logic or saptangivada, which is a different form of logic that is used when talking about such subtle matters. You can read about it here: Logic And Spiritual Enlightenment – An Overview of Anekantavada, Saptabhangivada (Seven Valued Logic) and Syadvada of Jainism
I have put together a guide, in case you are a seeker; it has a series of articles : A Guide To Spiritual Enlightenment