I USED TO study and practice Zen. And at the time I didn't understand what relaxation had to do with enlightenment. I meditated for hours and became really relaxed. But so what? I was relaxed. What did this have to do with enlightenment?
But I've thought a lot about it since then, and here's what I've concluded: Developing a progressively deeper calm — through meditation or yoga or massage or long walks in the woods or changing the way you think or whatever — is the way to live the "awakened" life. Calmness is a "cure" for the normal feeling of stress we live with (read more about that here).
Whether or not you have a big epiphany (experience "satori" in Zen parlance) is not really up to you. But developing calmness is totally up to you. And you can live in an enlightened way even without the earthshaking realizations. Calmness makes the difference. But why?
When you feel deeply calm, all these are gone: greed, selfishness, anger, judgmentalness, fear, deficiency motivations, feelings of revenge, agitation, anxiety, frustration — feelings that provoke unenlightened action.
And when you feel deeply calm, all these come naturally and easily: forgiveness, compassion, peace, happiness, contentment, thoughtful decisions and actions, balanced thinking, cosmic or eternal perspective, patience, kindness to others, kindness to yourself — feelings and actions we might consider awakened or enlightened.
If you'd like to be the kind of person you really want to be, if you want to treat people better and take better care of yourself and respond to stressful situations with more compassion and wisdom, focus your efforts on one thing: Create more calmness in your life. Everything else will follow.