So I've been exploring Buddhism for a little while now (and by exploring I mean reading three or four Buddhist authors that appeal to me) and I've decided that I regard the idea of enlightenment - or waking up to reality - much the way I regarded the idea of "being saved" when I primarily identified as Christian. I never thought of myself as being "saved" once-and-for-all - probably because I grew up in the LDS church, which talks about such things as eternal progression. So I tend to think of enlightenment as a process one goes through rather than an end that one achieves. One awakens to one thing, then another, then you fall asleep a bit on that other thing, then wake up a bit more, fall asleep again. I visualize what little progress I make as going up a huge spiral staircase - I keep returning to the same issues, but hopefully I'm a bit more awake each time I swing by.
I'm never all the way awake and I have my doubts that I will ever fully let go of this thing we call a "self," but every once and awhile I see things a bit more clearly, I catch the habit, I notice my feelings rather than putting words on them so I can argue them down, I refrain from biting the hook (as Pema Chodron calls it). And it's nice. I am finding myself less attached to my own thoughts and ideas, my expectations for how things "should be," and finding that I have less ego - less dogs in the fight, so to speak. Truly life is more pleasant this way.
I had more thoughts two days ago when I was drafting this post in my head. Oh well. :-)