Some of the things that seem to often precede awakening…
- Nothing at all. It comes out of the blue. The person may have no interest in religion or spirituality, and have done no spiritual practice. Although for many, there may be a great deal of psychological stress and a sense of being at the end of the rope before the shift, as happened with Byron Katie, Eckhart Tolle, and even me. (I was an atheist at the time of the initial awakening.) There is a ripeness there somewhere, in terms of being ready to give it all up – all identifications, all hope.
- Intention. A clear and refined intention to know God, to know truth, to wake up. This may go along with practice and prayer or not.
- Trying hard and failing. Trying hard to awaken through a range of practices, and thoroughly failing. Exhausting all possibilities.
- Practice. Engaging in a range of practices that invite in a thinning of the veils. The “distance” between what is here and awakening gets smaller, although the final shift doesn’t happen through practice.
- Shaktipat. An energy transfer that invites in awakening, such as diksha.
And finally grace. Grace is always what invites in the shift to awakening. Whatever a separate I can seem to do is not enough. It can prepare the ground, but that is all. As Baker Roshi said, awakening is an accident and practice makes us accident prone.
Also, is there really a “leading up to” awakening? The awakening is an awakening out of the stories of time and causality, and also the story of awakening not being here already. From here, there is no leading up to it, although there is also the freedom to use those stories as skillful means.