The role of states in the awakening process

 

Awakening means what we are noticing itself as that which our content of experience happens within and as. And a more stable awakening happens when this noticing goes through changing states and is independent of any particular state. (Although we can say that this noticing is a state of noticing.)

So what is the role of states in the awakening process?

Some states may function as a preview of awakening – as a taste, or a guide. There can be a taste of oneness, or all as the divine or God, and this can function as a preview or direction for us for a while until the awakening is more clear, stable, deep, and mature.

These preview states can also function as a carrot, as can any state we see as spiritual (bliss etc.). They can keep us going. In an awakening process, it’s common to have previews and then chase these previews or states, and although it’s ultimately misguided it can serve an important function of keeping us interested, fascinated, motivated, and consciously on the path. (Although we are on the path no matter what.)

Some states highlight aspects of what we are – it can be Big Mind, Big Heart, the divine feminine, bliss and so on. These then become an invitation for us to keep noticing this aspect of what we are through the changing states, including when these more dialed-up states are gone.

And in general, changing states – which we experience all the time – is an invitation to notice what we are. It’s an invitation for what we are – that which all our experiences happens within and as – to notice itself. This invitation is always here.

So although awakening is not ultimately about any particular state (apart from the state of noticing), states of all types can serve an important role in the awakening process. Some function as pointers and guides. Some as carrots. Some as an invitation to notice aspects of what we are through changing states. And all of them – spiritual or not – function as an invitation for us to notice what we are.

What’s my experience with this? The initial awakening was a oneness awakening with a lot of side-effects (bliss, stable focus and so on). And I did chase some of these states for a while. It was one of the motivations for doing hours of prayer, meditation, and body-centered practices each day for several years. It felt really good to do it because it amplified the oneness and these blissful states. It functioned as a carrot for me, and although I could see what was going on, I was also compelled to dial up some of these states. (Probably to fill a hole in me, to try to make up for a sense of lack.)

It took some years with little or no spiritual practice and a dark night of the soul for a shift to happen out of the slightly obsessive chasing of states. I am still doing it to some extent as most of us do – even if it’s just in very ordinary everyday ways – but it feels more relaxed and less essential.

Why did I leave my spiritual practice? And what was the dark night of the soul? It’s a story better suited for a longer article. In short, I made a major life decision against my inner knowing, and this made it hard for me to continue my spiritual practice.

Each time I sat down for meditation or prayer, I was connected with the still inner voice guiding me to something that was very difficult for me, which was painful, so I ended up avoiding it. This lead to several years where I was more engaged in the world and didn’t do much spiritual practice. It was also the beginning of a dark night of the soul that has gone through several phases. It was mild for several years and took the form of feeling deeply off track, and then got much stronger and brought up a lot of old trauma.

Somehow, in the process, the state-chasing got softer and less relevant.

The prayer I mentioned was Christ meditation (visualize Christ in front, back, on each side, over the head, under me, and in the heart), and heart prayer (Jesus prayer). The meditation was basic meditation for training a more stable attention, and basic meditation for noticing and allowing whatever is here. And the body-centered practices were tai chi, chi gong, inner Taoist practices (Mantak Chia and similar), and some yoga.

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Altered states: We are already living it?

 
I personally have not been very interested in “altered states” in a conventional sense. Perhaps it’s because I define it differently for myself. So how do I see it?

We are always experiencing altered states. Our experience is always new, fresh, different. And, at least as I experience it, obviously so. It’s inevitable and doesn’t require us to do anything.

From another perspective, altered states seem easily induced by ordinary experiences, including food, nature, engagement in current activity, and so on. For instance, I just had a cup of hot cocoa and ginger (nothing else added) and it significantly changed my state and experience of myself and the world.

And from yet another perspective, the ultimate altered state is our ordinary human experience. The base state for existence is awake oneness. So when life (the divine, Spirit, the One) moved towards experiencing itself as separate, it created the ultimate altered state for itself. We are already living it, just by having the ordinary human experiences. As do Spirit when it temporarily made itself into innumerable beings – as part of this planet and possibly elsewhere – and the temporary experience of being a separate being.

So we are already living altered states. It’s inevitable. Our experience is always new, fresh, and different. Any activity creates a different and new state and experience. (We just need to notice.) And our ordinary human experience is the ultimate altered state for the divine, and all is the divine. The only reason we would seek an altered state – as the term is used conventionally – is if we don’t notice the magic in our ordinary experience. And, of course, we are set up so many of us overlook that magic. That too is the divine experiencing itself through an altered state. That too is the play of the divine. That too is the divine expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways. Note: I am aware I wrote this from a slightly arrogant view. But, somehow, that was fun. I may do that more. Others sometimes point out that I often make myself small, so writing in a more direct way and revealing myself more is interesting. Read More