There’s this whole other side of awakening which isn’t just waking up from form, waking up from the body, waking up from the identifications of the mind, but it’s getting that awakening down in through all of that, and that’s like a clearinghouse. That’s the difference between someone who’s had an awakening and ultimately someone who has discovered their divine individuality.– Adyashanti in The Divine Individual
This is one in a series of posts with brief notes on healing, awakening, and personal things. These are more spontaneous and less comprehensive than the regular articles. Some may be a little on the rant side. And some may be made into a regular article in time.
When we are uncomfortable or anything unpleasant happens, we look to take refuge in something. Usually, we turn to food, alcohol, sex, drugs, money, power, or relationships. But none of these things give us the lasting protection or satisfaction you’re looking for.
When you understand you can’t find lasting happiness in Samsara, then the desire to find true refuge becomes strong. In Buddhism, we take refuge in the three jewels—the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.
The Buddha is like the doctor who understands your disease and knows how to treat it; the Dharma, his teachings, is the medicine he prescribes; and the Sangha is the spiritual community that helps you to take the medicine. To take refuge is to finally seek protection from suffering in a way that can really help you. When we think about the ultimate nature of reality and what causes us to suffer— this is the true meaning of refuge.– Keanu Reeves in Discovering Buddhism module 7, refuge in the three jewels, 2004
This is beautifully and clearly said, and it applies to awakening in general – not just Buddhism.
In a broader and more universal sense, the Buddha is any skilled and insightful coach who knows the terrain of who (human self) and what (Big Mind) we are. The Buddha is also what we are, Big Mind. The Dharma is any pointer that helps us navigate this terrain for ourselves and discover what we are. And the Sangha is any fellow explorers in this adventure.
Buddhism is one system aimed at helping us discover what we are and explore the terrain of who and what we are and how to live from and as it. There are many other systems. And there are many paths outside of any system. This noticing is not dependent on any system.
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This is one in a series of posts with brief notes on healing, awakening, and personal things. These are more spontaneous and less comprehensive than the regular articles. Some may be a little on the rant side. And some may be made into a regular article in time.
I am at our family cabin by a lake in the forest east of Oslo. It’s sunny, warm, a light breeze, and I can shift between warming myself in the sun, sitting in the shade, laying down in a cool and dark room, and going for a swim in the lake (24 degrees celcius). It’s complete heaven for this physical being to be able to shift so easily between all these situations. I can very easily be comfortable.
And then there is the nature, the birds, insects, flowers, trees. The beautiful sky. The amazing evening and morning sky. The light at night. Feeling a deep sense of belonging to this Earth community with all the other beings and the rocks and lake and sky and sun. It feels deeply nurturing and healing.
I know it’s an amazing privilege. On the one hand, it’s the type of environment we are made for and our ancestors sought out and lived their lives in. On the other hand, and especially today, it’s not at all a given to have this opportunity. I know I am privileged. I know how much I have to be grateful for, even in a very conventional sense. (And in spite of challenges and a challenging life situations due to health problems.)
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This is one in a series of posts with brief notes on healing, awakening, and personal things. These are more spontaneous and less comprehensive than the regular articles. Some may be a little on the rant side. And some may be made into a regular article in time.
THE HIGHEST ACHIEVEMENT: TO BE AN ORDINARY HUMAN BEING
I wrote an imagined dialog with someone who has lived for eons, and one of the things that came up – from all those lifetimes of experience – is that the highest achievement is to be an ordinary human being.
Many of us try to be someone special, to set ourselves apart – at least in our minds, and live up to a certain image of ourselves. All that is ordinary, of course. But to intentionally be an ordinary human being is different. This means to see through all these shoulds we put on ourselves, and allow them to wear off. And then discover who we are when we are a little more free from them.
It’s not so easy. It can take a long time to discover and see through these images and shoulds and allow them to wear off.
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Living for as many lives as I have, I have over time arrived at many of the same insights that many spiritual teachers and traditions talk about. For me, it’s through experience and living ordinary lives. I haven’t been terribly interested in spirituality in itself, except for at rare occasions. But I realize that a lot of what I know – in my fibers and bones and through my being – fits much of what spiritual traditions talk about.– a quote from this dialog
This is one in a series of imagined dialogs with people who have lived for eons. This dialog is with someone who has lived innumerable lives in many places in the cosmos and – through a glitch? – happens to remember it all.
First, I am curious about the several lives. Does it mean you remember the life between lives?
Yes, although it doesn’t matter so much here. If you don’t remember it yourself, what I say will just become ideas. And if you do, I don’t need to say much about it.
Okay. How is it to have lived many lives in many different places of the cosmos?
I am very grateful for having that experience. It’s enormously enriching to live lives through the filters of different beings – and their senses, bodies, perceptions, culture and more – and their world.
What have you learned that many with one life haven’t?
Mostly, to know that we all live from our own conditioning. Everything about us makes sense in the light of our conditioning – from our bodies, environment, culture, and individual experiences.
Because of all the lives I have had, I am less inclined to judge. The tendency to judge has worn off in me over time. I know how it is to live in so many different circumstances, and I know how so much in us flows from our conditioning.
I have a deep empathy with different beings. I know we all just want to live and be free from suffering – and love and be loved. There is something very beautiful in this. It’s also heartbreaking because I know how universal suffering is and how common it is for beings to not feel fully loved and to not fully love themselves.
These sounds like insights from spirituality?
Living for as many lives as I have, I have over time arrived at many of the same insights that many spiritual teachers and traditions talk about. For me, it’s through experience and living ordinary lives. I haven’t been terribly interested in spirituality in itself, except for at rare occasions. But I realize that a lot of what I know – in my fibers and bones and through my being – fits much of what spiritual traditions talk about.
You mentioned empathy with others. What about awakening?
Well, that’s a big word. For me, it’s more simple and down-to-earth.
Through having lived as many lives I have, I notice that all sorts of experiences and states come and go. I have experienced millennia of mostly “ordinary” states with times of profound despair, mind-shattering pain, and amazing bliss. I have noticed that what I am is that which all this happens within and as. Experiences come and go and what I am doesn’t come and go. Of course, I am whatever state is here but it doesn’t last. Only being capacity for all of it runs through it all.
If you want to call that awakening, be my guest. But it’s really very simple. It doesn’t require fancy words, or rituals, or mythology, or even labels.
What do most people not get?
Hm, from my perspective, many things.
They don’t get how precious and amazing life is. Even a troubled life, even a mundane life, is amazing and precious beyond words.
They don’t get that the way they treat others is the way they treat themselves. Love your neighbor for your own sake. It’s good for everyone.
They don’t get the importance of a long and big perspective. Of course, most people get by with a more narrow and shorter perspective. But a long and big perspective enriches life enormously. And for you folks today, it’s essential for your survival. It’s the only way humans can and will survive. And life is showing you just that.
They don’t get that all experiences enrich life. They are not your enemies. Trying to run away from your experiences only creates an added layer of suffering. In reality, it’s the only real suffering.
Of course, most don’t get that what we are is capacity for all and any of our experiences. We are the experiences which come and go. And we are capacity for all of it.
How can we mimic your process and discover this for ourselves?
Well, that’s not my speciality. But it does seem that some things helps people to find this for themselves. It’s definitely possible to people to find this for themselves, and many do – to some extent.
The main thing is curiosity and sincerity. Explore and see what you find. Don’t take your own or others assumptions for granted. Be willing to leave your most basic assumptions about yourself and life. Get close to your experience.
I feel like this is a trick question since a lot of what you write about on this website does exactly that! Is that what you want me to say? I see through you. And of course, yes, the tools you write about here can be very helpful for people, especially if used with curiosity and sincerity.
Yes, I guess that’s why I asked the question. Although I write about these things exactly because these tools can help us find what someone like you have discovered. It helps us discover what someone who has lived for eons tends to naturally discover through lived experience.
Yes, I agree. For me, it comes through lived experience and mostly free form ideology or pointers or shoulds or trying to live up to anything. And for many humans, it’s often more of a mix of genuine lived experience and insights – and some ideologies and shoulds.
What can we do to make it more from lived experience?
You are asking difficult questions. As I said, this is not my speciality.
Get close to your own experience. Be curious about it. Take it seriously. Make use of pointers and use them to discover for yourself. Set aside shoulds and how people say something is. Live your life and pay attention to what’s happening.
Do you have any advice for P. (this interviewer)?
Yes. You already know all this. You even trust it. But there is some hesitation in you. You can trust it even more. You can sink into it. Lean into it. Rest into and as it. It’s what you are. Live it. It can help you to remember me and lean into what I am.
Thank you! I appreciate this interview and especially your advice at the end.
Thank you. I enjoyed this conversation. I don’t think about these things so often so it was fun. And I wish you all the best in your life. As I said, you already know and are all of this. Lean into it a bit more and it will help you a lot. (And if you don’t, that’s completely fine too.)
THE EGO TOO IS THE DIVINE
The ego is a name for what comes from holding a thought as true. It’s the perceptions, thoughts, emotions, and actions that come when a thought is held as true.
Some talk about the “ego” as opposed to the divine. Some see it as something standing in way of finding or meeting the divine or awakening. Some even use a war metaphor for talking about the “ego”: it needs to be conquered and so on.
I understand where it comes from. Taking thoughts as true is what brings identification with particular content of experience and makes it difficult for us to notice what we are. It makes it more difficult to find ourselves as capacity for this human self and the wider world and all our experience.
At the same time, seeing it as a problem or even something that needs to be changed is part of that dynamic. It sets up the perception of a duality that’s not so helpful. These are ideas that come from separation consciousness and although they may be useful at a certain phase of the process, they also tend to reinforce separation consciousness.
We can say that they are half-true so they are half-useful. At most, they are useful as a stepping stone early on in the process. (And not really necessary even then.)
So what’s a more helpful way of looking at it?
Why not look at it more from within a oneness context? Or the context of all as the divine and the play of the divine? Or just in a more finely-grained way?
First, it’s helpful to drop the idea of “ego”. It’s much more dynamic and less of a thing than that.
Then, why not meet the parts of us that operate from separation consciousness? Why not get to know them? Explore? Listen to what they have to say? Thank them for protecting us? Find a genuine love for them?
Finally, through different forms of noticing and explorations, we may discover more about these dynamics that happen when the mind holds a thought as true. We may discover they come from innocence. They come from a wish to protect our human self. They and understandable and natural. They are universal. They happen within and as what we are.
At a human level, they come from love. They are a way for our mind to protect our human self. And as what we are, they are what we are. They are love.
They are not an obstacle. They are not a problem. Yes, they create suffering. And yet, it’s innocent. From the context of what we are, it looks different. There is a natural forgiveness. A natural relaxation.
A natural welcoming of whatever parts of us still live in suffering and operate from within separation consciousness. A natural welcoming of them as always having been what we are – as human beings and capacity for the world.
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I usually don’t use the word “ego”.
What it points to are the dynamics from holding a thought as true. The perceptions, thoughts, choices, and actions that flow from the mind identifying with the viewpoint of a thought. In this context, the word “ego” sounds too static and too much like a thing.
Also, the word “ego” can refer to two different things. In a spiritual context, it means beliefs or identifying with the viewpoint of a thought. In a psychological context, it refers to the “operating system” of our human self, and we want that to be healthy and strong – even in an awakening context.
I see that some talk about the “ego” not “wanting” healing and awakening.
I understand that they may mean the inherent fear in releasing beliefs and wounds. These beliefs and wounds are familiar. They were created to protect us. So there will be some fear of allowing them to release. It’s natural and even healthy.
For me, it helps to see these parts as scared and suffering children and see what they want from me. Often, what they want is to be seen, understood, respected, and treated with patience and kindness. Ultimately, what they want is to heal and awaken and be freed from their suffering.
So, on the surface, it may look like the ego is a “thing” and that it doesn’t want change. And yet, it’s more true that the apparent resistance is fear. This fear is natural and from a desire to protect this human self. And what these parts of us want more than anything is to heal and awaken. They want liberation from their own suffering.
Is awakening and healing a threat to the “ego”? It may seem that way, at first glance. But we may soon discover that awakening and healing is a blessing for these parts of us. It’s what they deepest desire. It’s what allows them freedom from their own suffering.
It’s what allows them to function with more clearly and in a more healthy way as part of us as human beings. The more they are healed and awake, the more they come into their full and beautiful natural expression.
AN EXERCISE TO DEAL WITH REGRETS AND NOSTALGIA
Sometimes, we get a bit stuck in longing for the past or what could have been. There is one simple exercise that can be helpful in these situations.
Make a list of all the genuine not-so-good things about the situation or what could have been.
For instance, say a relationship ended and we long for what was. It’s easy for the mind to paint a rosy picture of what was to support this longing – and torture itself more effectively. Was it really so rosy? Make a list of genuine examples of what you didn’t like. What were the things that were not so easy? What did you wish was different? What was the reverse side of the rosy image?
Do it honestly and sincerely. Take time with it. Take it in. Be gently brutally honest with yourself.
We can’t trick our own mind so find genuine examples. You can also ask someone else to help you find things you missed.
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POWER-OVER VS POWER-WITH IN HEALING AND AWAKENING
A power-over orientation is one of domination, use, discarding, and valuing oneself over whatever it may be – nature, women, children, other ethnic groups, or our body.
It seems that pre-agricultural societies had a more power-with orientation. They lived with nature and in a more egalitarian way. The power-over orientation may have come to prominence with agriculture, accumulation, and a more hierarchical society.
This means it’s a part of most cultures around the world today, although it’s perhaps most obvious in the European culture. It influences most or all areas of society. It’s something we absorb just by being part of this culture. We perceive through it and sometimes act on it. And since it’s so old and all-pervasive, it’s often invisible to us.
All of this means it’s an important factor in our own healing and awakening process. It’s important to be aware of it. Notice how it influences us. And see through the beliefs behind it and the beliefs upholding it.
The most obvious may be how we relate to ourselves.
Do we try to push and manipulate ourselves in a certain way? Do we try to manipulate the experience we have here and now? Do we try to avoid it, make it go away, “transform” it, pretend it’s not here? All of that may reflect beliefs that what’s here is not OK, that our experience is wrong or bad, that it’s dangerous, that “we” – as our global whole – know better, and ultimately a power-over orientation.
So how does a power-with orientation with ourselves look?
To me, it has to do with a gentle curiosity and befriending parts of me. Meet them. Allow them as they are. Be present with them. Listen to them. Dialog with them. Get to know them. Listen to what they need. Give them space to heal if they want to.
If they suffer, recognize the suffering. If they are caught up in stressful beliefs, perhaps these beliefs were formed as a way to protect us? Perhaps it’s innocent? Perhaps it comes from love?
Do these parts of us as happen within and as who we are as a human being? Do they happen within and as what we are as capacity for the world as it appears to us?
Power-with means a real partnership with ourselves and the different parts of us. They are all already included so why not consciously include them?
They wish to be met, heard, and understood so why not met, listen to, and find understanding for them? They are already allowed so why not consciously allow them? They come from love so why not explore if and how they come from love?
This orientation is a way into allowing and supporting a vibrant inner community. One that includes more and more parts. One where each one has a voice. One where each one can be met with presence and love.
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DOES AWAKENING HAVE TO TAKE A LONG TIME?
Yes and no.
The taste or glimpse of what awakening is about can happen within minutes, for instance through the Big Mind process and Headless experiments. Most people can find it pretty quickly and many can even learn to notice it in daily life.
And the process of clarifying, learning to notice in more and more situations in daily life, and exploring how to live from or within it takes time. It takes (at the very least) a lifetime and is ongoing.
Is a glimpse of what we are – through inquiry or something else – really awakening?
Again, the answer is yes and no and it’s a bit more complex.
The noticing is often real. And there may be more to clarify and notice and certainly more to stabilize and living within it to do. Although that’s how it often is for any awakening.
The image many have about awakening is something that comes suddenly and perhaps without much forewarning. Those certainly happen and they tend to be more dramatic and often with bells and whistles. The drama and bells and whistles are side-effects. They not essential for the awakening and can even be distracting.
So a more apparently mundane noticing – with the help of inquiry – has some upsides. It’s less dramatic and that is, in a way, its advantage. It helps us notice what it really is about and that special or unusual states are not a requirement at all. We can notice it in daily life, in our most mundane states. We are less distracted by drama and states and bells and whistles.
DRAMATIC AND QUIET AWAKENINGS
To continue a theme from the previous post: Awakenings can be dramatic or more quiet, and we often go through both types at different phases in the awakening process.
Each one comes with upsides and downsides.
What’s the upside of the more dramatic awakenings? They certainly get our attention. And they can create lasting and big shifts in how we perceive ourselves and the world. (As can any other form of noticing.)
What’s the downside of the dramatic awakenings? They come with side-effects, including the intensity, strong awe, bliss, and so on. And it’s easy to be fascinated with these side-effects and states and seek to experience them again. We can even take the awakening to be about these side-effects.
What’s the upside of the quiet noticing and awakenings? It’s easier to notice that what it is about is what’s here independent of states and experiences. It’s a simple noticing of ourselves as capacity for ourselves and the wider world. Our ordinary mundane experience is perfect for us to notice what we are.
And what’s the downside of the more quiet noticing? It can be almost too ordinary and quiet, especially if we have an image in our mind of it needing to be more dramatic to be a “real” noticing and awakening. If we have this conditioning, it can seem too simple, ordinary, and unremarkable and we may dismiss it or see it as not it. (This comes from a lack of maturity and may fall away with time.)
One is not “better” than the other. The dramatic ones can get our attention and may be just what we need in some parts of our process. The quiet ones helps us notice what we are through any states and experiences, including the apparently very ordinary and mundane ones, and is exactly what we need in other phases of our process.Read More
AWAKENINGS AS EXPERIENCE OR NEW CONTEXT
When we discover ourselves as capacity for the world – for this human self and the wider world – it can be more or less clear and stable.
When it happens, it may seem it will last forever. After all, it seems so obvious. And time and space and the world happen within it so it can’t really be lost. Right?
And yet, it may pass. Our mind may get caught in old identifications and beliefs again, often when an emotional issue gets triggered.
If it goes away, it can seem like an experience and we may call it “awakening experience”. It’s something that seems to have happened in the past and perhaps something we wish to happen again.
If it doesn’t go away, then it becomes the context for our continued human life.
When the awakening passes, it seems like we are in time and the awakening happened in time. When it becomes a context for all our experiences, then we realize that time happens within us.
This makes it sound very clear cut but it’s often far more messy.
We may shift between the two for a while. We may assume the awakening is a state since that’s all we consciously knew before this happened, and we may chase it as a state. After a while of going through all sorts of states, we may realize that what it’s about is not a state. It’s the context of all our experiences. It’s noticing ourselves as capacity for our experiences, and this capacity noticing itself. And we can notice this independent of changing experiences and states. It’s not dependent on any particular experience.
We can notice it as well in an apparently ordinary and mundane state, and perhaps easier here since there are less fireworks and distractions.Read More
Yes and no.
Yes, awakening is enough if what we want is to notice what we are, and for what we are notice itself as all there is. For a while, this may seem like all that’s needed, especially if we are in a temporary transcendent state – one where our center of gravity has, for a while, risen “above” our human stuff.
And no, because a transcendent state doesn’t last so we will eventually be plunged back into all the human messiness. That too is the divine. That too want to join in with the awakening. That too wants to heal and awaken.
If we want to live from the awakening in more and more situations and areas of life, we need healing. Healing opens up space for awakening to be lived more fully and in more situations and areas of life.
Also, as a human being in the world, which we also are, it’s generally a much better life if we are more healed. A lot of suffering, confusion, reactivity, and messiness is cleared up as we heal.
So why not focus on both? Why not find approaches that invite in both awakening and healing? Just about all of the tools I write about here do just that, especially if that’s our intention.
In this process of awakening, healing, and learning to live from the awakening, we will also over time develop skills and insights, we tend to mature as human beings, we tend to deeply humanize and become more human, and we may also go through some stages of adult development. All of this may happen mostly as a side-effect of working on ourselves and allowing the awakening to work on ourselves.
And it’s not really about choice or want. Sooner or later in the awakening process, we bump up against unhealed parts of us and we notice that these areas of us suffer. So why not invite in healing and awakening for these parts too? It’s a natural part of the process.
Although it’s not so important, this is also not about “us” choosing or wanting. It’s about life or existence choosing and wanting through and as “us”.
This is a post in a series of posts with brief notes on healing, awakening, and personal things. These are more spontaneous and less comprehensive than the regular articles. Some may be a little on the rant side. And some may be made into a regular article in time.
If I was going to recommend one practice, what would it be? Inquiry? Meditation? Body-oriented practices?
It depends on the person and their situation and what they are looking for.
But, in general, I would say heart-centered practices.
Heart prayer. Ho’oponopno. Tonglen. Christ meditation. Or something similar.
Practices that helps us reorient in how we relate to ourselves, others, the world, and existence in general.
To the extent we allow these practices to work on us, they can be deeply healing and transformative. They also support awakening, and they support living from – and as – this awakening.
I have gone back to heart prayer (Jesus Prayer) and Christ meditation over the last few days.
The heart or Jesus prayer is simple and from the Eastern church. Say in your mind a simple prayer, for instance: Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me. Synchronize it with the breath so the first half is on the in breath and the second half on the out breath. And then synchronize it with your heart beats. (Lord Jesus Christ _ Have Mercy Upon Me.) Keep saying the prayer through the day.
It may be easiest to start with the words, then add the breath, and finally the heart beats. After a while, it becomes second nature. And after a while, it’s as if the prayer is saying itself. There may even be a sense of it continuing during sleep.
Give yourself over to the prayer. Allow it to work on you. Notice and allow.
A good informal introduction to this prayer is The Way of a Pilgrim. Some of the descriptions of the effects of the prayer may seem fanciful but most (all? I don’t remember anymore) are accurate from my own experience.
The Christ meditation is also from the Eastern church. Visualize Christ in whatever form works for you (for me, as light and consciousness) in your heart, in front and behind you, and over and below you. Perhaps 1.5 meters outside the body. Rest with this. Allow it to work on you.
And if Christ doesn’t resonate with you, use any expression of the divine that works for you. This practice is also found in other traditions, for instance in Tibetan Buddhism where you use your Guru or an aspect of Buddha Mind.Read More
I thought I would write a few words about the initial opening or awakening that happened relatively early on in me – aka this human being’s – life. For context, I have added some short notes on what went on before and after.
First, some background
Before school age, I had flashbacks to the time between lives. It would often happen when sunshine was filtered through moving leaves. It was a memory of a formless world made up of consciousness and golden light and love, and an infinite sense of being home. I had not labels for this. And although this was alive here and now during these moments, I had a longing in my heart through my childhood.
In elementary school, we had one class on Friday about Christianity. This quickly made me into an atheist although I didn’t know anyone else who were. (My parents were and are open-minded agnostics.) I thought Christianity – as presented in those classes – seemed stupid. Why would you believe what other people told you to believe? Why would you believe something you can’t check out for yourself?
During elementary and middle school, I was very interested in parapsychology – ghosts, ESP, UFOs and so on.
Age fifteen, something happened that was deeply puzzling to myself and others. It felt like “I” was removed far from all content of experience, from my human self and the wider world. Later, I realized that the center of gravity of what I seemed to be had moved into observering. This lasted for about a year. Before this happened, I had experienced the not uncommon teenage angst and stress, and also social anxiety.
Then the awakening
Age sixteen, I walked up the dark gravel road to the house under a dark sky full of stars and a wind blowing through it. From one moment to the next, everything opened up. Everything without exception was revealed as God. Any sense of me or I was seen as a local and temporary appearance of God.
Everything – the stars, sky, wind, gravel road, houses, this human self, thoughts, feelings – is awakeness, love, and consciousness. Everything is the play of God. Everything is God even if it looks like something else to most humans.
On the one hand, this was shocking and completely surprising. After all, at my human level I had very little interest in religions or spirituality. On the other hand, this was more familiar to me than anything else. It was like finally coming home after several years of having forgotten it.
Why did it happen at that moment?
Who knows. I suspect the previous year – of having been absorbed into or as the “I” or observer – prepared the ground. And the night sky, the stars, and the wind reminded me of the infinite and that’s what woke up to itself in that moment.
This didn’t go away. It lasted. And in the years since, I have learned to be more familiar with it.
For the next few years, several things happened.
There was a sense of huge energies running through my system. It felt like high voltage running through regular housing wires.
I started seeing energies – first around leaves on a tree against the blue sky and later around everything. I also discovered I could sense what was going on in the system of others and invite in healing for it.
I had a huge amount of insights, often non-stop during the day and when waking up during the night. I filled several notebooks. (Similar to this blog.)
I had a lot of inspiration for music and art. Compositions and art came to me ready-made and I did my best to translate it into something physical.
Since I had nobody in my life even remotely interested in this, I kept it to myself. I wrote. And I looked for others who had discovered the same. I read a lot of books, and saw that some Christian mystics and others seemed to write from the same discovery although often slightly obscured by tradition and perhaps other things.
I did find two who recognized it in me right away – my friend BH and the then-wife of Jes Bertelsen HB. (I just noticed that their initials are reversals of each other.) They recognized it by looking at my energy system, as I tend to recognize it in others.
The intensity mellowed out over the next ten years or so and it all became more familiar and normal.
And then what went on after, what some call the life within God
From age 24 and on, I lived at a Zen center for a few years, then moved and worked with sustainability, and I had some years without much involvement with spirituality (apart from passion for sustainability). Then, the interest came back and along with it a more clear and peaceful shift in the awakening.
This was followed by several challenging years – aka a dark night of the soul – with loss of health, loss of ability to work, loss of marriage (which was very good), loss of house and money, loss of (some) friends, and a lot of old trauma surfacing.
And no, the awakening didn’t clear out all human hangups and emotional issues, and it also didn’t clear out all identifications. I still had and have hangups, emotional issues, and trauma, although I suspect a lot of charge in much of it has been released. There are still identifications here. And yet, all of this is recognized as the divine and expressions of the divine.
The awakening itself as an awakening out of taking ourselves as an I or me or human being, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot left to be cleared up. It’s an ongoing process of clarification, healing, maturing, learning to life from it, and supporting the different parts of me still living from separation consciousness to align with reality.
Am I special to have had this happen? Since it’s the divine waking up to itself as all there is, it’s just what we are and what everything is waking up to itself. It “forgot” itself locally and temporarily and then noticed again. That’s not really special at all. Also, it’s not the human self waking up. It’s reality waking up out of taking itself as exclusively that human self. At the same time, it’s true that it doesn’t happen through all humans but that’s also of the play of the divine. As someone said, it’s the divine playing hide-and-seek with itself. Nothing is wrong. One is not inherently better or worse than the other.
What’s the most baffling thing in all of this? That anything exists at all. That there is an existence – a divine – that can play this game with and within itself.
I rarely talk about the initial awakening so it feels good to finally write it here.
And yes, I still remember the spot I stood on on the gravel road when the initial awakening happened, and the date give or take a few days. (It happened between Christmas and New Year.)
A note on perspective: I chose to write this mostly from the perspective of my human self. I could have written it more from the view of the divine or Big Mind and may do that later.
And a synchronicity: I had written “view” in the previous sentence with quotation marks around it since Big Mind doesn’t really have a view. It has all and no views. I decided to remove the quotation marks to not confuse the reader unnecessarily, and thought to myself “Big Mind doesn’t really have a view”. As I did this, the lyrics of the song I was listening to said:
You know well what I’ve been through
Living there without a view
– from Moonshine by Caravan Palace
When it comes to healing and awakening, love is really all we need. Although it’s love that takes many forms.
Love can take the form of meeting and bringing our presence into an emotional issue. Spending time with it. Allowing it to be as it is. Listening to the painful story behind it. See that it comes from a wish to take care of our human self. See that it comes from love. Gently questioning the painful story and find what’s more true for us. And so on. All of that is love, and all of that can be very healing.
Love can also take the form of noticing and allowing what’s here. Training a more stable attention. Gently inquiring into our most basic beliefs and assumptions. Shifting into love for what is through hearth-centered practices. Bringing attention to our body and its movements. Using pointers to help us notice what we are, and what we are to notice itself. And so on. All of that are forms of love, and it can set the stage for and support awakening.
In both cases, it’s love gently exploring itself and revealing itself as what’s exploring and what’s explored.
IS THE UNIVERSE CONSCIOUS?
I have seen this article floating around for a while: The universe may be conscious, say prominent scientists
The first that strikes me is that if the universe as a whole is conscious, that’s not more weird than individual beings is conscious. What’s really weird is that anything exists at all and that consciousness itself exists. How and where it exists are just minor weirdnesses within a much bigger weirdness. Or minor questions within this much bigger mystery.
Also, this ties into what mystics of all eras and cultures describe. To ourselves, we are consciousness and the world – as it appears to us – happen within and as this consciousness. From here, all of existence definitely appears as consciousness. To us, it appears as consciousness.
If it – in itself – is consciousness is another question. It may well be.Read More
At some point in the awakening process – and perhaps for a long time – what we are notices itself in a “global” sense but there are still many parts of us living in separation consciousness. These are formed from and still live within separation consciousness.
It’s then our job to function as a friend – and, in a sense, a guru and therapist – for these parts of us.
They surface. They live in pain. Our habitual response may be to recoil from them or want them to go away. And the invitation is for us to be a friend to these parts of us. And – in a gentle way – be a guru and therapist for them.
To be in their presence. Help them feel seen, felt, loved, understood. Help them heal. Help them awaken to all as love. Help them recognize themselves as love.
They were formed in an attempt to help us as a human being in the world. They are an expression of consciousness and love. And the invitation is for us to help them recognize that.
As Pamela Wilson says, these parts of us are our devotees. They want us to be their friend. They want to be liberated. They – in a very real sense – need us.
This is a part of the awakening process. It’s a process of inviting all the different parts of us to awaken. And it has a nice side-effect. We learn to be a good friend to these parts of us – to be in their presence in patience, listening, recognizing them as love. And that tends to color how we are with other people and the wider world.
This is a post with brief notes on healing, awakening, and personal things. These are more spontaneous and less comprehensive than the regular articles, some may be a little rant-ish, and some of them may be made into a regular article in time.
Writing from a voice
If I am honest, I get a little bored writing from my regular persona. Or writing from my MoE blog persona. It gets predictable and the writing is careful and not so juicy.
So why not write from other sides of myself? Why not write from Big Mind, Or Big Heart, or as I imagine a specific person from history or fiction would write?
That’s how I can surprise myself and keep it more alive and juicy.
Recently, two stories caught my attention.
Kjell Aukrust, a beloved Norwegian artist and author, would write letters as one of his well-known imaginary characters. He even wrote business letters that way. I am sure he did it partly from playfulness. But he also had dyslexia so if he wrote as one of his characters, spelling and grammar wasn’t so important.
Mr. Rogers did something similar. When he needed to tell his children something difficult, for instance something he was angry with them about, he would do it in character as one of his puppets. The puppet could say some things that he – as their dad – found difficult.
The reason I was fascinated by these stories is probably that I need or want to do something similar right here, in this blog. I need to do it to liven it up and make it more fresh, interesting, and juicy.
Click READ MORE for the rest of the notes….Read More
This is a post with brief notes on healing, awakening, and personal things. These are more spontaneous and less comprehensive than the regular articles, some may be a little rant-ish, and some of them may be made into a regular article in time.
I noticed that more and more of these snuck themselves into the reflections on society posts so I decided to move them here. That’s why most of these have an older date than the main post.
Divine energy healing as a form of prayer
Depending on who I talk to, I will sometimes call divine energy healing – whether it’s a more free form or something more structured like Vortex Healing – a form of prayer.
In what way is it similar to or a form of prayer? In some forms of prayer, we have an intention, give it over to the divine, and it’s the divine that does the work. And that’s also how it is in divine energy healing.
Click READ MORE to see the rest of the notes….Read More
In our culture, we tend to imagine Spirit or the Divine up – above us, in the sky, in the heavens. It is purely cultural. In some other cultures, it seems they imagine the Divine in the Earth and plants and all around them.
When there is an awakening, these imaginations are revealed as cultural and we realize that all is the Divine – everything in all directions. Spirit is not more up than it is down, or to one side more than another, or inside this human self more or less than in the wider world.
Some spiritual practices reflect this and help us re-imagine and notice the Divine in all directions. For instance, in one of the basic meditation practices both in Tibetan Buddhism and Eastern Christianity, we visualize an expression of the Divine – Buddha or Christ – in our heart, above and below us (ca. 1.5 meters), to either side, and in front and behind us. We sit in the presence of the expression of the Divine in our heart and around us in all directions – and allow it to work on us. Which it does.
This reminds me of this prayer, attributed to the Navajos:
Beauty is before me, And beauty behind me, Above me and below me Hovers the beautiful. I am surrounded by it, I am immersed in it. In my youth, I am aware of it, And, in old age I shall walk quietly The beautiful trail. In beauty it is begun. In beauty it is ended.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in me, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me,
Christ with me.
Some years ago, I heard someone using Moby Dick as metaphor for awakening. I understand why. It can describe some folks experience with awakening – if it involves dogged persistence, aggressively pursuing it, drama, struggle and so on. But that’s just one of many flavors. It’s not always that way.
Awakening can come out of the blue and most involve adjusting to it and finding healing for all of the unprocessed emotional material surfacing following the awakening. (Generally how it happened in my case.)
Awakening can come gently and gradually. It can be undramatic.
Awakening can happen through self-kindness, heart, and gentle but precise inquiry.
Awakening can happen in many different ways and with many different flavors.
To me, it seems that the Moby Dick metaphor comes from a masculine approach to spirituality and awakening, and perhaps a macho approach to awakening and life. (More specifically, it feels like something that could come out of a macho subculture within the male US culture.)
There is nothing wrong with that. It’s one of the many flavors of awakening. It’s one way the divine expresses, explores, and experiences itself and its awakening to itself as all there is. And it’s good to know it’s just one flavor. It doesn’t have to look like that at all.
Is there a big difference between awakening and non-awakening?
Yes and no.
What are some of the differences?
The main difference is that in one case, consciousness recognizes itself as all there is and all experiences as happening within and as consciousness.
In the other case, consciousness is identified with a number of thoughts which creates an experience of being a separate being in the world and of objects as being the fundamental reality.
Our life as human beings will, by necessity, be a little different in each case.
The conscious context for our life is different and that means that everything tends to stay the same while also being very different.
In what ways are they not so different?
Whether consciousness notices itself or not, that’s what we are. We are consciousness and all our experiences happens within and as consciousness. We already live as oneness. It’s even awake oneness in both cases, although it’s awake to itself in only one.
In both cases, it’s the play of consciousness, whether it notices itself – and all experiences as itself – or not. It’s consciousness expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself – as noticing itself or not.
Is it really so black and white?
No, it’s just a way to talk about it. In reality, it’s much more fluid and – if we want to fit into another too-narrow idea – a spectrum.
Even when consciousness notices itself as all there is, there is some fluidity. It can temporarily go back into separation consciousness, especially when triggered by old emotional issues and beliefs. Noticing oneness can be in the foreground or more in the background – for instance when a task has our attention. And the awakening itself tends to clarify and stabilize our time, perhaps to the extent it’s investigated.
Similarly, non-awakening is not just one thing or always caught in separation consciousness. This too is fluid. When caught in an emotional issue, the separation consciousness tends to get stronger. When we are absorbed in an activity, we may get in a “flow” state, forget separation consciousness, and experience some of the qualities of oneness. (Although it’s not as clear and consciousness typically does not notice itself as everything.) And we can have more conscious glimpses of what we are and oneness, for instance when we are in nature, from inquiry or meditation, or – although I don’t recommend it – some types of psychoactive plants and drugs.
I noticed you used awake in two ways?
Yes, that can be confusing.
In this context, it’s mostly used to point to consciousness awake to itself – and to all its experiences as consciousness and the oneness that comes with it.
It can also point to the awakeness that’s inherent in consciousness. Anyone who reads this does so because of this awakeness. It’s the very ordinary awakeness that we all experience and are familiar with. Consciousness is awake in a very ordinary way, and it may or may not be awake to itself as all there is – to all its experiences as itself.Read More
Reality is always more than and different from what any spiritual tradition can capture. That’s why any sincere exploration has to go beyond the confines of any one tradition, and even all of them combined.
That doesn’t mean that traditions are useless. They can be very helpful.
They can be a good place to start and – for some – can be a good support throughout the process.
They can give us pointers and practices helpful in our own exploration. Some of these may be helpful at certain phases of the process and some – the more basic ones – throughout.
They give us a community of fellow explorers. In the best case, we feel less alone, can share experiences, and find support.
They have guides who can give us practical support in our own exploration.
As for myself, I didn’t belong to any religion or spiritual tradition as a kid. So when the awakening happened in my teens I was free to explore any and all traditions to find fellow travelers, pointers, and guides.
I did naturally seek out traditions at first. I found glimmers of real wisdom from mystics and teachers in the past, and especially from Taoism and Christian mystics. But as for what I found in person, it was mostly disappointing. Mostly, I found people without any real experience or awakening repeating what someone else had said.
The real insights and personal experience was something I found in people outside of the traditions. I found it in a dear friend (BH) who has remained a close friend. And I found Jes and Hanne Bertelsen from Denmark who clearly spoke from experience and awakening and draw from the wisdom of several different traditions.
Later, I found it in Adyashanti who was trained in Zen but does his own thing. I belonged to Center of Sacred Sciences in Oregon for a while and they draw from all the different traditions. And when I earlier – in my twenties – lived at a Zen center, there was a mix of traditional practice and a more innovative approach – specifically the Big Mind process developed by my teacher there.
I am profoundly grateful for the traditions. They pass on wisdom and experiences by innumerable awake and clear people. (And sometimes things less from clarity!) They offer people a place to learn and practice. They offer a community. They offer guides. I have gotten a lot out of practices, pointers, guides and more from traditions. And I admire people who are happy within a tradition and stick with it for the long term.
At the same time, it doesn’t seem to be for me. For me, it makes more sense to draw from whatever I find and delve deeply into one thing at a time and then keep exploring. Reality is more important than any tradition and I also know that traditions offer valuable support in this exploration.Read More
This is one of the recurrent themes for me, but I like revisiting it to see if I can find other aspects to it and simpler and more clear ways to talk about it.
Oneness can be understood from a relatively ordinary psychological perspective.
In our own experience, we are consciousness. We are not a human being. We are not a brain. We are not the way others see us. All of that happens within consciousness. To ourselves, we are consciousness and this human self and the world and all experiences are content of this consciousness.
Another way to say it, which is a little more accurate, is that all our experiences – of this human self and the wider world – happens within and as consciousness.
Perhaps even more accurately, all our experiences happens within and as what we are, and the mind can label this many things including consciousness, awakeness, or Big Mind.
This also means that to us, all is oneness. All is one in that it all happens within and as consciousness.
Looking a little closer, we may also notice that all happens within and as – what we can call – emptiness or void. Nothingness makes something – consciousness and all its experiences – possible. So in a more basic sense, we are this nothingness that something happens within and as.
Also, when we discover ourselves as consciousness and all – as it appears to us – as consciousness, then it makes sense that some would take a leap and assume all of existence inherently is consciousness and call it Spirit, the divine, Brahman, Allah, or God.
I find it helpful to think of what I describe here as the small or psychological interpretation of awakening. We are consciousness to ourselves and all our experiences then happens within and as consciousness. This says something about how we are, but it doesn’t assume anything about how all of existence is.
The leap of faith, assuming all of existence is consciousness and calling it Spirit or the divine, is then the big or spiritual interpretation of awakening.
From the small or psychological interpretation, the big or spiritual interpretation is understandable. It makes sense that people would interpret it that way, even if we ourselves may not go that far.
From a small interpretation, the big interpretation may be seen as a projection and a leap of faith. From a big interpretation, the small interpretation means swimming in a pond that’s a little too small.
And personally for me? I find it helpful to switch between both interpretations. The small interpretation allows our view to stay grounded and it may make a little more sense to more people. And I suspect, for a variety of reasons and personal experiences, that the spiritual interpretation is valid as well. It may say something accurate about all of existence.
The nice thing about this way of looking at it – using both a small and big interpretation – is that the essential experiences of mystics form all traditions makes sense from either one. We can understand it from a small or psychological interpretation, and we can understand it from the big or spiritual interpretation.
Oneness makes sense. The awakening process makes sense. The pitfalls and dark nights make sense. The transformation of the human self in the context of oneness recognizing itself makes sense. Early glimpses make sense. Nature spirituality makes sense. And so on. (I am very aware that I haven’t gone into these here so it’s a bit of a teaser. I have written about it elsewhere on this website, and I may explore it more in further articles.)
Awakening is not just oneness. It’s also differentiation.
Without differentiation, there is no awakening. At least, if we start out from separation consciousness and wish to see what awakening is about. And if we wish to actively support clarification, deepening, and embodiment of the awakening.
So what is it we need to differentiate?
Mainly, the difference between thoughts and reality. Obviously, a thought is as real – or unreal – as anything else. But what it says about reality has varying degrees of truth to it, and even the most accurate thought has no final or ultimate truth to it.
We may know this at a superficial conscious level. We may hear it and tell ourselves I know that. But the reality is often different. At some level, we – our system – takes several thoughts as true even if we consciously may know it isn’t. It requires a much deeper exploration to see this and see through it so the “glue” making these thoughts seem real weakens. (Our mind’s magical truth-glue that makes something that’s not completely true seem true.)
How is this connected to awakening?
When we – at any level – hold a thought as true, there is automatically identification with the thought’s viewpoint. We experience ourselves as the viewpoint of the thought. And that creates a sense of being something within the content of experience – within the world, and an I with the rest of existence as Other.
What the thought is about doesn’t really matter. Taking any thought as ultimately true – somewhere in our system – creates this dynamic. Although some of the core ones are thoughts saying we are a human being, a me, an I, a doer, an observer, and so on.
How can I explore this differentiation?
Through inquiry, whether natural, organic, and unstructured or more structured.
Structured inquiry can be a good way to start, and can help us go deeper wherever we are in the process. And the more natural and unstructured inquiry helps us trust our own wisdom and guidance. (Especially when we already are somewhat familiar with the terrain, perhaps with the help of structured inquiry.)
For me, a combination of Headless experiments (Douglas Harding), the Big Mind process (Genpo Roshi), The Work of Byron Katie, and Living Inquiries (modern version of traditional Buddhist inquiry) has been helpful. But there are many other approaches out there.
What about other forms of differentiation?
Yes, there is the conventional form of differentiation and discernment we need in daily life, to function in the world.
The differentiation I wrote about above is helpful for awakening and also healing for our human self. The daily life differentiation and discernment is essential for us to function in the world.
Just as what and who we are – oneness and this human self – these two forms of differentiation are two sides of the same coin.
The way we experience the world often seems ordinary and unremarkable to us. We may not pay much attention to it. Although when we are on an awakening path, this tends to change. The question of how we experience ourselves and the world comes more into the foreground.
What’s the context of my experience?
It’s relatively easy for awakeness to notice itself and that content of experience happens within and as what I am. (Another label for this is oneness.) In daily life, particular content of experience is often in the foreground for practical reasons but that it’s happening within and as awakeness is always here and easily noticed.
There is also a noticing of the void all happens within and as, including the awakeness all content of experience happens within and as (!).
Is there a sense of a me or I?
Yes and no. In daily life, it’s easy to know that this human self is “me” and the one other people take me to be.
I notice a slight tension in the forehead and the roof of the mouth that feels a bit like “I”. I recognize it for what it is, and there is probably more for me to explore and see through here.
When I get caught in emotional issues, there is a stronger sense of a me and an I, although there is also an awareness of what’s going on. This too is happening within and as awakeness, it’s a temporary and local appearance, and not any ultimate truth. (Although if it’s strong, I may feel, experience, and even act as if it is.) This is something I am aware of and keep exploring, and I typically work on the emotional issues that come up.
Is this awakening?
This isn’t awakening as a state or somewhere to arrive. But it’s a snapshot of a particular phase of an awakening process. The process is ongoing and it seems unlikely to have an arrival place. There is clearly a lot further to go in clarity, healing, and embodiment, and that’s more than OK.
How is the content of my experience these days?
It keeps changing as any content of experience does. My system has a lot of fatigue right now so I notice the fatigue and rest. Sometimes, contentment is more on the surface with some low-grade other things in the background. And sometimes, different emotions are more in the foreground. When that happens, I pay attention to what it seems to be about and often explore it through informal inquiry and do some basic Vortex Healing for it.
Do I always explore what comes up?
Yes and no. I explore it in the sense that I notice it and make a mental note that this is something to continue to explore and perhaps find healing for. Sometimes I go more in-depth right away or within a few days. Sometimes, it goes on the back-burner and I know I may address it more in-depth if or when it comes up again in the future.
In general, how is this different from how most people experience themselves and the world?
I assume the essence is the same. The awake space everything is happening within (and as) is here whether we consciously notice or not. And our content of experience always changes and includes all the usual human experiences.
What’s different between this and most people’s experience?
The main difference may be that here, the awakeness – what all experience happens within and as – notices itself a bit more than what seems average these days. (And that can change – both here and in the world.)
So there isn’t that much of a difference between awakening and no awakening?
Again, yes and no. The awakeness is here and all our content of experience happens within and as it. In some cases, this is noticed – or it notices itself, and in some cases, there is identification as a me and I within this content of experience.
It seems somewhat fluid. I assume everyone has moments where they live more from the oneness (flow states etc.) and then a thought comes in saying “this human self is who I am, try not to forget it too often”.
There is a spectrum from what we are noticing itself to being caught up in identifications, and we are probably not aware of how far the spectrum goes in each end.
There is also a spectrum to how this is reflected in our life. At one end is a human life thoroughly reorganized within oneness noticing itself as all there is. This typically involves a lot of healing of emotional issues. At the other end is the extreme of living from separation consciousness and emotional issues and traumas. Most of us are somewhere in-between and shift somewhat fluidly along the mid-range.
What’s the main difference between my teens and now?
It’s actually not terribly different from my teens, following the initial spiritual opening or awakening. (Age sixteen.) The main difference is that there is more peace with the whole process now. Back then, it was intense and at time overwhelming and confusing. Now, it’s more familiar and – in a sense – ordinary.Read More
I like to demystify what can be demystified – including awakening. Why not try to describe it in simple and ordinary ways that others can check out for themselves, and that doesn’t rely on references to what’s outside of most people’s experience?
So what is awakening?
Awakening is what we are awakening to itself.
Independent of our worldview, it makes sense that what we are – to ourselves – is consciousness. Even within a materialistic view, it’s hard to not admit that to ourselves, we are consciousness.
All our content of experience – including the world and ourselves as a human being – happens within and as consciousness.
Typically, we identify with a particular content of our experience. We identify with and as this human self, and as an observer, doer, and so on.
Awakening refers to noticing that we are consciousness that this content of experience happens within and as. The initial noticing can be called an initial opening or awakening.
Sometimes, that’s all it is. And sometimes, the process continues.
We notice. Identification releases somewhat out of content of experience. Consciousness wakes up to itself as all there is. (To itself it’s all there is.) This noticing becomes more ordinary and continues through more and more situations in daily life. Our human life reorients and transforms within this new noticing and context.
Why are not more people interested in it?
We may not have heard about it.
We may not have been exposed to it in a way that makes it seem possible or attractive to us.
It may seem too mysterious, obscure, and distant.
It may seem like it’s for other or special people, not us.
We may not see how it’s useful.
It may seem like something we already know, intellectually.
Why are some people really into it?
We may have had a glimpse or opening and wish to continue to explore it.
We may intuit that there is something and set out to explore it.
We may be drawn in by traditions or teachers speaking about awakening.
We may seek to avoid suffering and have heard it will help.
It may happen out of the blue and stay and we keep exploring this new context for our human life.
What are some of the effects of awakening?
Mainly, our human self reorients and reorganizes within this new context.
This involves a lot of different changes and processes and lasts a lifetime.
It typically involves healing of emotional issues and hangups. Examining old beliefs, assumptions, and identities. And changing how we relate to others, ourselves, and the world in general.
How do we live within oneness? That’s the question, and the transformation of our human self can be more or less thorough within this lifetime.
What about spirituality?
Isn’t awakening about spirituality?
Yes and no. Yes, spirituality is often about awakening. And no, awakening doesn’t requite religion or traditional spirituality.
At the same time, there is a lot of practical and valuable information in spiritual and religious traditions.
Small and big interpretation of awakening
This article is mostly about the small or psychological interpretation of awakening. We talk about it a way that (can!) make sense independent of whatever worldview we have.
There is also the big or spiritual interpretation of awakening. Here, we use the more familiar language of God, Spirit, the Divine, and so on.
We may say that awakening is God (Spirit, the Divine) awakening to itself locally through this human self.
Spirit temporarily and locally took itself to be an ultimately separate being (this human self), and then woke up to itself as all there is.
How can we explore it for ourselves?
Mainly, we need to find one or more approaches that make sense to us. Perhaps they feel intuitively right. Or someone we trust recommends it. Or we happen to have a local awakening-coach and join for a while.
There are some approaches that within minutes can give us a glimpse or taste of what awakening is about. The two I enjoy the most is the Big Mind process and the Headless experiments.
Is there anything I need to be aware of?
Mainly, the usual guidelines for exploring and learning anything applies here too. It helps to have the guidance of someone you trust and who has experience. Trust yourself and what feels right to you. If the approach you use has little or no effect, consider trying something else.
When I said “consciousness” earlier, it was to make it more understandable. The mind may label what we are “consciousness” but that’s just a label. That label and all our ideas about it also happen within and as what we are.
The awakening process, and the approaches we may use on the path, tend to open our heart and mind, and that can open for whatever unprocessed psychological material is in us. If that happens, it can feel confusing, scary, disorienting, and overwhelming. So it’s good to find an awakening-coach who has experience with this, can take some precautions, and knows how to help you through it.
It can help to set aside what you think you know about awakening, especially the myths and ideas from religion and traditional spirituality. Make it simple for yourself. This is about noticing what you already are. There are ways to help you notice it. And there are people who can help you with it. It’s not so different from learning or exploring anything else in life.
Is awakening important?
Yes and no. If it happens, it may be the most important (no-thing) thing in your life since it becomes the context for everything. It can also help transform your human self.
And yet, most human beings live without having a (conscious) taste of this and that’s fine. You can have a very good life without conscious noticing of what you are.
If what you mostly want is a good life, and that’s the case for most of us, another strategy may be more direct. For instance, focus on self-compassion and healing the most obvious emotional issues. Nurture nurturing and important relationships in your life. And, in general, be a good steward of your life. And there is no problem with including this in an exploration of what we are. They work very well together.Read More
If we are on a healing or awakening path, experimentation will – by necessity – be a part of the process.
We may find a teacher, guide, or approach that feels right for us for whatever reason – perhaps it makes sense to us, or it’s recommended by someone we trust, or the quiet inner voice says “yes”, or a combination. And we try it out.
What happens if I follow this pointer or engage in this practice? What do I find? What effects does it have?
Does it work? Does it bring healing? Does it help me to relate to myself and the world in a different way? (With more kindness, more from oneness?) Does it give me glimpses of what I am?
If so, it makes sense to keep exploring it. If not, perhaps I need to change how I am in relation to it or try something else.
So it’s not all the tools. It’s also me and how I am in relation to the practice. How sincere am I? How wholeheartedly do I engage with the practice? Am I willing to stay with it long enough to get results? Am I willing to ask for guidance from someone more experienced and see what happens if I put it into practice?
In my experience, when something works I tend to see the results early on or immediately. Even small shifts tells me that this may be worth continuing to explore.
This is how we would go about learning most things in life, whether it’s a language, sports, music or something else. And an experimental and pragmatic approach also makes sense for healing and awakening.
Curiosity, receptivity, and trying things out help us discover, learn, and finding new sides to what we are exploring.
An almost-synonym for experimentation is a playful attitude. A playful attitude helps us have a light touch, stay engaged, and find receptivity, curiosity, and a willingness to try things out.
In my experience, good mentors and coaches encourage grounded playfulness.Read More
Most or all of the essentials of spirituality can be understood from a secular view, and there are some obvious benefits to this.
Awakening itself can be understood in a secular context. Awakening means that what we are – that which our experience happens within and as – notices and wakes up to itself. This may sound a bit nebulous but we can have a taste of it relatively quickly through some forms of inquiry – the Big Mind process, Headless experiments, and so on.
This can be understood within a secular context. Even if we assume a physical world and (relatively) separate beings, we are – by necessity – consciousness. We experience the world not only “through” consciousness but as consciousness. To ourselves, we are consciousness and the content of our experience happens within and as consciousness.
When we notice or wake up to ourselves as consciousness, we also wake up to and as oneness. The whole world – as it appears to us – happens within and as consciousness. Within and as what we are. Within and as oneness.
Awakening itself, the whole awakening process, and the process of reorienting (embodiment) within this new context can be understood within a secular context.
Spiritual pointers and practices can also be understood within a secular context. When done with sincerity, these practices transform us. And that’s something that can be understood and studied within a secular framework.
When I say spiritual pointers and practices, I mostly think about different forms of meditation, inquiry, body-centered practices, heart-centered practices, ethical guidelines, and even prayer. Each of these transform us when done with sincerity and over time, and the effects and mechanism can be understood and studied in a pragmatic and grounded way.
What’s the benefits of a secular understanding of spirituality? In the best case, it can help us be more pragmatic and grounded in our approach to it. It can help us find some of what’s essential to awakening and how the spiritual practices transform us. And it can – obviously – make it more understandable and accessible to people who already have a more secular orientation.
What’s the drawback? The drawback is that we may miss something essential if we focus solely on what we find when we use (what we understand by) a pragmatic and grounded approach. It may be too narrow.
A more fluid approach may make the most sense. I personally use both a more traditional spiritual approach and a more secular and pragmatic approach. They both have their strengths and value. They are two sides of the same coin.
What do I mean with the words secular, spiritual, and spirituality?
With secular, I mean a pragmatic and grounded approach, and an interpretation and understanding of awakening and spiritual practices that makes sense within a modern secular view and without referring to anything “spiritual”.
Spirituality means whatever spirituality traditionally has been focused on, including awakening and spiritual practices.
A spiritual approach is perhaps less easily defined. For me, it means a big interpretation of awakening (the divine wakes up to itself locally through this human self). It means a trust in the divine (all of existence) and divine intelligence and love. It means asking for and perhaps following divine guidance (including the quiet inner voice). It means acknowledging a whole range of things that are perhaps not so easily understood from a secular view, including synchronicities, seeing energies, sensing at a distance (without using physical senses), distance healing, and so on.Read More
What does enlightenment refer to?
In spirituality, it’s often points to what we are – that which our experience happens within and as – waking up to itself. It also means waking up out of taking ourselves to be this human self.
When it’s more complete, it also means waking up out of taking ourselves as anything in particular within the content of our experience, or believing thoughts and any identifications that comes with taking thoughts as true.
Although the initial shift may happen suddenly, it’s an ongoing process in most (or all?) cases? It keeps deepening, clarifying, and become more thorough and lived.
En-light-enment as a metaphor
En-light-enment. It’s a metaphor that means light being shed on something. We see something more clearly that previously was hidden or – metaphorically – in the dark for us.
What is illuminated? As mentioned above, the essence is that what we are wakes up to itself and out of taking itself to (exclusively) be this human self or anything else within content of experience, including any thoughts or ideas.
Another thing that may be illuminated, especially if it’s more thorough, is the dynamics of the mind that creates the experience of (exclusively) being some part of the content of experience (e.g. this human self) and not the rest (e.g. the rest of the world as it appears to us).
En-light-enment in a more direct sense
There is also an en-light-enment in a more direct – and perhaps literal –sense. In an awakening, we may experience ourselves (our human self) and the rest of the world as light. It’s all revealed as what our minds may label consciousness, love, quiet bliss, and light.
Going beyond ideas of light and dark
And there is also a shift into holding all words and ideas more lightly, and seeing that reality – and the divine – includes both what our minds can label light and dark. It’s all the play of what the mind may label consciousness or the divine. All content of experience – including ideas of light and dark and what these refer to – is the divine expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself. Our ideas about light and dark, in whatever form they take for us, have no final or absolute truth to them, and all of them refer to the divine and the play of the divine.Read More
A friend of mine (JL) mentioned that he wants to explore lucid dreaming. Although I understand it can be fun, I have to admit I don’t quite see the usefulness of it.
When I was little – perhaps 7-10 years old (?) – I decided to try lucid dreaming for myself. Before falling asleep, I set the intention to realize I was dreaming while dreaming. It happened and was mildly interesting (I became aware of it as a dream while being chased by peasants with pitchforks!), and I haven’t explored it since.
Of course, there is one side to lucid dreaming that is interesting and somewhat useful. Both in a dream and in waking life, all of our experiences happen within and as consciousness. Perhaps for some, it’s easier to first recognize this within a dream and then notice it in waking life.
For me, noticing all as consciousness happened spontaneously when I was sixteen so I haven’t felt the need to explore this through lucid dreaming. It may be a useful approach to some. Although it may also be a detour from the more direct approach of noticing it in waking life, for instance assisted by inquiry.
Note: I intentionally kept the language more conventional when I said “noticing all as consciousness”. It’s more accurate to say that consciousness notices all as itself. And even that is not so accurate since “consciousness” is a label and something the mind easily can understand as a thing or object, and it’s not a thing or object. The most accurate way I have found to talk about it is that what we are – that which all experience happens within and as – notices or wakes up to itself. And even that is just a pointer. A temporary guide or springboard to finding it for ourselves. The words themselves are not worth anything apart from as a pointer.
Many see awakening as something mystical or even mythical, and some ideas about it are not well-grounded in reality: It doesn’t exist. It’s for a few special people. There is no way to understand what it’s about. It’s a state of endless bliss. It will solve all your problems. You need to “renounce the world”. We can’t do research on it because it doesn’t exist, it’s too nebulous, or it has no practical value.
Fortunately, we live in a period of history where awakening is demystified. Why do we see this demystifying?
Many Asian spiritual teachers ended up in California and other densely populated areas of the US in the mid-1900s. It means that some practitioners there have a lifetime of experience, some have become teachers themselves, and the teachings are adapting to the culture. And since the US culture is famously pragmatic, it’s often explored, understood, and spoken about in a pragmatic way.
Since the 90s, there is new ease of global communication. Although awakening happens relatively rarely, large numbers of people around the world are on an awakening path, and these are now able to connect, communicate, and share experiences. In the past, people would have to be in the same place or write letters to communicate, and write or read books in order to share information and thoughts. Now, we just need to go on a forum online, participate in an online conference, class, or sharing group, or connect with friends we have found around the world.
There is also more research on spiritual practices and I imagine this will only continue but grow and become more mainstream. There is even research on awakening, and I imagine this will continue and grow as well.
Secularized forms of traditional spiritual practices are becoming more widespread and used in medical and business settings. It’s not uncommon to have mindfulness classes in hospitals and workplaces. This is not about awakening, but it contributes to normalize the practices and develop a pragmatic language in talking about some of the effects.
As mentioned above, more people are using a pragmatic language to describe and explore awakening. A language stripped of traditional terminology, and one that is more easily accessible and understandable to the western mind. This goes along with what I – in other articles – call a small or psychological interpretation of awakening.
Modern forms of traditional inquiry – like the Big Mind process, Headless experiments, and Living Inquiries – can give just about anyone a taste of what awakening is about within a few minutes. It’s not distant or unapproachable anymore.
A more pragmatic and demystified view on awakening is perhaps not only inevitable but healthy and appropriate for a western culture that’s mainly secular and pragmatic.
I am personally grateful. When the initial awakening happened for me, it was in the pre-internet era and it took a long time for me to find people who understood – first in books (Meister Eckart was the first) and later with people (my friend BH and Jes Bertelsen’s then-wife). And I am grateful for the pragmatic and more secularized language. It helps us see what’s important and perhaps what’s less important (although we need to be open to the possibility that some of what we discard is important and bring it back in again).
If all language around spiritual practice and awakening would go secular and pragmatic, something essential would be lost. But there is little or no danger of that happening anytime soon. Spiritual language and understanding, and secular language and understanding, can very well co-exist and they can feed into and inform each other in a beautiful way. There is a richness in the traditions that can inform the secularized understanding. And there is a pragmatism in the secularized approach that can benefit the traditions.Read More
Awakening solves a problem we didn’t know we had, and not the ones we know we have.
It’s a bit facetious but there is some truth to it.
The problem awakening solves is misidentification. We take ourselves to be something we are not (a separate being) and don’t notice what we are and always have been. When we set out on a spiritual path, we may think that our problem is suffering and we imagine that awakening allows us to still take ourselves to be this separate being, only now free of suffering. In reality, the awakening solves the misidentification problem and not the problems we imagine we have.
Is it true we didn’t know we had the misidentification problem? Perhaps in a literal sense. But many of us on a spiritual path know something is off even if we don’t consciously know exactly what it is.
And while it is true that awakening in itself doesn’t solve our regular human problems, it does provide some support – and a new context – for solving these problems. Mainly, it helps us reorient in how we relate to ourselves and the world (befriend). And it helps us invite in healing for our wounds and traumas. Most if not all of our suffering is created from struggling with ourselves and the world, and from unhealed wounds, hangups, and traumas in ourselves.
How does awakening support healing? The awakening process can bring up unhealed issues in us so they can be seen, examined, befriended, loved, and eventually recognized as the divine (temporarily taking that form). It can also help us meet the issues since we know it’s all happening within and as what we are. And it helps us invite these parts of us to shift out of their painful separation consciousness and into more close alignment with reality (Oneness).
Awakening can make it a bit easier, but working with core emotional issues and trauma is always challenging and require skills, patience, sincerity, and recognizing that the emotional issues and trauma are here to protect us (the mind creates them in order to protect us), and they are – as anything else – expressions of what we are or the divine.
What are some of the typical aspects and phases of the awakening process?
I’ll mention a few things here based on my own experience. Not everything is sequential in this process, nor does it all happen or happen within one lifetime. There is also some overlap in this list, and I’ll just briefly touch on each point since other articles here have addressed most of them in more detail.
The following are some of the milestones that may happen in the awakening process.
Relationship with the divine
Our conscious orientation towards or relationship with the divine changes through the awakening process. In general, it goes from perceiving the divine as Other, to a sense of oneness with the divine, to the divine (or what we are) waking up to itself – and out of taking itself as fundamentally a separate being – and realizing it was what it was looking for through it all.
Divine as other
The pre- or early awakening phase often involves viewing and experiencing the divine as Other.
It may start as an interest. Or an intuition or knowing.
There may be glimpses – perhaps of divine beings or all as the divine.
There may even be an early awakening of the divine as all, of oneness with the divine as all.
In all of these cases, the divine is Other even when the apparent division seems more subtle. The divine is beginning to wake up to itself as all there is while retaining some of the identification as a separate being.
When I use the word “divine” here, it can be exchanged with consciousness, awakeness, love, Big Mind, what we are, or other similar labels.
What we are noticing itself
Eventually, what we are – that which all content of our experience happens within and as – wakes up to itself. It wakes up out of the dream of ultimately being a separate being. The human self and anything else happens within and as what we are.
What we are living more consciously from and as itself
I hinted about this in the previous segment.
In the very early phases of the awakening, the divine may seem like an idea, something others talk about, and something we don’t have any experience with. Although we may have an intuition or knowing or experience a draw towards it.
Then, there may be glimpses of the divine – perhaps of divine beings or all as the divine. These may be infrequent.
The next phase seems to take many different forms. We may gradually sense the divine everywhere, or all as the divine. Or there may be more sudden and stronger glimpses. And this may get more stable either right away or over time.
At some, we may realize that what we are – fundamentally – is the divine, and what we took ourselves to be – this human self – happens within and as the divine, or within and as what we are.
Again, this may first be an intuition or knowing or come through glimpses, and suddenly or over time it becomes more clear. Over time, it continues to clarify and become more stable – including throughout more and more situations in our daily life.
Global to local
An awakening is generally “global”. It happens in a general sense for or as all of what we are. (It may even seem as if all of existence awakened, but that’s largely a projection and another topic.) And it may seem as if it’s inevitably stable.
After a while, we may notice that things in life trigger something in us that takes the system back into separation consciousness. One way to talk about it is to say that parts of our human self (subpersonalities) are still caught up in emotional wounds, trauma, the past, and separation consciousness. They are reliving traumatic past experiences and the separation consciousness they were created from. They are not yet aligned with the reality of all as the divine. They are not yet awake. Life situations – or our response to them – trigger these issues so they can be seen, felt, explored, and eventually awaken, align with reality, and bring the global awakening into more of these still unawake parts of our human self.
In our life, this may take the form of first assuming the awakening is stable. We then notice that life situations trigger old issues in us, and if the issues are strong enough and core enough to who we take ourselves to be, we may get caught up in them and go into and act from separation consciousness. To the extent we acknowledge and own this, and take it seriously, we can intentionally work on how we relate to these unawake parts in us, and even invite them to heal and align more closely to reality – the reality of Oneness.
Maturing in the awakening
There are many aspects to maturing within the awakening.
One is that the awakening – gradually and over time – becomes ordinary. It is both ordinary and extraordinary. We get used to it. Other things become more interesting to us, like how to befriend unawake parts of us, how to help these different parts of our human self to heal and awaken, how to live from the awakening in more and more situations, how to live so we benefit the larger whole, and so on.
During an initial awakening phase, we may emphasize what we are over who we are. This is natural since we are used to who we are and what we are seems more interesting and perhaps fascinating. As we mature within the awakening, this is balanced out and the two are seen more clearly as aspects of the same – or labels highlighting different sides of this lived Oneness.
Maturing may also mean that we simultaneously become more who we are and more ordinary. We live more from authenticity and we realize more deeply how what’s in this human self is universally human.
Early in the awakening process, we may get on a missionary kick and think others “need” awakening or need to hear about it or do meditation, etc. We may also think that more people need to awaken in order for humanity to be saved. Later on, this tends to calm down. We are obviously open to share when others are interested, but the “shoulds” tend to fall away.
As we mature in the awakening, other things tend to happen that I’ll mention elsewhere in this article. For instance, we may realize it’s an ongoing process and there is not a final or end point.
An initial glimpse or awakening may indeed come with certain states – of bliss, ease, joy, being untouched by old hangups, and so on – but these are byproducts of the initial awakening and like all states they come and go. As we mature in it, we realize it’s not about achieving a state but what we are is here through any and all states and experiences, and the noticing gradually becomes more stable through these states and experiences.
We also realize that although the awakening “solves” the most core “problem” of taking ourselves to be something we are not (a separate being), it doesn’t by itself solve any of our human challenges and problems. We still have to deal with them as any other human being, although from within a different context. In a sense, it solves a problem we didn’t even know we had, and it doesn’t really solve anything else or the problems we know we have!
Embodiment means to live more consciously from what we are in more and more situations in daily life. It happens through the global-to-local process of inviting unawake parts of us to heal and align more closely with reality. And it happens as part of the maturing process. As anything else related to awakening – and being a human being in the world – it’s an ongoing process.
An awakening process is a shift of what we most fundamentally take ourselves to be. So it naturally comes with some challenges. As you’d expect, these can be experienced as mild or severe, can last for shorter or longer periods of time, and any struggle we experience is our own struggle with what’s happening.
Challenges, crises, and dark nights
Here are a few examples of the challenges, crises, and dark nights we can experience in an awakening process.
We can be disoriented, frightened, or feel overwhelmed. This can happen anytime the process enters a new phase, and it really helps to have a general understanding of the process and the guidance of someone who has gone through it and is familiar with the terrain. (Some that you’d expect to be familiar with it – like official spiritual teachers – may not be, and someone you’d not expect to be familiar with it – like an unassuming regular gal or guy – may be.)
Our energy system can go a bit haywire in an awakening process. It helps with nature, physical activity, reducing mental activity, and perhaps energy work like acupuncture or Vortex Healing. (For the first few years for me, it felt like enormous energies went through my system – as if sending high voltage through regular housing wires.)
As mentioned earlier, anything in our human self that’s not aligned with the awakening will eventually surface to be seen, felt, examined, understood, loved, and eventually recognized as the divine (temporarily taking the form of an emotional issue, hangup, trauma). If we have a good amount of trauma in our system (often developmental trauma), this can be an intense, confusing, overwhelming, and challenging process. Again, it really helps to have the guidance of someone who has gone through this process and – in this case – understand trauma. And it helps to understand that unawake parts of us surface to join the global awakeness.
Another form of spiritual crisis comes in the form of loss. An apparent loss of the divine or the awakening. (This helps us meet our neediness around it and ideas that what we are looking for is somewhere else.) A loss of motivation and drive. (Because it came from separation consciousness and needs to come back within more of a oneness context.) Perhaps a loss of status, relationships, health, or more. (Again, helps us meet whatever in us still holds onto ideas about how it should or must be.)
Some things are common for these challenges. For instance, struggle makes them more difficult and painful. And yet, struggle is also part of the process. We struggle until we learn, at a deep level, that the struggle itself is painful and – eventually – not needed.
These challenges also highlight what in us – in our human self – is not yet aligned with reality (the reality of Oneness). It’s an essential part of the awakening and embodiment process. What surfaces and how we deal with it is universal in that it’s shared by many going through this process. And since the unawake parts of us are somewhat unique to us, what surfaces and how we deal with it also takes on a personal flavor.
There are many common pitfalls in the awakening process. I’ll highlight a few without going into them in too much detail.
Relationship with teachers: Unquestioned adoration of teachers and gurus. (Upside: Wholehearted devotion. Downside: Being misled, disappointed, give away our authority. Remedy: See them as temporary guides and coaches.)
Relationship with teachings: See them as set in stone, infallible, and final. (Upside: Temporary honeymoon. Downside: Misled, apply guidelines that don’t work for us, disappointed. Remedy: See them as human-made, guidelines, each one medicine for a particular person and condition.)
Relationship with awakening: Assuming it’s a state. (Upside: Carrot. Downside: Chasing a state. Remedy: Recognize that what we are is always here and notice that.) Thinking there is an end, something final. (Upside: Can temporarily function as a carrot. Downside: Chasing an imagined end. Remedy: Recognize it as an ongoing process.)
Relationship with students (if have students): Encourage projections. (Upside: Learn from the consequences. Downside: Misleading the students. Remedy: Make the projections and their problems explicit, actively discourage them.) Take advantage of student’s projections, fears, hopes, and trust. (Upside: Crash and burn and learn from it. Downside: Harms the students in an ordinary human way. Remedy: Be aware of the dynamic, make it explicit, address the wounds and neediness in us it comes from.)
Relationship with our human self: Assuming the awakening will take care of all our human difficulties and challenges. (Upside: Carrot. Downfall: Disappointment. Remedy: Recognize it won’t and address our human challenges more directly.) Emphasizing what we are over our human self and…. (a) Not addressing our human needs and wounds. (Upside: Temporary imagined relief. Downside: Ignore what needs to be taken care of. Remedy: Realize the wounds and needs are here and address them more directly.) (b) Justify unethical and harmful behavior. (Upside: Crash, burn, and learn from it. Downside: Harms ourselves and others in an ordinary human way. Remedy: Notice what’s happening, take it seriously, and address it.)
Relationship with others and the world: Using awakening to fuel a particular image and a sense of separation (e.g. tell ourselves we are better than others, more awake, in order to feel better about ourselves and try to fill a very human hole of not feeling good enough, feeling unloved, etc.). (Upside: Crash, burn, and learn from it. Downside: Is out of alignment with reality, act from instead of taking care of own wounds. Remedy: Recognize what’s happening, address our wounds, hangups, and traumas more directly.)
These pitfalls come from believing stories, and they come from acting on our wounds instead of addressing them more directly. We act on unhealed and unawake parts of us, life responds and rubs up against them, and we get a chance to meet these parts of us and invite in healing, clarity, and a closer alignment with reality and oneness. How long this process is and how much pain it entails depends on our sincerity, receptivity, and willingness to look at what’s going on.
These pitfalls are not inherently wrong. They become part of – and fuel for – the awakening and maturing process. At the same time, it’s important to acknowledge the problems and pain that may come from them, for oneself and others, and speak up with firm kindness as appropriate. That’s part of the process as well.
How we view the process
As mentioned before, all of this – the awakening, maturing, healing of our human self, embodiment – is an ongoing process.
If we are caught up in unloved and unexamined fearful thoughts, we may want it to finish and we may have ideas about a final endpoint. But, as Adya says, that’s the “dream of the ego”. I find it’s easier and a relief to instead gently assume all of it is an ongoing process. It also makes it more interesting.
Small or big interpretation
As mentioned in other articles, we can use a small or big interpretation of awakening.
In both, awakening is what we are noticing itself. And what we are is what all our content of experience happens within and as. (We can call this consciousness, or Big Mind, or something else, and those labels also happen within and as what we are.)
In the small or psychological interpretation, we acknowledge that this may happen within a world as it is described by current mainstream science. It may be that the awakening “only” happens within the mind of an actual separate physical human being. The benefit of this interpretation is that it may be more acceptable to people coming from a (currently) mainstream view and understanding of the world.
The big or spiritual interpretation is the more traditional one as described by mystics from and outside of all the main spiritual traditions. Here, we take our immediate experience more at face value. Everything is the divine. Everything – all of existence – is as it appears, it is love and consciousness.
Either way, it doesn’t change anything about the awakening itself. It’s still experienced and described in the same way, it goes through the same phases, and it has the same consequences.
I had the idea of including my own personal experiences more explicitly for each point, but it would make for a longer article and I have addressed much of it in other articles tagged “autobiography”.Read More
I know the title is a little presumptuous! Although it’s also good to demystify awakening to the extent it’s possible.
First, what is awakening?
It’s what we are noticing itself.
What we are is what our experience happens within and as. (We can put may labels on it, like consciousness or awakeness, and those labels also happen within and as what we are.)
Usually, what we are does not notice itself. Our mind takes itself to be something within the content of its experience, and that something is generally this human self. How that happens can be described from different angles. At one level, it happens when the mind takes any story as true and identifies with the viewpoint of the story. That shifts our experience of being what we are and into something that happens within the content of our experience. We experience ourselves as an object in the world and a particular viewpoint. What this is shifts with the story our mind happens to engage with at the moment. And, as a general container, we take ourselves to be this human self. That’s not wrong, but it’s just a small part of what we are.
What’s the process of awakening?
What we are can notice itself in glimpses. More or less clearly. Out of the blue or from intentional exploration. And it can also notice itself more stably through different states and situations in daily life.
For most of us, what we are comes into the foreground in daily life without us really noticing. It can happen through flow experiences, or any time we “forget” or “lose” ourselves in what’s happening. Why don’t we notice? Perhaps because it’s so ordinary. Or not so strong. Or that we think we know what we are – this human self – and this is not that.
It can happen out of the blue without any obvious precursor. And it can also happen gradually or more suddenly as a(n apparent) consequence of intentional exploration. I’ll say more about this below.
Initially, what we are may more easily notice itself in certain situations (which is where the intentional exploration comes in). And over time, it can notice itself through changing states and also in more and more situations in daily life. It can clarify and become more stable, and this process of living from it in more situations in daily life is called embodiment.
Also initially, we may still take ourselves to fundamentally be a separate being although one that’s ONE with everything. This tends to clarify and we realize that we were never this apparently separate being. What we are just started noticing itself more clearly. In a popular phrase: it woke up of the dream of being a separate being.
What we are noticing itself is often a bit fluid and changing throughout the day. It can be more or less in the foreground and more or less obvious or clear. It’s often a gentle context for our daily life. After a while, it becomes ordinary while also somewhat extraordinary.
As a human being, we are much the same even when what we are notices itself. It doesn’t magically and all of a sudden transform us. (Although that can happen.) This means we tend to have the same emotional issues, hangups, and traumas before and within awakening.
When these emotional issues are triggered, it tends to hijack our attention and we temporarily take ourselves to be separate. What we are noticing itself goes into the background and is overshadowed by our old patterns. This is why healing of emotional issues is vital for embodiment, for living more from what we are in more daily life situations.
What’s the consequence of awakening?
The only certain one is that the context of our life changes. What we are notices itself and our human life happens within that. Our human life, in itself, doesn’t have to change that much.
In practice, our human life does tend to change. We tend to live more from the experience of oneness, which means a little more open mind and heart and from a bit more compassion and empathy and concern for the far-reaching and long-term consequences of our actions.
It also seems that awakening often starts a process of healing emotional issues. These may come to the surface to be seen, felt, loved, and more consciously included in the oneness. One way to talk about this is that the initial awakening is a global awakening, and this healing process allows more parts of us – the ones still stuck in painful separation consciousness – to awaken and align with the global awakening. As mentioned above, this is also vital for the embodiment process.
How can we understand awakening?
In my mind, there are two ways of understanding or interpreting awakening.
In the small or psychological interpretation, we can say that in our own experience, we are consciousness, and this is what wakes up to itself. Whether there is an actual human being here or an actual physical world, or whether we fundamentally are separate or not, doesn’t really matter. What matters is what we are in our own immediate experience and the pragmatics of this noticing itself and what it does for our life.
In the big or spiritual interpretation, what we are is the same as what all of existence is. All is One, or Spirit, or God, or the Divine, or Brahman, or Big Mind, or Allah. The label is not important.
The small interpretation is helpful because it can make this more approachable for people within a more conventional mindset or setting. The big interpretation is perhaps more inspiring. And both seem to fit (most of!) the data of awakening equally well.
Why are there so many myths about awakening?
There are many myths about awakening: It’s reserved for special people. It’s something unusual. It’s something very different from our ordinary experience. It will solve all our problems. We become a saint. There is something we can call a final or full awakening.
I don’t know why there are so many myths about it. I suspect it’s because it used to be the domain of certain spiritual traditions and they partly obscured it based on misunderstandings and partly had vested interests in making it appear special.
Why is it important?
It’s not for most people and that’s OK. For some of us, it’s important because it’s part of human experience. It says something about who and what we are. It does help us live in a way that’s more conscious of the whole which can help society, humanity, and the Earth.
What are some methods for inviting what we are to notice itself?
These are the traditional spiritual practices and the newer variations on these.
It can help to know the words and the theory, but this is just a starting point and initial pointer. The words are, in themselves, not important.
Training a more stable attention supports this exploration – and anything we do in life – so it’s more than worthwhile to include in our daily life. Even just a few minutes makes a difference.
Basic meditation is to notice and allow. Notice what happens in the sense fields. Allow it all to be as is. This tends to shift identification out of the observed (content of experience) and it makes it easier for what we are to notice itself. (Initially, we may take ourselves to be the observer, and then notice that this too happens within the content of experience.)
Inquiry is a great support. We can get a glimpse of what we are through forms of inquiry like the Big Mind process and the Headless experiments, and also Living Inquiries. Through The Work, we may – over time – find how our thoughts are not true which allows space for what we are to notice itself. And through Living Inquiries, we explore how the mind creates its own experience – including taking itself to be a separate being, this body, the observer, consciousness, etc. This too tends to allow space for what we are to notice itself.
Guidelines for behavior is important to reduce drama and distractions in our life, and they tend to (roughly!) mimic how we naturally live when what we are notices itself and this is more embodied.
Prayer – at least the contemplative and heartfelt variety – helps shift our identification out of the content of our experience, it shifts our attention to a much larger whole, and it creates space for what we are to notice itself.
Heart-centered practices help us reorient. They help us shift from an us-vs-them orientation to befriending the world and our own experience. Again, this creates space for what we are to notice itself, and it mimics how we naturally live when what we are notices itself through daily life.
Body-centered practices can help us train more stable attention. It can also give us an experience of our body-mind wholeness which makes it easier for what we are to notice itself.
Some forms of energy work can also support awakening. I am most familiar with the awakening process supported when we go through the higher levels of Vortex Healing training.
As mentioned above, inviting in healing for emotional issues makes it easier to live from the noticing in more situations in daily life. It supports embodiment.
Note: Apologies for this slightly disorganized article. I chose to write this without outlining or editing too much, not because that’s better but because I felt a little overwhelmed by the thought of organizing and editing it!Read More
Writing about healing and awakening is a bit like writing a guidebook. We know there is a lot we don’t know about the place, and there may be others who know more about it in general, or who know more about different parts of it. But we (hopefully!) have been there, we have some experience with it, and the little we know may be helpful to others.
Also, when we write a guidebook, we focus on what we have a particular interest in – whether it’s the history, art, nature, food, or something else. And for someone out there, our approach may be a good fit.
Guidebooks don’t pretend to be complete or the final word about a place. They are incomplete, selective, written from our own interests, experiences, and limitations, and they need to be regularly updated. And that’s also how it is with guidebooks for healing and awakening.
Guidebooks are also typically written by people who know just enough about the place. While many who know as much or more about the place do not write about it. And that too is the same with guidebooks for healing and awakening. It doesn’t mean that guidebooks are not useful. Just that the authors of guidebooks may not be the ones who are most familiar with the place.
People who read guidebooks know the difference between reading about a place and actually going there. Again, that’s the same for healing and awakening. The guidebook is a good initial orientation and can be helpful – for some things and in a limited way – when we go there.
Guidebooks can be very useful and even essential. I usually read one or more before going to a new place, and I sometimes read them for places I am quite familiar with. And when it comes to guidebooks for healing and awakening, it can be helpful to recognize that they are not that different from guidebooks to physical places.
Most people who have an awakening will interpret it in the usual spiritual way. I did too, and still mostly do.
But I realized quickly that if I am to be honest with myself, and that is part of living from the awakening, there is another interpretation that also is possible.
First, what is a spiritual awakening? The essence is that what we are – that which all our experience happens within and as – wakes to itself. We can say that all our experience – of a me and a wider world – happens within and as awakeness, or consciousness, or perhaps awake space (although space also happens within and as it).
Identification is released out of the parts of the content of experience that we usually call me, or I, or the doer, observer or something else. It’s not that we are not that. It’s just that what we are is what all of it – this me and the wider world as it appears to me in a very ordinary sense – happens within and as.
The big or spiritual interpretation is that all of existence is Spirit or the divine or God, Brahman or whatever else we prefer to call it. That fits the immediate experience. It’s also this human self and locally, it took itself for a while to only be this human self and then woke up to itself as all of it without exception.
And yet, if I am honest, there is another interpretation, the small or psychological interpretation. Even within conventional psychology, they acknowledge that there is consciousness. And, logically and in direct experience, that is what we are. We just tell ourselves we are a human being, in the world, with a name and identity and so on.
So I have to acknowledge that there is a possibility that not only is the awakening local, but the consciousness that wakes up to itself is local too. It doesn’t exist as all of existence even if it appears that way in (naive) immediate experience. The world is as our materialistic worldview says, and what woke up to itself is the consciousness created by the brain in this one human being.
Both interpretations fit the basic data.
I have to be honest about that. And I can choose one or the other depending on what the situation calls for. For myself, I usually use the big interpretation. It’s more inspiring. When I talk with others, I sometimes use the small interpretation.
Although – I have to admit – there is a lot of data in my own experience that better fits the big interpretation. Mostly things like synchronicities, seeing energies, ESP and so on.
Awake people don’t hurt life.Said to me a few days ago
Is it true that awake people don’t hurt life?
Not really. It’s more complex than that.
We still have hangups, wounds, trauma, and sometimes act on it like anyone else.
We still live in a social and economic system that’s deeply harmful to life and Earth, so our everyday life is harmful to life, Earth, and future generations.
At our human level, we are still a living organism that needs to eat other living organisms to survive. Even if we eat only fruits, nuts and vegetables, we still hurt life. (Just the production of these is often harmful because of modern agriculture.)
We are still a human being who makes mistakes, and who don’t know or cannot predict the consequences of our actions. We cannot really predict the local or short term consequences, and we certainly cannot predict the far-reaching and long term consequences.
There is another side to this, of course.
It’s probably true that we generally harm life less the more embodied awakening there is, especially if it’s combined with healing of emotional issues.
And in the bigger picture, it’s perhaps all Lila, the play of the divine, and nobody to get hurt and not really any hurt.
And yet, that’s no excuse to not live as well as we can, and minimize harm and support life as well as we can.
And there is yet another aspect to this. If we are very concerned about not hurting life (which is impossible although we can do or best to minimize it and make up for it), it may point to an emotional issue or a belief that’s not quite aligned with reality.
It’s natural and healthy to have it as a guide and orientation, but if it gets stressful and bordering on an obsession, it may be worth looking at a little more closely.
Praised as “a spiritual treasure” by Huston Smith, The Way of Selflessness is an authoritative guide for anyone who wishes to walk a mystical path and discover directly the truth testified to by the mystics of the world’s spiritual traditions. Drawing from the universal teachings and essential practices of the mystics from all the world’s major religious traditions, distilled and presented in generic terms suitable for all seekers, The Way of Selflessness is appropriate for both those who belong to an established religion and those who do not.– The Way of Selflessness book description
If you are serious about awakening I can highly recommend Joel Morwood’s The Way of Selflessness: A Practical Guide to Enlightenment Based on the Teachings of the World’s Great Mystics. (I am linking to Lulu instead of Amazon since they have a better price.)
Joel was one of my teachers at the Center for Sacred Sciences in Eugene, Oregon, when I lived there. And his book shows a good and practical understanding of the awakening process, including different core practices from the main spiritual traditions in the world.
I want to add a couple of minor caveats: The book is perhaps slightly “heady”, and he doesn’t thoroughly address spiritual crises or dark nights as he may not have gone through it himself. Also, there are aspects of certain traditions and practices he doesn’t quite get (for instance koan study) since he never practiced within these traditions himself. That said, this is not a reason to not get his book. The book is an excellent overview and has many very valuable practical pointers.
For more about Joel, see his Buddha at the Gas Pump interview.
And if you are interested, Naked Through the Gate is a great read about his own life and awakening process. His process was somewhat unusual in that his main spiritual guide came to him in dreams and not waking life.
I want to end with a brief note about the title. Selflessness is conventionally understood as setting your own needs aside (for a while) to benefit others or the larger whole. In contrast, selflessness in the context of awakening refers to an absence of any separate self, and noticing and realizing it, reorienting within this new(ly discovered) context, and living from it in more and more situations.
What does cosmic consciousness refer to?
I don’t really know. I assume people use it to mean slightly different things, and perhaps some use it without having a good sense of what it refers to.
When I was sixteen, what I am (and what everyone and everything is) woke up to itself locally and through this human being. It wasn’t as thorough as it can be, and certainly not as embodied as it can be. But it was a start, or at least a kind of milestone in the process.
The way it happened could be called cosmic consciousness. There was a very clear and strong sense – or realization – of the whole universe being one. It was the one waking up to itself as all of it. There was a very strong cosmic sense or flavor to it.
There was no omni-anything. No omniscience. No omnipresence. Just the one waking up to itself as it all, locally, through and as this human self, with the same sensory input and the same thoughts and conventional information as before.
Later, and after several more shifts and movements, this oneness became much more simple, quiet, and ordinary. There is still oneness but without the fireworks and the bells and whistles.
I am wondering if what we sometimes call cosmic consciousness refers to this early form of awakening, the one with fireworks and bells and whistles. The one that hasn’t yet settled and become more ordinary and unremarkable. (Although it is also completely remarkable.)
What were some of the bells and whistles in my case? Mainly, the intensity of it. It was very intense, and the cosmic feeling was very strong and in the forefront. There was also an experience of very strong energies going through my body. (I remember describing it as high voltage going through regular housing wires.) I could see energies around people, animals, plants, and inanimate objects. (The “inanimate” objects were also revealed as the divine or consciousness so not really inanimate.) And I also discovered I could do (sometimes surprisingly effective) distance or energy healing.
There was also an experience of a constant “download” of insights and information, mostly of the perennial philosophy and psychology variety, but also art. I had little to no exposure to spirituality or what I later understood was called the perennial philosophy back then. And I was passionate about drawing and painting at the time.
These are what Adyashanti calls side-effects of awakening. They vary a bit from person to person, and some experience them more than others. They are not really important in themselves.
It’s natural for the mind to be fascinated by them, but that eventually — and sometimes with a bit of struggle – wears out.