Awakening is multi-faceted

 

Awakening is multi-faceted.

What we are awakening to itself. One aspect is what we are awakening to itself as all there is, and out of identification with thoughts – and taking itself as a separate being in a wider world.  This can happen as an opening – as a preview or a temporary transcendence – or in a more stable way.

When it’s more stable, this awakening continues to open, clarify, and deepen over time.

Who we are realigning. Another aspect is how our human self operates within this new context. All the many parts of our human self is invited to realign within this new context. (The context itself is not new but the remembered and conscious recognition of it is.) This realigning is an ongoing process and takes the form of healing, maturing, and embodiment.

Sudden and process. The ripening leading to an awakening is a process that may have occurred over many lifetimes. Awakenings or openings are often sudden, although they sometimes occur gradually and almost imperceptibly. The continuing opening, clarifying and deepening is a process, as it the ongoing realignment – the healing and maturing of our human self, and the exploration of how to consciously and intentionally living from the awakening.

Consciousness, energetic, and lived. We can look at or describe the awakening process in different ways. We can describe it from the consciousness side, and this is most common in – for instance – the public face of Buddhism, Sufism, Christian Mysticism, and Advaita. We can also understand and describe it from the energetic side, which we see in Vortex Healing (see Awakening Through the Veils) and yogic traditions. And we can look at and describe it through how it’s lived and embodies. Each of these are equally valid and together paint a fuller picture.

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The high of openings or awakenings

 

A spiritual opening or awakening can come with a high, especially if it’s the first time. That high may be a gentle wave or very obvious, and it may last briefly or for weeks, months, or even years. That’s all natural and nothing is wrong if it happens.

Although if it happens, it’s good to check in about a few things.

Does the high mask something? Perhaps something still unhealed, unmet, and unloved in me as a human being? If it does, that’s very common and very natural, and it’s also good to be aware that something may be masked and may resurface later on.  That’s OK and natural as well. It’s just good to be aware of. We can also prepare for what may surface and know and practice how to relate to it more intentionally.

Do I use the high to avoid something? Do I latch onto the high (or the awakening itself) in order to avoid a certain feeling, emotion, or painful story about the world or myself? If I do, can I allow myself to rest with whatever I try to avoid? What do I find if I investigate how my mind creates its experience of the fear and whatever it fears meeting?

Beyond that, what does this opening or awakening point to about reality and what I am. What does it reveal that I can notice and explore through any state and experience? Perhaps including when I experience what my habitual mind says is a “bad” experience. Can I find what it points to even in a contracted state, emotional or physical pain, discomfort, or resistance to my experience?

In short, an opening or awakening can be used to avoid certain emotions, painful thoughts, or states. Or it can be used as a support to meet and perhaps befriend what we may have spent a lifetime avoiding.

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Meant to create a shift, not to last

 

When we have an opening, an experience of overwhelming love or bliss, a very clear recognition of all as Spirit, a deep sense of peace, or something similar, it’s not meant to last. Experiences come to pass, not to last.

What they do instead is inviting or creating a shift. A facet of reality may have been revealed clearly in the experience, so the shift can be to notice this facet here and now and through shifting experiences and states. It can also be a shift in how our human self is organized, aligned, and functions in the world.

If we expect the experience to last, we disappoint ourselves. But if we see it as an invitation for noticing or realignment, then the experience can be very valuable and it’s value may last far longer than the experience itself.

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Byproducts of awakening vs its essence

 

This is something I have been exploring and that many talk about.

There is a difference between the byproducts of an awakening or opening and its essence.

The byproducts can be quite varied. It can be a mix of bliss, love for everyone and everything, a deep gratitude, new abilities such as being able to see auras or do healing, download of information, and inspiration to write or make art. I experienced all of these and more during the initial opening or awakening.

The essence is something we have to find for ourselves and it often clarifies with time. We are invited to use the opening or awakening as a pointer to find its essence, to find what it has revealed that remains through the  shifting states and experiences.

Many or all of the byproducts and experiences associated with an awakening fade and go away with time, and it’s easy for the mind to freak out and think that something essential has been lost. But that’s not the case. It’s the non-essential that has been lost so that the essential can be revealed and recognized more clearly.

And what is it that’s essential. What does the awakening, and the coming and going of its byproducts, point to? What remains through the different states and experiences? What’s still here from the awakening, even when the byproducts are all gone?

For me, it’s a recognition of any state and experience as what everything was revealed as in the initial opening or awakening. As presence, love, Spirit, void, or whatever the mind calls it. That’s really all. It sounds very simple, and it is. And it can be quite difficult to remember and notice when the mind creates temporary identifications and beliefs and stirs itself up.

What supports this recognition is meeting shunned parts of my experience with presence, kindness, and patience. To invite it to heal and align more with reality. These parts were formed in a different context, in a much more painful one, and they still exist within that reality, so meeting them in this way when they come up invites them to heal and realign with the reality discovered through the awakening.

As a mentor of mine once said, the initial awakening was free, and the continued clarification requires work.

I should also mention that there is a dark night connection here. If the mind holds onto the byproducts of the awakening as something essential, it can easily create a dark night for itself when they inevitably go away. The mind can go into despair, struggle, and even depression. That’s why it can be helpful to be aware of this before it happens. And it can also be helpful to practice recognizing the essence of the awakening through different states and experiences while it’s still relatively easy. That may not prevent the despair and struggle that sometimes happens when the byproducts go away, but it can at least provide a pointer and a direction for how to relate to and make use of that transition.

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Awakening and healing go hand in hand

 

Awakening and healing go hand in hand.

What is awakening and healing? Awakening can be seen as what we are recognizing itself to some extent. And this “what” can be called presence, awakeness, consciousness, and behind that void. Healing means a healing of who we are, this human self.

It may be worth mentioning that what we are is not in need of healing since it cannot be harmed. And who we are can’t really awaken since an awakening means that what we are awakens out of an exclusive identification as who we are.

How do they hinder each other? When there is more healing to be done, it means there is velcro and beliefs in the system that can be activated by current situations. When these are activated, there is a strong pull towards identification. And that makes for a less stable or thorough awakening. Conversely, when there is no awakening or has been no openings, there is a deeper level of healing that’s less available. That deeper layer of healing happens when the trauma and it’s components (sensations + imagination) is recognized as presence itself, or love, or even void. What we are recognizes it as itself.

How do they support each other? A deeper and more thorough healing of our human self allows for a more stable and deepening awakening. There is less charge that can be activated, creating a strong pull towards identification and out of recognizing what we are. An opening or awakening allows or a deeper healing of our human self, partly through recognizing trauma and its components as presence, love, or void. And also through making it easier to meet shunned parts of our experience with kindness, rest, and love.

So awakening and healing go hand in hand. That’s partly why I am drawn to tools and explorations that invite in both healing and awakening. It makes sense to include both since they are so intertwined, and are really two sides of the same coin.

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Pitfalls of openings and awakenings

 

Here are some common pitfalls of openings and awakenings:

New identifications. With an opening or awakening, new identities may surface and the mind may identify with these for safety. These identities include but are not limited to awareness, oneness, spirit, free. These are just more thoughts that the mind identifies with, and it’s good to notice and inquire into these as soon as they arise.

Unprocessed material. With an opening or awakening, the lid may be taken off any unprocessed material. Anything that’s unfelt, unloved and unquestioned comes up to be felt, loved, and questioned. Any unfelt emotions or feelings surface to be felt. Any unloved parts of us or our experience (including our whole world) comes up to be loved. Any unquestioned stories surface to be questioned. This can lead to a version of the dark night of the soul.

Kundalini. With an opening or awakening, kundalini may activate. For some, this may lead to a kundalini overcharge. It may feel like high voltage is going through regular house wiring, and as if parts of us – and perhaps our brain – is fried. This can be prevented and reversed.

What do I mean with an opening or awakening? I mean that we realize what we are, or what we are realizes what it is. This is what the mind may call awareness, oneness, no separation, spirit (or even Buddha Mind, Brahman if it’s so inclined). This may be a glimpse, or it may be a more stable recognition. Often, there is a mix of this recognition and remaining identifications which partially obscure this recognition. We then live partially from noticing what we are, and partially from remaining identifications. This is very natural, and there is not really any problem here, but it’s good to be aware of and acknowledge, and also to have ways to work with these identifications.

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Kate Bush: Nocturn

 

Nocturn

[The chorus:]
Sweet dreams…On this Midsummer might
Everyone is sleeping
We go driving into the moonlightCould be in a dream
Our clothes are on the beach
These prints of our feet
Lead right up to the sea
No one, no one is here
No one, no one is here
We stand in the Atlantic
We become panoramic

We tire of the city
We tire of it all
We long for just that something more

Could be in a dream
Our clothes are on the beach
These prints of our feet
Lead right up to the sea
No one, no one is here
No one, no one is here
We stand in the Atlantic
We become panoramic

The stars are caught in our hair
The stars are on our fingers
A veil of diamond dust
Just reach up and touch it
The sky’s above our heads
The sea’s around our legs
In milky, silky water
We swim further and further
We dive down… We dive down

A diamond night, a diamond sea
And a diamond sky…

We dive deeper and deeper
We dive deeper and deeper
Could be we are here
Could be we are in a dream
It came up on the horizon
Rising and rising
In a sea of honey, a sky of honey
A sea of honey, a sky of honey

[The chorus:]
Look at the light, all the time it’s a changing
Look at the light, climbing up the aerial
Bright, white coming alive jumping off the aerial
All the time it’s a changing, like now…
All the time it’s a changing, like then again…
All the time it’s a changing
And all the dreamers are waking

The lyrics of Kate Bush are full of pointers, as a friend of mine also mentioned on Facebook this morning.

This song is especially direct. It’s a reflection of how an initial opening or awakening can be experienced.

It’s a shift into Big Mind recognizing itself as all there is.

We stand in the Atlantic
We become panoramic

The stars are caught in our hair
The stars are on our fingers
A veil of diamond dust
Just reach up and touch it

It’s also a reflection of the elation and awe that comes with this initial opening or awakening.

All the time it’s a changing
And all the dreamers are waking

And it does easily seem this way. Big Mind (Spirit, God, Brahman) notices itself as all there is. It does seem like everything and everyone is awakening, as if Big Mind is awakening to itself through everyone. In a sense, it’s true. That’s what’s happening here, in “my” world. This is what the historical Buddha experienced too. (And it doesn’t mean it’s happening “out there” in others, especially on a large scale.)

The awakening feeling

 

When there is an opening or awakening, it often comes with a feeling.

That feeling may then become associated with the opening or awakening, or certain realizations and insights that came from that opening or awakening. Even if the feeling is really created by our mind’s reaction to the awakening.

So we may seek that feeling again, try to recreate it, because we think it somehow is connected with the opening or awakening, or the realizations or insights that happened within that opening or awakening. And that doesn’t really work.

Eventually, we may see that feeling as a sensation with certain stories attached to it. And we may see that what we are can recognize itself independent of particular feelings or experiences. After all, what we are is that which already is allowing any feeling or experience. It’s not dependent on any of these to recognize itself.

I went through this. There was a certain feeling associated with the initial opening and awakening, and the realizations and insights that came with it. I chased this feeling for a while. It didn’t work. Life went against it. (It’s too kind to allow it to work.) And there is an invitation for a deepening recognition of what I am independent of feelings or experiences.

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Dark night and trauma

 

Following an awakening or opening phase, there may be another where “the lid is taken off” as Adyashanti says. A good amount of what is unquestioned, unloved, and unhealed in us comes to the surface, and we have little or no ability to set it aside or push it away.

It’s as if life wants to heal the human side of us, so we can become better vessels for the clarity, love, and awakening. The more we have questioned our unquestioned stories, the more we have found love for what’s unloved in us and our experience, and the more we have healed and matured as human beings, the better the clarity, love, and awakening can be expressed and lived through us.

For some, this may be more gentle and ongoing, and without dramatic “dark nights” of this type.

For some, it may be relatively short, or less intense. Perhaps if they already are quite healthy as a human being, and relatively free of what’s unloved and unhealed.

And for some, it can be quite dramatic, intense, and overwhelming. I seem to find myself in this category now.

Why is it more dramatic and intense in some cases? I suspect part of the answer is trauma. If there is more trauma – more that is unquestioned, unloved, and unhealed – this type of dark night may be more intense as well, and perhaps even last longer. There is simply more material to question, find love for, and heal.

The drawback then is that this phase may be more rocky, painful, and last longer, and it can impact ones life in many areas. The benefit is that there is an opportunity to learn a great deal through this process. And this may in turn even benefit others. There are plenty of examples of “wounded healers”.

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Being up front about the possibility of spiritual emergencies

 

Spiritual emergencies can take several forms, including kundalini awakening, a spiritual opening turning one’s world upside-down and inside-out, a dark night, wounds and trauma surfacing to be healed, a “dry period” of lack of interest in the world, or more.

These spiritual emergencies may happen “out of the blue” without any prior spiritual practice (as it did for me), or they may happen as an apparent consequence of a spiritual practice – whether this practice is a form of meditation, yoga, chi gong, shamanic practices, or prayer of the “true” or “dangerous” kind (for awakening, be shown what’s left, etc.).

So just as a medical doctor will inform a client about possible side effects of a medicine, especially if these side effects are common and can be severe, it’s good practice for a teacher of any spiritual practice to inform the students of possible side effects of their practice.

To me, it seems reasonable to – at the very least – offer….

A map of the terrain, including (i) the typical phases and facets of the process, and (ii) common and less common forms of spiritual emergencies and their symptoms.

And guidelines for how to navigate this terrain in general, and spiritual emergencies in particular, in the most skillful way possible.

Knowing the map will help students recognize the symptoms when they occur, and see that they are common and even to be expected. It helps prevent or reduce an additional layer of distress, bewilderment, and either inflation (f.ex. kundalini awakening) or thoughts that something “went wrong” (f.ex. in a dark night).

Practical pointers can also be invaluable. For instance, how do I prepare to reduce the chances or intensity of a future spiritual emergency? And if one happens, how do I relate to it in the best possible way? How I ground myself during a kundalini awakening? How do I help see through the distress of a dark night?

In addition, being open and frank about this up front has several benefits. It may help some students decide that a particular practice is not for them, at least not at this point in their life, and they may chose something else that’s gentler and more grounding. It gives the students an idea of how well the teacher knows about and understands spiritual emergencies, so they can chose to go to them – or someone else who is more experienced – before a spiritual emergency takes place, or if or when it takes place. And having more information about these matters out in public makes it easier for people who have a spiritual emergency “out of the blue”, without any prior practice or interest in spiritual matters, to find information, support and guidance.

In terms of education, it seems reasonable to include information about the spiritual terrain and spiritual emergencies in the school system, and in the training of medical doctors, psychologists, priests, and – obviously – teachers of meditation, yoga, chi gong and similar practices. It is already happening, to some extent and in some places, and it may be more widespread in the future, especially as there is more research in and public knowledge of this topic.

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