Is awakening and mainstream psychology compatible?
I would say yes. At least if we understand awakening in a pragmatic way, use a simple language, and frame awakening so it makes sense from a psychological view. And if there is some generosity and willingness from the psychological world.
Here is an example of how we can talk about it:
(a) Our perception is always of all as consciousness. We don’t perceive objects, people, or the world. We perceive sensory input and imaginations mimicking sensory input, and all that happens within and as consciousness.
Apart from being logical, we can also explore it in immediate experience and find it for ourselves. If something appears real and solid, it’s because mind tells itself this experience is the real world. In reality, it’s a combination of sense experiences and imaginations of these sense experiences.
(b) So awakening is just a shift of our center of gravity, what we take ourselves to be, from content of experience to that which experience happens within and as. It’s a shift from ideas of being a human to the awakeness or consciousness it all happens within and as. Instead of taking ourselves to be content of experience, we find ourselves as context.
I say “just a shift” because it’s simple in theory. It’s easy to grasp as an idea. But the actual shift can take a good amount of work. We may have glimpses and short periods of experiencing this shift, but a more stable and thorough shift typically takes work (and, mostly, grace).
The idea that awakening and mainstream psychology are incompatible comes partly from weird and “mystical” ideas of awakening, and partly from psychology wanting to stay sober and down to earth. Of course, there is already a good deal of interest and research on mindfulness in psychology. And I suspect one of the next steps will be a genuine interest in, and research on, awakening. Using a simple, pragmatic, and sober language when we talk about awakening will support that step.
What may research on awakening look like? Here are some possibilities:
How people who claim a stable and clear awakening function in life? What are the typical characteristics? How do they perceive and operate? What are the brain and other physical characteristics?
The difference between the awakening itself and how it’s lived and embodied. How much of the person is on board or aligned with the awakening. How to support that embodiment.
What’s the process to awakening? What are the paths? What works for whom? What’s the most effective approaches for people in specific situations (personality, inclinations etc.)?
What are the pitfalls on the path? What can go wrong? When is it more likely to go wrong? When is it less likely? What can we do to prevent it? What can we do when something does go wrong? What are the approaches that work best for the different scenarios?
My guess is that we’ll see this type of academic focus and interest more and more in the coming decades.