Awakening Process

[Another long and convoluted post which could greatly benefit from reorganization and editing…!]

I keep coming back to the process of awakening, to clarify it for myself.

It seems that we can simplify the process and say that there are four or five main phases to awakening…

0. Awakening to/as the small self
1. Awakening to/as the Witness
2. Unfolding transdual view
3. Awakening to/as Big Mind
4. Rehumanizing

This describes what seems to be a typical and gradual awakening process.

We can follow many strands of development and unfolding. The main one may be our sense of self-identity and what we are familiar with as ourself. This gives birth to dualistic or more transdual views of Existence, which in turn gives birth to the whole range of what we experience in our human condition.

Awakening As the Small Self

First, we awaken to and as the small self. We identify ourselves exclusively with and as this body and personality. And this seems to be a necessary phase to learn to function effectively in the world.

During this phase, our view naturally functions in a dualistic way. We identify with this body, and everything else is separate from it.

We also create a self-identity which is limited and exclusive, and this helps us find our boundaries – both in a physical and psychological sense. And as we go through our lives, we find that operating with this limited self-identity creates a lot of suffering for us as well. We spend a large amount of energy creating, protecting, defending and justifying our self-identity to ourselves and the world, and all we get for it is suffering…!

This insight may not be clear to us at the time, but it still invites us into exploring the next phase…

Awakening As the Witness

Here, we awaken to and then as the Witness.

This can occur spontaneously or through a practice or transmission. The practice may be inquiry, meditation or body-centered practice. And the transmission just refers to being in contact with someone who has already awakened to the Witness – it can be a combination of being in the “atmosphere”, a “resonance” or just talking about it.

We discover ourselves as space & awareness, distinct from the world of phenomena and empty of any characteristics. We discover ourselves to be the function of experiencing. We find a new “ground of being”.

And we realize that this is what may be referred to as the formless unborn, the void, emptiness etc. We may also discover it to seem more ordinary and simple than the ideas we created around the more fancy terminology.

And as we familiarize ourselves with this new ground of being, we can gradually include it in more daily situations. It gradually becomes the context of more and more of our daily experiences. We see that all the experiences of this small self – the sensations, emotions, thoughts, behaviors – unfold within space & awareness.

Our view begins to function in a more transdual way. First, we realized that I am more than the self. We have an initial taste of a view that embraces the Absolute and the Relative, in the form of the Witness and the small self. We begin to experience ourselves as a holarcy – as a set of Russian dolls nested within each other – from the body through to the Witness.

Unfolding Transdual View

From this ground, distinct from the world of phenomena, we gain a new perspective of the world of phenomena. We see that the inner world – that of the small self, and the outer world – the rest of the world of phenomena, are part of the same fluid whole. Nothing is fixed, and nothing exists independently from anything else.

From being exclusively identified with the small self, we expand and soften our identification. We first expanded it to include the Witness. Then, we engage in a gradual process of allowing ourselves to experience anything arising from the small self – whether it fits with our old self-identity or not. Our self-identity expands, becomes more inclusive and more porous, and soften. Eventually, it may fall away completely.

Throughout this process, we see how this small self is just a vortex in a stream, a temporary pattern of matter of energy. When we were exclusively identified with it, it seemed to be very real as a distinct entity – now it appears as empty of any permanent or separate existence. It becomes an empty shell, enlivened by us as the Witness.

Along with this, there is a process of seeing and healing the small self. We bring awareness into areas of the small self previously not seen, areas previously held in the dark because they did not fit our self-image. Now, we can allow awareness into all of those areas, which brings about a natural healing process. As we experience the small self more as a whole, we can experience Existence more as a whole.

This process may not always be comfortable due to resistance to fully experience and see some of these areas. To the extent we are still caught up in ideas of shoulds and shouldn’ts, good and bad, spiritual and nonspiritual, we create some additional suffering for ourselves in this process. To the extent we can let it go and just be with what is, it can be a quite beautiful process.

The transdual view now encompasses all aspects of the world of phenomena. Although there is still a clear distinction between the Absolute and the Relative – between the experiencer and the experienced – we now have a growing sense those two as also part of a seamless whole.

Throughout this phase – and all of the phases – we engage in the process of exploring how to live more from this view through the small self in the world.

Awakening As Big Mind

Eventually, we awaken to and as Big Mind. This happens as our old self-identity becomes more fluid, inclusive, porous, transparent and soft, and as we clarify and deepen our new transdual view.

Here, our view embraces fully the Absolute and the Relative. We experience ourselves as Big Mind, functioning through a small self in the world of phenomena. We embrace the holarchy from the physical world through to the Ground, distinct from the world of phenomena and empty of any characteristics.

Further, we can awaken to Cosmic Consciousness. The universe is consciousness, and I am that consciousness.


Awakening to the Witness, there is a natural fascination with ourselves as the Absolute. We naturally want to stay and rest in/as the Witness, explore it more fully and then bring it into our lives more fully.

During the whole process, there may be periods of a strong disidentification with the small self. Before, we exclusively identified with the small self. Now, we have periods where we experience ourselves exclusively as the Witness, and not as the small self. These periods are naturally brief, as we cannot function very well – or at all – in the world this way.

These are tastes which helps us soften and let to go our exclusive and limited identification.

I realize that I – as the Absolute – can allow any experience or phenomenon to unfold within me. The Absolute is distinct from the world of phenomena, and can allow anything to unfold within it. The Absolute is distinct from any fixed identity, and can become and engage in whatever unfolds within it.

So there are naturally periods of awakening and disidentification, which are followed by periods of integration and rehumanization. These cycles occur throughout the whole process, and it may be helpful to have rehumanization as a direction throughout the process. It helps us stay grounded and human.

Eventually, we come to what in the Big Mind process is called Integrated Free Functioning Self, where we can allow ourselves to freely function on personal and transpersonal levels. There is no particular and fixed identity or attachment, not even to the Absolute or Big Mind.

In a way, we become for the first time an ordinary and full human being – with no extra.


Writing this, I see how convoluted it gets when I try to include too much without any outline or drafts…! Here are some ideas for organizing it in the future.

  1. Phases
    Could be the ones above.

    And the strands of…

  2. Self-identity and familiarity
    What we are familiar with as ourselves. From exclusive identification with small self, to awakening to Witness (including tastes of exclusive identification with witness), to the Russian doll of our being (including any and all aspects of the small self), to embracing the Absolute and Relative.

    We can look at what the consequences are of being caught up in the process of the small self. What happens when we identify with them and take them too seriously, such as believing in thoughts?

    A subset of this is the consequences of having a fixed/limited self-identity, such as health (keeping aspects of ourselves in the dark), interactions with others (projections), the suffering (from reality not confirming with our identity), and the time and energy that goes into handling and managing our self-identity.

    And the process of softening and dropping the exclusive identification with the small self. To bring some space in through the Witness and the Absolute.

  3. View
    Dualistic & transdual views. These comes from our identification. When exclusively identified with the small self, then dualistic views. When Russian dolls from body through to the Absolute, then more transdual. And transdual views include (a) seeing all phenomena as a seamless whole, and (b) the Absolute and Relative as a seamless whole.

  4. Awakening & Integration
    For any awakening, there is a process of integration. Of bringing it into our daily life.

  5. Healing
    Awakening to the Absolute, there is a neccesary process of healing of the small self. We bring awareness into those areas previously kept in the dark, because they did not fit into our self-identity, into what we saw as acceptable and “good”, or what we felt we were able to deal with at the time. Now that we have found a ground distinct from the small self, we can allow all this into awareness – which in itself brings healing.

  6. Differentiation & Integration
    First, we are exclusively identified with the small self. Then we awaken to the Absolute, and may have tastes of exclusive identification with the Absolute. This glimpse of no identity allows us to later soften our old self-identity. From undifferentiated identification with the small self, we awaken as the Absolute, and then integrate the two.

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