What leads up to awakening

Some of the things that seem to often precede awakening…

  • Nothing at all. It comes out of the blue. The person may have no interest in religion or spirituality, and have done no spiritual practice. Although for many, there may be a great deal of psychological stress and a sense of being at the end of the rope before the shift, as happened with Byron Katie, Eckhart Tolle, and even me. (I was an atheist at the time of the initial awakening.) There is a ripeness there somewhere, in terms of being ready to give it all up – all identifications, all hope.
  • Intention. A clear and refined intention to know God, to know truth, to wake up. This may go along with practice and prayer or not.
  • Trying hard and failing. Trying hard to awaken through a range of practices, and thoroughly failing. Exhausting all possibilities.
  • Practice. Engaging in a range of practices that invite in a thinning of the veils. The “distance” between what is here and awakening gets smaller, although the final shift doesn’t happen through practice.
  • Shaktipat. An energy transfer that invites in awakening, such as diksha.

And finally grace. Grace is always what invites in the shift to awakening. Whatever a separate I can seem to do is not enough. It can prepare the ground, but that is all. As Baker Roshi said, awakening is an accident and practice makes us accident prone.

Also, is there really a “leading up to” awakening? The awakening is an awakening out of the stories of time and causality, and also the story of awakening not being here already. From here, there is no leading up to it, although there is also the freedom to use those stories as skillful means.

2 thoughts to “What leads up to awakening”

  1. To add to the first point, I would say that the shift seems to be brought about by reacting to pain/stress through a defense mechanism of disassociation. Although medically considered unhealthy, it sort of mimics many spiritual practices. A few days before my first & deepest awakening, I had considered seeing a therapist for Dissociative Personality Disorder. I was reading a gentleman’s account of his experience with the disorder when it clicked to me. He said something like “I’ve suffered through this condition for years, and the worst part of it is that it feels like ‘this is the most real my life has ever been, this is more true than before.'” When that clicked in my mind, I began to realize what was happening. I began to accept the dissociative feelings I was having, and the awakening happened just a couple of days later.

    Another curious ‘precursor’ that I’ve observed is the experience of an event which “shakes” the individual. I imagine that you’re familiar with Genpo Roshi’s story and others’ accounts. I personally partially attribute the same awakening I mentioned above to an experience I had directly before. It was a slow day at work and I decided to ride the elevator to the top floor of the Corp. building. Looking down, I was scared to death of the height. I forced myself to stand up against the railing and look down to the ground, even though I nearly passed out. Shaken, I went back to my computer and just sat for a minute…I pulled up an article on non-duality and began to read. A few sentences in…everything melted together. The rush of reality swept “me” away.

  2. Hi Trent. Yes, a beautiful description.

    When I had my initial awakening, it was during a stressful period of my life (a heavy dose of the usual teenage angst) and triggered by a New Years eve celebration with heavy alcohol consumption (the first and last time). The stress was too much to take, so instead of going nuts there was a shift into first the witness and then Big Mind.

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