Notice vs realize

In spirituality, people sometimes talk about realization or realizing our true nature.

I tend to avoid using realize in that sense.

Why? It’s mostly just a personal preference.

The word realization can come with some baggage and misleading associations. It’s a word that can be taken to refer to something we figure out within thought. And although thoughts can play a role, that’s not really what it’s about. For the same reason, we can also take it as something we realize once and for all and then it’s done. Of course, the traditions and teachers who use the word realize point this out as well.

I prefer the word notice, to notice what we are. It suggests it’s immediate, fresh, and direct, and suggests it doesn’t have to do with thoughts. It also seems simpler and more ordinary, which is appropriate since what’s noticed is the most ordinary (no) thing there is. It’s what we are and are the most familiar with, even if we don’t consciously notice it.

At the same time, realize has useful connotations notice doesn’t have. For instance, one definition of realize is to become fully aware of something and understand it clearly. It goes beyond just noticing and suggests that it needs to be seen and understood thoroughly, and even lived thoroughly. This is, of course, something we can clarify when we use the word notice.

I don’t have a strong preference here and I have no trouble with people using realize. It’s just that notice resonates with me more right now, and it may change.

Note: Since I mentioned the role of thoughts earlier, what is the role of thoughts in this context? Thoughts can serve as a pointer for noticing what we are, for instance through guided inquiry. Thoughts can reflect what we notice and find. And thoughts can also serve as a pointer for how to live from it and perhaps avoiding some of the pitfalls (although we often have to get our own experience with those pitfalls).

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