How can we understand awakening in a simple and pragmatic way?
I keep coming back to this since it seems important for a few reasons: It helps us find the essence of awakening. It helps us view it in a way compatible with spiritual traditions as well as science. It helps us be more intellectually honest about it. And it can make it more accessible for more people.
So what’s this simple view?
To ourselves, we are consciousness. The world to us happens within and as this consciousness. And awakening is consciousness noticing itself and our “center of gravity” shifting into this.
This applies mostly independent of worldviews. It applies whether we assume a more materialistic worldview where this consciousness is the product of this body and brain. Whether we see existence as Spirit. Or if we see it as something in between.
Clarifying a few things
As usual, there is more to say about this.
We have learned to see ourselves as this human self and the rest of the world as “other”. This is not wrong, but it’s not the whole picture. It’s not what we most fundamentally are. And it’s not what we are to ourselves when we honestly look and set aside these assumptions for a while.
When I use the word “consciousness”, it’s just to make it more accessible and seem more familiar. What we are is what all experiences happen within and as, including words and labels, and including the word “consciousness” and what we associate with it. Its function is to serve as a signpost pointing to what we are.
This way of talking about it may require some concessions from us, depending on what worldview we are coming from. If we are coming from a strictly materialistic view, it may require us to be more interested in consciousness. If we are coming from a view of all as Spirit, it may require us to pull back our language a bit.
How can we explore this for ourselves?
We may get this intellectually.
There is a body here, and we may have learned to identify exclusively with and as this body. But to ourselves, we are consciousness and the world to us happens within and as this consciousness. It has to be that way.
But our experience of ourselves may still be that we are this human self.
So how can we explore this for ourselves? How can we have a more direct taste?
We can do so through some simple pointers, and being guided by someone familiar with the terrain and how to guide others to notice it for themselves. The most effective ones I have found are the Headless experiments and the Big Mind process. Living Inquiries, a modern form of traditional Buddhist inquiry, can also help us notice.
What’s the implications of finding what we are?
When we find ourselves as what the world, to us, happens within and as, it has several implications. If we take it seriously and continue to explore it and how to live from it, it can be profoundly transformative.
Exactly what we find depends on where we are in the process, and even with guidance, we are ultimately our own guide and have to explore this for ourselves.
What I can say is that when we find ourselves as capacity for the world, all content of our experience happens within and as what we are – and within and as oneness.
So how is it to live from oneness? How do we relate to the parts of us still operating from separation consciousness when these come up? How can we invite them to join in with the awakening and align with oneness?
This is an ongoing process and there is always more to discover.
Not agreeing with the basic premise
I imagine some wouldn’t agree with the basic premise.
They may say: I know I am this human self, not consciousness. I am this body, and I have consciousness.
It’s easy to understand this view. It’s what we have been told and it has over time become our experience.
But this is about what we are to ourselves.
Logically, to ourselves, we have to be consciousness. The world, to us, happens within and as consciousness. All our experiences happen within and as what we are.
And this is also what we may find if we look – with some sincerity and guided by someone skilled.