Among those interested in spiritual awakening, there is often an idea that being awake is better than not being awake.
What is awakening?
First, what does awakening refer to?
It means to notice what we are, and also to keep noticing and live from it.
It’s not something that a human being does or becomes. It’s what we are noticing itself, and waking up out of the dream of most fundamentally being this human self. To others, it may seem that this human being is awake, and to ourselves, it’s what we are noticing itself and recognizing its own true nature and that this is what we always were and is.
As I often say, it’s finding ourselves as capacity for the world, and what our experiences – all phenomena to us – happen within and as.
I used the term “spiritual awakening” earlier since it’s what many call it. In reality, it’s less mysterious than that can make it sound, and it doesn’t even require any spiritual traditions or ideas about spirituality.
Binary or grey zones?
Is there such a binary distinction between awake and not awake?
Yes and no. It does make a big practical difference if we notice what we are and live from it. It can be profoundly transformative for our human self and our life in the world. Not in the sense that we become something or someone special, but in that it can allow for a deep healing and a slightly kinder and wiser life in a very ordinary sense.
At the same time, it’s what we all are noticing itself. The only real difference is the noticing. Our true nature doesn’t change, and it’s the same for all beings.
And there is a big middle ground here. What we are is always here. It’s the context for all our experiences. It’s the awakeness that’s here right now, independent of any noticing or content of experience. Ourselves as capacity for the world is always here. For anyone, our true nature sometimes comes into the foreground, often in flow states. It’s just often not recognized as what it is.
Also, we can more intentionally and consciously notice what we are, and later have it just as a memory and not an immediate noticing. We may also shift between noticing and not noticing. And even if we notice what we are, we may still – to some extent – be caught up in and perceive and live from parts of us still operating from separation consciousness.
Is awakening better?
Is awakening inherently better?
Not really. Awake and not awake are both life exploring, expressing, and experiencing itself. It’s the dance of life or existence or the divine. It’s lila.
Any ideas of better or worse come from our own mind. It comes from culture, spiritual traditions, and what others say, and it’s recreated here and now in our own mind. It comes from an overlay of ideas held, more or less, as valid or true. When I look, I cannot find it outside of my own ideas.
Also, the awakening process is not necessarily easy. It requires a lot from us. It requires ongoing noticing. It requires us to live from it. It often brings up anything in us that’s not aligned with awakening and oneness, and that can be immensely uncomfortable and challenging and bring us to our knees. It requires us to live from authenticity and integrity, and the consequences of deviating from this – in ourselves and our life – can be quite harsh.
Awakening doesn’t make us into something special or better. Those are human ideas and not inherent in reality. It’s all life playing itself out.
Awakening doesn’t even necessarily make us into a better person in a conventional sense. Awake people – people where there is awakening – can be more of a jerk than many who are not awake and just happen to be more healthy and kind. To be a better person in a conventional sense requires a lot of work, and most of it is ordinary healing work and maturing in a very ordinary sense.
So why explore it?
I know I am not doing a good job of “selling” awakening here, and that’s also not my intention. I am just being honest based on my own experience.
Awakening can be deeply fascinating. It’s an endless exploration. There is something immensely satisfying in it, in my own experience. And it can be profoundly transforming for our human self and life in the world.
At the same time, and as many say, there is nothing in it for “me”. We wake up out of the dream of fundamentally being a separate self and this human being. It’s not inherently “better” than the alternative, and it is – in many ways – immensely challenging. And it doesn’t even necessarily make us into a “better” person in a conventional sense.
Ultimately, this is not “our” choice. It’s life that determines if there is going to be an awakening here or not, and how it’s going to look and unfold.