These days, I find myself enjoying finding ways to talk about awakening in a way that’s as grounded and sober as possible. I have written about this in other articles and will give the essence here.
TALKING ABOUT AWAKENING
Talking about awakening is, in many ways, the least important part of it. What it’s about is exploring it for ourselves and how it is to live from it.
Still, what our heart is full of, our mouth speaks.
And it does have a function.
It may invite some to explore it for themselves.
It may serve as a pointer for how to explore it.
And it creates a kind of map which can be helpful for others exploring the actual terrain.
At the same time, it’s inherently futile. Words create imagined boundaries, and what it points to is without boundaries.
THE ESSENCE OF AWAKENING
For me, awakening means to notice what I am. To find myself as capacity for the world, and what my field of experience happens within and as.
That’s the essence of it. This can be understood in a psychological sense. No matter our general worldview, we have to admit we experience through and via consciousness. All our experiences happen within and as consciousness. To ourselves, we are consciousness. (We cannot be anything else.) We are what our experiences happen within and as.
Saying that we are this human self is not wrong. It’s how others see us and it mostly works in daily life. We may also assume that we most fundamentally are this human self. But in our own immediate experience, we are consciousness. We are what our field of experience – which includes this human self and the wider world – happens within and as.
Awakening means to notice what we already are in our own immediate experience. And this can be described and understood in a relatively simple way.
WHAT COMES WITH AWAKENING
When we find what we are to ourselves, we may also notice a few other things.
My field of experience happens within and as what I am. To me, it’s one. It’s a seamless whole. Any distinctions come from an overlay of mental representations. To me, I am oneness and all of existence is one.
This too isn’t very mysterious. It’s a function of noticing what I am and finding myself as capacity for the world as it appears to me.
Also, to me, all of existence is consciousness. To me, all my experiences happen within and as what I am. To me, they share my true nature. To me, they are consciousness.
SMALL AND BIG INTERPRETATIONS OF AWAKENING
What I have described here is the essence of awakening.
It’s also what we can call the small or psychological way of talking about awakening. It’s the most sober and grounded way of talking about it that I have found so far. (Which perhaps says something about my own limitations!) It’s the way of talking about it that requires the fewest assumptions, leaps of faith, and big words.
There is also the big or spiritual interpretation of awakening. Here, we take a few leaps although – in some instances – these leaps are also grounded in what we can notice.
When we notice what we are, we also notice that to us all of existence inevitably happens within and as consciousness. It appears as consciousness to us. To us, the true nature of all phenomena is the same as our own true nature.
So it’s natural here to take the leap and say that all of existence inherently is consciousness. And from here, we can say that all of existence is Spirit, the divine, God, Allah, Brahman, Buddha nature, and so on.
After all, that’s how it inevitably appears to us.
Whether all of existence actually is like this is another question. There are some hints suggesting that it’s the case – ESP, distance sensing, distance healing, and so on – but this is for another article.
THE UPSIDES AND LIMITATIONS OF A SOBER APPROACH
There are several upsides to a sober and grounded approach to talking about awakening.
It can be relatively simple and pragmatic.
It makes it available to more people.
It demystifies the topic.
It can make sense to people who are not into spirituality.
And there are also some limitations.
It speaks to only some people and not others. That’s the limitation inherent in any approach, and that’s why we have a wide range of flavors and approaches.
There are sides to awakening that are better pointed to in another way, for instance, a more poetic or metaphorical one.
If it’s presented in a simple and clear way, we may understand the thoughts and assume that means we get what it refers to. (Even if one is a pointer and the other is direct noticing.)
Depending on how it’s expressed, it can sound a bit boring and uninspiring. I love this aspect of it since it means that if we are still attracted to it, it comes from a deeper and more sincere place in us.
OTHER APPROACHES TO TALKING ABOUT AWAKENING
When we talk about awakening in another way, it generally comes from two places.
It can come from clarity and wisdom, and perhaps personal preference or a strategic choice.
It can come from lack of clarity, unexamined beliefs, and emotional issues.
And it can come from any combination of those two.
Here are some examples if we come from clarity and wisdom.
We may come from a tradition or culture that emphasizes another way to talk about it. For instance, one that’s more devotional, poetic, or metaphorical.
We may have a personal skill, orientation, or preference that leads us to use a more devotional, poetic, artistic, or metaphorical expression.
We may choose a more devotional, poetic, or metaphorical expression as a strategy, in order to reach certain people, speak to people at a certain phase of the process, highlight certain aspects of awakening or the divine, or evoke something in the recipient.
And here are some examples if we come more from lack of clarity.
To us, awakening may be a story. We may not have a reference for it from our own noticing or even a memory of noticing. That makes it an open field to imagine just about anything into.
We may mix up direct noticing with imaginations and fantasies, even if we notice what we are. And this can happen for a variety of reasons.
We may be caught up in what we have heard from others, whether this is our culture, spiritual tradition, spiritual teachers, or someone else. We may use this in how we talk about it, even if it doesn’t fit our direct noticing.
We may not prioritize intellectual honesty, so we mix up stories with our direct noticing.
We may be caught up in beliefs and emotional issues, and this fuels certain stories that are not supported by our direct noticing.
We may confuse the side-effects of an initial awakening with its essence.
We may take our immediate perception as reality itself. For instance, we may notice that to us the whole world appears as consciousness, and jump to the conclusion that all of existence is consciousness.
THE RICHNESS OF MULTIPLE APPROACHES
There is a richness in how we collectively perceive and express all of this, and that’s not a coincidence.
We may notice different aspects of what we are. We come from different cultural and spiritual backgrounds. We have preferences and talents in talking about it in different ways. We may choose certain ways to talk about it as a strategy, to speak to a certain audience, or to evoke something in the recipient.
We also have our own lack of clarity, blind spots, unexamined beliefs, hangups, and emotional issues that filter our perception and expression.
And all of that creates a richness we all benefit from. It creates a fuller picture.
There are valuable pointers in the expressions that come from direct noticing, no matter what form those expressions take. And all of it – the clarity and wisdom, and the confusion and hangups – is our mirror. It’s up to us to sort it out for ourselves, through our own explorations and direct noticing.
There are several types of less sober approaches.
The most obvious is imagination and fantasies. These are not grounded in direct noticing, and they get mixed up with the expressions that come from direct noticing in our culture. They sit next to each other on the bookshelf.
Imagination and fantasies sometimes gets mixed up with direct noticing. We can do both at the same time, and mix them up in how we talk about it.
We may mistake our direct noticing for how reality in itself is. To us, all is consciousness, so we assume all of existence inherently is consciousness without noticing the leap of faith we are engaging in.
We may come from a tradition or culture that emphasizes the big or spiritual interpretation of awakening, so we follow along without differentiating the small and big interpretations.
We may chose to express it in a more poetic way or through using metaphors.
I have mixed up grounded and sober approaches here, even if there is sometimes a distinction. It’s possible to take an approach that’s grounded in our own direct noticing and is also not terribly sober.
CHOSING A LESS GROUNDED WAY OF TALKING ABOUT IT
If we have the option to talk about this in a relatively sober and grounded way, why do we sometimes not? Why do we sometimes take it one or several steps further and beyond what we can say something about for certain?
There are several answers.
We may just know about this from stories. To us, it’s a philosophy. And that makes it an open field to imagine just about anything into without having it grounded in our own noticing.
Even if we notice, we may also be partly caught up in stories about it. We may enjoy going into stories, and sometimes fanciful stories, as much as we enjoy the noticing.
It may be a new noticing. To us, it’s a new and unfamiliar terrain. So we may imagine things into it and enjoy flights of fancy.
We may get caught up in the initial excitement of it. Here too, we may enjoy some imaginations and flights of fancy.
We may experience awakening side-effects and focus on these rather than the essence of awakening.
We may come from a tradition that talks about it in a more poetic, metaphorical, or emotional way.
We may have a personality that enjoys a more poetic or mystic approach.
We may not prioritize a more sober and grounded approach, for a wide range of reasons. It may be personal preference, a strategy, a hangup, or something else.
We may want to use a more poetic or metaphorical language as a pointer, to bypass thoughts, or to evoke certain feelings.
We may not prioritize intellectual honesty. We mix up direct noticing with what we have heard from others, and don’t engage in the work to differentiate the two.
We may have unexamined beliefs that gets mixed up with our direct noticing.
We may have emotional needs that we seek to fulfill through engaging in fantasies and imagination and pretending these are the reality.
THE RICHNESS OF MULTIPLE APPROACHES
Right now, I enjoy exploring a more sober and grounded way of talking about this. And that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the other approaches.
There is a richness in how perceive and express all of this, and that’s not a coincidence.
We may notice different aspects of what we are. We come from different cultural and spiritual backgrounds. We have preferences and talents in talking about it in different ways. We may chose certain ways to talk about it as a strategy and to speak to a certain audience.
We have our own lack of clarity, blind spots, unexamined beliefs, hangups, and emotional issues that filter our perception and expression.
And all of that creates a richness we all benefit from.
There are valuable pointers in the expressions that come from direct noticing, no matter what form those expressions take. And all of it – the clarity and wisdom, and confusion and hangups – is a mirror for ourselves. It’s up to us to sort it out for ourselves, through our own explorations and direct noticing.
Why do some take a less sober and grounded approach to talking about awakening?
This question obviously reflects my own current bias and preference.
We may not have a reference for awakening from our own noticing or memory of past noticing. This means that the field is wide open for fantasies and imaginations.