The mundane side of awakening

When what I am first noticed itself, it was amazing and wondrous. Especially because it was sudden, strong, and contrasted with previously mostly knowing separation consciousness and taking myself to just be a small part of my field of experience.

As I get more familiar with it, the awe and wondrousness of it is still here. It’s amazing that anything is at all. And the beauty, perfection, and immense diversity of existence is beyond words.

At the same time, there is an ordinariness in awakening. It has a mundane side. And that’s a relief.


In what way can it be seen as mundane?

Awakening is noticing what we already are. First, there may be a sense of “I” noticing it, and then it’s noticing itself as all there is. It’s not about anything “other” or particularly mysterious or unfamiliar. It’s what we are most intimately familiar with, although we may not have recognized it for what it is.

It can be understood in a psychological context. All our experiences happen within consciousness. To ourselves, in our first-person experience, we are that consciousness. So we are capacity for all our experiences, and all our experiences happen within and as what we are.

It’s not wrong that we are this human self in the world. Although in our first-person experience, we more fundamentally are something else. We are capacity the world, and what our field of experience happens within and as. We are what our human self and the wider world happens within and as. We are what our sense fields – sights, sounds, tastes, sensations, mental representations – happen within and as.

Here, we notice that our field of experience is one. Any sense of boundaries comes from our overlay of mental representations. And since it happens within and as what we are, we are that oneness.

This is what mystics from all the main spiritual traditions have talked about, and it doesn’t require any reference to God or Spirit or anything especially mysterious.

There is discipline and work involved in this. Noticing what we are can happen easily and relatively quickly. But to keep noticing requires intention, as does living from this noticing. This discipline and work is unglamorous.

This process of noticing and living from it tends to invite in a transformation of our human self. To the extent our human self has wounds, hangups, identifications, traumas, and so on, this is a challenging and messy process. It can be overwhelming, confusing, and bring us to our knees. It’s a deeply human process.

As we mature in this process, and as our human self transforms and heals, we tend to both become more authentically and uniquely who we are, and more ordinary. To others, we are just an ordinary human being. In most cases, and to the extent we have found healing and some maturity, it doesn’t look like anything special.

We find that the world is our mirror.

What I see in the wider world is also something I have here as a human self. I can take any story I have about anything or anyone in the wider world, turn it to myself, and find specific examples of how it’s true.

I also recognize that the way I make sense of anything in the world is through an overlay of mental representations – labels, mental images, stories, and so on. That’s how I am able to navigate and orient in the world. The world as it appears to me is created through my own interpretations and stories.

To the extent I recognize and have worked with this, it tends to equalize anything and everything between the wider world and this human self.


There is something inherently amazing and awe-inspiring in noticing what we are.

And as we get more familiar with it, we see it’s also quite ordinary and even mundane.

What we notice is what we always have been. We can understand awakening in a psychological sense. Noticing and living from it requires discipline and work, as anything else. The human transformation is messy in a deeply human way. As we heal and mature within this, we tend to look very ordinary to others and ourselves. And as we explore the world as our mirror, we find that it tends to equalize everything between the wider world and our human self.

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