Awakening and the experience of paradoxes

When I first came to the Center for Sacred Sciences in Oregon, I had a meeting with the main teacher and mentioned the awakening shift that happened in my teens.

He asked: Do you experience paradoxes?

I answered honestly: No.

His response: Then it isn’t an awakening.

I understand where he was coming from. In the first phase following an awakening shift, it’s common to experience paradoxes.

And yet, judging from my own process, this experience of paradoxes fades and goes away after a while. In my case, it dissolved sometime during the first five or ten years following the awakening shift.

If we are used to living primarily through the filter of thought, then awakening does lead to an experience of paradox. We directly perceive that reality is more than any story, different from any story, simpler than any story, and any story has some validity to it. From the experience of our old story-focused perception, we experience endless paradoxes when there is an initial awakening shift.

And when we get more familiar with it and used to it, it’s different. We rely more on our direct perception. We know that stories have a practical function only and cannot reflect or hold any final, full, or absolute truth. Reality is always more than, different from, and much more simple than any story. And so on. There are no paradoxes because paradoxes only happen when we hold stories more tightly, and we know that stories cannot hold any real truth.

What are some of the apparent paradoxes we may experience? It may be that we are both spirit and human. Everything is ephemeral and dreamlike and also, in a sense, real and substantial. Before awakening, awakening may seem abstract, distant and complex, and within awakening, it seems the most familiar and simple. There is some truth to any number of stories and views. And so on. And as we get more familiar with awakening and living from it, these appear less as a paradox until our tendency to experience paradoxes falls away.

So why did he ask that question? I am not sure, and I didn’t take the opportunity to ask. As I see it, that particular question makes sense if it’s a recent shift, and it makes less sense when it’s something we have lived with and within for a while.

There are some lessons here.

If you find yourself in the role of an awakening teacher, don’t depend on just one question for your evaluation. Be a bit more curious. Get to know where the student is coming from.

And if you are in the role of a student, speak up and clarify. (I didn’t which is a pattern for me and comes from an old hangup and what’s still unresolved about this issue.)

Note: This happened fifteen or more years ago, and I was moderately involved for a few years until I left Oregon.

DRAFT

AWAKENING AND THE EXPERIENCE OF PARADOX

When I first came to the Center for Sacred Sciences, I had a meeting with the main teacher and mentioned the awakening shift that happened in my teens.

He asked: Do you experience paradoxes.

I answered honestly “no”.

And his response was: Then it wasn’t an awakening.

I understand where he was coming from. In the first phase following an awakening shift, it’s common to experience paradoxes.

And yet, judging from my own process, this experience of paradoxes fade and goes away after a while. In my case, I went away sometimes during the first five or ten years following the awakening shift.

If we are used to living primarily through the filter of thought, then awakening does lead to an experience of paradox. We directly perceive that reality is more than any story, different from any story, simpler than any story, and any story has some validity to it. From the experience of our old story-focused perception, we experience endless paradoxes when there is an initial awakening shift.

And yet, when we get more familiar with it and used to it, it’s different. We rely more on our direct perception. We know that stories have a practical function only and cannot reflect or hold any final, full, or absolute truth. Reality is always more than, different from, and much more simple than any story. And so on. There are no paradoxes because paradoxes only happen when we hold stories more tightly, and we know that stories cannot hold any real truth.

So why did he ask that question? It makes sense if it’s a recent shift, but not when it happened so long ago. I am not sure, and I didn’t get an opportunity to ask.

……

There is a lesson here for awakening teachers: Don’t depend on just one question for your evaluation. Be a bit more curious. Get to know where the student is coming from.

And one lesson for students is to speak up and clarify, which I didn’t. (And usually don’t, which I know is a hangup and issue for me.) 

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