I keep seeing YouTube videos where people explain something at different levels of complexity.
So why not do it for awakening?
How may it look if I describe it from the essence and then increasingly add more detail and differentiation? Here is my first go:
What is awakening?
At the simplest level, it’s about exploring what we really are in our own experience.
To see what we find and see how it is to live from it.
It’s as simple as that.
We can add another layer of detail.
In one sense, we are this human self, a being in the world, and so on. That’s not wrong.
And yet, when we look, what is it we more fundamentally are in our own first-person experience?
This involves setting aside any ideas others tell us we are and we tell ourselves we are. Engage in a sincere and often guided exploration. See what we find in our own first-person experience.
And then see how it is to live from that noticing and what it does with us.
This can be understood in a psychological or spiritual context.
In a psychological context, awakening is just about discovering what we are in our own first-person experience.
We have mental representations of this human self in the world, and we need those to orient and function in the world. And yet, when we look more closely, we may find we more fundamentally – to ourselves – are something else.
Conventionally, we may say we “have” consciousness. And in our own first-person experience, we are this consciousness and all content of experience – including this human self, the wider world, and anything else – is happening within and as this consciousness. What we are forms itself into any and all our experiences.
In that sense, all we have ever known and will ever know is what we are. All we have known and will ever know is our nature.
In a spiritual context, we can go one step further. We can say that all of existence is the divine, and we are the divine first taking itself as a separate being and then reminding its own nature and oneness.
The upside of the psychological interpretation is its simplicity and that it doesn’t require any particular worldview. It can help us ground our approach to awakening and living from and as oneness.
The upside of the spiritual interpretation is that it *may* be more accurate in the bigger picture, and it can be more inspiring.
What may we find when we explore our more fundamental nature?
We may find ourselves as capacity for all our experiences – of this human self, the wider world, and anything else.
And we may find ourselves as what any and all experiences, and the world to us, happens within and as.
Noticing this is the first step. And it doesn’t necessarily involve a long and complicated process.
Simple guidance from someone familiar with this terrain may be enough, for instance using the Big Mind process or the Headless experiments.
The next step is to keep noticing this in more and more situations in our daily life, and over time deepen the groove of this new noticing habit.
And to explore living from it. How is it to live from noticing my nature? How is it to live from noticing that the world and all of existence, to me, is one?
What does this do to me? What does the noticing do to where my “center of gravity” is in terms of what I most fundamentally take myself to be? What does it do to me to intend to live from this noticing in more situations and more areas of my life?
The noticing itself is relatively simple. It doesn’t ask that much from us.
And to keep noticing it and to live from it asks everything from us.
It involves a profound transformation of our most fundamental identity, our perception, our life in the world, and our human self and psyche.
And it requires a deep healing at our human level. It requires deep healing of all the different parts of our psyche still caught up in separation consciousness, and emotional issues, hangups, beliefs, and traumas.
We can notice our nature and even, to some extent, live from it, while also having many parts of us still operating from separation consciousness. These parts of us will inevitably color our perception and life, and they will sometimes be more actively and obviously triggered.
In an awakening process, they’ll come up metaphorically asking to join in with the awakening. Asking to reorient within the context of finding ourselves as oneness. And find deeper healing through that.
A couple of things here are relatively simple.
It doesn’t necessarily take much for us to notice our nature, especially with skilled guidance.
And it doesn’t take that much to understand all of this, to some extent, at a story level.
Both of those are good starting points. And the real work is in living it.
The real work is in keeping noticing our nature, exploring how it is to live from it, and inviting the many parts of us still operating from separation consciousness to align more closely with oneness.
There is always further to go in the noticing, living, and realigning of the many parts of us.
It’s an ongoing process.
What are some of the many things we may discover or experience?
We may go through dark nights. As I see it these days, these are phases where our system holds onto deeper assumptions and identities and life puts us in a situation where these don’t work anymore. There are many types of dark nights, including one I am familiar with where deep trauma comes up to heal and align with the awakening.
We may engage in different forms of structured inquiry and explore certain processes more in detail. We may notice what happens when our system holds onto a specific belief, examine this belief, and find what’s more true for us and how it is to live from this.
We may explore our sense fields. We may notice how our mental field is a kind of overlay on the rest of the content of our experience to make sense of it all. Our mental representations help us orient and navigate in the world.
We may see how our mind associates certain mental representations (mental images and words) with certain bodily sensations. The mental representations give a sense of meaning to the sensations, and the sensations give a sense of solidity to the mental representations. This is how the mind creates beliefs and identities for itself, and also emotional issues, hangups, and traumas.
This is also how the oneness we inherently are creates an experience for itself of I and Other. It’s how separation consciousness is created. It’s a relatively basic mechanism behind separation consciousness.
We may find that mental representations (thoughts) are questions about the world. Their function is to help us orient and navigate in the world. They are different in kind from what they point to. They simplify. In a conventional sense, they are more or less accurate. And they cannot hold any final, full, or absolute truth. Reality is always more than and different from any thought, and also – in a sense – far more simple.
As we explore this in more detail, we may discover more places where our systems hold onto identities and assumptions about ourselves and the world. We may find an identification as an observer, as consciousness, as oneness, as love, as capacity for the world, and so on. In each of these cases, the mind creates a mental representation for itself, associates it with certain physical sensations, and identifies with the viewpoint of that mental representation and its story.
This is an ongoing process.
ABOUT THESE STEPS
These steps are obviously somewhat arbitrary, and they turned out to be more about adding another layer of detail than explaining awakening in different levels of complexity. If I did it again, I may be able to follow the assignment more accurately…!
I would likely also include more about the heart and energetic aspects and more about the dynamics of living from noticing our nature.
I am also aware of how these steps roughly mirror my own process. During the initial awakening shift in my teens, oneness woke up to itself. I wasn’t aware of the more detailed mechanisms and so on. All that came through different forms of inquiry and other practices later on.
Note: If I wanted to point to it more directly in the first level, I could say: “It’s the one pretending to be two and then refinds itself as one and many simultaneously”. This is not wrong, but I prefer to emphasize the questions and exploration since it more clearly leaves the finding up to the person. Pointing to it more directly can give some a sense that they get it even if they only get it at a conceptual level. As mentioned above, that’s a good first step but it’s not what this is about.
Photo: A snapshot I recently took from the land that chose us in the Andes mountains.