I have been interested in the phases and stages of the awakening process for a while, and although these stage maps have value, I am also very aware of their shortcomings.
So I thought I would explore a different approach here that may complement stage models, and also loosen them up a bit, and shed a slightly different light on the process.
What are some of the themes in an awakening process? And how do they look in different phases of the process, and perhaps in some of the individual processes I know about?
Here are some of the themes that stand out to me.
If we are in an awakening process, we typically have some interest, fascination, and draw to it. We may feel called. We may respond to inner guidance or intuition. We may tell ourselves any number of reasons why we are interested in it.
This interest tends to stay with us through the process, perhaps with some periods where it goes more into the background.
An interest or fascination may be how it (apparently) starts for us. And other times, our fascination and interest come from an initial glimpse or shift. (For me, the shift came first.)
Just about all of us have at last some intellectual curiosity about the process, we wish to make some sense of our own process and experiences, and we read or listen to what others have to share about it.
This intellectual exploration typically follows us through the process. It doesn’t belong to any particular phase.
It can be very helpful in that it provides us with a map and a way to orient.
And the pitfall is that we can have our noses so deeply in the maps that we forget about the terrain. We may distract ourselves. We may get overly attached to certain maps, even when they don’t fit the terrain so well. We may temporarily forget that this is about the terrain, not the maps.
We also have the more direct and visceral exploration.
This may be a direct noticing of our nature, often guided by certain structured forms of inquiry and someone familiar with the terrain.
We may explore basic meditation and notice and allow what’s here, and then notice that what’s here is already noticed and allowed and align more consciously with that. We may find that any and all content of experience, including anything associated with this human self, comes and goes. And that what we are is what all this comes and goes within and as.
We may train a more stable attention. We may engage in heart-centered practices. We may use body-centered practices or do energetic work. We may follow ethical guidelines mimicking how people tend to live when oneness notices itself.
We may explore how it is to live from all of this.
Not everyone starts with direct exploration, but it is an essential part of the process. And if we are on a sincere exploration, it tends to be with us for the whole process. There is always more to discover, clarify, deepen, and get familiar with.
At some point, we may have glimpses of our nature. We may intuit or feel some kind of oneness of existence. We may even recognize our nature as capacity for the word as it appears to us, and find ourselves as the oneness the world to us happens within and as.
We may experience different kinds of states highlighting and showing us aspects of our nature.
And these glimpes may show us something just a bit beyond what we already are familiar with.
This can happen at any phase of the process. Even after we notice our nature, there is always further to go, and we often get glimpses of what’s ahead. (At least, that’s how it’s been for me.)
MORE STABLE SHIFTS
We then have the more stable shifts.
Oneness may shift into more stably noticing itself, through the different states, experiences, and situations of daily life.
Oneness may shift from noticing itself to more viscerally experiencing itself as oneness, again through the different situations in daily life.
And so on. There are many of these.
We may go through several kinds of dark nights in an awakening process.
These are temporary states where we may feel lost or that we have lost something, we may have deep wounds and traumas surfacing, we may experience deep agony, and so on.
These are times when our old orientation and way of being may not work anymore. Old patterns wear off. And we get ready, whether we know it or not, for something else.
The more we struggle, the less pleasant this experience tends to be. And if we struggle, then that struggle is an integral part of the process for us and something we can learn from.
There are certain things we can do to make it a little easier for ourselves. For me, it helped to know that others have gone through something very similar. It helped to have the guidance and support of someone who had gone through it himself. Being in nature was a blessing and helped calm down my very frayed nervous system. Energetic work – Five Element acupuncture and Vortex Healing – has also helped. And heart-centered practices and inquiry has been a good support as well.
In my experience, this is something that lives its own life and has its own schedule. In many ways, “I” am just along for the ride.
EXPLORING LIVING FROM IT
Through the process, we may also explore living from what we discover and the shifts that happen.
We may explore living according to ethical guidelines, and notice what in us wishes to deviate from these. (Typically, wounded parts of us that need some befriending, understanding, love, and clarity through inquiry.)
We may do heart-centered or body-centered practices, and explore how to live from the shifts these bring about.
We may notice our nature, and explore how to live from that in different situations in daily life.
And we may notice what in us is still not yet on board with this, and gently explore and get to know those parts of us.
HUMAN SELF ALIGNING AND REORGANIZING
A part of this process is the reorganization and realignment of our human self and the many psychological parts of our human self.
This happens throughout the process. It happens at a conceptual level through our conceptual curiosity. It happens at a heart level through heart-centered and other practices. It happens as shifts in how we relate to ourselves, others, situations, life, and our experiences. It happens in terms of our identity and what we take ourselves to be. And so on.
Mainly, it happens in the form of a healing of how we relate to anything. And as healing of the different wounded parts of ourselves.
These days, I am mostly using the befriend & awaken process to explore this.
Some don’t feel moved to share much about this or their own process, and that’s perfectly fine.
And others are drawn to sharing, in some form or another. Even if it’s just occasional conversations with others on the path.
The sharing can be between colleagues exploring a similar terrain. It can be between a student and coach. It can be between someone familiar with this terrain and someone curious about it. And so on.
For me, the sharing mostly happens here.
UPSIDES OF A THEME ORIENTATION
Stage models obviously have their place and usefulness.
And I still love this focus on themes – or woven threads – in an awakening process.
It shows how themes may be present throughout the process. It shows how they may change in their expression through the process.
It complements the stage models, helps loosen them up a bit, and fills them in. And it’s fully possible to include a discussion of phases when outlining themes, or the other way around.
Note: I wrote an article using a theme orientation to outline my own process.
- threads & themes in an awakening process
- fascination, draw
- conceptual exploration
- direct exploration
- practice, noticing
- more stable noticing
- becomes new habit
- exploring living from it
- helped by practices, transformation
- human self aligning and reorganizing
- healing, practices
- sharing w. others
- upside of themes
- complements, loosens up, and fills in stage maps
- may fit our experience better
So I thought I would explore a different approach here, and one that complements, loosens up, and fills in stage maps.
We may try to fit ourselves or even others into a particular map, even if our process doesn’t fit very well.
, and what we call a dark night depends on our definition