Awakening: Why is it difficult to put into words?

Why is it difficult to put awakening into words? Or anything related to our more fundamental nature?

There are a few different reasons.


It’s not because it’s unfamiliar, distant, or special, or for someone special.

It’s what’s already most familiar to us, whether we recognize it or not.


Mental representations serve an important function. They help us orient and function in the world, and to communicate with ourselves and others.

They are questions about the world. They can serve as pointers.

At the same time, they have limits. Words cannot properly capture anything.

It’s the nature of words that makes it difficult to put our nature – and anything else – into words.

Our nature is not a special case.


Words and mental representations are maps.

They help us orient and navigate in the world, and they help us communicate with ourselves and others.

Say we have a map of a place we haven’t been to. The map can give us a rough and abstract sense of the place, but not much more. We fill it in with our imagination and past experience, and that imagination is bound to get a lot wrong. It’s bound to get everything a bit wrong, and some a lot wrong.

If we are there, then the map can help us explore it more in detail and discover more about it.

That’s another reason it’s difficult to put awakening into words. If someone is not there, no words are sufficient to describe or explain it. If someone is there, then words can help them explore new aspects within it.

Here, the limitations are in where we are, and that’s the same with everything. If we are familiar with it, then words can serve as practical pointers. If not, the words remain more abstract and we imagine more into it.


Words operate on distinctions, they create imaginary boundaries and divisions. That’s how they are useful.

Our nature is one. It’s what forms itself into any and all of our experience, without exception. It’s all we have ever known.

That’s another reason why it’s difficult to put it into language.

Often, the best we can do is to say what it’s not and use poetic expressions to point to it.


If we lived in a culture where exploring our nature was common and a part of our culture, we would have more of a shared language for it.

In the Western world, we don’t live in that kind of culture (unless we are in the Bay Area!) and we don’t have a shared language, apart from what we borrow from other cultures and a few mystics from our own.

I am trying to talk about it in a language that’s natural to me, simple, mostly free of jargon, and that reflects my direct noticing as much as possible.


I know I am bound to fail in trying to capture any of this in words.

In the best case, it may be slightly interesting, create a frame, or serve as a pointer or reminder.

It always falls short. That’s OK. That’s how it is.

There is a gift there. It’s a blessing that we cannot capture any of this – or anything at all – in words.

It leaves us with one option, and that is to experience it for ourselves. We have to explore the terrain for ourselves.

There is no substitute. The experience of others is not a substitute. Words – no matter how beautiful or apparently insightful – are no substitute.

That’s how I can attempt to fail well: I know words cannot capture it, and I know there is a beautiful blessing and pointer in just that.

Image by me and Midjourney



Anything that has to do with our more fundamental nature is difficult to put into words.

Why? It’s not because it’s unfamiliar or distant or just for someone special. It’s what’s most familiar to us.

It’s because words can only point, they cannot really capture anything. It’s the nature of words that makes it difficult to put it into words. It’s not so much our own nature.

It’s the same with anything. Words cannot properly capture it.

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