The fantasy of arriving

A common fantasy is of arriving.

THE FANTASY OF ARRIVING

At some point, I’ll arrive. I’ll be stable. I’ll have it all figured out. I’ll have enough money. I’ll have the house and family. I’ll have a good job. I’ll be respected. I’ll be loved. I’ll learn to love myself. I’ll find a state that’s peaceful. I’ll be enlightened. I’ll be in paradise. I’ll have found nirvana. God will love me.

There are many versions of having arrived and yours may be different.

This is the fantasy of the part of us that feels that something isn’t right, wants it to be different, and hopes that will fix a more fundamental sense of something not being right. And it’s perfectly natural and understandable.

And yet, it’s a fantasy.

It’s a fantasy of parts of us that are unexamined and often unhealed and unloved.

It’s a fantasy we seek refuge in so we can find some comfort and a sense of safety, if only in an imagined future.

And if we look a little closer, we may find it’s a fantasy that creates discomfort and fear when we fuel it. When we hold it as true and identify with its viewpoint.

EXPLORING THE FANTASY OF ARRIVING

So what’s the solution?

One is to examine this fantasy.

When I explore this for myself, I find it’s an image of an imagined future. It comes from a part of me scared of discomfort and uncertainty. It’s something I go into in order to find a sense of safety.

It’s out of alignment with reality since I cannot know anything for certain about the future.

And holding onto it is uncomfortable for just that reason: it’s out of alignment with what I already know – that I cannot know. I am not honest with myself, and that’s inherently uncomfortable.

Holding onto it distracts me from noticing that I have already arrived where I am now. Holding onto it may distract me from shifting how I relate to what’s here and now and find more genuine peace with it.

I can also connect with this fantasy and the part of me that wants to hold onto it.

Where do I feel it in the body? What images are connected with it? What (stressful) stories are behind it? How is it to dialog with this part of me?

What does it want to tell me? What would help it relax?

How is it to see that it comes from a wish to protect me? That it comes from love?

How would it be to meet it with kindness and patience?

How is it to give it – here and now – what it really wants? (A sense of safety, love, being understood, etc.)

How is it to notice that its nature is the same as my own? That it happens within and as what I am?

And so on. There are many ways to explore this.

WILL WE EVER ARRIVE?

Will we ever arrive?

The most honest answer is that I don’t know. How is it to find peace with this not knowing? I may as well since it’s here. I don’t know for certain and cannot know for certain.

At the same time, I can say “no” since everything is always in motion. The content of experience is always in motion, and often in unpredictable ways. There is nowhere to arrive.

I can say “no” because the idea of arriving somewhere is an idea. It’s created by the human mind. It’s not inherent in reality.

And I can say “yes” because we already have arrived. We are already here. This is it. For me, any ideas – about the past or future or arriving or not – happen here and now. I cannot find it anywhere else.

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Drama queen spirituality

There is a lot of drama queen spirituality.

Overly dramatic ideas about spirituality and what it is about.

Some of it has some validity.

And yet, and at least when it comes to awakening, the essence of it is inherently undramatic.

UNDRAMATIC ESSENCE

In what way is it undramatic?

It’s what we already are noticing itself. Nothing is created. Nothing is added.

It’s what we already are most familiar with. We have never experienced anything other than our nature.

We “just” need to notice. Our nature needs to notice itself as everything it experiences and all it has ever known. What’s required is for the oneness we are to notice itself.

THE APPARENT DRAMA

And there is also some apparent drama in an awakening process.

When oneness takes itself as a separate self within itself, it tends to create drama around a range of things including awakening. It has ideas about awakening. It may yearn for awakening. It may struggle to find awakening. It may discard and reject awakening. And so on.

And it may also struggle with the process itself as it unfolds. It may tell itself it “got it” and then “lost it”. It may tell itself something has gone wrong. It may go through phases that don’t look the way it thinks it should look. It may recognize most experiences as itself and “forget” that other experiences – typically the ones the personality doesn’t like – also are itself and struggle with it. And so on.

All this is a kind of drama. Its drama the oneness we are creates for itself within itself.

The irony is that all of this drama is made up of our nature. What we seek is what makes itself into all of this drama and any other experience we have. All of it is inherently what we are.

Oneness takes itself to be a separate self within itself. Seeks some idea of awakening. Creates drama for itself. And what it really seeks is what makes itself into all this drama. It seeks the nature of this drama.

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Spiritual fantasies

How do we make sense of all the chaos and breakdown of the world as we have known it during the past few years?

First Covid, now the Ukrainian War, as economic issues, climate change and other issues lurk on the horizon.

Is there a larger context holding it all in a way that is meaningful and reassuring to our souls?

Here’s our take:

Humanity and the Earth are entering into a time of profound, existential transformation. 

For millennia, human souls have been gestating as third-dimensional, physical “caterpillars.”

But now we are entering into the chrysalis of transformation.

All that we have known of ourselves and our world is dissolving, so that a new species of 4th- and 5th-dimensional, luminous, divine human “butterflies” can emerge — Homo Luminous. 

We can find spiritual fantasies in all forms of spirituality.

The quote above is one example. We experience what humans have experienced throughout history: We have pandemics, war, a possible famine, and so on. It’s routine. And instead of recognizing it as routine, and using it to heal and mature, some go into spiritual fantasies to make sense of it and feel better about it.

SUMMARY

This article became quite long so I thought I would simplify it in this summary:

We rely on mental representations – mental images and words – to orient and function in the world. 

And they can be more or less accurate in a conventional sense. Sometimes, they correspond to something and are relatively accurate. And sometimes, we cannot find what they refer to or they may be inaccurate in other ways. 

Spiritual stories are also fantasies. Sometimes, they are relatively accurate, and sometimes what they refer to doesn’t exist or doesn’t exist as anything close to what our stories tell us. 

What I’ll write about here are the spiritual fantasies that we are invested in, for whatever reason. 

They are the ones I cannot verify for myself. They are typically about something “out there” (in others, the world, the future, the past). And I am invested in the stories in order to feel better about myself or the world, or sometimes to fuel my fears. (They have an element of wishful or fearful thinking). 

What are some examples of these spiritual fantasies? It can be about an afterlife. Some imagined future jump to a higher dimension. That awakening will give us a lasting desired state or solve all our human problems. Or anything else we label spiritual, cannot check for ourselves and are invested in to feel better. (Or to fuel our fears.) 

There is nothing inherently wrong with this. It’s natural. It’s necessary until it isn’t. Sometimes, what the stories refer to exists and sometimes it doesn’t. And these spiritual fantasies tend to become more “subtle” on an awakening path. They can take the form of mental representations saying we are consciousness, awakeness, oneness, love, capacity, and so on. (Which is not necessarily wrong, it’s just that investing in these mental representations is not what it’s about. These images and words are pointers, not important in themselves.) 

At the same time, there are inherent drawbacks to spiritual fantasies. Mainly, they distract us from what’s here. And what’s here is what we all deepest down long for. We long for noticing the wholeness and oneness we already are. And any idea of finding what we are looking for “out there” is a temporary distraction and misdirection. It’s a distraction from focusing on healing at a human level, and from noticing what we are.

We can also make use of these spiritual fantasies. 

We can use them as a mirror for what’s here. 

What’s the spiritual story? How is it to explore this story as I would a dream? How is it to see all the elements of the story as mirroring parts of me? How is it to dialog with these parts of me? Or take the role of these parts and see what they have to say and how they perceive me and the world? (Voice dialog.) 

When I turn the story to myself, can I find specific examples of how it’s true – in the past and now? Can I find in myself the characteristics and dynamics the story describes and points to? How is it to get to know it in myself and embrace it? 

We can use these spiritual stories to notice that they happen within our mental field. We can notice the mental images and words making up these fantasies, and we cannot find what they (literally) refer to outside of these images and words. 

We can investigate the story through different types of structured inquiries. 

For instance, what happens when I hold the story as true? Can I find genuine examples of how the reversals of the story (when I turn them to the opposite and to myself) are equally or more valid? (The Work of Byron Katie.) 

What do I find when I explore the mental images and words, and how the mind associates them with particular sensations in the body? How is it to notice that the sensations lend a sense of solidity and perhaps even truth to the stories, and the stories give a sense of meaning to the sensations? Does that peek behind the curtain remove some of the fascination and magic from these stories? (Living Inquiries.) 

How is it to find myself as capacity for these stories and what they may refer to? How is it to notice they – and what they may refer to – happens within and as what I am? Does this soften the fascination of these stories? (Headless experiments, Big Mind process.) 

We can use them to practice being more honest with ourselves. It’s a story. I cannot verify it. I notice a pull in me to invest in it to feel better. (Or to fuel my fears.) And all of that is created by my own mind.

See also Alejandra’s perceptive comment on this topic.  

IN MORE DETAIL

HOW DO WE RECOGNIZE A SPIRITUAL FANTASY?

To recognize a spiritual fantasy, I can ask myself:

Is it a story I label “spiritual” or associate with spirituality?

Can I check it for myself? Can I know for certain it’s true? Would it hold up in a court of law?

Am I invested in the story? Do I wish to hold onto the spiritual story to feel better about myself or the world? Or to fuel my fears?

If I am honest with myself, and the answer is yes, no, and yes, it’s very likely a spiritual fantasy.

In general, spiritual fantasies are: (a) Stories we label spiritual. (b) They are typically about something out there – in others or in the world, or in the future or past. They are out there in space or time. (c) They are about something hidden and something we cannot easily check out for ourselves. (d) And we are invested in the stories. They help us make sense of the world, and we invest our hopes or fears in them.

OPPORTUNITY FOR EXPLORATION

When this happens, it’s an opportunity for exploration. 

We can recognize the telltale signs of attaching to a story in order to take refuge in it. We defend it. Perhaps we proselytize and want others to know about the story and agree. We rehearse it in our mind. We seek out confirmation for it, even if the sources may be flimsy. We experience an emotional charge around the story. We create an identity around it. And so on. 

We can then explore this in several ways. 

We can identify the story and examine it. 

When I look, where do I find the story? Can I find it outside of my own mental representations and what others tell me? And where do I find what the story refers to? Can I find it anywhere? Can I hold it up and show it to someone? Can I take a photo of it?

Can I know for certain it’s true? What happens when I hold onto it as true? How am I in the world when I hold it as true? What’s the genuine validity in the reversals of the story? (The Work of Byron Katie.) 

What are the mental images and words making up the story? What are the physical sensations my mind associates with these images and words? What are the associations that come up? What do I find when I examine these mental representations and associated sensations? (Living Inquiries.) 

What do I hope to get out of holding onto the story?

What do I fear would happen if I didn’t hold onto the story? How is it to feel this fear? Thank it for protecting me? Recognize it comes from a desire to protect me and from love? Find love for it, as it is? Give it what it deeper down wants? (A sense of safety, being seen, support, love, etc.) 

Do I know that a story is a spiritual fantasy, but I still want to hold onto it? What am I afraid would happen if I don’t have it? What are my fearful stories? What do I find when I examine those stories? How is it to befriend the fear?

We can also use the stories more explicitly as a mirror. Can I find in myself what they point to? If I turn the story around to myself, can I find in myself here and now what the story says is out there? Can I find the characteristics and dynamics the story says is out there also in myself? Can I find specific examples here and now and in the past? How is it to get to know this side of me?

How is it to notice the story – and anything associated with it – happens within and as what I am? That my nature is capacity for it all? (Big Mind process, Headless experiments.)

In this way, we take any tendency to spiritual fantasies in ourselves and make use of them for exploration, healing, and a bit of maturing. 

WHAT ARE SOME EXAMPLES OF SPIRITUAL FANTASIES?

The quote above is one. It’s something we cannot check. It’s a form of wishful thinking. It’s unnecessary and doesn’t give us anything of substance. It’s a distraction. It looks like something some cling to in order to feel better about themselves and the world and keep some unpleasant feelings (fear) at bay. 

Any idea about an afterlife is another. This too is something we cannot check for ourselves while we are still alive. It’s something science hasn’t thoroughly examined yet. (Although there are some good efforts.) People use these stories to instill fear or hope in themselves or others. 

In Vortex Healing, it’s when we attach to the story that by taking these classes, we likely won’t have to incarnate again. How can I know? To me, it’s just a story someone told me. Again, some seem to hold onto this story in order to feel better about themself and their life. It’s a comforting promise of escape from a life they struggle with.

It can also be any ideology we attach to and label “spiritual”, for instance, veganism. We tell ourselves it’s going to save the world, and we attach to it to feel better about ourselves and the world and distract ourselves from a difficult discomfort. (I am not saying there isn’t a lot of good in veganism. I am all for eating low on the food chain and I am aware of the many benefits for our health, for the animals, and for Earth. I am just talking about what happens when we attach to it as an ideology, as a belief that’s going to save us or the world.) 

The conspiracy theories that circulate in the wellness and New Age world can be seen as spiritual fantasies. People go into them as a coping strategy, associate them – for whatever reason – with spirituality, and choose these particular fantasies because others in their subculture do the same. 

It can also be fantasies about awakening. For instance, that awakening is a state free of discomfort. That it will magically solve all our problems. And so on. 

In general, we may tell ourselves we know that things are a certain way. Yes, my stories and maps may seem relatively accurate and they work to some extent. But…. How can I know for certain? How can I know I am not missing something important? How can I know I won’t see it differently tomorrow or in ten years with more experience and new information? How can I know it won’t look very different in a different context? One I am not familiar with now, but would make more sense to me if I knew it? Any time I tell myself I know for certain something I label spiritual, I engage in a spiritual fantasy. 

WHAT IS NOT A (SPIRITUAL) FANTASY?

When I write here, I try to avoid any form of spiritual fantasy. I aim to make it practical and something people can check out for themselves. Of course, I am not always entirely successful.

The only thing that’s free from spiritual fantasies is direct noticing. What’s here in my sense fields? In sensations? Sight? Sound? Smell? Taste? Movement? Mental representations? 

Anything found in the mental representations – mental images and words – is, in essence, a fantasy. It’s created by the mind. These can be more or less accurate in a conventional sense. The more accurate ones help us orient and function in the world. And the rest are more obvious fantasies. 

Even when we explore our own nature, it’s often mixed in with some spiritual fantasies. We may partly notice directly our nature. (Find ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us, and what any content of experience happens within and as.) And there is often an overlay of mental representations of whatever we expect to find. (Oneness, love, capacity, and so on.) Sometimes, we may look at a mental representation and assume it’s a more direct noticing of what it points to. Sometimes, we are conscious of the mental representations and use them as pointers for a more direct noticing. And often, it may be a bit of both. 

THE USE OF SPIRITUAL FANTASIES

Spiritual fantasies are useful in a couple of different ways, as mentioned above. 

They can serve as a distraction from our own discomfort. This is useful whenever we are not ready for meeting and exploring it more directly. We may not be in the right place in our life. We may not have the tools and skills. We may not have the support for doing it. We are not ready until we are. And the spiritual fantasies are necessary for us until they aren’t. 

And they can serve as a pointer to something in us to explore and get to know. As just about anything else, we can use them more intentionally to find healing, wholeness, and notice our nature. 

SPIRITUAL FANTASIES WITH AND WITHOUT A CHARGE

I should mention that spiritual fantasies can come with or without a charge, or with different types of charges. 

I can imagine the spaghetti monster from the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (Pastafarianism). For me, this has a slight charge and is associated with some physical sensations. But the charge doesn’t tell me that it’s true. The charge just tells me I find it funny and I love the intention behind that particular church. 

I can imagine an apple as a spiritual deity. For me, this has no charge. It’s clearly not true. I recognize it as just a fantasy. And many spiritual ideas are like this too, for me. For instance: God is a blue boy. (Krishna movement.) 

And if I consciously believed something, for instance, that “I” somehow will continue after this life, it would have a charge telling me that it’s true. My mind creates the mental representation of it, it creates certain physical sensations in my body through tensing up certain muscles, it associates the two, and it uses the physical sensations to give a charge to the mental representations and tells itself the sensations means its true. (Of course, when we recognize this and notice it directly, it seems slightly ridiculous and the fantasy tends to lose its sense of reality.) 

HOLDING FANTASIES AS TRUE 

Spiritual fantasies may be more or less accurate in a conventional sense. They may refer to something in existence that’s actually there in some way.

What this article is about, is more the dynamic of (a) creating a story, (b) calling it spiritual, and (c) investing in it in order to feel more comfortable or safe. That’s something that’s worth investigating no matter how accurate or not a story is in a conventional sense. 

And it’s really about any story we hold as true. Ultimately, any story is a fantasy whether it’s accurate or not in a conventional sense. It’s created by the mind to make sense of ourselves, the world, and existence. The stories are inherently different in kind from what they point to, they are simplifications, they cannot hold any full, final or absolute truth, and they can be more or less accurate in a conventional sense. And the dynamics of holding a story as true is more or less the same no matter what the story is about.

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Is awakening overrated?

Is awakening overrated? As usual, the answer may be yes, no, and it depends.

Mainly, it depends on how we rate awakening and what we expect from it.

MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT AWAKENING

Some people have misconceptions about awakening and engage in wishful thinking.

They may assume it will fix all their problems. It’s a state that doesn’t allow for any discomfort, sadness, anger. It may give us special powers. And so on.

This is what Adya calls the “dream of the ego”. When we assume we most fundamentally are a being in the world, this is what we think will fix what seems wrong.

If our motivation is some form of wishful thinking, then awakening may seem overrated. It’s far more simple and more ordinary. It won’t fix our problems. It’s not a state. (Apart from a state of noticing.) It doesn’t give us any special powers.

DARK NIGHTS

There are also several challenges in the awakening process.

We tend to go through several types of dark nights. Periods where we are faced with whatever is left in us of old assumptions, identifications, and unprocessed materials.

These periods can be among the most challenging things we have experienced. They bring us to our knees and beyond.

If we assume the awakening process is only pleasant and we live through a dark night, the awakening process may seem overrated.

HELD TO A HIGHER STANDARD

When we live from noticing our nature, life tends to give us swift and strong feedback if we are out of alignment with what’s true for us. When we stray from authenticity, sincerity, and kindness, life tends to show us and not always in a pleasant way.

If we assume the awakening process is all about freedom, and we notice that life holds us to a higher standard of how we live our life and there is – in some ways – less freedom in how we live, we will get sobered up. The more invested we are in the idea of freedom, the more a part of us may see the awakening process as overrated.

WHAT WE ALREADY ARE

Awakening is about noticing our nature and living from this noticing.

It’s about noticing what we already are.

We may assume that awakening is about something far away and special and unfamiliar. When we discover that it’s about what’s already here and what we – in a sense – are more familiar with than anything, a part of us may feel that awakening is overrated.

WON’T SAVE THE WORLD / NO QUICK FIX

Similarly, if we assume awakening somehow will save the world in a conventional sense, or fix anything apart from our mistaken identity, we are in for some healthy disillusionment.

PROFOUND TRANSFORMATION

There are also several ways awakening is not overrated.

It brings a profound shift in what we take ourselves to be.

It brings a profound transformation in our perception.

It brings a profound shift in how we relate to anything.

And when we live from noticing what we are, it – over time – invites a profound transformation of our human self.

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Awakening doesn’t give us special insight into anything else

These days, awakening guides are more often seen as just that: Guides for awakening.

We know that just like an athletic coach, they are here to help us in one type of exploration and not anything else.

WHAT AWAKENING GIVES US INSIGHT INTO

What does awakening give us insight into?

Awakening gives us insight into what we more fundamentally are, in our own first-person experience.

In one sense, we are this human being in the world. We have inside information from this human self, and outside information about any other being.

And when we look more closely, we may find we more fundamentally are capacity for the world as it appears to us. We are what the world, as it appears to us, happen within and as. We are what this human self, the wider world, and any other content of experience, happen within and as.

That’s the essence of what we may discover.

WHAT WE MAY GET FAMILIAR WITH THROUGH AWAKENING

From this, we may become familiar with how to navigate this terrain.

We may explore how it is to live from and as this oneness. How may it look, here and now?

We may notice that parts of our psyche, and sometimes large parts, were formed within separation consciousness and still operate from separation consciousness. And these color our perception and life even when they appear dormant. So how do we invite these parts of us to join in with noticing our more fundamental nature?

We may recognize the nature and function of thoughts more clearly. We realize that thoughts are questions about the world. Their function is to help us orient and navigate in the world. And they cannot hold or reflect any final, full, or absolute truth.

AWAKENING-RELATED PRACTICES

Beyond this, we may also be familiar with certain awakening-related practices and their effects. We may be familiar with exploring sense fields, heart-centered practices, body-centered practices, befriending previously disowned parts of us, and so on.

Someone familiar with these practices may function as a good coach for these practices, whether they notice their nature or not.

The difference is that from awakening, it may be more clear how these practices relate to awakening. We may see more clearly if and how they mimic awakening, and perhaps even what conditions they are medicine for.

WHAT IT DOESN’T GIVE US INSIGHT INTO

What does awakening not give us insight into?

Just about anything that’s not directly related to awakening.

We don’t have any privileged view on the past or future. Or medicine. Or politics. Or anything else.

We may have views that seem reasoned and sensible, and yet, anyone can have that too.

We may be able to sense at a distance, or invite in healing at a distance, or have a sense about certain things in the future, and others can have that too.

Awakening doesn’t give us a special or privileged view into anything apart from awakening.

Note: One interesting case here is our nature vs the nature of reality. Since the world, to us, happen within and as what we are, it will inevitably appear to have the same nature as we do. To us, all of existence will appear as consciousness, or what we can label the divine. And this doesn’t mean the actual nature of all of existence is consciousness. There are hints suggesting just that, but our direct perception doesn’t give us that answer.

MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT AWAKENING

There are many misconceptions about awakening, and perhaps especially here in the western world.

Why? Perhaps because it’s relatively unfamiliar to many. We haven’t had access to effective ways for people to explore it for themselves. And people tend to project a lot of hopes and wishful thinking onto it.

One of the misconceptions is that awakening gives us special powers or privileged insights.

It doesn’t. It gives us insight into our more fundamental nature, and that’s – in many ways – more important than all of that.

In everything else, we are just like anyone else.

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Is awakening an experience?

Some would say that if the “spiritual experience” goes a bit further, it’s not an experience anymore. It’s what we are noticing itself. It’s a noticing, not an experience. Although, for me, a noticing is a kind of experience. I understand where they are coming from, and appreciate the distinction, but feel it’s a bit idealized.

– from a previous post

I thought I would say a few more words on this.

It is popular, in some circles, to say that awakening is not an experience.

So is awakening an experience? I would say yes and no, neither and both, and it depends.

WHAT IS AWAKENING?

We can say it is noticing what we are, and really what we are noticing itself.

Or that it is to notice our nature, which is capacity for the world as it appears to us, and what the world to us happens within and as.

This can sound very abstract if we don’t have a personal experience or noticing of it. And it can seem simple and obvious when there is that noticing.

IN WHAT WAY IS AWAKENING NOT AN EXPERIENCE?

Awakening is what we are noticing itself as all there is.

To us, the world happens within and as what we are.

Awakening does not happen within the content of our experience. It’s not dependent on any particular content of experience. We can notice what we are whether we experience elation or depression, sadness or joy, or anything else. It’s not dependent on any particular state.

And it can and will be reflected in the content of our experience. It will impact the content of our experience, to some extent. At first, our thoughts and emotions may respond with surprise, elation, fear, or something else. And over time, as we keep noticing what we are, our human self will transform within this noticing and align with it more consciously.

If we look for awakening as an experience and within our content of experience, we are looking in the wrong place. Sometimes, we may need to look in the wrong place for a while. And we may also use structured inquiry to guide our attention so we may more easily notice what we are.

IN WHAT WAY IS AWAKENING AN EXPERIENCE?

We can say that the noticing itself is an experience. Although perhaps a slightly different type of experience than most other experiences.

In a conventional sense, it happens within a timeline. We can often put a time period or even a specific day or minute for when the initial noticing happened. In that sense, it’s an experience.

As mentioned above, it does impact the content of our experience. Our system has a reaction to it. And if the noticing happens over time, our human self will transform within that noticing. In this sense, there is certainly an experience component to awakening.

And to others where this noticing may not be happening right now, it certainly looks like an experience. They (we) don’t have another option but to see it as an experience since that’s all we consciously know and are aware of.

POINTERS

When some say “awakening is not an experience”, it’s a pointer.

It’s meant as medicine for a condition, and the condition is to (mistakenly) assume that awakening is an experience and look for it within the content of experience.

It has a practical function only and is not meant to be any final, full, or absolute truth.

And that’s the same when I nuance it here. It’s meant as a pointer. As a support in unsticking from any one particular idea about awakening being an experience or not.

I’ve done so much growth and healing

In my experience, it’s difficult for me to know where I am in the healing, maturing, and even awakening and embodiment process. I have thoughts about it, but do I know for certain? Also, is it important?

HEALING AND AWAKENING

There are several sides to this.

I may work on a particular emotional issue. It subsides, I cannot easily retrigger it, and I may even feel and act saner in situations that previously triggered it. But do I know it’s healed?

The reality is that I cannot know for certain.

There may be aspects of the issue I haven’t addressed. Or related and similar issues that are part of a network. Or underlying issues that fueled this and other issues. Also, my conscious attitude or a state may temporarily override the issue, not allowing it to surface even in situations that previously did trigger it.

All of these are real possibilities, and it’s not a problem. If it comes up again, it just means there is more for me to explore and get to know.

I may grow and mature in one or more areas of life, and not in other areas. I may not even notice until life puts me in a situation where the lack of growth and maturing in some areas becomes very obvious.

The apparent awakening that’s here may seem timeless and obvious, and yet it may turn out to be a temporary state. Unawake parts of me may at any point be triggered and hook attention so I perceive and act from these unawake parts. Unawake parts of me, whether they are triggered or not, inevitably color my perception and actions.

In general, it seems there are always new layers of healing, growing, awakening, and embodiment. There is always more to explore and get to know. And if we are honest with ourselves, all of it is – in one way or another – surprising to us.

COMFORTING STORIES

I assume just about anyone on a healing or awakening path sometimes has had these thoughts.

This issue is healed. This class was profoundly transformative. Something in me shifted for good. I am so much more mature now than I was.

If we tell ourselves these stories and hold onto them as if they are important, what may be behind it?

One answer is that we may lack experience. I have the impression that I see these statements more often from people relatively early in their healing or awakening process (5-10 years?). They may have enough experience to have found effective tools, and they don’t yet have enough experience to question the validity of the “this is healed” or “this awakening is stable” statements.

Another is that it helps us maintain a desired image of ourselves and our process. Perhaps an emotional issue has troubled us greatly in the past, it’s now milder, and it feels comforting to tell ourselves it’s mostly (or completely) healed.

That’s natural, ordinary, and ultimately innocent.

It’s one of many crutches we use at different phases in our life and in our healing, maturing, and awakening process.

It’s necessary until it isn’t.

DRAWBACKS OF HOLDING ONTO THIS TYPE OF STORIES

If we hold onto these stories, we are out of alignment with reality. We tell ourselves something we cannot know for certain. We use it to cover up painful identities and emotional issues.

This will inevitably rub up against life and reality, and we create discomfort for ourselves to the extent we keep holding onto the stories. And in that discomfort is an invitation to look more closely at what’s happening.

EXPLORING WHAT’S BEHIND THESE STORIES

If we are curious about this, how can we explore it for ourselves?

The most effective approaches I have found are different forms of inquiry. We can identify and examine our stories using The Work of Byron Katie. And we can examine identities, fears, and compulsions through the Living Inquiries.

We can identify and invite in healing for any emotional issues behind this using whatever works best for us.

We can invite in a shift in our relationship to the scared (fearful, hopeful) parts of us of this through tonglen, ho’oponopono, and similar approaches.

We can explore any contractions in us through this. We can get to know them, befriend them, give them what they need, notice their nature, invite them to notice their own nature, and allow them to transform within that noticing.

A MORE PEACEFUL RELATIONSHIP WITH IT ALL

Of course, some don’t have this particular issue. They already hold all these stories lightly or they don’t seem relevant.

If we have this issue, it tends to shift over time. With experience, and perhaps through a more intentional investigation, we find more ease and peace around this. We hold our stories about all of it more lightly and with more receptivity and curiosity and expectations to be surprised. We see it’s all just part of the adventure.

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The spiritual path & comparing ourselves with others

Comparing ourselves with others seems relatively universal although I am sure it plays out differently in different cultures. It’s also part of what fuels our current consumer culture, and advertisers know how to make use of it.

TWO WAYS TO COMPARE

There are two ways to compare ourselves with others.

One is for pragmatic reasons. It can give us useful information.

The other, which is often overlaid on the first one, is to make ourselves feel better or worse than others. This is not so useful. It can feel good to compare ourselves with someone and make up a story that we are somehow better than the other. But it’s a temporary victory since it means we inevitably are worse than someone else in the world, on the same scale, and we’ll inevitably be reminded of it. And it’s hollow since we know – somewhere in us – that it’s just a mind game.

In terms of spirituality, we can tell ourselves we are more advanced, sophisticated, or mature than someone else and it may feel good for a while. At the same time, we know we are less advanced, sophisticated, and mature compared with some other people. And we know, whether we acknowledge it or not, that it’s a mind game.

We cannot know for certain where people are in their process. We know we are comparing to make ourselves feel a bit better about ourselves. And we know it’s a losing game in the long run.

OUTSIDE VS INNER VIEW

When we compare ourselves with others, we often compare the public image of someone with our inside knowledge about ourselves.

We all have a public persona, which is more or less polished and inclusive. We present a certain image to the world and often leave out a lot of the confusion, pain, and unsavory attitudes and behavior. At the same time, we are often very aware of all the confusion, pain, and unsavoriness in our own life.

So it’s inherently an unfair comparison, and it tends to make us feel not so good about ourselves.

Often, it looks like the spiritual path and insights of others is clean, easy, and perhaps even joyful. And we know that our own spiritual path is windy, confused, didn’t go as planned, and so on.

HOW WE TALK ABOUT OUR SPIRITUAL PATH

The pain of comparison is greatly enhanced or diminished depending on the culture (or subculture) we are in.

If we are in a culture where spiritual practitioners and teachers like to present a glossy image of their own path, and of the spiritual path in general, it can lead to a more unfavorable impression of our own path.

If we are in a culture where spiritual practitioners and teachers are open about the messiness of their own path, and the spiritual path in general, it can help us see that we are all in the same boat. My own messiness is less painful since I know it’s similar for others.

And if we are in a culture that encourages us to work with projections, then…

MAKING USE OF THE TENDENCY TO COMPARE

…we can make good use of the tendency to compare. We can use it as material for our own exploration, and to invite in healing and maturing, and even awakening and living from the awakening.

We can make a practice of finding in ourselves what we see in others. (And in others what we know from ourselves.)

We can identify and examine our painful comparing-thoughts and find what’s more true for us. (Often, that the story is not absolutely true, and that the reversals have validity as well.)

We can explore how the comparing appears in our sense fields. What are the sensation components? The mental image and word component? What happens when I differentiate the two and rest with each? What do I find when I follow the associations, for instance back in time to my earliest memory of having that feeling or thought?

Instead of indulging in thoughts and feelings relating to the messiness of our own path, we can take a pragmatic approach and make use of whatever comes up.

THESE DAYS

I am grateful that these days, in our culture, there is more transparency and openness about the messiness of the spiritual path. People seem to feel more free to share all aspects of their experience. And many work intentionally with projections and inquiry, which also helps.

A glossy image of the path may serve as an initial carrot. But in the longer run, it seems far more helpful to be open about everything that can – and often will – happen on a spiritual path, warts and all.

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Talking about awakening: a more sober and grounded approach

These days, I find myself enjoying finding ways to talk about awakening in a way that’s as grounded and sober as possible. I have written about this in other articles and will give the essence here.

TALKING ABOUT AWAKENING

Talking about awakening is, in many ways, the least important part of it. What it’s about is exploring it for ourselves and how it is to live from it.

Still, what our heart is full of, our mouth speaks.

And it does have a function.

It may invite some to explore it for themselves.

It may serve as a pointer for how to explore it.

And it creates a kind of map which can be helpful for others exploring the actual terrain.

At the same time, it’s inherently futile. Words create imagined boundaries, and what it points to is without boundaries.

THE ESSENCE OF AWAKENING

For me, awakening means to notice what I am. To find myself as capacity for the world, and what my field of experience happens within and as.

That’s the essence of it. This can be understood in a psychological sense. No matter our general worldview, we have to admit we experience through and via consciousness. All our experiences happen within and as consciousness. To ourselves, we are consciousness. (We cannot be anything else.) We are what our experiences happen within and as.

Saying that we are this human self is not wrong. It’s how others see us and it mostly works in daily life. We may also assume that we most fundamentally are this human self. But in our own immediate experience, we are consciousness. We are what our field of experience – which includes this human self and the wider world – happens within and as.

Awakening means to notice what we already are in our own immediate experience. And this can be described and understood in a relatively simple way.

WHAT COMES WITH AWAKENING

When we find what we are to ourselves, we may also notice a few other things.

My field of experience happens within and as what I am. To me, it’s one. It’s a seamless whole. Any distinctions come from an overlay of mental representations. To me, I am oneness and all of existence is one.

This too isn’t very mysterious. It’s a function of noticing what I am and finding myself as capacity for the world as it appears to me.

Also, to me, all of existence is consciousness. To me, all my experiences happen within and as what I am. To me, they share my true nature. To me, they are consciousness.

SMALL AND BIG INTERPRETATIONS OF AWAKENING

What I have described here is the essence of awakening.

It’s also what we can call the small or psychological way of talking about awakening. It’s the most sober and grounded way of talking about it that I have found so far. (Which perhaps says something about my own limitations!) It’s the way of talking about it that requires the fewest assumptions, leaps of faith, and big words.

There is also the big or spiritual interpretation of awakening. Here, we take a few leaps although – in some instances – these leaps are also grounded in what we can notice.

When we notice what we are, we also notice that to us all of existence inevitably happens within and as consciousness. It appears as consciousness to us. To us, the true nature of all phenomena is the same as our own true nature.

So it’s natural here to take the leap and say that all of existence inherently is consciousness. And from here, we can say that all of existence is Spirit, the divine, God, Allah, Brahman, Buddha nature, and so on.

After all, that’s how it inevitably appears to us.

Whether all of existence actually is like this is another question. There are some hints suggesting that it’s the case – ESP, distance sensing, distance healing, and so on – but this is for another article.

THE UPSIDES AND LIMITATIONS OF A SOBER APPROACH

There are several upsides to a sober and grounded approach to talking about awakening.

It can be relatively simple and pragmatic.

It makes it available to more people.

It demystifies the topic.

It can make sense to people who are not into spirituality.

And there are also some limitations.

It speaks to only some people and not others. That’s the limitation inherent in any approach, and that’s why we have a wide range of flavors and approaches.

There are sides to awakening that are better pointed to in another way, for instance, a more poetic or metaphorical one.

If it’s presented in a simple and clear way, we may understand the thoughts and assume that means we get what it refers to. (Even if one is a pointer and the other is direct noticing.)

Depending on how it’s expressed, it can sound a bit boring and uninspiring. I love this aspect of it since it means that if we are still attracted to it, it comes from a deeper and more sincere place in us.

OTHER APPROACHES TO TALKING ABOUT AWAKENING

When we talk about awakening in another way, it generally comes from two places.

It can come from clarity and wisdom, and perhaps personal preference or a strategic choice.

It can come from lack of clarity, unexamined beliefs, and emotional issues.

And it can come from any combination of those two.

Here are some examples if we come from clarity and wisdom.

We may come from a tradition or culture that emphasizes another way to talk about it. For instance, one that’s more devotional, poetic, or metaphorical.

We may have a personal skill, orientation, or preference that leads us to use a more devotional, poetic, artistic, or metaphorical expression.

We may choose a more devotional, poetic, or metaphorical expression as a strategy, in order to reach certain people, speak to people at a certain phase of the process, highlight certain aspects of awakening or the divine, or evoke something in the recipient.

And here are some examples if we come more from lack of clarity.

To us, awakening may be a story. We may not have a reference for it from our own noticing or even a memory of noticing. That makes it an open field to imagine just about anything into.

We may mix up direct noticing with imaginations and fantasies, even if we notice what we are. And this can happen for a variety of reasons.

We may be caught up in what we have heard from others, whether this is our culture, spiritual tradition, spiritual teachers, or someone else. We may use this in how we talk about it, even if it doesn’t fit our direct noticing.

We may not prioritize intellectual honesty, so we mix up stories with our direct noticing.

We may be caught up in beliefs and emotional issues, and this fuels certain stories that are not supported by our direct noticing.

We may confuse the side-effects of an initial awakening with its essence.

We may take our immediate perception as reality itself. For instance, we may notice that to us the whole world appears as consciousness, and jump to the conclusion that all of existence is consciousness.

THE RICHNESS OF MULTIPLE APPROACHES

There is a richness in how we collectively perceive and express all of this, and that’s not a coincidence.

We may notice different aspects of what we are. We come from different cultural and spiritual backgrounds. We have preferences and talents in talking about it in different ways. We may choose certain ways to talk about it as a strategy, to speak to a certain audience, or to evoke something in the recipient.

We also have our own lack of clarity, blind spots, unexamined beliefs, hangups, and emotional issues that filter our perception and expression.

And all of that creates a richness we all benefit from. It creates a fuller picture.

There are valuable pointers in the expressions that come from direct noticing, no matter what form those expressions take. And all of it – the clarity and wisdom, and the confusion and hangups – is our mirror. It’s up to us to sort it out for ourselves, through our own explorations and direct noticing.

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What we find in awakening is already familiar

When we notice what we are, we may find that some is unfamiliar to us, and some is very familiar.

Noticing what we are

When we notice what we are, we find ourselves as capacity for our field of experience. We are what the world – as it appears to us – happens within and as.

What’s not familiar

If we are used to taking ourselves as this human self, as something particular within our field of experience, then this is a kind of reversal.

We find ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us, including this human self and anything connected with it, instead of being something particular within this field of experience.

For us, this turns everything upside down and inside out, and that’s new.

At least until this too becomes familiar to us.

What’s familiar

At the same time, there is something very familiar here.

One is that the content of our experience doesn’t necessarily change. Our senses still take in the same type of information about the world. Our sight, taste, smell, and so on is still the same. (In some cases, some of it can change, but that’s for another article.)

Another is that what we are is also familiar to us. It’s always been here. We just haven’t consciously noticed.

Why is this important?

The only reason I write this is that it can help clear up – or bring us to question – some of the misconceptions we have about awakening.

We may have an idea that what we find in awakening should be remarkable and unfamiliar, and not trust a genuine noticing because it doesn’t fit our ideas.

Awakening is here now, not in a story about another time or somewhere else

Where do I find awakening?

In a story about it being somewhere else – in the past, future, or over there?

Or here and now?

WHERE DO I FIND THE PAST AND FUTURE?

Where do I find the past or future in my own experience?

When I look, I see that I cannot find the past and future outside of my stories. The only place I can find the past and future is in my own ideas, in my own mental images and words.

And that goes for stories about awakening as well. Any story about awakening in the past or future or any permanent awakening are stories and I cannot find it outside of my stories and imagination.

That’s not to say that they can’t be useful.

MAKING USE OF THE STORIES OF AWAKENING IN THE PAST OR FUTURE OR AS PERMANENT

Memories of past awakening are reminders that it’s possible and pointers for noticing here and now.

Stories about future awakening is a reminder to find it here and now.

And any stories about “permanent” awakening is a reminder to find it here and now, and also look at what in me wish to believe there is such a thing. Where does it come from? Is it a way for me to imagine I can find safety? Security? Something stable and desirable that will always be here? Does it point to fear about change and fear about certain experiences? And that I am not comfortable with that fear?

Perhaps it’s easier to find peace with this fear? To inquire into these stressful beliefs?

STORIES OF AWAKENING OVER THERE

We can also have stories about awakening over there.

Awakening is in that person over there.

That too is a story about awakening, and about awakening being some other place.

And this too is a reminder to find it here and now.

HOW CAN WE FIND IT HERE AND NOW?

An understandable response to this is:

It’s not that easy. I don’t know what it is or how to find it.

And yet, it can be quite simple.

What’s in the way is usually two things:

(1) Our ideas about it being unachievable for us. We may have bought into ideas telling us it requires preparation, preliminary practice, lifetimes of practice, that it’s only for special people, that it’s something terribly esoteric and mysterious, that it’s something already unfamiliar to us, and so on.

(2) And we may not have the tools and guidance.

The first is only an obstacle if we believe those thoughts to the extent that we give up looking for and using pointers that can help us find it here and now.

The second is only an obstacle until we actually find it, and these days – with the internet – it’s easier than ever to find these pointers. The two I am most familiar with are the Headless experiments and the Big Mind process. If we engage in them sincerely and with the guidance of someone familiar with the terrain and how to guide others, both tend to be effective in showing us what we are in a relatively short time. And by a short time, I mean minutes.

TRUSTING WHAT WE FIND

Finding what we are is not necessarily so difficult. We need an open enough mind to try it, we need the right pointers and guidance, and we need some sincerity in the exploration.

In many cases, it’s more a matter of trusting it.

Again, this comes down to the ideas we may have about awakening from culture and some teachers and spiritual traditions.

If we think awakening inherently comes with bells & whistles and amazing experiences, then we’ll probably be disappointed if we notice what we are without all of these unnecessary side effects. It may seem too simple.

If we think awakening is something special, mysterious, and unfamiliar, then noticing what we are may seem too familiar and ordinary.

In reality, it doesn’t need to come with bells & whistles. It can be simple and apparently unremarkable. It’s not a problem. (And it helps us avoid the sidetrack of the mind becoming fascinated with the bells & whistles and pursuing them.)

And it’s not something that was somewhere else. It was always here, and we were always familiar with it. We just didn’t notice.

How can we come to trust that what we notice is the real thing? And the transformative power in it?

The initial trust may be a trust in the source – in the pointers, where they come from, the guide, and perhaps the community of people having used it and found what they are.

If we continue to explore it, the trust may come from noticing that what we find ourselves to be – even if it seems unremarkable and already familiar – fits the essence of the description of awakening from many different spiritual traditions and teachers. (At least if we remove the stories about bells & whistles, special powers, and so on.)

Most importantly, the trust may come from noticing what we are, explore living from it, and notice the effects.

SUMMARY

In summary….

Awakening means noticing what I am in immediacy.

I cannot find awakening in my stories about awakening in the past or future or over there, but I can use those stories as a reminder to find what I am here and now.

If I have any stories about “permanent” awakening, then that’s a reminder to find what I am here and now, and also to find what in me wants that story about permanent awakening to be true.

It’s not necessarily difficult to notice what I am. The main obstacles are often (a) assuming it’s difficult and involved, and (b) not knowing the pointers and having a guide.

When I notice what I am, it can seem too ordinary, simple, and familiar. That comes from misconceptions about awakening. I can learn to trust it, and the transformative power of that noticing, through continued noticing and exploring how it is to live from it.

Why are there so many ideas & misconceptions about awakening?

Why are there so many ideas and misconceptions about awakening?

One reason is that it’s relatively rare. If it was more common, there would also be more general clarity about what it is and isn’t.

It’s also because it’s intangible, and that gives room for a wide range of different ideas about it.

Among a few, there is perhaps some vested interest in perpetuating some of the myths around it.

Mainly, when we operate from separation consciousness and are interested in awakening, we tend to put our dreams and fantasies onto it. We imagine or hope it will give us what we imagine we, as a separate self, need: a state of bliss, freedom from challenges, elevated status, being saved, extraordinary abilities, and so on.

Since I have written about the other ones in other articles, I’ll focus on its intangible nature here.

The intangible nature of awakening

If we have a physical object, we can use our senses to explore it. We see, touch, taste, use a microscope or other tools, and so on. In most cases, it’s something we can all see and explore, and we can share photos, videos, and so on to share our experiences with others. It’s tangible.

If we have a psychological phenomenon, it’s immediately more intangible. It may still be something we can experience, study, do research on, and so on, but its intangible nature makes it more difficult. It opens for more speculation, fantasies, and difficulties in sharing what we find and checking what others find. It’s not impossible, just more nebulous by nature.

When it comes to awakening, it’s even more intangible. Awakening is not even a typical psychological dynamic like a thought, emotion, attachment pattern, or developmental phase. It’s finding ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us, as what our experiences – and all phenomena – happens within and as.

With physical things, there may be different opinions, views, experiences, and so on. Blind people touching different parts of an elephant will report different things. With psychological phenomena, the variation of experiences, findings, and ideas and interpretations about it is even wider since it’s more intangible. And when it comes to awakening, it’s even more intangible and apparently open for interpretations and ideas.

I say apparently because this is true only in a certain sense. The wild diversity is only true if we approach it and try to understand awakening within thought. Here, just about anything (apparently) goes since it’s not grounded in direct realization.

If it is grounded in direct realization, it becomes simpler. What we find is universal. Although we may express it using slightly different words, it all points to the same. And if it’s realized here, we tend to immediately recognize it when it’s recognized and expressed over there, through someone else.

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Awakening is not incompatible with ego dynamics

Awakening is not incompatible with these [ego] dynamics. They may not currently be so active, and we may not identify so strongly with the ones that are, and this opens for the possibility to notice what we are.

I wrote this in a previous post and thought I would clarify it here.

One of the myths of awakening is that the “ego” is incompatible with awakening.

In my experience…

We can have parts of us operating from separation consciousness and we can still notice what we are.

As mentioned in the quote, these parts of us may not be so active in the moment. We may not be so strongly identified with the ones that are. And this opens for the possibility of noticing what we are.

We can still find ourselves as capacity for the world. We can still find ourselves as what all our experiences – including these parts – happen within and as.

That allows us to recognize the true nature of these parts of us as the same as our true nature, which helps us shift how we relate to them. It makes it easier to meet them, get to know them, understand them, and see they come from a desire to protect us and from love. It also makes it easier for them to heal and realign with oneness, which is perhaps the deepest form of healing.

Reality is often not quite as black-and-white as myths like “awakening is incompatible with ego” suggests, and that’s a very good thing.

Underestimating & overestimating awakening

Awakening can be underestimated and overestimated, and it’s almost inevitable that we do one or both at different points in the process.

Underestimating awakening

Awakening can be underestimated in, at least, a couple of different ways.

We can underestimate the importance of it and how transformative it can be. It means finding ourselves as capacity for the world, and that in itself turns our experience of ourselves and everything inside out and upside down. And it can be profoundly transformative for our human life in the world, more than anything else.

And we can underestimate what it requires from us to live from it. In a sense, it requires everything. If we go fully into it, it will eventually cost us all our old habits and assumptions, and all our beliefs and identifications.

Overestimating awakening

We can also overestimate awakening. We may think it helps solve all our problems and challenges, that it puts us in a permanent state of happiness, that it gives us superpowers, and so on. These are some of the myths of awakening, and they are the dreams of a separate self.

A few more details

I’ll say a few more words about each of these.

When it comes to the transformation, it comes in two ways as mentioned above.

It’s a transformation in how we perceive ourselves and the world. Before, we may take ourselves as fundamentally a separate self in a world of a myriad of fundamentally separate things. When we find ourselves as capacity for the world, and what all our experiences happen within and as, that’s turned upside down and inside out. We find our true nature, which is the true nature of all our experiences, and – to us – the world happens within and as oneness.

To the extent we keep noticing this, it can be profoundly transformative for our human self and our life in the world. The question becomes: how is it to live from oneness? How is it to live from oneness in this situation? Another side of this is that there will still be many parts of us, as a human being, still operating from separation consciousness, and these will surface and want to join in with the awakening. They come with the invitation for us to recognize their true nature, which is the same as our true nature, and for us to create the space and conditions for them to align with reality and oneness. As we keep doing this, there is a profound transformation and healing.

This requires us to notice what we are here and now. A memory of noticing this in the past can be a helpful reminder and pointer, and the noticing can only happen in immediacy. This noticing, living from it, and inviting more parts of us to join with the awakening, is an ongoing process. Any idea of an end is an idea that happens here and now, and that too is the (understandable and misguided) dream of parts of us still operating from separation consciousness.

The myths about awakening are several, and I’ll just mention a few here.

We may imagine it will solve all our problems, while in reality, our human challenges will still continue. We just have the possibility to relate to it differently, and that’s – in some ways – better.

We may imagine it’s a state – of bliss or something else, while in reality, we find ourselves as what allows all states, and what all the always changing states and experiences happen within and as.

We may imagine we’ll be omniscient or omnipresent, and although there is a metaphorical reality to it, it’s far more mundane than this fantasy.

We may imagine we’ll have superpowers, and although it comes with the potential for some amazing superpowers – like love – it’s again not as the fantasy would have it.

There is a common theme for each of these myths and fantasies about awakening. They are imaginations and dreams that come out of parts of us operating from separation consciousness. We’ll be disillusioned. And what we find is, in reality, far better than these fantasies – although they may not seem that way at first.

Some pitfalls on the spiritual path

There are many possible pitfalls on the spiritual path, and it can be helpful to be aware of some of them.

Most of us fall into one or more of these at different times of our process. The consequences can be minor or major. They can create some challenges and suffering. They are natural, understandable, and ultimately innocent. They are not inherently wrong or a mistake. And when they happen, they become part of our path and process, and – hopefully – something we learn from.

Some of these are phase-specific and some can happen at any point in the process. A few may be what’s needed at one point in our process, and become more of a pitfall in another phase.

I have written about some of the myths of awakening before, and one of the pitfalls is the myths about awakening. We may think awakening will solve our very human problems and challenges. That it’s a state – of bliss, joy, and free of suffering. That it gives us special powers. And so on. I’ll include some of those below.

So what are some of the pitfalls?

Relationship with our human life

We may focus on spiritual practice to the exclusion of our life in general. We still need to be good stewards of our life, as much as anyone.

We may engage in spiritual practice to resolve our suffering. Although spiritual practice can help, it’s equally important to address this in a more conventional way. To seek our healing for trauma and emotional issues, in whatever ways we have available and makes sense to us. The pitfall here is focusing exclusively on spiritual practice and assume it will take care of everything.

We may hold onto beliefs, identities, and assumptions and not identify and question them. A path of awakening involves identifying these, and especially our most cherished ones, and examine and question them and find what’s more true for us.

We may use awakening or spiritual practice as an excuse to treat others badly. (I saw this at the Zen center when I was there, among some senior people.)

We may get overconfident. We may live in intoxication from spiritual ideas or the initial bliss of finding what we are, and not take care of our human life. We may think it’s not important. That we won’t be touched by anything happening in our human life. That we can deal with anything. That it’s all fodder for practice. And not be a good steward of our life in an ordinary sense.

We may get overly discouraged by disillusionment, and not realize that awakening in many is ways a disillusionment process. It’s a process of realizing that our illusions – especially about what awakening will give us – are just that, illusions.

We may wish to retreat from life while it’s life that gives us fodder for practice. Our life, as it is, is usually more than enough for giving us that fodder. And that life can sometimes be in a monastery, a solitary retreat, and so on. That’s life too.

Relationship with teacher, teachings, and tradition

We may idealize a teacher, gild them, and put them on a pedestal. We may forget they are human beings just like anyone. We may assume their views and decisions are infallible. We may hold onto their every word as if it was gold. We may make decisions that go against our better judgment because they encourage us to do so.

We may try to give away what we can’t give away to a spiritual teacher or guru. What we can’t give away is our responsibility for our life – our choices, insights, practice, and so on. We are the final authority for all of this.

We may overlook that what we see in a spiritual teacher is also here. A better approach is to use the teacher and anything as a mirror for ourselves and find it here.

We may make what the teacher or tradition says into a belief. They are, at most, pointers. Something for us to explore for ourselves.

We may mindlessly adopt assumptions from the teacher and tradition. It’s helpful to identify these, question them, and find what’s more true for us. We can find the validity of these assumptions and also their limits.

We may assume that “our” tradition is the best one for every one or even the one true one. If this happens, it’s usually an attempt to feel more safe, remove a sense of uncertainty, and feel better about ourselves.

We may stay too focused on the tradition we are in, and overlook simpler and more effective practices found elsewhere.

We may get overly focused on the form and tradition and overlook what it’s really about: finding what we are and exploring how to live from it.

Relationship with practice

We may have an orientation to the practice and life that’s not so helpful. Sincerity, honesty, and diligence are some of the more helpful orientations.

We may dip our toe in too many streams without going deep in anything. It’s helpful to explore and learn from different approaches. And we also need to go deep in something – preferably an approach that works well for us.

We may stay with practices that don’t do much for us. If you don’t see results relatively quickly, why stick with it? Why not find some that may fit you better and work better for you?

We may rely on overly complex and involved practices when there are simpler and more effective ones out there.

We may engage in one practice or one type of practice at the cost of a more inclusive approach. We are complex beings so it’s helpful with a range of approaches. For instance… Training more stable attention is helpful for just about anything we want to do, including spiritual practice. Basic meditation – notice and allow what’s here – helps us notice what we are. Heart-centered practices help us shift our relationship with ourselves, others, and life. And so on.

We may get complacent about our spiritual practice. We coast along in familiar territory and don’t take it further. We don’t identify and question our stories or underlying assumptions about ourselves, life, and anything connected with spirituality. We don’t make an effort to do what we do with a little more diligence, sincerity, and curiosity. We don’t adjust things – change practice or how we do it – if the practice doesn’t seem to go any further.

We may seek salvation or safety through spiritual practice and awakening. Nothing can give us or take away the salvation and safety that’s already in what we are (capacity for the world), and nothing can give us salvation or safety as who we are (a human being). For this, it’s as or more effective to work on the stressful beliefs and emotional issues fueling our search for salvation and safety.

We may assume what works for us works for everyone. Teaches, traditions, and practices are medicines for specific conditions. For other people, a different approach may be what works better. And for us in the future, another approach may work better than the one we are currently using.

Relationship with awakening

We may seek to hold onto a state and peak experiences and overlook that we are capacity for all of it. We may miss the point of the practice.

We may notice what we are and underestimate it. We may think it’s too simple. It didn’t come with the bells and whistles we expected. We may not realize how profoundly transformative it is to keep noticing and living from it.

We may overestimate what happens in an awakening. We may think it solves all our problems. That it’s an ongoing state of bliss. That it gives us special powers. And so on. (This is one of the myths of awakening mentioned earlier.)

We may overlook the importance of embodiment. We may assume that noticing what we are is where it ends, and not emphasize exploring how to live from the awakening.

We may notice what we are and overlook the many parts of us still operating from separation consciousness. These tend to surface to join in with the awakening, and it’s up to us to support them in this process. In an important sense, they are our suffering devotees and we are their guru.

We may assume that awakening is the end of the path. In reality, it’s a new beginning. It’s the beginning of keeping on noticing what we are in the moment, explore how it is to live from it, and notice what in us is not yet onboard with the awakening.

We may assume there is an end to the path. In reality, it’s ongoing. The clarification, deepening, and exploration has no end. To be more specific, it’s here and now and the “end to the path” can only be found in an idea.

We may assume awakening makes us better than others or who we were. Our true nature is always here and is the same for everyone. Noticing it is just the icing on the cake and doesn’t make us worse or better.

In general

We may assume that going into these pitfalls is inherently a mistake. If we go into them, that becomes part of our process and something we gain experience and hopefully learn from. And that’s no reason to actively seek any of them out.

We may also assume we can avoid these pitfalls. Yes, we may be able to avoid them in an obvious way. At the same time, I can find each one of these in my own life and I assume most others on a spiritual path can as well. It may not be something very obvious, but I can always find some examples. The question is often not if but how.

In general, these pitfalls come about because we believe a story. We take a story as true – often in an attempt to stay safe – and perceive and act as if it’s true. And that gives us consequences that help us notice the story we hold onto, that it’s not true in the way we initially took it, and perhaps find what’s more true for us.

About this list

This list obviously reflect my own biases, including that I mostly have been outside of traditions. Someone else would create a list that’s slightly or very different.

I wrote these as they came to me and then roughly organized them, so there is some overlap and they can be systemized better. The list is also far from complete!

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WOW! experiences & other myths about awakening

Headless experiments and the Big Mind process can lead us to notice what we are, and can do so relatively easily and quickly.

Some may find what they are, and yet dismiss or not follow up on it. Why is that?

Reasons we dismiss it when we (genuinely) have a taste of what we are

There may be several reasons we dismiss it even if we genuinely notice what we are.

We may think that what we are looking for has more bells and whistles. We may confuse awakening with the occasional side-effects of awakening. Sometimes, glimpses of what we are come with a lot of bells and whistles – peak experiences, ecstasy, visions, seeing energies, and so on. Those are side-effects and can distract us, whether we have them or hear about them, from what it’s really about.

We may think it’s too easy. Again, stories from others may mislead us. We think it requires several lifetimes of work, and having it pointed out and finding it in a few minutes seems too easy. The reality is that noticing it can be easy while living from it takes a lifetime of work.

We may think it’s only for special people, and we are not a special person.

It may not come from a trusted source. We think that if it doesn’t come through specific practices, teachers, and traditions, it’s not the real thing.

We may notice what they are, and not see the use of it. We choose to not keep exploring it, how it is to live from it, and what happens when they do.

Mislead by myths about awakening

There are several myths about awakening: It will solve all our problems. Our human life will be free of challenges. It’s a state of bliss. It’s a state of something. It doesn’t exist.

And… It’s only for special people. It requires lifetimes of work. It must come through very specific practices, teachers, and traditions. It’s a big WOW experience.

Believing the last category of myths makes it difficult to take it seriously when we notice what we are guided by headless experiments, the Big Mind process, or similar forms of pointers and inquiry.

My experience

How has this been in my process?

For me, it did start with a lot of bells and whistles. The awakening came out of the blue when I was sixteen, and it came with an explosion of bliss, insights, seeing energies, and so on.

At a more conscious level, I was aware of the distinction between what the awakening is about and the side effects. But something in me wanted more of the side-effects and I was secretly chasing them for years.

I have been very fond of the Big Mind process and the Headless experiments from the beginning. They help me notice and clarify what I am and explore living from it. I was at Kanzeon Zen center when Genpo Roshi started developing it, and some years later, a friend recommended On Having No Head which led me to the Headless experiments.

The part of me chasing the side-effects seems to have quieted down, although it’s a fair guess it’s still there to some extent. That’s completely natural and not inherently a problem. It points to something in me at a human level that’s not quite healed, including a (near universal) sense of lack.

Michael Erlewine: Our goal is not some future state or place, but the manner and way in which we live and travel right here and now

The actual and realistic “goal” is not to get to some place (like Heaven,) but instead to travel our path better, to modify our way or manner of traveling. Our goal is not some future state or place, but the manner and way in which we live and travel right here and now. Our goal is to travel better.

– Michael Erlewine in Realization is Non-Linear

Omniscience? Omnipresence? Yes and no

There are many myths and misconceptions about awakening. One of the more outlandish ones is that it involves omniscience and/or omnipresence.

Does it? In a conventional sense, no. We still have access to the same information as others – our eyes, ears, skin and so on take in the same type of information. We don’t necessarily know what’s happening somewhere else or what someone is thinking or feeling. (Although we can develop sensing into these areas.) We don’t know anything for certain, no more than anyone else. And we are not everywhere at once, no more than anyone else.

In another way, there is a type of omniscience and omnipresence. The omniscience consists of knowing – of directly perceiving what everything is to us. Everything happens within and as what I am. To me, it’s what I am. I can also label it consciousness or presence. And omnipresence consists of oneness. To me, all happens within and as what I am. What I am – capacity, awakeness – is everywhere since everything to me happens within and as it.

So in a conventional sense, omniscience and omnipresence is a misguided fantasy spun out of ideas and imagination. If we look a little closer, we can find the grain of truth in it.

Omniscience is to notice and know what everything is to me, and omnipresence is to notice it all happening within and as what I am.

Describing awakening in a simple and grounded way

I like to demystify what can be demystified – including awakening. Why not try to describe it in simple and ordinary ways that others can check out for themselves, and that doesn’t rely on references to what’s outside of most people’s experience?

So what is awakening?

Awakening is what we are awakening to itself.

Independent of our worldview, it makes sense that what we are – to ourselves – is consciousness. Even within a materialistic view, it’s hard to not admit that to ourselves, we are consciousness.

All our content of experience – including the world and ourselves as a human being – happens within and as consciousness.

Typically, we identify with a particular content of our experience. We identify with and as this human self, and as an observer, doer, and so on.

Awakening refers to noticing that we are consciousness that this content of experience happens within and as. The initial noticing can be called an initial opening or awakening.

Sometimes, that’s all it is. And sometimes, the process continues.

We notice. Identification releases somewhat out of content of experience. Consciousness wakes up to itself as all there is. (To itself it’s all there is.) This noticing becomes more ordinary and continues through more and more situations in daily life. Our human life reorients and transforms within this new noticing and context.

Why are not more people interested in it?

We may not have heard about it.

We may not have been exposed to it in a way that makes it seem possible or attractive to us.

It may seem too mysterious, obscure, and distant.

It may seem like it’s for other or special people, not us.

We may not see how it’s useful.

It may seem like something we already know, intellectually.

Why are some people really into it?

We may have had a glimpse or opening and wish to continue to explore it.

We may intuit that there is something and set out to explore it.

We may be drawn in by traditions or teachers speaking about awakening.

We may seek to avoid suffering and have heard it will help.

It may happen out of the blue and stay and we keep exploring this new context for our human life.

What are some of the effects of awakening?

Mainly, our human self reorients and reorganizes within this new context.

This involves a lot of different changes and processes and lasts a lifetime.

It typically involves healing of emotional issues and hangups. Examining old beliefs, assumptions, and identities. And changing how we relate to others, ourselves, and the world in general.

How do we live within oneness? That’s the question, and the transformation of our human self can be more or less thorough within this lifetime.

What about spirituality?

Isn’t awakening about spirituality?

Yes and no. Yes, spirituality is often about awakening. And no, awakening doesn’t requite religion or traditional spirituality.

At the same time, there is a lot of practical and valuable information in spiritual and religious traditions.

Small and big interpretation of awakening

This article is mostly about the small or psychological interpretation of awakening. We talk about it a way that (can!) make sense independent of whatever worldview we have.

There is also the big or spiritual interpretation of awakening. Here, we use the more familiar language of God, Spirit, the Divine, and so on.

We may say that awakening is God (Spirit, the Divine) awakening to itself locally through this human self.

Spirit temporarily and locally took itself to be an ultimately separate being (this human self), and then woke up to itself as all there is.

How can we explore it for ourselves?

Mainly, we need to find one or more approaches that make sense to us. Perhaps they feel intuitively right. Or someone we trust recommends it. Or we happen to have a local awakening-coach and join for a while.

There are some approaches that within minutes can give us a glimpse or taste of what awakening is about. The two I enjoy the most is the Big Mind process and the Headless experiments.

Is there anything I need to be aware of?

Mainly, the usual guidelines for exploring and learning anything applies here too. It helps to have the guidance of someone you trust and who has experience. Trust yourself and what feels right to you. If the approach you use has little or no effect, consider trying something else.

When I said “consciousness” earlier, it was to make it more understandable. The mind may label what we are “consciousness” but that’s just a label. That label and all our ideas about it also happen within and as what we are.

The awakening process, and the approaches we may use on the path, tend to open our heart and mind, and that can open for whatever unprocessed psychological material is in us. If that happens, it can feel confusing, scary, disorienting, and overwhelming. So it’s good to find an awakening-coach who has experience with this, can take some precautions, and knows how to help you through it.

It can help to set aside what you think you know about awakening, especially the myths and ideas from religion and traditional spirituality. Make it simple for yourself. This is about noticing what you already are. There are ways to help you notice it. And there are people who can help you with it. It’s not so different from learning or exploring anything else in life.

Is awakening important?

Yes and no. If it happens, it may be the most important (no-thing) thing in your life since it becomes the context for everything. It can also help transform your human self.

And yet, most human beings live without having a (conscious) taste of this and that’s fine. You can have a very good life without conscious noticing of what you are.

If what you mostly want is a good life, and that’s the case for most of us, another strategy may be more direct. For instance, focus on self-compassion and healing the most obvious emotional issues. Nurture nurturing and important relationships in your life. And, in general, be a good steward of your life. And there is no problem with including this in an exploration of what we are. They work very well together.

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Spirituality myths

Some myths about spirituality, and how they are valid and not.

I initially kept this post private as it’s written in a different tone than most. It’s more conversational, and perhaps less nuanced and balanced compared with many other posts. I’ll make it public anyway, since some of it may be useful.

Awakening or enlightenment is mysterious and distant.

It’s a noticing of what we already are, and what’s already here, in immediate experience here and now. It’s what we are – that which any experience happens within and as – noticing itself. It’s not very mysterious or far away. It’s closer than anything, since it’s what we are. (And it’s as close than anything, since anything is what we are.)

The grain of truth: Awakening or enlightenment can seem mysterious and distant, if we approach it through thought alone, and especially if we believe the thought that it’s mysterious and distant…! That’s how we stop ourselves from actually looking and exploring for ourselves, in immediacy.

Awakening or enlightenment is unachievable.

It’s actually not that difficult to glimpse or have a taste of what it’s about. The Big Mind process is one way that works for many. Headless experiments another. At the end of a Living Inquiry session it’s often quite obvious. And there is a lot of other approaches that can help us get a glimpse or taste of it. This is very helpful, since it tends to dispel a lot of myths.

From here, it’s the work of keeping noticing, and inquire into our identifications and beliefs that tends to temporarily cover up this noticing.

And when this noticing becomes more clear and frequent (or stable), it’s about deepening and living from it.

The grain of truth: Awakening or enlightenment as you think it is, may well be unachievable. What it’s actually about may be even better than what you think you want. (And what it “actually is about” keeps opening up.)

Awakening or enlightenment is a destination, an endpoint. When that happens, it’s all done.

 No. It’s an “end point” in the sense that what we are has glimpsed itself, or deepened into this noticing to a certain extent, and even is exploring how to life from it.

It’s also an ongoing process. What we are noticing itself can clarify, deepen, open up. And living from this new context is an ongoing exploration, clarification, deepening, and maturing.

There are also many facets to what we are, some of which a thought may call clarity, love, intelligence, presence. And some of which can be associated with the head center (clarity, intelligence, recognizing all as Spirit), heart center (love, recognition of all as love, a love of all as love), and belly center (emotional maturity, felt sense of all as Spirit).

The grain of truth: The recognition of what we are can happen suddenly, and it is – in a sense – an “endpoint”. Something has shifted. And yet, it’s also – equally or more – a beginning.

Awakening is the same as enlightenment.

These words are used in many different ways. Some equate them. Some differentiate them. I tend to differentiate them.

I tend to see awakening as referring to an initial awakening, or awakening to a new phase of clarity and insight, or a new facet of reality.

And enlightenment is more what we are recognizing itself, in an ongoing way, with most of the identifications and velcro that obscures this noticing having found their liberation. In a way, it’s an either/or term, and in another, there seems to be a gray zone here. What we call enlightenment continues to clarify, deepen, open up. And the liberation of identifications and velcro certainly does.

Awakening or enlightenment is what I need.

Are you sure? What do you hope to get out of it? Love? Feeling OK about yourself? Contentment? Aliveness? Authenticity? A sense of coming home?

Are you sure it’s not easier to go for those, rather than something that can seem more abstract and unachievable such as enlightenment?

Of course, these are really the same. And the approach to explore either can be the same. It’s just that it can be helpful in a practical sense to (a) identify  what you really wish for, using ordinary words, and (b) go for that.

The grain of truth: What we really want (love, authenticity, kindness etc.) may be more available when there is some awakening there, some recognition of what we are.

Awakening or enlightenment is what the world needs.

Are you sure? What about love? Practical wisdom? Caring? Isn’t that more what the world needs? And isn’t that more achievable and doable? Isn’t that something we can do here and now, each of us, in our own life?

Why not look at what in us prevents us from living more from ordinary caring and practical wisdom? Why not question unquestioned and painful thoughts? Why not find love for what’s unloved in us – what’s unloved in our experience and who we (think we) are?

The grain of truth: It probably wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Awakening or enlightenment will fix my human life.

No. It won’t. You’ll still find yourself in the same situation as before. You’ll still have to be a good steward of your own life. You’ll still have to live your life as anyone else.

If you think you need your life to be fixed, look at that. Look at the fears, the identifications. Allow those fears and identifications to find liberation now. Don’t wait for an awakening or enlightenment. You don’t need to wait.

What are you most afraid of if there is no awakening or enlightenment? What’s are you most afraid will happen with your life? What is it that’s most uncomfortable to you about your life? Look at those fears.

The grain of truth: You may recognize the OKness of what’s happening. You may have more clarity to act in a slightly more wise and kind manner. (Although even that is no guarantee. The clarity and kindness can easily be covered up by remaining identifications, hangups, velcro, beliefs, wounds, trauma.)

Awakening or enlightenment is a state.

Awakening or enlightenment is a state…. of being always happy, content, joyful, satisfied, of never experiencing any “negative” emotions or states.

That’s the “dream of the ego”. It’s much more about (a) noticing all of our experiences, as they are, are already allowed, (b) and noticing that what we already are is that allowing. It’s a shift of identification from thought-created identities to that which already allows this experience, as it is, and is this experience as it is. It’s an OKness with the experiences that’s here, including what may go against our very human preferences.

In a sense, that does come with a sense of OKness, contentment, even quiet joy. It’s all very quiet, and allows for any other human experience. So there is a grain of truth in the initial idea, but in a more differentiated sense than we may think.

It’s actually better than the initial idea or hope. It does give us that quiet contentment and joy, and also allows for the full range of human experience as before.

The grain of truth: Awakening or enlightenment is a state of what we are recognizing itself. It does seem like a state in that sense. Also, there is often that quite undercurrent of contentment, OKness, and even joy when that recognition is there.

It’s all an illusion.

Really? Why don’t you see what happens if you don’t pay your taxes, or eat junk food for a year, or act like a jerk with your family and friends? It may be that all is Spirit, and that anything you look for is unfindable, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist, or that all is an illusion in an absolute sense. Our actions still has consequences, in a very ordinary and human way.

The grain of truth: It’s all Spirit, yes. Whatever I look for is unfindable. In that sense, it’s an “illusion”, but I wouldn’t use that word. It’s too easy for the mind to make it into a one-sided reality for itself, and act from it.

If I achieve X, I’ll be safe, OK, acceptable, loved.

If I get enlightened (saved, come to heaven) I’ll be OK, safe, acceptable, loved…. by myself, others, God, life.

No you won’t. But it can be better than that. You can see through the painful stories of being deficient (not OK, unloved, unlovable, unacceptable), and you can find love for the parts of you that feel that way. That’s more doable than hoping to get it through achieving some (imagined) state or realization. It’s much more available than that.

The grain of truth: Yes, if you love the unloved parts of yourself and your experience, you’ll be and feel loved. You’ll have what you sought. If you love what’s unloved, question unquestioned stories, feel unfelt sensations, you’ll find a deep sense of OKness, acceptance, even safety. And it’s because you are giving it to yourself.

I need to do X to be awakening or enlightened.

I need to eat a certain diet, read a certain book, do a certain practice, worship a certain god, study with a certain guru, dress a certain way, have a certain type of sex (or no sex), sit in a certain posture, move my energy a certain way…… to awaken or be enlightened.

Are you sure? Certainly, some things may be supportive and helpful in a very ordinary way. A reasonably good diet helps us feel and function better. Sitting mostly upright during practice (prayer, meditation, inquiry) reduces drowsiness. Some teachers may give us helpful pointers. And more. And yet, none of this will magically give us anything. It’s helpful (or not) in a very ordinary and mundane sense. It’s still up to us to actually do the work.

The grain of truth: Yes, some of these may be helpful in a very practical and ordinary way.

X will be a shortcut for me.

Shaktipat. Praying for divine intervention. Saying mantras. Whatever it may be that we think will be a shortcut for us.

Are you sure? Again, some things may be helpful in a practical sense. Some practices will work better for us than other. Some are more appropriate for us, where we are, than other, because we are more ready for them. And as before, it’s up to us to do the work.

The grain of truth: Some things may seem like shortcuts, such as shaktipat. But it sometimes comes with a time-consuming cost, and we still need to do the work – to clarify, stabilize, deepen, life from it.

This is it. I have arrived.

Not likely. It keeps opening up. It’s ongoing. The noticing of what we are is ongoing, with new facets and “layers” revealing themselves. The living from this is ongoing. And the deepening, maturing, reorganization and healing of who we are is ongoing.

The grain of truth: We can indeed “arrive” at a stepping stone, and it may seem like “it” for a while. And yet, it’s a stepping stone. Any insight, realization, clarity, healing, experience, is a stepping stone.

Understanding = realization.

Not quite. One thing is to understand something intellectually, perhaps connected to some degree of experience. Another is to be familiar with it through personal experience. And yet another to live from it, from that deepening familiarity.

If I didn’t go to understanding now, what would I have to feel? Feel it.

If I replaced the words with blah blah blah, what would be left? What’s here? 

The grain of truth: Understanding is often a helpful stepping stone to experience, it’s a pointer and invitation for exploration.

This insight is UNIQUE!

This insight that I have, this realization, this experience, is UNIQUE! Nobody has ever had it before. It’s a new realization. It’s the next step in human evolution!

Are you serious? How can you know? If you are honest, how can you know? And what are you afraid of if it isn’t? (That you’ll feel less than? Not OK? That you’ll have to feel something you don’t want to feel?)

The grain of truth: Any experience and insight is, of course, unique. It’s never happened before and will never happen again, even if a particular insight may be expressed in similar words as someone else expresses theirs.

More people are awakening today than before. Humanity is awakening.

Again, are you sure? What tells you that? What’s your evidence? (Isn’t it equally likely that it just seems that way because it’s easier to find likeminded people today through the internet, people are more outspoken about it than before (less of a taboo), and people interested in these things tend to congregate physically (workshops, talks, Bay Area). Would it seem like many are awakening if you lived in Congo, or most places in the world where few are interested in these things?)

What do you fear would happen if that wasn’t true? If you realized it wasn’t true? Question that fear.

Isn’t that what you really want? To find true freedom from that fear? From the fear that humanity isn’t really awakening? (Whether it is or not.)

The grain of truth: More people may be awakening because there are more people than before. And more information about these things is out there in the open, with valuable pointers which can support an awakening.

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Myths about awakening

There are a lot of myths about awakening in our culture, and perhaps other cultures too. I suspect most of them come from wishful thinking. They are what we – when there is less clarity – wish for and dream for. They are a “dream of the ego”.

Of course, many have done what they can to dispel these myths, and it seems that these days, most teachers do. In all of us, there is something that value what’s real and practical more than dreams and fantasies.

First, a brief description of what awakening is, in my experience:

What we are – that which our whole field of experience happens within and as – recognizes itself, independent of any content of experience. And this may be described as presence, awareness, love. (A presence, awareness, love, which recognizes itself as this content of experience, as it is here now.)

An awakening can happen easily and quickly. It’s what we are recognizing itself. The awakening process can be longer and ongoing. It’s a clarifying and stabilizing of this recognition, and a reorganization and realigning of our human self within this new context.

Awakening can be used in three different ways. (Sorry.) (a) It means an initial awakening or opening. An initial recognition of what we are of itself, as all there is. (b) It also means the ongoing awakening process, which includes an ongoing clarification and more stable recognition, and an ongoing reorganization of our human self. (c) It can also refer to how we are when the awakening process is a bit more mature, and there is more clarity and stable recognition, and our human self is more aligned with it. (I usually don’t use it in this sense, since this part for me is also ongoing. There isn’t an end point for this, at least not until we die.)

The myths about awakening seem to fall into two general categories:

What it is.

What it means for our human self.

And here are some more specific myths, and what seems more real to me:

What it is.

Not already here. Is it true that what I am seeking is not already here? Is it true the peace is not already here? The love? (Even if it seems very faint?)

A state. It’s not a state of experience, where our content of experience somehow is fixed. It’s more of a state of recognition. What we are – that which our whole field of experience happens within and as – recognizes itself, independent of any content of experience. There is a recognition of the peace, love, and joy that’s always here, even if it’s more faint, and the rest of our field of experience shifts and changes are before, including sometimes going through the full range of emotions, pain, and more.

Either/or. It’s not so much a binary shift, although it can certainly be experienced that way – especially in the beginning. What we are is always here, and we do often notice it, often without recognizing its significance. And even when the recognition is more clear and stable, there may be times when attention is absorbed into thought (or when there is identification with a thought and a viewpoint) and that recognition goes in the background or is temporarily “forgotten”. There is a big middle zone here, in my experience. And I suspect that there will often be some shifts, even if the recognition is much more established.

An end point. It’s an “end point” in the sense that what we are recognizes itself. It’s not an end point, since what we are keeps revealing itself to itself. It’s also certainly not an end point in how we live from it, or how our human self can transform within this recognition in terms of healing, maturing, and more. Life keeps on going.

Difficult. It’s not really that difficult for what we are to recognize itself. It can happen quite simply and quickly through following pointers, for instance from the headless experiments, the Big Mind process, the Living Inquiries, and more. It may indeed take time for this recognition to clarify and stabilize, and for the rest of us – our human self – to reorganize and align with this. That seems to be an ongoing process. And parts of this process may be experienced as quite challenging.

Pleasant. An awakening and awakening process can be relatively simple and easy. And it can also involve a lot of struggle, pain, and even suffering. It seems very individual, and each phase can also be quite different. For me, the initial phase was somewhat challenging although not hugely. The second phase was generally quite pleasant. And the third phase, the dark night of the soul, has been very challenging and at times painful.

What it means for our human self.

No problems. The “dream of the ego” is that awakening means no more problems. Reality is often different. The awakening process itself can be quite challenging, and bring up a lot of previously unloved and unquestioned trauma, wounds, pain, and more. (As our human self reorganizes and realigns.) And our human life will tend to have the universal human challenges, including what comes up in relationships, work, money, health, and more. We continue to live very human, and sometimes messy, lives. Just look at what happened to Jesus, and any number of other saints and teachers. Their lives were often not easy.

Perfect health. This is another “dream of the ego”. When we are less clear, perfect health seems like an ideal and a dream. Most of us will naturally have that preference which is perfectly fine and even healthy. And yet, illness and physical problems is part of being an ordinary human, and an awakening very much means being an ordinary human being. For some, or perhaps all, of us, illness in in our human experience. It helps remind us we are very human, just like anyone else. It can even be a part of an awakening process. For instance, a kundalini process will sometimes include periods of poor health and physical problems. And just being human means illness sometimes comes our way. The difference is that we see it’s OK. If it’s here, we may even find the gifts in it.

Perfect wisdom, love, insight, teachings etc. This is very similar to what I mentioned above. We are still very much human. We have our preferences, wounds, hangups, blind spots, perhaps even trauma. What we are is, in a way, perfect love and wisdom, and this gets “filtered” through our human self, with all its idiosyncrasies and shortcomings. (I don’t like that way of talking about it since it sets up a duality that isn’t really there. I think I wrote it more because it’s similar to what I have heard others say. And that’s a good example of a very human shortcoming!)

No pain, sadness, anger, grief etc. Again, as above. As humans, we will have the full range of emotions. These may come up during the awakening process, as a reaction to what’s happening, or as part of the reorganization of our human self. And they come up just because we are human. There is nothing wrong in this. And most of us, if we are honest, wouldn’t have it any other way. What’s different is that when there is some recognition of what we are, these experiences can flow through with less resistance, and we may even recognize them as what we are – as presence, love – and be perfectly OK with them as they are here. They are honored guests.

And an additional one:

Living in the present. This is often misunderstood. Awakening does indeed mean to “live in the present”. And that’s because we recognize that “the present” is all there is for us. Everything happens here, including any thoughts and feelings about the past or future. (It doesn’t at all mean to try to avoid or suppress any thoughts about past or present. That would be stupidity, to put it bluntly.)

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Myths about awakening

It is very popular these days to talk about “myths of awakening”, so I thought I would remind myself of a few of them….

It is very rare and special
Not really. It seems to happen far more frequently than most think. We only hear or see the tip of the iceberg, the few who also have an inclination to be a public teacher. There are quite a high percentage who have an intuition or glimpse of what they are, or even periods where it is very clear. And still quite a few where what they are recognize itself clearly and stably.

It happens once and for all
Sometimes, but usually not. It seems that for most, it happens first through glimpses, in periods or through a thinning of the veil, before it happens in a more clear and stable way. And as Byron Katie points out: We are awake – or not – to a thought. To the thought that is right here and now. Any stories of a stable awakening is just a projection into an imagined future.

We will get something out of it
That would be nice. But it is not entirely true, for two reasons. First, an awakening is a recognition that there is no “I” and never was, so there is no “I” to awaken or get something. Also, what we do get, in our human life, comes more from the process leading up to the awakening – through practice, maturing, healing and learning.

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