A wonderful smell and taste in the awakening process: amrita, ambrosia, divine nectar

I feel a delicious smell and taste in my mouth. It is an indescribable smell and flavor, it could be a kind of incense or perfume with Divine characteristics. It generates immense well-being and reminds me of the immeasurable union. It’s a reminder that I’m the one. I can also relate it to smells that I experience when I visit Amma the Divine Mother. It looks like Amma’s smell when I receive her hugs. It is literally magical and Divine.

This is my partner’s description of something that happened during and after the most recent Vortex Healing class, and others have noticed it as well.

It seems to be one of many possible side-effects of awakening, and this one is variously called divine nectar, amrita, and ambrosia, and it probably has more names in different traditions.

This particular side-effect is likely not necessary for our nature to recognize itself. It may also not be necessary for a thorough transformation of our human self within that new context. But it is one of many visitors that can come in the process, and it can serve as an encouragement.

Here are what I wrote about it in 2007: Shift in taste and smell | Other senses changing also | Dr. Wolff on ambrosia.

What are some of the other side effects of awakening? It can be seeing energies, sensing at a distance, the ability to invite healing at a distance, insights, inspiration for art and anything else, precognition, and so on. Different personalities relate to these in different ways depending on inclinations and conditioning.

Note: I found this article on divine nectar from a yogic perspective. It’s interesting but I have no way to check how accurate it is. I am more interested in it as (a) a phenomenon in the awakening process, and (b) how we relate to it.

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Some side-effects of the awakening: poor memory, dreamlike quality, etc.

The awakening process tends to have several side effects. Some of these happen during certain phases of the process. Not all are experienced in all cases. And some seem more or less unavoidable and inherent in the awakening itself. 

I’ll mention a few here that I am familiar with from my own experience and that seem relatively common based on what I hear from others.

POOR MEMORY

It’s quite common to experience poor memory at some point in the awakening process. Our memories used to feel solid and real, and now they feel ephemeral and difficult to grasp.

We may also have a more general sense of cognitive dysfunction. It seems that our mind doesn’t work very well, and may be surprised when we actually are able to function and do what we need to do. It’s as if the abilities miraculously come online when they are needed.

DREAMLIKE QUALITY

The world may have a dreamlike quality to us. It’s as if we can put our hand through it. It feels ephemeral.

The world and this human self – and any content of experience – feel like a dream to us.

This can feel disconcerting, although here too, we may find that we can still function fine in daily life.

THIS HUMAN SELF LIVES ITS OWN LIFE

Another common side effect is that this human self lives its own life.

Anything connected with this human self – thoughts, feelings, words, actions – happen on their own. 

It’s always this way. And noticing it is now more unavoidable.

IT’S NORMAL AND WE GET USED TO IT

All of this can be disconcerting to our mind at first.

And all of it is normal and we get used to it.

We may develop strategies for remembering certain things. (I write anything down that I may need to remember in the future.)

We trust that we will function OK in the world even if it appears like a dream to us.

And we also develop a trust in this human self being able to take care of itself, even if it is living its own life and anything connected with it is happening on its own.

WHY DOES THIS HAPPEN?

There is a reason why we may have these experiences, and it’s inherent in the awakening dynamic itself. 

Poor memory

In an unawake state, we tend to hold many of our thoughts – mental images and words – as inherently true. That gives them a charge for us, and it makes them seem real and substantial. This also applies to the mental representations we call memories, and the charge and sense of solidity make it easier to bring them up. It’s easier for us to remember things because these memories mean something to us.  

In an awakening, we tend to recognize all mental representations as just that. They are representations aimed at helping us orient and function in the world. They may be more or less accurate in an ordinary sense, and they are unable to hold any full, final, or absolute truth. For this reason, they tend to lose charge for us and they generally seem less substantial and solid. And that can make it more difficult for our mind to bring up memories. They don’t have as much charge for us, they are more ephemeral and less solid, and we recognize them as a mental creation happening here and now. 

Dreamlike quality

The world takes on a dreamlike quality because it always is like a dream to us. Dreams also happen within and as consciousness. And the world to us – this human self, the wider world, any content of experience – happens within and as consciousness. To us, it all happens within and as what we are, which a thought may imperfectly call consciousness, and it’s always that way. It’s just that we didn’t notice and now we do. 

Lives its own life

This human self appears to live its own life because that’s how it always is. Its thoughts, feelings, words, and actions are always happening on its own. All of it is living its own life. It’s just that in an unawake state, we added a sense of an “I” or “me” doing it (a human self, an observer, a doer, etc.), and now we recognize that as a mental add-on. 

NOTE

As mentioned earlier, there are many possible and typical side-effects of awakening. One is that thoughts quiet down. They appear when needed, and otherwise, it’s mostly quiet. There is just perception and a general absence of noticeable thought. And it’s not always this way. For instance, Byron Katie, rapports a great flow of thoughts, and that’s perhaps why she was moved to formalize her approach to inquiry. (The Work of Byron Katie.)

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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.

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 look at looks back at us

I experienced that what I looked at looked back at me.

I have heard this from a few people on the awakening path.

Most likely, it’s a middle stage between identifying as a separate being in a world of objects and all of it waking up to itself as consciousness.

Somewhere in that middle ground, we look at something, and experience that it’s looking back at us. We intuit consciousness over there, even in inanimate objects.

In reality, we are consciousness and the world as it appears to us happens within and as this consciousness. What we look at is consciousness, and if we don’t notice this clearly but intuit or sense it, it may seem as if the object is conscious and looking back at us.

I don’t think this is an inevitable phase in the awakening process, but it seems it may happen if the awakening is more gradual and happens over time. I imagine it’s intriguing and can be one of the carrots on the path.

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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Typical aspects and phases of the awakening process

What are some of the typical aspects and phases of the awakening process?

I’ll mention a few things here based on my own experience. Not everything is sequential in this process, nor does it all happen or happen within one lifetime. There is also some overlap in this list, and I’ll just briefly touch on each point since other articles here have addressed most of them in more detail.

The following are some of the milestones that may happen in the awakening process.

Relationship with the divine

Our conscious orientation towards or relationship with the divine changes through the awakening process. In general, it goes from perceiving the divine as Other, to a sense of oneness with the divine, to the divine (or what we are) waking up to itself – and out of taking itself as fundamentally a separate being – and realizing it was what it was looking for through it all.

Divine as other

The pre- or early awakening phase often involves viewing and experiencing the divine as Other.

It may start as an interest. Or an intuition or knowing.

There may be glimpses – perhaps of divine beings or all as the divine.

There may even be an early awakening of the divine as all, of oneness with the divine as all.

In all of these cases, the divine is Other even when the apparent division seems more subtle. The divine is beginning to wake up to itself as all there is while retaining some of the identification as a separate being.

When I use the word “divine” here, it can be exchanged with consciousness, awakeness, love, Big Mind, what we are, or other similar labels.

What we are noticing itself

Eventually, what we are – that which all content of our experience happens within and as – wakes up to itself. It wakes up out of the dream of ultimately being a separate being. The human self and anything else happens within and as what we are.

What we are living more consciously from and as itself

Stability

I hinted about this in the previous segment.

In the very early phases of the awakening, the divine may seem like an idea, something others talk about, and something we don’t have any experience with. Although we may have an intuition or knowing or experience a draw towards it.

Then, there may be glimpses of the divine – perhaps of divine beings or all as the divine. These may be infrequent.

The next phase seems to take many different forms. We may gradually sense the divine everywhere, or all as the divine. Or there may be more sudden and stronger glimpses. And this may get more stable either right away or over time.

At some, we may realize that what we are – fundamentally – is the divine, and what we took ourselves to be – this human self – happens within and as the divine, or within and as what we are.

Again, this may first be an intuition or knowing or come through glimpses, and suddenly or over time it becomes more clear. Over time, it continues to clarify and become more stable – including throughout more and more situations in our daily life.

Global to local

An awakening is generally “global”. It happens in a general sense for or as all of what we are. (It may even seem as if all of existence awakened, but that’s largely a projection and another topic.) And it may seem as if it’s inevitably stable.

After a while, we may notice that things in life trigger something in us that takes the system back into separation consciousness. One way to talk about it is to say that parts of our human self (subpersonalities) are still caught up in emotional wounds, trauma, the past, and separation consciousness. They are reliving traumatic past experiences and the separation consciousness they were created from. They are not yet aligned with the reality of all as the divine. They are not yet awake. Life situations – or our response to them – trigger these issues so they can be seen, felt, explored, and eventually awaken, align with reality, and bring the global awakening into more of these still unawake parts of our human self.

In our life, this may take the form of first assuming the awakening is stable. We then notice that life situations trigger old issues in us, and if the issues are strong enough and core enough to who we take ourselves to be, we may get caught up in them and go into and act from separation consciousness. To the extent we acknowledge and own this, and take it seriously, we can intentionally work on how we relate to these unawake parts in us, and even invite them to heal and align more closely to reality – the reality of Oneness.

Maturing in the awakening

There are many aspects to maturing within the awakening.

One is that the awakening – gradually and over time – becomes ordinary. It is both ordinary and extraordinary. We get used to it. Other things become more interesting to us, like how to befriend unawake parts of us, how to help these different parts of our human self to heal and awaken, how to live from the awakening in more and more situations, how to live so we benefit the larger whole, and so on.

During an initial awakening phase, we may emphasize what we are over who we are. This is natural since we are used to who we are and what we are seems more interesting and perhaps fascinating. As we mature within the awakening, this is balanced out and the two are seen more clearly as aspects of the same – or labels highlighting different sides of this lived Oneness.

Maturing may also mean that we simultaneously become more who we are and more ordinary. We live more from authenticity and we realize more deeply how what’s in this human self is universally human.

Early in the awakening process, we may get on a missionary kick and think others “need” awakening or need to hear about it or do meditation, etc. We may also think that more people need to awaken in order for humanity to be saved. Later on, this tends to calm down. We are obviously open to share when others are interested, but the “shoulds” tend to fall away.

As we mature in the awakening, other things tend to happen that I’ll mention elsewhere in this article. For instance, we may realize it’s an ongoing process and there is not a final or end point.

An initial glimpse or awakening may indeed come with certain states – of bliss, ease, joy, being untouched by old hangups, and so on – but these are byproducts of the initial awakening and like all states they come and go. As we mature in it, we realize it’s not about achieving a state but what we are is here through any and all states and experiences, and the noticing gradually becomes more stable through these states and experiences.

We also realize that although the awakening “solves” the most core “problem” of taking ourselves to be something we are not (a separate being), it doesn’t by itself solve any of our human challenges and problems. We still have to deal with them as any other human being, although from within a different context. In a sense, it solves a problem we didn’t even know we had, and it doesn’t really solve anything else or the problems we know we have!

Embodiment

Embodiment means to live more consciously from what we are in more and more situations in daily life. It happens through the global-to-local process of inviting unawake parts of us to heal and align more closely with reality. And it happens as part of the maturing process. As anything else related to awakening – and being a human being in the world – it’s an ongoing process.

Challenges

An awakening process is a shift of what we most fundamentally take ourselves to be. So it naturally comes with some challenges. As you’d expect, these can be experienced as mild or severe, can last for shorter or longer periods of time, and any struggle we experience is our own struggle with what’s happening.

Challenges, crises, and dark nights

Here are a few examples of the challenges, crises, and dark nights we can experience in an awakening process.

We can be disoriented, frightened, or feel overwhelmed. This can happen anytime the process enters a new phase, and it really helps to have a general understanding of the process and the guidance of someone who has gone through it and is familiar with the terrain. (Some that you’d expect to be familiar with it – like official spiritual teachers – may not be, and someone you’d not expect to be familiar with it – like an unassuming regular gal or guy – may be.)

Our energy system can go a bit haywire in an awakening process. It helps with nature, physical activity, reducing mental activity, and perhaps energy work like acupuncture or Vortex Healing. (For the first few years for me, it felt like enormous energies went through my system – as if sending high voltage through regular housing wires.)

As mentioned earlier, anything in our human self that’s not aligned with the awakening will eventually surface to be seen, felt, examined, understood, loved, and eventually recognized as the divine (temporarily taking the form of an emotional issue, hangup, trauma). If we have a good amount of trauma in our system (often developmental trauma), this can be an intense, confusing, overwhelming, and challenging process. Again, it really helps to have the guidance of someone who has gone through this process and – in this case – understand trauma. And it helps to understand that unawake parts of us surface to join the global awakeness.

Another form of spiritual crisis comes in the form of loss. An apparent loss of the divine or the awakening. (This helps us meet our neediness around it and ideas that what we are looking for is somewhere else.) A loss of motivation and drive. (Because it came from separation consciousness and needs to come back within more of a oneness context.) Perhaps a loss of status, relationships, health, or more. (Again, helps us meet whatever in us still holds onto ideas about how it should or must be.)

Some things are common for these challenges. For instance, struggle makes them more difficult and painful. And yet, struggle is also part of the process. We struggle until we learn, at a deep level, that the struggle itself is painful and – eventually – not needed.

These challenges also highlight what in us – in our human self – is not yet aligned with reality (the reality of Oneness). It’s an essential part of the awakening and embodiment process. What surfaces and how we deal with it is universal in that it’s shared by many going through this process. And since the unawake parts of us are somewhat unique to us, what surfaces and how we deal with it also takes on a personal flavor.

Pitfalls

There are many common pitfalls in the awakening process. I’ll highlight a few without going into them in too much detail.

Relationship with teachers: Unquestioned adoration of teachers and gurus. (Upside: Wholehearted devotion. Downside: Being misled, disappointed, give away our authority. Remedy: See them as temporary guides and coaches.)

Relationship with teachings: See them as set in stone, infallible, and final. (Upside: Temporary honeymoon. Downside: Misled, apply guidelines that don’t work for us, disappointed. Remedy: See them as human-made, guidelines, each one medicine for a particular person and condition.)

Relationship with awakening: Assuming it’s a state. (Upside: Carrot. Downside: Chasing a state. Remedy: Recognize that what we are is always here and notice that.) Thinking there is an end, something final. (Upside: Can temporarily function as a carrot. Downside: Chasing an imagined end. Remedy: Recognize it as an ongoing process.)

Relationship with students (if have students): Encourage projections. (Upside: Learn from the consequences. Downside: Misleading the students. Remedy: Make the projections and their problems explicit, actively discourage them.) Take advantage of student’s projections, fears, hopes, and trust. (Upside: Crash and burn and learn from it. Downside: Harms the students in an ordinary human way. Remedy: Be aware of the dynamic, make it explicit, address the wounds and neediness in us it comes from.)

Relationship with our human self: Assuming the awakening will take care of all our human difficulties and challenges. (Upside: Carrot. Downfall: Disappointment. Remedy: Recognize it won’t and address our human challenges more directly.) Emphasizing what we are over our human self and…. (a) Not addressing our human needs and wounds. (Upside: Temporary imagined relief. Downside: Ignore what needs to be taken care of. Remedy: Realize the wounds and needs are here and address them more directly.) (b) Justify unethical and harmful behavior. (Upside: Crash, burn, and learn from it. Downside: Harms ourselves and others in an ordinary human way. Remedy: Notice what’s happening, take it seriously, and address it.)

Relationship with others and the world: Using awakening to fuel a particular image and a sense of separation (e.g. tell ourselves we are better than others, more awake, in order to feel better about ourselves and try to fill a very human hole of not feeling good enough, feeling unloved, etc.). (Upside: Crash, burn, and learn from it. Downside: Is out of alignment with reality, act from instead of taking care of own wounds. Remedy: Recognize what’s happening, address our wounds, hangups, and traumas more directly.)

These pitfalls come from believing stories, and they come from acting on our wounds instead of addressing them more directly. We act on unhealed and unawake parts of us, life responds and rubs up against them, and we get a chance to meet these parts of us and invite in healing, clarity, and a closer alignment with reality and oneness. How long this process is and how much pain it entails depends on our sincerity, receptivity, and willingness to look at what’s going on.

These pitfalls are not inherently wrong. They become part of – and fuel for – the awakening and maturing process. At the same time, it’s important to acknowledge the problems and pain that may come from them, for oneself and others, and speak up with firm kindness as appropriate. That’s part of the process as well.

How we view the process

Ongoing process

As mentioned before, all of this – the awakening, maturing, healing of our human self, embodiment – is an ongoing process.

If we are caught up in unloved and unexamined fearful thoughts, we may want it to finish and we may have ideas about a final endpoint. But, as Adya says, that’s the “dream of the ego”. I find it’s easier and a relief to instead gently assume all of it is an ongoing process. It also makes it more interesting.

Small or big interpretation

As mentioned in other articles, we can use a small or big interpretation of awakening.

In both, awakening is what we are noticing itself. And what we are is what all our content of experience happens within and as. (We can call this consciousness, or Big Mind, or something else, and those labels also happen within and as what we are.)

In the small or psychological interpretation, we acknowledge that this may happen within a world as it is described by current mainstream science. It may be that the awakening “only” happens within the mind of an actual separate physical human being. The benefit of this interpretation is that it may be more acceptable to people coming from a (currently) mainstream view and understanding of the world.

The big or spiritual interpretation is the more traditional one as described by mystics from and outside of all the main spiritual traditions. Here, we take our immediate experience more at face value. Everything is the divine. Everything – all of existence – is as it appears, it is love and consciousness.

Either way, it doesn’t change anything about the awakening itself. It’s still experienced and described in the same way, it goes through the same phases, and it has the same consequences.

Notes

I had the idea of including my own personal experiences more explicitly for each point, but it would make for a longer article and I have addressed much of it in other articles tagged “autobiography”.

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Not knowing which part of the field I am

Right now, as I am sitting here, I see two arms and hands, the screen on a phone, a table, a cup, flowers, a lake, and a few other things. And I notice a low-grade effort telling me that, for practical purposes, “I” am this body sitting here writing on the phone. (I am not all the other things in the sense fields.) It’s something that’s added to what’s happening and it helps me function in the world.

At times, this effort is even more obvious. For instance earlier today, there was a moment where “I” didn’t know which part of the sender fields I was supposed to be. The bucket of water? The cup? The arms moving? It lasted only a fraction of a second, but I could clearly see the mind working to place a pragmatic sense of I or me on something in the sense fields.

This is a common experience for me. There are things in my sense fields, it all happens within and as consciousness, and often there is no need to put the I or me labels on anything. It’s all just happening and functioning on its own.

“I” can pay attention to what this happens within and as, and notice that this never goes away. In that sense, it seems to be what “I” am. And for practical purposes, “I” sometimes places the I or me on this body and the one others see me as. In both cases. It’s clear that the I or me is just a label put on top of what’s here, in all the sense fields, which is living its own life.

I assume this is common in an awakening process. The mind has to work actively, for all of us, to create and assign and remember the I and me labels. And when there is more awakeness here, that process may become more transparent and visible. And sometimes, “we” notice the mind scrambling for å fraction of a second to assign the labels.

Awakening and experiencing the world as insubstantial

This is a common experience in the awakening process:

The world seems insubstantial. And this human self, that we perhaps previously took ourselves to exclusively be, seems insubstantial along with it.

It’s completely natural. It’s part of the process. It’s part of what we are waking up to itself. 

Here is my experience with it and some ways of looking at it.

The world seems insubstantial. All matter seems insubstantial as if I could put my hand through it. It’s as if it’s in a dream.

Why is it that way? Because it’s all consciousness. It’s all happening within and as consciousness.

In a spiritual interpretation, I can say it’s all Spirit, it’s all the divine. In a smaller or psychological interpretation, I could say it’s all consciousness to me since I am – even if there is a separate being here – consciousness. To me, I am the consciousness it’s all happening within and as.

Why am I writing about this? Mostly to reassure others who may be on a spiritual path (with or without knowing it), experience this for themselves, and perhaps feel disturbed by it.

It’s normal. Nothing is wrong. It’s part of the process. It’s a part of waking up to reality, and reality waking up to itself.

For me, this shift happened when I was fifteen and found myself shifted into or as the “observer”. I found myself as what observes the world, including this human self. At the time, it was disturbing and I thought something was wrong. (It happened after the onset of CFS although I didn’t know about CFS either at the time.) A year later, this opened up into a more full-blown opening or early awakening. Here, everything without exception was revealed as the divine. Any sense of being a separate being was revealed as the divine temporarily and locally experiencing itself that way, as part of the play of the divine. The world still seemed insubstantial but it wasn’t disturbing anymore. And it’s still that way.

This experience of the world as insubstantial can happen spontaneously and out of the blue (as it did for me), it can happen from certain drugs or plants (I don’t recommend it), and it can (seem to) happen from spiritual practice. It can also happen suddenly (as in my case) or more gradually over time.

The easiest way of having a direct experience of it may be through inquiry, for instance, Living Inquiries, the Big Mind process, or Headless experiments. The Living Inquiries gives us the most detailed look of what’s happening “behind the curtain”, and we get to see how the mind creates its own experience of a substantial material world.

I’ll say a few words about what’s going on behind the curtains:

The mind creates its experience of the world through a mental overlay on the other sense fields. And this is enhanced when mental images and words are associated with sensations in the body. The sensations lend a sense of substance and reality to the thoughts, and the thoughts give a sense of meaning to the sensations. When this happens “behind the curtain”, it all seems real, solid, and self-evidently so. When we take a closer look, it all starts to appear more as it is – and this includes experiencing the world, as it appears to us, as insubstantial. As consciousness. As awakeness.

For it to sink in, we typically need to discover it for ourselves, over and over again.

So, does this mean that nothing is “real”? Not really. In a sense, the world is real as it appears to us conventionally (with individuals, food to eat, bills to pay, people to treat with respect and so on), and the sane and kind approach is to live and function as if it’s real.

On the other hand, the word does appear a certain way to us because of this mental overlay, and we do well to investigate this overlay and how it creates a certain world for us.

When we see through it, it doesn’t mean that the conventional world goes away. We still operate and function within it. We just hold it all more lightly. We (more) know what we are.

In the words of a man who (possibly) lived a long time ago:

We are in the world but not of it.