Don Quixote


What do I see in Don Quixote? I see – among other things – someone who is at odds with reality, fighting imaginary enemies.

How do I find that in myself? I do the same whenever I take a story as true. I identify with a particular viewpoint, so am necessarily at odds with reality. Reality is not limited to my stories about it.

What happens when I am at odds with reality? There is stress. Discomfort. A sense of unease. Sense of separation. Tension.

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Guided missile

A Zen teacher I once had used to talk about attention as a guided missile. It automatically goes to knots, hangups, perceived problems.

What he left out, but of course knew, is that this is an invitation to notice, to investigate, to find more clarity.

It makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. It helps us survive.

And it also makes sense within the context of growing and waking up.

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Humbling process

Any belief is hubris.

I tell myself I know how things are, and not only that, how things should be. I know better than God, life, the Universe, reality.

Life will inevitably rub up against these beliefs. I can struggle against it and try to hold onto my beliefs and suffer. Or, through grace, I can find some receptivity and allow the beliefs to wear off, or more actively inquiry into them to find what is more honest for me.

In this way, life is a humbling process. A process of friction between life and beliefs, and a wearing away of these beliefs.

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Sobering process

I keep coming back to how the process of growing and waking up is a process of sobering up as well.

It is a process of clarifying stories, of finding what is more true for me than beliefs. And in this process, there is a falling away of hopes and fears, of illusions of stories having truths in them other than as practical guidelines, helpful sometimes and not so helpful other times.

It is a process of maturing in the most ordinary ways.

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Sane, even in the most ordinary way

Awakening is all about sanity, even in the most ordinary way.

A simple way to put it is that growing up as a human in the world is part of the process, and it happens before awakening, during the process of arriving at an abiding and embodied awakening, and within an abiding awakening. Growing up is a continuing process, and it includes healing and maturing, receptivity and less neediness, and acting in a more clear and kind way. And this allows for a more sane way of being in the world – also as seen from a conventional view.

Waking up is what we are noticing itself, releasing identification out of stories and identities, leaving a fluid use of stories as tools. And this too – especially when it happens through a relatively healthy and mature human self – tends to appear clear, kind and sane, even in an everyday sense.

And finally, when there is a freedom to use stories as tools, there is a freedom to follow cultural norms and conventions as well, and to do this from clarity, kindness and with skillful means.

For myself, wherever I am on the path, I can use this as a pointer. If someone sees my actions as anything less than healthy, sane and mature, it is an invitation for me to sincerely find the truth in what they are saying, and take it in. (Especially if I notice a tendency to want to justify or defend my actions or views!) In general, it is an invitation to find any stories I take as true that may lead me to behave that way and inquire into these stories. And this is especially true if there is a pattern in how others respond to me and see my actions.

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Gifts of impermanence

The obvious gift of impermanence is that it keeps everything new, fresh and different. (When filtered through an overlay of stories of time.) Life and experience never repeats itself. Even when a story tells me something is the same as something else, it is fresh and different. Even the same story is always fresh and new as it happens here now.

In terms of evolution, impermanence is also very helpful, so helpful it is essential. It allows for this universe and life to evolve. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for impermanence and everything that happened before us. And in terms of human evolution it is that which allows for new and fresh perspectives for each generation.

Impermanence is also an invitation to grow and wake up. It helps us notice when we attach to a story as true, making it into a should that inevitably clashes with (our stories) of what is. And in this friction is an invitation to examine those beliefs and identifications. Are they true? Can I know they are true? Are they helpful? What happens when I hold onto them? (And they clash with what is, was or may be.) Who would I be without these beliefs? What are the grain of truth in their reversals?

Living a lie is painful, this pain is an invitation to find what is more true for us, and when this is lived, there is clarity and kindness.

And even simpler, impermanence is what allows all content of experience to come and go, living its own life, on its own schedule. Am I that which comes and goes? Something does not come and go. What is that? What is it that does not come and go?

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Forgive oneself

One of the basic pointers in growing and waking up (or at least align with awakening) is to forgive oneself. 

When I forgive myself, I forgive – and heal – images of myself. Images from specific situations in the past, and images of aspects of me here now. 

And forgiving myself and others mirror each other. How I relate to one is how I relate to the other. 

It all happens within my own world of images. The wounds, healing, forgiveness all happens within my own world of images. 

It all reflects qualities and dynamics right here, in this human self. 

It is all what I am and what everything/one is. 

Through this, I can heal and mature as a human self in the world. 

And my conscious view and life is more aligned with what I am. My life is a little more aligned with what I am everything already is. 

That alignment can happen even if what I am does not notice itself. It can happen while it notices itself and identification is still in stories and (parts of) content of experience. And it can happen in the context of awakeness awake to itself, and identification shifted out of stories and into the field of awakeness/form.  

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Aligned with reality

What does it mean to grow and/or wake up?

A simple answer is that it is an alignment with reality.

Growing up as who I am, as this human self in the world, has several aspects. And each of these has to do with aligning a little closer with reality.

I learn to find here what I see out there, in the wider world and in past and future. And this can be a gradual process. I find more and more here of what I see out there. I become more and more familiar with it. My human identity embraces and includes more and more of it. I become more comfortable with it.

I realize that I don’t know. I don’t know anything for certain. This too can be a gradual process. I can realize that I don’t know in more and more areas of life, and with more clarity.

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Magic tricks

Just about anything can be used as an analogy for the process of waking and growing up. It is, after all, as rich as life itself.

So how can magic tricks work as an analogy for waking up?

I can find a few different things….

Misdirection. One of the main tools in the magician’s toolbox is misdirection. He or she brings the attention of the audience to something, while something else is happening somewhere else, and it is done in a very convincing way.

Illusions. Something appears as what it is not. There is the appearance of something that is not there.

And when the tricks are revealed, we cannot be fooled by the same trick again. We may still be impressed and amazed by it, but not fooled.

And the same happens in the dynamics of waking up.

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Clarifying and channeling motivation


When I look at desires and motivations, I find two main types.

One type of desire comes from our human self. We want to get something. And mainly, we want to avoid suffering and find happiness. 

This makes sense in an evolutionary perspective. It is how the human individual and species takes care of itself. 

And it is also what happens when we identify with any story. There is a sense of an I with an Other. And we want to take care of that I. 

Another type of motivation is a quiet love for God or truth. This seems to be more of a remembrance of what we are, and a quiet longing back. 

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Facing death, and growing & waking up

Facing death squarely can have a few different effects…

In terms of growing up (healing/maturing as who I am, this human self in the world), facing death invites in a motivation to grow up. I have limited time here, and want to make the most of it. Similarly, facing death helps me clarify my priorities. I am invited to clarify what is most important for me, and align my life with that.

Facing death at this level happens mostly within the dynamics of stories. I realize that everyone and everything I love and know, incluing myself, will die. I see it. Feel into it. Find genuine appreciation for it. (After all, death at all levels of the holarchy of the universe is what makes life possible. We are made up of stars that died a few billion years ago. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the whole process of life and death that went before us, at the levels of stars, species and individuals. Also, life is dynamic, dynamic=flux, flux=death.) Make it alive for myself. Allow it to work on me and reorganize me as who I am.

In terms of waking up (noticing what I am), facing death may invite in a motivation to wake up. This human self is around for only a limited time, and I want to make use of this opportunity to invite what I am to wake up to itself.

Equally important, I can explore death – or rather, impermanence – here and now, through the sense fields. I can notice how anything happening within each sense field is flux, guests living their own life, coming and going on their own schedule. There are no stable anchors within content of awareness that I can place an “I” on. But still, there is a sense of what I really am not coming and going. What is it that is not coming and going?

Lonesome path?

From a recent comment, which brought up some curiosity about it for myself:

No wonder gnostics are so alone, individual in their work.

It is true that any path of growing and waking up is alone work. It is something we have to do for ourselves. And it is an individual path as well, partly since our knots – in their configuration and emphasis – is particular to us.

Yet there is another side to it too.

Often, we can find teachers and groups that share our interest and aim. It is usually not a complete match, but that is a good thing since it brings it back to us. We are not able to mindlessly absorb and follow the group, since our own path has partly universal dynamics and is partly individual.

And while there may be periods where we do experience it as a lonesome path, the growing and waking up itself tends to invite in a great sense of belonging as well. Of finding in ourselves what we see in others – the wider world as a mirror for what is right here now. And of all as the play of awakeness itself.

We find (see, feel, appreciate) a shared humanity right here, which invites in a deepening connection with those we meet as a human being in the world. We find in ourselves what we see in the wider world. And we find all as this awakeness itself, untouched by the mental field overlay of I-Other.

Reasons for growing and waking up

When I look at the importance of growing and waking up, I find a few simple things.

Growing up invites in healing and maturing, and that takes care of most of what we seek in our human life, and also what we seek when we are identified with this human life. This includes living a life that is nurturing for ourselves and the larger social/ecological whole and even future generations. (So the universe and God can explore and experience itself through the myriad of life forms on this planet, including humans, a little longer.

Waking up gives the final release from any sense of I with an Other, it makes it possible for reports from this noticing, and it invites our human self to reorganize and explore itself and its life in the world within this new context.

So it is easy to notice the importance of growing up. In short, it is good for ourselves and those around us, and future generations as well. We live a little more responsibly. We are less caught up in blind projections and blindly seeking things from the wider world. We tend to be easier to get along with. We may make choices within a slightly larger perspective – even a global and long-time one.

It may be less easy to notice the importance of waking up. It doesn’t really bring that much more into the picture, beyond the growing up part. There is the final shift of identification out of our human self, and stories in general. There is a noticing of what we already and always are. There is the noticing of all as the play of awareness. But not much more.

So why even aim at waking up? It doesn’t seem to make much sense, from most perspectives.

Yet, for some of us, there is that yearning. Something that is not satisfied by the growing up process, of healing and maturing, as much as that in itself is rewarding and meaningful. There is something else going on for us. We just can’t help it.

Maybe that is why so many teachers – at least in Zen which I am most familiar with – say that if you can help it, don’t engage in a waking up process. Just live your life. Enjoy yourself! Only do it if you can’t help it.

And the can’t help it part doesn’t seem to have so much with the typical reasons people give for working on the waking up part. For me, at least, there is that quiet love for truth and existence. Something that can’t be helped. A very quiet and unyielding pull.

Motivations, and growing & waking up


  • I can clarify what I seek, and then funnel these motivations into either growing up or waking up.
  • I find that this sorting has to do with the effects of growing up and waking up, and also the effects of aiming at either.
  • The effects of growing up: Healing and maturing in my human life. Finding the wholeness and richness of my human self. A sense of self-reliance. Less caught up in blind projections. A relatively stable sense of quiet joy in life, no matter how it shows up.
  • The effects of waking up: What I am notices itself, already free from an I with an Other. This releases identification with whatever patterns were created from taking this human self as a separate I, and these patterns also wear off over time.
  • The effects of aiming at growing up: Gradual healing and maturing. Typically see good results. Relatively easy to find guidance and support from the culture.
  • The effects of aiming at waking up: May not happen at all, or only in glimpses. Can be discouraging, especially if the only goal is to wake up.
  • Split strategy: Clarify and funnel motivations into either growing and waking up, and use different strategies for each. If someone can only find interest in one or the other, this one works fine. But if they find both, it can be slightly inefficient.
  • All eggs in one basket strategy: Telling people that their motivation for getting something/anything will be satisfied by aiming at waking up. It may work well if people use tools and strategies that invite in both growing and waking up, and they don’t get discouraged if awakening doesn’t happen. But it may not work so well if people get discouraged in spite of progress in growing up, or it they use strategies and tools only aimed at waking up and not growing up. This strategy is quite common in the different traditions, but can also be risky.
  • Consolidated strategy: Clarify and funnel motivations into growing or waking up, and use strategies and tools that invite in both. (This may also work for those who can only find motivations for one or the other.)

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Growing and waking up, and reasons for practice

Just to summarize the previous post…

To me, right now at least, it seems helpful to differentiate practice aimed at growing up (healing/maturing) and waking up (to what we are).

If my motivation and intention is to reduce suffering and find happiness – to get/compensate for/escape from something – it seems appropriate to emphasize a practice aimed at healing and maturing, finding my wholeness as who I am, this human self.

And if my motivation is truth and love –  a quiet curiosity or love of existence – it makes more sense to aim at waking up, inviting what I am to notice itself. (And also working at maturing which aids awakening, and helps it be expressed in a more fluid way.)

It can be helpful to sincerely investigate and clarify our real motivation. Although in real life, it doesn’t necessarily make that much difference, especially if we use tools that work simultaneously at both levels. The ones that help us grow up, and invite in a waking up as well.

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