The mundane side of awakening

When what I am first noticed itself, it was amazing and wondrous. Especially because it was sudden, strong, and contrasted with previously mostly knowing separation consciousness and taking myself to just be a small part of my field of experience.

As I get more familiar with it, the awe and wondrousness of it is still here. It’s amazing that anything is at all. And the beauty, perfection, and immense diversity of existence is beyond words.

At the same time, there is an ordinariness in awakening. It has a mundane side. And that’s a relief.


In what way can it be seen as mundane?

Awakening is noticing what we already are. First, there may be a sense of “I” noticing it, and then it’s noticing itself as all there is. It’s not about anything “other” or particularly mysterious or unfamiliar. It’s what we are most intimately familiar with, although we may not have recognized it for what it is.

It can be understood in a psychological context. All our experiences happen within consciousness. To ourselves, in our first-person experience, we are that consciousness. So we are capacity for all our experiences, and all our experiences happen within and as what we are.

It’s not wrong that we are this human self in the world. Although in our first-person experience, we more fundamentally are something else. We are capacity the world, and what our field of experience happens within and as. We are what our human self and the wider world happens within and as. We are what our sense fields – sights, sounds, tastes, sensations, mental representations – happen within and as.

Here, we notice that our field of experience is one. Any sense of boundaries comes from our overlay of mental representations. And since it happens within and as what we are, we are that oneness.

This is what mystics from all the main spiritual traditions have talked about, and it doesn’t require any reference to God or Spirit or anything especially mysterious.

There is discipline and work involved in this. Noticing what we are can happen easily and relatively quickly. But to keep noticing requires intention, as does living from this noticing. This discipline and work is unglamorous.

This process of noticing and living from it tends to invite in a transformation of our human self. To the extent our human self has wounds, hangups, identifications, traumas, and so on, this is a challenging and messy process. It can be overwhelming, confusing, and bring us to our knees. It’s a deeply human process.

As we mature in this process, and as our human self transforms and heals, we tend to both become more authentically and uniquely who we are, and more ordinary. To others, we are just an ordinary human being. In most cases, and to the extent we have found healing and some maturity, it doesn’t look like anything special.

We find that the world is our mirror.

What I see in the wider world is also something I have here as a human self. I can take any story I have about anything or anyone in the wider world, turn it to myself, and find specific examples of how it’s true.

I also recognize that the way I make sense of anything in the world is through an overlay of mental representations – labels, mental images, stories, and so on. That’s how I am able to navigate and orient in the world. The world as it appears to me is created through my own interpretations and stories.

To the extent I recognize and have worked with this, it tends to equalize anything and everything between the wider world and this human self.


There is something inherently amazing and awe-inspiring in noticing what we are.

And as we get more familiar with it, we see it’s also quite ordinary and even mundane.

What we notice is what we always have been. We can understand awakening in a psychological sense. Noticing and living from it requires discipline and work, as anything else. The human transformation is messy in a deeply human way. As we heal and mature within this, we tend to look very ordinary to others and ourselves. And as we explore the world as our mirror, we find that it tends to equalize everything between the wider world and our human self.

Brief notes on healing and awakening and occasional personal things XI

This is one in a series of posts with brief notes on healing, awakening, and personal things. These are more spontaneous and less comprehensive than the regular articles. Some may be a little on the rant side. And some may be made into a regular article in time.


I wrote an imagined dialog with someone who has lived for eons, and one of the things that came up – from all those lifetimes of experience – is that the highest achievement is to be an ordinary human being.

Many of us try to be someone special, to set ourselves apart – at least in our minds, and live up to a certain image of ourselves. All that is ordinary, of course. But to intentionally be an ordinary human being is different. This means to see through all these shoulds we put on ourselves, and allow them to wear off. And then discover who we are when we are a little more free from them.

It’s not so easy. It can take a long time to discover and see through these images and shoulds and allow them to wear off.

Click READ MORE to see more of these brief notes.

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Dialog with someone who has lived innumerable lives in many places in the cosmos

Living for as many lives as I have, I have over time arrived at many of the same insights that many spiritual teachers and traditions talk about. For me, it’s through experience and living ordinary lives. I haven’t been terribly interested in spirituality in itself, except for at rare occasions. But I realize that a lot of what I know – in my fibers and bones and through my being – fits much of what spiritual traditions talk about.

– a quote from this dialog

This is one in a series of imagined dialogs with people who have lived for eons. This dialog is with someone who has lived innumerable lives in many places in the cosmos and – through a glitch? – happens to remember it all.


First, I am curious about the several lives. Does it mean you remember the life between lives?

Yes, although it doesn’t matter so much here. If you don’t remember it yourself, what I say will just become ideas. And if you do, I don’t need to say much about it.

Okay. How is it to have lived many lives in many different places of the cosmos?

I am very grateful for having that experience. It’s enormously enriching to live lives through the filters of different beings – and their senses, bodies, perceptions, culture and more – and their world.

What have you learned that many with one life haven’t?

Mostly, to know that we all live from our own conditioning. Everything about us makes sense in the light of our conditioning – from our bodies, environment, culture, and individual experiences.

Because of all the lives I have had, I am less inclined to judge. The tendency to judge has worn off in me over time. I know how it is to live in so many different circumstances, and I know how so much in us flows from our conditioning.

I have a deep empathy with different beings. I know we all just want to live and be free from suffering – and love and be loved. There is something very beautiful in this. It’s also heartbreaking because I know how universal suffering is and how common it is for beings to not feel fully loved and to not fully love themselves.

These sounds like insights from spirituality?

Living for as many lives as I have, I have over time arrived at many of the same insights that many spiritual teachers and traditions talk about. For me, it’s through experience and living ordinary lives. I haven’t been terribly interested in spirituality in itself, except for at rare occasions. But I realize that a lot of what I know – in my fibers and bones and through my being – fits much of what spiritual traditions talk about.

You mentioned empathy with others. What about awakening?

Well, that’s a big word. For me, it’s more simple and down-to-earth.

Through having lived as many lives I have, I notice that all sorts of experiences and states come and go. I have experienced millennia of mostly “ordinary” states with times of profound despair, mind-shattering pain, and amazing bliss. I have noticed that what I am is that which all this happens within and as. Experiences come and go and what I am doesn’t come and go. Of course, I am whatever state is here but it doesn’t last. Only being capacity for all of it runs through it all.

If you want to call that awakening, be my guest. But it’s really very simple. It doesn’t require fancy words, or rituals, or mythology, or even labels.

What do most people not get?

Hm, from my perspective, many things.

They don’t get how precious and amazing life is. Even a troubled life, even a mundane life, is amazing and precious beyond words.

They don’t get that the way they treat others is the way they treat themselves. Love your neighbor for your own sake. It’s good for everyone.

They don’t get the importance of a long and big perspective. Of course, most people get by with a more narrow and shorter perspective. But a long and big perspective enriches life enormously. And for you folks today, it’s essential for your survival. It’s the only way humans can and will survive. And life is showing you just that.

They don’t get that all experiences enrich life. They are not your enemies. Trying to run away from your experiences only creates an added layer of suffering. In reality, it’s the only real suffering.

Of course, most don’t get that what we are is capacity for all and any of our experiences. We are the experiences which come and go. And we are capacity for all of it.

How can we mimic your process and discover this for ourselves?

Well, that’s not my speciality. But it does seem that some things helps people to find this for themselves. It’s definitely possible to people to find this for themselves, and many do – to some extent.

The main thing is curiosity and sincerity. Explore and see what you find. Don’t take your own or others assumptions for granted. Be willing to leave your most basic assumptions about yourself and life. Get close to your experience.

I feel like this is a trick question since a lot of what you write about on this website does exactly that! Is that what you want me to say? I see through you. And of course, yes, the tools you write about here can be very helpful for people, especially if used with curiosity and sincerity.

Yes, I guess that’s why I asked the question. Although I write about these things exactly because these tools can help us find what someone like you have discovered. It helps us discover what someone who has lived for eons tends to naturally discover through lived experience.

Yes, I agree. For me, it comes through lived experience and mostly free form ideology or pointers or shoulds or trying to live up to anything. And for many humans, it’s often more of a mix of genuine lived experience and insights – and some ideologies and shoulds.

What can we do to make it more from lived experience?

You are asking difficult questions. As I said, this is not my speciality.

Get close to your own experience. Be curious about it. Take it seriously. Make use of pointers and use them to discover for yourself. Set aside shoulds and how people say something is. Live your life and pay attention to what’s happening.

Do you have any advice for P. (this interviewer)?

Yes. You already know all this. You even trust it. But there is some hesitation in you. You can trust it even more. You can sink into it. Lean into it. Rest into and as it. It’s what you are. Live it. It can help you to remember me and lean into what I am.

Thank you! I appreciate this interview and especially your advice at the end.

Thank you. I enjoyed this conversation. I don’t think about these things so often so it was fun. And I wish you all the best in your life. As I said, you already know and are all of this. Lean into it a bit more and it will help you a lot. (And if you don’t, that’s completely fine too.)