What are some of the phases and themes in an awakening process?
It’s always individual, but there are also some common themes.
When we write about these types of things, we can do it from oneness or from the perspective of the apparently separate self. Either one has value. Here, I’ll switch from one to the other.
HUMAN SELF VS WHAT WE MORE FUNDAMENTALLY ARE
In the world, to others, and to ourselves when we take on that identity, we are a human self.
And to ourselves, in my own first-person experience, I find I more fundamentally am something else.
I am capacity for the world as it appears to me. My nature allows any and all experiences that are here – of this human self, others, situations, the wider world, and anything else. And this timeless now it all happens within is self-cleaning, always forming itself into something new and fresh.
I also find that any content of experience happens within my sense fields. It happens within and as what I am. To me, the world happens within and as what I am.
The oneness I am forms itself into the world as it appears to me.
This oneness can form itself into separation consciousness. It can take itself to be something in particular within the content of experience – typically a mental representation of this human self, a doer, an observer, and so on.
And it can “wake up” to itself as oneness and live from this noticing and visceral knowing.
BIRTH AND EARLY LIFE
Early in life, the oneness we are forms itself into something amazing that helps our human self operate and function in the world. This is what we can call a psyche or ego in a psychological sense.
The psyche is a kind of operating system for the human self, it normally develops and matures over time, and a well-functioning operating system is essential for our human self to live in the world.
In itself, this has little to do with awakening or separation consciousness. Oneness can develop a relatively healthy and functional operating system whether it consciously notices itself (awake) or operates from separation consciousness.
CONTINUED SEPARATION CONSCIOUSNESS
In most cases, the oneness we are continues to operate from separation consciousness through the lifetime of its human self. There is nothing wrong in that.
Even here, there are times when oneness operates more from oneness and less from separation consciousness, for instance in flow states, when there is ease and enjoyment, and so on. This may be experienced as enjoyable, and oneness likely won’t consciously recognize what’s happening beyond that.
On the continuum from oneness recognizing itself versus functioning from separation consciousness, oneness often moves somewhere between the two. Occasionally, it may go more to one or the other extremes. Most of the time, it’s somewhere more in the middle. And it may never consciously recognize itself as oneness.
In some cases, oneness may have a stronger longing for finding itself again as oneness.
At the surface, it may take the form of a longing for love, truth, reality, Spirit, or God. (For me, this took the form of a strong longing through childhood and I had no idea what it was about until later.)
We may hear about awakening and it resonates with us.
We may have glimpses or shifts that drive us to explore further. (I had a profound sense of being one with the universe when I was around ten years old, sleeping under a vast open sky filled with stars in the Norwegian mountains.)
Or we have glimpses and shifts and don’t see the use of it or it doesn’t grab us, so we leave it at that.
In many cases, this doesn’t go any further than a casual interest, and that’s fine too.
Oneness can then actively engage in an exploration of its nature.
We may explore and get to know maps from others more familiar with the terrain.
And we may engage in more direct explorations and some form of spiritual practice.
Some of these will help reorient us so we are more consciously aligned with how it is when oneness notices itself. (Heart-centered practices, body-centered practices, ethical guidelines.) This makes it easier to live from noticing oneness if or when that eventually happens. And in either case, it tends to make our life a little more comfortable and enjoyable.
And some explorations help oneness notice itself more directly. (Basic meditation, structured inquiry, pointers.)
Oneness may then notice itself more directly.
This can happen “out of the blue” without any obvious preparations and without any conscious interest in spirituality or awakening. (As was the case for me. It happened when I was sixteen, and I was an atheist at the time with no interest in spirituality.)
It can happen suddenly and without much warning after a shorter or longer period of practice.
And it can happen more deliberately through following structured inquiry and pointers. For instance, Headless experiments and the Big Mind process can both lead people to notice their nature relatively easily and quickly without much preparation.
EARLY NOTICING: BELLS AND WHISTLES
The early noticing may come with or without bells and whistles. (The side-effects of noticing our nature, which can include strong states, unusual experiences, and so on.)
If it’s more neutral and free of bells and whistles, we may avoid distracting ourselves with the bells and whistles. The downside is that we may tell ourselves it’s too simple and familiar and we either abandon the exploration or keep looking for something else that fits our ideas about what it’s about.
If it’s with bells and whistles, we may get distracted by these, assume that’s what it’s about, and try to experience those particular bells and whistles again. We may end up chasing a state that’s by nature ephemeral, and overlook the much simpler essentials of our nature.
Both happened in my case. I both noticed the essence of my nature when the shift happened in my teens. And I got somewhat distracted by states and experiences and ended up partly chasing states for a while.
Either way, this is not wrong and is often a temporary phase of the process.
The invitation here is to notice the essence of our nature. To find ourselves as capacity, and what the world to us happens within and as.
When oneness notices the essence of its nature, the invitation is to keep noticing.
We can learn to notice our nature independent of and through changing states and experiences.
Oneness notices itself independent of what content of experience it changes itself into.
And when we get caught in separation consciousness, it’s an invitation to notice what’s happening. What painful identity or belief was triggered? What did I trigger in myself?
LIVING FROM AND AS IT
Through all of this, we are invited to live from noticing our nature, or our nature noticing itself as all there is.
How is it to live as oneness in this situation? How is it to perceive and live from my heart?
How is it to recognize even this experience, this uncomfortable one, as a flavor of the divine? How is it to notice that my nature and its nature is the same?
TRANSFORMATION OF OUR HUMAN SELF
This process involves a transformation of our fundamental identity, our perception, our life in the world, and our human self and psyche.
Many parts of our human self and psyche were formed within separation consciousness and still operate from separation consciousness. These will color our perception and life even if we consciously notice our nature.
An essential part of learning how to live from noticing our nature is to invite in healing for these parts of us.
Many go through one or more dark nights in this process. These are periods where we more strongly rub up against parts of the old separation consciousness so it can wear off and be seen through.
We may wonder if something has gone wrong. It will often bring us to our knees. Some dark nights may be intensely uncomfortable and overwhelming. And, in hindsight, we may see them as an essential part of the process.
In my case, I first went through one for a few years – maybe fifteen years after the initial shift – where it felt like “I” had lost it and I felt deeply off track. Then, there was a period of an absence of apparently any sense of separate self. And ten years after the first dark night, I was plunged into a much more dramatic dark night. This one was full of health challenges, loss in most or all areas of life, disorientation, a sense of deeper undoing of my human self, and intense and overwhelming primal survival fear and old trauma surfacing.
OUR CENTER OF GRAVITY
Our metaphorical center of gravity – what we viscerally take ourselves to be – tends to shift in this process. And typically more than once.
One of the major shifts is from separation consciousness to oneness.
It may seem as if we as the separate self notice our more fundamental nature as capacity, oneness, love, and so on. Even if we genuinely notice our nature, many dynamics and parts of us may still operate from separation consciousness, so that’s where our center of gravity largely is.
And when the separation consciousness dynamics are more worn out, it’s more clear that this is our nature noticing itself. Oneness notices itself as all there is. Love notices itself as all there is.
Exploring our nature and how to live from it is an ongoing process. There is no finishing line.
There is always more to explore and get familiar with. There is always more healing and maturing for our human self. There are always more shifts, and these will tend to be both surprising and familiar.
ENGAGEMENT AND GRACE
And all of it is ultimately grace.
Our interest, effort, engagement, and so on is grace. It’s given to us. It’s life showing up that way through and as our life.
Any shifts are grace. We cannot make them happen, we can just prepare the ground to the best of our ability.
Whatever happens, whether a thought calls it a setback or progress, is grace. It’s the oneness we are exploring itself as whatever happens.
It’s life exploring, expressing, and experiencing itself in always new ways.
HOW WE SLICE THE CAKE
We can make different maps for any terrain, highlighting some features and leaving others out. And any map will reflect our own time and culture and what we are familiar with from our own process, and what we hear from others.
This particular map reflects my own experiences, biases, and limitations. Others will make other maps that may be equally or more valid than this one, and fit a bigger set of data better.
AN INDIVIDUAL PROCESS
A summary of the phases outlined here could be: (1) No interest. (2) Interest. (3) Active and dedicated exploration. (4) Direct noticing. (5) Keep noticing. (6) Exploring living from it. (7) Transformation of our human psyche and life. (8) Dark nights. (9) Shifts in center of gravity.
These don’t necessarily happen in this sequence. Not everyone goes through all of them. And the last three are more themes or phases that can happen throughout the process.
This is always an individual process. Oneness winds itself up in separation consciousness in an individual way and unwinds in an individual way.
For instance, all of these phases and elements have been part of my process, but not exactly in the order outlined here. (I was plunged into oneness first, and the interest and conscious exploration happened as a consequence of that.)Read More