I used to think awakening meant a magic kind of beingness, a presence without any content, but with complete contentment in the world. I could see it was not the same as mystical experience, which comes in many styles and intensities, and can be a flooding of love, a sense of falling into another dimension, a feeling of complete unity with everything, a vision, great ecstasy and many other things. But mystical experiences, however powerful they impact us, move along and leave us with yet another experience, usually a more ordinary and sometimes a more depressing one, because the me is still there longing for more. Life is a series of experiences, ordinary and extraordinary, gentle or harsh, exciting, loving, painful, full, empty — many qualities can arise from the varieties of experiences both common and mystical. Many people seek spiritual liberation in the hope it will mean the conclusion of or transcendence out of all these experiences.
So I have known mystical experiences, and I have felt awakened, but today I cannot say that any of it has much impacted the nature of experiences that life continues to place at my doorstep. The only thing these spiritual openings have left me with is quietness deep inside, and a very thin veil of personal identification with my life. It is more and more clear from this vantage point that only now exists, this apparent “me” is one facet of a massive multi-faceted universe ( or only a fraction of a facet, but one that is somehow mysteriously also a reflection of the whole), and that consciousness in the form of humanness exposes itself to numerous unpredictable, uncontrollable and inexplicable experiences
I attempt to do non-dual teaching or mentoring or something that I cannot really explain by simply being available and sharing what arises in the presence of those who feel they are seeking truth. Non-duality cannot be clearly explained because it is a western concept for an ancient eastern perspective that only One exists and all else is illusion. This is not a rational concept nor was it ever intended to be. It is a mentally unsettling, emotionally disturbing and incomprehensible possibility given the huge expansive range of diverse species and experiences, world views and planetary objects — all of which appear to exist as separate and valid forms and events. All of us live in a mental world that collects these phenomena and puts them into thoughts and words and struggles to cope with all they demand of us. Sometimes this struggle is called suffering.
I have to confess that if awakening is here — awakening to the non-dual or the direct knowing of Oneness or Nothingness or Stillness , it has had little impact on the experiences this body/mind encounters in daily life. As a parent and grandmother, a wife of many years, a mother-in-law, a friend, and in many other roles this entity plays, there can be drama, compassion, sorrow, love, joy, feelings of being unseen, misunderstood — all the range of encounters of any other long-lived life. There can be unexpected tasks put before me, and uncomfortable demands, and simple precious moments of meeting someone and being met. There can be a simple peace in just meeting someone where they are, and being connected. It is just life meeting itself in all these forms and there is no way to awaken out of it; you can only awaken into it and move through each moment the way it is.
There is someone I care for greatly who is part of my extended family who has built a great delusional system in her mind about who I am, feeling I am some powerful being who is spying on her, trying to harm her life. She believes God is telling her terrible things about me. None of her God’s messages hold any truth, but the intensity of her thoughts impact many people I love. I cannot say why these delusions torture her and make her so angry and unhappy — perhaps they are connected to an early trauma and a deep distrust of life, or a need to avoid intimacy or connection with others. Perhaps she is using substances that distort her perceptions. Although I have experienced there is really no personal “me”, just my own set of delusions about who or what I am as a separate being, waves of her energy of fear and distrust pound whatever it is I am at times and I have to meet them the way others may have to meet physical pain, wondering moment to moment where to go with it, how to be with it, even though one knows that at the core they are not the character suffering. Life is handing me this. LIfe hands everyone various challenges — some certainly much more painful than any I have faced. One needs only read the news to see this every day.
So how does one be awake no matter what is being handed to you. I guess you just recognize you cannot avoid being awake — something is always right here right now in the midst of every experience that simply IS — it is there, it is free, it is aware, it is open and it is loving.
It feels but is not attached to the feeling. Thoughts arise but it is not glued to the thoughts as if they were something significant because it can see the potential for delusion and self-deception in all thought. It seems that freedom is not about being free from this, or even being free in this, or being a person who is free. Freedom is not at all what the mind has taken it to be. It is so much more subtle. It is a pre-existing state that allows everything to happen just as it does and participates however it is meant to participate, but carries no residual, the way a wave fully participates in the ocean, rising and falling as the moon and the wind and the curve of the earth dictate, and leaves no trace. If one could live without the impact of the delusional mind that is how it would be.
When we think we are trapped we desire freedom. When we know we are all essentially free there is nothing to desire. When I desire for my suffering family member to be happy and content and free of her delusions, the personal “me” colludes with the compassionate heart to feel it would bring more love in the world if this dark energy would fade away. If I hold this desire I am holding a piece of the personal “me” who still believes all should be well, and even though I am free to hold this it is at the cost of my own freedom, for it is going to be as it will be and I must go in the flow of it.
All of this is simply to share that this life here has the same disheartening moments as any other life, and all of us share this whether awake, unawakened, on the journey or totally disinterested in the journey. We also share the same inherent freedom if we just acknowledge it. The freedom to be fully present with what is, the freedom of compassion and peace in the midst of our confusions and disappointments. The freedom to move from love. People often do not open to these freedoms because they are too afraid of change, of being really free of their conditioning and familiar patterns. We humans have trained ourselves to live in fear, and we are free to live that way, but this grip of fear and attachment to our thoughts will never take us where we really want to be, which is content and whole.
It is possible to live with a sense of wonder and love and stay in the moment with what is, even in the midst of sorrow and pain. This is what it means to end suffering.