Many of us spend a good part of our lives trying to “transform” ourselves, improve ourselves, or discover new ways to be present in the world. This is what keeps psychotherapists, body therapists, hypnotherapists, self-help writers, spiritual teachers and even academic institutions in business. There is a deep internal drive to learn and grow, create and improve, and find new ways to enjoy life. One of the great tragedies of war and poverty is the limitation it puts on the children and adults in societies that are burdened by them. There is not much time or vision for healing and expanding into a better life. Perhaps they offer through suffering another kind of transformation, one honed by suffering.
Whether we are transforming through effort or through suffering, what is often overlooked as we search to transform our self is the deep potential of the inward passage, and the exploring of the nature of our awareness. Beneath all the introspection and searching in the average life is the subtle noticing of what we are. This noticing — let’s call it our present witness– is the aspect of us that sees, senses, and feels what is happening before there is any labeling or judgment of it. We are spirits witnessing a life — witnessing movement, opportunity, choice, beauty, tragedy, sensations, experiences, our selves and others. This present witness is an awareness that is so open and receptive that it is shocking to experience in its full power of presence. Like a flash it is all that exists in a moment of crisis or awe, great concentration or passion, and sometimes in a transcendent meditation. Purely there, available, awareness is never in need of transformation. It is the foundation of who we are, the pure consciousness, and if we turn deeply into it we will discover our source and the universal connection with all.
Spiritual awakening happens in those moments when awareness returns home to itself, triggering a flash of insight, connectedness, expansivemess, and sometimes radiant joy. It is a moment beyond thought when there is only being. Such moments are only truncated if the mind interferes or the personality tries to step up and claim them. Language may point to the moment but generally limits it. In the way a great feast cannot be tasted in words, so awakening cannot be translated. It is said not to be an “experience” because what happens is awareness awakens to itself, and awareness has always been present, only hidden behind the tendencies and interpretations of thought and language.
When awakeness happens it opens a person to the possibility of true transformation. How this will unfold is part of the mystery and always unknown and unpredictable. It is beyond any goal or fantasy of the mind. Those who live awakened lives have surrendered to the surprises of each moment. They may experience great shifts of energy, lifestyle changes, the uprushing of old stories that turn to ashes before their eyes, the releasing of much of who they thought they were and new capacities they never asked for. In time there will be peace and a sense that everything is okay just as it is, even if there could be improvements.
This is a passage into the heart and a softening mind, a willingness to live with the opposites of relative form without attachments to them, an opportunity for clarity, relaxation, and trust. If you are on this improbable journey you may have challenges but you probably know you are very blessed.