Awakening Into The Ocean of Consciousness


Sometimes I walk along the cliffs in Santa Cruz and watch   the surfers rising and skimming across the waves. I have never surfed myself  but it seems to me that the skills required above all are attention to the moment and balance. The challenge for surfers and their performances are good metaphors for spiritual awakening.

 Very early Vedantic descriptions of the experience of awakening have included the image of the ocean, saying our consciousness is like the wave that arises from the sea and the ocean is the fullness of our true universal nature. Our individual awareness arises like a wave but never loses its essence as part of the vast consciousness of the whole. Each wave eventually recedes back into the universal whole of the ocean.s required above all are attention to the moment and balance. The challenges for surfers and their performances are good metaphors for spiritual awakening.

Writers have often used the ocean as a metaphor for consciousness, and dreams with ocean imagery often represent to therapists the state of the unconscious, sometimes quiescent and sometimes overwhelming. Once I dreamed of a miniature ship on the sea, that was tipping so that all the passengers were falling off. I reached down and pulled each out of the sea, righted the ship and put them back on it. This represented to me the work of therapy or spiritual guidance. Along with falling into the ocean, it seems that anyone may find something old like a memory, or new like a potential, arising from this great rich all-inclusive presence throbbing with life and possibility.

In Taoist teachings life is akin to a river, flowing into the sea. Significant teachings reflect the need to go with the flow and not try to swim upstream. Through following the natural flow of life harmony may be found. Qigong and Tai Chi help people discover the natural flows in the body and become more in tune with their own vibration. These ancient practices emerged from an inner knowing about the path to human balance and tranquility.

Whatever arises for you in a spiritual process, whether the shaking of energy, flushes of heat, rivulets of pleasure or startling jerks, or even emotional waves of events you prefer to keep repressed, to the extent you can “go with the flow” or “ride the waves” (in modern times) you will find that life and change will go more smoothly. The subtle energy is impulsively helping the body release stress and old conditioning that needs to be seen and released so it can no longer impact consciousness.

It is your thoughts that cause the most confusion – telling you something is wrong, or you made a mistake, or this should not be happening and will never end. The thinking mind is up against a condition it has never predicted or prepared for. As consciousness brings forth unconscious patterns, in a spontaneous (that is, not intended by you) effort to clear out your old way of imagining who you are and how you ought to be, the thinking mind feels out of control. In some cases a person feels panic because of this loss of control – those who have always forced themselves into a neat and tidy life, organized, self-determined and cautious, may have the greatest challenges. Awakening is messy.

Spiritual awakening opens the mind to great new perspectives, shattering old conceptions about what the world is about and who we have to be to survive. It invites us into a clearing of stuck ideas and emotional cul-de-sacs that may be limiting us in the world. It may arouse energies that are unfamiliar, or cause discomfort in areas of the body that need healing or restructuring. If no one ever told you this could happen you may be stunned, scared or depressed. That is the mind reacting to this unforeseen event of your own transformation.

I have written several essays on my websites ( and ) and in my books to help people understand how to navigate this process, but just as if you were learning to sail or surf on choppy seas, it will take time for you to learn to be present in great sunlight and find the sense of freedom in the wind. I heard once of a Roshi’s wife who said that being enlightened was liked being a “breeze”. Perhaps surfing is also like a breeze, once one has mastered the techniques.

Awakening invites you to relax and be present with what is, to forego judgment and fear, to find the love and compassion and joy of being that exists prior to all the chaos and complexity of thought. Ultimately you feel moments of oneness with the sea, the air, the human experience and the radiant consciousness that holds it all. It is worth the journey, if only you can relax into the waves.

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