The ancient Taoists understood spiritual awakening and used poetic symbolism as a transmission to those who were ready for it, and some westerners have discovered the potency of these teachings. It is clear in “The Secret of the Golden Flower” that an inward turning of the light of awareness leads to the realization of the original Self , or primal Consciousness, from which the awakened life can flow. “The Golden Flower’ as translated by Thomas Cleary describes this process.
In Chinese practice this inward turning is accompanied by a practice of circulating the breath, which awakens and moves subtle energy, while paradoxically containing and expanding it. This eventually activates the primal energy of the life force, generally in a more harmonious balance than the typical kundalini practices. The emphasis is on living from the center of rather than entering expanded transcendent states of Samadhi. Some of those who have contacted me over the years have used these ancient practices to enter into the awakening process.
Although some non-dual teachers will say that awakening is sudden and thorough, either complete or non-existent (only an experience), I have seen thousands of people who are in and out, or half way through, what I can only call a process or an unfolding into Truth and Self-realization.
From a non-dual perspective mystical moments, flashes of light, deep insight, rising energies, opening the heart and many other phenomena attributed to a spiritual encounter are not what awakening is. Instead, Awakening is the time when everything falls away and you realize yourself to be no-body separate and yet unified with all and emerging from One source. It is a ground-level switch from personal to impersonal identity and an opening into the possibility of living from this realization rather than from the separation and identifications of the so-called ego. When one has only a moment of this realization and then gets entangled again in separation the realization is called a glimpse. When one can live totally from this place of beingness, and yet function as their own unique expression in the world, it is called enlightenment. It may, but does not invariably, include extraordinary gifts, as some people believe. More commonly, awakening expands compassion and an impulse to aide others to awaken.
All the other phenomena attributed to awakening are preparatory, related to the clearing of blocks in the energy field, the opening of brain centers, or shifting into dimensional frequencies and states of consciousness not often understood by the rational mind. Most who awaken will have some of these non-ordinary experiences either before or following awakening.
Far more people have glimpses of awakening than live as enlightened. This is why i think of awakening as a process that evolves and deepens over time. It is not surprising that this is so – after all, our body/mind is constructed to live as separation, to create unique and individualized structures in the brain that move us through our life. Consciousness is trained to identify with these structures and they are woven through our energy field impacting patterns of thinking, feeling, moving and sensing. Consciousness lives in our bodies and enlivens the patterns that are intrinsic to our DNA and imprinted by our conditioning. Although when we awaken we feel the freedom of consciousness, and realize the conditioned irrelevance of many of our patterns of thought, our old patterns are like magnets that keep drawing back the expansion and reorienting us in familiar ways. The thinking mind may even feel alarmed by this expanded vibration and generate anxiety that holds us in a cul-de-sac of consciousness, aware of awakened primal consciousness but unable to function consistently from an awakened place.
Our bodies are sensitive vibrational entities. This is why powerful music impacts us, and sounds can either enliven or disturb us. Ancient systems in many cultures realized the power of sound and devised practices such as drumming, mantra, and chanting, to open up our energy fields. On the other hand, sitting in deep silence and finding the still point within is the path of awakening. Imagine yourself as radiating light vibrations out from a center of silent aware presence. Vibration is life itself; the still point is source. Vibration creates the molecular structures that allow the appearance of form. But some vibrational tones may carry you inward to stillness. They block the distractions of thought and form. The two creative aspects of energy and stillness are symbolized by Siva and Shakti in Kashmir Shaivism, and as yin and yang in Chinese Taoism. They are interwoven in all of life. Awakening is knowing the center through becoming it, and enlightenment is this golden flower unfolding into the life force.
In the ”The Secret of the Golden Flower” the practice is in turning the light that shines out through our eyes into the center, so that the source can be revealed and expressed, profoundly transforming how we live our lives. This silent center is not empty, although the mind may have a time of seeing it that way. It is the light and source of all, the vibration of wisdom and creation.
The great Advaitic sage Ramana Maharshi called this center the Cave of the Heart. In The Secret of the Golden Flower it is also called the “higher soul”. In Christianity it is the Christ within. In Buddhism it is the True Nature. Awakening is simply knowing this infinite and unbounded One Self, and releasing any attachments to a separate identity.
If you want to be touched by a poetic expression of knowing the infinite and discover a powerful ancient practice, I recommend Cleary’s beautiful translation of “The Secret of the Golden Flower”. For an understanding of awakening as process check out my book “The Awakening Guide” available on amazon and kindle. I am currently completing editing on a new book to be published by New Harbinger in the spring: “When Spirit Leaps” that explores all the nuances of this remarkable evolutionary process.