What is Awakening?

Do you know that when you “awaken” personal identifications shift from the foreground to the background of awareness, and there is a realization that pure consciousness is what you are? Many may have other interpretations of what an awakening might be, but in non-dual teachings it is simply the ground of our being arising to be seen.

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Momentarily, or perhaps permanently in a few rare cases, this consciousness that is omnipresent and universal and eternal feels itself to be what is lighting up your senses, causing the mind to function, and underlying all the appearances of creation. This is what Oneness alludes too – that there simply is only this.

While such a moment can be a catalyst to positive life changes, because the dramas of living seem to recede as if they are a dream, this event of seeing clearly can also be a trauma to the mind that has organized itself according to the beliefs it has assumed were true throughout our life. So after a glimpse of what it feels like to be unattached to our history and life circumstances, we usually find ourselves in confusion as old patterns and beliefs arise again to take over projecting how we should behave and what we are to believe. People may find themselves gravitating for years from one perspective to another —  caught in the “I’ve got it –I’ve lost it” syndrome.

How Mind Interferes with Knowing

 It has been the mind’s focus (its job we might say) to help us know what to do, and divide our options into right and wrong, good and bad, and all the other opposites that make up our world. The sense of “me” , beginning with the body, forms a framework that causes us to feel ourselves to be a separate identity. To form opinions mind relies on our past experiences and how we’ve been conditioned by our families and cultures, our education, reading and everything to which we are exposed. We may identify either with or against what others have taught us. These thoughts have clouded our ability to know this pure and unchanging ground of consciousness, which is completely aware but neutral. It is like the ocean that holds a teaming variety of life and rises and falls in intensity, but has no opinion about it.

Our human structure is designed to keep us in separation. Probably it is this underlying existence of one consciousness that drives us to seek love and relationship within the dynamics of human development, and to never feel quite complete when we find it. (We can feel this temporarily, but a person cannot fill this gap entirely, because it is within us we must make the discovery of wholeness.)

Eastern spiritual practices are designed to nudge us toward an awakened consciousness. But few people realize what this means, and are surprised at the challenges it brings at the emotional and physical levels. Our subtle body energies intensify as they become rewired with this new perspective, many of our old attachments change or fall away, past traumas may arise to be seen and released from our programming, and the mind may want to discard its brief perception of being “no-one”. Of course in time we must still appear to live as “some-one” even if in our hearts we feel this deeper connection to another reality. And after the clearing of old patterns and emotional reactions are cleared away, people who awaken usually express a uniqueness through service or creative action that seems to move through them without any attachment. If you have seen the oxherding pictures of Zen – this is the final return down the mountain. On the surface life is ordinary again. One does what needs to be done. Awakening is not an escape.

All of Us live With Awakeness

 All of us, spiritually “awakened” or not, are enlivened and aware because of pure consciousness, because this is our true nature and it produces the life force within us. We are its expression and movement in the world. The only difference in someone who awakens is that they realize this not as a thought or because of a teaching, but as a direct internal knowing that permeates every cell; this makes them willing to face and release old patterns that block their ability to feel this freedom and transcend the suffering the mind produces. It often allows them to let awareness move through the heart so that action comes from love rather than conditioned fear or anger. This does not mean there is no pain when there is loss, or no need to face an uncomfortable emotion at times, because there is still a human body/mind that feels these things. But such pain does not become a fixed world view or a limitation. To be in oneness the human must be included in the whole – nothing is left out. When freedom is known however, one is no longer so liable to be trapped in suffering or to allow their perspective in life to exclude the wonder and beauty that is ever-present by its side.

If you are inclined to spiritual texts, and would like the inspiration of an Advaita text that emphasizes this perspective, I recommend The Supreme Yoga: a new translation of Yoga Vasistha. By Swami Venkatesandanda published by the Divine Life Society. If you would like to understanding the process that evolves following an
awakening I suggest my book  The Awakening Guide , available on Amazon and Kindle.

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The Golden Flower of Awakening

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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.IMG_4835

            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.

An Idea Worth Exploring

An idea worth exploring is the possibility of an individual evolving greater insight, creativity, longevity and compassion through shifting the level of energy in their body. In ancient Chinese and Indian cultures these gifts were clearly valued and practices like Qigong and yoga emerged to activate energetic patterns and transform human perspectives and capacities. There is also evidence that indigenous peoples used collective rituals, dance and trance states to altered their brains in ways that produced visions and insights, enabling them to jointly resolve problems and get clear direction for the needs of their tribes.            images

It is clear that great inventors, artists, musicians, spiritual masters and inspired writers had gifts believed not possible in the common person. However many gifted people did not fit the collective model of normalcy in their societies during their own lifetimes, and were only recognized by future generations. Now we call them genius. Yogis would say they have opened brain centers that are dormant in the rest of us.

Today western culture is dominated by commerce and fueled by the over-developed and narrow perspective of left-brain thinking. We train minds for analytic thinking, memorization, behavioral conformity and accomplishment. Generally, creative people who contribute to society are valued only if their inventions can be commercialized, even if they are not necessarily used for the common good. Our psychological world is dominated by stored memories from family and social conditioning, along with judgments about ourself and others when we do not fit in. We become preoccupied with our personal drives, defenses and self-image.

To change our culture we must change our minds. We recognize now that brain patterns can be manipulated through chemistry and substances. But perhaps there is a more safe and inherently natural way to transform out of old patterns, and open new creative pathways in the brain. After all, the first evolutionary movements into human form were not through chemicals, but promoted by some mysterious inner force we have yet to discover in the west.

My work for the past 30 years has been to assist people who spontaneously experience energetic change and transformation, either through meditation or energy practices, or spontaneous events such as NDE, trauma, grief or other highly concentrated moments. My research indicates that these energetic changes, usually movement in the spine or heart, happen either before or after a major shift of consciousness. I consider this as consciousness awakening itself, supported by life force energy that clears out old patterns and activates new potentials.

 

Today a few brain researchers are studying the kinds of brain patterns produced by those who have had such “awakenings”, or who report a Samadhi event, a moment in meditation when one feels connected to the vast expanse of universe and outside of time. Such research is in its infancy, and yet it is clear our species needs to develop new perspectives and insight into how to advance our own evolution, or we may not survive. (See www.andrewnewberg.com and www.bigthink.com)

Some people see outer space as the way to expand and escape the damage we have done or may do to our planet. But this is a projection of the outward-focused mind ignoring our true need, which is to open and explore inner space – to clear out limiting patterns and awaken the consciousness within. Our connection to Source – discovered through awakening energy and consciousness — can help our species to bring forth the next evolution of human expression.

When enough people commit to inner evolution it will become the basis for a future generation with a DNA that sees more clearly and creatively how to best inhabit our bodies, nurture our collective life, and support our planet. This is the ultimate value of kundalini research.

 

This blog was written for http://www.cybergod.com, a site seeking funding for the development of a kundalini research project to activate energy and consciousness under a controlled scientific observation to see if such awakenings can improve intelligence and other positive qualities in the human species. Gopi Krishna, who wrote the first book translated into English in the US about kundalini awakening, believed it was the source of genius and that such research and evidence would change human consciousness and  the world.

(Bonnie Greenwell Ph.D. has 2 websites – www.kundaliniguide.com and www.awakeningguide.com and two books of similar titles av. on amazon and kindle.)

The Sacred in “The Shack”

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A lovely aspect of the film “The Shack”, which I saw yesterday, is that God is portrayed in several images – none of them traditional. This film, based on a best-selling Christian book,  offers as well a universal message that divine love is unconditional just like our love for our children, and that the tragedies of life are not “allowed” and cannot be prevented by God, but are part of the experience of living as humans.

This is a film about how we can heal. Presented through a Christian lens, it may not appeal to those who follow eastern practices, but essentially the message of Buddhism, Vedanta and the Perennial Philosophy is the same, as expressed in the teachings about suffering found in Buddhism, and in the challenges and questions Arjuna (representing every man) faces in the “Bhagavadgita”, the most universal scripture in India. It is a message about facing darkness and healing the broken heart through love, forgiveness, wisdom and trust. Christians encourage faith to accomplish this, but more than faith there must be a deep internal turning and releasing in order for healing to happen. Eastern teachings are more focused on this internal path, and view God more as a primary source of the energy and consciousness of life rather than a physical form. The images are only transitional objects defining aspects of this One Source, because our minds more easily relate to Source in the form of a human body, and cannot mentally grasp the wholeness and radiance of the First Cause. It is too much bigger than mind.

Some Christians are really afraid of this internal turning. One woman condemned me recently as offering teachings of the devil. I don’t know why, but I guess she came to this conclusion by watching an interview I did recently on Conscioustv about living with kundalini energy. Such a perspective distorts a person’s ability to find joy and contentment in life, because it denies our own direct connection with the sacred.

It is sad when people are brought up believing that anything arising within them is evil, and unloved by their God. The darkness among humans is often something passed down generationally by people who have experienced extreme neglect and pain, and pass this unconsciously along to their own children. Violence begets violence. Prejudice is taught. Self-loathing is taught. Hatred of those who are different is taught. We as a culture do very little to prevent these teachings as much of our entertainment is focused on violence and prejudiced images of those who are different. Parents are stressed to provide a living, often unsupported and occasionally harshly reactive with young impressionable children. Children in poverty often lack enough food to eat and time with their over-worked parents. Fear is promoted as a way of marketing goods, religion and politics.  Evil emerges from the cracks in a culture – the unwillingness or inability to recognize what is needed for love and self-acceptance, and compassion for our fellow humans, to thrive.

Unfortunately some churches do not preach the universal sacredness and connection to God that is in all humans. Some governments are managed by people more attracted to power and personal gain than the emotional and physical health of their communities. This places a huge burden on an individual family system to model inclusiveness and compassion, while also meeting basic human needs.

If there is an original sin it must be this human tendency to care only for our own gain and neglect the needs of others. If there is a hell it is likely the lives of some in our societies who are caught in war and other unspeakable pain.

The true gift of Christianity when rightly used has nothing to do with walking on water or going to heaven or recruiting more Christians. In the teachings attributed to Jesus it is  finding the kingdom of God within – the simple connection we each have with wisdom and love and others of our species that can only be found by facing and eventually releasing our personal dramas and traumas, demands, disappointments, anger and grief. It happens when we let go into ourselves and discover our True Nature. Then we may experience forgiveness for the way things are and discover the freedom of seeing the joy and possibility of creation. Then we can find each in our own way how we can express the sacred that has been latent within us.

 

 

What is Spiritual Freedom?

spiritual-awakeningThe way to become free is to recognize the freedom that already exists. Once the pure essence of being or presence is remembered and lived the mental conflicts of worthiness, desire, disappointment, guilt, depression, irritation etc. fall away because they are seen as irrelevant. The True Nature knows none of these because it knows itself as the All or the Source, or the presence of consciousness.

Many people have a touch of this realization of Oneness and turn away from it because of fear that  arises when there seems to be no ground on which to stand. Separateness feels essential to the ego structure and bounces back readily.     The sense of Oneness is not recognized in mainstream cultures that emphasize owning the uniqueness of the separate sense of self. These teachings are not saying that the body does not exist or that at the relative level there are no guidelines for living. They point to the inclusiveness and divinity of All, that everything of creation made of the five elements is Brahman (the One Indefinable Source). Existence as form is not the problem; exclusive identification with a separate form, and the beliefs that arise within it, is what keeps us blind to what we truly are, and in conflict with reality. Vedantic scriptures point to the essence, vastness and inclusivity of what we truly are, and that the world of forms is not the Truth it appears to be.

Here are a few stanzas from a sacred Vedanta scripture, the Advadhuta Gita of Dattatreya, an extreme Advaita or Nondual text. Avadhuta means a liberated soul who has shaken off worldly attachments. Vedantic scriptures are inspirational for all who wish to directly realize Truth, for they touch us beyond the mind.

“You are not born nor do you die. At no time do you have a body. The scripture declares in many different ways the well-known dictum ‘All is Brahman'”.

“You are (One) who is exterior and interior. You are the auspicious One existing everywhere at all times. Why are you running hither and thither deluded, like an unclean spirit?”

“There is no body made up of five elements; nor is there anyone who is disembodied. All is verily the Self alone. How can there be the three states and the fourth?” (note: refers to waking, sleeping, dreaming and Awakened states)”

“I am not bound, I am not indeed liberated, and I am not different from Brahman. Neither doer nor enjoyer, I am devoid of the distinctions of the pervaded and the pervader.”

“As water when water has been poured into water, has no distinctions, so purusa (soul or essence, consciousness) and prakriti ( nature or forms of appearances, energies) appear nondifferent to me.”

“You verily are Truth, devoid of change, motionless, one of the nature of freedom. You have neither attachment nor aversion. Why do you suffer, seeking the objects of desires?”

“I know that I in every way, is the one indivisible “I” which is self-sustained and full while the five elements, beginning with ether, are empty.”

“The enlightened one is a yogi devoid of yoga and absence of yoga. He is an enjoyer, devoid of enjoyment and absence of enjoyment. Thus he wanders leisurely, filled with the spontaneous joy of his own mind.”

Quotes from Avadhuta Gita of Dattateya, translated by Swami Ashokananda for the Shri Ramakrishna Math.