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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Awakening and Evolution

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It is helpful for some people to think of an awakening process as a biophysical and evolutionary shift rather than pigeon-holing the experience into a spiritual framework. While many spiritual traditions have an understanding and even a procedure for awakening to our True Nature, the possibility can emerge from many factors, not only from a meditation, prayer or energy-based practice,

The Renewal of Spirit

The outcome of a true awakening can be labeled spiritual, because it is a renewal of spirit, a shift of perception into an inclusive and more loving relationship with self and others. It may include occasional ecstasy, visions or mystical experiences, or it may not. These are side effects and not the point. Awakening is clear seeing in this moment of the underlying nature of existence. It becomes a relaxation into life. It is a continual unfolding of deeper perception.

It is paradoxical that as identification with a separate self falls away, we see not only the unity of all but the unique gift of its many expressions. When ego stops struggling for self-improvement and to be more compassionate or loving, our natural nature brings forward compassion and love spontaneously when least expected..

Consciousness Shifts Identification

Awakening shifts the locus of identification from “me” to “this”, from past and future to here and now. It is biophysical because such a radical change in perception must include a reorienting of our energy field and the way it holds our past and focuses our attention. So the energies of our life force often arise that bring up insight and stimulate a clearing away of old patterns.. There can be shaking, vibration, heat and inner intuitive guidance. Never let anyone tell you this is an outside force or any kind of foreign intervention. The messages of awakening are never threatening or fear-based, the way the unconscious voices of a troubled soul can be. They say things like “Be still” or “Stop thinking” or “Peace be With you” or “This is needed now”.

Awakening is the way of transformation and it begins inside of us. Certain practices may activate it but it can also arise spontaneously, Often people ask “Why me?” Whatever pulled you toward this awakenng process was meant to be – your number is up! In this life you are invited to wake up to what is real and to a new perception of the nature of life and humanity that will not be so “me” focused, so fearful of life and death, or so trapped by the beliefs that arose from your conditioning. This is what liberation is,

Letting Go of Resistance

You may feel fear or anger as this new energy or shifts of consciousness begin to undermine your sense of being in control in your life. Contraction makes the process more difficult to navigate. Imagine your body was orgasmic and you were trying not to feel it! Your body is trying to clear out stale beliefs and energies and open you to bliss and peace – contraction only increases discomfort. Let go.

Be Careful Who You Listen to

I hear many stories as I mentor people in the awakening process, or who have felt the arising of kundalini energy. Some experiencers have been told they are in danger, or that some kind of entity or evil is interfering with their life. These are the fantasies of unhealthy minds, and they are passing on beliefs (not truths) that arose out of the dark ages, or that are aimed at gaining power over your mind. If you are awakening seek genuine understanding from people who are joyfully awake and compassionately real. Look for purveyers of peace and wisdom.   If you are having a difficult time with old memories and emotions seek a caring therapist because the human you is as important as the free spirit of consciousness now arising. This consciousness will not leap over your personal challenges, but requires you to meet them and heal. Be willing to grow into the fullness of an awakened life and trust the energies and the understanding that unfolds.

Many people are entering this new territory of awakening today. Perhaps the world needs you to become open and free and your consciousness has invited itself to bring forward something new. It may get labeled spiritual at times, but it is actually an evolution in humanity.

 

Awakening As Process

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Are you one of the thousands of people who are in an awakening process and don’t know it? The light of transformation is always available, and today there are so many options in meditation, energy and healing practices, internet experiences, psychedelics and even through the basic traumas of living that can trigger the intensification of your subtle energy field, moments of vision, light or bliss, emotional releases, past-life memories, and other shifts in consciousness. We live in a time where many ancient and secret practices are available to anyone, without the normal cautions and preparations they traditionally demanded. So it is easy to enter a transformative stage of your life without knowing what is happening or realizing why it is happening to you.

What is awakening? It is a transforming of your perspective, your energy field and the way that consciousness moves within you. Ultimately, it is the consciousness within you waking up and remembering itself, free of the attachments to who you believed you were. The process that precedes awakening does not follow a predictable path because your practices, life history, emotional patterns, and probably previous life development all have an impact on how your mind and body responds to this awakening. In my research I’ve identified seven categories of phenomena that indicate a person is encountering the awakening of consciousness and with it the energies known as kundalini – pranic activity (shaking, vibration, heat rising, etc.), other involuntary yogic movements (i.e. asana, mudras or chanting), physiological problems, psychological and emotional upheavals, extrasensory experiences, parapsychological events and Samadhi. Most people experience some but not all of these phenomena, but if they experience 3 or 4 of the categories I believe they are in the unfolding of their awakening process.

We can call this spiritual awakening, but it requires no religious connotation. Many spiritual communities offer practices that can trigger these changes but this is a movement of the psyche – the deepest human capacity for an interior evolution that is far beyond any religious belief system. You wake up out of belief and into being. You discover directly potentials of mind and body that are out of the mainstream understanding of God.

This is not an escape from your human foibles and challenges, because you are living as a human and embodied in the world dream. Those who seek awakening to escape life can have a difficult time dealing with awakening when it is time to ground and learn to live an awakened life. In the end, only a relaxation into the ordinariness of life will bring the ability to recognize the sacred both in the form and formless aspect of existence. We cannot live only in the formless reaches of consciousness, but only be visited by them when we enter the stillness we are. Living requires the openness and heartfelt acceptance of life as it is.

If you are in this process, which brings with it many months and years of curious shifts and insights, and might begin to understand it better if you look up my websites www.kundaliniguide.com or www.awakeningguide.com and check out www.adyashanti.org .

 

Emptiness, Spaciousness and Love

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Frances Bennett, a former Trappist monk and now an awakened teacher who blends Christian mysticism, Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta in his teachings, put a quote on Facebook that points directly to the potential of spiritual awakening, in any tradition.

“Another way of describing the spacious awareness that is sometimes called ’emptiness’ is to refer to it as ‘unconditional openness…I have taken to calling it that because, this phrase of ‘unconditional openness’ seems to point a bit better to its essence which, for me, is LOVE.”

It happened that on the same day I saw this quote someone contacted me who was concerned about the fact whenever he closed his eyes to meditate he experienced spaciousness, and he was alarmed about this.

Our human mind is used to being busy, to sorting, dividing, judging, maintaining our separate identity and staying within the social constructs with which it has identified. We panic during a spiritual emergence because experiences are arising that do not fit our belief system about what is normal and acceptable in our lives.

Sometimes we panic about energy buzzing and shaking in our body. Sometimes we are struck with unfamiliar moods and rushes of emotion long repressed in our guts and hearts. For a few people a vision or dream arises that seems inexplicable and frightening. For others the feeling of consciousness free of the body, or the moments of consciousness having no boundary, seems evidence of “losing my mind”.

Why do these things arise in a spiritual awakening? Because despite what we have heard in our culture and spiritual traditions, this is what an awakening is. It is not what the mind wants it to be — a perfect bliss and freedom from all the traps of depression and anxiety and feeling inadequate that plague many people in the world. It is not a sweet and easy escape from life. While meditation brings an inner strength and calm, a sense of a center, if spiritual realization is to arise, turmoil will usually come along with it, at least for a while.

To understand our true nature, consciousness must take a journey that reveals all that we are not. For a few rare souls this happens suddenly — consciousness arises or expands rapidly and breaks forth into the vastness of no-self — no personal self — or One Self — the realization there is One consciousness penetrating all existence. This feels like God to many people, and resolves the desire to search further. But inevitably, unless the journey to this moment already covered the territory, there will be a return of body-identification, and movements that reveal all the old conditioning and blocks that cloud this realization and its expression.

For most people who long to know God or to know what is true, this search has been a long inner journey, and thus their shadow side, stuck points of view, emotional traumas and contractions gradually appeared to be met and released. Even overwhelming energies of the collective unconscious may arise. This usually happens over months and years before the final moment when consciousness is experienced as free and is realized as the ever present now,or encountered as unconditional love when it opens the heart.

Yes there is bliss in some moments, especially as the heart releases the burden of carrying old pain and resentment, or as energy opens long blocked flows in our bodies. There can also be great moments of insight, glimpses of other lives, or visions of deities (I think of these as transitional objects that stand between our mundane lives and the radiant unboundaried source of life). There may be an emergence of psychic, precognitive or healing possibilities. Many phenomena may arise along this journey as each chakra opens and clears, or latent brain centers in the head begin to come alive. It is easy to get stalled along the way — in the same way an intriguing or particularly challenging part of traveling the world would delay our completion of the journey.

Why would all this happen, only to dump the psyche into “emptiness”, “vastness” or what Bennett has called “unconditional openness”?

Is it to clear us of all illusion of separateness, empty the mind of the need to compare and divide, offer a taste of presence without limit, or discover that what has created us feels like love and has no demand? Is “nothing” the end of the journey? What would be the point of this?

One needs to rest in this unconditional openness and allow it to permeate the cells of the body and fall into the heart so true presence, love and intuitive wisdom can permeate the life. Then it is said you will be free. You will feel your divinity in your center. It may happen that some life circumstance will pull you back into personal identification from time to time, but you will be resting in openness and return to it. The flavor of who you are, and some of the cultural conditioning will remain but these will feel more like the clothes that consciousness is wearing that will someday be discarded. The thoughts and feelings that flow through you will just be part of the landscape of your life, neither to be accepted or rejected.

One of the favorite quotes I have carried throughout my life, long before I knew the fullness of their meaning was from Longchempa. It is a pointer toward Truth. “Since everything is only an illusion, perfect in being what it is, having nothing to do with good or bad, acceptance or rejection, one might as well burst out laughing!”

Be willing to rest in the vastness, this unconditional openness, and invite it to show you what it will. Be at peace.