What is Awakening? Part I

Asking the question: “What is Awakening?” leads us to a further inquiry: “Am I asleep?”

How can you know if you are asleep?

Join me in this inquiry into our inner space.

One way of looking at Awakening is:

The term “Awakening” points to a state of consciousness that is awake to itself as consciousness.

When you ask about awakening, your consciousness is looking at itself and wanting to know itself as awakening. This means that you are not asleep anymore. So if you are reading this article, you are in the process of awakening.

At the outset let it be stated that awakening deepens continually and that no one has (yet) reported having come to the bottom of it. In that sense, the term “Awakening” says that you are no longer in that indolent, complacent, numbed-out, apathetic sleeper state that is one type of the trance state. At the other end of this spectrum the highly active, driven ambitious state is just as well a variation of the trance state, until consciousness awakens to itself. This applies, of course, to all possible states in-between these two extremes of the spectrum.

The question is: how limited is my inner image of who or what I am? This defines your state of awakening.

Your behavior can give you clues as to the degree of awakening from the trance that you exhibit at this moment.

Listen to these questions:

Do you find yourself always looking forward to the next attractive event in your life?

Do you look with dread at the next “chore” in your life or challenging situation?

Do you continually find a “hair in the soup” of any situation you are in?

Do you often look for something that will “entertain” you?

Do you find it uncomfortable to be alone with yourself?

None of these are “bad” in any way, but they do point to a certain inner attitude towards what life presents to you. I will come back to this.

When awakening begins, it shows up in different ways for each individual. Over the years, starting when I was 18 years old, there have been, and continue to be, many awakening episodes in my life – each unveiling a new aspect of my Self to me.

Here is how it showed up for me in one instance: I was on vacation in 1977 on a small island off the coast of (at that time) Yugoslavia in the Adriatic Sea. I had been spending my days doing yoga, meditating, reading Ramana and Krishnamurti, swimming and enjoying the wonderful food and wine.

One late morning I was under some pine trees just above the beach in a yoga posture. In this posture I was sitting on my heels with my arms clasped behind me, facing the beach with the forest behind me. I suddenly noticed something unusual. I say “suddenly” because the noticing was all of the sudden, but the change was a very, very gradual, subtle and gentle one:  I had the sensation of floating; everything around me appeared as if under water, although clearly still the same space of air surrounded me. All colors and textures had a depth that was luscious and living.

This was accompanied by what I can only call “a deep silence” – although I still heard all noises and sounds: locusts singing, children on the beach below, wind through the pines. I experienced this silence as a substance and I knew at that moment, that every object (every form in the world) is actually made of this substance. All things are contours of this silence. I was in a state of deep peace and I felt the active benevolence of the Silence as the carrier of Existence. I felt myself as Its child, and indeed, that It is my ultimate Truth of who and what I am. I realized years later that this is the state that is called the NOW.

This was a timeless state, a deep state, an eternal state. The paradox is that after some time I “woke up” out of this awakened state and found myself gradually slipping back into the trance state, with the Awakening a memory. With one difference: I now knew that there is another, awakened state, and the pull to “find my way back” was awakened.

Now let’s examine one of the above questions and look at what it can reveal about this process:

Do you find yourself always looking forward to the next attractive event in your life?

This is saying that the “event” you are in at present is judged by your system to be not as attractive as some other event out of your past experience. The key word here is “judge”. You can only judge something in comparison to something else. This comparison is based on an impression in your memory of some other event in your past. “I ate at that restaurant and their fried chicken was much better!” “That person smiled at me more often than this one does.” And so on.

This judging behavior draws your attention away from what is in this moment and places it on a memory, a thought, a judgment. These are phenomena of the mental realm and they are brittle – almost one-dimensional – compared to the depth that is revealed in the NOW moment. Even our language tells us where our attention is: we are “looking forward” to some other moment that is not here now. Also, the “next attractive event” says that in this trance state the force of attraction is not felt for what is HERE and NOW, (which is all there really is) but rather for a thought about something that is not HERE. So actually we are in a state of being attracted to, and putting our attention on something that has no real existence – it just is “not” – period. That is why this state is known as a trance state; we are hypnotized by the power of these highly seductive thoughts: we are under their power.

In this way I began to see that the pull to “find my way back” to the Awakening experience was leading me more and more to understand how my awareness, my conscious attention, was caught up in this “past memory / projection forward into the future” dynamic of my mind. In this, Jiddu Krishnamurti was the one whose investigations proved most fruitful for me.

Another modern sage who reveals much understanding about the process of the “search for awakening” for me is Nisargadatta Maharaj. The following statements are his:

“The true knowledge can only come when all possible concepts have been given up, and can only come from within.

Just as you woke up in the morning and came to know that you are, similarly this has happened. Because I am, I woke up, if I was not, how could I have woken up?

Parabrahman (the Supreme, the Absolute) comes to know that It is, the consciousness is how Parabrahman knows that It is. Parabrahman is your eternal state; you cannot remember it because you have not forgotten it. It is your daily experience, you know it. There is consciousness, there is no question of “I”; It is.

Understand that life force and do not condition it to any form. This beingness is not something which you can capture a handful of, it is manifest – like space, it is all over, it is everywhere.”

(Nisargadatta, Prior to Consciousness p. 68)

In closing this Part I of “What is Awakening?” here is a short audio clip of present day spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle on “Renouncing the Psychological Need for What Comes Next”

audio clip one and a half minutes

To Be Continued



8 thoughts on “What is Awakening? Part I

  1. Pingback: be a light unto yourself | New Earth Heartbeat

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  4. When you feel nature, it is quite different than thinking about it. not because you are experiencing it in presence but because you have a camera shutter effect to not feel the aliveness within it! It happens in your moment of no mind! Depending on how fast you think or what consumes you being which is always regrettably the mind you will miss it. You have the power to stop this.. you stop this by being in the NOW? This has and will continue to be the pathway is it not?

    • Yes, and I like Eckhart Tolle’s idea about feeling the “inner body” and that is always something I can only FEEL in the present moment, and it is not a thought. Oftentimes I will just notice – for ex. – the glass of water I am grasping and FEEL more the physicality of it. For me, the mind has always a certain quality that is “thin” – and clearly distinguishable from the direct perception of the Reality that enlivens the physicality. Of course my entire field of perception is enlivened by that Reality, but the physicality, like nature, is less fragmented than thoughts. Once we get a deeper sense of what we call the NOW, we never really lose it, and keep coming back to It, until the pull to stray from It is less and less. Wishing you a wonderful 12-21-12 My Friend!

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