What Is Awakening?

What is Awakening?

Although you may have heard of very spiritual and wise people who have become enlightened through meditation or by other yogic or zen practices, the waking up I am referring to here, is available to everyone, no matter how ordinary. It is not just for those who have studied many books and who know lots of long words, or for those who can sit in the lotus position perfectly for hours, or for those who wear white, smile sweetly, and say ‘namaste’ when they meet you. It is for you, just the way you are right now. Awakening is about seeing through old beliefs that you may have had about yourself or about the nature of life, and seeing that you are not the person that you thought you were. Waking up out of the dream of separation, and recognising that your true nature is oneness, wholeness and freedom. When you wake up in this way, it does not automatically mean that you become a more spiritual or saintly person, but simply that you recognise the nature of life and can see yourself, living your life as this person. You are no longer limited to what you think about yourself, even though thoughts may continue to be there. Awakening is also about waking up out of your delusions about Awakening itself. It is the seeing of how your dreams about how life should be or could be, are in fact preventing you from waking up to the simple, and perfect reality of how life actually is.

Believing in a separate me

In the same way as you wake up after a night of sleep, Awakening is about waking up from another kind of sleep. You have been believing that who you are is what you think. You have believed that the thought ‘me’ means that there is a real me. This belief in a separate me has created a dream of my life. This thought dream has been very compelling and mesmerising, so much so that you have not seen the reality beyond it. Waking up is seeing that you have been living a dream. You have been believing that ‘I’ am limited and restricted. You have been believing that what thought says, must be true, and that the boundaries that thought has imagined must be real. Awakening is the sudden, or gradual seeing, that there is no separate ‘me’, that thought does not have all the answers, and that who I really am, is much much more open, free and unlimited than this ‘me’ could possibly imagine. This seeing of the true nature of life can be accompanied by a sudden explosive experience of boundless openness and love. Or there can be many small experiences of freedom and relief, or even feelings of loss or fear, as thoughts, beliefs and assumptions are gradually seen through over time.

However it is for you uniquely the way it is. For me, it was a combination of sudden experiences and a gradual unraveling of beliefs. I had always known this as a child, but it was unacknowledged and doubted. There were experiences where this knowing was acknowledged and then over time the doubting thoughts have been seen to be only thoughts and have no reality. No matter how this shift, or shifting, happens for you, is the way it is. It doesn’t need to be like anyone else. Your discovery of your true nature is perfectly uniquely unfolding for you.

Awakening is the most fundamental recognition

Awakening is the root of it all. It is not some final goal where everything is perfect, or blissful. It is in fact just the beginning of a never-ending unraveling of everything you believed in. It can be very liberating, but it also can be frightening and uncomfortable. The believed-in boundaries have seemed to keep you safe in this strange world. Seeing that they are not real, it can feel very disconcerting and disorientating. Whatever you have considered safe, secure and assumed to be permanent, is more and more seen to be a dream. There can be a sense of being lost, alone, with nothing to hold on to. Awakening is certainly a double-edged sword. You long for the freedom beyond your thoughts, but at the same time it can be surprisingly a bit too free. It is perhaps to be compared with a prisoner who has been in a prison longing for freedom for many years, and then when finally he is allowed out, he is terrified of living outside the known boundaries of the prison.

Most people don’t actually want to find the truth that they are searching for. They prefer to just go on searching for the rest of their lives because it is safer and less threatening to what they think they know. Awakening is about waking up out of the cosy and familiar dream that you have been used to, and falling into the unknown present. It is the end of all of your hopes and dreams, and about really stopping and facing your fears. It is not to be taken lightly as a hobby or pastime, or a way to treat your daily suffering. It is a matter of life or death. Recognising who you really are, will destroy you and your whole life as you know it.

In your search for truth you have a sense that what you really are is not limited to what you think or feel or what other people say, but usually you can not pin-point what that actually is, in the midst of all of the rest. The thinking tries to know how to live and what to do or say. The thinking attempts to understand the point of it all, but this can only be incredibly frustrating because it is attempting to know the unknowable. But at a certain point, perhaps after much frustration, it is realised that the thinking can never know my true nature, and it gives up trying to know. The mind surrenders and that unacknowledged sense of the beyond is finally acknowledged – this is what people call Awakening.

A ‘bridge’ between time and timelessness

You could say that this recognition is like a ‘bridge’ between time and timelessness. Just for a moment in time it is seen that there is no time. In that moment there is no one recognising anything. Blank. A moment of no thought and no labelling, understanding or owning the experience. A timeless moment where all the boundaries fall away and there is no separation. This is death.

Awakening is often a much desired state by spiritual seekers, because it is believed that ‘when I awaken, then all my suffering will be over.’ And in a way this is true, and in a way awakening is just the beginning of really feeling whatever is here, even if it is painful. Many people have an awakening experience and then the mind comes back in to report and claim the experience, and make it mean something special about ‘me’. But this is only the thinking being its usual sneaky self, using this awakening experience as yet another way of avoiding feeling uncomfortable. You will never arrive, and will only be frustrated when the experience, or state, changes again. This is the disappointment of the spiritual search. There is no escape from feeling whatever is here. All the while you are seeking, you are longing to arrive somewhere else, but when you wake up out of the dream, this is the death of who you thought you were, and the end of the timeline of ‘my’ life. This means that all the goals and hopes that you had for yourself, are rendered meaningless. There is no longer anyone who is waiting at the finish line to celebrate your arrival. You don’t get any prize, and in fact you go on and on, for the rest of your life, losing everything you thought you had, or knew. This seems terrible, and in a way it is. There is no prize for ‘me’, but instead there is the greatest and deepest nourishment in acknowledging your true nature beyond it all.


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