What Is Awakening All About?
I’ve met some on the path to awakening who believed that awakening would end all their pain with one big monumental experience, only to come across them later, still dealing with the deeper, more persistent strands of suffering that cannot be undone through one magical experience.
I’ve met some on the path who seemed deeply invested in ideas about it, swimming in intricate layers of intellectualism, only to find them simply rearranging those structures over time, never finding a way out of the loop in their heads that constantly tells them “I know.”
I’ve met some who were searching for awakening in order to feel safe, only to find them later still reacting to a world they imagined to be threatening and fighting anyone who invited them to stop fighting out of fear.
I’ve met some who just wanted to feel good enough, only to find them later still clinging to the same low self-esteem. They believed that awakening would make them feel “good enough” instead of seeing that the whole foundation of good enough v. not good enough is a house made of sand.
I’ve met some who were mesmerized by the shiny glow of spiritual teachers. The shinier the glow, the more they were attracted. As the perceived glow would dull itself in one teacher, it would seem to appear in another. I watched them do this for years, never seeing that the glow is already within them. It was never in the teacher.
I’ve met some who were more interested in defending their ideas about awakening than breaking down the fortress of their own defenses. I’ve watched them fight each other in chat rooms for years, never seeing that they aren’t defending awakening. They are defending a self.
I’ve met some who wanted to completely leave the world behind, only to find out that this actually never happens, for the world as we know it is constructed through thinking. To leave the world behind would be to leave behind the idea that there is someone trapped in this world to begin with.
I’ve met some who were in love with the act of seeking itself, while claiming to want to be free of it. But when the seeking began to quiet, they merely found another way to reignite the spark, postponing their contentment for another two, five or ten years.
I’ve met some who claimed that they had found awakening, only to have pulled the wool over their own eyes. They stopped being aware and started being “people who were awakened.” They seemed more interested in the resume of being awakened than actually being awakened.
But somewhere along the way, I met some who weren’t interested in any of that or who saw the pitfalls in it all. They quietly investigated their experience, through and through, leaving no stone unturned. They sat in this quietness and felt into its magnetic contentment long enough to slowly peel away the layers of pain, over-intellectualism, unsafely, low self-esteem, seeking, psychological self-defense and all stories of being awakened. They burned in the fire of freedom by meeting everything as it arose, instead of trying to move around it or make it go away. They saw that facing their pain directly is the only way to truly be free in the deepest sense, for every act of avoidance makes the pain persist.
They stopped clinging to all the words of a teacher and began deeply questioning the truth of all words, no matter who spoke them. They found that awakening is not a place one arrives at. It is not a resume one posts for the world to see. It is not a denial of the world or a path to get out of the world, but a re-introduction to it, a complete immersion in it, an embodying of it. In that way, the world is not left behind, it is transformed through new eyes and an open heart. It is not a revolution that comes about through fighting, but a deep surrender into an unshakeable peace, even in the midst of conflict. It is not a static place where one claims “all that is true is the changeless space of now” for that would be just another false landing. Life is always changing in that space.
It is not a mental understanding that one can neatly sum up in a book or a post like this. It is a living, breathing, constantly changing realization with a deepening at every corner, an opportunity to look again in the next moment, and the next, to see what is being believed, where the wool is being pulled down once again over one’s eyes. But mostly, it is something for each person to discover. Even this post cannot be the guiding light, for that would merely be, once again, following someone else’s authority rather than trusting one’s own investigation.
The gift that each of these people gave themselves was the openness to continuously relax in the changeless space and allow all changing to happen naturally. The gift is to investigate again and again when the mind clings to its familiar landing points, insecurities or bragging rights. Giving ourselves this gift in each moment eventually gives us the greatest gift of all, which is the seeing that in the end, we don’t know what awakening is. We don’t care anymore. We don’t care about this post. I don’t care. For it too is but a fleeting moment, about to be whisked away into the wind of impermanence like everything else.
In not clinging to what is naturally whisked away, the next moment can arise with brand new possibilities, unencumbered by any of the pitfalls above, and free of all fixed definitions of ourselves, others, the world and awakening itself.