Awakening, Part 2

Awakening, Part 2

Common Misconceptions

Awakening may seem like a lofty or unattainable goal, but this way of being is known in certain traditions as “the natural state.” In other words, being awake typically feels quite ordinary. The reason is that our innate nature is That which exists already within, around, and as each of us. Fundamentally, we are already awake but we don’t know it because our internal noise (i.e. thoughts, feelings, sensations, perceptions) is too loud and unceasing. Our psychological, emotional, and physical activity is so engrossing and convincing, we don’t perceive the underlying substrate of reality, which is infinite aware beingness. Conscious existence is each person’s essence, and the wonderful news is that sooner or later we all realize this.

The analytical mind cannot understand what awakened life is like, no matter how hard it may try. The lived experience of being awake quite simply contradicts the mind’s basic nature, which is to try and fit everything into neat little boxes so that it can feel more in control. But our infinite essence cannot be confined by subjective mental constructions.

Because of the mind’s inherent inability to grasp paradoxical ideas, and due to the dualistic-based restrictions of language, the concept of awakening has gathered the moss of many false notions over the years. Given these limitations, through a Q&A format I will attempt to clear up a few here.

Is awakening an experience?

No. Awakening is not an experience. It’s not a thing, or a state, or something to be achieved. While there may be an awakening “event” – an experience at a particular moment in time that reveals to us our essence – it is not an event in the true sense of the word. It’s our intrinsic nature as consciousness, which stands a priori to all experience in the realm of space and time.

 Does awakening take away pain?

No. While being awake is liberation from the dis-ease of egoic suffering, it doesn’t mean we are free of pain, conflict, or struggle. These never permanently go away. However, we can appreciate the beauty of every moment, despite pain and regardless of what may be happening. We no longer see life through a filtered personal lens, which arbitrarily categorizes life into good vs. bad, right vs. wrong, and self vs. other. Rather, we see life as it is without any mental overlay.

Does awakening take away feelings?

No. One still experiences the full range of emotions but doesn’t identify with their story anymore. While it does mean that one is not attached to any outcome, it doesn’t mean one doesn’t feel or see the suffering of others. In fact, being awake increases our capacity for feeling because it opens the heart, revealing the loving-compassion that has always been there, bringing us more in touch with humanity. It allows us to care for others in a much greater way because the sense of a personal ego is replaced by the recognition that we are all interconnected. This often comes with an intense desire to serve.

Does awakening take away ego?

Yes and no. We awaken to our deepest nature as being itself, and we awaken out of ego identity – the mental construct that divides, judges, and resists reality. This does not mean we no longer have ego, but it does mean we no longer identify with it. By ceasing our identification with ego, we stop giving it energy, so it tends to fade away over time.

However, this transition can take months or even years depending on a variety of circumstances. Post-awakening, the shift in perception does not immediately abide in the way one might imagine. The awakened perspective can wax and wane and even drift to the background as ego reasserts itself and old patterns come to the foreground, requiring a conscious effort to manage. That said, the ego has been mortally wounded, never to reconstitute in the same way, and there remains a permanent, transcendent awareness that we recognize as our true being. It seems that some interface survives in order to allow the body-mind to continue interacting normally with life, and the energy that once propped up the ego is now freed for other purposes.

Does awakening take away individuality?

No. In today’s mainstream culture where individuality is championed, many people become concerned when they hear about ideas of unity. While awakening does gradually dissolve the ego, we never lose our sense of individuality, our uniqueness, or our ability to engage with the world. We lose the illusion of separation but never lose sight of our differences. We see the unity but never let go of the diversity.

Recognizing that everything is One does not negate the multiplicity of life, it enhances it! Unity and diversity are two sides of the same coin; both are true, and they need each other. From an awakened perspective, there is diversity within the unity and unity within the diversity. Our differences make life rich and fun and provide learning opportunities, and our sameness gives us the ability to love, connect, and understand one another. We need both in balance.

Does awakening make you perfect?

Definitely not. Many people I’ve encountered believe that awakening means you achieve some type of perfection. That you magically know all things, become all-powerful, and never make a mistake. This is not the case. Awakeness, as stated previously, simply means we know who and what we really are. No more, no less. It might come with extrasensory abilities or it might not. It might cause a shift in personality or it might not. And it might mean we have more clarity in certain situations or a faster processing speed when making decisions, but it doesn’t mean we know the answer to every question. On the contrary, it means we are more willing and able to acknowledge how much we don’t know.

Anyone who claims to be perfect should not be believed. We are all works in progress, always. Even after awakening, the understanding of our unitive essence deepens forever. There is no endpoint to our self-discovery or self-actualization! Awakening does not mean we are exempt from everyday life or that the rules don’t apply. You are on this planet in your particular body just like everybody else, doing the best you can from where you are.

Although awakening doesn’t make one perfect, it does allow one to see the inherent perfection and beauty in life as it already is, which includes the imperfections and tragedies. This is somewhat of a contradiction. On one hand, you understand big picture how everything came to be the way it is, and on the other hand, you still do everything you can to help those who want and need it. You see life as it is and how it could be, so you strive to improve it. It’s about accepting and embracing each moment in its fullness and emptiness, which are the same thing. It’s about being able to have your feet in both worlds simultaneously: the transcendent, changeless divine dimension and the immanent, ever-changing human dimension. It’s about wisdom and love dancing together.

  …continued in Part 3…

Spirit and Nature dancing together. Victory to Spirit and victory to Nature!
~ Paramahansa Yogananda