In what I originally studied of the path, the teaching was to connect with the source within. With repeated immersion in silence, it would eventually become full time. That was “Cosmic Consciousness” (CC), often called self-realization or first awakening. One of the “symptoms” of CC was witnessing, the experience of being an independent observer of your life, body, and mind. Including being awake inside even in deep sleep.
What was not clear was that there could be decades of witnessing before the switch to CC. It was also not entirely clear what marked the change, what the specific shift was. This added some uncertainty as to who “qualified”. Further, it was unknown that it was possible to shift yet continue in the dramas of the mind for a time, what Nadeen called Deliverance.
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I’ve seen several examples of people who have not shifted but think they must be “awake” as they witness and have good experiences. (experiences are NOT a marker) Ego is a tricky fellow – it can even pretend to be Self. I know one who claims to have surpassed the highest teachers. Tibetan Buddhist teacher Lama Surya Das calls this “premature immaculation.”
I also know a number of people who have switched but still struggle with mind dramas, habits of conditioning. The switch itself is permanent but can be overshadowed for a time. Best thing is to do your clearing ahead of time so there’s less of that after the fact.
I suspect this difference between teaching and experience is very simply because the early teachers coming to the west were largely Indian monks, typically living a more sheltered life. Their experience of the process will be different as there is less to draw the mind out. They are also culturally less in the head.
To some extent, less discussion of things like deliverance can mean people will not expect it and thus may release the mind quickly. Deliverance is about mental concepts after all, so any ideas that there will be a deliverance can make it so. (laughs)
Gina Lake has released a new book, Embracing the Now. In an excerpt she says: “If you witness your mind and still believe it, you are no more free than when you were identified with it. To be free of your conditioning, you also have to be able to see the falseness of the conditioning. Even so, there’s one more very important step. Many are aware of their egoic mind and the falseness of it, but they still are not free of it because they are still giving their attention to it. The experience is like watching a bad TV show, acknowledging that it is bad, but staying glued to the set. Until you put your attention on what is true rather than keeping it on what is false, you won’t be free. You still will be experiencing your ego more than your true Self.”
I find this interesting as she, and other teachers, recommend a conscious choice. A paying attention to what is as a means of becoming. My original teaching was that this was not necessary. What was needed was simply deepening the silence. When it was deep enough, it would simply take care of mind and emotions.
Gina speaks to a light witness and a deeper witness, one that may be present after the switch. But I should note that true freedom comes from the switch and the release of the hold of the mind, not just stepping back from the mind. In stepping back we are aware of the Self but have not fully become that. And That is the key to awakening.
What’s fascinating to observe over 30 years later is the many long term meditators who are stuck. Unseen, their lives are not moving forward. Their egos have manipulated attention to keep things as is. A few I know have actually switched but don’t realize it. Firstly because it does not match concepts (it never does), and secondly because they are so immersed in silence, the switch was subtle. Not knowing they have switched, the attention is not deepening the process as effectively. Remember, it’s all about attention.
For myself, as you may have noted on 10 Steps, I recommend a blend. Deep meditation connecting you to source, plus some self work to help clear house more consciously, and some paying attention or inquiry as Gina suggests. This can considerably speed the process as it’s all about attention. If everything is consciousness, attention is the name of the game.
I have also been blessed to find a teacher who can see a persons barriers to waking and can help them get through the door. Or confirm they are there. There are so many people “ripe” now, it is simply the right teacher or circumstance that will trigger the surrender and switch one from experiencing to being. The dawn of self-realization. And the beginning of the true road to full enlightenment.