Back on Abide with Me, I discussed Adyashanti’s concept of abiding and non-abiding awakening. I thought it would be worth exploring this a little more.
As people have a need to verify and understand their experiences, we often seek a way to classify them. This is the value of models of stages of awakening. But equally, we can get mislead or confused. Experiences can be misinterpreted, the model may not seem to work well for us, or we simply don’t have a clear handle on the nature of the process.
The most important thing to differentiate is a “spiritual” experience vs. an awakening.
There are many openings and experiences on a typical journey. These contribute to awakenings and in some ways can be like small awakenings in themselves. But a true awakening, abiding or not, is a change in consciousness. A change in reality. We perceive the world differently. We gain a new perspective. In a true waking, the change is enough that we can’t even remember what it was like before. We now see the past from the new perspective. Who we are has changed and secondarily how we experience.
An experience on the other hand is one of a wide range of perceptual events. It may change how or what we perceive but it doesn’t change who we are. Some people have perceptual events with their waking. Some people have quiet shifts, with little perceptual change.
For example, people often have experiences of massive expansion, freedom or happiness with awakening. Or they may not. Or they may have them separately. These are experiences, not waking itself. Symptoms, we could say. But symptoms of the preparation and shifting going on.
For awakening, we want it to be abiding. For experiences, we don’t. Experiences are transitory. If we try to hold on to them as our “awakening” or a “sign of our spiritual development” we’re actually impeding it. I’ve seen people with major experiences have trouble letting them go so they can progress. Same with spiritual knowledge. If we hold onto the wisdom of one state, it can prevent an even higher wisdom from unfolding.
We could say awakening is a surrender itself. Experiences are things to surrender. And we need to surrender all of it to have surrender itself.
Remember, there is no one truth, one perfect state, one highest reality. Spiritual growth is an organic process from being a point to being more and more infinite. Infinite means never ending. There is such a vast difference between egoic reality and God, that stepping towards God in an infinite process. It’s the journey that’s important, not the goal.
Another experience I’ve seen associated with awakening is a flash of white light that absorbs everything. This is evidently the upper 2 chakras joining. It typically opens up a whole new range of perception. I know a few people who’ve had it with awakening. (many more who haven’t) And some that had it separately. And a couple who thought that was an awakening.
Cognitions are another category of experience. Where we gain complete knowledge of something. Cognitions are not an awakening and are entirely dependent on the state of the observer. Something else to surrender as even they are part of the dream.
The key point is that if it’s flashy and perceptual, that’s not the awakening. That’s experiences. They may have some value. It may signal access to new levels of reality. But it’s a transitory blip on the road. A signpost at best. The key is to experience it, then let it go. If you make the mistake of holding it as “reality”, it will get in the way. No matter how incredible or astonishing, it’s just another experience, another aspect of the dream.
But don’t be surprised if you make the mistake anyway. I sure have. (laughs)
Funnily enough, people that don’t have much perceptual stuff may think they are somehow “behind”, yet they often have a smoother time because they have less to shed. They simply step into abiding awakening without the flash. Ordinary enlightenment. The highest form.
PS – I don’t normally go on and on about a specific book or teaching, but this particular one was an honest view of the awakening journey, which is the core subject of this blog. Lots of great points were raised.