Models of Awakening – Part 1

You may have noticed that different teachers will teach THEIR truth. It will be a blend of their own experiences and what they were taught. Any given teaching may or may not be a good description of how you experience the unfolding. This is beyond how well the language resonates with you.

It’s useful to recognize that all concepts about higher states of consciousness are just that, concepts. They have nothing much to do with its reality because much of the development is beyond mind. In the same way, different teachers will have different models of the steps of progress or they’ll avoid models all together. (although even a teaching of no models is a model)

Each of us has a unique way of experiencing the unfolding. We may find it will match one model but not another. Or that we’ll drift on and off the model. This isn’t because this or that model is necessarily wrong – only that it doesn’t match the way we’re approaching wholeness. Models are a description of qualities and effects which vary widely from person to person.

Due to my own experience, my focus has been locating the underlying process and then mapping the various models to that. Understanding the basis puts everything in context and brings us a little closer to a model that will support everyone’s journey. This also allows divergent traditions to add something to the greater whole of understanding.

In recent discussions on other forums, I made a few points on this that readers here may enjoy. The following content has been edited for context.

It’s interesting how different teachers discuss the layers or stages. Some define them, some like Adyashanti mention them in more general terms (like “head, heart & gut”), and some see such definitions as a barrier.

Gangaji is in the later camp, emphasizing the importance of innocence. But notably, even that is an idea. I agree that concepts about awakening can be a barrier to being. In fact, our ideas about enlightenment can often be the last barrier to being it. But I’ve also seen that without an overview of the path, we can find much more struggle and doubt. Mind can surrender more easily if it is OK with where it’s going.

Further, I think this process will gain much more acceptance in the west if there is scientific research on the process, extending existing understanding of human potential. We’d also see far less pathologizing of spiritual awakening. This cannot be done without a clearly defined process. I would suggest there is a common underlying process occurring that is experienced a variety of different ways.

Each teacher will describe what they have seen but this may not support a student who experiences something else. Some even tell you to ignore experiences altogether. That can be difficult if experiences are turning your sense of reality on it’s head.

I’ve noted 5 “styles” of experiencing the initial primary shift in Being. For example, some people experience a sense of ego death where others an expansion of ego to be cosmic. These seem opposite but are actually the same process.

On Ego
To understand this, lets go a little deeper. Ego I usually mean to be the mental concept of being a separate me. That’s driven by the core fear from the subconscious experience of being separate. But that’s really the early definition around identification. In Sanskrit, there is a term Ahamkara that is generally translated as ego. This is the individuating principle, that point of self awareness in the whole, what some might call soul. This does not end.

In observations of a number of dozen wakings, I’ve noticed the underlying process is a shift from identification with the point value value of attention (or ego) to identification with what might be called the Cosmic Self, the broader awareness of Being. Our concepts of what this will be like are ALWAYS wrong. As such, it can be a bit of a joke after the shift. Those who have already switched can often feel this change in another as another aspect of themselves has woken.

This is the beginning of true awakening. There is 2 ongoing movements – one deeper into Self as we experience and then become a series of ever larger aspects of That. And another as we recognize That more and more in the outward aspects of our experience. In our mind, feelings, body, the near environment, and the world.

How we experience that key shift depends on how we came to it. For example, someone with a long history of deep meditation may slide very gradually, gently shifting individual to cosmic. The shift can be so gentle, it may not be noticed. Or if noticed, not familiar enough to identify. It is only in retrospect they realize they’ve shifted.

(keep in mind: this is a natural process just as in stages of maturation)

Another with a similar history may have had a Self realization (I am the Self) and witnessing but some aspect is still identified with the ego. They’re kind of both. And then a moment of surrender deep enough and the actual shift takes place. (this is where transmission or a living example is very handy) This person may experience a sort of “ego death” as they shift distinctly from ego to fullness.

A third person may have little experience of transcendental being and have a sudden shift out of ego. Because the Cosmic Self is still vague and undefined in their experience, they’d describe an ego death into nothingness.

Another person might have a greater degree of wholeness so when they shift, the ego is no longer seen as separate from the cosmic. They experience expanding from a small into a cosmic I. Fullness is all that I am. Same thing happened but it’s experienced opposite ‘ego death into nothingness.’

Yet another is on a devotional or heart-driven path and describes a surrender to their God. Their shift is typically more emotional and sensory. This may mean the underlying process is harder to discern, especially to an intellectual. But many on this path have a more profound surrender and more rapid refinement. For example, Shankara’s devotee Trotikacharya woke before the intellectuals.

In each case, the same process is underway but the experience is unique. There are also secondary experiences that may accompany a shift but these should not be confused with the shift itself. For example, there can be a big emotional release (like massive happiness) or a brilliant flash of white light (Makara). There can also be an experience of more advanced stages.

As it gets clearer, in all cases if we choose to look, we discover ego is still there. We’re just not identified with it anymore. The mental construct around being separate is gone though, along with its resulting conceptual supports that fall away over time. But we still need a person to function in the world. We still have our foibles and still have to deal with our stuff. But that’s much MUCH easier when we’re not caught in it. Not to mention living on an unshakable ground of happiness and love.

(so don’t see enlightenment as a solution to your personal stuff) 😉
Part 2 >

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