Models of human development can be very useful on the journey. They give context to our experiences and help us open to the new and unexpected. They give language to our unfolding experience.
However, if we take the models too literally or fixedly, they can confuse. Everyone has their own way of experiencing unfoldment, just like we all experienced puberty a little differently. Your own process may or may not align with a specific model.
If we use ideas to try and “figure it out” ahead of time, we’ll go in circles and see a lot of apparently contradictory statements. When you were a pre-teen could you understand adults? We may set expectations that can lead to unnecessary suffering or even see the process as undesirable. But we can’t avoid the mind’s natural tendency to make stories about our experiences. Even if you think you have no concepts, that too is a concept. It’s what the mind does. It is very common for our ideas about awakening to be the last barrier to living it. Better we recognize this and are easy about it. Ready to let it go when experience offers something better.
Recently, another wrinkle on this came up in a discussion. That is the tendency to replace our experiences with a model. This is like replacing the journey with the map. We discover a model that aligns with our experience. But as it seems more complete, we then use it to fill in the “gaps” and concepts replace our direct experience. That’s a mistake. It is direct experience that should be your guide to what is real, not someone else’s concepts – however enlightened they may be.
I fell into this trap recently myself. I found a superior model of the energetic process underlying the subjective experiences of higher stages. It explained a few experiences nothing else had. And it seemed to fill in a few “gaps” (according to the model) in my own experience. I mistakenly then saw it (as the author had) as the underling process that drives our experiences of awakening.
However, I soon ran into a teacher with far more expertise in this area. He observed that there are 3 incompatible processes described by different traditions out of India. While I might have decided only one was right, the teacher himself had experienced his process aligning with a different tradition. And that seems more typical of people with more energetic awakenings. But it doesn’t align with my experience. It was a good reminder that awakening is not driven by the energy system at all, as I’ve written here myself. (laughs) It’s simply another layer of the process of the physiology adapting to awakening. What needs to clear and open will do so however is required. Up, down or all around. (I’ll write more on this later)
There is also the related issue of making up a grander story than our experiences indicate, enhancing our individual identity. While it’s natural to celebrate spiritual progress, we have to be careful not to invite humbling experiences. 😉 Terms like “half-baked”, “half way up the mountain”, or “premature immaculation” arise but these are often used as judgments.
Similarly, it’s common for people to discount experiences they don’t understand or that don’t align with self-conceptions. I’ve seen several people lose the witness because they refused to accept they were “there”.
Awakening is a very simple thing but it unfolds in a vast array of ways, leading to many unique subjective experiences. It affects all layers of our reality. The underlying process originates beyond creation and thus takes whatever form is necessary in the circumstance. If we agree that we’re all here to have unique experiences of the whole, it will inherently be so.
Hold your ideas lightly and follow the wind.