What Wakes Up?

What Wakes Up?

When we’re speaking of spiritual awakening, it’s key to understand that it’s not a concept or something you can figure out with the mind. Such stories can obscure the reality because they create constructs in the mind that are not it. What reference points do we have when it’s not something that’s ever arisen, even in thousands of past lives?

Awakening is not an experience, it’s a change in being. It’s a shift in our reference point. A change in who we know ourselves to be.

As such, it is not the person that wakes up. In fact, we can be said to wake up From the person.

If we don’t understand this point, it can lead us to call many things “awakening” that are really just another experience. There are all sorts of experiences we might call spiritual that can be really nice, even life-changing.

But Self Realization? That’s a very different animal from any experience. It is a change in the thing that is experiencing, the experiencer itself.

The first key is that awakening is permanent. It does not come and go, even through sleep. It is a change in what we recognize ourselves as being. A change that means shifting from being a me to being cosmic – limitless, unchanging being.

But even there, there are distinctions to be made. We can have experiences of being cosmic that use memory to feel like it’s ongoing.  

We can shift into the detached witness or observer (experiencer) that can bring many of the qualities of awakening. But it has to be more than awakeness for true liberation.

We can have an actual awakening but fall back into dominant mind for a time while the shift gets processed. I talked about some of these variations here.

What wakes up to what then?  

You may have noticed that I used the word “being” a lot. The key shift I’m pointing to is that change in being, the I Am sense. With a true awakening, it is our very being, our very existence that wakes up to its own deeper nature.

Awakening is not I becoming aware that I Am. Rather, we shift from that possessive I-thought (my thoughts, my emotions, my body) to being boundless awareness observing those things.

We can say awareness wakes up to itself here. In other words, it has not just noticed itself (I have my consciousness, I Am) but cosmic or universal being has woken up to itself here.

It then progressively awakens in more and more layers of being leading to refined perception, Unity, and then to its nature beyond being in Brahman.

Funny thing though – however many ways I put this, it will never be understood by the mind because the mind is not what wakes up. But I continue to write these articles because they help make clear what it’s not. And they bring clarity to those who have actually woken up. And because sometimes, the right wording at the right time can be the catalyst that triggers the shift.

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  1. Tm Owens

    ” And because sometimes, the right wording at the right time can be the catalyst that triggers the shift.”
    I have seen this theme in lots of Zen writings.
    I’d love to read more about this.
    A future post?

    1. Hi Tim
      Sometimes the last barrier is a concept. When one is open, a certain phrasing may be heard differently, causing the barrier to fall and awakening to occur.

      This is much more likely when it’s more live such as a satsang or conference call. Then, the awakeness is more present which also helps catalyze.

      For example, some people including myself have shifted listening to Lorne’s calls. In my case, he used the word “surrender” and I heard it differently, let go and the awakeness broke through.

  2. Michael

    Beautifully put, David!

    Yes, a shift or change in ones sense of self or ones self perception is a good wording that the mind cannot fully understand 🙂

    But of course the neo-advaitains louring in the shadows saying “how can that which is allways awake not be awake”… 😉

    1. The last becomes clear when the deeper mechanics of consciousness are known. Consciousness is always awake globally but not at every point within itself.

      If it was all already awake, everyone and everything would already be enlightened. In one sense they are, in another they are not yet. WE know the second is the normal experience.

      It is that second that leads to what we call creation and all these beings, unfolding totality.

      Global awareness by itself only knows its global nature. Awakening through all the points unfolds the fullness of all of it.

  3. Amaryllis

    Thank you, and yes! You are right, ‘I’ don’t ‘get’ it, but each subsequent reading shaves another angstrom off the clouding/obscuration, and the body feels clearer, more spacious … this is all i have to navigate with if i am not (futiley) trying to figure it out in my mind.

    1. 🙂
      The mind has it’s role and purpose but tends to be a hindrance when the subject is what is beyond itself. It wants to know but cannot know what is beyond itself with itself. It has to let go so the attention can go deeper. Then the mind gets to know after.

  4. alex

    For some definite shift of identity happened , but not yet healing and balancing process , so they could be Self-realized from this perspective but not enlightened from for example Rose Rosetree perspective and vise versa – some could be balanced and healed but without permanent shift of identity ( i am just assuming it from reading her list ) so will get into enlightenment list of Rose but not realized from the perspective here.
    Any common ground here?

    1. Hi Alex
      The way I’d frame it is they could be Self Realized but still carry some deeper unresolved baggage. It takes time to wind that down, less so if some of that house cleaning has been done.

      I talk about it in terms of stages in consciousness vs clarity or sattva. Both bring a balanced, full enlightenment.

      I tend to emphasize consciousness more, Rose tends to emphasize the clarity more.

      In the Rose perspective, they may or may not be realized. Some are, some may not be. Inversely, someone realized may or may not be high in sattva.

      Because the development of divinity takes the process further than Rose describes, I see the process I describe as more complete. However, Rose adds techniques I don’t have to help with said clarity.

      From an Ayurvedic perspective, both development of Atman and development of sattva are cumulative through lifetimes.

  5. alex

    Yes, found your earlier posts on this topic . Its more clear now. It could be quite a gap between two views .Until they collapse together in some mush rarer occasions of double membership.)) Thanks a lot .

    1. Keep in mind that we each have our own process that results in a wide range of descriptions and interpretations of how it unfolded.

      My goal has been seeking the underlying process behind the variations so there is a deeper and more complete understanding.

      However, I have tapped into a number of traditions that each add value in different ways to the picture. For example, even though it’s not causal, kundalini is very much part of the process and may be from mild to dominant.

      As mentioned above, Rose adds means that my background didn’t cover.

      Here is one of the articles I wrote on this topic in case anyone else is interested.

      Note that the mind likes the “right answer” so it can “know”. But things like human development aren’t a tidy, linear process. Our best approach is a general understanding so we’re pointing the right way on the road, then letting the road lead us where it’s going. The mind isn’t much help when we’re looking beyond it.

  6. Jim

    Yes, human development isn’t a tidy, linear process, but neither is the mind once fully opened. It is an upward widening spiral, as is life. The central dynamics become clear with some work. We come to accomplish even our deepest and most abstract desires, so that there is no longing left in the heart, except for more and more. 🙂

    Our awareness when truly untethered, allows for a comprehension, a knowledge of life, in which we have all that we can apprehend at our disposal; life operating as our royal and divine kingdom, very naturally and innocently. We move beyond most of the boundaries resulting from a limited awareness, and enjoy truly all that life has to offer, in balance, in success, and in ease.

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