Depth of Awakening

Depth of Awakening

The initial awakening of Self Realization is key to what follows. But because it’s a new thing for which we have no experiential reference points, there is a lot of confusion about what it is and isn’t.

a) there are people who think understanding concepts of it is it. This is just mind thinking it knows. This is related to spiritual materialism.

b) There are people who have a nice opening or experience and think this is it. We can have lots of nice experiences but experience is not being. The give-away is that is goes away like all experiences and doesn’t fundamentally change who we are. You’ll notice the mind co-opts such experiences and tries to possess them too. “My awakening experience” comes with a big story.

The other difficulty is the idea that the experience was “it” so I just need to get it back again. This is a folly.

Many seekers also fall into the trap of chasing experiences. But, as the old saying goes, flash is trash. Experiences may sound cool but if they don’t come on their own, you may be following a dead end. Some approaches, like drug trips and energy hits can be very high risk.

c) There is a smaller group of people who witness full time, including during deep sleep. Self or presence has become awake, but it’s not yet awake to itself. For such a person, time around someone awake they resonate with can be very useful. The awakeness in them can enliven the awakeness here and trigger the shift.

d) There are people who have an actual shift or awakening of Self to itSelf but then fall back into the mind. They’re not yet quite ready to support it. Adyashanti called this non-abiding. If we have appropriate support, healing, and the Self is cultured, we can work through this and become established in the Self.

e) There are people who have an actual shift or awakening of Self to itSelf but do so quietly. There isn’t a distinct subjective shift but a gradual one. Because the experience is normal, they may not even recognize they’ve woken. Or the recognition is not yet clear so there is doubt. These are examples where some support is good. Sometimes, such a person has a more distinct expansion later. The local awakeness becomes infinite.

f) And there are those who have a clear and distinct shift and recognize it. Mind is often unable to process the shift for a few days. Something happened, some constraints are gone is about all we can say. Words start to come later when it’s digested.

Mind may arise again but rarely overshadows it for long if it was clear. It also doesn’t match our prior concepts of it. Or there may be no understanding of what is unfolding. Some verification or support may still be useful.

In this type, there are different subjective styles that influence what follows.

1)- a clear shift from a me-sense to cosmic Self, perhaps a sense of ego death
2)- a clear shift from a me-sense to no-self, ” ”
3)- a sense of self expanding into universal Self, or being “swallowed” by or similar
4)- a devotional surrender

We don’t have control over when the shift takes place nor how it unfolds. It is grace that drives this process from the depths of being. It always unfolds from where we are in our own unique way. There are no set rules here.

Also note these are descriptions of looking back on the shift. When it first unfolds, there will be no words and the qualities of what is now here may not be obvious yet. It will usually open more and shift deeper.

I am noticing differences in long-term outcome from the different styles of shift and the techniques used. Some techniques and approaches can help make it more likely and more clear, for example. Development of sattva helps with refined stages and the clarity helps keep the process moving.

The first and third lead gradually into a mature sat chit ananda or nirvana. Also into higher stages but at a wide range of paces. How far we get in this life depends on many factors out of our control.

The devotional route is tied more to one’s perception or relationship with the Divine so will lean more on the sattva process. But it will also mature as above.

The shift to no-self is another animal. It may be framed that way because of the subject’s background. For example, Adyashanti, with a Zen Buddhist background, sometimes talks of no-self – both for this initial shift and for the later Brahman shift (as in no-Self). However, he also talks of Self and often sounds more Vedic. His initial shift had Unity elements in the experience which fell away into simple awakening. Unity came about 7 years later. He’s been progressing through the stages well.

Others describe it as “no-self” because they recognize the falling away of the me-self but don’t yet recognize what is there in the apparent emptiness. They don’t recognize that the emptiness is the space of self-aware consciousness. There is simply a vast, empty space. For obvious reasons, this can be a major constraint on developing further stages. If it’s not conscious, how can it unfold in consciousness?

This clarity may come in time or the subject may assume they’re done and drop practices. Some who have shifted this way have adopted non-dual language from Vedanta and similar, assuming oneness because they experience the outer world as illusory. Just this. But that outer separateness is dwaita, duality, as there are 2 realities there even if one is illusory.

Such shifts are also often characterized by a dry austerity. There is little fullness or refinement, no bliss, and no heart opening. It may mature into a deep realization of their reality and an embodiment but not unfold into later stages. Yet if the shift is true, they remain a gift to the world.

This is why I recommend techniques that culture samadhi. This seems to be the route to ensure a greater likelihood of fullness and a path that will lead us to higher stages.

On the other hand, the likelihood of later stages can apparently be seen in a jyotish chart which suggests a potential destiny. We are still rising out of a heavier age which can impede refined unfolding. And yet the need of the time brings forth some remarkable luminaries.

There is also great value in clear exponents of simple Self Realization. Someone in later stages may relate less to those opening the first door. Old realities have faded away.

Of course, all of this is trends and tendencies. None of this is to suggest your experience will fit into these categories. Your own experience will be what it is and will be perfect as it is.

It’s remarkable we can even talk about these things.


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  1. Bojan

    Hi David
    I think Robert Adams was one of the people who had clear and distinct shift from a self to the Self with heart opening. And he was the exponent of Self Realisation. He did talk about the stages prior to Awakening but nothing about the process after that. And yet his teaching has value for some people.
    I remember a time when i believed that first we must remove all impure things in us (hatred,fear,shame,greed) and to reintegrate all our unconscious shadow prior to Awakening. And after that we are omniscient and omnipotent Self! I was so wrong lol! It is still necessery to clean up many things prior to Awakening but we don’t have to be perfect with this. And as you wrote many times, the process of cleaning up continues after Awakening along with many other things too.
    It is so wonderful that there is so much of diversity in spiritual evolution as in other areas of life. They are inseparable!
    All the best,


    1. Hi Bojan
      Yes. I’ve observed what might be called generations of awakening. Once rare, there was a batch of westerners who woke up clearly but didn’t have the support to go further. There’s been several waves since, each bringing lager numbers, greater diversity and depth.

      (laughs) Yes, I once believed that myself. And yes, we have to clean up enough to have the clarity of seeing. And the more we clean up, the less there is after. On the other hand, it’s easier after awakening as we’re more detached.

  2. David: This is the 25th anniversary of Dom Thomas Keating’s book “Open Mind, Open Heart” I re-read it. If you remove the mechanics of Centering Prayer, substitute whatever for G-d, substitute Samadhi for Contemplation. & a couple of other Trappist terms, then one of the most important sections are on what ‘enlightenment’ is NOT, and includes all of your points above. Dom Thomas was a great, articulate read & meeting him at MIU in ’76, was clearly a महात्मा then, and grew in his brilliance “like the sun” from that time until his death in 2018.

    1. Hi Don
      Thanks for sharing. I saw his BATGAP interview and have heard very good things about him and about Centering prayer. Perhaps the best Christian practice available.

      I know a few people who were supported out of a cult by him.

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