Not awake, not asleep
I sometimes get confused with the term “waking up”.
In spiritual circles the word “awake” often seems to describe a state of realizing Oneness, enlightenment or unity consciousness.
It points to a place where primary identification as the separate self no longer exists.
In non-dual groups people will chat about “when I woke up…” as if one day the light switched on, never to turn off.
My experience has not been like that.
Yes, I have had awakening experiences. But “awake” still does not describe it. It’s not as if we’re asleep and then we’re awake. (Maybe it is for some beings.)
Something may definitively shift, eventually, and then we abide without identification. Adyashanti speaks of how an initial awakening often occurs as ego dissolves. We may then still operate from a sense of self, albeit a larger more unified self. Later, awareness wakes up from the self, into the realm of no-self. Bits & pieces of both awakenings are often experienced as coming and going in many of our lives.
Our minds sometimes hear “awakening” and think it’s something superior, something to which we must aspire. My experience reveals that awakening usually reveals something very humble, connected, compassionate. Without division, what is there to do but love? Without a sense of self, what can possibly feel superior? All our nemesis’ are clearly seen as ourselves.
In 2008 the first awakening experience happened for me. Driving to a nearby city on my birthday, the “little me”, that essence usually at the forefront, receded. OK, she seemed to disappear. What existed? Spacious awareness fascinated with Life. Peace, delight, openness.
It lasted on-and-off for about three weeks before the “little me” reasserted herself as the primary character in this play. Then the seeking-enlightenment game accelerated tenfold, further cementing “little me” in place. (She who seeks is definitely an ego. That’s what an ego does. Seeks the next cup of coffee, the next tantalizing experience, $100 for the next arbitrary purchase of goods to soothe itself, enlightenment.)
In the next seven years awakening experiences occurred. The little Kathy would be eclipsed by the sun of awareness. That sun shone bright in the forefront. And then, two days or three weeks later, it didn’t. The Kathy then thought she was an independent character, separate from the shining sun. Separate from the person who didn’t like her, didn’t understand her, didn’t behave appropriately.
In May this year, one fine evening listening to Adyashanti, suddenly understanding of what he spoke down to the tippy toes, awakening happened yet again. Gone was the Kathy from her throne of identification. I asked my husband, “Can you tell a difference?” Nah, he shrugged, giving a familiar resigned look (oh, here she goes again) and said, “Well, maybe you’re a little nicer.”
Awake? It wasn’t noticeable on the outside. From the inside it felt incredibly different. It was as if consciousness shifted. Awareness became forefront. Kathy appeared as background, almost an insubstantial piece of music playing. Kathy certainly wasn’t “awake”. Perhaps awareness was awake to itself. But even that’s misleading, as awareness has ALWAYS been awake.
This awakening lasted about ten weeks. Last weekend, filled to the brim with mental activity, confusion, some emotional pain, stories, the sense of Oneness seemingly disappeared again. (Although not in the old drama of “I’ve got it/I lost it. It’s still possible to physically see Oneness. To know that it’s immediate. It’s just that the Universe is investing itself in the personality once again, bringing it forefront.)
Here’s where it gets challenging. I can’t say anything about where I am today. Awake? Asleep? Those words suddenly have no inherent meaning.
There is only what is arising next. It can be identification. It can be compulsively checking email. It can be deep peace. It can be bliss. It can be mental activity. It can be gardening. It can be a negative thought. It can be a positive thought. It can be a sense of Oneness. It can be a searing pain. It can be total delight.
There’s no word for this that makes sense. Just: life arising. Not awake, not asleep.
P.S. A half hour ago lost this essay. One minute, here it is. Next moment, gone. Not in drafts, nowhere to be found. I looked around for an internal reaction. Mild disappointment. Oh well. Life wants to move in some other direction. OK. Then, ten minutes ago, the blog reappears. Mild satisfaction. Oh, Life does want to publish this blog. One never really knows…