Awakening is highly valued in many different cultures, religions, and meditation traditions. Awakening does not require religious belief, and does not even necessarily need to be considered “spiritual.” Awakening is part of what I call the Human Being Lineage. What is awakening? Here is how I talk about awakening in the beginning of my book, Shift Into Freedom: The Science and Practice of Open-Hearted Awareness.
“Awakening is possible for you. It may sound like a big, esoteric thing—especially when you’re having a bad day. We’re all imperfect. That’s not going to change, but neither is the fact that we can realize who we are is already unconditional love itself.
Today there is a potential for a new stage of human development that combines awakening and growing up. Two things are clear: you can only grow up to a certain level unless you awaken, and it’s important to mature psychologically while awakening. No matter how advanced we get spiritually, the goal is not to transcend being human. If being human means being unconditional love itself, why would we want to transcend that?
In order to awaken, you don’t have to leave your life, go to a cave, become an Olympic-level meditator, or take on any set of religious beliefs. Regardless of your belief system or your spiritual affiliation (or non-affiliation), you can begin awakening in the midst of your daily life. You don’t even have to wait until you’ve gotten your life together. In fact, if you’re looking from ego-identification, you’ll never feel good enough or prepared enough. But most adults are ready. Chances are if you’re reading this blog, you’re ready. If you’ve had practice concentrating, completing tasks in school and at work, and forming relationships, you’ve grown up enough to wake up and learn to live from open-hearted awareness.
We all have the capacity to awaken. It’s like learning to read and write; if you’re interested and motivated, awakening really isn’t too difficult. We start by learning how to wake up from our mistaken identity, continue by “waking-in” to our body and emotions, and then we begin “waking out” to relationships with others and seeing that we are part of a greater whole. Each stage brings its own liberation. Waking-up leads to freedom from the fear of death. Waking-in leads to freedom from the fear of life. And waking-out leads to freedom from the fear of love.
In this approach, awakening begins with a direct recognition of awake awareness, but then it has a gradual unfolding. It’s not instant enlightenment or an escape from the human condition. Ultimately, who you are is always awake awareness—and yet realizing this begins an unfolding into human form. Just glimpsing your basic nature can be a profound shift in itself.
Awakening is about relieving suffering and increasing wellbeing through a shift of identity and knowing. We all have frustrations and sufferings at all levels of our physical, mental, and emotional life. There are different ways to approach these problems. However, the suffering addressed in awakening is a very particular type of suffering—a pervasive confusion and a perpetual dissatisfaction caused by ego-identification. Awakening addresses the root cause—not just the symptoms of craving and aversion. Although physical and emotional pain is a normal part of human life, suffering from our mistaken identity is optional.
You can learn to return with small glimpses of awake awareness many times. You can then train to remain at home in your heart — while using Wifi to access the files in your head!
A GLIMPSE: Awake Awareness Is Aware without Using Thought
1. Simply close your eyes while allowing your awareness to remain open and be within. Begin to feel your breath from within your body. Feel your whole body from within while breathing is happening by itself for three breaths.
2. Take a moment to see what is here now. Notice how your body is feeling. Is it uncomfortable, comfortable, agitated, relaxed, tired, or neutral? Just let your body be as it is without changing anything.
3. Now simply notice the awareness that is already accepting your body as it is. Feel the awareness in which these sensations are happening.
4. Become interested in activity of your mind and thoughts. Just be aware of whether your thoughts are agitated, calm, tired, emotional, anxious, or neutral. Without changing anything, allow your mind and thoughts to be as they are.
5. Now notice the space in which thoughts are moving. Be interested in the awareness instead of the thoughts. Notice how awareness allows your mind to be as it is without changing anything.
6. Begin to notice that awake awareness is alert, clear, and nonjudgmental. See also that awareness is not tired, anxious, or in pain. Notice that awake awareness is all around and inherent within your body and within your mind. Instead of being identified with the states of your body or mind or trying to accept or change them, simply become interested in what is aware and accepting.
7. What is awareness like that is already accepting of things as they are — right here and now? Notice the awareness of the next sound you hear. Does awareness have a location or size? What is it like to be aware of experiences from this pain- and thought-free awareness?
8. Now simply be aware of the awareness that is free from the contents of your mind and the sensations in your body. Hang out as awareness without going up to thought or down to sleep. Be the awareness that welcomes your sensations and thoughts. Notice that awareness is not separate from thoughts, feelings, and sensations.
9. Just let go of focusing on any one thing. See everything without particularizing. Rest as the awareness that is aware without using thought. Can you see how no thought or feeling is solid? Can you see that awareness does not come and go?
10. Simply let be and remain un-contracted and undistracted without effort.
You can listen to this guided Glimpse and others on CD or Audio Download, Here.