In writing of ‘awakening’ here, I am referring here to the profound change that takes place when one ‘awakens’ out of identification with the 'ego' or 'separate self' and knows one’s true nature as the open, vast and infinite space of Consciousness. This awakening is not a fleeting or momentary glimpse, or an idea, belief or memory held in the mind. It is one’s directly lived experience. Although it may take many years to mature and stabilize, once a true awakening has taken place, it is always available and cannot be unseen. A truly stabilized awakening, in which there is never or very rarely the contraction into a 'separate self', may be termed ‘enlightenment’. As is the nature of the Infinite however, the process of deepening never ends.
Although awakening to one's True Nature cannot be willed or made to happen, in retrospect I see that prior to awakening I was living many questions about the nature of Truth, identity, meaning and depth. These questions were not intellectual or of the mind, but rather, were held within the fabric of my life and body. It was this questing and questioning that I believe created a fertile ground for the everyday self or ego to be seen through and an awakening to arise. I recently found a list of reflections and related life questions that I had scribbled down on a scrap of paper shortly after awakening (almost eight years ago). I feel they are still valid and worth sharing:
There was “nothing left to do” in everyday life. I had traveled extensively, I had had books published, I had played in a symphony orchestra, I had taught music for many years, I had fallen in love, I had friends, I had suffered and lived … I knew that there was nothing else in the everyday world that would meet my deepest longings and needs.
What else is there? What more do I want from life?
Lifelong desire for silence. Through my most suffered times, silence had been my life preserver and my sanity. When my life was falling apart it was to silent spaces that I retreated. But when my suffering eased, I continued to obsess about silence and my hatred of noise. But of course there was always one more noise: a barking dog, loud music, a chain saw. This obsession was my torture.
Where do I find the deepest silence for which I so long?
Contemplation of death. I had been contemplating the reality of death for many years, but over time, as I aged and saw friends pass away, that contemplation had increased in intensity and urgency.
Is there ‘something’ that is eternal, ever-present and beyond my bodily mortality?
What is the level on which we are all made of the same stuff?
What is the perfection I see in everyone?
What is our deepest Truth? Where is our deepest Truth?
Gradual dissolution of opposites. I no longer saw life in terms of opposites. I could see that both dark and light belonged, black and white, inside and outside … There was no need to exclude anything … everything was truly part of life.
What is life when all opposites dissolve?
Projecting onto others what I have in myself. I had long been aware of my negative projections. But I had also become aware of my positive projections. As I suffered and struggled, I had become all too good at keeping myself small and ‘less’ than other people, but I had begun to realize that I was projecting onto others the qualities of depth, wisdom, insight, intuition and compassion, that I now embodied.
What are the qualities of my deepest self?
If I am not the body and the ‘ego’ then what am I?
Celebration of so-called negative emotions. Over time I had begun to welcome tumult and torment, anger and sadness, just as much as joy or peace. I had begun to see that through the difficulties or darkness I was able to reclaim everything that would make me whole. I was in love with the diversity of life’s expression.
What is this glorious life in which all experience is welcome?
Owning all the parts of my identity and my story. It was in owning all parts of myself through the years – all the parts that struggled to survive, that adapted, that were suicidal, that were fearful, angry, my teenage self, my child self, my tortured 20-something self – that I had exhausted their stories. They no longer held much charge or interest for me.
What am I without my story and identity?