Awakening is perhaps the wrong word (when we are thinking in terms of some Absolute like God) because it suggests one is (or can be) asleep, when the whole suggestion is that distinctions like “asleep” or “awake” aren’t helpful. They are distractions.
There is just this experience presently happening, which may include awareness of itself and may not, without being increased or diminished thereby. Though we can apply terms like “spirituality” and “religion” to it, it is simply a fact of nature.
In a sense, awakening is being less mistaken with respect to experience, where “mistaken” is read literally to mean that we are holding or possessing something that cannot be held or possessed.
The thing is, whatever awakening is, it is collectively and globally accessible. It is natural and simple and clear.
If we consider it to be the purview of a select few – rare beings of spiritual genius – then it’s not awakening.
If it is something one earns through time and effort – as opposed to something one deepens and becomes dextrous with through time and effort – then it is not awakening.
If it is obtruse and hard to explain and only a few super smart, hyper-educated people can converse about it, then it’s not awakening.
There is nothing wrong with having a knack for prayer or peaceful comportment, or for enjoying and practicing meditation and other so-called spiritual practices, or for being attracted to knotty intellectual challenges.
But if we make them the sine qua non of awakening, then we are deluding ourselves, and quite possibly others as well.
Again, the suggestion is that awakening is clear, natural and accessible, and that we are all awake – awakened and awakening – right now. Full stop.
We might compare it to eating. Generally (it is understood there are exceptions in certain cases) nobody has to teach us how to be hungry and how to eat in order to alleviate hunger. We are born with that knowledge. It is inherent.
Not all of us become chefs or gourmands, but all of us know that we eat apples and not hub caps. All of us can slap a few pieces of bologna between bread and eat it. Or just stuff a handful of bologna in our mouths.
Sometimes feeding our hunger is mechanical – we do it reflexively, with whatever’s on hand, while reading or grading papers or driving to work.
Sometimes it is communal – we have family or friends to sit down beside and share food and dialogue. Preparation and presentation matter. We linger.
Sometimes eating is so good it verges on orgasmic. Other times – maybe a lot of times – it’s just meh.
But in all of that, whatever it is, it is. We can do a lot with eating, but it’s always eating, and it is always meeting the same basic simple natural need.
And nobody needs to educate us about that need. We get it, and we do it.
That is not a perfect analogy, of course, but what we are calling “awakening” can be thought of as approximating eating in order to alleviate hunger.
The simplicity and clarity of that is made difficult because we have convinced ourselves that awakening is something other than what it is. So what we are “taking” for awakening – seeking, confusion, idolization of teachers and institutions and so forth – is “mis” taken.
This is a kind of dysunction. It is like standing in the middle of a river and asking where the water is.
Awakening is just noticing what’s here at the moment. The “trick” or “catch” is that we are never not noticing it. When that really clicks, seeking comes to a natural end and we can just attend to what is without a lot of drama and angst.
So, you know, right now you are reading these words and that’s that. You aren’t reading the Bible and you aren’t reading Danielle Steele. You are sitting where you are sitting which means you are not sitting anywhere else. And so forth.
Nobody needs a priest or philosopher or guru to to teach them that when they are eating breakfast they are not running a marathon, or that when they are weeding the garden they are not eating lunch.
Though it has its own problems with convolution and complexity, A Course in Miracles frequently points out that giving attention is all that is needed to translate crucifixion (suffering) to resurrection (peace). What is revealed in, through and by attention is unmistakable.
. . . [B]eing true, it is so simple that it cannot fail to be completely understood. Rejected yes, but not ambiguous. And if you choose against it now it will not be because it is obscure, but rather that this little cost seemed, in your judgment, to be too much to pay for peace (T-21.II.1:3-5).
The tone the course takes here is a bit stern, essentially making “choice” feel like a moral failure if we choose “wrongly.” But really, looking elsewhere for what is right in front of us is very human. Nobody is immune from it and so nobody should feel bad about it.
Still, the general principle is sound – experience is so simple and clear and present that you can’t misunderstand it. Therefore, if we are confused, we must be looking in the wrong direction or at the wrong thing or in the wrong way, and so we just make adjustments. That’s all.
It’s like if your food is too bland you sprinkle a little salt on it. Or if it’s too cold, then you pop into the oven to reheat it. It is not a moral or spiritual crisis. The fix is manageable and obvious.
Emily Dickinson understood deeply the natural beauty and clarity of awakening, and consistently expressed how it revealed itself through the present moment held in sacred and loving attention.
By intuition, Mightiest Things
Assert themselves – and not by terms –
“I’m Midnight” – need the Midnight say –
“I’m Sunrise” – Need the Majesty?
Omnipotence – had not a Tongue –
His lisp – is Lightening – and the Sun –
His Conversation – with the Sea –
“How shall you know”?
Consult your Eye!
One need only give attention to what is. It is not a question of knowledge or practice, but experience itself. Attention to experience is itself sufficient.
So in general, when we are talking about something only a few enlightened and deserving people get, then we are not talking about awakening.
Rather, awakening is accessible unconditionally to everyone. The proof is our present experience to which we are right now – and forever – awake, otherwise we would be unaware of it.