The Mental Trap: There’s No One Here to be Enraged…or Blissful


What is with the contemporary non-duality crowd who love to pretend they are not really here? They keep insisting “there’s no one to awaken”  and “there’s no me to get enlightened.” And because your thoughts and feelings come from this imaginary you (that can never wake up), there is no need to worry about having them run amok through our unreal lives as emotional reactivity and polarized thinking.

When last week I posted on Facebook about the equanimity I experienced in the face of my husband’s stroke (When You’re Okay and Everyone Else is Not), a few hard-hitting “there is no me (or you)” types (who for some reason tend to be men) had enough of something intact (could it be a me?) to post endless comments correcting my wayward perceptions about awakening and peacefulness.

As one of them said, “So, the story in the blog was just that. A story. Seems as if someone had an awakening experience. That someone stayed calm in an emergency. But it’s no different than Goldielocks and the 3 bears. The characters in the story, have no idea that they are in the story.”

It’s somewhat tiring to go the rounds with those who claim there is no one here, yet go around acting as if they are not only here, but here to police those who don’t see that they (and you, and me) are constructs that are not here. I suppose the irony of this is lost on these ardent no-selfers.

I know this: Awakening is termed awakening by ancient and contemporary sages alike because the shift of perception is tectonic: there is a dramatic shake up of reference point that is a lot like jolting awake in bed from a dream (or nightmare), to find you are not that character in the dream, but the self that dreamed it into being. And it’s both a sweet relief and a delightful sense of “of course this is who I am and have always been.”

illusionSo yes, in a way as the non-duality crowd insist, the self that seeks enlightenment is unreal–but it would be better to say it is partial, or incomplete. It’s a fragment of our totality, rather than unreal.

I used to describe the “awakening shift” as suddenly identifying as the black background vs the white foreground in this classic vase/face illusion. It’s not that the vase (read limited self) is unreal–it is just a matter of perspective. From the black faces background the view is bigger, and the vase (“ME”) is seen as an artifact of consciousness. It’s not unreal. It’s just incomplete.

This black background is the reference point of a stillness and vastness that is unexplainable, really. You wake up to what contemporary spiritual teacher Adyashanti calls “the radiant emptiness of spirit” and “the silence that you are.” But ultimately, words fail to convey the magnitude of this shift: It has nothing to do with “being calm” or “feeling peaceful.” It is beyond those emotional states because it is a quality of being, not feeling.

Alan Watts says it provocatively: “Jesus Christ knew he was God. So wake up and find out eventually who you really are. In our culture, of course, they’ll say you’re crazy and you’re blasphemous, and they’ll either put you in jail or in a nut house (which is pretty much the same thing). However if you wake up in India and tell your friends and relations, ‘My goodness, I’ve just discovered that I’m God,’ they’ll laugh and say, ‘Oh, congratulations, at last you found out.”


I see it like this: pre-awakening I am convinced I am the fictional self who lives in the story. It’s the equivalent of watching a movie and being so smitten with the film, that one enters the fabrication so totally as to forget oneself. Simply, you forget you are the watcher (and ultimately creator) of the film and become for a short time, immersed fully in a character.

But awakening  from this character is not just a mental override, the catchy ideas “no one is here” and “the self is fictional” that you tell yourself and everyone around you, all the while going on your merry way justifying your angry, sad and fearful states and actions as “just a part of the unreal projection.”

Awakening is like coming back to the you that watches the movie, the you that sits on that seat completely unthreatened despite the mayhem befalling the screen character.  Just as when you walk out of the movie theatre–shaking your head, even laughing at the “story” you just fell into while watching–when you leave the dream self for the awakened reality there is a new reference point. (Yes, you can argue this new reference point is not real either, but I’d suggest rather, that this new awakened viewpoint is real but not ultimate…there are further refinements in perception post awakening–for instance, the Maharishi called these Cosmic, God and Unity consciousness).

A sure fire quality of a true awakening shift? It’s rare this new reference point suffers. It would be like leaving the theatre and crying, raging or celebrating for days over something that happened to a character on the screen.

awakeningNot only do reactive emotional states and mental anguish dissolve, but what is eventually revealed beyond the silence and stillness of true nature is the bliss of being.

Even as I repeatedly describe this abiding delight and equanimity (or causeless joy) in my Awakened Dreamer blog posts, one FB commenter wanted me to know this:

What you are describing is the urban myth of waking up: That after some point of epiphany or event, all would be a rose garden and only love would flow; you would like/love everyone else (and surely they would return it). All unpleasant emotions would somehow be vacuumed up never to return again and only joy, peace, and perfect understanding would now be the daily experience.”

But it’s not a myth.


Though it may seem unreal for those who have yet to taste the nectar of bliss consciousness (and it’s not a state that comes and goes but hums beneath all that is), it is the only thing that IS real.

At a retreat event recently a teacher described bliss as something that permeates to such an extent, that even while he experienced physical illness (pneumonia), bliss was still a “visceral” element. “Bliss illumines every experience, even pain itself.”

As the Maharishi, founder of the Transcendental Meditation movement, said:

“This is the glory of the nature of the Self. Having come back home, the traveler finds peace. The intensity of happiness is beyond the superlative. The bliss of this state eliminates the possibility of any sorrow, great or small. Into the bright light of the sun no darkness can penetrate; no sorrow can enter bliss consciousness, nor can bliss consciousness know any gain greater than itself. This state of self-sufficiency leaves one steadfast in oneself,  fulfilled in eternal contentment.”

So, when one of these non-duality types tell me that yes, they are still having regular angry or despairing or fearful states of being, but they just no longer believe in the self that is experiencing them, I can’t help but want to still ask this basic question: But are you at peace? Does bliss permeate?

Sure you can “witness” the crazy antics of emotional turmoil and even as it rages on, tell yourself it’s not real. But what if there is another possibility beyond the detachment of seeing your rampaging feelings as unreal. What if those noisy patterns of reaction and contraction cease all together?

Simply, if you are are still riding the waves of emotional highs and lows (or the mental shenanigans of worry, doubt and despair), consider that perhaps you have stopped your inquiry far too soon.

Now, on a funny note (those non-duality debaters are so damn serious, a sure sign of missing the enlightenment pub on the way to truth) here is my before and after picture. Before Awakening…After. Note the change in hair colour. Awakening has it’s perks.










Awareness is here, playfully red-headed for now,

Lori Ann


Feature Photo: Flickr: lisawiderberg


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16 thoughts on “The Mental Trap: There’s No One Here to be Enraged…or Blissful

  1. Shyam, Dark Horse

    thank you Lori Ann, for writing, for receiving writers! I love spontaneously responding to the evocative impulse
    greetings all, I (yes, I, I exist! ) FEEL sad that there is condescension, dismissal, and “other-ing” of “the non-dualists” or wtvr this particular reflection r called. full stop.
    and oh yes, bliss is an underlying hum in “my” experience,, and it’s now informing an ever -vaster hu-man sensitivity I AM currently experiencing. I AM watching my (the) self implode into stardust bcz the subatomic particles comprising this hu-man are all about FEEELING, voraciously,, exquisitely, absolutely everything,,, esp. these days the awareness of hu-mans torturing each other and torturing animals, plants and nature. Bliss is the I AM watching my (the) self FEEL, enquiring into FEELing beyond the feelings,,,enquiring, exploding this be-ings’ capacity to feel and love and cry and collapse from the volume of feeling, and resurrect the (my) self in amazement at the vastness and intelligence of the stardust particles and Love this being IS.
    Life, living on this planet, be-ing breath of god, I AM a living prayer. MY living prayer is god both experiencing and expressing the uniqueness of ME on this gorgeous planet, with other (wacko) expressions of god. god, the reference point, the matrix, the fountain of love; god, the un-solvable mystery. I exist, I love. I AM that I AM. empty, and full, at the feet of the Beloved. my dear friend Hafiz speaks for me too, here:
    We are
    People who need to love, because
    Love is the soul’s life,
    Love is simply creation’s greatest joy.
    The stairway of existence,
    O, through the stairway of existence, Hafiz,
    You now come,
    Have we all now come to
    The Beloved’s
    Door. (Hafiz),,,, (but enough of words….. let Silence take me to the core of LIFE … Rumi)
    much love xoxox


  2. Mark

    What really strikes me is how those who like to ‘set the story straight’ (or the story about stories) and tell people what is not real have no sense of play. There is no humor, no inspiration or anything spontaneous – you can program a computer to do what they do. This is supposed to be awakened consciousness? Sounds like something very dead to me. There is no creative energy. As far as I’m concerned it IS a story, the non-dual story which they are telling themselves as much as it is for anyone else. In a sense it is not unlike that typical superficial spirituality of repeating affirmations, it’s affirming negation.

    Funny, I’m taking a break from watching the movie Mr. Nobody…


    1. Lori Ann Lothian

      yes! But there is a passage or phase that can be quite empty of creativity…and perhaps serious. It’s just some people don’t ask themselves: Is there further to go? they imagine the first shift of losing a sense of personal self, is an end point, vs a beginning.

      Thanks for reading !


  3. Davidya

    Thanks, Lori. Well put.
    It can be very clear for some after the shift that they’ve always been awake and what was before was just a story. This is their reality. The trouble is, they then sometimes turn this into a teaching and you get all the concepts about the world and me being unreal. But those concepts are just another story. When they’re held firmly, they’re more of a barrier than the old story may have been. Ironic indeed. Even Eckhart Tolle teaches how to mimic awakeness rather than what will help come to that.

    It’s also worth noting that after the shift, there can still be a period with some drama and overshadowing going on. If we recognize this as a winding down, we can help move through it more quickly rather than getting recaught a bit. As that completes, then you shift into the mature awakening known as sat chit ananda or nirvana – where bliss is always there as you describe. I had a similar illness experience. I didn’t even realize I was sick at first because the bliss was overshadowing it. Not only is that Not a myth but the Upanishads describe it as developing in 10 stages, each bliss 100x the intensity of the prior. Those shifts can come in like gangbusters. As one friend joked, you can hope it doesn’t happen while you’re out in public. (laughs)

    On the 7 states model, it’s worth noting there is 2 parallel processes taking place – the development of Atman (Shiva, consciousness) and the development of sattva (Shakti, refinement). Some teachings emphasize the first or the second. For example, Atman alone and you get a dry Self Realization, then Oneness (Unity) – no God Consciousness. Sattva alone and you get much refined perception but no Atman awakening. Together, you get the fullness.

    If it’s of interest, here’s an overview with the 3 stages of Atman and the corresponding shifts with sattva, derived from the Yog Vasishtha. It doubles Maharishi’s 7 states model, something he stopped using in the mid-80’s.


    1. Lori Ann Lothian

      Davidya. Thank you for your always thoughtful comments. I will check the link out and get back to you. And yes to the unwinding–though for me, the unwinding was never really ever about suffering (from reactions and thoughts) in the way I would before the shift–it was more that I would be surprised by a habit that came back, or an old emotional pattern that would resurface (even thought these had seemed dead and dissolved for months in the light of awaKening…). But these unwindings, for me, were blessedly minor. Guess my karma had been through the kar wash at some point. hehe.


  4. Geert Acke

    thank You for the clarity in Your words and I love the playfull touch 🙂
    So far I only dipped my toe in Reality for a few hours and boy it was everything You describe it to be.
    What made this state possible was allowing suppressed sadness to be felt fully and from there my Heart space opened like a pulsating raw sweet wound. This allowed Joy to arise and I felt the world for the first time from the Heart as my center. The mind was now simply a tool, a very sharp one but nothing more.
    When I walked out of that room in the sun all I could do was laugh out loud seeing how limited life is when living from the head.
    Having had this experience I am now fully committed to walk the path from head to Heart. I live in Europe – if there is anyone You see I ‘should’ be in contact with, kindly let me know
    Geert Acke


    1. Lori Ann Lothian

      Thank you for sharing your toe dipping into bliss. Yes, once tasted, there is no way the mind can ever be King or Queen of our perceptual vantage point….what part of europe i wonder. FB friend me (see the contact Lori tab) and we can discuss further. Thanks for taking the time to comment.


  5. Jurgen

    Yes, the light of reality. Non dualists somewhat believe that thoughts are instrumental in awakening, when in reality they are just a performance act. When the heart becomes the instrument of knowing all mental acrobatics stop and there is only stillness and my actions are driven silently by love or compassion or both. The quest for awakening or spirituality is no longer there, because there is only stillness.


    1. Leo Searle Hawkins

      Thank you Jurgen. Indeed, the “secret” lies in the Heart and not in thinking or thought. Something about your comment felt refreshing to me. May you continue to rest in the blissfully silent stillness of the Heart.


    2. Lori Ann Lothian

      Yes, Jurgen.

      The mental games cease to amuse….and the stillness is the death of the seeker, which was embedded in the mind. My teacher Igor Kufayev as noted the irony that the last desire of the mind, is for liberation. So the mind desires the end of it’s sovereignty, eventually….sometimes, pure boredom is enough, other times distress or chaos.

      An awakening is not only the cessation of the mind-mill that churns clever-but-inactionable thoughts about reality, it’s also a homecoming. You know how it is when you get home to your apartment, or house? You just know of course, you are home. There is no debate about the nature of home, no mental acrobatics about how real you are or not, in your home, or whether your home is an illusion, and so on.

      It’s instant knowing. I’m home…


      1. Jurgen

        Yes, the “homecoming”, very accurate word and there is no longer an “outside” world either. I see the town and places I wander around in as the extension of my sitting room, that’s the feeling, not a thought. No room for alienation. I am on home turf wherever I am. The heart is the first point of contact, it does my thinking, my hearing, my speaking and what it communicates and perceives comes from a place of knowing. No wonder thoughts are largely redundant.


  6. Jacob Nordby

    Lori Ann,
    Thanks for saying this.
    I love non-duality thought (keyword: thought!) because it points to the place in us where everything is connected and One.
    My problem with the trap is that it seduces many into forgetting that the temporary human winding of us is a distinct, unique “fingertip of God” touching the Earth. I experience the mystical, unitive knowing but I have been led in my life to deeply embrace this fingertip-ness…which includes the sensation of being separate from other fingertips.
    The All can’t be on this Earth within our consciousness as anything other than us–so why the fuck do we try so hard to pretend otherwise?
    Thank you for sharing yourself.


  7. Leo Searle Hawkins

    Hey Lori – love to meet you at the “Enlightenment Pub”!

    I couldn’t agree more with your sentiments. I pulled out of every non-dual, neo-advaita discussion on Facebook because I couldn’t stand the excruciating boredom of it all …

    Those who spout that banal drivel are speaking from conceptual mind, of what they have read or what some teacher has told them. If they were truly Awake they would never, ever indulge in that stuff.

    And yes, bliss is a living Reality. Bliss and happiness and peace beyond all understanding. Like falling in love or having an orgasm, it is impossible to imagine what it is like to know the Reality of the realm of Being without actually Being it.

    The conundrum is, “how to wake up when all intentions and practices designed to enable us to wake up are themselves a facet of the one we are attempting to wake up from”.

    I’ve looked at this question long and hard. It’s always puzzled me why I have been so graced by Awakening when others go to satsang for year upon year, practice austere meditations, and eat lentils until they are sprouting from their ears – and get nowhere.

    The only answer I can find lies in that word: Grace. There appears to be nothing we can strategically do that is a linear path to Awakening. But some practices seem to create our inner mind garden as fertile ground in which the seeds of Truth can grow.

    And if we are fortunate – for who knows what reason – Grace bestows her smile upon us and all that we are not and have never been drops away. What remains is the Reality of who we are and have always been.

    This event is called “Awakening” but really there is no separate ego entity who awakens, and certainly no-body who awakens. And yet there is the Reality of Awakening. Go figure …

    See you down the pub! 🙂

    much love,



    1. Jurgen

      Reality is a beautiful thing, Leo, isn’t it? And I don’t just mean the reality of bliss, of awakening, I mean reality per se, in all it’s brutal nakedness. Reality has never let me down, because at the end can only be one thing, reality. The beauty with reality is, it always reminds me of the underlying present (or presence?) and with that its stillness. So there is never a getting away from stillness and whatever takes place in my life shows up as infinite liberation into stillness, over and over again.


      1. Leo Searle Hawkins

        Yes, and I like the way you relate beauty to reality. There is such beauty hidden just behind the veils of thought.

        In truth, is there any separation between the Reality of Awakening and the reality of this world? Just as is there truly any separation between our beloved and the Beloved? ♡


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