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.”
So 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.
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,
Feature Photo: Flickr: lisawiderberg
PS: Did you know I’ve started a weekly 3-minute video blog? It’s free, fun and magical. Curious? Then subscribe here.