So, you’ve had an awakening. If it’s the real deal, your perception of who—or what—you are has been dramatically and irrevocably altered. You are no longer contained by the mind; you are no longer the thoughts that think; you are not even the thinker. And miraculously, the seeker self that drove your desire to awaken has left the scene entirely.
What you perceive as self is a boundless, vast, spacious peace. It’s infinitely accepting of life as it shows up, unperturbed by him, her, this or that. You can’t really muster an emotional reaction for the life of you.
As for people behaving badly? Bad suddenly seems so very inconsequential. So remote and limited. Bad is just the other side of good. And both are unreal.
What is real is this Awareness or Perceiving-ness from which everything arises. And if you are lucky, you know yourself as nothing AND everything. The paradox needs no explaining. It just is.
You might spend days, weeks or even months in this spacious and jubilant awareness (for my awakening, it was about five months). And then comes…re-entry.
Re-entry is something like the rocket that left earth’s orbit, returning hopefully, to a safe landing.
Just like in a celestial vehicle encountering earth’s atmosphere, this re-entry from awakening encounters friction.
What is this friction?
It’s the resistance of your karma, ancestral patterns and undigested experiences. It’s your unresolved psychic junk.
Very few awakened beings re-enter without this friction. And it even happens to so-called enlightened spiritual teachers, especially under the pressure of being on a pedestal, and under the projection of followers.
For me, the re-entry looked a lot like these sorts of manifestations:
~ I’d be minding my own enlightenment business when suddenly something my husband or daughter would say or do could trigger an intense and out-of-proportion emotional outburst, most often anger. The storm would rarely last more than seconds. But it would leave me wondering WTF just happened.
~ I’d be mysteriously drawn to express in the world in ways that seemed old or odd. For instance, at one point two years into awakening, I was infatuated with the idea of creating a magazine called Rebelle Sex: A Bedroom Revolution. The point? “To reclaim our inherent sexual innocence.” Whose innocence? My family system, where sexual secrets, hidden homosexuality and even pedophilia ran underground like toxic spillover from a nasty radiation leak. The drive to declare innocence was not my own–I was the puppet on the strings of an ancestral wound looking for healing.
~ I’d be drawn to find a spiritual daddy figure who could tell me exactly what the awakening deal was about and in whom I could rest from my own forward momentum (oh, yes, awakening is just a threshold to a whole new journey). If only I could play follow the leader the weight of my own discovery would lift. Problem is, there is no leader who can walk you through the fire of unwinding your residual karma. That alone is your path and the best a good teacher can do, is point you in the right direction.
~ I’d intermittently be drawn to addictive behaviours. Most often this looked like making wine my best friend. These periods of wino identification would not last more than a few days, at worst weeks. And then I’d pull out of this escapist tail spin and realize that post-awakening was not a one-way ticket from anxiety-binding behaviours. (I learned later that a great many sages and mystics remained addicted to nicotine or alcohol post enlightenment). Most famous? Mystic philosopher Alan Watts.
These are just some examples of what re-entry can look like. Each re-entry will be as unique as the one spark of the totality coming back to earth from the jet-propulsion of awakening.
I called this article “How not to Burn Up” for a reason. The friction of reentry won’t burn you. What will burn you is imagining you are not supposed to have any of this happen. The idea that you are in a state of perpetual grace and immune to your own humanity is what makes a normal re-entry a potential hazard zone.(And spiritual teachers run this risk the most, since their PR machine depends on the illusion of sainthood).
But the truth is Awareness waking up to itself in form is not content to lounge in the void. The whole idea is to get “down to earth.” Like that old Zen saying. “First a bowl. Then no bowl. Then a bowl, but a different bowl.”
So, the next time your transcendent blissful awakening seems to have elements of ordinary reactive humanity don’t fret. You are just in the re-entry phase, burning up karma, hidden patterns and ancestral influences.
BONUS: An interesting short video interview with Adyashanti and Loch Kelly about post awakening. In this talk, they identify the “heart” or emotional body as the stage of awakening I am calling re-entry.