Are You Dreaming You are Spiritually Awake?

Have you ever had one of those nocturnal dreams where you are convinced you just got out of bed and made a cup of coffee but for some reason the coffee tastes like nothing and the clock on the wall is unreadable? And then your lucid dreamer mind kicks in and you go, “oh shit, I’m not really awake, I’m still dreaming.” And in that very recognition, you snap wide awake in your bed and laugh at how real the dream seemed, this dream of waking up.

Well. That’s what happens to most folks in the spiritual awakening and enlightenment game. In the words of Gurdjieff: “As soon as man awakens for a moment and opens his eyes, all the forces that caused him to fall asleep, begin to act on him with ten fold energy, and he immediately falls asleep again, very often dreaming his is awake, or awakening,” 

I know this is happens because it happened to me. Let me explain.

In 2011, I had a pure, unadulterated overnight execution of the fictional self. The local mind that would call itself me, had simply and spontaneously disappeared. In its place was what I called Awareness — it was no different than when you wake up at night from a dream and the real you looks back at the dream character you with zero affiliation. All the conflicts and adventures of the dream character, who in the dream believes in the reality of its identity, is suddenly seen as unreal. (And yes, what a curious relief!).

This shift of point of view is radical. It’s not a stilling of the monkey mind, or a bliss high, or a kundalini surge. It’s not a serenity pill or a feeling of merger with all that is. Yes, it can include some of these, but these are side-effects that float around within the larger context of what is essentially a dramatic Point of View Shift no different than the dreamer waking to see that she is not the dream character.

Or it could also be expressed like this: The dream character self that I had mistaken myself to be was just one of myriad happenings on the screen of consciousness. Just like a film screen is real but the projected images appearing on it are not, the real you (you can call it consciousness, awareness, the is-ness, the I AM) is the backdrop on which reality is appearing.

This shift that occurred seven years ago was what is termed “abiding” in the spiritual lingo. It endured without compromise for about four years and then, it began like a spinning top, to wobble, finally toppling in about 2016.

This is where things get tricky and I want you to really track with me here: because if this can happen in “my” awakening, it can and will happen in most awakenings.

When abiding-ness topples, there is an insidious tendency for the process of re-identification to get a good PR spin by the newly fortified spiritual ego—this spin takes many narratives, from “Real enlightenment is about being human and feeling all of our feelings” to “It’s not that you don’t have intense emotions or anxious thoughts it’s that you don’t believe them anymore” to “Yes I just kicked the cat (shouted at my wife, hit the dog, lied to you, behaved badly) but there is no me or you, there is just this.”

Real awakening is, as Byron Katie states it, simply no longer arguing with reality — but not because it’s the smart, right or wise thing to do. But because who the heck would argue with the characters and events of a dream?

If this makes no sense yet that’s entirely okay. You are likely dreaming your wakefulness and any hint that you might still be asleep will be as unwelcome as having someone natter beside you in bed to wake up while you are enjoying an amazing dream.

But over the next few posts, I am going to go into more depth about this “dreaming you are awake” storyline, especially the signs of becoming groggy and what sorts of maya shenanigans are the usual culprits for seducing or lulling you back to sleep.

For me, it was the unravelling of a teenage daughter into depression and substance abuse, the bitter disillusionment with a spiritual teacher friend, the near-death eight week coma of my daughter’s father, and the end of a marriage — all converging as a maelstrom of happenings in 2015 and 2016. By the time the event firestorms settled, the equanimity and point of view clarity that had been the hallmark of the 2011 awakening had turned to ash. Granted, there was an afterglow of sorts, but best I can say is that I could remember the awakened state well enough to replicate it in my dream.

To be clear, not all life happenings have the gravity to pull an authentic awakening into a dream of being awake. The stroke my husband had in 2014 was a happening that for whatever reason did not have enough re-identification hooks. I wrote about it here in the post: When You Are Okay and Everyone Else is Not).

Your own awakening toppling into a dream of being awake is probably not why I am writing this. I am addressing the myriad spiritual teachers who either pretend that their awakened state is abiding or naively believe so because they are dreaming they are awake.

And the tricky part here is probably the only way to tell if a teacher is really still awake (I don’t doubt that at some point most were) is if you have the chance to suss out major incongruities in what they say versus what they do. I am not suggesting that awakened beings are saints, not really. But what they ARE NOT is jealous, angry, bitter, deceptive, greedy, usurious and vain. They are also not under the illusion that they won a spiritual lottery by waking up, or that they are superior, or that they are wise. (Are you wise because you woke up in bed from a dream? No. You just woke up and smelled the truth, that’s all).

And real teachers who are really awake don’t tell you that you have to do anything to “deepen” your awakening. It’s an on or off switch, not a progression.

Yes, it’s hard to imagine the whole spiritual satsang industry surviving the one simple truth that you don’t wake up by sitting cross legged in a trance, or listening to endless well intended questions earnestly answered by a teacher — though quite possibly you could wake up because sitting cross legged is your on switch, or something the teacher said while you crossed your legs acts like a bedside alarm clock. (As the story goes, Papa-ji apparently said to Ganga-gi, Just Stop…and that was the switch that snapped her awake).

And I will grant that meditation which stills the thinking mind can and does allow for forays into the I AM-ness, or the Awareness, that you are. I am just not sure that it doesn’t run the risk of becoming a kind of sedative where you get to keep all the goodies of being a ‘Me” with cross-legged vacations to samahdi land and now and then. Simply: you get to have a more peaceful dream at the expense of actually waking up.

So. Why am I writing this now?

Because the switch flipped again, all at once, as it is known to do. One day last week, for no apparent reason other than grace and perhaps a nagging feeling that I was dreaming again,  I woke up in Troncones, Mexico from a deep sleep and a dream of a unicorn. And I could not find the me again. And that’s when I laughed out loud and realized over the last two years, I had been dreaming I was awake, Seriously, it’s funny! (I should also add that I spent two weeks listening on and off to a dude named Magdi Badawy doing his satsang routine on You Tube. As in the 2011 awakening, when I had been listening to Adyashanti CD’s, it’s quite possible that listening to Magdi was a trigger — he just might have been that nattering voice that jolted me awake).  Oh, and the book “The Impersonal Life” that just happened to be on the bed stand of the woman’s home I stayed at in Mexico.

And so, in defence of spiritual teachers most of whom are probably not awake, they are not trying to deceive you, they are likely just dreaming their wakefulness. And yes, there are those teachers who have not fallen back asleep, though my sense is they are rarer than we would all like to believe. If you have 60 presenters for instance at the Science and Non Duality Conference, you probably have 6 truly abidingly wide awake folks. (Honestly, it’s likely too that most wide-awake types steer far and clear of spiritual conferences and talk shows because they know it’s just more entertainment in the modern media and business circus of enlightenment).

Next post I am probably going to address “stages of awakening” because there is a lot written about it by people who have had genuine awakenings. However, get ready for some dissection because now I see that stages of awakening are more like stages of rousing from the night dream. Just as when you are sleeping  in the morning and you hear the lawn mower next door, or the blender in the kitchen, and you begin to incorporate those real life sounds into your dream state and eventually, you begin to rouse from the dream. So too do shifts like “witnessing” and “mindfulness” and “non-ordinary perception” and “hyper flow synchronicity” signal that waking up is in progress.

But remember: the real deal is an on-off switch, not a spectrum. You go over a cliff more than you scale a mountain.

Or simply, enlightenment is binary. You are awake. Or you are not. It’s not something you can miss any more than you can doubt you just had an orgasm. It’s obvious, not subtle. So when a teacher tells you that you need hang out with them to get your kundalini activations, or sit in meditation with them to up-level your spiritual growth, or even to take a course with them, ask yourself this zinger of a question: Is your disenchantment with the fictional dream self stronger than your fear of no-self?

In other words, are you ready to die? Because if you are not ready for annihilation, for the complete destruction of the dream you by the simple act of awakening, all you will have is a pleasant dream that you are awake.

Awareness is here, again, (for now).

Lori Ann2

PS: One thing about the awakening bit. It doesn’t meant you stop having a job, a life, friends, a family, creativity, a purpose etc. It means you identify more as a “function” than a person. It also means that you feel divinely supremely guided and of service. Life becomes magical because it is no longer just a dream but a lucid dream, or as that old biblical phrase goes, you are now “in the world but not of it”. But more on that later.

PPS: I am sure some of you are going to have a lot of arguments about why this post is all wrong. Tip: sleep, dreaming. awakening. It’s just a metaphor!



29 thoughts on “Are You Dreaming You are Spiritually Awake?

  1. Pingback: The Astounding Magic of Timeless Time & Why YOU Can Never Access It – The Awakened Dreamer

  2. Song Traveler

    Hmmm…I have to disagree with you on the value of meditation. It isn’t some magic key, of course, but it does assist in the slow grinding away of delusional behaviors or beliefs. Just about any kind will do. And daily or several times a week. Waiting until you go to a meditation retreat with a ‘guru’ to get your enlightenment is for the most part delusional procrastination. And as for ‘enlightenment’, well becoming awake is like my friend in our sangha said the other day to a younger member. It’s like peeling back the layers of an onion. You peel a layer and see the brilliant sheen on the new surface, and then later realize that sheen was another level of artifice, so you peel more. As for teaching? We all teach each other. No one should charge money for such things. If you are presented with the opportunity to lead someone or a few to a state of less suffering (key word here is less), then do it while being employed with some other more mundane job like plumber, mechanic, accountant, etc. And then slip out so they get the message but forget exactly who was the messenger. The concept of ‘spirituality’ was a response to civilization’s commodification of our lives. Monetizing it is almost always a mistake.


    1. Song Traveler

      Let me not forget to mention, I don’t usually respond to posted writings unless I find them thought provoking and interesting. Thanks for posting!


  3. Pingback: Dreaming Awake –

  4. Didier Weiss

    Another feedback following a difficult week with my daughter, who has a neurological disability. These tough events seem to act as vaccines to stay awake and not slip into a confortable dream of awakeness. They go to the core of the identities and identifications and reveal that – as you said – they are only real in the context of the the story of Life, but not ultimately true.

    What happens when a vaccine is too potent is that, instead of protecting against diseases, it becomes overpowering and allows the disease to develop. Same situation with “tough events” – when too strong – they don’t wake up but have the opposite effect to lead back to sleep. A peculiar type of sleep: dreaming to be awake! (the opposite of lucid dreaming 😉 )


    1. Lori Ann Lothian

      Yes, I agree — the vaccine/life trials is good analogy. I just went through a day in the emergency room of hospital with teen Jan 1…and it was indeed more of a vaccine than a sleeping pill. Thanks for this great point.


  5. Daniel Blackmoor

    Hi Lori,

    I find your experience refreshingly authentic and would love your feedback on my take on what you describe as dreaming you’re awake.

    Your earlier article about awakening from the heart as compared to awakening from the mind resonated with me deeply as I was a bit confused why my experience didn’t mesh completely with the teachers and seekers I found later online. My “paradigm flip” happened, not as a result of intellectual seeking, but through the sudden understanding of unconditional love. It was the heartbreak of discovering that my ego had lied to me for my entire life (making me believe I was a loving, caring person when I was actually just a product of my ego) that destroyed my ego completely.

    After the ‘flip of that switch’ nothing was the same and I found myself at the beginning of a journey to explore and understand my new paradigm. A journey filled with opportunities to experience intense emotional ego challenges and thus discover many of the deep-seated ego traps buried in the conditioning and habits of my former self.

    It’s been about about 5 years since that ‘binary flip’ and, like you, I have spent that time learning about the experience of navigating the ego world in a non-dual state, staying aware and questioning all aspects of the journey in order to stay mindful of the ego traps that threaten to seduce us if we aren’t careful.

    My take on what you’re describing above is that the more we engage in the ego world, the more it tries to lull us back to sleep. My feeling is that in order to engage with the ‘illusion’ we (by definition) have to engage with the ego. It’s the tool that enables us to translate our experience to those still trapped by their ego’s reality. It seems to me that those who stay continually in a pure non-dual state are uninterested and/or unable to function in the dual state being experienced by society as a whole, and therefore likely to be considered crazy and lose/remove themselves from interactions with the “reality” being played out around them. Simply said, those who awaken can only share their understanding by engaging ego enough to maintain an appearance of ‘self’ that is recognizable and relatable to the unawakened.

    It’s my experience that the more one enages with the ego the more one is exposed to its seduction. A constant state of mindfulness and equinamity is required to keep from falling back asleep and dreaming your own enlightenment. I have also come to feel that it’s not actually possible to escape the ego while engaging it. To use a silly metaphor, it almost feels like using a ‘tainted magic’ that pollutes the non-dual experience the more it’s used, requiring constant cleansing to avoid losing oneself to the illusion of duality.

    This is probably a very controversial observation, but it seems obvious to me that there cannot be any enlightenment teachings that are untainted by the ego and ego experiences of the teacher. Simply engaging the labels of ‘teachings’ and ‘teachers’ distorts the message to some degree. Most teachers I have encountered (and I may be wrong here as I haven’t studied any teachers in depth) seem to be unaware that they can only relate their personal awaking/enlightenment journey and experience as translated through their previous ego existence…an experience that gave them the cultural template through which they communicate. To me this is not a bad thing, simply something to be accepted as an unavoidable side-effect and filtered out when learning from the experiences of others, freeing us to use their teachings to remind the teacher inside us of the truth we already know.

    Does any of this resonate with you?


    1. Catherine

      Daniel; your comment is most interesting and I am contemplating it; it does resonate with what I am finding. Thanks for making it.


  6. ekillian01

    So my question would be, what is it that you object to in teacher talking about deepening your awakening? We may be thinking of different teachers and teaching, but in my experience those teaching talking of deepening your awakening are basically addressing the things that can happen after an awakening that you’ve shared in this article.


  7. Renata

    I certainly am not awake but still this post speaks clearly to me and comforts me more than anything I have read or watched in the last weeks. And I am grateful that you pointed to Magdi as I have been listening to him more and more and am so grateful that he is not involved in the spiritual business and shares freely and out of love, not out of financial necessity.
    I have been watching spiritual teachers with jealousy and what you write gives me a better perspective and I feel now I landed again in my life, just here, just in this moment, without needing it to be different.
    Thanks for sharing Lori Ann, I so appreciate your honesty and passion.
    Much gratitude pouring from a cold winter’s day in Germany westward across the ocean to you.


    1. Lori Ann Lothian

      Hi Renata. Yes, Magdi is not in the business of teaching but there is also nothing wrong with being compensated — the real issue I see is not whether a teacher requests resource support such as money, to continue sharing, but whether that person is truly abidingly awake. I am glad this post served you, big hugs.


  8. Gayle Colman

    Rigpa, maRigpa…
    It is an on off switch, and snooze buttons are on all alarms, 🙂
    Stages of awakening – from the Pointing Out the Great Way, teachings given generously by Dan Brown: Awareness, Ever Present Awareness (Awareness Gone beyond Time), Non-Dual Awareness (Gone Beyond Sense Perceptions), Awakened Awareness (Gone beyond all sense of self). Distinctly different…
    Conduct is the only reliable “test” of an awakened state.
    And, awake is not enlightened…
    I love you ~


  9. Dirk

    Hi Lori
    What a refreshing post!
    I had to laugh and giggle a lot while reading it.
    For me some years ago the awakened state happend only for some 4-6 weeks, then the reidentification started again. Later lots of repressed emotions started to bubble up…they needed to be seen and felt.
    Since then it’s been a rollercoaster, and a part of me still looks for this on switch, it felt so good and clean.
    Thank you for your post!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Lori Ann Lothian

      The on switch doesn’t need to be found. It needs to be seen which I suppose is best done by getting rid of whatever obscures the seeing. Not always easy but it is simple. I still of course have no guarantee that this new on switch is on for good. LOL..i will keep you posted.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Didier Weiss

    Dear Lori Ann,

    Thank you for this extremely insightful sharing. There is no one sentence that doesn’t resonate deeply here.

    I did write to you just after your initial “awakening post”, early 2012, full of enthusiasm. But then, over the years, I did notice this subtle but devastating slipping away from “waking up” to the “dream of waking up” in your later postings…

    A few years ago I did write a book on nondual Realisation with a chapter about this single and important topic (published in French only).

    And today, reading this was quite good news! Though this Recognition happened 20 years ago in my life, without flip-flopping despite some harsh situations, I had around me less fortunate cases who did “loose” this Awakening, mainly due to the type of happenings that you precisely mention here.

    So it is good news, … for all of us!


    Didier Weiss (Auroville – India)

    Liked by 1 person

  11. John Lamenzo

    Let’s simplify the thread. When an individual chooses to embody the Soul, then ‘awakening’ arises spontaneously and deliciously:

    Six aspects or functions of the Ego:

    1. defense
    2. protection
    3. control
    4. judgment
    5. manipulation
    6. criticism


    Six aspects or functions of the Soul:

    1. joy
    2. peace
    3. enthusiasm
    4. creativity
    5. spontaneity
    6. LOVE

    …Remember, you get to choose 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Dave

    Hello Lori… “Being in the world, but not OF the world,” certainly is not just an aphorism. I have intermittently experienced the Witness to my life experiences even during intense suffering. This used to be a paradox to my rational mind until A.C.I.M. helped me realize healing occurs the moment we no longer have need for illusion. When I have need for nothing… no thing… in this world, I abide without judgement and desire. My mind simply rests in the peace that passes all understanding. Of course, the body quickly demands that it is needy… I am hungry… I am lonely… I am lustful… I am lacking… When I AM, without the additional needs, I experience rest in Awareness. Period. It is a state of Being that proves illusive to my restless mind, but one that is accessible through total contentment. Blessings!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. John Gabriel Otvos

    Okay, I give up! How does this essay intertwine with the evidenced-based facts that humans are in the middle [included], with the megafauna in the 6th mass extinction?
    How does all this aid in our reconnection to a regenerative ecology, polity, society, economy and morality, all collective mind you, to the real work shared freely amongst all human beings?
    How do we shut down Empire, regardless of western Asian or European? Personal enlightenment is a selfish pursuit when the good health of mother Gaia, our E-air-th [as David Abrams spells it] is not the centre of a focus, meditated or mediated?
    Militarism, + local police brutality are because we have disconnected with those we live near too. We have no collective story outside of a flag.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lori Ann Lothian

      It intertwines John when we act lucidly from pure awareness — then action is effective, and values like compassion, mercy, kindness, honesty and honouring of all life forms, happens naturally — he dream is not discarded. It becomes instead informed by “agents of divine intelligence” also known as awakened beings. So, enlightenment is not selfish. It’s the ultimate self sacrifice.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. John Gabriel Otvos

        I don’t disagree, Lori with what you state, however, the beginning is to understand how this separation or disconnect, if you will, began. That discussion lies in the vulgar materialism that sweeps through western culture especially at this time of year through gift giving to others. The Universe [One Song] did not spend 13.8 billion years to show us how to become great consumers. All the love songs, poetry, meditation, etc. have kept the enlightened flame alive, but, sadly, have hardly kept the ice from melting.


  14. donsalmon

    I have found over the decades – particularly in regard to the ever proliferating claims of “ultimate awakening” – that the Bhagavad Gita provides a wonderful reference point.

    The Gita is not entirely linear – it circles around again and again to a few major points, and then spirals “upward” but also outward and downward. Yet, in some ways, it does provide some insight regarding what traditionally have been referred to as “stages of awakening.”

    What the vast majority of non-dual folks these days call awakening is pretty much what Krishna was telling Arjuna – wait for it – in Chapter 2!! (that’s the 2nd of EIGHTEEN chapters)

    By chapter 6, Arjuna has mastered the art of effortlessly surrendering the mind to the Self, in utter Silence. how many teachers today tell us, “oh, well, those were big claims way back, but most awakened people still have thoughts coming and going all the time; they just let them go and stay rooted in the Self.”

    Well, no, not according to the Gita. Chapter 6 (still 12 more chapters to go!!) is the place where Arjuna has learned to silence the mind at will.

    And perhaps best of all, the Gita (despite what some claim are misogynist verses, when interpreted in a particular way) is no purely dull, cold, Jnana “awareness” game. It’s rich with a profound love and joy and delight in the full messiness of the world, of the flowers and trees and gambling (yes, gambling! – see chapter 10) and much more (after all, didn’t Krishna appear to 1000 gopis all at once, making love to them in the form that was most dear to their hearts – a 1000 different appearances, 1000 different ways).

    Look at Sri Krishna Prem’s commentary on chapter 11 (it’s free at Auro E-books) and compare that extraordinary richness and beauty and just plain cosmic awesomeness to the dull repetitive descriptions of Spira, Adyashanti, and so many more. Adya, I know, has been celebrating Christ in recent years and talking more and more about the body and energy, but compare that to what Lori writes, which is, to me at least, so much more alive here.

    Then, of course, we have the “Mother’s” exploration of the cells of the body in Her “Agenda'( available free at This was from her 70s till her “passing” at age 95, in 1973.

    When did she first awaken? According to her, someone gave her a copy of the Gita, in Paris, when she was 20, and simply told her, “‘Krishna’ is a symbol for the Divine within you. Read the Gita keeping this in mind.” She did this, and kept her aspiration alive without ceasing, and as she put it, “in one month, it was done.” She had the vision of all in the Divine, the Divine in all, and all as the Divine, continuously from that point on.

    yet, a it more than a half century later, having lived in that Awakened state throughout (she had the “seal” of a Zen teacher in japan she met during WWI who considered her the most awakened sage he had ever met), she started all over again.

    All over again.

    From scratch.

    And to the last day of her life, she continued experimenting, learning, ferreting out the maya and ignorance lodged in the hundreds of billions of cells of the body, remaining joyful and delighted in utter surrender, yet continuing to “grow up” (in that decidedly ungainly phrase of Ken Wilber)/

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Jim

        Thank you. Hi Lori, I am a visitor to David’s blog and he referenced yours in a recent post. Yes, the depth of Being that we establish must transcend our worst nightmares (and greatest joys) for it to stick. Given the mountains of karma trailing behind each of us, it can be a steady but long process, not just dealing with the peeling away of traumatic events, but also emptying ourselves of the expectations tied to them, whatever direction life was supposed to take, and then did not.

        I like the analogy of the cliff also. Yes, the oblivion we are faced with again and again, by transcending. The breathless conclusion of all of this letting go leads to a world hiding in plain sight, as you say we become Divine functions and can freely interact and ask for help from all the Heavenly Hosts of Celestial Beings.

        Yes, we are not only supported by the Divine, we actually work in perfect concert with all of Heaven to have our own desires fulfilled. And THIS is not an analogy – It has very practical and obvious benefits, the details of which seem miraculous (if such a word even makes sense any longer), continuously, in whatever state of action or inaction we find ourselves.

        It is a tough and unforgiving journey to find ourselves living Brahman, set firmly and freely between Universal Consciousness and our Divine Mother or Source, though it is so very worth it. Life doesn’t change, it simply ripens completely for us as human beings. And just like a tomato, that makes all the difference! We are not simply alive or awake, living Brahman, we are now useful, no fine print. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.