This is the second in a series of articles about the awakening journey. It describes both the common myths that stand in its way and real steps available for those brave souls who are truly interested in waking up now. The material is controversial in that it questions and challenges many of the assumptions most people hold dear and asks for each of us to instead examine what is really true.
As you look inside yourself, you already have the guidebook for your awakening there. You only need to access it. But to do so, you will need to put aside all ideas of who you think you are.
The guidebook is clear. Look no further than what is in front you. Hide from nothing. Welcome everything, however painful in the short term. It’s not easy. For real growth, real learning, often involves pain. It involves honesty. Yet what else do you have to do? After all, this is why you’re here, to find yourself again. And have compassion for yourself along the way.
In a real sense, you are searching for who you already are, yet you are looking in the wrong direction. You can’t see this because it’s so simple. And everyone is waiting for you. They have infinite time – you can take as long as you like. But why wait?
Everyone you meet is here to serve you, even though it might not seem so at first glance. Each person, each moment, is an opportunity to learn, to urge you awaken to yourself. Thus, welcome those who criticize you. Embrace those who doubt you. They are your real teachers. It’s best to call them by their proper names.
The awakening journey is not a straight path. It is a spiral, and you often won’t have a clear perception of where you are. It is easy to deceive yourself, however sincere you may be, for there are probably more misleading assumptions out there than truths about its nature. With this in mind, the following may be of help to you.
COMMON AWAKENING MYTHS
"To dare to even speak about radical transformation, let alone call other people to a higher level, is against unstated rules. And of course, one’s definitely going to be put in one’s place for doing something like that. But unless the possibility of genuine transformation is actually declared, unless one is willing to demonstrate it publicly and to call other people to the same, no one is even going to know that it’s possible. And then unknowingly, everybody’s going to be participating in the conspiracy of mediocrity." – Andrew Cohen in "The Conspiracy of Mediocrity," What is Enlightenment? (Fall-Winter, 2002)
Myth #1: I’m Already Awake or in the Process of Awakening
Many thousands of sincere people are engaged in the process of "getting better," in self-improvement and in becoming more self-aware. There is a large and growing metro area economy composed of dedicated spiritual practitioners, healing professionals, therapists, spiritual discussion groups, fairs and conferences, channels, publications, psychics, and New Age churches, usually with the unspoken assumption that all of this eventually leads to awakening. But does it? For if all of this was truly effective, wouldn’t we notice that there were more people who had actually woken up? Where are they?
Many people are feeling better, feeling freer and more able to cope with life, and that’s laudable. But are they waking up? Jed McKenna, Leonard Jacobson, Adyashanti, Ken Wilbur, Bernadette Roberts and many others have written extensively about this distinction. And books, such as Halfway up the Mountain: The Error of Premature Claims to Enlightenment by Mariana Caplan, discuss it in great detail.
For contrary to popular opinion, "getting better" and "waking up" are often like apples and oranges. For example, Ken Wilbur, in "A Spirituality that Transforms" (Fall/Winter 1997, What is Enlightenment?), sharply contrasts one’s translation of the world, or the process of building ourselves up – with transformation or awakening, which involves the dissolution of the same individual identity that seeks to get better:
"With translation, the self is simply given a new way to think or feel about reality. The self is given a new belief – perhaps holistic instead of atomistic, perhaps forgiveness instead of blame, perhaps relational instead of analytic. The self then learns to translate its world and its being in the terms of this new belief or new language or new paradigm, and this new and enchanting translation acts, at least temporarily, to alleviate or diminish the terror inherent in the heart of the separate self…(I)n today’s America, this is…disturbing, because the vast majority of…spiritual adherents often claim to be representing the leading edge of spiritual transformation, the ‘new paradigm’ that will change the world, the ‘great transformation’ of which they are the vanguard. But more often than not…they do not offer effective means to utterly dismantle the self, but merely ways for the self to think differently….
"(For a)uthentic transformation is not a matter of belief but of the death of the believer; not a matter of translating the world but of transforming the world; not a matter of finding solace but of finding infinity on the other side of death…. Transformative spirituality, authentic spirituality, is therefore revolutionary…. (I)t does not render the self content, it renders it undone….
"Let it start right here, right now, with us – with you and with me – and with our commitment to breathe into infinity until infinity alone is the only statement that the world will recognize. Let a radical realization shine from our faces, and roar from our hearts, and thunder from our brains – this simple fact, this obvious fact: that you, in the very immediateness of your present awareness, are in fact the entire world, in all its frost and fever, in all its glories and its grace, in all its triumphs and its tears. You do not see the sun, you are the sun; you do not hear the rain, you are the rain; you do not feel the earth, you are the earth. And in that simple, clear, unmistakable regard, translation has ceased in all domains, and you have transformed into the very Heart of the Kosmos itself – and there, right there, very simply, very quietly, it is all undone."
And consider the following from Jed McKenna:
"Self-realization isn’t about more, it’s about less…. (You) don’t wake up by perfecting your dream character, you wake up by breaking free of it. There’s no truth to the ego, so no degree of mastery over it results in anything true. Putting attention on the false self merely reinforces it.
"Spiritual awakening is about discovering what’s true. Anything that’s not about getting to the truth must be discarded. Truth isn’t about knowing things – you already know too much. It’s about un-knowing. It’s not about becoming true, it’s about un-becoming false so that all that’s left is truth. If you want to become a priest or a lama or a rabbi or a theologian, then there’s a lot to learn – tons and tons. But if you want to figure out what’s true, then it’s a whole different process and the last thing you need is more knowledge."
And this, from Adyashanti’s new book, The End Of Your World:
"Make no mistake about it – enlightenment is a destructive process. It has nothing to do with becoming better or being happier. Enlightenment is the crumbling away of untruth. It’s seeing through the facade of pretense. It’s the complete eradication of everything we imagined to be true….
"Our greatest contribution to humanity is our awakening. It is to literally leave the state of consciousness that the mass of humanity is in and discover the truth of our being, which is the truth of all beings. When we awaken at the level of the mind, we begin to think, ‘my goodness, the way i saw the world was a complete fabrication. Literally the stuff of dreams. It had no basis in reality whatsoever. The way i saw myself was also completely fabricated.’"
Leonard Jacobson states in "Time of Crisis," (10/8/2008, www.lightworkers.org): "Our whole world view has been carefully constructed to protect our story, our interpretation of reality." And he strongly advises us in Words From Silence: "To awaken, you must be willing to accept that you are not fully awake."
Thus, it might make sense to carefully examine why you might not want to awaken – your fears of rocking the status quo, fear of worsening, fear of what your family or others might think, lack of security and an unknown future, fear of the void, etc. Unless you begin with this and not some idealized version of it, there’s no place you can go.
In light of all of this, we would like to offer you an invitation. We sincerely invite you to open yourself to honest self-examination and to consciously give up whatever positions you may hold about whom you think you are and reality itself – and to welcome authentic truth wherever you find it, no matter how challenging this may appear.
This invitation is there for the asking. It is a path many others have taken for millennia in the interests of transforming our species. This path is not for the faint of heart. Yet, it is available to you at all times, if you only take the first step.