This is the first in a series of articles about the awakening journey that describes both the common myths that stand in its way and real steps available for those brave souls who are truly willing to wake up now. The material is controversial as it questions and challenges many of the assumptions most people have about awakening and asks instead for each of us to examine what seems really true. The authors’ purpose is to create a mindset that authentic awakening is truly possible and that others can support and potentially join you in this journey. The path now lies very much in front of you. All you have to do is take the next step.
In each moment, we can choose to try to control and understand the "dream" we live in, or to focus instead on fully awakening from that dream. For in that dream we remain a constant prisoner of our own minds, beliefs, thoughts and fears – a character in our own story.
Whether or not we are aware of it, each of us is on a journey to awaken to who we really are and to our integrity with the greater universe. Yet most have lost sight of their ultimate purpose on Earth – to reawaken as free human beings. For living on this Earth is not easy and no manual for how to do so is readily available. For most people, just surviving and the ongoing pursuit of comfort or companionship takes all of their energy and focus. And everyone deserves great compassion for just having made it this far.
Yet an increasing number of people are seeing through the illusion of their lives and are intently searching for the next step. We are writing now to serve these brave individuals by clarifying and demystifying the awakening journey. We do so by first exploring and then challenging many widely held and idealized perceptions associated with it. Potentially, this might catalyze an open dialogue or forum about the true value of whatever people may be doing, both individually and collectively, to effectively awaken.
An Abiding Awareness
At the same time, we know very little about the universe – far less than we might think. And awakening is a subject about which no one can be an expert. Obviously, there isn’t any one way that people awaken, and the paths that they take often seem contradictory. We have chosen here to examine a spectrum or approach that has recently gained greater support in this country. It includes those paths, authors and teachers that do not depend on and even discourage established traditions, rituals, structures and hierarchies – to provide more freedom for each individual to explore this journey in his or her way.
Because most of us personally interact with so few, if any, awakened people, many of the barriers to waking up stem from widespread misconceptions regarding the process itself. We can look at these as superstitions or myths ("things with no real existence"), and they create a collective hypnosis or veil that tends to keep most seekers anesthetized within their illusions. In upcoming Edge Life issues, we will divide these into two categories:
- Those myths that tend to engender overconfidence in one’s
ability to awaken and to overcome the difficulties encountered on this journey.
- Those myths that may cause people to doubt or underestimate their
real capacity to wake up. They will also address real options, steps and
paths currently available to those who may be truly willing to embark on
the awakening journey right now.
Of course, not all of these myths apply equally to everyone, but because they are so widespread it’s very likely that some are held by you. They are simultaneously humorous and sad – humorous because so many people continue to hold beliefs that upon closer examination are illogical; and sad because these same beliefs often block one from taking the leap of faith into the unknown that awakening demands.
The Overwhelming Experience
What is true? Unfortunately, in some consciousness and New Age circles, it’s politically incorrect to challenge a number of these myths even though they contradict the overwhelming experience of those who have already "woken up." In fact, people may grow indignant once their spiritual beliefs and imagined futures appear to be threatened. For most of us want to feel good, have expansive and peaceful "spiritual" experiences, and be reassured on our journey. Yet as the awakening experience is just as often difficult and painful as it is reassuring and peaceful, our seeking after peace and avoidance of pain can often become attachments that keep us from moving further.
Simultaneously, some myths serve to absolve us from taking full personal responsibility for our own awakening process – from confronting our true priorities and sincerity and making the critical changes in our lives that this process requires. It may be far easier, for example, to place the focus or responsibility onto a collective "we" (such as in "we’re all waking up") and to focus on the cosmology of humanity’s awakening than to truthfully examine what each of us as an individual is fully committing to in this very moment. Unfortunately, the latter may be very different than we would like to assume.
Yet, while a lot of people may be misguided, it’s clear that all of them are doing the best they can! For awakening involves finding your way out of a hall of mirrors – no easy task – to surrender to an unknown reality. Anyone embarking upon this journey deserves tremendous compassion and support. It has nothing to do with good or bad, right or wrong, better or worse; and as we are all one being, no one can really be ahead or behind anyone else. And as no one can do anything wrong, everyone is right on course. However, it’s helpful to have some sign posts as you choose to head into truly unknown territory.
Dissolving All Resistance
While most people seek to alter their experience to make it better or more comfortable – and thus spend their time attempting to control their lives and environment – awakening involves dissolving all resistance to "what is." It is accompanied by the dissolution or unwinding of the perceived "I," one’s identity as a separate individual. Thus, as Leonard Jacobson writes in Words from Silence, "The one who sets off on the journey of awakening will not survive the journey."
Byron Katie, in her amazing book, A Thousand Names for Joy: Living in Harmony with the Way Things Are, puts it this way: "Who would you be without your story? …There is no story that is you or that leads to you. Every story leads away from you. You are what exists before all stories…. When you become a lover of what is, the war is over. Since I don’t believe my thoughts, I have no hopes, fears or expectations. I’m a woman without a future. I live in the open space where everything comes to me."
It takes determination, surrender and trust to withstand the complete breakdown and unwinding of your known reality. Yet, to the extent you’re truly willing to see reality differently, whatever illusion you’re inside of can break apart. This experience will be the most challenging and encompassing you will ever encounter, or probably ever imagine. There are no rules. It is not easy or even logical. As you will see below, it has little in common with therapy or "getting better." It cannot be undertaken through intellectual exercises, discussions or concepts – for it embodies a heart-felt sense of humor and a surrender that transforms life itself.
The guidebook for this journey is straightforward, although not easy. Disillusion yourself to all of your concepts and ideas about who you think you are. Look only at what is true, whatever this seems to cost. Leave everything else behind and don’t look back. Stay on this course no matter what or who you may encounter. And then, if you are persistent and sincere, at some point you will encounter "all that is," the energy behind all things. Then the journeyer is no longer needed to take the journey, as there is no place else to go.