What Does It Mean To Awaken?
“We are here to awaken from our illusion of separateness.”
― Thích Nhat Hanh
What does it mean to awaken? What does someone mean when they say they’ve experienced a full spiritual awakening, or have attained enlightenment? Paradoxically, at the Absolute level, it means nothing at all. Because any “individual” who has had an immersive experience in the Absolute sees that their individuality was an illusion, there is only One, Pure Awareness, and that Awareness is already fully awake…so there’s no one or no thing that needs to awaken or attain anything.
However, as an “individual,” you visited this website, you have some interest in reading this information, and other seemingly-separate “individuals” are perhaps not reading it or interested in it. This is the Relative level, where there seems to be billions of individual Beings, each with their own agenda and place on the path. So here we must speak on the Relative level. Words are not enough to propel one from the Relative to the Absolute, and since websites & words are what we have, we can say this:
Throughout history, humans from all walks of life have seen through the illusion of this world and our ‘separate’ identities and awakened to the truth that all that exists is Awareness.
They ‘got’ that underneath this temporary, illusory projection of a world and individual beings, all of this is actually an expression of the One Awareness, and, since there are no ‘separate’ beings, we are always one with it. They realized it, awakened to it, abided in it – not just deduced it logically or believed it – they literally melted back into Oneness we all are, and woke up into the True Reality. This is the all-consuming Awakening to “no separate self,” of Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, Rumi, Ramana Maharshi, Ramakrishna, Adyashanti, Eckhart Tolle, and countless others. This is what it means to Awaken.
Although many have had this awakening to Reality, most have not felt called to “go public” with it or call any attention to it, let alone teach. There may be unknown thousands of individuals who have experienced The Truth, Self-Realization, Full Awakening or enlightenment, and just gone on with the rest of their lives, perhaps in such a humble way that we never noticed any difference about them. From the perspective of hundreds of billions of ‘separate’ humans that have lived on Earth, even if 100,000 had this awakening or enlightenment, that would still amount to only .000001% of all humans, giving rise to the belief that attaining enlightenment is really rare & hard. “Sentient beings are numberless: I vow to liberate them all,” said The Buddha. From the perspective of Spirit and the Absolute, there is no separate Earth or beings, there is only one thing, Awareness, which is already divine, perfect and fully Awake, so abiding in this Awakening is natural and effortless. It’s already what is.
Perhaps this is why, even though most of us spend most of our days fully identified with our separate bodies, minds and individual ‘egos,’ we also feel the pull towards waking up to the larger Reality, and to stop rushing & fretting through an often meaningless & suffering-filled existence. Even those not predisposed to spiritual seeking or philosophical inquiry have experienced both the fullness & richness of life, and the emptiness of life, the senselessness of aloneness & competition, the mystery of a life spent struggling to reach temporary goals, only to have them all dissolve in the ‘death’ that they, and all their family members, will experience. Some say, in this New Age, more individuals are awakening than ever before, some even spontaneously and without any prior spiritual inquiry or practices.
When we begin to sense this fundamental Reality, this Pure Self behind the curtain of an illusory universe, we may feel a strong calling to strip away the veil, surrender our false identity and abide again in our true nature as Pure Awareness. Naturally, with this awakening, we experience all of Creation through Awareness’ ‘eyes,’ instantly losing our sense of separate identity & mind, directly feeling the oneness of everything, that everything is made of the same ‘substance,’ and the bliss and absolute perfection of that One. That radical shift in perception from feeling like a separate being looking out into an overwhelming Universe, to feeling like the whole Universe exists inside you, not outside you, is one way to describe the experience of Awakening or Enlightenment.
Perhaps what’s most amazing is that it’s as close as our next breath. Everyone has had moments of awakeness, where everything settles and we feel a deep stillness & fullness inside, and an innate “rightness” about everything in the world. Where we just know. Indeed, we can have many moments like this every day. They usually flit by so quickly that we didn’t realize then, or remember later, that we were fully awake to the Truth for a moment. To awaken simply means to become consciously aware & present in those moments, knowing that peace & perfection of everything and the natural feeling of great bliss, love and gratitude for everything that comes with it – and having a permanent shift in our perspective where that moment of Oneness, peace & perfection becomes our core experience, all the time.
This may also stimulate some provocative questions:
– If our seemingly-separate human lives are an illusion, and being awake in Reality and Pure Awareness is our “natural” state, how come it seems so few live from that Reality, or that it’s so hard to attain it?
– If Pure Still Awareness is the only True Reality, why did It ever bother manifesting itself into a plethora of illusory objects, beings & identities that now have to (seemingly) work hard to give up their false identities, just to re-merge with the One?
– If I’m intrigued to experience this ultimate Truth and to awaken myself, what can I do? What lifestyles, attitudes or practices can I adopt, to help me Awaken? How do I Awaken?
– Some sages have said that there’s really nothing we can do to catalyze our own Awakening, that no practices or effort on my own will guarantee getting there. Is this true?
– If I don’t care to awaken and stop identifying with my ego-mind – whether out of fear, clinging or simply because I’m not interested, not convinced that’s the real purpose of my human life – is it OK to just live out a regular, non-awakened life, striving, as all “normal people” do, for as many good times and as few bad times as I can accumulate?
toawaken.org is a journal for all who have awakened, and all who feel pulled toward awakening to the Truth and the Infinite. Along with many other contributors (see our links,) we examine these questions – what is spiritual awakening, who is Awakened, why awaken, how to best facilitate our own awakening, what pitfalls present themselves along the path, etc. – and more, with plenty of space for personal offerings & open discussion (our Forum) from all on this inexorable road to awakening.
Why inexorable? Because everyone eventually awakens, whether they “want it” or not. If you haven’t let go of your identification with your mind & ego before your “death,” you certainly will at death. All of us experience a reset of our personal minds & identities, and re-experience our smaller selves as the True Self when we leave this earthly life. Those who have awakened while still living on Earth point to the possibility of experiencing ourselves as the Pure Self consciously, while we’re still alive, and letting that Self take over now. Actually, It’s already the only thing in “control” all our lives. It is our lives! The belief that our little selves were ever in control is an illusion. There is nothing superior about choosing to be on the awakening path, versus just living an ordinary life, because we don’t choose it, Awareness does. Awareness is also choosing & living all “ordinary” lives as well, for Its delight and discovery, which the human mind cannot comprehend. And, it can be wonderful to live constantly, consciously Aware in every moment, that there actually is no little self, and that the Real Self has always been expressing its mystery though us. That experience, fully felt & realized every moment (not conceptualized,) is what it means to be awakened.
If you’ve read this far, and you are starting to get an inner understanding of how all these seemingly separate worlds and beings could actually be just a temporary, illusory projection of the One, and feel a strong calling to find the core Truth and Reality of life, you are in the right place and on the right path to awaken.
They say the person who dies (“ego-death”) before he or she dies, doesn’t die when they die. True, or not? Add that to the list of questions, and let’s go explore!