What is Awakening?


20 Apr


I feel like there is 'Something Else' in the background to who I am...

For most of us, that Something Else is vague, difficult to pin down, but it is somehow sensed as a peaceful place. In a moment its there - then its gone. When we start thinking about it, it disappears. We tend to ignore it because its rarely felt and not really tangible. What is it?

We are taught that we should only believe what we can understand with our mind. For this reason the conclusion we arrive at is that only the undeniably real, is real. What we can touch and make sense of becomes the primary focus of our attention. And through giving them attention we make things seem concrete. We then believe in them, and they often churn over and over inside us. We enjoy re-living the exciting and pleasurable but we can't seem to help the repeated torment of remembering difficult, painful and traumatic life events. We think about what happened to us, what might happen, what someone did, or didn't do, what they might do in the future. On and on and on. We think about and feel what goes on in our body. We spend countless hours trying to work out what we need to do to dispel bad feelings, what we want, what will make us happy. Of course, this is perfectly natural, after all, one of the primary functions of the brain is thinking, but the vast majority of all our thinking is repetitive and unproductive. But we tend not to examine our thinking. We believe our mind. We even believe that what we think defines who we are. Our thinking is our reality. And this is why an intangible sense of Something Else is not explored. But when one does becomes curious about it - that is a sure sign we are drifting closer to the moment that will mark the beginning of our 'Awakening'.

Examining our feelings, thoughts and emotions, we know they are in our mind and body. And we know they originate in something. But how real are they? As an exercise, take any particular recurring thought or feeling and trace back to before it was in you. Who were you before that? Keep going back, before and before and before, asking who were you then? If you take a little time in silence to do this you will come to the realisation that there was Something Else there before, and it has remained unchanged whilst layer upon layer of knowledge and experience has been added. 

So where does the Something Else go when we cannot sense it? Nowhere - it is just covered up when our attention goes 'outward' to engage with the external world of our day-to-day lives, our thinking and feeling. This realisation is the the first key step. It is a huge discovery. It is the real beginning of Awakening, and through it we gain an invaluable tool that helps us cope with even the most difficult experiences in our mind and body. 

To find that Something Else, try putting your attention there. That is the start. Try a meditation technique of imagining gently submerging yourself in a warm calm ocean where there are no threats and nothing but pure clear water... just relax, feel totally at home in the water, no need to worry about anything, then let your body, your thinking mind and all sensations stay on the surface while you drift downward into the loving embrace of peace and silence. Allow yourself to be in the water so you are no longer distinctly separate from the water.

If you decide to try this, be gentle with yourself. Don’t force it. Don’t expect any kind of sudden revelation. Don’t expect anything in particular. Thoughts will come, but each time, try not to engage, let them drift away back up to the surface to join your body. It can be frustrating, especially in the early days. But with regular practice your ability to merge with the water will get easier and you will have a feeling of being at home that is not easily described in words. It is the 'Something Else' place. Stillness and peace are its characteristics.

Eventually, at some point, being in the place of Something Else becomes your natural state. Life goes on as before, thoughts and emotions come and go and bodily experiences continue, but all of it remains on the surface with no power to take you over. Even intense emotional distress and physical pain are no longer as all-consuming as before.

This is the state of consciousness that is known as Awakening.

John