Much of what we call ‘waking up’ or ‘enlightenment’ is really just about our finally becoming comfortable with living paradox, which is to say living as paradox.
Our usual modality is to live through the screen of the mind with its beliefs, judgments and preconceptions. Awakening isn’t really a choice so much as it is a conscious recognition of that which is happening regardless. What is it that is finally real? Who is this one to whom we attribute all of these thoughts, experiences and memories?
These are answers you will not find in any book.
When you awaken to the truth of who you are, you aren’t in a state of knowing or unknowing, rather you are in a state of authenticity. This becomes self-evident, because no further question emerges. Even calling it a state does not adequately pull together the breadth of awareness that transcends all states.
It isn’t something new that you come across. It is always immediately available as the closest truth of who you are. It can’t be an object of knowledge. There isn’t a separate someone to figure it out, and there really isn’t anything to figure out.
Our various traditions have played a part in advertising awakening as some kind of permanent removal from the challenges of earthly existence, in which we are removed to some distant heaven or nirvana in a perfected state. The trouble with this view is that our freedom is very intimately linked with our authentic engagement with this moment, wherever it is that we happen to find ourselves. In one sense, our ground of being is so ordinary we do not see it and we therefore completely take it for granted.
We have also inherited a notion of someone who as awakened to their true nature as being someone who has ‘arrived’ on a spiritual level, which is really another extension of the dream state.
These people can easily become attributed with all kinds of projected virtues and assumptions. This invariably leads to much confusion and disillusionment.
It is intoxicating to the ego to imagine that people have crossed over the threshold in this way, and the allure that we too could also achieve this, on the implicit condition that we follow instructions carefully and repeat the program step by step. In other words, if we act and behave just right, we will get it. Can you think of any other field of human life this condition has been promoted?
This is a remarkably dangerous misunderstanding. Everyone has seen the effects of this in our world. We worship those we think have made it, and this attitude filters down into every facet of life until our entire worldview and life structure is dictated by the insatiable need to arrive. The big ways are easier to see, but what about the small ways in which we give away our freedom?
For example, allowing others to decide when we are happy or upset, or placing our sense of worth in the eyes of others – as though we even knew what they were seeing!
This is all a very elaborate, coherent, and above all convincing illusion, and it is one we have all bought into at some point. Some of us continue to pay the subscription to this worldview, while others among us have grown to see it as flimsy and untenable, but are not really quite sure what could replace it as a foundation.
This brings us to awakening to yourself as awareness, which is simply the withdrawal of identity from the pervasive illusions of the mind-ego, and quite literally, coming to your senses.
This withdrawal from illusion is actually easy in principle. You simply stop investing your energy in what you recognise to be illusory. The mechanism is quite simple, only it requires a lot of honesty which is usually leveraged upon the total dissatisfaction with the consensus of illusory beliefs which form the status quo. The difficulty comes from the tendency to withdraw from illusion being quite painful, at least initially. It can very often lead to pain in the same way that recovering from a foolish investment can be painful, because often there is a great degree of investment by way of time, money and resources.
When there is only who you truly are, then what will end is the mind’s fascination with the mythologised ‘other’ which is always frustratingly just out of your reach. Your hunger for spiritual attainment will naturally retire, and you will accommodate no opinion of yourself – yours nor anyone elses, because you will know that in the final analysis, none of this touches who you truly are.
This is not a theory, but an experiential transition. Be forewarned – you will not gain anything. In fact, you will lose your fictional world, and you will know your place humbly amongst your brothers and sisters. The only part of you that desires reconnection with what is real is the only part of you that is real.
We are so hungry for the imagined reality of this success that we will often bargain away nearly anything in the transaction, including our honesty, our integrity, our happiness and well-being.
People are often quite prepared to allow themselves to be brainwashed by whoever they have delegated authority to on the condition that they will be allowed to partake in their share of glory.
The discovery of who you are is the termination of the primary identity pursuit, and the ending of the persistent denial of one’s own inherent freedom and worth. Awakening is the end of existential insanity.
Fortunately, you never need to worry about trying to figure out who you truly are. All you need to do is to stop energizing every thought and movement away from your natural state, and witness that which is right in front of you. Your arrival at the beginning is simultaneously to comprehend the nature of the end. This unspeakable depth of experience is what is hinted at in the symbol of the ouroboros, the serpent eternally swallowing his own tail.
It is one thing to believe that there is neither beginning nor ending, but another thing entirely to bring forth that truth within your experience. This is the sacred invitation to living paradox. You must eventually come to arrive at the point that you always were. How could you do otherwise? What else is there worth doing? All that it requires is the complete willingness to forfeit every idea of who and what you are – just for one moment.
Simon P Murphy is a Nelson-based esotericist and philosopher, and author of His Master’s Wretched Organ, a brilliant collection of weird fiction stories.
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