What Is “Spiritual Awakening”?

What is Spiritual Awakening?

Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

 

“Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Ephesians 5:14)

Spiritual literature is saturated with the concept of “waking up.” When we start on a spiritual path, we soon become familiar with terms like “awakening,” “enlightenment,” being “born again,” “dying to the old [person],” “attaining bliss,” “reaching nirvana,” “experiencing nothingness,” etc. All of these concepts refer to the same thing: waking up from our human state of awareness into a spiritual state of awareness. But what is our human state of awareness? What is a spiritual state of awareness and how does one attain such a state?

A good first step in our inquiry is to simply ask, ”What does it mean to ‘wake up’?” The answer to this question is obvious because it’s something we do every morning. We wake up from hours of sleep. During our sleep period, we are seemingly unconscious and, in waking up, we leave behind that state and become conscious. “Spiritual awakening” refers to this exact experience on the spiritual level. It suggests that our human existence is one of spiritual unconsciousness and encourages us to “wake up’ to an existence of spiritual consciousness.

Let’s keep in mind that anything we discuss or refer to spiritually is only a pointer to reality. We can never truly comprehend the spiritual with our human mind so we are only able to point to what is spiritually real. This is why spiritual literature is full of stories, parables, koans, poems, and illustrations. As Lao Tzu says in the Tao Te Ching, “The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal name.” To understand the spiritual, we look at pointers and stories. Therefore, let’s examine one story of “falling asleep,” told in the Judeo-Christian Holy Bible.

In the book of Genesis, we read of the first humans, Adam and Eve, being placed in Eden, a garden of paradise. They are instructed by God to do anything they want, but they are forbidden to eat the fruit of one specific tree: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Everything else in the garden is available in fullness to Adam and Eve. Eventually, Eve eats the forbidden fruit and soon after, so does Adam who then has an encounter with God. God wants to know where Adam has been and what he has been doing. Adam tells God he was hiding because he was ashamed of being naked, prompting God to ask, “Who told you you were naked?” Adam admits they both ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and discovered their current, naked, and flawed condition. God is angry and becomes concerned that Adam and Eve will eventually eat from the tree of life which will allow them to live forever, so he tosses them out of the garden. He places an angel with a flaming sword at the garden entrance, so Adam and Eve (and presumably everyone else throughout time) will never have access to the garden again.

The story of the Fall of Man in Genesis is one filled with allegory, legend, and colorful symbolism. The very human-like God in the story has limited powers (he doesn’t know where Adam and Eve have been or what they have been doing) and has a volatile temper when his creation exercises the free will which he, himself, apparently gave them. It makes the story difficult to take at face value, yet there are still some significant spiritual pointers about “The Fall” (or the falling asleep) in this parable.

According to the Genisis story, man once lived in paradise, a state of constant presence and communication with God. Let’s make note that this very state must be the state of “Being Awake” we have been looking for. Awaking from the human condition must involve returning back to the awareness of being in God’s presence and of not being separated from God. What was the event that ripped man away from that state of paradise? Was it the disobeying of God or the eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil that caused the seeming rift? Remember, there could be no state of “disobey” or “obey” until the eating of the fruit of the tree, so it seems that it was this so-called knowledge that started the fall of humanity.

The knowledge of good and evil is significant because it represents the beginning of a belief in a state of duality. Good and evil. God and the Devil. Sickness and health. Me and you. Partaking of the forbidden fruit illustrates the formulation of the belief that there is a power or a state other than God. In other words, it was at that point man started living under the belief that God is limited. Notice how limited the God character seems to be after the so-called “knowledge” gained by Adam. God is no longer omniscient, omnipresent, or omnipotent. To Adam, God has become a limited, separate being from himself. This separation is illustrated even further by God tossing Adam and Eve out of the garden, out of his presence.

Now, let’s return to our current time and ponder the implication of this story. The state of paradise is a state prior to the knowledge of good and evil, correct? What is it that knows “good and evil?” Good and evil are known by our mind. Isn’t it in our mind where all concepts of good and evil are continually generated? We declare sickness bad. Babies are good. Tornadoes are bad. Cake is good. Foreigners are bad, soldiers are good and it goes on and on and on. Every time our mind labels something as “bad” or “good,” we put ourselves in the judgment seat of God while at the same time place limits on God. If we proclaim something as “bad,” we, at the same time, admit God has created something flawed. If we say something is “good” we are also saying God has created something unlike God’s bad creations. To live as a fallen (or unconscious) person means living a mind-based life as opposed to a spirit-based life. It is a flawed life limited by our own mind-based judgments. This is living an unconscious, or unawakened, life.

It’s interesting to note in the Genesis story, not once does it seem to occur to Adam that he could go back to the state of paradise by “unknowing” good and evil. In other words, he could give up the belief he has any knowledge of good or evil and he could cease living this mind-based life. In fact, that idea didn’t seem to come into existence until the appearance of Jesus in the New Testament who boldly claimed to be both parts of all duality, thus freeing man from Adam-consciousness. Jesus said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” In Christ, we find no duality. Similarly, the apostle, Paul, later said, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” How could Paul say this when a person only needed to look around to see Jews, Gentiles, free people, slaves, men, and women? Paul was, of course, not speaking of the appearance world where all of those varieties exist. He was not talking about the mind where all of those differences originate. By saying we are all one in Christ, Paul meant we are spiritually one. In the spiritual realm, there is no duality. There are not two, only one. That one is you. That one is me. The realization of that one is the “awakening” from a human mind-based life of multiplicity.

We are all born into this world of diverse appearances, but at our birth, we only know pure Being. We are like Adam and Eve in paradise, existing in constant spiritual presence and awareness. We know nothing of separation between ourselves, our mother’s breast, or sleep. Everything is one seamless, unbroken experience, free from labels and judgment. The journey of the spiritual life is a journey of returning to this pure state. It is The Prodigal Son returning home to an inheritance of wealth and title. Our spiritual Being has never been separate from us, yet we have spent a lifetime shrouding it from our awareness with a life experience of mind-made labels and judgments. That pure state of Being still exists within us as who we really are. To connect with it, we only have to make the choice Adam did not. To simply un-know. To give up our human judgments. To realize we are not now, nor have we ever been separated from our Spiritual Source and Being. This is the Gospel Jesus proclaimed. This is awakening.

Awakening is available to everyone regardless of religion, nonreligion, social status, gender, sexual preference, or nationality. Awakening is your birthright and not something you get as a religious reward or have to work hard to achieve. It is not about learning new techniques, information, or teachings. Awakening is about unlearning. Unlearning old mind conditions in order to experience the reality of who you are, not what your mind has told you that you are. Living unconsciously is living someone else’s life. Why live according to what others have told you is real, or with the abstract judgments your mind has convinced you are true? As the God in Genesis asked, “Who told you? Who told you these things you now believe? Who told you this is real?” What is real is this: you are Pure Being. Pure Spirit. Pure Life. How can you possibly be anything else? Realize this, awaken to who you are, and sleep no more!

Parental Guidance

The Christian Bible says you are a Child of God. This is wonderful, but if God is your Father, who, would you imagine, is your Mother? Any ideas? No one? Since children are made up of characteristics from both parents, we need to figure out who our Mother is, don’t we? Could it possibly be true that God is both your Father and your Mother? Wait, if this is true, you would inherit 100% of God’s characteristics from your Father’s side and 100% from your Mother’s side of the family and that would make you 100% a Spiritual Being, wouldn’t it? Huh. Imagine that…

Protection From The Storms

Birds on a Wire

Image by roshanjoshi from Pixabay

A few years ago I was watching a documentary about the December 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean. You may recall, there was a tremendous loss of human lives and property in that tsunami. To witness the destruction being captured ”live” on video, gave a sense of immediacy to the tragedy. I felt as if I, too, was there with many of the survivors, barricaded in an upper-floor house or hotel, hoping the sea of death and destruction wouldn’t swell any higher and sweep us away.

I was struck in particular by one scene of the video. Dark, muddy water flowed through the streets of a small village, taking everything in its path that wasn’t anchored to the ground. Houses crumbled, cars were tossed around like toy boats, and human beings, unlucky enough to not find higher ground, were hurled about in the debris-filled, ocean soup. A man and woman, thrashed about in the black water, hung on to a broken tree, and frantically searched for something more stable to cling to that would possibly rescue them from impending doom.

While the man and woman clung for their lives, I was soon aware of two birds that landed on a power line directly above the chaos. The juxtaposition of the two scenes hit me hard. The two birds, apparently deciding to take a break from their flight to relax, were oblivious to the heart-wrenching display of struggle and survival that was being played out directly below them. They surveyed the picture, determined there was no threat to them, and continued their peaceful pause. Meanwhile, human tragedy continued to take its toll beneath them.

I’ve never been able to shake the image of those two birds or to forget the idea that, in the midst of every human tragedy, there is an atmosphere of rest if we know where to search. Sometimes that rest is in the deepest of the ocean during a hurricane or it’s in the highest altitude during a tornado. And while those physical locations may provide for us some protection, there is also a spiritual dimension that ensures peace during any storm, tragedy, or catastrophe. We may not be as fortunate to be the birds on the wire, with physical distance from the calamity but we still have that spiritual location of peace and protection we carry within us wherever we go, even if it is in the heat of the battle or in the heart of the destruction. 

This spiritual center of peace within us is our true Being. Because it is who we are, we can never be removed from it. It is our secure foundation to hold to when we are being tossed about by life’s waves. When we become aware of this center of our Being on a regular basis, we begin to realize that it is never touched, moved, or injured in any way during any condition, even if our body is maimed or destroyed. We begin frequently to reside in the awareness of this spiritual location ”above the earth’s calamities,” similar to the two birds in the tsunami.  We anchor ourselves in this place of deep joy and peace, untouched by sickness, tragedy, or annihilation and, in doing so, we see manifested our true life of happiness, peace, and love.

Human Relationships

All human relationships will involve a certain degree of dysfunction until the realization comes that there is no relationship between human beings. There is only one being. With that realization, all dysfunction dissolves.

The Body As A Garden

Treat the body exactly as a garden in which you have been given charge. Give it the necessary time, attention, and care to receive optimum return, yet never attach a personal identity to it. You would never confuse the garden with yourself. Similarly, never confuse the body with yourself. If you notice you are over-feeding or under-watering the garden, make the necessary adjustments, then let the garden be the garden. It will do what gardens do as they grow, sometimes as expected, other times producing surprising results. At times, it seems like we can influence the health and development of the garden, but ultimately, so much of the garden’s process is beyond our control and understanding, even in the garden’s demise, as it changes form and dissolves back into the earth from where it was never actually separate. This is the good and necessary process of gardens and bodies.

Time To Develop

Just as coming out of a completely dark room into a brightly lit room takes a time period of adjustment before one can see clearly, so does moving from unconsciousness to consciousness. The reality is, there is no person, no transformation, no passing of time. But on the human level, there is often the appearance of the passing of time before we can fully experience the depth and nuances of the awakened state. This is the illusion of spiritual novice and spiritual master.

Please, Don’t Feed The Ego

Girl in Silence

Image by Jerzy Górecki from Pixabay

 

Do you sense that we are currently under the influence of tremendous ego energy?

It’s true. Election years are always one of the most gratifying times for the ego and, at this writing, the United States is in the middle of one. There are so many opportunities to believe “I am right and the other person is wrong.” But why stop there? “I am on the path of political truth and righteousness while so many others are unconscious, selfish, and evil! Why can’t everyone else wake up and vote properly?” Election years are the all-you-can-eat, free buffet for feeding the ego.

The year 2020 has become synonymous with catastrophe. With the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine leading the way, we’ve since seen fires, hurricanes, riots, racial unrest, deaths, asteroids, pestilence, plagues, and a pretty decent amount of mediocre music performances. It’s so tempting to believe we are personally under attack and that current conditions are putting our individual well-being at risk. The result, as we can see, is a global wave of anger, insecurity, anxiety, and depression.

During this time, it becomes a vital practice to pause and ground ourselves in the recognition that nothing can disturb the peace which is our true being. We are not that temporary existence under attack by a multitude of forces. Our mind will constantly attempt to tell us otherwise, but when we choose not to believe the warped fantasies of our own mind and to instead look to the reality of our experience, we will notice that our essence and our reality is still there, unmoved, unharmed. Even the greatest of calamities cannot move us from our true being. There within us is the spiritual light shining as bright as always.

When you notice the world becoming louder with its testimony of destruction, it is the perfect time to go within for the realization of real peace. That peace will never be found in the world, nor in your own mind but it is always there.

Look beyond all temporary states to your own permanent being and take refuge there.

Cedar

Cedar
rooted in
ground

wind-brushed,
branches dance

worms sheltered
beneath its bark

dying as she lives.

— Rick Baldwin, 2020

Life Through Limited Perspective

Spider

Image by Franck Barske from Pixabay

 

We have seven mammals living in our household. Each of us, it seems, has a penchant for continuous hair loss. It isn’t unusual at any given time to find areas of dog, cat, and human hair on the floor, forming temporary, interspecies carpeting.

This morning I watched a spider walking across the floor and attempting to maneuver through one particular hair jungle. Its spindly legs attracted and carried hair strands of similar leg size, causing the spider to pause every so often to shake loose the additional cargo before continuing its journey.

As I watched this little nature documentary happening live on my bathroom floor, I thought about what it would be like to live in the world of that little hiker spider. A world where one would walk across a hard, polished tile, while enormous ropes, in a multitude of sizes, shapes, and colors, clung to your legs. Not to mention, a world where you could, at any moment, be devoured by a ginormous, whiskered feline. Or inadvertently squished by shuffling slippers. It’s a completely different world than my world, yet the exact same world, isn’t it?

The only difference is in the perspective of the experiencer.

I often consider how the object I know of as “my body” appears to the bacteria and other live beings that also reside within it. What I consider my body, they also consider (so to speak) as their body. I experience my body as this large, moving shape I use as a vehicle for awareness. A host, which lives within this body, experiences it as a dark world of seeping moisture, chemicals, and nutrients. What I label as “my body,” a host might label (so to speak) as “my world.” It’s a completely different experience of the exact same object, depending upon perspective.

Even my own experience of my body ignores the reality that it is composed of many different, and seemingly separate cells, almost all of which began as things outside of my body and not things I would normally consider to be my body: food, water, air, impurities, viruses, germs, and an occasional craft beer. It’s a perfect example of how I think I know something so intimately familiar as my own body, when the reality is, I only know it from my own limited perspective.

We can get so attached to our own human, eye-level existence that we ignore the fact our own world is really an illusion. We see what we see and how we see it but we never know the reality of what we are actually experiencing. We don’t hear the variety of sounds in this world that a dog hears, nor can we see the multitudes of colors like a butterfly. Still, these “pieces” of reality exist within the world we occupy and we rarely consider it.

The error is when we believe we “know” anything as it is, or experience reality in its wholeness. Living a life of conditioned and habitual thinking has forced us to label and categorize our experience so we can comfortably believe we know the truth of our world. Actually, we only see distortions, half-truths, and illusions fabricated by our mind. A mind conditioned by our own upbringing, education, society, and opinions. In being satisfied with that mind-created reality, we never know the truth about anything.

To spiritually experience reality, it is necessary to go beyond our mental creations. We transcend our human existence of habitual thought and we experience the world with inner silence. We look at a flower without the mind telling us it is a “flower” or the color “yellow” or that it smells “sweet.” We experience the flower, and everything else, without mental labels, without descriptions and in deep silence and open awareness. It is in this atmosphere that the true nature of the reality of our experience is revealed.

Flash Meditation

Flash Meditation

Image by Shahariar Lenin from Pixabay

 

In the midst of the whirlwind of daily life, it is easy to forget that the essence of who you are is peace. That may seem laughable at times, but it is in those times especially, we should pause to discover and contact our true self, the calm beacon of light that silently never blinks in the middle of life’s storms.

Even when we are not aware of it, peace is present in the background of all of our experiences. It never goes away because it is who we are. All we need to do to experience it is to turn within in silence and be aware of our being. This is the true purpose of meditation. Meditation is not simply a technique for relaxation, but rather a connection to the presence you are. In meditation, you feel relaxed because you have connected with your peaceful nature, a nature that is beyond thoughts, beyond words, beyond the mind.

Our lives have become conditioned to being controlled by our minds. Most of us live with continual mental noise, a non-stop loop of mind stuff that distracts us from our true nature like clouds distract us from the clear blue sky. To live this way is really a form of madness. Fortunately, we have the power to slow this mental controlling down, if not bring a complete end to it.

Make it a regular practice in your life to pause at several moments during the day just to feel the presence and peace of your being. Don’t make it a mental practice. Pause, and actually feel this vibrating presence. These pauses do not have to last longer than one or two seconds. You can end it quickly before the mind even has a chance to get involved. To pause for ten seconds is wonderful! You can quickly make these flash meditations a habit. One second of peace before an important call. A brief moment of connection before you pick up the kids. A couple of seconds experiencing present peace before dinner. You will soon discover you are finding more and more opportunities to connect with the peace you are and these moments will become an increasingly sacred and transforming practice in your daily life.