Please recognize that the language in the following article makes no attempt to be “nondually correct,” which in a discussion like this one (or most others, for that matter) is far too cumbersome. I’m talking just as if we were ordinary folks like we are instead of the nondual giants we may think we are. Ordinary is good.
I have mentioned before that this teaching has two levels. There is the teaching about our experience and there is the teaching about the truth. Yet in a strange sort of way, you could say that it has endless views, as we not only have two levels of the teaching, but we have four general levels of awakening. The degrees of understanding–or misunderstanding are nearly infinite.
In a general sort of way I can say that there are four stages of awakening that I’m thus far familiar with:
1- Personal Witness
2- Vastness (who we are not)
3- Oneness (who we are)
4- Impersonal Witnessing (That Which Is Prior to Manifestation)
1- THE “PERSONAL” WITNESS
The movement from our ordinary experience of the world to the “personal” witness state is actually the final movement within duality. In this state we can see or sense that we are not the body, but there is still the sense of a “tethering” or close relationship with it. The witness seems to be located in time and space. This first witness state is not difficult to experience if you have the right tool. This video is the right tool. Standing As Awareness
Watch it, do what it says, and you can move into the witness state–or well beyond it–in half an hour. Remember what you did and duplicate it and you can then “access” this level of witnessing anytime you want. You’ll find it to be very helpful. The Living Method of Spiritual Awakening is a powerful teaching that really, really works and works fast, but you have to do the exercises, not just read about them–as I used to do!
Certainly not everyone goes through the personal, or identified, state of witnessing but a whole lot do. I did. Being able to access the personal witness and doing The Sense of Being in Meditation were the two things that kept me sane for the last year or two just prior to my awakening. (Here’s a second, longer version of the same meditation. (Falling Into the Sense of Being)
Spending some time in this stage of witnessing is valuable, because we are finally putting our attention on the truth and thus moving very much in the right direction.
2- THE VASTNESS
This is the first experience of true nonduality for most people. Initially an awakening may be broader, and deeper, but more often than not that breadth and depth will contract until what can be brightly remembered is that there was “No me there!”, which is exactly what the rebuilding me usually says. What can be remembered is less than a shadow of the actual experience, yet even that footprint remains, cannot be “unseen,” and may be thoroughly transformative.
At this stage we have realized what we are not, but not yet what we are. From here we tend to be dismissive of relativity and our human experience. This can be a cold place. And stupid and insensitive. Some call it the Desert of Awakening. From what I’ve seen and read, it’s my assessment that somewhere in the expanse of this experience is where most people practicing nonduality actually end up.
What is great at first can become ugly and depressing, and this is where a lot of people bail, assuming that IT will let them. This is also where some nondual teachers end up, and then we have the poorly sighted leading the blind. Right off a cliff.
Claiming this point as the end is like running the first 50 meters of a 100 meter race and then declaring yourself the winner. It’s a great place to pass through, but it’s also a dangerously comfortable place to be, meaning it can be a hard place to get out of, even with help. No matter the skill of the guide, there has to be a willingness to once again tell ourselves the truth, which requires more humility than some of us will be able to muster. I’m not saying this in a judgmental fashion, I’m simply reporting on trends.
Regardless of its tricky nature, this movement is the single most important move on our whole spiritual path. It is from here, provided we don’t get lost in congratulating ourselves, that deep spirituality really begins. I don’t say that to insult anyone on the path who hasn’t woken up yet, but so long as we are living from a perceived “center of the universe” we simply don’t have a clue about the True Nature of reality.
This is where we truly begin to apprehend that there is just One Thing Going On and we are IT–but that IT also includes relativity! We first lived as a relative being–plain old Fred Davis in my case. We then make the jump to Vastness and then we live as Vastness-Only for a while. Then we discover that we are in fact Oneness, which includes both of those views–held at the same time! That’s the true nondual view.
The Vastness-Only state is not really nonduality, it’s Absolutism, although it is sometimes taught as nonduality. Living as Oneness, even from a cloudy place, is the beginning of the liberation. As we stabilize in abidance and find ourselves being colonized by Awakeness–known as embodiment–we have a greater, deeper experience of freedom.
In Hinduism, which has words for everything spiritual that anyone anywhere has so much as thought of, this is known as turiya–that which is outside of the cycle of sleep, deep dreamless sleep, and conventional, day-to-day awakeness. It’s not an “Eastern” experience or a “Western” experience. In this teaching I use language, pointers, and anything else from any source so long as they work in bringing us greater clarity here and now.
4- THAT WHICH IS PRIOR TO MANIFESTATION
This “position” is not an experience. It’s what comes before the knowledge that “we are” before the “I Am” state where the sense of being is conscious of itself. This is the realm of pure potentiality. We can know of it from the I Am state, but That does not yet know itself, nor does it have any experience.
This is the second, transcendental level of witnessing and there is nothing personal about it. The Sanskrit term for this is turyatita, or simply that which is prior to or outside of turiya. I apologize for the foreign terminology, but so far as I know, the Indians have an exclusive on this term and a whole lot of others. That’s probably why they call Sanskrit the “Language of God.”
I know a bit of precious Sanskrit, and I use even less than I know, because I find that too often these technical terms divide us more than they bring us together. It’s yet another opportunity for Fredness to feel deficient! I will brag and say that I do have a couple of Sanskrit dictionaries, but I’m not versed enough to use the one that I hear is pretty good, and I can never find anything in the other, which is altogether worthless. Oh well.
If we hold to a position of radical nonduality, then we can see that all of these states and stages are really descriptions of the dream. Why? It feels like we are talking about Truth, does it not? But what we are really talking about is Oneness’ range of experiences of Itself–hence the dream. There is, of course, only One Thing Going On and it’s already both awake and clear. But IT, functioning through “we the dream characters” is confronted with both conditions and circumstances. Those two acting on each other is what we call the dream.
In the conclusion of this article–coming soon!–we’ll take a look at the nature of the dream and the ramifications of that for Fredness and you-ness. This crossroad between dream and Truth is important to understand because it’s where all of our human experience is taking place. By becoming oriented to the dream, we become better oriented to Awakeness. Everything’s always backwards, is it not?
LINK TO THE (complete) PODCAST
(Also available via iTunes and your Podbean app. (Search for Awakening Clarity Now, Fred Davis or Nonduality)