WELCOME. Our guest this week is not a guest at all. It’s me. I’m carrying out my threat from last week and publishing a post of my own, for the first time in four months. We’ll zigzag back and forth between guest teachers and myself until we don’t. I’m planning to write something every other week, but after having spent many hours on this week’s post, it might not be quite so regular! We’ll see. I’m working on a book, and I earn my living online, so I move from keyboard chore to keyboard chore without ever leaving my chair. I’ve come to see that my chairness is slowly killing me, so I’ve taken up lifting weights and walking again. I hope the walking will turn into the joy of running, but for now I’m content with some ordinary ambulation. Still, I love what I do here; I just love it a little too much! While it’s a nice change to be back writing on the main board, I’ve really loved editing the Guest Teachings Series, and it’s “grown me,” so to speak. I’ll put that hat back on next week, andSuzanne Foxton will be with us, so don’t bail out just because you see a post from me!
YOU ARE INVITED to write in with questions that you want to see answered here. If I feel qualified, I’ll answer them. If I don’t, I won’t. *[Please see the note at the bottom of this post.] The idea here is to actually tell the truth, which is a more radical notion than it may sound. The truth never changes, but my view of it sure does, so I’m bound to contradict myself if you hang around long enough. In that same vein, the absolute and relative levels are completely notinterchangeable, so if I’m answering a question on one level, there’s no way it won’t conflict with the same question answered on the other, and contradictions are the rule, not the exception. So be it. I’m surrendered to all of that noise and confusion, so there’s no point in your suffering over it either. Let’s both relax, not put each other on trial, and simply go easy. There’s a good Nondual pointer for you: go easy. In regard to your questions, let me say that while I can’t be as specific-to-your-case here as I would be in a personal email, I can certainly go into your query in far more detail here than I can in individual notes. And until we get to finer points and sharper questions, I think specificity is unnecessary. Practical questions are always best; esoterica is mostly mind-chatter and I tend to go numb and quiet.
THIS WEEK’S COLUMN answers a question I get fairly regularly. It radiates confusion. These emails usually start out something like, “I’m awake, but…” Most of the time I don’t need to read the rest of the letter (though I always do), because I already know just where that seeker is sitting. I sat there myself, off and on, for years. I asked others the very same question myself. I get it! seekers really want to ask is the question the title of this post asks, they just don’t want to be thought of as “unawake” while they’re doing so. I didn’t either. If it makes you feel any better at all, everybody reading this sentence is WIDE awake. Already! Promise. Or we could say that no one who’s reading it is awake, which would be equally true. Go figure. Go easy.
SO, ALTHOUGH I’ve individually answered this question for the folks who wrote in, let me answer it for the many more of you who bear the same confusion, but haven’t written. Let me again suggest that you climb down out of the spectator stands and get involved. It really helps. I hope this does, too.
AND NOW . . .
PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS PAST WAS REWRITTEN FOR USE ON ADVAITA VISION, SO THERE MAY BE AN AWKWARD PLACE OR TWO. THE REWRITE DID IMPROVE THE ARTICLE, THOUGH, SO I’VE REPLACED THE ORIGINAL WITH WHAT YOU’LL FIND HERE.
So, Am I Awake Yet, or What?
“IF YOU’RE CONCERNED about whether you’re awake or not, then you’re not–at least not right now.” Such a question simply would not occur to conscious awakeness. Since we’ve already said that everyone is equally awake, then all we are ever talking about is if we are or are not consciously awake, knowingly awake. If we can get clear on this we can see that there’s no room left for higher or lower, better or worse. more spiritual or less. All of those things spring from positions, which conscious awareness simply doesn’t have. The apparently separate being it’s working through will certainly have positions–that’s what a separate being is–but not the awakeness behind it.
LEST WE NOW JUMP over to the other side and pull a quick and oh-so-typical Spiritual 180 (as I call them), let’s listen to a wise friend of mine. A couple of weeks ago, when I shared the fact that I thought I was going to write this article, he immediately shot me the following terrific advice:
[In referring to this article…] “It’s a good idea but there is one important caveat that needs to be included. One should watch out for that desire going underground and manifesting as a certainty and confidence that I am awake. “Before, I was in doubt. Fred said that this doubt is a sign that I am not awake. Therefore I have seen through this, and no longer have the question.”
DO YOU SEE how tricky all of this is? It’s unbelievable. You can hardly dance for stepping on your own feet! Unless you entered this teaching with an extraordinarily light load of karma–which I most assuredly did not–there’s almost no way to weave through the apparent awakening process without making lots of foolish mistakes. I have been an absolute unholy fool in all of this for 30 years running. The under-appreciated Bonehead Way has clearly been my path, and often still is. It’s ugly, but it does seem to work. I’m willing to be wrong, and to be seen to be wrong–even here, publicly–andto be corrected by higher authorities (ouch!) if it means I get to see my errors of thought and action, and thereby be given the chance to see through them. I will lead with my chin if it’s the only thing I have to lead with. Most of the time it is.
PART OF WHAT I’m saying here is that it pays to want this thing a lot. Casual seekers beware. Or not. Anything can happen; I don’t know anything about sureness. So I’m not saying that passion is required, but I am saying that it sure as hell helps. It also means you’re going to get ahead of yourself from time to time. I have the scars to prove it, and so do those closest to me.
I’VE MADE embarrassing proclamations; made ugly errors in deed and word; I’ve too often unwittingly tortured those around me. In short, I’ve repeatedly made an ass out of myself, as in. “Hi, Bill. have you noticed that I’m basically the new, improved Ramana Maharshi? No? Well, it probably doesn’t show up for someone like you just yet. Others see it, I mean at least probably they do. They should. At the very least, I see it! Once you get a little clearer–if you ever do–you’ll easily be able to spot it, too! In the meantime, hang on my every word, okay?” I’ve made this example far-fetched in order to make my point humorously, but sadly enough, it’s not as far-fetched as I’d like it to be. Just because I don’t stink as bad as the next guy doesn’t mean I don’t stink.
ANOTHER RESPONSE that arises to meet our question doesn’t attempt to answer the question at all, but rather raises another question, or series of questions: “Who’s this you who’s claiming to be awake? Who is this you that can’t seem to stay awake? Who woke up to begin with?”Gotcha.
I SAY THAT BECAUSE, when we have an authentic seeing, or more accurately, when authentic being arises openly, the one common factor, regardless of background, is that the one who appears to be experiencing this dramatic unveiling is now known to be utterly nonexistent, at least in terms of autonomy. From the standpoint of the mind, it’s a real head shaker. You just can’t figure it out, and you can’t keep from trying. However, from the absolute view, there’s nothing to figure out. It’s just the way things are. From the point of initial seeing on, the seeking game changes. We’re no longer trying to move ahead into clarity. We’re done with all that nonsense, for goodness sake. Now, by God, we’re trying to move back into clarity! This seeking is even more fruitless and deadlier than what we were doing before, because we usually have more openness and humility before such an event than we do afterwards! We didn’t know what we didn’t know. Now we think we do. It’s pretty stagnating. So how does all of this happen?
MORE OFTEN THAN NOT, this freshly exposed, non-existent self quickly appropriates this new information, adds it to its wealth of treasures that are designed to keep it special and separate, and then plows right on, as deluded as ever, even though it knows better. So far as I know, there’s no chance of actually unseeing what’s been seen. There’s no unringing that bell. Yet side-by-side with that knowing there can and usually does exist denial of, and resistance to that very same knowing. To know That is to lose me, which is a damn tough call until it’s not. Thus we have the paradox from hell that runs until it doesn’t. As close to the truth as words will allow is to say that the hoax itself perpetuates the hoax. Sometimes this hoaxness even goes on to teach other people that they can be autonomous non-existent beings too! Who said spirituality was pretty?
LET’S TALK ABOUT language for a moment. When I ask, “Who’s this you?” and all that sort of thing, I’m not advocating staying away from personal pronouns; that’s tiresome and patently ridiculous. We can and do still use language provisionally. I love language, hence the writerness. We can actually use words just the same as we did prior to coming to Nonduality, prior to some experience of seeing-being, but with the tacit understanding that these words are now inherently untrue. What I’m saying is that due to the nature and context of the question that was given me (“Am I awake or not?”),in that specific case I have sensed an underlying cloudiness in the questioner. It just shows. The reason I can see it is not because I’m some sort of Cool Nondual. I can see it because I’ve ignorantly bloodied my nose in exactly that same way against exactly the same mirror–over and over again. For years.
LET ME GO ON to suggest that if we find ourselves “tip-toeing through the language fields,” that is, afraid to say, “I need an aspirin,” or “I need to go to the bathroom,” then we might want to check ourselves and make sure that this careful tip-toeing is not a cover-up for our own unsureness, or else a move to impress everyone with the implied proclamation, which is, “Look at me! I am enlightened! There’s NO ONE here, I say!” I know all about this. I’m guilty of having performed entire ballets of such figurative tip-toeing. So what? It’s common and it’s okay; it’s all part of the charade and there’s no shame in it. Yet the death of spiritual progress lies in believing these positions and remaining caught in them. It’s easier than you want to think. I’m lucky to have someone who’ll shove me out of them before I even know I’m in them. I guarantee you he’ll find parts of this very article to clobber me with. It’s great! Believing our own positions, including the sweet lie that we have no positions, happens most often when we are going it alone, as I did for a long, long time. I didn’t want help from anyone who might tell me I wasn’t already awake! Which means I was caught in an endless loop. I was going to my own ego for outside advice. And then taking it! Oops.
ANY DECENT TEACHER–and there are a lot of them out there–will easily point out our error, and help us remedy it by showing us the flaws in our thinking and then sending us back to the way of experiencing. They help us climb down out of our heads and plant our feet back onto terra firma. I’m confident we can even catch this thing on our own if we’re both willing and capable of being absolutely honest with ourselves. That’s no easy trick. I couldn’t do it, but if you can, my hat is off and I wish you well.
LET’S LOOK AT another common angle of confusion. All of these angles are related, by the way, because following an apparent experience of truth there’s just one mistake left to be made:incorrect identification. This core error comes in lots of gradations, from subtle to profound. I will publicly confess that I still harbor some of this misidentification, but I know people who don’t. Heck, I went for years without even knowing anyone who was so clear; I’m making great progress! When I say “some” identification, that’s not entirely accurate, because as is the case with so much of this, identification is an all or nothing game. So what I’m saying is that sometimes Fredness is 100% here, and sometimes Fredness is 100% not here. But there’s never any 50/50 proposition, unless Fredness is 100% here, but is lying to itself and declaring that it’s not. Dance step. Foot mash.
TO GIVE A CLEARER, more general pointing, let’s stick with talking about profound misidentification; there are sharper lines to be seen. Say we have what appears to be a real seeing “event”. We know in our hearts it’s authentic. If it’s real, there’s never any doubt at the time. Suddenly we are grokking things that we’ve never understood before. Books that were thick muck are now joyful reading, all that sort of thing. Mysterious things our teachers have told are now understood. I’ve often laughed when such a thing bubbles up from long ago, and I see, “Damn, he/she was sharing obvious truth way back then.” We have really and truly “seen the monkey” as I sometimes put it. We get it. Everything is swell. Until it’s not. The apparent seeing event may last a few seconds or a few days, but however long it lasts, at some point we begin to notice that it’s wearing thin. Rather than living via experiencing, we’re back caught in thought. We’re now referencing our former experiencing through memory. We’re back to living in interpretation instead of reality.
(By the way, it’s common for doubts about an awakening-type experience to arise later. Did that really happen? Maybe they’re right, and I am crazy? We sometimes deny the truth as surely as Jesus’ disciples did in the Garden of Gethsemane. Oh well, we’re only human. Aren’t we?)
OUR BLISSFUL EVENT, like any event, passes, leaving us stranded as ordinary people in an ordinary world. What a drag! We liked the specialness better! If this has happened to you–as it did me–then I would say go take another look at my first two responses, because we’re essentially left with asking the same question. Conscious awareness is perfectly content with the extraordinary ordinary. Every story is seen to be equally unique and equally empty. In my opinion, which is not particularly humble, any seeing that runs contrary to this is not coming from awakeness. That doesn’t mean we adopt the absolute view as some philosophical view. The absolute view doesn’t work as a philosophical view. It’ll just make you cold as hell and stupid as a stone. We don’t want to tell a friend who’s mate just died that it’s all hunky-dory, because their loved one was never with us in the first place. That’s not wisdom, that’s cruelty. Following an apparent seeing event, the attempted transference of absolute-level views to the relative, or relative-level views to the absolute, is the cause of most of our confusion. And pain. They just don’t mix. That’s why they call all of this a paradox.
WHETHER WE’RE AWAKE OR NOT is really not all that confusing. The truth is, when we’re not functioning from awakeness we simply don’t want to see that we’re not. That’s what happens with me, even now. I never fluctuate mentally any more. I know who I am 100% of the time–including when I’m not acting from it. There is no mental oscillation, and thus there is no longer any classic seeking. But I don’t know who I am 100% of the time in regard to how I feel, on the deepest gut level. As a result, there is still subtle seeking. There, I’ve said it. Shoot me. There is still some false sense of containership here, “within which” it feels like consciousness is functioning. Sometimes.Many of my more recognizable negative behavior patterns are at last falling into line with my understanding. But among other things, I still reach for a book, click on Google News, do a chore “ahead of time”, or even come here and work on the site to break mundane boredom and keep the mind rolling…toward a future that simply doesn’t exist. That boredom notion will tell the tale. There is no mundane boredom in conscious awareness, because there is no mundane to be found.
I CAN OPERATE with clarity and kindness. Or I can operate in denial and resistance which are just two more names for unconsciousness. But through it all, I will continue to share what I have from exactly where I am. I carry that “what I have,” for good or ill, into the world when I go grocery shopping. I shout it daily in how I treat my wife and pets. And of course I bring it back here, to this incredible mirror known as Awakening Clarity, where I am honor bound to tell the truth as I know it–to both of us. What a wonderful warm bath this can be. It can also be a cold shower, when truth and my perception are seen to be different. It happens.
THIS SITE HAS changed me. It has opened up my world like a giant oyster knife. I know people all over the world, seekers and teachers both, that I didn’t know six months or a year ago, and I know myself better as well. And yes, I am clearer than I was; much clearer. There are posts on this site that I would never write today. They stand. They’ll meet someone right where they are, even if it’s only to shine a light on the price of arrogance, erroneous notions, or teaching too early out of the gate. There’s a lot of good stuff here as well. The Fredness-that-I-am-not is nonetheless proud of some of it, delusional as that may appear to be. One way or the other, it all stands, every bit of it.
I’M WILLING TO BE WHO I AM, which includes accepting who I have been at every step in this amazing life, whether on a seemingly pious spiritual path or a decidedly wicked one. Only from this place of honesty, candor and surrender is Who I Really Am likely to come out of hiding and consciously, knowingly, stay out of hiding. I hope you’ll join me as I witness and record the journey. It’s sort of like what happens in this chair. I go from this to that, and that to the other, but I never really go anywhere at all. Namaste.
Housekeeping Notes: Don’t forget that the site’s automated email no longer works, so if you want to keep up with us, follow via RSS. I do that, and it works just fine.
Starting a little later this week we’ll start running portions of Scott Kiloby’s Reflections of the One Life on Awakening Clarity. That’s his daily meditation book that is one of my favorite books of all time. I’ll be posting a week’s worth of reflections at a time; probably on Sundays. It’s an incredibly generous thing for Scott to do. It’s this kind of selfless action, which I have seen from him over and over again, that makes him one of my Very Favorite Humans. (You should still buy the book!)
*This post was written prior to my taking Awakening Clarity bi-weekly with GTS-only posting. You are still invited to write, but the question should be well defined. My answers will likely be brief, but as helpful as I can make them.–Fred