So, you wake up. But it’s different this time. Instead of waking up from sleep, you seem to have woken up from the waking state–a state you have mistakenly called, “life.” And for the first time, it appears as a dream. This is not a concept you learned in philosophy class. You didn’t buy an idealistic belief system and hop on the cool-kids bandwagon. This is the real deal. It is actually happening. As you walk around the foggy street, your state of consciousness is infused with knowingness, and the smell of roses–something that was mildly pleasant before–pushes you to ask a question: “How have I been blind to this my whole life?” What is perhaps more confusing is the fact that your heart is screaming with joy. But you don’t know why. In fact, there is no reason for your joy. The mind, with all its thoughts, memories, images and ideas, has gone to sleep. And there you are, radiating in the middle of your neighborhood, seeing the world for the first time…again.
I will never forget the first time “I” woke up. After having a mystical experience that would change the course of my life forever, my consciousness seemed to have broken through a metaphorical wall in existence. When I stood up to look around the room I had been weeping in, I wanted to say, “God” but soon realized–within a few seconds–how pale in comparison that word was to the actual experience that took place.
I was afraid of ruining the taste of dinner with a word from the menu.
So instead, I went for a walk with my friend who was there to witness it all. And walk we did, straight to the nearest frozen yogurt restaurant. What better way to top off a vision of Brahman than with a mint-chocolate froyo? During this walk, my eyes were invited to see, whereas before, I was only looking. And what I saw shocked me.
The realization was simple: “This is not it.” This reality–with all its conceptual constructs–is not it. I–whoever “I” is–am it.
Fortunately, this came through more as an intuition than a thought. And thank goodness for that. Thought is like a troubled merry-go-round that consistently questions itself. This was more like a revelation from my “higher self,” as I used to call it. And it didn’t go round; it went through.
If there was a so-called “other” side of reality, I was there–laughing, expressing my gratitude, and dancing to the music of my heart. The Joie de vivre in my system was so overwhelming, in fact, that I gave the cashier at the “froyo” restaurant $20 for absolutely nothing. And instead of regretting it, I relished in the glory of it all. It was love–pure, unalloyed, unconditioned, infinite and wise. Love, as it is meant to be.
At the end of the day, love is really what it’s all about. And that is what a spiritual awakening shows you, more than anything else. Everything else that comes with it–such as miracles, yoga, reiki, poetry, creativity, art, tantra, rapture, lucid dreaming, and psychic phenomena–is secondary.
As Adyashanti says, “Love is, period.” Fortunately, this love doesn’t come with conditions. If it did, it wouldn’t really be love. It would be an image of love, or a construct the human mind has come up with of what love could be. But no image can touch the source, for it is immeasurable.
Love is understanding itself. But the finite cannot know the infinite, or, in other words, the mind cannot know its maker. The infinite can only come to the knowledge of itself by means of itself. That is true oneness, true wisdom.
From love comes a thousand other things. But it is not a thing, and it does not depend on anything but itself for nourishment. It is independent of all things but cares for all things. And it brings comfort and solace to all because it is the nature of love to do so, not because it needs anything. And no desire, however pleasurable, can match its frequency. For it is the desire of all desires to return back into it. Every human desire is for the glory of love, in its unconditioned state. But we don’t think so. That is why we have regrets, that is why we suffer, that is why we search.
So, you could say that a spiritual awakening is the moment you realize that love is at the bottom of all this. And you are love. You, as love, have been pretending this whole time to be a “poor little me.”
This play of “me” that has dragged you up and down for so many years is the dream of consciousness, a complete and utter illusion.
The content of this illusion is mind. From mind you created the idea of a person in a world made of matter. And that was the moment you limited yourself. That was the moment you forgot that consciousness is primary; that awareness is ever-present; that love is all-abiding.
Waking up from this illusion is an extremely potent and shaky process: the body begins to change, friends leave, and existential questions come crashing in. Reality wouldn’t have it any other way. Because you see, it just wouldn’t be the same if you read a book on eastern philosophy and suddenly decided that the world is an illusion. That would just be another belief–or concept–for the ego to cling onto. It has to shake you to the core. That is why, when it happens, there is a sense of it being undeniable. As they say in Zen: “When enlightenment occurs, your whole Being dances.”
What tends to inevitably arise from a spiritual awakening is extremely unique, depending on the karmic predicament of the person. And the manner in which it takes place is also extremely unique, depending on the way consciousness wants to wake up from its dream of being a separate entity. But one thing is undeniable: when it happens, it is a surprise. I wrote a poem in honor of this element in spiritual awakening:
If you are a character in a dream, you don’t think about waking up.
The possibility of you being God seems outrageous, too.
In fact, it is the last thing on your mind.
How insane it is to think that this life, with all its
suffering and scars, can meet you in a midnight
hour with a surprise so devastating that you
end up heaving with astonishment, cracked open,
on your kitchen counter, in front of a friend,
celebrating the last thing on your mind.