Awakening sounds like a solitary event, the yearned for goal at the finish line.
Buddhist teachings perpetuate this idea.
Other spiritual writers have perpetuated this idea.
I have previously perpetuated this idea through this blog.
Am here to correct this notion.
It seems rather that awakening may go on and on, awakening as a process of indefinite learning, development and evolution .
Where to start?
Oh, right… the only place to ever start authentically…with lived experience.
After 7 years of life in the wide awake awareness, “I” died to another version of a false self… again.
Like the first false self, this false self was a thought creation.
Like the first awakening, this event released amazing energy into the body and a deep and vast sense of freedom into mind.
Like the first time, this event was a seeing through of an identity, something believed to be “true”. In this case, it was a much more subtle, new & improved, ghost-like identity. ( thought fabricated, no matter how gossamer threaded.)
In the circles I travel, this confusion is a well known flavor.
I was careful to watch out for it, determined to avoid such an obvious mistake !
It happened anyway.
The fundamental confusion is not just ” Who am I ? ” but “What does anyone do ?”, and ” Who does anything? “.
What happened here, in the 7 years after the seeker disappeared, was that a much, much more subtle version of an awake identity had emerged.
This, whilst holding the intention to look out for such self-deception.
Apparently, mindfulness does not guarantee control.
Guarantees and controlling outcomes were the kind of talk left behind a long time ago. So what gives ?
All we can do is set the intention and trust to grace.
Ultimately, the timing of freedom is not up to the one who asks.
It’s all grace.
So, where does this leave us ?
Where we were all along; living life here, now, or else pretending not to. Those are the two choices in every moment, “awake” or not, and we can go back and forth, as conscious or as unconscious a manner as circumstances and intention allow.
[ The following was received in an email from Dr. Jeffrey Martin. Full disclosure: I am part of the Finder’s Course Alumni Online Community, so for the last 2 1/2 years I have been hanging out with people who have gone through this remarkable program Are you ready to put an end to seeking ? Please see below.]
If you’re not familiar with it, the Finders Course remains the most effective program that is available to help you reach so-called higher levels of consciousness such as: enlightenment, nonduality, persistent mystical states, the peace that passeth understanding, unity consciousness, and so on — we refer this as Fundamental Wellbeing.
Research conducted with Finders Course participants over the last 5 years has shown an average 70% transition rate, in addition to highly significant increases in wellbeing, positive emotions, meaning, and more — and equally significant decreases in depression, stress, anxiety, negative emotion, neuroticism, etc.
Our research shows that often when people don’t sign up for the course, it is for one of four reasons:
1.) They don’t believe that any program could be this effective 2.) They worry about (consciously or unconsciously) the effects the transition will have on their life 3.) The time commitment 4.) The cost.
Although we’ve made our numerical data available to other key labs and researchers for some time, we hadn’t taken the time to anonymize the necessary portions of our descriptive data until recently.
Now, we’ve put over two hundred samples of that online, and you can view them just like the researchers can. Transition stories from around 100 people who took the program can be found here: http://www.nonsymbolic.org/transition-stories.
As far as I know, we’re the most transparent organization in history in terms of the results from our programs. Mostly, this is because they didn’t start their life as classes, but rather as experiments within our wider scientific program into Fundamental Wellbeing.
So, we’ve been collecting a lot of data that most never bother to. This means that our actual results are out there for you to see.
2.) Concerns about transitioning. For better or worse, many of the materials produced in the spiritual and religious communities about Fundamental Wellbeing are from individuals who did not have a typical transition.
Most transitions are gentle, and one could even say subtle. While Fundamental Wellbeing is a powerfully different way of experiencing life, it doesn’t have to be as disruptive as many of the publicly available materials lead people to believe. And, it generally isn’t.
Frankly, statements like “you go away” just aren’t helpful. Most people have spent their entire lives with themselves as their most important work in progress.
Understandably, they wonder about the consequences of transitioning on may aspects of their life including their career, friends and family, and more.
Comments like this seem to suggest that all goes up in smoke the moment one transitions.
The reality is that this is not the case.
That’s one of the reasons I wrote the book The Finders (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07MZVB816). We’ve had literally thousands of people who experience Fundamental Wellbeing interface with our research project over the last 13+ years.
Only a small minority had the types of life disrupting experiences often read about in the more popular spiritual and religious literature.
The Finders Course is designed to produce a safe and gentle transition to Fundamental Wellbeing. Most people who take it phase into Fundamental Wellbeing during part of the program, rather than having a single, dramatic moment in which everything changes.
Frankly, this is great as those dramatic moments are usually the ones that can be problematic for a small majority of those who experience them.
So, if this is one of your concerns, this is the program for you. We also have a follow-up program, drawn from our research with thousands of Finders, to ensure optimum life integration after the transition. As far as I know, there’s nothing like this available anywhere else.
3.) Time commitment. Getting a safe, reliable, and rapid transition to Fundamental Wellbeing is no minor thing.
It goes against decades of momentum in your brain and nervous system that are in the opposite direction. We continue to work on methods and technologies to accelerate this.
As is often the case, there are more rapid, very costly alternatives for people who have a lot of money. However, it will be years before these are sufficiently developed so that they can trickle down to most people.
For now, the 4 month Finders Course program is as good as it gets. For 5+ years now I’ve seen countless people worry about where they will find time for the program, and then marvel at how this doesn’t seem to be an issue for them once they are taking it.
We’ve done some research on this and what seems to happen in most cases is that the benefits from the program lead people to naturally make time for it.
Some people that we asked even seemed quite surprised by where the time manifested from. Even when it doesn’t seem like it, it turns out that most people have time in their day that can be allocated to the program without leaving anything lacking.
Far too many people wait to take it until they believe the will have more time, and then never do. Don’t become one of them. Get the benefits of this program in your life now, not later…or, worse, never. But, the drop outs are because they didn’t have enough time, right? Wrong.
Generally between 20-30% of people on average will not “officially” complete the program (and thus we consider them “drop-outs”). For us to mark you as completing it, you have to fill out the scientific research questionnaires after the program.
A sizable number of this 20-30% make it all the way through the program, but opt not to complete the measures. So in our system they get marked as not officially completing the program, even though technically they did go all the way through it. Some do drop out earlier, though.
A popular assumption is that this is because they just didn’t have the time. But actually over half of people who drop out are reporting a transition to Fundamental Wellbeing. These people typically report having dropped out because they got what they came for.
Of course, we recommend completing the program because later materials often lead to further progress with Fundamental Wellbeing for people who transition during it.
Of the rest, some do drop out because of the time commitment but it is a small minority of those who take the course, despite the fact that virtually everyone who enters it mentions it as a concern.
What we’ve learned from all of this is that it really should not be a concern for the vast majority of people who enter the program, most likely including you.
No matter how daunting the time commitment may seem in relation to your already busy life, the reality is that most people felt the same way you do, and it turned out to be just a f.e.a.r. (False Expectation Appearing Real) once they were in the program and making progress towards their dream.
4.) The cost. We understand that the cost of the program can be prohibitive for some people, and we try to make as many partial scholarships available as we can when they are needed. Generally, the cost of recruiting for the program averages about 50% of the course fees for a given cohort.
This is an average between people who arrive via advertising (which currently costs us 100% or more of the course fee) and other ways people find out about the program like The Finders book (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07MZVB816), alumni referrals, public talks, podcasts, and so on.
Of course, things like public talks, podcasts, and the like involve my and others time and expense, but we typically don’t calculate those costs and factor them in.
It often surprises people that it costs so much to tell people about the program. The reality is that very few people want to transition to Fundamental Wellbeing.
If you’re one of them, you are very special. Do not doubt for a moment how important you are to humanity, and definitely don’t delay in actually following through on your goals in this area. The world needs you!
We’ve done some interesting research on this, too, including at public gatherings that are dedicated to Fundamental Wellbeing, and to achieving it.
It turns out that most people just want to be a bit happier, and are looking to things like meditation, contemplative and other spiritual and religious practices in the same way they also look to positive psychology and general self-help.
This is fine, but it makes the pool of people who actually want what the Finders Course offers very small. So, it’s expensive to reach them. The cost of the course is about $19 dollars per day, or $133 per week.
Very few programs are actually available for this low a cost, and I strongly doubt that any are more effective from the standpoint of reaching Fundamental Wellbeing than the Finders Course.
If you cut $133 in half, it means that we’re operating everything except advertising for it for about $67 per person, per week. Frankly, I think this is remarkable.
In addition to many key volunteers, typically there are 5 primary paid staff members (3x support, 1x website and technology, and 1x reporting and data analysis), and about another 10 non-primary paid staff (research and admin) spread around the world.
In case you’re wondering, I’m not one of them. I’ve put a lot of my own money into the research and Finders Course at this point, and so has Nichol Bradford, to make it all possible.
We’ve done it because we believe that Fundamental Wellbeing should be available in a safe, reliable, and rapid form to anyone who wants it.
We reimburse as much of what we’ve put into FC as we can, when it’s possible, but what we’ve been reimbursed is far from what we’ve put in to support it at this point.
[Guest post from Garyji, a balding self-professed sage from somewhere upstate … ]
Just because things are a little slow on Facebook today and my opponent has yet to make a move in Scrabble, and since I have a few minutes to kill before a music workshop that I’m joining for some reason, I thought I might elaborate a little bit on the Four Stages of Enlightenment.
Stage 1: I Wanna Be Enlightened.
At some point, while browsing through the Baghavad Gita or the Talks of Ramana Maharshi, or the Secret Teachings of Forest Dwellers, it suddenly dawns on you that attaining that all too elusive ultimate prize, the so-called pearl of great price, i.e., enlightenment, might just be the answer to all your, and life’s, problems, and that to be enlightened means to be permanently happy, always in a state of relative bliss, and that no more would you have to suffer from existential angst, struggle under the heavy weight of the burdensome self, or go through any more of those dreaded dark nights of the soul.
And besides, nothing else of any real importance or meaning is going on in your life at the moment, or for the last 10 or so years, so why not strike out on the hero’s journey and perhaps if you’re more than super-lucky, and after a long series of trial and tribulations, tests and challenges, you might just wind up like Jason with the golden fleece or Sir Galahad with the holy grail ?
After all, somebody has to win the lottery, and that person may even be an average person with no talents or superior qualities to speak of, and who, like most people, feels a sense of being fundamentally flawed, kind of a loser, and not really feeling very up for the task. But why the hell not? After all, what’s really the alternative?
Stage 2: Yay, I’m Enlightened!
And so you venture forth, joining various churches, esoteric study groups, and a few cults along the way. You get a guru and give him all your cash. They say you can’t buy enlightenment, but nobody says you can’t try.
Throw in a lot of positive affirmations, creative visualizations, at least 4 kinds of Buddhist meditation techniques, chanting money and other mantras, get baptized a few times, have at least two conversion experiences, several noteworthy spiritual experiences, enter the state of Sat-Chit-Ananda for more than 10 full seconds, hear the Holy Spirit talking to you, and have a vision of the Hell that awaits those who lust after worldly pleasures. You crash and burn and go into therapy, come out of that no better off and keep trying the latest spiritual craze to come your way. At least 5 times you think you’ve finally found it, only to come to the sad realization that this latest and greatest thing is not only not going to transform the world, it’s not even going to transform you.
You rule out saving the world and focus exclusively on saving yourself. You rewrite your script, change your story, create your own reality, adopt a whole new paradigm all to no avail. You’re running on empty but you keep going. Money is no object even though you don’t really have any. Thank God for credit cards and something called “Minimum Amount Due.”
You just keep plodding on because you know in your heart of hearts there is no turning back. You resign yourself to living out your life as one of the endless horde of frustrated and miserable seekers you keep meeting along the way. You have vowed to kill the Buddha if you meet him on the road, but from where you sit on your painful, hand crafted (in Nepal), Zen cushion you would be lucky if you ran into a mid-level Tibetan lama.
You keep trying new stuff in order to rewire your brain and wipe the slate clean, and keep lighting candles and burning incense in the hope that that in some way will influence the gods and goddesses to finally give you a fucking break already.
And then one day, a day like any other day, nothing special going on, you happen to notice a curious thing as you sit down at your shrine and get ready to do some more bowing and scraping and pleading with your chosen deity. As you start to finger your new turquoise mala beads that you bought recently in the spiritual bookstore you go to get tarot readings and Reiki healing sessions, and before you even begin to share your litany of woes and growing concern that you’re never going to be enlightened and that time is running out and that you’re no longer a hot young seeker but simply a worn out jaded (been there done that) lukewarm practitioner heading straight for the garbage heap of spiritual history where nobody remembers anybody’s name and nobody cares how much “merit” anybody has reputedly acquired, it dawns on you—not suddenly, not gradually, but simply dawns— that the bottom of the seeking barrel has fallen out and all the seeking that was in there has somehow disappeared. It’s hard to believe, but it’s true, there is no more seeking to be found. Holy Sh*t! Yeah, really.
In relatively short order, it becomes clearer and clearer that not only has seeking ended (“Call off the search!” ” OK, Papaji, I’m coming! “), but there is no longer a seeker to be found in the immediate vicinity. Now what to do with all this puja stuff? There’s nobody to try to cajole anymore, nobody to try to spiritually impress. OK gods and goddesses, I’ll see you later.
First there’s no seeking, then there’s no seeker. And then there’s no self and then there’s no other. Holy Sh*t, this is getting good. Finally there is no world. It’s only just I. I and I, as they say, only there’s no “they” anymore. This is great! Yay, I’m enlightened! It’s just too bad there’s no one to tell it to. That would have been nice, but you still can’t have everything, even when you are everything. (and nothing as well)
Stage 3: Am I Really Enlightened?
Wow, chopping wood and carrying water turns out to be not so bad after all. In fact, it’s almost enjoyable now that myth of Sisyphus aspect of it has miraculously been removed.
The best thing, of course, is that the curse of seeking has finally been wiped clean from my soul and Good God Almighty, I’m born again! No more workshops and BATGAP YouTube interviews for me. I don’t care what anybody says, it all amounts to nothing more than different versions of the same old by-now tired refrain: You are That and All there is is Consciousness, so why don’t you get off it already and stop with all the fretting and anxiety and above all, stop saying, “But,” and asking, “What if…..?”
The only question is ” How to fill the void?” Golf is nice but all that lugging around of the clubs and having to change shoes gets to be a drag after awhile. Acting and singing is fun too, but all those rehearsals running past 9 o’clock at night starts to take its toll real fast. Maybe a few workshops here and there won’t be so bad after all. And of course the spiritual books never stop arriving from Amazon.
Some conditioning is just too ingrained to be gotten rid of in just one lifetime. In fact, my guess is that it will take at least 3 more incarnations to fully burn off all the karma I’ve accumulated through Amazon. So many books, so little time. Sometimes I think of Hell as being the place you’re consigned to until you finish reading all the books you’ve ordered from Amazon and then simply tossed them aside or let them pile up in various stacks near your bedside, in the living room, the TV room, the shrine room, etc. Recently you even found a big box of unread Amazon books parked near the stored Christmas lights and ornaments in the basement. Yes, Hell indeed is an eternity of pain.
It doesn’t take long— a few months at the most— for the most, for the honeymoon to be over.
Chopping wood and carrying water after enlightenment no longer seems any different than it was before enlightenment, and to make matters worse, the hated and supposedly banished forever narrative self starts to rear its very ugly head again. And again. And yet again. “Why were you such an a**h*le in 1968? And in 1972? And then again countless times in the 1980s?” (not to mention yesterday and the day before!)
Thank God for “Cancel. Cancel.” But even that time tested and infinitely valuable positive psychological technique can not stem the rising tide of self-accusation and self-disgust. You fight back. There is no self to accuse and there is no self to be disgusted by. There, that will fix em. And yet, the battle simmers, if not exactly rages. No matter how many times you tell yourself, “This too, is Brahman,” the victory is never complete nor fully satisfying.
Given all this, it doesn’t take too long, after several attempts to suppress it, for the inevitable question to arise: “Am I really enlightened?” Or is this just one more in a long series of mind-f**ks that have appeared at different points along the path whereby I have tried to assure myself that I had reached the pinnacle of human inner accomplishment, all outer evidence to the contrary.
Suppose, just suppose, I’m not really enlightened after all, and the whole thing has just been one giant placebo, one last wild stab at magical thinking and desperate wish fulfillment? Yeah, what then? Back to the drawing board? Back to that horrible place that I have arrived at countless times before: Square 1? No, I refuse. I’m not going back there. This Myth of Sisyphus thing has to end somewhere. The divine buck stops right here!
You take a breath. You need to clear your head. This could be just about the worst day of your life. Not being enlightened is one thing, but being enlightened (if indeed you ever were) and then losing it is far worse! There is only one to do, and one thing you have have thought of right away, when those first dimly lit doubts started to creep ever so slowly into your mind.
It’s time to face the music. It’s time to check your LOC/ Level of Consciousness, that’s the thing. This is no time for being casual or glib. Life and death hangs in the balance. You take a shower. Brush your teeth. Put on some loose-fitting clothes. You sit, get centered and invoke Universal Intelligence which knows all things. OK, you’re ready.
You chant OM three times and do the muscle-testing technique you’ve learned and have applied innumerable times to others to test their level of consciousness. You go slowly up the scale asking at each 100 point interval if your consciousness has reached that level. You hold your breath at the highest point and test. The gods be praised, you’re still at 1000, you’re still enlightened.
You do it again and again and then take a break and do it one more time for good measure. You hit the mark each time and you sense the first thrill of relief followed by a certain faint smugness, but you’re still not fully satisfied. You need a second opinion. The pendulum.
You head down to the spiritual bookstore in town and go right up to the counter. “Audrey,” you tell the bright, beaming woman with the wild flowing hair at the counter, “I need a pendulum. I have to ask a most important question. It has to be a good one. The pendulum I mean.” Without missing a beat, Audrey goes right to her box of pendulums resting on the counter next to the assorted mala beads and feathered necklaces hanging from a big display rack, and pulls out one of the pendulums. It’s a clear crystal with some thin strands of something running through it. “Here’s the perfect one for you,” she says, and before I can say, “Gee, that was fast,” she says, “I knew it right away!” OK, I’ll take it, and am surprised when it comes to only $16.95 plus tax.
Shortly after the pendulum confirmation of your ever-present, never-not-the-case enlightenment, you see an ad for TrueTester Pro, another strong/weak, yes/no testing device and you send away for that. The price is incidental, just like everything else concerned with both the quest for enlightenment as well as whatever effort it might take to keep it. Surely one more test won’t hurt and might even add to your restored confidence. The package arrives, you open the box, add the batteries and turn on the device. You establish a baseline for Yes, and another one for No. You are ready to test your enlightenment from a third angle, just to make it a real done deal. You center yourself, align yourself with the highest, most sublime, totally omniscient universal intelligence and pose the question of questions. You press the handle on the TrueTester Pro and it comes out STRONG. A very positive Yes, you are enlightened. There’s no doubt about it now!
You can relax and go back to doing what you always do, which is nothing much of anything. You have no more doubts, but you’re keeping the pendulum, the TrueTester Pro, and the tried and trusty finger testing method nearby just in case.
Stage 4. Who Gives A Sh*t?
Time passes, even though you remind yourself from time to time that there is no time, that nothing ever happens, and that this is all a dream, or perhaps just a simulation, taking place in somebody’s (or nobody’s) mind, or on their computer in a galaxy far, far away.
You wake up one morning, yawn, and before the first thought starts flooding your mind, you look out the window and see trees and the light of the new day shining through them. You have – what’s it called – a moment of Zen. A moment of est: IT IS. A moment of Just This.
You yawn again, keep looking at the trees, and automatically start to reach across the night table to grab your pendulum and check your LOC once again, just to make sure. You do this every day before getting out of bed, taking a pee, and brushing your teeth. You never know, your enlightenment of awakening or rebirth or major shift or whatever term you might want to use, may have disappeared overnight.
It’s only a dream after all, and in a dream anything can happen, usually for no reason at all. Or perhaps the guy or robot at the keyboard of the computer running the simulation has decided to f**k with your character and plunge you back into the murky waters of ignorance once again to see how you will manage to extract yourself this time and see how long it will take or maybe he, she or it will just forget about you and let you stay submerged in the virtual ocean of virtual suffering, just for the hell of it, or for no reason at all. Whose rules are we playing by, after all?
But even before you can open the blue velvet pouch and pull out your pendulum, it suddenly dawns on you that you have no desire to find out if you’re awakened or not, because you realize finally that it doesn’t make a difference any longer.
You are happy and content with things just the way they are, no matter how they are, whether it’s all a dream or a simulation, or if anything is really happening or not.
What was it that God said to Moses in the Book of Genesis, “I am that I am.”?
Yeah, that works for me.
Many thanks to my friend Garyji for this post, which has been only lightly edited for spelling. (and swearing) May he live long, spreading his musings far and wide, and win his next Scrabble game.
Depending on your disposition, this may elicit
either a yawn ( of boredom, tedium or indifference )
or a scream. ( of frustration, exasperation or some such similar )
After a long journey – almost 30 years – am ready to call it quits.
But a lot happened during all that time.
Or did it ?
This post is not meant to threaten anyone’s sense of validation.
( regardless of how delicate and capricious that fickle sense is )
The point is, can anything the dream character “does”
actually change the substance of the dream ?
Or, is this dream different –
more substantive than that –
able to give feedback outside of the dream from within it,
kind of like a lucid dream
when you blink a certain way
to let the experimenter watching you know
that you know you are dreaming lucidly ?
Would that be like God watching “us” waiting for “us” to blink lucidly?