What is Awakening?
Awakening is Self Realization, the realization of our true Self, our essential nature as pure awareness, the silent inner witness that observes every thought.
Awakening is awareness of awareness itself as one’s true and essential nature. One’s body, mind, sense perceptions, roles, life circumstances are clearly perceived as ever changing phenomena against the backdrop of this non-changing inner witness.
What is the value of awakening?
In a word, Freedom. Freedom from all of the changing circumstances and roles in life. Freedom from the constant chatter of the mind. Freedom from being at the effect of our body, our changing moods, or the dictates of our mind. When we know ourselves to be the Silent Witness within that is aware of the mind’s chattering and our changing moods, then we are no longer at the effect of them. These thoughts and moods are observed, or witnessed, as changing phenomena within the field of consciousness.
And what arises is:
Fulfillment beyond the circumstances of life.
The experience of connection with All That Is.
The end of suffering.
When an individual is no longer identified with ever-changing thoughts, emotions, or circumstances of life but recognizes in truth he/she is the silent, still awareness witnessing it all, the universal awareness from which individual mind emanates, this is called “awakening.”
Awakening is not just having the thought, “I am universal awareness.”
Awakening is awareness watching individual thoughts and realizing “I am not that thought.” I am the silent, still awareness that is watching every thought. And these thoughts are just momentary energetic phenomena which arise within awareness. With this awareness of pure awareness beyond all thought, we cease identifying with our thoughts, our emotions, our mind. And the seed of awakening has been planted.
When awareness recognizes that it is not a limited individual, that it is no thing at all, like the vast blue sky, then each passing cloud of thought is recognized to be insubstantial and relatively inconsequential. Awareness is not identified with any thing or as anything at all. There is simply no identity. There is no identifying with the sky of awareness, nor with the witness of thoughts, nor with the thoughts, nor the emotions, nor the personality, ego, or body. There is simply no identification at all.
“Awakening” is a word which points to a condition of nonidentification with anything whatsoever. What gets awakened? The individual consciousness as it cuts the cord of identification with its thoughts, moods, roles, circumstances, and body.
In this grand illusion, the Leela of manifest creation, that which is Real, that which is unchanging, pure Awareness, appears and is revealed in the midst of everchanging thoughts, forms, and phenomena. This we call “Awakening.”
Awakening is, somehow, miraculously and wonderfully, a byproduct of grace. Awakening is not a goal. Awareness is, and always has been, who we all are. That which is revealed, Awareness or Self, is all that is Real. It is this moment. Awakening is a moment-to-moment realization, and the surrender of all that appears, back to this moment, its source.
Awakening is also called Self Realization or Enlightenment. It is realizing the silent Self within as the common denominator of all experience, the silent witness. When the clouds of thoughts are removed, the Sun can then shine forth unobstructed. The Sun (Self) has always been there, though it is easily overlooked when obscured by clouds (thoughts). This is why having repeated experiences of pure awareness, which is awareness without thoughts, or awareness in which thoughts are greatly diminished or dissipated, is essential to awakening from identification with the constant mindstream of thoughts that have a tendency to obscure it. However, awareness is always there in the midst of all experience, and just requires turning our attention to it to realize it as our essential nature.
Thoughts come and go, but awareness goes on, silently witnessing the whole phenomenal display.
What is it to be identified? When we identify with our body or mind, for instance, we experience that who we are is nothing other than the body, or the mind, or the roles we play in life. And with this identification, when these things change, as they inevitably will, we suffer.
Some people even identify with their cars or the beer they drink or the teams they route for. Ha! As though being a ‘Cadillac driver’, or a ‘Budweiser drinker’, or an ‘Oakland Raiders fan’ means something about them, their status in life.
And, many people identify with their roles… mother, father, computer programmer, teacher, student, and on and on.
But what lies beyond all of these roles, these labels we give ourselves? Who is that silent witness within that observes each thought as it arises, who is the same throughout all of the circumstances and roles we play in life?
Upon Awakening, that which we awaken to (who one is, Self, the stillness at the core of one’s Being), emerges. It goes from being in the background, overshadowed by the constant activity of the mind, to being present along with all experience.
Life before awakening is like experiencing the numerator of a fraction only, the top highly variable number. Upon awakening, suddenly the denominator that has been hidden, now appears. And in this case, it is truly the common denominator. One!
Awakening is Awareness becoming aware of itself, Self-Aware.
Awareness, Self, is omnipresent, the baseline or common denominator upon which all experience appears. It is the blank slate, like a blank movie screen onto which our life stories, the people and circumstances of our lives, appear.
This is why, when we realize awareness as our essential nature, as the truth of who we are, the stable ground onto which all experience is projected, then we cease to be identified with all of the changing phenomena of experience. Our thoughts (which we call our mind), our emotions, our body, or any of our roles or circumstances, all of these changing phenomena come and go while awareness itself remains unchanged.
This is why awareness is also called the Self. It is our true Self. It is not our personality self, which is something that develops and changes over time. Rather, it is our true, unchanging Self, awareness itself.
This is why when a person becomes aware of awareness itself, they are said to be Self Realized. They have now realized the nonchanging aspect of his/her Self.
And, upon Self Realization a person experiences freedom. True freedom. Freedom from attachment to any of the changing phenomena of life. Free from identification with his/her personality, mind, emotions, body, circumstances.
Of course, personality, mind, emotions, body, circumstances still occur, but now to the backdrop of stillness, of silence, of awareness itself. And these changing phenomena are no longer taken quite as seriously. There is now an experience of some degree of detachment from this changing field of life that was formerly all that we knew.
So, now the question arises, how can anything done on the relative, changing level of existence, the field of cause and effect, reveal that which is beyond cause and effect?
Awareness is like the clear blue sky which has been obscured by the clouds, the clouds of experience, the clouds of thought. All that is required to allow awareness to shine through is to dissipate the clouds, even a little bit.
As every action has a reaction, every thought simply sets in motion another thought. And yet, somehow, the miracle of creation is that energy (including the energetic phenomenon of thought) dies out. It can dissipate. Thoughts do dissipate, and the mind can come to rest.
Wherever there is a mind, there is the possibility of no mind. Wherever there are thoughts, there is the possibilty of no thought, of even momentary annihilation of the mind. What is the mind? Thoughts occurring moment-to-moment, and in this moment lies the possibility of no thought whatsoever, and what this reveals: the silence, presence, peace at the core of one’s being, all being, which is never not present, even along with, and as, every thought, even in the midst of the most intense mental activity. Awareness simply becomes apparent when thought dissipates.
“Who awakens? Consciousness wakes up to itself. That is who you are.
“It may not be who you think you are. We have objectified ourselves as this particular body, or the sensations that go through the body, or our emotions, or our history. But those are all objects in our minds. They are thoughts, concepts.
“True awakening is the recognition that those objects are made of nothing, no substance. And yet they are never separate from the subjective, endless consciousness that one is.
“So, who awakens? You awaken! And you are already awake as consciousness. That is the paradox.
“However it is spoken of, the truth cannot be caught in a concept. But it can be realized, and that is who you are.” -Gangaji