This post is part of a series on the subject of Awakening sponsored/inspired by Barbara Franken—a January Challenge that has claimed the first week of February as it’s own as well…
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One of my favorite descriptions of awakening comes from the book Dialogues on Awakening by Tom Carpenter. These are Tom’s recounting of conversations he has had with his friend and brother, Jesus, that grew out of his daily practice of the teachings contained within A Course in Miracles. After a time, Tom came to recognize Jesus’ presence and developed the faculty to sustain a type of inner dialogue with him. This quote is from Jesus in one of these exchanges.
“What is it like to be enlightened or awake? It is when you see only God as cause and effect being you expressing Him wholly. You will no longer feel the need to see your mind as separately identified within the whole Mind, but you will feel its presence there and you will recognize your Self in it. Fear of any nature becomes unknown. Joy abounds with every thought as Love is once again remembered.”
This is a good place for me to start because I studied A Course in Miracles quietly for a good decade or so, and Jesus never talked to me like that once. (Ha! Laugh with me, for such foolishness has passed…) That’s obviously a statement fraught with difficulties, so let me rephrase and simply say that I never had that type of experience on my end. I used to wish that I had, though, on many an occasion. When you’re staring down the barrel of meaninglessness and coming apart at the seams, decked out in your “Love is real” paraphenalia—fake beard, t-shirts, wrist bands, etc.—and making a really good show of it, inwardly hoping against hope it isn’t all just an exercise in self-delusion, staving off the inner “I told you so” voice that already has it all figured out (and not for the better), you really want the forces of Light to make an entrance somewhere in your story and roll out a little razzle dazzle—put paid once and for all to the notion of doubt being a reasonable consideration. Offer something irrefutable. I did, anyway.
And when it doesn’t come, the hole just gets deeper, the confusion surreal, like you’re watching it in slow motion.
My continuing journey towards awakening has been largely absent the lightning strike experiences you sometimes read about. The irrefutable and obvious moment that drops out of the sky and affords one a fresh identity and a clean break with history has been like that tree alone in the forest. It definitely dropped, but, did it make a sound…? Did I miss it? I can’t say when exactly it dropped. This process was (and remains) more like a sunrise in slow motion. Sometimes I’m not even sure it’s happening. Then I think about it, and realize it’s a lot brighter out than it was before. When before? I don’t know. Before. This type of slowly-building Recognition has brought me to wit’s end on numerous occasions, but has simultaneously been a beautiful and extremely powerful process to live within. It has indelibly stamped into my being a number of admissions and discoveries I think are valuable and worth sharing.
The first one is that comparison is so, so very useless. Life is not a contest, and every life has a rhythm and a tapestry of meaning that is all its own. I have ultimately begun to trust in the wisdom of my own experiences, and while that may seem an obvious and natural thing to do, I can only say that when one is in the grip of fear, it absolutely is not.
And there is that fear thing, so what of it? What is it to be in the grip of fear?
Does having fear in one’s inner vocabulary mean we walk around all day petrified? I don’t think so. (Until one day, when we do.) Life may be fine for a good long while, but then it brings us back to this precipice. Suffering arises. Confusion. Fear. A dilemma. Call it what you like. Once we face it—whatever “it” is—squarely and it lunges at us, it can be difficult to stomp it back into its cage, and even if we succeed, we can’t keep carrying this caged animal around with us forever… I think fear is probably one of the most useless words in the English language because it fails to address the depth and complexity of this experience of separation we have dreamed up. We like to say we’re afraid of something in particular—like falling or failure, or being vulnerable or trusting in our relationships—but fear is not necessarily so particular. We can fix all these one-offs, and still, a moment arises and we find… we are at odds with something inside ourselves again… Fear is living inside of a conflict we don’t even know exists, a conflict that seems it just might swallow us whole. It simply haunts us. If it were obvious what to do about this, we’d do it.
In A Course in Miracles Jesus speaks periodically about the fact that the natural state of our mind is wholly abstract, and it took me a good long while to grasp hold of that one. Love is abstract in the sense that it doesn’t really require any particular object or attribute to identify with in order to be what it is. We are like that, too, we just aren’t familiar with identifying ourselves with this type of being, and I think that the specific object of our fear is similarly irrelevant. Fear in its most abstract or generalized sense, for me, is the sensation of being on the wrong side of what is real. There’s no such thing as being on the wrong side of what is real, but if I had known that, known it absolutely in my bones such that living it was the most obvious and natural thing to do/be in the face of any event or circumstance this crazy world can concoct, then I’d have known I was truly real, and really true. I wouldn’t have been thinking I was alone, and been trying to– even as I feared doing so– invoke the razzle dazzle. Fear may not have permeated my daily experience, but I found I could not prevent this sensation of being on the wrong side from what is real from creeping into and slowly discoloring my world, chipping it away into bits and fragments, and eventually I realized, I’m crippled inside.
I’m not operating at full strength here.
Realizing that personally, and hungry for this experience called “awakening”, I wanted to call in some air support to set things straight. It’s like I was in jail, and hoping Love would come bail me out. Surely Love would do that for me. I felt I was ready for a storied ending. I waited patiently, but… I never made bail. Even though I knew this reality of Love was real, I felt (at times) completely abandoned or alone, left to my own devices, and plagued by uncertainty. Other people seemed to be having this and that experience, but I was confronted by this confounding enigma we call a self. I was confronted by all the things I had asked this self to be. No more. No less. And I felt intensely and extremely conflicted.
In addition to not comparing one’s experience to that of anyone else, another big one for me was the realization I was being told something very important with the silence that seemed to greet every desperate plea for an obvious sign of redemption. In the particular form of validation I sought, which never quite came as requested, I was being shown, directly and gently: the jail doesn’t exist. What need for redemption do the already redeemed have? When I realized this was perhaps “the message” all along, Love’s seemingly empty silence transformed entirely into something solid and dependable. I realized She’d been veritably drowning me with the only answer I had ever needed. I was knocked over. There were some things I had thought that were simply incorrect, and could not be validated. There were lines that couldn’t be and would never be crossed and I was too confused to know them.
Love wasn’t going to spring me from a trap that wasn’t real to begin with. To do so, at least on the terms I had set, would have been akin to acknowledging that the trap in which I was so utterly convinced I was stuck, was indeed real. The possibility of dwelling in a state of peace that surpasses all understanding hinges upon Love’s inviolate position in this regard. Even though we take the bait sometimes, Love never does. Jesus is a specific representation of this principle: of dwelling in an error free state of mind. This, I have come to discover, is true power: to remain in perpetual communion with the Truth.
In realizing Love’s message to me, I discovered as well that I can’t figure this stuff out on my own. I didn’t have the wherewithal to know, as Love does, how to properly interpret my experiences in this world. A Course in Miracles was a lifeline for a period of time as it provided the type of powerful clarity I needed in this regard. Many other sources of information as well. For me, it has been about piecing this together, with tremendous help, one breath at a time. This path for me has been a million tiny quanta of lightning that collectively are assembling into freedom. Now, the training wheels are steadily coming off.
Now the sunrise has gained enough momentum I’m pretty sure there’s no going back. Awake or not awake? I don’t know. It’s a huge relief to be at peace with not needing to dignify questions such as these with an answer. The sun is still enfolding me, enveloping us all. I think some sort of merging awaits, some relinquishment of final barriers, but the reality of such a relinquishment seems less of a question than an inevitability. It will come. It is happening.
I found ultimately that regardless of what we think, believe or experience, we live on the right side of real. That’s one choice we don’t get to make, and thank God for that. Because I thought I knew something about myself once, and I was quite mistaken… To walk away from ignorance unscathed is the outcome we are guaranteed. It is humbling to begin to accept that such things are truly real…
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Next up in the series is aMusing Spirit.