The word awakening can conjure up all sorts of expectations.
It’s easy to forget that these expectations are mere images, information that has been taken in and are now taken as real.
If you pay attention, you will discover that each expectation you have is directly tied to what you perceive to be lacking in this moment.
Many expectations are invisible. You’re not even aware of them.
And that is the reason I wrote this article.
When you begin to see the expectations you have, you can become aware of them, and gradually let them go.
When I first begin guiding someone, I ask about expectations.
Usually I get responses like:
- I don’t think anything will change
- Mostly I don’t care
- I’m okay with whatever happens
- I feel like I’m missing something
- I want to be more present
Notice the vagueness in these responses. I usually don’t press too hard, because many expectations are unconscious.
The same may be true for you. There’s no need to go digging at this point, because they will show up as you move forward.
Here are some of the most common expectations that I’ve seen in myself and others:
Waking up is not an experience that comes and goes.
It’s not about accessing an altered state of consciousness or going into another dimension.
This is about waking up to what has always been here. Another word for awakening is sobering up. You sober up from the stupor of concepts.
So it’s not about experiencing constant bliss, although bliss can come and go. It’s not about excluding anything, but including everything.
Whatever happens, don’t become attached to any experience. In Zen, they call this makyō:
The term makyō is a Japanese word that means “realm of demons/monsters”. In Zen, it is a figurative reference to the kind of self-delusion that results from clinging to an experience and making a conceptual “nest” out of it for oneself. Makyō is essentially synonymous with illusion, but especially in reference to experiences that can occur within meditation practice.Wikipedia
2. Big Shift
I was standing in the kitchen one day when I looked into the senses and realized “Oh, it’s just this.”
And by ‘this’, I was referring to seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, tasting, and thinking.
There may be no fireworks to confirm that you now see your true nature.
And in a sense, this is not a special event. It is utterly ordinary, because this is how it has always been.
Some have a more remarkable shift, but it’s not something you should expect. If you need to expect something, expect that it will be a surprise.
It may be a gradual unfolding that sneaks up on you.
That said, there is often a clear shift when this is seen. It doesn’t have to blow your socks off, but it will often be obvious.
3. Becoming Special
Awakening will not make you special.
You will not suddenly become loved or successful. You won’t be shielded from sickness.
You won’t become immune to hurt. You won’t suddenly have a grand purpose of helping others wake up.
Waking up is seeing that you are not special. You are completely ordinary. You are no different than your neighbour.
This may sound negative, but it’s a relief. In fact, it is freeing, because you no longer have to try and be something you’re not.
4. Always Feeling Good
This is not an escape from emotions and pain, or daily life.
In fact, awakening will insist that you feel and face everything. The more you resist this process, the more you suffer.
When you expect to always feel good, you suffer.
When you try to escape feeling bad, you take action to feel good. You run away from anything that is uncomfortable, which means you push away the treasures of the present moment.
After awakening, you see that life has always been like this. There’s unpleasant, neutral, and pleasant sensations.
Those are not what cause suffering.
What causes suffering is our reactions to them.
5. Eliminating Thoughts
You don’t have to quiet your mind to wake up, nor will thoughts disappear after awakening.
Thoughts seem like the problem, but the real problem is the attachment to them, the identification with thought content.
We have a habit of giving thoughts authority. If a thought says “You will be homeless if you don’t fix this,” we react. We try to fix it.
Yet what if you didn’t have to do anything?
There’s no need to listen to thoughts.
With that said, they can be a useful clue as to what feelings and traumas are in the body, but that’s a topic for another time.
6. Reaching the End
Do you ever wonder “When will all of this end? When can I stop the anguish?”
If so, you’re witnessing avoidance in action.
The thought is a distraction from a feeling. Instead of thinking there’s a problem, go directly to the feeling in the body, and feel it fully.
Now, let’s be clear. The separate self illusion can be seen through, but this is often only the first step to the end of suffering.
Being human doesn’t stop. There will always be unpleasant, neutral, and pleasant sensations.
All of this becomes more and more okay.
Waking up doesn’t mean you will know exactly what to do.
You won’t make perfect decisions. You won’t be able to control your thoughts, emotions, or life. In fact, you see that there was never any control.
And once you wake up, you see that there was never any need to know what to do.
You may not suddenly make more money. This isn’t a guarantee for success.
With that said, there is often a deeper connection with your intuition, and having a sense of what feels correct, but it’s not an ability to predict the future.
8. Intellectual Understanding
Intellectual understanding is the first step, but it can easily become the last step.
It’s easy to get stuck in comparing, understanding, and trying to figure this out. Thinking about awakening is safe, so it’s comfortable to stay there.
You can’t think your way into awakening. You can fool yourself into thinking you’ve got it, but waking up is going beyond the conceptual.
When you wake up, you see that thoughts never mattered, and never did anything.
Just reading this may make you uncomfortable. Notice the feeling. Where is it in your body? Can you feel it?
9. Removing Self
Funnily enough, this is not about removing the self.
You won’t suddenly disappear into nothing.
You might be confused, because haven’t I been saying to do exactly that?
I’ve said that this is about seeing the illusionary and empty nature of the self. There is no separate self that is thinking, feeling, experiencing, deciding, and making things happen.
When you look for the inherent (permanently existing) self, all you find are sensations, sounds, images, tastes, smells, and thoughts. You never find a tangible homunculus living inside your brain that is in control.
There can be a lot of fear as this realization begins to dawn, but remember: What is real cannot be lost.
Seeing through the illusion of the separate self also doesn’t mean that all sense of self disappears. You will still feel a certain aliveness, I AM, or “I exist.”
Relationships won’t suddenly become perfect.
You won’t be the perfect parent, sibling, or friend.
You won’t suddenly become non-reactive and kind. Reactivity is often explored after first awakening.
If anything, after first awakening, and after the honeymoon period (more on this below), you may become worse because of the shadows coming to the surface.
This is all to be expected. It only becomes a problem if you expect things to be perfect, which can lead to suppression of what is happening for you.
The more you know that this may happen, the more prepared you are to face it all.
So, Why Wake Up?
That questions assumes that you have a choice.
If you’re on this path, there is a force in you looking for the truth, and it will not settle for anything less.
This path will take every illusion from you, which is horrible for the ego, but the end result is lightness and peace.
Remember, this is about including everything. Being so completely here that not even the present moment exists.
After seeing that the separate self is an illusion, there can be a honeymoon period.
For some it lasts days. For others, hours. During this time you feel untouchable, happy, and light. Everything is right in the world.
As the honeymoon nears its end, you may start to feel like you’re ‘losing it’. You want to keep it, so you start to try and hold on, which doesn’t work.
Eventually you find yourself in a dark cave, having to face your shadows.
An Important Summary
There is no one way to wake up. There are similarities, but each path is utterly unique, which is why it’s crucial that you trust your own experience.
Your path may be slow, or it may be fast. It’s all fine.
What is coming up for you?
What is interesting in this moment?
Start there, and let your intuition guide you.
Notice what is interesting and where you are avoiding. Find someone who can help you and give you feedback, because it’s easy to trick yourself.
Throw away even the idea of awakening and stay with whatever is here, right now.
Wishing you all the best,
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