Have you ever had a dream in which you became fully aware that you are dreaming? This can be an empowering experience because you suddenly find yourself in a world of your own creation, where the only limit is your own imagination. You feel like you can do anything you want- you are the master of your reality. This powerful feeling of limitless potential is what the process of awakening feels like.
As I discussed in my previous blog, we all have our own ideas about the pursuit of enlightenment. We tend to believe that, if we can just clear our minds of all this excess chatter, we will one day reach the ultimate level of realization in which all illusions of separation from the Divine creator will melt away. All mental concepts of self, time and space will dissolve into beautiful white light as we become One with All That Is-undifferentiated from the universal consciousness of creation.
This sounds terrific. But, even if this profound experience of oneness does eventually occur for us while in deep meditation, it can only last for so long. At a certain point we will need to get up and get on with everyday life. Regardless of the level of understanding we reach about the true nature of the soul and our place within the universal whole, the world is going to keep going on the same as it was before. The only difference is that we will experience our reality with more clarity.
In our quest for spiritual growth, we often get so focused on the big prize of 'enlightenment' that we forget to appreciate all the little moments and details that happen along the way. Awakening is the realization that enlightenment lies inside each and every moment that makes up our experience. It's about appreciating the journey for what it is and not fixating so much on the reaching the destination. It's about waking up to life here and now.
Come to think of it, we already have a lot of experience with awakening. For example, what is the first thing you did this morning? You woke up. You were asleep and now you are awake. You moved seamlessly from one state of consciousness into another. You awakened from a dreamworld that was conjured up inside your head and into the real world that exists outside of yourself.
Awakening is the realization that your self, along with this world and everything in it, is also taking place in your head. Everyone has pondered the philosophical question, "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" My question is, would this world exist at all without someone there observing it? For example, we all know that thorns are sharp but that is only because our skin is so soft. Boulders are only heavy because our muscles are not strong enough to lift them. Mountain streams are calming, sunsets are beautiful, roses smell sweet, sunshine is warm - all because of the fact that we are here witnessing these things. We make the world what it is. Our presence brings physical existence into being.
Awakening is understanding that the inner world and the outer world are one and the same, like two sides of a coin. 'Self' cannot exist without the presence of 'physical reality' and vice versa. It's like waking up inside of a dream except that you are waking up from the day-dream of your Ego and from the illusion of separation between yourself and the world you inhabit. The next step is to become a willing collaborator and active creator in this thing we call reality. This life is your experience in the physical plane of existence. You are the creator of your reality. What are you going to create while you are here?
Nick Hughes is a massage therapist, yoga instructor and co-owner of Well Being.