Archive for December, 2016


A few years ago, while doing research for my Ph.D., I met a woman who had a profound personal transformation following traumatic experiences as a soldier.

The woman (whom I will call Jenny) was in the Canadian military for 10 years, undergoing a great deal of stress and suffering. Towards the end of the 10 years, she began to feel depressed and burnt out and was diagnosed with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). She felt that she had completely lost her sense of identity. As Jenny told me, “There was just me, on the couch, doing nothing, because I literally couldn’t do anything. I was forced to see my failure. And I had no idea who I was anymore.”

However, after about a year of medical and psychological treatment, Jenny became relatively functional again and sought out alternative treatments to help her further. After a couple of years of deliberate healing and growth through various therapies and treatments, she began to experience a shift. She had powerful ‘awakening experiences’ in which, as she describes it, “the world looked different. It was alive. It was infinite aliveness. Everything was bright. Even the space between everything. The colours were incredible and the flowers looked happy.”

Soon this developed into a state of continual well-being, in which she felt intensely present, with a strong sense of connection to nature and other human beings. Jenny summarised the shift she has experienced as follows, “When you’re present all the time every day seems full. A day seems to last for such a long time…I used to look to possessions as a way to feel better but now I don’t need to feel better. I don’t need things. I can have them, but I don’t need them.”

This is a powerful example of what I call ‘post-traumatic transformation.’ PTT (as I refer to it in short) is similar to ‘post-traumatic growth,’ when people develop in a positive way in the aftermath of traumatic experiences. However, in ‘post-traumatic transformation’, the change is more radical, and usually occurs suddenly and dramatically, in the midst of intense psychological turmoil. (I wrote about my research in my recent book Out of the Darkness.) The shift is so dramatic and so life-changing that it is often described in terms of a ‘spiritual awakening.’

The shift is often related to a diagnosis of cancer, bereavement, intense stress or depression. However, in recent years, I’ve become aware that the intense stress and turmoil of combat may be a trigger for the shift too, as it was for Jenny.

Cases from the First and Second World Wars

At the beginning of the First World War, a young aristocratic German man named Karlfried Graf Von Durckheim believed it was his patriotic duty to fight for his country. After his privileged upbringing, the horrors of the battlefield were a massive shock. He lost count of the number of deaths he witnessed, and the number of times he came close to death himself. However, the close proximity of death triggered a transformation in him. It made him aware of a deeper, spiritual part of his being. As he wrote, “When death was near and I accepted that I also might die, I realized that within myself was something that has nothing whatsoever to do with death.”

This was the beginning of a lifelong spiritual journey for Durckheim. After the war he renounced his family property and inheritance, and began to study eastern spiritual texts. And later, after the Second World War, he came across many examples of a similar transformation amongst those who had lived through its horrors. As he later stated, “There are so many people who went through the battlefields, through the concentration camps, through the bombing raids…[who] were wounded and nearly torn in pieces, and they experienced a glimpse of their eternal nature.”

One example of this I came across recently in my own research was a man called J.H. Murray, who spent three years as a prisoner of war during the Second World War. While enduring the terrible deprivation of a German concentration camp, Murray had a powerful awakening experience. He wrote about it for the first time in a memoir towards the end of his life:

As I climbed upstairs, to the dormitory, I became aware of an extraordinary sense of joy. It suffused mind and body…I had stepped out of time into timelessness…I remember seeing through the windows the barbed wire fence with its sentry towers, and the prisoners in the compound, all and each transfigured by a beauty that glowed through them, engulfing all as if from another place. Its intensity had a new dimension, so that never afterwards could I bring myself to speak of it, or write down the experience until now, when I know that my life nearing its end.

After this experience, Murray wrote letters to his family, saying that he was “happy and thoroughly well.” They thought he must have gone mad, but he told them that “I have not lost my reason, but all worries, anxieties and frustrations.” He described experiencing “an undivided mind, inner stillness, self-realisation, and a fullness that I never believed possible.”

More Recent Examples

A few years ago, I published a book called Waking From Sleep. which is a study of awakening experiences such as Murray’s – moments in which our normal awareness seems to expand and intensify, and we become aware of deeper (or higher) level of reality, and perceive a sense of harmony and meaning. Last year I received an e-mail from an American man who said he had had such an experience as a solider in Vietnam in 1968. His combat base came under heavy attack, with major casualties, and he was sure that he was going to die too. As he described it:

At one point after carrying yet another severely wounded Marine to a waiting chopper something happened to me…I came out of myself. I expanded infinitely. I disappeared. It didn’t last long but it was the most powerful experience I’ve ever had. From that moment my anxiety disappeared and I knew that everything was alright, no matter if I lived or died. The Battle of Khe Sanh lasted 77 days. I felt peaceful for the remainder of the battle. I was not wounded in those 77 days although according to Ray Stubbe in Valley of Decision we had over 2,500 Marines wounded and over 800 killed. I’ve spent the last forty-seven years trying without success to replicate that experience. I even died on an operating room table. Nothing has come close to my “awakening experience” at Khe Sanh.

I’ve recently been reading a great book called Aftershock by the UK journalist Matthew Green, which is largely an investigation into cases of PTSD in British soldiers. However, the book also describes some amazing awakening experiences during battle, and the long term spiritual growth that these led to. Green tells the story of a man called Gus, who fought in the Falklands War between Britain and Argentina in the 1980s. One day, while waiting for orders on the battlefield, Gus had a life-changing experience. As Green describes it, “As he waited for the order to advance, he felt an inexplicable sense of euphoria, as if past and future had dissolved and his personal fate was no longer of the slightest consequence. He was witnessing history, yet touching the realm of the timeless.” Gus suffered PTSD after the war, until he discovered meditation, and realised that he didn’t have to identify with his traumatic thoughts and feelings. He became a Buddhist, and in 2007 he returned to the Falklands Islands, and left a small statue of the Buddha at the site of one of the major battles of the war.

These experiences are paradoxical on many levels. It seems incredible that the brutality of war should be associated with such states of inner peace and harmony. And in a more general sense, it’s paradoxical that states of intense stress and turmoil should be so closely related to states of joy and liberation. It’s almost as if joy and despair aren’t opposites, but are somehow symbiotically related.(This relates to the question of why such experiences occur during or after combat, or in other situations of stress and turmoil. I don’t have space to offer my suggested explanation here, but see my book Out of the Darkness for details.)

In the meantime, I’ll soon be beginning a formal research project on these experiences. So let me know (in the comments section below, or by e-mail at essytaylor@live.co.uk) if you have had a similar experience, or know of others who have.

Steve Taylor, Ph.D., is senior lecturer in psychology at Leeds Beckett University, UK. He is the author of several books on psychology and spirituality, including Out of the Darkness. http://www.stevenmtaylor.com
Source: AWAKEN

I remember hearing that spiritual prayer of acknowledged gratitude over and over again while I was growing up. And I certainly heard the nuns say it. As a child, I loved the sound of that phrase because it was a phrase that seemed to hide a great jewel of wisdom. It was a type of treasure chest made of simple words that when strung together communicated a powerful truth. “Except for the grace of God go I.” It was apparent that those words conveyed some sort of profound meaning because I noticed how the nuns would nod their heads in a type of collective agreement after one of them uttered that phrase. Eventually I let go of my mission to crack through the deeper meaning of this phrase and got on with the business of growing up. I was about eight-years-old when I made that decision.

That phrase exploded out of the dust of my mental archives in my early thirties, right on time you might say. It was just one of those days, really, that starts out gorgeous but ends up being a game changer. That day was made for walking. So that’s what I did. After a few hours, I got an iced-tea and sat on a bench to check messages and all that sort of thing. I didn’t pay any notice at all to the guy who sat on the bench a few minutes later. Why would I? But, as I was about to find out, certainly noticed me.

He asked me if I would get him an iced tea. One glance told me he was homeless or en route to that crisis. I asked him if he wanted a sandwich, so long as I was getting him a cold drink. He did. I turned to leave as soon as I gave him his meal but then he said he hated to eat alone and would I mind just sitting with him. I was uncomfortable as all get out – I mean down to the pit of my stomach. But I was in a familiar park and it was day light and I knew I could run faster than him…so I figured, ugh….okay. UGH

He took one bite out of his sandwich, one gulp of his drink and said, “I know you want to get the hell away from me. I know you are uncomfortable as hell right now. You don’t know me or anything about me. I’m a veteran. The war in my head won’t stop. I just try to find quiet places now. That’s all.”

My heart hurt. I could feel the pain in my chest explode. My eyes filled with tears and all I could hear in my head was, “Except for the grace of God go I.” I could have been sent to harm others or to face some type of horror. Or I could have witnessed nightmares early on, but I did not. I sat next to him and felt the whole of my life reshape itself into a simple but deeply meaningful prayer of gratitude and one of grace for the other. It is these moments, these tiny encounters that just show up out of nowhere, that are the purest expression of God in the small and present details of your life. This man changed my life. I have looked for him many times in the park near my home and have never seen him again – not to imply that he was “not of the Earth”. We have yet to cross paths again, but I hope it does happen.

Through him, I entered into yet a deeper mystery about life but with so much gratitude about each day of my life. This is one of my own prayers:

I never know where I will find You or how You will speak to me. Some days it is through new person and other days it is through a new experience. Each day I become more aware of something I did not understand or realize before. I knew I should be grateful for all that I have but now I realize I should also be grateful for all that I do not have. For I do not have traumatic war memories and I do not have scars from being a refugee and I do not have the fear of a homeless person. I am grateful for all I have and for all I do not have. If I am grateful for having been spared a suffering, give me the grace to help those who are suffering. Amen”


Published on Dec 29, 2016

A conversation about orgasm and the loss of the separate self.


Published on Dec 28, 2016

Find out more at http://www.amodamaa.com

The promise of the perfect relationship and the dream of ultimate fulfilment through another. It is a fantasy of the egoic self.

Rupert Spira, author of “The Transparency of Things,” speaks here with Paul J. Mills of UC San Diego about the concept of non-duality, or advaita. They explore the idea that there is no separation between the self and the universe — and how understanding this basic truth will lead to greater wellbeing. Series: “The UC Wellbeing Channel ” [1/2017] [Health and Medicine] [Education]


Published on Dec 27, 2016

https://www.scienceandnonduality.com/

We are always living at the edge of the unknown, whether in ordinary experience, scientific knowledge or spiritual realization. In the realized condition, there is certainty that we know, but we also know that there is a great deal more we do not know. It is clear that we live on an island of knowing in a sea of mystery. We are at ease living with the mystery of reality, for it gives us the opportunity to discover greater ways of living freedom. We will talk and dialogue on the skillful means of utilizing the edge of unknowing to delve into the mystery, revealing greater and deeper knowledge. Our realization deepens and expands, without having to reach an end, for the edge of the unknown is the ever-lasting call for greater realization.

Hameed Ali (A. H. Almaas) was born in the Middle East, but at age 18 he moved to the USA to study at the University of California in Berkeley. Hameed was working on his Ph.D. in physics, where he was studying Einstein’s theory of general relativity and nuclear physics, when he reached a turning point in his life and destiny that led him more and more into inquiring into the psychological and spiritual aspects of human nature. Hameed is the founder of the Diamond Approach ® – a spiritual teaching that utilizes a unique kind of inquiry into realization, where the practice is the expression of realization. This inquiry opens up the infinite creativity of our Being, transforming our lives into a runaway realization, moving from realization to further realization. Almaas’ books include: The Inner Journey Home, Essence, The Pearl Beyond Price, Luminous Night’s Journey, and The Unfolding Now.

Karen Johnson
participated in the development of the Diamond Approach with Hameed Ali since 1970’s, She has been teaching in the US and Europe for 35 years. She has an MA in Psychology, and trained as an artist and dancer. She has an interest true spirit of scientific investigation based on the love for truth. The underlying truth that manifests through the beauty and order of the physical and spiritual universe has been a motivating force in her life. http://www.ridhwan.org


Published on Dec 27, 2016

What is non-duality? What do we mean by consciousness? Does it really exist? What is reality? Is there any thing “out there”? Why don’t we see consciousness in the material world? What do we mean by “I”? Why is any of this important?

From the deep pools of Eastern wisdom, to the fast-paced rapids of the West, Peter Russell has mastered many fields, and synthesized them with consummate artistry. Weaving his unique blend of scientific rationale, global vision, and intuitive wisdom, Peter brings a sharp, critical mind to the challenge of self-awakening. The next great frontier of human exploration, he shows, is not outer space, but inner space — the development of the human mind. He has degrees in theoretical physics, experimental psychology, and computer science from the University of Cambridge in England, and has written ten books in this area, including The Global Brain Awakens, Waking Up in Time, and most recently, From Science to God: A Physicist’s Journey into the Mystery of Consciousness.


Published on Dec 27, 2016

What is oneness? How do we connect with others spiritually? How do we realize oneness? Finding an answer to all these questions would bring harmony, love and joy to all of us, because we would be connected to the Source, to Truth. Spiritual teacher Adyashanti says that we don’t have to be enlightened in order to understand oneness. A great and important step is to realize oneness on an logical and philosophical level. For this he takes the example of ‘tree’ and shows how a ‘tree’ is not only connected to everything in the universe, but that is it is everything in the universe.

If we want to realize oneness or experience oneness / unity with the cosmos we have to realize what Unity / Oneness actually means. ‘Unity isn’t just a nice. It’s not a better belief system than separation. It has nothing to do with a belief system,’ he says. ‘The experience of Unity is the whole universe now experiencing itself.’ ‘The universe is actually your intimate companion, it’s more than that. It’s your intimate Self.’ So, if all beliefs drop – even the belief in oneness – we realize unity consciousness and see that separation is an illusion. We then can experience harmony, connectedness with others and oneness with everything. We can see what personal and unhealthy boundaries we had and we can stop searching for oneness.


Published on Dec 27, 2016

Also see https://batgap.com/rick-archer-at-ber…

I was hesitant to put this up, because there’s more than enough of me on this site, but a few wise friends encouraged me to, so here it is. I gave this talk at the Open Circle Center in Berkeley, California on October 24, 2016.

Points discussed include: “Can knowledge of nonduality be systematically organized, tested, explained, and predicted? Science has not devised instruments capable of detecting the nondual nature of ultimate reality, but spiritual traditions discuss it extensively, and numerous followers of these traditions (and of no traditions) claim to have experienced it as their essential nature.

This experience is commonly termed “awakening” or “enlightenment”. Is there a “scientific” consensus among these people? Are they referring to the same thing? Is there just one awakening, or are there many degrees of it? Buddhist, Hindu, and Christian mystical traditions tend to assert the latter. If there are many degrees or stages of awakening, do they culminate in an ultimate stage we might term “enlightenment”, or is there no ultimate? When one’s essential nature has been clearly and abidingly realized, has one reached a terminus, or do refinement, clarification, and other facets of development continue?

If we see spiritual development as never-ending, will we be forever chasing the dangling carrot, or can we rest in our true nature, the seeking energy having dropped off, and yet acknowledge that compared with what might be possible, we are relative beginners? Many spiritual teachers make statements such as “This is it. You are That which you are seeking. Realize this, and you are finished.” Is such advice helpful, or does it short-change spiritual aspirants?” How might spirituality benefit from science, and vice versa? The consequences of science meddling with Laws of Nature without understanding the field in which they reside. The importance of understanding on the spiritual path. The seeming epidemic of spontaneous awakenings.

Art by Samuel Farrand

Art by Samuel Farrand

Throughout the ages there have been notable luminaries of humanity that have experienced a transformational harmonization initiated by the vectors of human becoming. We can look up to these sages for inspiration that will cultivate courage, will, and determination to experience an inner transformation of our consciousness. Although there are quite a few individuals that we can look to for sage-like guidance, these ten both ancient and present-day teachers will be focused on here, each with a message they streamed into the global mind in their own unique way. Let these words spark a shift within that will change the very way to see reality.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh

When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce.

Yet if we have problems with our friends or family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like the lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and argument.

That is my experience.

No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding.

If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change.

Heraclitus

Heraclitus

The soul is dyed the color of its thoughts. Think only on those things that are in line with your principles and can bear the light of day. The content of your character is your choice. Day by day, what you do is who you become. Your integrity is your destiny – it is the light that guides your way.

It is wise to listen, not to me but to reason, and to confess that all things are one.

From out of all the many particulars comes oneness, and out of oneness come all the many particulars.

Pema Chödrön

Pema Chödrön

Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know…nothing ever really attacks us except our own confusion. perhaps there is no solid obstacle except our own need to protect ourselves from being touched. Maybe the only enemy is that we don’t like the way reality is now and therefore wish it would go away fast. But what we find as practitioners is that nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.

If we run a hundred miles an hour to the other end of the continent in order to get away from the obstacle, we find the very same problem waiting for us when we arrive. it just keeps returning with new names, forms, manifestations until we learn whatever it has to teach us about where we are separating ourselves from reality, how we are pulling back instead of opening up, closing down instead of allowing ourselves to experience fully whatever we encounter, without hesitating or retreating into ourselves.

Lao Tzu

Lao Tzu

If you understand others you are smart.
If you understand yourself you are illuminated.
If you overcome others you are powerful.
If you overcome yourself you have strength.
If you know how to be satisfied you are rich.
If you can act with vigor, you have a will.
If you don’t lose your objectives you can be long-lasting.
If you die without loss, you are eternal.

Ramana Maharshi

Ramana Maharshi

The attempt to destroy the ego or the mind through practices other than self-inquiry is just like the thief pretending to be a policeman to catch the thief, that is, himself.

Self-inquiry alone can reveal the truth that neither the ego nor the mind really exists, and enable one to realize the pure, undifferentiated being of the Self or the absolute.

Having realized the Self, nothing remains to be known, because it is perfect bliss, it is the all.

Sri Aurobindo

Sri Aurobindo

An aimless life is always a troubled life. Every individual should have an aim. But do not forget that the quality of your aim will depend the quality of your life. Your aim should be high and wide, generous and disinterested; this will make your life precious to yourself and to others.

Whatever your ideal, it cannot be perfectly realized unless you have realized perfection in yourself.

Tenzin Palmo

Tenzin Palmo

This endless film show is being played in our mind – moment to moment mind states – and that is projected out in front of us as our external reality. Now as long as we are fascinated by the movie in front of us, then we believe it and we become deeply involved in what appears to be happening. But if we look back and realize it’s just a mind-show that we are projecting, then even though we can still enjoy it, we are not going to be totally devastated if it’s a tragedy or completely engulfed if it’s a romance. We know it’s just a movie.

Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi

Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words.
Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior.
Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits.
Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values.
Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.

Jiddu Krishnamurti

Jiddu Krishnamurti

We seek happiness through things, through relationship, through thoughts, ideas. So things, relationship, and ideas become all-important and not happiness. When we seek happiness through something, then the thing becomes of greater value than happiness itself. When stated in this manner, the problem sounds simple and it is simple. We seek happiness in property, in family, in name; then property, family, idea become all important, for then happiness is sought through a means, and then the means destroys the end.

Can happiness be found through any means, through anything made by the hand or by the mind? Things, relationship, and ideas are so transparently impermanent, we are ever made unhappy by them…Things are impermanent, they wear out and are lost; relationship is constant friction and death awaits; ideas and beliefs have no stability, no permanency. We seek happiness in them and yet do not realize their impermanency. So sorrow becomes our constant companion and overcoming it our problem.

To find out the true meaning of happiness, we must explore the river of self-knowledge. Self-knowledge is not an end in itself. Is there a source to a stream? Every drop of water from the beginning to the end makes the river. To imagine that we will find happiness at the source is to be mistaken. It is to be found where you are on the river of self knowledge.

Thubten Chodron

Thubten Chodron

Is it possible to eliminate our anger forever? Yes, it is, because anger is a false mind, an attitude based on a misconception. Anger is generated when we project negative qualities onto people and things. We misinterpret situations so they appear harmful to us. Absorbed in our own projections, we mistake them for the qualities of other people and get angry at what we ourselves have superimposed on them. The tragedy is that we’re not aware of this process, and mistakenly believe the rude, insensitive person we’re perceiving really exists out there.

Source: Shift

Paul is the founder & director of SHIFT>, a conscious evolution guide, author of The Creation of a Consciousness Shift, intentional evolutionary & celebrator of life working to provide an integral role in the positive social transformation of humanity.


A senior Buddhist teacher offers six fundamental body-based meditation practices that show the reader that enlightenment is as close to you as your own body.

Many of us experience life through so many conceptual filters that we never recognize the freedom and joy that are inherent in us—and are in fact the essence of who we are. We can grow old not realizing that one of the most powerful tools to escape the painful knots we tie ourselves in is, literally, at our fingertips: our body.

Here, Reggie Ray cracks open the shell of the mind-body dichotomy and presents six fundamental body-based practices that connect us back to who we really are. These practices cut through the mental fabrications through which we experience our world and lead us directly to the richness of living a fully present, embodied human life.

DR. REGINALD “REGGIE” RAY is the co-founder and Spiritual Director of the Dharma Ocean Foundation, dedicated to the evolution and flowering of the somatic teachings of Tibetan Buddhism. He is a lineage holder in the tradition of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Reggie is the author of several books–including Indestructible Truth and Secrets of the Vajra World— as well as and audio programs–including Mahamudra for the Modern World. He makes his residence in Crestone and Boulder, Colorado.

LOOK INSIDE

Reggie Ray ‘Finding Realization In The Body’ Interview by Renate McNay

Reggie Ray ‘Finding Realization In The Body’ Interview by Renate McNay.

The transcript of this interview is available to view here.
http://www.conscious.tv/text/89.htm

The transcript of the somatic meditation is available to view here.
http://www.conscious.tv/text/90.htm


Published on Dec 25, 2016

Imagine yourself having a peaceful mind, because you’ve learned how to stop overthinking?! In this video spiritual teacher Roger Castillo speaks about the power of I AM. He refers to the Indian Advaita Master Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj who put a strong emphasis on the remembering of and the abiding as I AM.

Roger starts with explaining what ‘Abide in I AM’ means. ‘It means that there is a field of Being (Awareness) that exists prior to thinking. A field of Being that we are not particularly familiar with, because for our whole life we have lived as the thinker, as the doer, trying to control life through thought,’ Roger says. ‘And so, I AM means dropping out of that (obsessive) thinking into Being.’

If we want to learn how to silence the voice in our head or how to stop negative thinking, we need to understand why we give such a great importance to thinking and Roger shares his explanation. ‘We start off with this obsessive thinking, because deep down we think it’s good for us, deep down we think it’s going to take us to what we need, deep down we might think we can control life and we might actually get happiness through pleasure.’

Roger then shares his advice on how to step out of the thinking mind and achieve freedom from thoughts. According to him we can do this by the thought and realization of I AM, which drops us into Being, into our heart. ‘What I mean by dropping down into the heart is that the center of consciousness resides up in the head, because of all the thinking. But its home is actually the chest in the heart.’ He continues ‘When the thought I AM arises it cuts off thinking and if we can imagine that all off a sudden the center of consciousness is dropping into the chest area and that life is being seen not from the head, but from the chest. The reason it’s in the chest, in the heart, is that that’s the place where impersonal consciousness links into the human being and functions through the human being as personal consciousness.’ ‘And so in the heart resides the sense of Being, the sense of I AM.’

So, if we listen to Roger’s advice we can learn
– how to stop negative thinking and thoughts
– how to end obsessive thoughts here and now
– how to deal with a mind that is clouded by thoughts
– how to deal with stress
– how to deal with constant worrying
– how to use the power of I AM.


A definition of spiritual enlightenment or spiritual awakening is hard to pin down.

This is, in part, because “spiritual enlightenment” and “spiritual awakening” have been used in so many ways to describe so many things, similar to the way in which “love” is used to describe everything from a preference for ice cream to a merging with everything. And it is also because spiritual enlightenment and spiritual awakening are such rich and complex experiences that they are innately hard to define.

Some definitions are very specific and narrow. One such definition for spiritual enlightenment is the complete dissolution of one’s identity as a separate self with no trace of the egoic mind remaining. This sets the bar very high and means that very few people qualify as enlightened.

The opposite approach is to say that everyone is enlightened, that there is only awake consciousness. In this view, it’s only a question of whether this natural awakeness has been recognized or not. Of course, when a word describes everything or everyone, it loses some of its usefulness. If everyone is enlightened, then why even talk about it?

Combining perspectives on spiritual enlightenment

Perhaps there’s a definition that includes both of these perspectives, which recognizes that consciousness is always awake and enlightened, but the amount of awakeness, or aware consciousness, that is present in any moment can vary. This definition acknowledges that there’s a difference in the amount of awakeness, or enlightened consciousness, that different people experience or that one person experiences at different times but still suggests that the potential for full awareness or becoming enlightened is the same for everybody. If every apparent individual consciousness is infinite in its potential, then each can also be infinite both in its capacity to expand or awaken and in its capacity to contract or identify with a narrow or limited experience.

If all consciousness is made of the same essential awareness and light, and if everyone has an equal potential for enlightenment, then all expressions of consciousness are equally valid and valuable. Everyone truly is a Buddha or enlightened being, at least in potential. So defining enlightenment in many ways now makes sense, depending on what is being pointed to. One may use the word enlightenment to point to the state of self-realization beyond the ego or to point to the innate potential for this realization in all of us.

As for differentiating between the words enlightenment and awakening, “enlightenment” implies a more finished and constant state of realization, while “awakening” has more of the active quality of a verb and therefore suggests a movement or shift in consciousness. An awakening may be defined as a sudden increase in the overall amount of consciousness an individual is experiencing. There can be small awakenings and bigger awakenings. Not only does consciousness have unlimited potential for the amount of awakeness, but it also has an unlimited potential to shift in any way, at any moment. Consciousness can and sometimes does shift from contracted states of fear, anger, or hurt to expanded states of peace and joy in an instant. Unfortunately, it can also shift in the other direction. Consciousness has no fixed state.
What about the spiritual awakening happening now?

As it is being defined here, a spiritual awakening is a sudden expansion or shift in consciousness, especially a more dramatic one (we don’t usually refer to a minor realization as a spiritual awakening). Enlightenment, on the other hand can be used to mark a particular level of realization or awakeness, even if the exact definition varies depending on who is using the word, as it does with every word.

What really matters is what your awareness is doing right now. How is your consciousness appearing or shifting in this moment? Are you realizing more of your experience and Essence right now? Or are you contracting and limiting your awareness with thoughts and identification? Is any shifting happening from reading these words?

Enlightenment or awakening is a profound mystery, and the best definition may be found in the actual experience of your own shifts in consciousness. Just as it’s more nourishing to eat an apple than read about one, so it can be more rewarding to explore the movements of your own awareness than to try to understand these things mentally. While definitions of such things can be helpful, it can also be beneficial to not have too many concepts, which could interfere with your actual experience. It’s a good thing that language isn’t so fixed or defined when it comes to spiritual unfoldment. Maybe the best definition of enlightenment is no definition. Then there is only what is found in your own direct experience of awareness.

(The above is from the free ebook: That Is That: Essays About True Nature available here.)
The Flower of Spiritual Awakening (a recent blog post from Nirmala’s blog)

What are the causes of spiritual awakening or enlightenment?

Consider the miracle of a flower. What is it that causes a plant to flower? Does sunshine cause a plant to flower? Does lots of water? Or is it good soil? Maybe all of these together? Or is there really something more subtle in the nature of the flower itself that causes it to flower? Is it something in the DNA of the plant? Does that mean the whole process of evolution over eons of time is involved? What other factors might cause the flowering? Does gravity play a part? The season and the temperature? The quality of the light? (Some plants will not flower under glass or artificial light.) What about animals that eat the fruit and spread the plant? Or the birds or bees that pollinate the flower? Do they cause the subsequent flowering of the newly established plants? Are there even subtler influences? What about presence and love? The intention and attention of a gardener? And is the existence of the world of form itself necessary for a plant to flower? And what about consciousness? Is there an ultimate force that directs the creation and unfolding of all expressions of form that is behind the appearance of a rose or a daisy?

What if it is a combination of all of the things mentioned? And also what if they have to all be in the right proportion? Is that proportion different for every species of plant? Some plants need lots of water or light to flower. Others will die with too much water or light. There is a unique formula that is involved with the appearance of the simplest apple blossom and the most complex orchid.

When you consider all of these influences and even more that were not mentioned or can’t even be known or imagined, then it truly is a miracle when a flower happens. It is impossible to say what causes it to happen with any certainty or completeness. Yet, it’s an act of incredible grace whenever all of these diverse, subtle, and gross influences come together in just the right way for an iris or a bird of paradise to open its unique petals to the sky. Ultimately, if you trace all the factors back to all their causes, you find that everything that exists is somehow intimately connected to the cactus flower or dandelion in your front yard. We need a vague and powerful word like “grace” to name this amazing interplay of forces and intelligence. Obviously, to reduce it to a formula doesn’t come close to capturing or describing the vast richness of variables and forces at play. There is no formula complex enough to capture the whole mystery of a magnolia blossom…

Spiritual awakening is a kind of flowering of consciousness. When consciousness expands and opens into a new expression, we call that a spiritual awakening. And while there are as many kinds of awakenings as there are flowers, they are all equally mysterious. What is it that causes a child to start to awaken to the nature of words and language? What causes the awakening of sexuality in a teenager? How does one suddenly know they are falling in love? Or even more profoundly, how does one explain the birth of unconditional or divine love?

Finally, what are the causes of the most profound spiritual awakenings, where consciousness suddenly recognizes its ultimate true nature? Why does that type of flowering appear in one consciousness today and another one tomorrow? If the formula for a simple petunia is a vastly complex interplay of earthly, human, and even cosmic forces, then imagine how complex the formula is for the unfolding of a human consciousness into full spiritual enlightenment as one’s true nature. The good news is that we cannot and do not need to know the totality of the formula involved to grow some petunias, and we cannot and do not need to know the formula for spiritual enlightenment. Yet, we can be curious about all of the factors involved and even play with them to see what effects, if any, they may have in our individual experience of consciousness unfolding.

Sometimes the mysteriousness and unpredictability of the whole process of awakening leads us to shrug our shoulders and say it is all up to grace or to God. And, of course, that is true; and yet, does that mean there’s no place in this unfolding for our own actions? Is there a place for spiritual practice? What about meditation, self-inquiry, or study of spiritual texts? And how about devotional practices or the transmission of presence from being with a great teacher or master? We can easily become disillusioned with any or all of these activities because the results they produce are so unpredictable and varied, and it can seem simpler to avoid the question of their role altogether. Ask any gardener if it works every time to water and weed and fertilize a plant? Or does a plant sometimes fail to flower no matter how well it is cared for? But does that mean you never water or fertilize your plants?

At other times we can be overly convinced that our practice or inquiry will lead to the desired results, often because it seemed to work at least once for us, or for someone we know. The only problem with spiritual practices is that they occasionally work! Then we think that we have the formula and that every time we sit down to meditate or ask, “Who am I?” we will have that same experience of expansion or awakening again. That is like thinking you will always have a bumper crop of marigolds every time you plant them.

There is a middle way between denying the importance or role of spiritual practice and having unrealistic expectations that self-inquiry, meditation, or devotional practice is going to, by itself, cause an awakening. We can experiment and play with these processes, just as a gardener will experiment with different fertilizers or watering patterns to see what happens. It ultimately is all up to grace, and yet, what if grace works through us as well as on us? What if spiritual practice is as much a part of the mystery of existence as anything else?

Maybe we can hold the question of what role inquiry, devotion, effort, surrender, transmission, meditation, gratitude, intention, silencing the mind, study of spiritual books, involvement with a teacher or master, ripeness of the student, karma, grace, and luck play in our enlightenment with an openness and curiosity, instead of a need to define their roles once and for all. The flowering of consciousness in your own existence is as unique as every flower, and ultimately we are all here to discover how it is going to happen uniquely this time around. What is your consciousness like right now? How open is the flower of your awareness? Is it still budding or has it blossomed? Just as every flower fades and another comes along, what about now? And now? What happens this time when you meditate? What happens now when you inquire “Who am I?” How does it feel right now to open your heart with gratitude even if nothing much is happening? What impact does reading this article or any other piece of writing have on you? Every stage of a plant’s existence is valuable and even necessary for its flowering. Your experience is always adding to the richness of the unfolding of consciousness in this moment. May you enjoy the garden of your true nature, including when spiritual awakenings are blooming, and when spiritual enlightenment seems far away.

(From the free ebook: That Is That: Essays About True Nature available here.)

About Nirmala:

Advaita spiritual teacher, Nirmala has been offering satsang and spiritual mentoring in the U.S. and internationally since 1998. Nirmala offers a unique vision and a gentle, compassionate approach, which adds to the rich tradition of inquiry into our true nature. He is the author of several books, including Nothing Personal: Seeing Beyond the Illusion of a Separate Self and Living from the Heart. In his books and mentoring sessions, Nirmala points to the wisdom within each of us, and fosters the individual’s own potential for spiritual awakening.


Published on Dec 23, 2016

Pain can bring immense suffering to all of us. Spiritual teacher John de Ruiter gives us valuable advice on how we can deal with pain and illnesses of all kinds wisely. In this video he is responding to a woman who is suffering from headaches. Whether it is headache, other physical pain or even chronic illness, John shows how to deal with it intelligently.
Basically, he advises us to open unconditionally and remain as who we truly are, the watching awareness / consciousness. ‘Open unconditionally, with and without headaches. The openness is you and the headache is what you have. Everything that you have can come and go,’ John explains. ‘You being what you really are, first, has nothing to do with what you experience, it has only to do with you.’ He continues, ‘Trouble of any kind doesn’t stop you or prevent you from entering your being.’

So, if we listen to John’s advice we can learn

– how to deal with pain and chronic illnesses
– how to deal with headaches
– how to enquire into and meditate on our true nature, which is awareness and how to remain as that awareness.
– how to be your true, authentic Self.

John de Ruiter is a Canadian philosopher and nonduality / spiritual teacher


Published on Dec 23, 2016

“I pray for the awakening of all being.” Gangaji

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