Today, it is clear for almost every spiritual seeker that we live in the era of spiritual awakening. However, what is the awakening is often misinterpreted. Many people think that awakening and enlightenment are the same; a single-time event that happens once and you are done! On the contrary, the truth is that enlightenment is a process that is actually a series of awakenings.
Let’s take a look at three of the most important turning points during spiritual awakening:
Awakening from Identification
Every waking moment of our life fits a personal history with our own Self in its focus. Our life can only be interpreted within the framework of that history. The reason for that is that we identify with the voice of the Ego, the narrator of our own story, so closely that our personal history becomes the foundation of our entire life.
What does this identification mean? It means that we identify with a form (e. g. our name) that originally did not belong to us (we are all born without a name), but through identification this specific form has become a part of our existence.
A closer look at that personal history will, reveal that our internal story consists of a fabric of experiences and thoughts. Thoughts that explain our experiences, thoughts that we believe and with which we identified, thoughts that will thus provide the foundations of our self-determination.
Our personal history keeps us under its spell, in a hypnotic state in which all our attention is devoted to the inner voice and story it tells. In this way we give up our alertness, the world passes by us, because we only concentrate on the elements of reality that appear to confirm our personal history. We therefore lose our grip on the deeper dimensions of life. The deeper dimensions are present in our life, but we lose contact with them because of our lack of alertness.
The question may arise in us whether we are really identical with our own personal history, or perhaps we are more than that? Everybody has some vague suspicion that our personal history does not reflect reality, we are in fact at a deeper level than that.
When everything is apparently all right in our personal history, we achieve our goals, we are happy, and the vague suspicion vanishes entirely in us, and our identification with our personal history becomes more powerful. There are, however, moments in our life when nothing appears to succeed, so we are unhappy and we suffer. The suspicion then reinforces in us, and we tend to believe that we are more than the cluster of thoughts that constitute our personal history. We realize that we are more than mere thoughts.
If we become aware and conscious of our own personal history that we are telling ourselves, we have a chance to wake up from the hypnotic spell of our personal history. This is the first major turning point in the process of spiritual awakening.
Awakening from Ego
When the Consciousness identifies with a form, the Ego appears. The Ego always means some sort of an identification, self-determination (I am a man, I am a father, I am an Englishman, I am Christian etc.) The Ego therefore rests upon our identification with things that are important for us Ego.
The Ego is the central figure of our personal history, based upon the past and looking into the future. The components of the Ego are thoughts, emotions, memories (with which the person identifies as “my story”), fixed unconscious roles and collective identifications (nationality, religion, etc.). Most people completely identify with these components of the Ego, and for them no self “outside” of this exists.
The identification of the Ego with things (object, the person’s own body, way of thinking) creates the link of the individual to various things. The Ego (and thus the spiritually unconscious person) experiences his/her existence through the possession of various objects. The satisfaction provided by the sense of possession is, however, short, so the individual usually carries on the pursuit for new objects. There is a powerful motivation behind this activity of the individual, a psychological demand to obtain more, the unconscious sense of “not yet enough,” and this feeling surfaces in a want for more. This want is a more powerful driving force for the Ego than the desire to possess. The uneasy feelings, recklessness, boredom, stress and dissatisfaction are all largely the products of the dissatisfied longing for more.
The thoughts such as “it’s mine,” “I want it,” “I need it,” “it is not enough,” belong to the structure of the Ego. The content of the Ego changes with time; it is replaced with new contents. No content is, however, able to lastingly satisfy the Ego as long as the structure of the Ego remains in its place. The individual keeps looking for something different, something that promises a greater satisfaction, making the sense of self of the individual more complete.
The Ego intends to elevate the forms (including its own form) to eternity, which is impossible. This intention of the Ego will be the source of all sufferings, because its world of forms and shapes shall collapse like a sandcastle after a while, until death snatches away the last of the forms: its body from it. It came empty-handed from Nothing, and that is how it is going to return there.
The only treasure it could take along with it is its wakefulness, but the Ego considers that worthless in the world of forms and shapes, as it was not a means of increasing the power the Ego
The Ego is not bad, it is simply unconscious. Ego is the deepest dream of the Consciousness. If an individual is able to notice and observe the functions of the Ego, he or she will be able to transcend it. In that case, the individual who has been looking for a more complete perception of the self will recognize that it has always been there, but the functions of the Ego—identification with objects and thoughts—has pushed it into the background. One of the ways of transcending the Ego is not reacting wholeheartedly to the ever-changing kaleidoscope of thoughts and emotions, but concentrating on the alert Consciousness in the background instead.
In most people, the term “consciousness” identifies with that socially conditioned Ego. At a number of people this identification is so powerful that they are unaware that their life is governed by a socially conditioned mind.
Those who are able to go beyond that identification with the mind recognize this state of being socially conditioned, and are also able to leave the social conditioning behind. Such a person will not identify with the mind but, increasingly, with the Consciousness. The Alertness shall, therefore, control the mind to an increasing extent and will be manifested through the tranquilized mind
When our identification with a form ceases, a new space is generated between us and the form and we are able to see and recognize that we are not identical with that form. With the dissolution of the identification, the Ego also disappears. This is the second major turning point in the process of spiritual Awakening.
Awakening Into Alertness
The gateway leading us to the deeper dimensions of Life is Alertness, which appears as a result of the release of our attention from the hypnotic state of listening to our personal story. The new Alertness enables us to learn about ourselves without identifying with our thoughts and emotions.
What we first experience in this new, alert state beyond our thoughts and emotions is the completeness of existence. In that state all fragmentation disappears from our life, we recognize the inner spaciousness of our existence, our inner happiness and tranquility. We feel at home in our own skin, and we realize that our alert Consciousness is free from all kinds of thoughts and emotions.
In that state of Consciousness an entirely new dimension of existence opens up for us, showing us Existence from a completely new perspective. The unity behind the controversies is revealed in front of our eyes, and we no longer insist on looking on the sunny side of life, as we are able to discover beauty on the dark side, too.
We accept life as it is, and it is not done under pressure, since that acceptance is the result of our complete freedom. The freedom is, in turn, a fruit of our escape from the world of Shapes and Forms. We have understood and experienced the process of awakening. The time has come for us to take control over our mind whenever it is required by the circumstances. When we do not need the work of the mind directly, let us give it some rest.
Everything will be quiet and peaceful in us. We are beyond all good and evil, we are a mere Consciousness that does not analyze or judge, only contemplates. We realize that the same contemplating soul lives in everybody, so the differences between human beings are only superficial, and deep inside we are all the same. Experiencing that unity will bring us the ecstasy of Life, the perfect joy of Existence.
This article excerpted from Frank M. Wanderer’s book, Ego, Alertness, Consciousness: The Path to Your Spiritual Home.
About the Author
Frank M. Wanderer, Ph.D is a professor of psychology, a consciousness researcher and writer. With a lifelong interest in the mystery of human existence, Frank’s work is to help others wake up from identification with our personal history and the illusory world of the forms and shapes, and to find our identity in what he calls “the Miracle”, the mystery of the Consciousness.