Interview by Phil Escott for the Carnivore and Beyond Podcast talking about spirituality, awakening and ancestral health. For more information about Phil go to pureactivity.net
Post-Awakening Integration & Releasing Old Conditioning
Q: I’m fearful of what will happen as I continue on this journey of awakening. It’s coming up right now because working with you these past weeks I finally experienced a shift into Unity Consciousness and see the integration deepening as well. But the fear is mainly there because after my initial shift into non-duality a year ago I had a pretty traumatic time of instability and integration where I couldn’t function in the world very well. I don’t want to go back into that unstableness and overwhelm that came with that first major shift. I’ve felt this sense of “My God what is coming next, what if it’s like the other time?” And while it’s not been like that at all this time so far, I still have a little bit of fear of “how will this be?” I feel I can’t make plans because I don’t know how I will be in the coming weeks and months and this scares me.
That you will hit against a major period of instability is an assumption and definitely not a certainty at all. What I can say is that you will go through what you need to go through, but it rarely looks exactly the same. Especially once you’ve gone through something all the way to the bottom and it’s done. The next time it’s got it’s own flavour and shape to it, but it’s never the same.
So on the topic of stability I can’t offer you any guarantees, but I doubt it will look the same as it did a year ago. You’ve been through a lot since then, and a lot of wisdom has been embodied and a lot of trauma released and integrated.
But in the broader sense it’s also a good lesson for life really, that actually we can’t plan and we really don’t know what life will throw at us at any given moment. In many ways life gives us what it needs to give us for our evolutionary and spiritual growth. In some ways we are at life’s mercy and any plans are pretty futile unless they are just seen as a sketch.
To me this is where faith comes in – the trust and love of life itself to show us the way. This is why I use the word Grace so much, because to me, it’s all Grace and it’s all a gift. There’s an assumption generally that gifts are nice. But gifts are not always nice, nevertheless they are gifts because they show you something, they give you something or they teach you something. Life doesn’t give us anything that we can’t handle and the human capacity is phenomenal. It blows me away to constantly see the resilience and capacity of human beings.
But I understand that fear and while the appearance of fear in your experience needs to be fully acknowledged rather than ignored, I also encourage you to question whether that fear is actually calling on something in you to go into it, rather than away from it. Our mind plays all sorts of tricks and what-ifs but what’s happening is not necessarily any of the things that you fear it will be. Often the presence of fear is actually fear of the unknown itself. The mind wants certainty but life inherently can’t provide that for the mind.
Recently I’ve been getting many people coming to me with similar stuff. They’ve already awakened and have stabilised in that recognition and yet they’re struggling with integrating aspects of life to varying degrees. Some struggling on little things and some are struggling in a big way. But the answer is the same – going into the experience, not away from it. There’s a subtle assumption that all prior ‘issues’ will be solved upon awakening. It’s not true! Sometimes there’s even a feeling of “I shouldn’t be dealing with this stuff anymore, I should be done with it, I thought I’d be done with all this ‘personal’ stuff.”
Q: Yes I’ve noticed there are quite a few people that are struggling so much with this, “I just can’t deal with more and I wanted it to go away, I want it to f**k off. Really, I just can’t deal with this.”
I recently talked with someone who post-awakening everything’s been going great for a good while and then they hit this similar sort of thing. There was still a sense of, “Okay, so this is arising and I can sit with this for X amount of time but at some point, okay, now it needs to be done.” And so sitting together we came to the discovery that there was this sense in them that “Okay, now I should be done. Now you need to go.” And it’s actually at that point I believe, it’s the learnt conditioning that’s still present kicking in and is saying that something shouldn’t be the way it is.
And that’s the point at which they needed to hold it closer, get more intimate with whatever is arising. Not in terms of “I need to keep this” but in terms of, if there’s a sense arising of, “Okay this needs to be done” that’s when the most self compassion and attentiveness needs to be present. That’s when the most space, the most attention, the most acceptance, and the most love needs to be felt because that’s actually the call inward right there. It’s the call out of the head and into the heart of awareness. Into the subtler, a-conceptual nature of life where the call of acceptance for all that arises is heard. But the conditioned mind has a tendency to go, “Right, I’m going to throw a stone in the bush, and I’m going to distract you”. This is because it feels the attention and the sense of control slipping away from itself (the mind).
To me that’s a handy little hint indicating that you need to break out the ‘inner child compassion’. Where you go, “Okay, all right, you want to be done but that’s just a subtle form of rejection. We can sit here for as long as you need to be here. You can be present and you are free to go when you need to go as well. But I am not going to give you any rules to live by.” I won’t sugar coat it, it’s really hard to break that particular conditioning. To break that cycle of feeling like, “Okay, now I’m done. I’ve been at it for a couple of years. Now is the time to get my reward, time to get the good stuff. Now it’s time to be done with all of this”.
But it’s actually when you lean into that feeling that the space of emptiness opens up. And that’s the space of love and the fulfilment of all the things that we’re searching for. That’s where you find all of life, all of love and it’s not a goal, it’s just the natural fragrance and emanation of it.
Q: How is it for you when these things come? Because I know you also struggled lots with this initially post-awakening.
I still do occasionally. This is the thing people don’t get and so I try to be really honest with this because there’s the assumption that I don’t struggle is in of itself an idea that perpetuates the idea that “It’s just my problem. No-one else deals with this. (S)he’s got it all sorted out. (S)he’s done. I’m wrong, I’m broken. When I’m ‘awake’ I’ll be fixed.”
And it’s not true. Not true at all.
Q: But does it arise in the same way as before?
I would say the intensity, length and the frequency are much less, mainly because when I see it arising, there’s not a breath of hesitation in that I know what this is. I’ve been through it enough times. I’ve been there, I’ve done that, I know what needs to be done now. So I hit up against these pockets. They’re like coal seams in the way that you’re going along in life and you hit up against a pocket. These pockets in life show up sometimes, it’s not like you have to go digging for them. It could be a new situation that you hadn’t bumped into before, or an old school friend, or any number of things. But now I recognise it, it’s familiar and my body recognises it. It’s not even to do with the mind anymore, it’s just that I physically recognise it and I allow and greet it like an old friend.
Not only do I allow it or put up with it but I love it too. And I don’t mean I smother it in love, what I mean is I accept it, I allow it and I am compassionate to that aspect in myself that is arising. I don’t try and reject it, I don’t try and push it away, I’m compassionate with it and I give space to it. Whatever’s coming up needs to be there and it’s calling for my attention. The way I respond to it is almost with the attitude of that’s the least I could do – not because I should but because that’s what feels most true and loving. That I can give it my attention in the moment, that’s the least I could do. So I give it my attention and my love. I give my attention to all these other things in life, why can’t I give that thing that is coming up the same level of care and attention?
Q: Yeah, so true. And when you do that do you feel it doesn’t take long for you to move through it?
It depends. It depends on the level of intensity or the size and depth of that pocket. Sometimes it’s a tiny little thing and I barely notice it even before it’s gone, it’s only a momentary something. But sometimes it might be a couple of hours or even days that are needed to attend to what’s coming up. They’re much less frequent now, those kind of big pockets. But they do come up. But also I haven’t got the attitude of ‘needing to move through it’ anymore, as if what’s showing up is wrong. I accept it fully as part of the current of life.
But as an example, I had one come up a few weekends ago. Some situation came up and I recognised it was something that I hadn’t dealt with since almost the beginning of mine and Martyn’s relationship. It had been in the background all this time, so much so that I hadn’t even noticed it was still there because it hadn’t actively come up in so many years. And then this big pocket came up and, whoah, the intensity of that was so vivid, so raw. I spent a sleepless night just sitting with it very intensely. I was watching this process of the mind and the body literally trying anything it could to get out of this situation that it found itself in. Any excuse to not sit with it and include it, integrate it or embrace it, and to instead run far away from it. But I found myself saying to myself, “Okay, all right, it’s okay, you’re trying to get out of the situation and I hold the space for that even.” Even in that desperate mind-body attempt to avoid the crap that was being felt, I was present and holding enough space for that. So yeah, it still happens for sure.
You see I’d done very little ‘work’ before awakening compared to the depth that I discovered was needed to be held, healed and integrated post-awakening. The intensity of what I felt a couple of weekends ago was what it felt like pretty continuously for many months initially post-awakening. I’m amazed I got through it in those early days, but I did, even though there were times where I felt that I might not make it – quite literally. It was quite unexpected, the level of intensity for me. It’s probably why I put so much focus on helping others in this way now.
Q: It’s the same for me. It’s so much less and not so frequently now than a year ago.
These things do pass in really a relatively short period of time but we think that it will last forever when we’re in the midst of it. Even the intensity of those first few months and year(s) post-awakening, when it feels like it will go on forever, in time it’s seen as only a small part of your life story.
I feel the processing of these pockets could almost be likened to when you get just a little bit of a song stuck in your head. Round and round the same chorus or the same couple of bars of music or something and you cannot for the life of you get it out of your head, no matter what you do. You have to be finally willing to play the song all the way through to the end, otherwise what happens is you get stuck on the little brain worm of a couple of bars or the chorus over and over again.
And so the willingness to do that has to come about. And it’s not something you can force because sometimes you’re just not ready to go there and do that. But eventually whatever is coming up has to be played out, and when it’s played out fully, it’s done. Then in the future, when something comes up, it may be very similar but it won’t ever be the same thing exactly.
So surrender is actually what is required. It’s that surrender and freefall into the allowing of the full song to be played out. I feel it’s actually the only way eventually.
But sometimes we’re like “No, no, quick, quick, I want the song to be done”. But the song has exactly the right amount of beats, the right amount of words, it’s got its rhythm, its pace. It’s the full length of the song and you can’t speed the song up and end it any quicker, you also can’t slow it down and keep it going.
So the recognition of this process brings an ease to it in itself actually because then you get to learn your rhythm. You get to learn the rhythm of this song playing out, and then it becomes less alien. You’re no longer thinking “Oh what is this?” And I think that’s the thing that comes in time is the recognition of, “Oh, this is what’s happening. This is nothing to be afraid of”. It’s actually old stuff that’s coming up that needs to be processed. It needs to be gone through instead of trying to push against it.
Q: Yeah, I can’t do it, even though I’m trying to escape it for sure unconsciously, and sometimes consciously. But it’s impossible. I have to stay with it.
And maybe you’ve also noticed the more you don’t listen to life, the louder it gets. Learn to actually listen to that intuition and trust it. For me, I feel it in my gut, but I think other people feel it in different places in their body – but it’s never the mind! If I ignore that intuition, and the more and more I ignore it, the louder and louder the lesson gets.
Q: Yeah. Before awakening I could only see the results of ignoring my intuition later, maybe some days, a week after. But now it’s instantaneous.
Yes, it’s keeping you right there in the present moment process. It’s life’s mechanism for keeping you honest and truthful to yourself. Sometimes those intuitions go against every rule, go against every idea that society has about what you should or shouldn’t be doing. But you cannot not listen to it because it is the right thing for you. Even if seven billion people tell you it’s the wrong thing, it’s the right thing for you and only you will know that. Being centred in your heart and not your conditioned mind you’ll know if it comes from a true and honest place of Self intuition or if it’s coming from layers of conditioning and ego. Awakening certainly makes it easier to see those distinctions.
Once you let go of those layers, or once those layers have dissolved and gone, each of us has the answer to life in this moment. Not the answer that it ‘should’ be, but the actual natural, spontaneous answer to every moment. It’s comes from truth, your truth, not my truth, not anyone else’s truth. Just truth, your truth.
I feel we are conditioned into so much shame and wrongness with our experience. It’s very difficult to go against that conditioning or break it, but it’s very simple in terms of the work that needs to be done. So the reconditioning, or the deconditioning of that shame and that wrongness is a big part of the post-awakening work and embodiment in many ways. Because it’s going away from the ‘shoulds’ and into the ‘what is’. But you really physically feel that shaming, that wrongness in your body, and it’s hard to ignore.
So I think wrongness is a big one to get over for most people. When we have a conditioned sense of wrongness for whatever’s appearing in our experience, there’s a voice that says “This is wrong. This isn’t correct. I shouldn’t be feeling this. I shouldn’t be going through this. I shouldn’t be, shouldn’t be, shouldn’t be”. When we recognise this to be false the release that we feel is that relaxing into the sense of “Okay, this isn’t wrong. This really isn’t wrong. None of it is. It’s all perfectly as it is”. The release of any sense of wrongness is to me so powerful.
I feel there’s actually no such thing as ‘wrong’ experientially speaking. Because the idea of wrong automatically creates a sense of separation between something correct in consciousness and something incorrect. But if it’s appearing, or happening, surely this IS consciousness, this IS life too!
Q: Yeah. I’m doing wrong, I’m being wrong, and the shame of many different things.
For most it’s been a lifetime of that, this is why it takes time and it can be a difficult one to fall away. We talk about there being no time, yes, it’s all now. But at the same time, in the paradox, there is time too, and it takes time for these things to unwind and unfold. It takes great patience and great forgiveness of oneself.
Q: What do you think the difference is between dealing with these things post-awakening and pre-? Is it easier? Is there less resistance?
Before awakening it’s difficult to really deal with and see a lot of the conditioned behaviours because the ego-mind strategy and structure is working against this in many ways. Functionally it’s protecting the mind and self image from going into the depths of held beliefs where it all begins to fall apart and be seen though. But a certain amount of ‘work’ can be done as you go without a doubt. I personally just wasn’t very successful at this, or rather I should say my mind was very efficient at building structures to avoid this! Post-awakening a lot of these false structures and identities dissolved or at least were seen through, so this is when there was true openness to have it all arise. The brakes came off, so to speak.
Generally I’d say after awakening what happens is that there’s an acceptance of whatever is arising. There’s nowhere else to go, there’s nothing to be done that isn’t already happening, it’s just what is arising in consciousness. And so the human experience is very raw in that way because you’re faced with whatever’s coming up in your life. So that’s where I’d say there’s lack of resistance – you can’t hide from life, it’s just happening.
Even in that recognition and acceptance, resistance or fighting against something can still show up. But the meta of that is that there’s a complete acceptance somewhere in there, maybe deep down even, there’s the acceptance that “Okay, this is what’s happening”.
This sounds like a very ordinary and obvious thing, which it is, but it’s the full acceptance of the recognition that there’s nothing else other than this. This is what life is presenting right now. This is what is showing up in me. And so therefore it’s not wrong.
But that can take a little bit of time to come to trust this as old conditioning still plays out that says otherwise. So initially this can feel very groundless and there can be a lot of fear that can come up with that. The rules of right and wrong in regard to experiences get thrown out and you’re just left with the suchness of life.
If you’ve been conditioned to believe that the feeling of groundlessness is wrong, that you’re a broken human being if you experience that, then that can bring up a lot of embodied trauma and fear of uncertainty. You can intimately feel that sense of groundlessness, the emptiness, the void; but the mind interprets the lack of control and the lack of anything to hold on to as threatening to itself. It can feel like life or death to the conditioned mind, and this can take some patience and courage to work though as life gently guides you to see that it’s actually not true; that groundlessness is the ground of your Self and it’s nothing to fear.
But even in this post-awakening process of unwinding old conditioning and integrating the current lived and embodied experience, fundamentally there’s a recognition and acceptance that whatever is showing up simply is. It’s not even right or wrong, it just IS. And what is is not personal, it’s just an arising in consciousness.
The ‘Conversations & Questions’ series comes from snippets of conversations taken from emails, 1-on-1 sessions, group meetings or in-person conversations. I take out any personal or sensitive content, but often these conversations have a universality to them that can be helpful to more than just one person. Feel free to get in touch via email, social media or even post your question in the comments below and I may answer them in this way…
I came across this great post by Scott Kiloby this morning on Facebook , it’s long but worth the read… (probably before you read my comments on it)
End the Neo-Advaita LieBy Scott KilobyFrom the moment Buddha experienced the complete dissolving of all suffering…
[I’ll post the full article at the bottom of this page if you don’t want to hyperlink out to it.]
I agree with Scott here in that awakening is not the end. For me it was the beginning of meeting myself, maybe for the first time, and seeing where there were traumas and conditioning to be met, worked on and integrated. It’s a continuing process for me, one that I believe wouldn’t be fully possible without awakening (for me at least) as there were far too many egoic structures in place to prevent the ability to go where was needed to go. With awakening there was openness and space for it all.
The statement “there’s nothing to do and no-one to do do it” for me has truth to it on one level, but where the rubber hits the road on this human embodied level of existence it doesn’t account for the felt experience of living. And what really matters for our daily life is how we experience it, how we suffer it, how we love it, how we LIVE it.
Yes, there’s no one to do it, but yet doing happens. Yes there’s nothing to do, it’s all unfolding perfectly as it needs to… But that INCLUDES the work of healing and growing and integrating ALL aspects of this human experience.
Putting my neck on the line here… My perspective is that awakening is half baked unless the humanness is fully brought back INTO the awakened recognition of the underlying unity of this all appearing in awareness. To deny our humanity is to create separation and confusion where there really needn’t be.
Its BOTH-AND not EITHER-OR… and our ‘job’ on an individual level post-awakening is the job of clean up. The cleanup of what it means to live and breathe and relate in this world WITH the recognition of the underlying truth of our nature as that of awareness/consciousness. It’s a naturally occurring process if you let your heart stay open to all possibilities and make no attempt at pinning ‘wrongness’ to whatever needs to show up because is not ‘spiritual’ or ‘enlightened’ enough!
There’s a tendency to negate life with the ‘neo-advaitins’ (yes that’s a massive generalisation of course, no offense intended) to go towards the nihilistic and denial of the human experience in favour of tropes that can quite frankly be even more damaging such as “Who is experiencing depression? It’s just a thought appearing, it’s not real”. There’s a coldness, a non-compassionate side to it that leaves someone feeling hopeless and lost, or even gaslit. Because if not done very skilfully can be taken by a seeker as a denial or a wrongness for their felt experience, like they need to ignore or get rid of that experience of depression because it’s not real and it’s certainly not enlightened.
Humanness is relegated to the realms of ‘you’re identified’ putting it straight into shadow and wrongness. I would go as far as to say creating an idea of separation (the opposite of the nondual recognition) because it suggests that this experience isn’t ‘it’, that you aren’t ‘enlightened’ if you are experiencing life in this X,Y & Z way. But even the so called dream is a living, breathing, fully immersive experience IN and AS consciousness and that can’t be just denied away. It’s felt, it’s experienced, it can’t be separated from consciousness because it IS consciousness TOO.
The full colour experience of consciousness expressing itself as this human body-mind. It’s all the be met, it’s all to be experienced and it’s all to be accepted into the heart of life.
Anyway… just my 2 cents tapped out with my thumb on my phone first thing in the morning ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Scott Kiloby’s Facebook post 7th February 2020:
End the Neo-Advaita Lie
By Scott Kiloby
From the moment Buddha experienced the complete dissolving of all suffering while sitting under a Bodhi tree (as well as other experiences by sages that resulted in the same dissolution), man has become fascinated with the prospect that this kind of deep awakening is possible and that it may even be our our birthright – our natural state when the false ego is seen through. Buddha’s realization was that there is no self and that, since all suffering comes from the belief in being a separate self, when that self is seen as illusion, suffering ends.
The awakenings of the great saints and sages throughout history have confirmed again and again that what happened to Buddha is not connected to Buddha himself. It is an awakening available to anyone who shifts their perception from believing that their thoughts are true and that there is a self to seeing through the illusion of thinking and no longer being able to find a self. In this discovery, profound peace, freedom, love and even bliss can show up. No wonder people are chasing this elusive phenomenon called “enlightenment.”
Although Buddhism and other traditions began to write about the subject, the texts of the older traditions are sometimes hard to translate to the modern world. Plus many of the texts were written after Buddha died, leaving lots of room for mistranslation, just as when Jesus died and others began to translate his experience even though they didn’t experience it directly. Second hand knowledge is not only ineffective. It can also be highly misleading. And a lot gets missed in the translation of these older texts, which can frustrate current day practitioners seeking enlightenment. Plus the language that explains the practices in these older traditions is sometimes hard to understand or translate, leaving the seeker with little specific guidance about how to realize this profound state of consciousness. To make matters worse, many traditions become too bogged down in describing this state rather than giving any clear instructions on how to wake up. That’s like describing a lemon in books for hundreds of years, when what would be more potent is to let people actually taste and explore a lemon firsthand, leaving no room for second hand knowledge.
But the psychology of humans sometimes carries with it a need for dependency on the teacher and the teacher’s writings because they do not trust their own experience in the way I imagine Buddha did.
In the late 90s and early 2000s, a movement called Neo-Advaita was born. It’s promise – very seductive indeed – is that no practice is needed. “You are already free because there is no self,” as if pronouncing pithy one-liners like that automatically brings about the experience of freedom. They are referring to a sudden experience that comes out of the blue and “wakes you up out of ego.” It’s a lot like going to a meeting to listen to a teacher hoping to catch a cold accidentally. I find Neo-Advaita teachings to be first grade level fairy tales. Even those who have had such sudden awakenings by listening to Neo-Advaita teachings, many of them continue to struggle afterwards because they haven’t studied history and tradition. They lack context around awakening. They lack the understanding that trauma and certain core conditioning often sticks around even after a sudden awakening. What’s more troubling is that they often ignore this conditioning that is left, eager to pronounce to themselves, others and to the world (sometimes) that they are awakened.
I also noticed an interesting set of phenomena showing up in people after watching the Neo-Advaita movement:
1. Even if someone has a sudden realization while listening to an Neo-Advaita teacher, that teacher cannot help the student past that point. Why? Because there is a prevailing belief among Neo-Advaita teachers that once you experience that initial “pop” into awakening, into seeing no self, all your suffering and troubles are over. “You’re now liberated and so you can give up the search,” so the story goes. We now know through western research on trauma and years and years of anecdotal evidence that the “sudden pop experience where one expects never to suffer again” is mostly a myth. The more common experience among people is that sudden experiences can happen, bringing a profound shift in perception BUT that’s not the end of it. Within just a few years of that sudden pop, any unresolved traumas, deficiency stories or other deeply embedded conditioning can begin to surface for many people. And unless that person turns away from the infantile rhetoric of Neo-Advaita at that point, that person will suffer, albeit quietly sometimes, and flat out refuse to do any more work on him or herself. He has been conditioned by the Neo-Advaita rhetoric to ignore all the stuff that is still coming up, making him feel not-so-liberated at times. And there is no place in the Neo-Advaita atmosphere to even bring up these post-awakening issues. If you bring it up, you can expect to be shot down and hear more of the same rhetoric – “there’s no self.” But just saying there is no self is not enough. If someone has an awakening experience, “selfing” still happens, albeit much less. That’s what I’ve learned from doing thousands and thousands of one on one sessions. I’ve learned that Neo-Advaita is misleading people and that people truly aren’t waking up out of the deeper strands of conditioning. When people stay asleep to these deeper strands, that is bypassing. So they have no business claiming “full liberation” for that would be a lie. But these people can’t be blamed because they learned this misguided information from teachers they thought they could trust but whose own half-baked realization keeps them sticking to a party line that is outdated – namely that in one fell swoop, all self-referencing or self-identification vanishes immediately. I can assure you that this normally doesn’t happen. It’s the stuff of fairy tales told within cultures that long for a one time fix that will solve everything. Awakening doesn’t work that way. The teachers you see claiming that all suffering has ended for them are lying. Trust me. I’ve worked with them, spent time with them and have done inquiry with them. The lies have to stop because nondual teachings are coming close to becoming a scam (if they aren’t already).
After all, it takes courage to come out and say, “Hey I thought I was liberated but there is more ego stuff in me, I’m not done.” Nobody really wants to own that because it opens up the prospect of more years of work to undo what has been left behind in terms of ego conditioning. Bottom line: there are a bunch of half awake Neo-Advaita people (teachers and non-teachers) continuing to spread this misinformation about Neo-Advaita as some sort of magic pill. They are diluting the message of freedom, serving up a plate that is half empty and fooling practitioners that the plate is full, that they are fully liberated. And so the lies continue . . . .
2. Even if someone has a sudden shift through contact with a Neo-Advaita teacher and the shift feels complete, a huge misunderstanding can happen after that. The misunderstanding is that ”just like me, everyone can wake up suddenly and be free of all suffering at once.” Again, tons of anecdotal evidence shows us that this is a rare phenomenon. No one wakes up just like everyone else. Everyone’s experience is different. So if someone has had this sudden shift, they may feel pulled to go out and share a false promise such as “There are no practices needed, you can just wake up fully by attending this or that teachers meetings.” Most of the time, when other people do attend those meetings, the sudden shift doesn’t happen, and they eventually learn that they have to work out some very real human issues before they can truly live in a liberated state. This is bad news for people who were looking for that one time experience that ends all suffering at once. And the misleading came directly from the Neo-Advaita teacher who was also misled by his Neo-Advaita teacher.
For 15 years, I have been translating what the older traditions are really saying (the traditions that started way before Neo-Advaita) and also testing it out in my own experience and with the people I work with. I found that when you peel away the old language from Buddhism and translate it into a simpler language and then help people begin to explore their own experience more skillfully from awareness, waking up happens in a healthier way. These older traditions have a lot to teach us about how to be truly free. But these older teachings are often ignored because the promise of Neo-Advaita is such a seductive sales pitch that it wins over people very easily, but then eventually “fucks them up” once they realize after the awakening that the promise of Neo-Advaita was and is empty.
Helping people work through the human issues either before or after an awakening experience ends with a healthier and more balanced freedom. You don’t need to trust what I’m saying here. Just go hang out at some Neo-Advaita meetings. They can sometimes have the feel of a show being put on by a snake oil salesman. Something feels off if you have done any real work on yourself and your traumas or if you understand that trauma work is necessary for most people. Without work on trauma, a person can walk around all day claiming to be liberated while secretly suffering because they choose not to inquire into that suffering. After all, they were told that the sudden experience is the end of the road and there’s nothing left to do. Nothing left to do? We now know that everyone is traumatized to some degree due to solid western research. Walking around claiming liberation while you have unresolved traumas is like walking around dressed as Santa Claus. Everyone knows you’re pretending, especially those close to you who have to endure the brunt of your unresolved emotional baggage that you claim doesn’t matter because “there is no self.”
Post-Awakening Expectations and
Staying in the ‘Only Don’t Know’
Q: I can’t say that there have been any significant noticeable changes from Cosmic Consciousness to Unity Consciousness, is this common in your opinion? I guess it’s hard not to be waiting for some unmistakable shift?
Imogen: Yes, looking for certain experiences or markers post-awakening can get really tricky and can be counter productive, particularly if your awakening has been a slow unfolding process over many years like yours has been. It could be likened to you sitting in a warm bath and getting used to it, thinking it’s gone cold, then when you wiggle your toes you recognise it’s not cold you just adjusted to the heat.
Here’s maybe a tip for you…. Get curious, play and explore; in doing so you bump into life. Look more at the absence of stuff (triggers, old habits and patterns, old concepts and assumptions that have fallen away or been seen through) rather than a particular experience. Also those around you can be a wonderful mirror to show you what has changed in yourself.
Awakening is not an adding to, but a desolation of old conditioning, concepts, false identifications, and misunderstandings of the nature of reality to reveal the underlying nature and wisdom of your Self – conscious, awareness. It’s also NOT about experiences; spiritual experiences while lovely, are just like more shiny content. Awakening is the recognition that it IS content and YOU are the awareness/consciousness to which that content appears. It would be better described as the clearing away of the veils of ignorance into clear seeing.
But post-awakening the dawning recognition of this clarity can be likened to the power being cut to the ceiling fan but the fan is still turning for a while afterwards. For some it takes more time for the recognition of what has/hasn’t changed than others, especially if it’s been a slow burn so a lot of ‘work’ has been done before. You could still have some strong beliefs or habits stuck in your system that are making it hard to recognise a shift in a dramatic and obvious way. Awakening is slippery and subtle, and certainly not what the seeker expects it to be.
For me it was easier because I had Martyn as a reference point and we had many hours of conversations – I had a post-awakened mentor on tap which was very very useful! This is why I encourage post-awakening sessions to others because it was so invaluable for me. It can clear up a lot of confusion and doubt that still might be running in the system.
Q: I think you are probably right about having some strong beliefs and habits that are stuck in the system. For one I think that I keep going into the mind for verification.
Imogen: Yes looking to the mind for verification…. that will do it!!!
The best piece of advice I can give you right now is…. stay rooted in the ONLY DON’T KNOW.
What I mean by that is… don’t try to figure anything out. It will ALL be revealed in it’s own sweet time. Any answers, any realisations, any recognitions will dawn in their own time, like the sun naturally rises in the morning to clear the morning mist away.
Consciousness doesn’t need to ‘figure out’ anything… it emanates wisdom naturally just like the dawning sun. It’s the mind that wants to know, wants to figure out, wants to have certainty, wants to have answers now, now, now. The habit to look to the mind takes time to disperse post-awakening. Seeing that tendency for what it is, an old habit, helps… then when it happens there’s a remembrance of “oh you again”. There’s no need to get rid of mind (thoughts), just a vigilant eye and a recognition of the mind’s nature to try and pin down. The mind hates nothing more than ambiguity and not knowing.
Keep quiet and take your refuge in ‘only don’t know’. Any wisdom or answers that are needed will come about in their own way, in their own time not through the efforts of the mind, but through the natural outpouring of life tasting life. Only don’t know is the allowing yourself to stay open and not put any stakes in the sand.
The ‘Conversations & Questions’ series comes from snippets of conversations taken from emails, sessions, group meetings or in-person conversations. I take out any personal or sensitive content, but often these conversations have a universality to them that can be helpful to more than just one person. Feel free to get in touch via email, social media or even post your question in the comments below and I may answer them in this way….
“Awakening is the minds biggest disappointment.”
“Awakening isn’t the end it’s the start… The real work begins, the brakes come off, resistance and avoidance or your shit no longer works so everything comes into the light of awareness. Old habits and false notions all laid out to bare… for you to see.”
It’s been almost two years since I had the Shaktipat Transmission that led to a massive awakening and fundamental shift in perspective and I just now feel like I’m getting the hang of this groove – the groove that has no particular way of being in its expression, anything can and does show up in my experience of daily life. However to say that this doesn’t have some general overarching characteristics and themes isn’t to say the whole story. When I had the transmission the immediate aftermath and reaction was good – for about two weeks – joyfully experiencing, pervasive and expansive silence and insights into the nature of existence, the nature of life, were bountiful, it was like an excited child exploring its new world for the first time.
Then the first wave of ‘detox’ from the personal small self came, it was as if that joyful inquisitive experiencing of the world turned bad, the mind ‘attacked’, doubts and questions of whys and hows were abound. My mind was trying to ‘get it’. Every concept, every word, every experience was questioned for its validity in my experience, so much so it became distressing. I remember the best advice that I got in that moment was “abide in only don’t know”, it cut the power and in that unknowing peace and joy eventually came back into focus.
But that wasn’t the end of the detox story. After that initial crazy detox it’s been more of a slow burn, it’s this slow burn that I feel I’m now just getting the hang of, and for the most part life in these terms is uneventful now. It’s the slow burn of old conditioning and patterns of behaviour/ways of being that somehow ‘don’t fit’. They’re not essentially me, they feel alien. A rut in the road that somehow my wheel is the wrong shape for now. When I say slow burn it’s not that it takes awhile for this stuff to move through, be seen and assimilated in my heart, actually the process can be almost instantaneous (not always, but certainly very quick) as now there is no mechanism for this stuff to be resisted. But what I mean is that I can be going along in life and only hit up against some old pattern of being occasionally (it seems to be getting more and more infrequent)… an interaction or reaction to a particular moment, it could be anything. Life seems to hit up against these pockets and instead of rejecting or avoiding (which in hindsight I was very good at prior to awakening) its engulfed into my being, swallowed up, actually it feels like it’s taken into my heart and dissolved.
Martyn and I were talking about compassion the other day, and I feel this relates to that somehow. Its like all these very human experiences and reactions, many of them now seen for what they are, are engulfed in the compassion of me, this compassion grows, this compassion and ultimate forgiveness and love of everything that arises, here and everywhere.
It’s funny, I used to think of myself as a very compassionate and caring person. My understanding of what compassion is has become totally different. Compassion isn’t a set of behaviours (although that can be included in the outcome), to me compassion is the deep acceptance of life and the way that it plays out. Compassion is truth, it’s the love of truth, it looks like the acceptance of the truth of reality in any given moment. In terms of actions some might say I have become less compassionate! Where I would strive to keep the peace and say and act in a way that was kind, now a new type of kindness has taken hold. The compassion of truth, radical truth, it’s a not putting up with bullshit. Now the way I express myself is still with kindness (that’s just seems to be part of how I express myself), but the content can be quite blunt and to the point. For me this feels like the most loving thing that I could possibility do/be. It’s not something I set out to ‘do’ it’s what has happened naturally, it’s what has unfolded these past two years. Meeting someone where they are in my heart, being honest with myself and them. That honesty is love, that honesty is compassion. Even in annoyance or anger there is an acceptance and compassion of those very human experiences.
Another more recent flavour of this post-awakening integration is that it feels like I’ve been in the doldrums these past months, well over a year even. On the ocean in a boat with no wind to move that boat. Just now do I feel the wind picking up, things starting to flower, interactions and connections forming. I see that those months of stillness were so necessary for me. Those were months where I couldn’t hide in my shit any more, there was nothing to bounce the attention off of. It was like a big old spotlight shining on a darkened car park. Every time my own crap came into the spotlight there was no-where to hide, no distractions. I’m deeply grateful for this.
And so to now, there is an ease of life that has taken firm hold. It’s not shaken, even in a hurricane. There’s a deepening love and joyless joy that is becoming more and more apparent, I wonder sometime if that is the flavour of the this next ‘phrase’. First was the spotlight and the none hiding from myself, now is the deepening of love, compassion, and standing in my own truth. All of this post awakening. I thought I would be ‘done’ after awakening occured and so that’s been the biggest surprise for me in this whole thing. I thought awakening would mean I would be done with all my shit, but I realise now it’s that the hiding from all your shit that is done. The fuse for seeing and dissolving that shit has been lit. Life is being lived, very ordinary, very raw and real, very honest and with a deep seated sense of gratitude and love for all that life is.