While getting back to writing again after a long pause, something has been coming up that seems to shed a lot of light on my own and other’s stories of awakening. The title above reflects what it is all about, and it is being a rich and fascinating exploration for me that I would like invite you to join in with as you read on.
What I notice in relation to my own awakening is that there are many areas where the actual living of the newly awakened perspective has been as easy and natural as water running downhill. But there have been other areas in daily life where earlier stages of development seem to naturally take over and temporarily hijack me into re-identification with familiar patterns of reaction and discomfort.
I had read that, once realization came, all the reactivity and discomfort would be finished. In an absolute way, that statement is totally true—it is all finished (based on the new identification with my always-already-awake Self). And yet at the same time, there still can be moments of disconnect from that awareness and then there is reactivity. Yes, this reactivity and discomfort are seen in the context of being a part of the grand perfection of everything, and yet that doesn’t mean that they are to be ignored as they are transcended.
The discomfort that arises is functioning as an attention-getting device that is part of a constructive process of gradual personal acclimation to that perfection, in order that it may be more fully lived.
A cognitive framework that allows discomfort and reactivity its place in the perfection of things then becomes important. If our internal thought structures are open enough to allow for anything and everything that shows up to have a legitimate part to play in life, (and we don’t reject some things and disassociate from them) then everything in life becomes a support for awakening. Life can naturally move towards greater and greater capability of the individual person to fully live in daily life that which we have realized ourselves to be.
I am fascinated to be giving the field of human development an overview, and am especially fascinated to see it correlating with the recent developments in both neuroscience and child development. It seems that we humans are at an amazing transition-point in history because we are now able to see and make sense of our own development over the eons in a clear way that has not been cognitively possible before. As we have developed the capabilities of our neo-cortex (pardon my oversimplification here) this has allowed us new perspectives on who we are and changed the world that we see.
Along the way, the increasingly complex ways in which we construct thought-based knowledge have also revealed themselves, as have the mechanics of perception. This obviously pertains to the way that we construct the personal self in its entirety. This self-construction process that has occurred in us as individuals is the bedrock that lies under all the rest of our thinking. It serves as a foundation that allows or doesn’t allow whole spectrums of experiences in any particular life.
These new perspectives also bring in a new possibility—that we may be able to allow life to deconstruct parts of our personality structure that are outgrown and no longer helpful. This means that the real Self is now more able than ever before to maintain a personal identity (a small me) that is operationally functional at a high level, in that it is serving the real Self and allowing the One which is awake to live through the personality more freely.
One of the ways that our personal thought structure can potentially hamper us pertains to the way it integrates ideas about spiritual awakening (by any name). It may even go so far as to firmly disbelieve that such a thing could ever happen in our own life, or it may be more subtle than that. Some of our assumptions and beliefs are closed systems with set interpretations of everything and these kinds of closed systems do not allow for the openness or space in which awakening can occur. The uncomfortable moments in life are faithfully offering us clues to ways in which we may be hampering ourselves, interfering with life’s inherent tendency to develop itself through us.
How our personality structure interprets what happens to us is significant in terms of our ability to actually live the realization that becomes available to us. Whether we have pursued realization through one of the great traditions, been outside them, or whether awakening has seemed to pursue us, the outcome (awakening, enlightenment, gnosis, self-actualization, Christ-consciousness, et al) will, at least in terms of our ability have it available back to our daily lives, be dependent on the structure that we use to interpret, understand, know anything in our lives.
For instance, if we operate through a thought-based personality structure that is totally dominated by the need to be right and have others be wrong , then any experiences of non-egoic awareness will be interpreted and contained by those structures. The outcome would almost inevitably be a difficulty in even seeing anything that lies outside those structures. Through our thought we draw meaning from our experiences, and create the world that we experience by a necessary censorship of our sensory input that guards us against overwhelm.
Similarly, if the conceptual structures that build the individual personality have, throughout that person’s lifetime, ostracized the “bad” parts of who they are, then those parts need to be included somehow within the whole in order for the realization to be fully lived. This disowning of parts of ourselves is a major contribution of psychology to the spiritual seeker’s dilemma. I have recently discovered that new information from the field of psychology describes very well the pattern behind the arising of these disowned parts of my own psyche that I described in the latter parts of my book. Knowing about this cognitively gives me a framework for allowing the reclamation process to proceed with a higher degree of comfort. It lets me relax.
This exploration seems to be about how the structure of any individual’s thought-based personality has a role to play in allowing space for awakening and how it can provide a conducive environment for awakening both before, after and during any realization of who we really are. These thought-based capabilities of the “small me” seem to now be offering themselves to be wielded as a tool in the hand of that newly discovered Self and are coming into alignment with the movement of life itself as it animates the individual person.
We live in a monumental time, and the dying of the old ways of operating need not cloud our perception of what is arising in its place.
© 2009 Alice Gardner