Waking Up: What Does It Really Mean?
Tami Simon: Welcome to Insights at the Edge, produced by Sounds True. My name’s Tami Simon. I’m the founder of Sounds True. I’d love to take a moment to introduce you to the new Sounds True Foundation. The Sounds True Foundation is dedicated to creating a wiser and kinder world by making transformational education widely available. We want everyone to have access to transformational tools such as mindfulness, emotional awareness, and self-compassion, regardless of financial, social, or physical challenges. The Sounds True Foundation is a nonprofit dedicated to providing these transformational tools to communities in need, including at-risk youth, prisoners, veterans and those in developing countries. If you’d like to learn more or feel inspired to become a supporter, please visit SoundsTrueFoundation.org. You’re listening to Insights at the Edge. Today is a rebroadcast of one of my favorite episodes. I hope you enjoy.
You’re listening to Insights at the Edge. Today, my guest is Adyashanti. Adyashanti—or Adya, as his friends and students call him—is an American-born spiritual teacher devoted to serving the awakening of all beings. He offers teachings that are free of any tradition or ideology. His teachings are an open invitation to stop, inquire, and recognize what is true and liberating at the core of all existence. Together with his wife, Mukti, Adya has founded the nonprofit organization, the Open Gate Sangha. His books and audio programs with Sounds True, include The End of Your World: Uncensored Straight Talk on the Nature of Enlightenment and Falling into Grace. With Sounds True Adya has also just launched a new digital subscription called Adyashanti Weekly: Moments of Grace. You can visit SoundsTrue.com for more information. This episode of Insights at the Edge was originally broadcast as part of an online series called Waking Up: What Does It Really Mean? In this conversation, Adya and I spoke about how he defines spiritual awakening, his view of the age-old debate about whether or not awakening is sudden or gradual or both, what spiritual awakening does and doesn’t deliver, and most importantly, his pith instructions on how to wake up. Here’s my conversation with Adyashanti.
Adya, it’s great to be with you in-person for this conversation as part of our series Waking Up: What Does It Really Mean? Welcome.
Adyashanti: Thank you, Tami.
TS: Such a treat to get to be with you face to face and do this. It’s wonderful. OK. I’m going to ask you the same first question that I’m asking all participants in this series. When you hear the phrase “spiritual awakening,” what does that mean to you?
A: OK. When I use the phrase “spiritual awakening,” I mean something very specific, that not that all awakening is the same or is the same depth. To me, to qualify as a spiritual awakening, it has to involve some type of revelation, which has the effect of shifting your identity, your sense of what you are, from a mind-based or ego-based identification, […] whether it’s painful ego or exalted ego; but it shifts from an ego-based identity to an identity that’s more based in our fundamental nature, whatever we want to call that fundamental nature—good nature, spirit, consciousness—something that’s certainly transcendent of the mind and the ordinary identifications we have. I would also add a shift from an emotional identification too, because we tend to identify with a common emotional center as well.
TS: Tell me more what you mean by that.
A: Well, I think everybody has an emotional sense that when they feel a particular way—it’s hard to define for each person—but it’s just how they emotionally and probably even energetically know they’re here as a feeling-based or an emotional-based presence, not presence as such, but an emotionally feeling based presence.
For instance, I mean this have to blow up the example. It’s bigger than usual, but if someone has had a lot of depression in life—and of course nobody likes to feel depressed—but if you have an experience like that for a long enough period of time, at some deep level, usually below the conscious level, we begin to energetically and emotionally associate that feeling of depression with who we are. So that’s an obvious example. It doesn’t have to be negative, it could also be something really positive, like being a happy, bright person, cheery person, being a helper. A helper is not just an image-based identity, it also has an uplifting feeling-based identity too. To me, they always come as a package deal; our mental identity always has its energetic, somatic, egoic, emotional counterpart to it.
TS: Describe what you mean to me by this shift. There’s some shift, that you’re different after an awakening.
A: Yes. This is where it gets a little bit more imprecise. I’ll try to be as precise as I can because just when we shift out of the egoic identity, it doesn’t mean everybody shifts into the same place. For instance, someone might have a shift where they realize that they are pure awareness. And they feel it in a sense; it’s not just an intellectual thing. They see the world from that viewpoint now. That can be—even though that wouldn’t be a complete awakening in my view—an awakening to a significant degree. It’s very meaningful. It’s very life-transforming, because you’re looking at life then from an awareness point of view, rather than an egoic or a mind-based point of view. I would think that would be almost the minimum shift that I would even call a spiritual awakening. There can then shifts into a unity consciousness where you sense an underlying sameness between yourself and all the other forms of existence. That’s an awakening as well. And there are other qualities too, but all of them involve a shifting of the locus of our own sense of being.
TS: I think for a lot of people, they experience the kinds of shifts you’re talking about for moments. They might experience it while they’re listening to you or reading one of your books, but it’s not really a shift in how they live their life or even their ongoing experience of themselves. It’s more a vacation, a trip that they take occasionally when they’re reading a book by a powerful spiritual teacher. Is that an awakening? What’s that?
A: Sure. I think it’s an awakening. It’s a temporary awakening. Sometimes I’ll call those a foretaste that you get. You get a taste of something, like you said, it’s a vacation. We’re in California. If we took a vacation to New York, if we just landed in New York, looked around for five minutes, got back on a plane and came back here, we still would have gone to New York. We would’ve been there. We might not know much about New York at all. We don’t know much about the terrain, but we know much more than we did before we took a flight there.
It’s very common for people to have these shifts that may be momentary, a few minutes, a few hours, a few days, a few weeks, that then seem to diminish to some extent or seem to disappear. Because they diminish doesn’t mean that what you realized was untrue. It just means that it’s still vacillating. That it wasn’t deep enough or encompassing enough to become more of a stable ground from which you perceive and live from.
TS: What would you say to someone who has had that kind of vacation taste, but it’s not their stabilized way of being? And what they feel is a sense of disappointment, grief, frustration. Talk to that person.
A: Yes. It’s so common. That experience is so, so common. And it does often leave a feeling of grief or disappointment in its wake. There are two things I often tell people, and they sound very contradictory, but I tend to view them as more paradoxical. The first one is I often try to help people see that what they saw, what they experienced when everything was clear at that moment, that there is still some of that with them now. It may be clouded over; it’s definitely going to be much more subtle than it was before. Sometimes it’s revelatory, it’s just put in your face, you cannot possibly miss it. But then it recedes to something that’s very soft, something that’s easy to dismiss.
I’ll try to point them towards—often by asking them a series of questions—something like “Can you honestly tell me that everything that you saw, everything that you realized, that perspective, that all of it is completely gone now?” And in almost every case, the person will tell me, “Well, it’s not all gone. It’s not it was, though. That’s what I want.” I say, “Well, let’s come back. How is it presenting now?” That’s one thing I’ll do and suggest that not trying to grasp that or hold onto it, but just abide with it. Just acknowledge that there’s still the perfume of it. And that can be important and significant too, because what we acknowledge tends to grow in our experience, what we give a little attention to.
The other thing I’ll say, which is quite paradoxical, is also don’t be grasping. Don’t try to recreate that experience. That was the experience of that moment. Don’t become attached to it. Don’t think that now that’s your reference point for your next experience of reality. It can be very difficult to let that go, because in essence, you’re asking someone to let go of their experience of heaven, even if it was temporary. And it’s like, “Really? You’re asking me to let go of heaven?” Yes. Because there’s a dynamic that’s often at play here, which is, I always think of the first awakening as a gift. It often feels like that, like it just comes out of nowhere and you feel gifted. Somehow the universe gifted you with this. Then I call it a freebie because it doesn’t really require anything. You don’t earn it with merit, or it doesn’t come because you’ve mastered a certain technique. It can come at any point and any time. It’s free in the sense that we don’t have to earn or deserve it.
But once that’s happened, it’s almost as if the game shifts and what was shown to you for free now in a certain sense, costs you everything to live with it. In other words, at the moment of revelation, it’s almost like the letting go is done for you automatically. And then later, now that you’ve seen the dimension of where that letting go can get you, but now you’re asked in a way, now you have to begin. You have to let go consciously and willingly. It’s not going to be done for you over and over and over again. It may visit you again where it’s all done for you. But now you’re being asked almost like re-traverse the terrain, that you almost leap over when this was all done for you. And now you’re doing it consciously. And, of course, you’re also having to encounter your resistances, the confusions, everything you transcended, in other words. Now you’re working through your humanity, what you transcended.
That’s what I mean. It costs you. Now you have to really participate. You play a very conscious role in walking back into what’s already there as paradoxical as that may sound.
TS: Can you tell our listeners a bit about your experience of spiritual awakening?
A: Sure. I mean, for me there were a couple of really significant moments. I’ll just describe them as briefly as I can but try to give you all the important points. The first one happened after some years of real strident seeking, really trying to have a breakthrough, meditating a lot. Hours and hours and just really hyper-focused on it. I got to a point where I just felt completely defeated. I’m sure many people listening to this have felt that at times. But I just felt, I remember I sat down once, and I was pushing myself so hard in meditation to cut through my thoughts and to just penetrate into something. I didn’t even know what it is. But I sat down, and it all coalesced at one moment. I just said to myself, as I was sitting there just about to meditate, “I just can’t do this anymore. I just can’t.”
At that moment it was like a nuclear explosion went off inside of me. It was actually violent. It was a very violent experience, in the sense that the energy I felt was just ripping me apart. My heart was beating extremely fast. I’d been an athlete—I know what a 200-beat-per-minute heartbeat feels like; I was very acquainted. And I was way, way, way past that. And I really felt like my heart’s going to explode. I was feeling just ripped apart by this energy.
A thought just came out of nowhere, in the midst of this chaotic, violent experience. Just a thought that “if this is what it’s going to take for me to be free, if I’m going to die today, if I just let go to this, if it’s going to …” —because I literally thought I would die physically if I just let go, if I didn’t run away—and I just thought, “I’ve got to find out. I’ve got to know what happens.” And somehow something just let go. It was the simplest letting go. It wasn’t courageous. It was just like I was actually willing to die at that moment. I just let go.
In the snap of a finger, I was in a completely different dimension. There was no body, there was no mind, there was nothing to see, there was nothing to feel. There was literally nothing there. There was nothing there, there was no one there. It’s nuts. That’s probably as far as I wanted to describe because the more I describe, the more image it makes, and it was the complete absence of all that. And yet, somehow there was no fear. There was just a feeling of absolute freedom, absolute freedom. And all the questions I’d struggled with, all the issues that I’d had, I just felt, even though I couldn’t feel my body at all, that somehow that these insights were flooding into me like 100 every second, so fast that I couldn’t even record even a small fraction of them consciously. But they were like little lights going off or popcorn popping.
At some point, it was happening so fast that I couldn’t even register anything nearby. And it was just like something was literally being poured into me, like liquid insight, just poured in and poured in and poured in. It went on for I don’t know how long; it was a very timeless experience. At some point I started to come back to my bodily awareness, and surprisingly my body was just sitting there in total calm. There was no energy left in it. There was no heartbeat that was out of control. Everything was totally fine, in a strange sense, absolutely ordinary.
And after a while I was just sitting there. And I thought, “OK, well.” I got up and I always did, I bowed to my little Buddhist statue that I had in my little meditation hut in the backyard. As soon as I bowed, I just started laughing hysterically. It was this that seemed the most absurd thing that I’d ever seen that this Buddha figure represented to me, in a symbolic way, everything that I’d been chasing, everything that I’d wanted. What is this Buddha nature? What is this divinity that this symbol represents? All of a sudden, when I bowed, somehow, I knew without any doubt that the thing I’d been chasing was a thing that I am. That I was what I was chasing. And it just seemed like the most absurd, ridiculous joke that I’d ever heard. And the joke was on me, and I didn’t mind at all. And I just laughed and laughed of how ludicrous this was.
In the days after that, in the weeks, I wasn’t floating in any particular space. All the seeking energy was gone. I didn’t feel driven in any way. That was really nice. There’s no drive, because why be pursuing what I know I am? But something interesting happened right at the door of my little meditation hut when I was leaving, I opened the door and right as I opened the door, this little—I call it the still, small voice; it always told me the truth. That still, small voice said to me, “This isn’t the all of it. Keep going.” And at that moment I felt so disappointed. Because a minute later I was just hysterically laughing at the absurdity of chasing this eternity and realizing that I was eternity. And now this voice is saying, “This isn’t the all of it. Keep going.” And I just felt like, “Oh, no. Can’t be.”
And then literally within a few seconds I realized that it wasn’t discounting what I realized. Nothing said what I realized wasn’t real or true. It was just telling me there’s more to the picture. “Don’t fixate here. Don’t stop here.” Even though I had no seeking energy, no drive to attain, I knew that it was telling me the truth. I knew that there was more, a deeper clarification that was going to come that came about.
It was a while later, probably six or seven years later when it was a totally different experience. They’d always happen when I’d first sit down to meditate, not even when I really got into meditation. One morning I sat down to meditate. I used to meditate early in the morning, a couple of periods of meditation before I would go see my teacher on Sunday mornings and meditate with her group and see her.
I sat down to meditate, and again, just as soon as I sat down, there was a bird outside and I heard the bird. And again, up from my guts, not from my head, because I had never thought of this question or anything, up from my guts, this little question came up and I just said, “Who hears this sound?” And all of a sudden, the bird, the bird call, the sound and my hearing of the sound were all one event. Just one thing. There wasn’t me sitting on the chair meditating, hearing a bird, there was just this one thing. And this was different than what happened before. That was like getting blasted into total emptiness before transcendence. This was, I was very much here. It was almost like that transcendent energy entered into human form, displayed itself as the world.
And so once again, I sat there for a while, but the beauty of it, it was this pure experience. Even though now it’s still emotional to me to describe it to you, as you can tell, but at that moment there was no emotion to it. There was no byproduct. There was no bliss. There was no expansion—which was beautiful because there was nothing to get in the way of seeing what the truth of it was, to have the absolute perception with no experiential byproduct that I was going to try to hang on to later. It was just so pure and so simple and so immediate.
I got up after a while, once again, and I did what I do because I’m a very practical person by nature. I got up and I just wanted to see if—I wanted to test it, actually. I started to look at the most inanimate things I could, the little tiny refrigerator that—at that time, we lived in a 400-square-foot cottage where the refrigerator was two feet tall and I looked at the refrigerator and sure enough, the refrigerator and I were one and the perception of it was one happening. And I went all through the house and looking at that, I went into the bathroom, I literally looked at the toilet, because I was literally testing it. Can I find separation anywhere?
I went in the bedroom, I opened the bedroom door, Mukti was still asleep (my wife); and sure enough, it was just like there I was sleeping. Yes. And then I started to get ready to go see my teacher. And the feeling though was after I went into the bedroom, and I came out in the little living room area getting ready, the fascinating thing was that everything I did, every step across the floor, I felt like I’d just been born. Like something opened its eyes that had never been here. That’s what it felt like. I’m not saying that that’s what happened. That’s a way of describing the experience. Like something was here for the very first time and everything was for the first time. And yet it was wonderfully ordinary. Just ordinary. There were no fireworks. And I went off and went to see my teacher and went about the day.
I didn’t even bother to mention it to her for two or three months because it was so sufficient. I didn’t need acknowledgement. I didn’t need it to such an extent that it never even occurred to me to tell it to her. Until after about two or three months later, I thought, “Oh, it would be kind. It would be proper that this thing that she had tried to point me to over all these years, that I would tell her about it.” And that was the only impetus. And so, I shared it with her and then went on about my day and it never—I mean, of course, as revelation goes, it’s never left me. It doesn’t have that, “Wow, for the first time, I’ve never seen this,” feeling to it. Because now I’ve existing within that for 20 years or something now. It’s become more ordinary.
But, as you can see, when I describe it’s still of deep significance, and it’s still always with me. And I’m often struck at many odd moments that I’ll feel like the first time for something, the first time of walking somewhere or I’ll be drinking and all of a sudden, it’s like I’ve never drunk. It’s just for the first time. But it’s not like it didn’t have the me going, “Ooh, wow. The first time. Isn’t this fantastic? Isn’t this great?” It’s all there was. There wasn’t a reflecting on it. It’s all there was.
Those are two moments. The last is very brief, that a year to the day, to the very day—which I always thought was the strange ways that life weaves together. Mukti is my wife, and she comes from an Irish family. They have Irish roots in Ireland. And I had this awakening I just described on St. Patrick’s Day. A year to the day after that, on St. Patrick’s Day, which never held a great significance to me (I didn’t even know it was St. Patrick’s Day until later, in retrospect), but a year to the day, the last thing was, I’m just sitting on the couch one day, reading a book, and just being done reading I put the book down, and I stood up from the couch, and it was like I left something behind. I didn’t know what it was. It was simple. I was just like, “I left something behind.” Just like that. I thought, “What did I leave behind on the couch?” I got up and something didn’t get up with me. Something had kind of been with me. And later that day or that night—I didn’t even think about it much after that; it was a curiosity. But that night I was getting ready for bed. I sat down on the edge of the bed and all of a sudden it struck me, “Oh, I lost myself.” And it was just the simplest recognition. Again, no fanfare. But just, “Oh.”
Now, the way I describe that when someone asks me about it, like “What was that like?”—I think the most concrete way I can put it is that I lost my inner life. You know that life where you process through things and the narrative that’s talking to itself about everything. I don’t mean to say that there’s never a thought that flows through my head, but it’s not of a narrative quality, that I’ve lost any kind of mental processing thing just disappeared. It just is gone. There’s a different way of experiencing almost everything.
Those are significant moments. There are significant moments. But to me, it’s not just about the significant moments. Then there are specific, discreet moments. And then there’s also what I think of as, here I am 20 years later or more, and there’s still an awakening—it’s the verb of awakening—that’s continued. That there just seems to be just an ever-deepening clarification of what was realized in those moments and an ever-deepening capacity and ability to embody it in my humanity, which seems to, I don’t see an end to that capacity to embody. And I’m always noticing that “Oh, yeah, there’s a new way to embody. There’s a more precise way or a way that feels more integral or more whole.” So, there’s awakening as a verb too that’s continuous. And for me, it keeps a humility there, because whatever might have thought was all in inclusive last week, I realized, at some point, “Oh, there’s another way to look at the same thing.”
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You mentioned that with this third instance, the losing of yourself, that you started experiencing the world in yet a different way. I’m curious what that different way is.
A: Well, it was experiencing world. It wasn’t necessarily a perceptual shift like the last two I said. In both of those other experiences, I had transcended self. In the first experience I described I transcended ego and self, and the second one I was also a transcended self; but I came to see that to transcend self, which when you do that you know that certainly ego is a useful and mostly useless fiction. You know that. But when we transcend something, it’s not the same as it’s falling away. That’s what I realized, is when it fell away, what fell away was (this another way to speak about it) was the self-referencing turn or arc of consciousness that tends to reference all—usually what it’s referencing is ego, is the image, the idea, the story, the process.
When the ego’s not really a big part of what’s happening inside, it’s like this turn of consciousness is orienting back towards itself. It could be quietness. It could be peace. It could be a whole host of nice experiences or not so nice experiences, but there’s this turning inward. I don’t really know. It’s like consciousness doing a U-turn or something. And then somewhere along the line, the U-turn just stops. And it stops because there’s really nothing there for it to look at. There’s no process going on. There’s just nothing there. How long would you look into an empty room? At some point you would turn around and just go somewhere else. And that’s what happened on that one day on the couch is something just stopped looking into an empty room. It just turned around.
It’s not a perceptual shift. For quite a while, it was an oddity. I would even say to myself, “It’s strange. There’s no process. There’s no process going on.” Not that I can’t use say deductive logic or things like that, but I mean, no emotional process. There’s no working something out because there’s nothing there to do it, which doesn’t mean that I’m emotionally perfect or I don’t mean to project ideas like that, but it’s like the understandings just come of themselves. So, I can just pose a question and the question—I don’t even work with it. I wouldn’t even be able to work with it anymore. If I have a question, it’s just there. And then at some point, an insight that’s a resolution of the question just comes up and there’s no at least discernible process; perhaps in the unconscious level there is, but consciously it’s just life without a process.
TS: Now, Adya, here in this conversation, when you were talking about these awakening moments, markers, turning points in your life, you actually were quite moved, emotionally moved. I mean, I’m here with you so I can see it in your face, hear it in your voice. What’s going on for you that you’ve had this emotional feeling?
A: That’s actually a really good question, Tami, because I don’t actually know. And the reason I say that is because, I don’t talk about this stuff a lot, but I do share it when I think it’s useful. And in the early days, shortly after this stuff, it would create an emotion, because there was a poignancy and significance. It’s like the deepest jewel you have you’re sharing with somebody. And it’s more meaningful to you than you could ever describe. But for years, for the better the better part of 10 or 15 years, I haven’t really gotten emotional when I’ve described it. So, it was as much a surprise to me as it is to you or to anybody else. I don’t know why I felt that, but the poignancy of it is what I was really experiencing.
And I think, I just felt how valuable it is to me, how valuable. Not the past, but how it’s living now that it’s almost like maybe it has to do with age also. It’s almost like feeling like the older you get, you realize the gifts that you’ve been given and you appreciate them. It’s a different time of life, I’m 52 instead of 32. Maybe that sums it too, that I really appreciate some of what’s occurred for me, and I think I’m also humbled by it. And I don’t mean that like in a I’m humble sense, but I just mean, I think I’m definitely, I’m completely at peace now with my humanity, where I didn’t struggle with my humanity after these things, but I don’t know, now I feel that these kinds of experiences can make you feel—it’s going to be another paradox—strangely at one with but in another sense apart. Because experiencing or perceiving something that a lot of people around you aren’t, so whenever you experience anything, there’s an apartness, a little bit of an apartness to it.
But now, that’s part of this ongoing awakening, verb, and maturing really, is I think of what it is. That I’m just very comfortable with the entire experience of existing and the human experience. And I think poignancy and appreciation is something about our limited humanness that fills those emotions. And perhaps because I’m even more and more and more comfortable and appreciative of the humanity with all of its frailty and all the rest, perhaps that’s a reason. It just feels like that. I’m trying to give words to something that’s hard to describe, because like I said, I haven’t felt emotional like that about it for quite a long time. I certainly don’t mind it.
TS: I think most people’s experience is that awakening is a gradual process for them, perhaps small punctuated moments, but not the kind of story that you share for yourself, the depth, nuclear explosion. I mean, I think that’s rarer. And one of the things I’m curious about is do you think that people can actually reach a depth of knowing? A depth of awareness of being, however you want to put that. This shift in identity through a gradual approach. Or do you think really, come on at some point there has to be some big dramatic event?
A: That’s a good question. I appreciate that. I’ll answer as honestly as I can, which is the reason that I’m reflecting. The reason for the moment to reflect is because, boy, one of the things that really stands out in my experience these days is how paradoxical truth is. It’s not paradoxical in experience, but it’s paradoxical as soon as I even think about it to myself, much less describe it. What I mean by that is yes, I’ve seen people that have had quite gradual awakenings where things are realized in retrospect, where there’s been some real change and I don’t mean just ordinary psychological change, but a real fundamental change of how they perceive life, that they just slide into. And a day comes when they go, “Oh, yeah. Yeah.” It’s like they recognize it, but they can’t tell you when.
Having said that, […] I can’t imagine any awakening that at some point there weren’t these moments of recognition, not necessarily mind-bending experiences, but just recognitions where you really do realize unequivocally that you really are perceiving differently than you did. If you never know that you’re perceiving differently than you did, then—one of the hallmarks of a real shift, is there’s a consciousness about what’s happening. So, in the middle. I think there will always be moments of recognition.
But when I look back, the reason, I think, in large part that the first opening was so explosive, even violent, it was very much connected with how difficult I was pushing. I was like a bottle of carbonated liquid that just had been shaken up for five years violently and then the top got taken off of it. And there’s going to be a violent eruption of that energy. It’s like it’s all going to explode at one point. I think I was almost, without knowing it, creating and storing this psychic tension that released. That’s why later, years later, when I had the other awakening it wasn’t violent at all, it wasn’t explosive. It was revelatory, but there was no explosive quality. It’s because I wasn’t pushing. I wasn’t striving. There was no buildup of psychic tension that had been happening.
Some people are just hooked up to where striving in the way I was striving. It’s not part of their makeup. They can have the same interest, but they go about it in a different way. And they’re probably not going to experience these almost volatile-sounding shifts. They’re going to happen more gently. Since I’ve been teaching and I’ve watched people have different awakenings, usually when it’s really explosive, there has been a buildup of psychic tension either through their own seeking or through their psychology where they’ve been carrying a tremendous amount of pain or something that’s created a deep psychic tension. They’re the ones that tend to have these explosive awakenings. The people that, for whatever reason, are not hooked up to carry a lot of psychic tension, theirs are much more a bit more like a flower opening. It may open quickly. It may open a little slowly, but there’s a gentleness and an ease to it.
I often tell people now I know I can’t alter people’s course any more than my teacher can convince me not to strive of I was striving, but I certainly don’t try to encourage a pursuit that builds up a great psychic tension. Because number one, it’s not ultimately necessary. It may be necessary for a particular person like it to me, but ultimately, it’s not necessary. And it’s not always wise. It’s not always wise. It takes an ordinary human groundedness to be able to experience those things without you coming out of it feeling very ungrounded or extremely disoriented, even though it was a wild experience. I mean, 10 minutes later, I did not feel ungrounded at all. And that’s because I was just a pretty grounded person going in. But if you’re not, then I really try to get people, don’t push really hard if you’re already all tight up inside because it may not be the best thing for you. You may get more ungrounded than you’re ready for.
TS: OK. Just two final questions for you here, Adya. I’ve met people who I think have had some level of a spiritual awakening, but they still seem quite challenged in parts of their life. Maybe it’s their relationship life or their ability to function well in organizational life, which is relationship life, something like that. And I’m curious to know, what do you think awakening does and doesn’t deliver in a person’s life?
A: Oh, that’s another good question. Well, when it’s authentic, does it deliver those profound perceptual shifts? That’s not real accurate, but I think it gets the point across there, is these profound perceptual shifts. That’s the hallmark of it. But I think one of the things that can be disappointing to people, and I call it the selling pitch for enlightenment, which isn’t really all true, is that these profound experiences or even all the way up to a fair degree of enlightenment, it doesn’t mean that it solves all your problems for you. It doesn’t mean you necessarily have all your emotional baggage together. It does not mean that you know how to be in a relationship well, romantic, friendship, business any more than having this big spiritual shift makes you suddenly capable of understanding theoretical physics.
As I see it, there are different lines of development with us. There’s a relational intelligence. There’s an emotional intelligence and maturity. There’s a spiritual intelligence and maturity and they’re all interconnected, but they’re interconnected, but not the same. Just like everything’s actually one, but I am also still a distinct individual. It’s not one or the other. Oneness doesn’t cancel. So even in spirituality, it’s a part of who we are, of what we are, but when your perception changes, you often have deep, emotional change also. You’re less attached and all that stuff. And the possibility to be able to relate better, or to be able to have your emotional baggage handled with much more ease or resolution. The possibility’s there, but it in no way is anywhere but a guarantee. Most everyone will, even with really powerful shifts, they’ll have to at some point own up to what’s left of their confusion of their emotional confusion or conflict or dysfunction, their relational dysfunction.
We could talk for a long time of the things that other parts of myself that matured, over many years, and I’m sure or I hope are still maturing and will mature until my lifespan is over on a human level, as well as a spiritual level.
I think that’s part of the honesty. These awakening experiences, they do not bestow perfection on anybody. They do not necessarily make you instantly easy to get along with, but they do give you a groundwork from which it is easier and more advantageous to address whatever conflict may still be there, but you still got to own up to it. And you got to be honest, and you got to step to the plate. Because sometimes people just try to cop out and go, “Well, I’ve had this shift and it really doesn’t matter. I’m not my ego. I’m not my mind, I’m this, I’m pure spirit. And so, it doesn’t matter.” Number one, that’s a profound state of duality. It may be a significant realization, but it’s nowhere near complete. And it’s also, it’s dripping with ego hiding out in a transcendent place, not wanting to deal with anything, not wanting to step up and take responsibility.
We also can deceive ourselves and we can use our awakening to deceive ourselves. That’s why I always say to anybody that, “Your real great guide is your capacity and willingness to us to have great honesty with yourself so that when you do hide, you’ll catch onto it and you’ll own up to it.” Because that’s why I always say we have a human component to us, and we’ve got to become comfortable with that human component.
TS: My final question, Adya. I mean, I know all of your teaching work in a way is about awakening, but here I’m going to ask you for your pith instructions, just the pith for our listeners who are interested in waking up. What’s the pith?
A: Oh, well now you’ve put me on the point, haven’t you? Thank you. I don’t mind it at all. OK. Here’s the pith instruction. Since, as I see it and as I work with it, awakening has to do, at least initially and for quite a long time, with our identity, our true identity, first know that’s what it’s about. That’s the bullseye that you aim at. And you look at whatever the identity, your identity is and it’s that identity you’re calling into question. That’s what it’s all about. It’s not about whether your consciousness expanded, how you feel, what you experience, if you see lights or angels or visions, it’s all about moving your base point of identity.
And so one of the most simple—well, let me give you the most simple. This is oversimplified, but I think it’s very useful. Something that anybody listening can take with them: a question that you just ask yourself, without answering the question. Never answer the question but ask it and see what it elicits in your experience. You have your eyes open. What is it that’s looking through my eyes? What is it? And just endeavor to sense into that and to feel into that, not define it. “What is it that’s looking through my eyes? What is the experience of that? What is that?” Just something that simple. If your eyes are closed, if you’re meditating, “What’s noticing this thought? What’s noticing these feelings. What is that?” And don’t answer it. Just let the question evoke whatever it’s going to evoke and just stick with it.
TS: Thank you for Insights at the Edge at the edge. You can read a full transcript of today’s interview at SoundsTrue.com/Podcast. If you’re interested, hit the Subscribe button in your podcast app. Also, if you feel inspired, head to iTunes and leave Insights at the Edge a review. I love getting your feedback, being in connection with you and learning how we can continue to evolve and improve our program. Working together, I believe we can create a kinder and wiser world. SoundsTrue.com: waking up the world.