Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Journey after Awakening: Guest Teaching by Benjamin Smythe

WELCOME. Thanks for dropping by.  It's been a busy two weeks, so I want to just jump right in, but let me make one note of appreciation first.  Thanks! to the good folks at Non-Duality Press for making me their Featured Author this month.  It's a real treat, and a high honor.  This unit now has my permission to die anytime it wants to--as if it needed it.


In many Nondual circles, and increasingly in this one, the term used to describe awakening is "coming to the Understanding."  I like this phrase very much, because I think it more accurately describes what typically happens for most spiritual seekers who apparently "wake up."

"Awakening" is an event-oriented term.  Spiritual awakening typically does involve something of an event, but even if it occurs, it may not be a large, showy event of the sort we read about in books.  I suggest that the reason such stories are in books to begin with is because they are unusual!  They happen, sure--it happened like that here.  And I've had it happen with a very few people whom I've worked with.  But far more often there is a subtle shift--a light comes on where there was no light; something becomes known that was not known; the previously unseen becomes suddenly obvious; the hidden is highlighted.

It may be, "Oh my God!" but it's just as likely to be "Oh."  There may be fireworks, but far more often there is just a pop.  It's usually brief.  We call this a "glimpse,"--a seeing-being of our real identity.  The signature of the event has nothing whatsoever to do with the value or nature of the event.  If you do not have a large, showy event, then in my opinion you are blessed.  Yes, you've missed out on a fun spiritual experience--which may or may not show up later--but you are far less apt to confuse that show and the bliss which often accompanies it with the Understanding itself.

The apparent shift from the sleep state to an awake one is actually quite subtle.  There's no real line, except that there is!  This subtlety is the reason that after an initial glimpse there can be so much trailing oscillation before we reach a real grounding, or stability, within Nondual awareness.  There's no such thing as "permanent" enlightenment, which is purely a mind-constructed idea that could only happen to a somebody, but there is certainly ongoing enlightenment, which has nothing whatsoever to do with a human being.  Ongoing enlightenment--also known as abiding awakening--is unshakable and boundless.

In the past month I've talked on phone and Skype with a great number of people from around the United States, and the world.  A remarkably high percentage of them had at least a glimpse of their true nature during the course of our conversation.  Just to be clear, I think this says far more about the readiness of seekers who are humble enough, and willing enough to "go One-on-One" with a teacher or facilitator than it does about any sort of "super-duper" brand of teaching that might be happening here.  It's much more about them than it is me.  However it's apparently achieved, such a glimpse is the doorway to the Understanding.  Or it's just a glimpse that simply comes and goes; it becomes an "enlightenment experience," which is strongly akin to a "spiritual experience."  Some people walk into the doorway, but never through it.

The difference in our result is quite often due to what we do after the glimpse.  In this teaching we do not try to bypass relative experience in any way.  We use it.  Leading up to and following a glimpse, we initially actually wake up, and continue to clarify from the dream by enlisting the help of the character in the dream.  Practices such as inquiry and meditation are encouraged, but we're very clear about who it is--and isn't--that's doing them.  This process actually bridges the gap between the "practice" and "no-practice" schools of Nonduality.  And because we clearly grow from lesser clarity to greater clarity as we investigate our true nature on one hand and our beliefs, opinions, and positions (BOPS) on the other, I am starting to use the term, "coming to the Understanding," at least as often as I am using "awakening," or "enlightenment."  I think that term engenders less expectation of that often-sought, but rarely-if-ever-caught  phenomena: the out-of-the-blue lightning strike of grace that results in abiding enlightenment. If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

In my book I talk about an apparent planetary shift.  I wasn't entirely comfortable when I wrote that, because although I firmly believed it to be so, my evidence was anecdotal and limited.  It still is, but at least it's broader, so let me say with full confidence that people all over the place, from every walk of life are coming into the Understanding.  More and more people are making the first big move.  I hope you'll fully utilize the posts and the other tools found or linked here to help you with your own journey.  I've cut seven new videos since the last post.  I've gotten a lot of positive feedback from some distant corners, and I think you'll find them helpful--and entertaining--regardless of whether you're still seeking, or you're grappling with the changes in life that come after initial awakening--such as Benjamin Smythe discusses below in his excellent and timely post.


Some of you may recall that I had a long conversation on Skype this last fall with a Canadian Journalist named Jeff Warren.  He's a very smart and likeable guy, and his name turned up again this week, when I read about an article he's written for the New York Times that involves meditation and awakening, which some Buddhists refer to as "entering the stream."  I found the link in my daily bible, Jerry Katz's Nondual Highlights.  I enjoyed the article, and I'm provide a link to it.  

What I want to stress for readers here is that "entering the stream," just like "awakening," is a misnomer.  Be very clear that you are already right dead, slap in the middle of "the stream."  What's lacking is your conscious awareness of what always already is, nothing more. 


I've been in contact with Shanti Einolander this week.  Shanti is Gangaji's primary book editor, and now the editor of ONE: The Magazine.  It's a beautiful and tasteful production, full of heart and wisdom.  Gangaji has an article in the current Winter volume, the magazine's inaugural issue.  Shanti describes the magazine as, "A quarterly online magazine featuring deeply personal accounts of non-dual realization and newsworthy events that exemplify and celebrate our true nature as one."

I've already subscribed--it's less than ten bucks for the year.  I once believed that all things on the Internet should be forever free, but in time I had to ask myself, "Is this really true?  Is this a sustainable model?"  I found there was a sense of unfounded entitlement living in the middle of that notion.  I don't mind paying for quality, and I'm happy to stand with a great cause that's utilizing a clear vision, big love, and great talent to support  the One Most Important Thing.  I hope you'll join me in visiting and supporting Shanti's ONE: The Magazine.


I first became aware of Benjamin Smythe perhaps a year and a half ago.  A young friend of mine brought him to my attention.  I checked out his videos and there It was: raw, fresh awakeness pouring out of some wild-eyed, thoroughly charming guy who was sitting on his bathroom floor doing a recording on a cell phone!  I still smile broadly whenever I think of that video.

In that era Ben was spending a lot of time--perhaps he still is--standing on the street with a sign that read "You're Perfect."  The guy is so there, and so endearing that you can't help but love him, and a whole lot of people do.  I caught Ben off and on after that, and then not long ago saw him on Buddha at the Gas Pump.  I was captivated to see how awakeness was maturing.  Same guy, but not the same guy.

Some time back, Mo Jordan, AC's Research Assistant, wrote me and asked me to think about having Ben as a guest for us.  She really adores him--his cheer and wit, and especially his videos that have to do with relationships.  I keep a list of teacher's I'm interested in bringing in, and Ben was on it, but at her say-so he immediately rose to the top.  I wrote him the same day I got Mo's request, and the rest is history.  As ever, here we are--here and now.  So, thanks to both Mo and Ben for bringing us this issue's post.

And now...

The Journey after Awakening: Notes from the Field
 Benjamin Smythe

I have difficulty reporting on my experiences. It is clear that anything I report can only be a possibility for how best to describe an event. As an event can be of any magnitude and yet remain only a memory, it is important to note all reports are after the fact. This is the edge of being alive. The reason this is important to point out is because believing the interpretative sentences to be truer than the immediate sensations can lead to greater confusion. Language is the newest appendage on the evolutionary block and thus, the one that garners the most caution in use. Because it has great power to clarify as well as confuse, sensations are a simpler form of confirming nonduality than language.

The sensation of seeing this at all
is of more value than the topic the sentences are attempting to address. A simple way to experience what I mean is to observe the colors available immediately. The letters and the surrounding periphery are of some color or another. Focusing on the colors rather than the content of the sentences can create a fresher state of consciousness, even as the interest in reading may fade away. This freshness is similar to the state created in changing the logic basis from Either-Or to Both-And. Fairly, if this is being read to a non-seeing individual, then the same investigation can be applied to the contrast between absence of sound and sound and to the non-hearing-non-seeing individual, this investigation can be done with the presence and absence of temperature. 

The journey after awakening is a gradual process of losing any sense of duality as a reality. The notion of duality remains only as a communicative function of language and not as an operative experience. It is accompanied by physiological changes as well as changes in personality habits. The spiritual community has several vocabularies to choose from when referencing this process. At this point in history there are many overlapping investigations that, due to increasing globalization, converge at one common point of translation. This is one of the challenges anyone involved in the awakening experience faces: not confusing content for process. The sentences are not the process. They are simply the reference points utilized like markers on a hiking trail.
These notes refer to the “journey after awakening” and are for those who are in the process of losing duality as the operative function. They do not represent any kind of authoritative list on the awakening experience nor is it assumed these notes are in any way final.

Since the night on the deck in December 2008,
when “This can’t be it,” dissolved into “This is it”, the process has been one of upheaval, joy, struggle and wonder. I use the first-person in the notes because there is no threat in speaking normally. However, it is important to cite that none of this is personal. I can no more help that this is my life than you can to be reading about it.

1. I lost interest in all hobbies and relationships for four months. The only thing I wanted to do when I got off work was sit and Be. In this period, I also experienced four days of immense grief at the loss of “other” that I poetically refer to as, “The Funeral of the World.” It was the saddest moment of my life to date, this grieving the death of every person I believed to be real

2. I experienced physiological changes that included floating pain, heart attack symptoms, traveling headaches, terror, anxiety, and psychotic episodes.

The heart attack symptoms occurred on an airplane over the Atlantic. As there was no hope of an emergency room, I surrendered to the sensations and waited to see what happened. It was very scary.

The psychotic episodes were by far the most challenging thing I have yet to experience. I take no credit for any of this and I am grateful to a decade of zazen practice for the ability to sit through a storm of volatile turbulence in the form of screaming voices, paranoia and loss of identity.

The one relevant piece of information to share from this experience is at the core of the unconscious there is a “versus” function. This is the fundamental root of duality. In the hurricane of voices, there was a dead calm center in which the conception of a threat was absent. It was here that the root plucked itself, much like a tornado lifting off into the clouds. The conception of “other” is a mirage. “Versus” is the core of this mirage.

3. I experienced a loss of interest in exercise and an increased interest in play. I was an athlete up until 2009. I ran, climbed, biked, swam, lifted weights, played sports and lead a very active life. As the sense of needing to prove something fell away, the drive to be a champion did as well. I had to confront the illusion that living a long time is not the same as living a good time. I play more now. It feels like when I was a kid: natural, spontaneous and goalless.

4. I experience spontaneous physical posturing that feels like fire is running through the limbs. It does not hurt or feel blissful. In certain postures there is a spontaneous movement to expel saliva from the back of the throat, as if vomiting. There is an increased sense of instinct and a decreased sense of belonging to culture. While getting food recently at a restaurant, there was a world map on the wall. There was a great puzzlement when I looked at it. The island does not belong to any single species, does it? What could a California, China or Europe possibly be, other than a division between us?

5. I experience perfect timing of events, including the habitual reactions of identity with the Either-Or operative function. Without the “versus” mechanism, the range of interpretation is terribly vast.

5.5 One of the benefits of “perfect timing of events” is no longer faulting anyone for anything they appear to do. The energy of the universe is an explosion that is out of control. There is no sense of a Time Machine existing in which this motion is reversible. It happens, then we report on it.

6. One of the challenges I face routinely is conversation. I got a mute button tattoo so I would have a clean way of being polite and yet, able to avoid speaking when I do not wish, as Sandra calls it, to “play along”. I don’t understand much of what people talk about because there are so many ways to interpret what is being said. I do my best, and yet, trying to follow what someone is saying is fairly fatiguing. This being said, I like people a lot. We are all pretty interesting to watch. 

7. I give away more money than I ever have before to those who ask for it. There is a great sense of trust in the safety of the immediate experience and in the natural adaptability of the organism. There is also a wonder at the impossibility of death. The atomic energy that is what we tend to call “the body”, confusingly, cannot die.  

8. Animals and children feel like equals. I often wonder how the world would look if we started respecting the children and animals as equals.

9. There is no sense of a conclusion that can be arrived at with any certainty in language. This reduces the former obsession with “knowing the truth” into an amusing joke. 

I can take no credit for any of these experiences. I share them simply because, like others before me who shared their notes, it can help reduce some of the anxiety that arises at various stages in the awakening process. When I read that Adyashanti dealt with similar exercise issues related to his former athleticism, it softened the fear I had at the time that I was experiencing something harmful. Perhaps the reader can relate to these notes in a similar fashion.

In summary, I would like to share an opinion:
There is a great value in openly sharing our experiences with each other, especially if we can eliminate the hierarchy formed through taking our experiences personally. While you may not have had some or any of these experiences, it’s not like you’re a different nonduality than I am. It does not appear either one of us can help being here, writing or reading. Kind, patient, and open conversation the shies away from asserting absolute truth and, instead, celebrates absolute curiosity is of great benefit to all involved in the awakening process. It is my opinion that the kinder we are to each other, the greater the depth of our peace. May this kindness find us all.

With respect and appreciation,

Benjamin Smythe

Here's what Mo found when she scouted around the Internet:


Anonymous said...

Very energetic blog, I enjoyed that bit. Will there be a part 2?

my blog post: Cathryn Perry

Suzan Vaughn said...

Thank you, Ben. Wow!