Monday, December 3, 2012

Waking Up At Long Last--Or Not?


You'll notice that I've changed out the main post on Monday night instead of Thursday night.  I've done that because today, December 4, is the official announcement day for my new book, Beyond Recovery: Nonduality and the Twelve Steps.  My publishers, Julian and Catherine Noyce of Non-Duality Press--bless their daring souls--will be sending out a newsletter promoting it, and several other time-sensitive details have now fallen into place, so kickoff is here, and it's generally a huge day in my life.  The relative story still counts, I assure you! 

I've written a special post for the occasion, and of course the book is also the featured First Chapter Preview.  James Waite is also posting a First Chapter Preview on his excellent site, Nonduality Living.  This post may be helpful to those of you who've been on this path a long time with little concrete result.  It's also useful to point out that although the book is directed toward people who are either currently in, or who've previously been in addiction recovery, if you're like the rest of us and have suffered, or are still suffering from addiction to a separate self, then that fully qualifies you to read it and benefit from it.  If you're close to someone with addiction problems, then this book might also be especially helpful for you, if not them--yet.  

The book is not really a recovery book.  It's a core-teaching, straight-up Nonduality title that provides structure to help readers really grok what Nonduality is all about.  The structure of the Twelve Steps really helps with that, even if you're not familiar with them.   Nonduality is so "loose" that sometimes it's hard to grab hold of it.  It also provides some proven methods to encourage initial awakening, and others to support an ongoing spiritual program, whether one is awake, oscillating back and forth, or in search of that first glimpse.

I'm slipping this update in on Wednesday night, 48 hours after this post was first published.  I'm very honored to have been made this month's Featured Author for Non-Duality Press.  Beyond Recovery has been listed as a Hot New Release on Amazon in both recovery and philosophy, and has made the Top 40 in specialized areas within those topics.  I don't know how long the book will stay hot, but since I never expected the recognition to begin with, I'm grateful to even flare up briefly!

And now, let's get on with this issue's main post...

Fred Davis


This post is being written on the evening of November 30, which in an apparent coincidence--if you happen to believe in such things, which I do not--happens to be the first day that Beyond Recovery began to actually ship out from Amazon and other outlets.  I had a Skype call this same afternoon, and it's this story that I want to tell you about.  The two events are somewhat related. 

My new friend first wrote me about two weeks ago.  He had some questions about the Beyond Recovery online meetings I have scheduled for January.  One thing led to another, and we ended up on the phone today at 1:00 sharp.  Since we'd never met, I asked him how long he'd been studying Nonduality, and he told me eight years.  He'd done a long, dedicated study of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj's I Am That, which may well be the greatest Nondual book ever written.  I wanted to know if he'd ever had a glimpse of his true nature?  Not a thing, he said.

I started us out with one of the inquiries from Beyond Recovery, something I call "A Sense of Being."  It's a relaxed, easy line of inquiry that I've found to be very powerful in practice. At 1:16 Consciousness woke up from its own hypnosis, from the dream of separation that it had been having for who knows how long?  Sixty years in this trip alone, and for how many lifetimes prior to that?  I don't mean the personality, I mean "the package," by which I mean the DNA, the fractured memories, and conditioning.  Anyway, so much for the eight years of study that unit put in.

I don't mean to discount context.  I love broad, deep context.  It's very helpful, both before and after awakening.  Prior to awakening it allows doubt to creep in; we begin to question the version of reality that we and all the rest of the world have been using since we first drew breath.  And after awakening all of our study gives us background for our insights to rest in, which is huge.  But nothing directly causes awakening to happen.  Awakening happens outside of the dream, outside of the realm of cause and effect.  You can't cause the causeless. The first lesson here is that it again shows us what we've all heard, but can hardly believe, which is that awakening is always available in every moment to every human.  It doesn't seem possible, but it's absolutely true.

When we first started talking, I had no idea at all if my friend would wake up or not.  I know it's happened regularly before, but there have been some exceptions; it's not a bankable thing.  One can't promise it, or even expect it. Let me again be clear that it's not anything that I do, or that any teacher can do.   It just doesn't work like that.  Awakening happens of its own accord, for its own purposes under certain conditions--or it doesn't.  No one can make it happen, and no one can stop it from happening.  It does what it does when it does it--or it doesn't.  And now for the yang of the facilitation equation: if an apple is ripe there are skillful ways to blow on it to see if it will fall.  If the fruit is not ripe, we can at least "set it in the sun" to see if it will ripen more quickly.


Now, let me say that my friend didn't have the big fireworks display that sometimes accompanies awakening.  Consciousness got a good glimpse of itself, apparently through that body, but it wasn't explosive.  He told me didn't miss any of that, that he'd never been holding out for them.  That's probably a lot of the reason he woke up as quickly and easily as he did.  He wasn't requiring the universe to tap dance for him; he just wanted to know the truth of his existence.  For an hour, while he was talking to me, he knew.  More on that later.

Those fireworks can be impressive, and I really enjoyed mine, but they actually have nothing whatsoever to do with the knowing that is received.  Still, I have seen seekers turn away in the face of enlightenment simply because they weren't trampled by it.  Sometimes awakening is explosive, but more often it's sort of quiet, and subtle, like the gentle, "Oh!" that might occur when you step out into a surprise rain, and you have no umbrella.  It catches your breath and changes your outlook, but it doesn't bowl you over--at least not at that moment.

On the other hand, no matter how it happens, it's still a hell of an "Oh!"   Seeing through countless years of personalized bullshit in one fell swoop is pretty exciting!  And it's incredibly freeing.  In Beyond Recovery I refer to it as the "next step" after the Twelve Steps for people in recovery, and the "next step" in natural evolution for mankind.  My friend is someone who was previously active in recovery.  He kept looking at me and saying, "Wow, it really is the next step, isn't it?"  A huge weight drops off that you didn't even know you were carrying.  You have to experience the lightness of being before you can even notice the heaviness of doing that's suddenly dropped away.

There's just one thing going on.  One.  The realization of this, meaning the seeing-being experience of it, is what enlightenment is all about.  For some of us, there is an apparent massive, instantaneous download-type of thing that accompanies awakening.  You just suddenly know the truth behind a huge array of "cosmic questions."  That was my experience, although that knowledge came and went depending on whether I was in the "I got it" stage of oscillation, or I was in the "I lost it" stage. But I'll tell you, I've had clients who were word-bumbling seekers in one moment suddenly speak to me like highly finessed spiritual teachers in the next. I had lunch with a woman from New Zealand this summer who was like that.  Iliana emailed me today in response to the book coming out.  It's fabulous to watch that kind of transformation, or even to listen to over the phone. It doesn't always happen, and it doesn't always last.  Sometimes there is simply a quickening and/or deepening of insights over a long period of time.

Awakening occurs through the opening created by the absence of a me, no matter how long or how brief that opening exists.  Consciousness is already awake, always has been, and it's the animating presence for even the most apparently cruel and unconscious demon who walks the earth.  Consciousness is unmoved by all that judgment; everything is seen to be equally equal, because there's just one thing going on!  Separation is a concept, nothing more.  It's a convenient, useful concept on the relative plane, but it's still no more than a concept.  You have to see this for yourself; the mind can never grasp this, though it may frantically try to do so for years.  Seeing it for yourself is the whole point of Nonduality.  It's what separates this teaching from other faiths and philosophies.  We finally get to put both construct and belief to bed--permanently.  Or maybe not so permanently!

The problem with a subtle awakening that's no accompanied by fireworks, it's so easy to deny a little while later.  The truth of our existence is so unlike what we think it is that viewed from 'normalcy,' which I'm defining as a calm brand of insanity, in retrospect a conscious, awakened experience of reality can appear to be nuts.  But even fireworks are no guarantee of anything sticking, or of it being available for recall.  I had fireworks, yet a few months later I was nonetheless denying my own awakening and trying get back on the seeking pony.  (It was a short ride.)

The mind can only recall events that occur within space and time.  Awakening occurs outside of space and time.  It's like trying to recall a summer breeze.  There may be a warm feeling that passes over us, but it's just not the same thing as feeling it presently.  And presently is the only way enlightenment can be experienced.  Again and again and again, enlightenment is all about right now.


My friend and I talked for almost an hour after he found out who he was/is.  We did some exercises so that what he'd seen could hopefully register a bit more deeply, and so that he could see how by the dream's default mechanisms pull us back toward sleep.  Just seeing them in action through your own body in an objective way.  There are a couple of little exercises in the book that help with this. 

During that hour my friend drifted in and out of conscious awareness.  One moment he was bright, and the next he was cloudy.  But it was very easy to pull him back out of the dream after that first time, and he would smile sheepishly when I pointed out that he'd gone unconscious again.  Human beings are so goal-oriented, and event-driven.  We want to hit a spiritual home run and then get back to picking well performing stocks, or painting the garage.  Next thing, please!  I'd find another fantasy to entertain, if I were you, such as hitting the lottery or something.  It's more likely to happen than a full awakening without leftover conditioning to work through.  I don't think that's rare, I think it's never.

It's certainly amazing to wake up, and while I know it can be difficult for some, for a whole lot of others it's just not that hard, not if we're in the right hands and we've adopted the right attitude. Let me hasten to point out that there are lots of "right hands" available; there's no lock on anything at my house. However we get there, the real work begins after we wake up--if we want to take this thing to its natural "conclusion," meaning an abiding state of wakefulness.  This thing called enlightenment is really a beginning, not an end.  There is no end.  Think of awakening as the doorway to a tunnel that continually expands and brightens the further we walk in it.

In Beyond Recovery I talk a lot about BOPs--Beliefs, Opinions, and Positions.  If we want to really get the Understanding, we're going to have to work through the insanity that the human unit is still hung with after the abiding presence has woken up.  There is a huge shift that takes place as we move from brain power to real power; from thinking to knowing.  Now we do a different kind of inquiry.  It's more pointed, more direct.  I know this won't be popular, but this process--let's just say the dirty word 'P word' and be done with it--can take years. The good news is that every inch of it is fascinating, and we're always complete at every step.  Always being, always becoming.

I woke up, so to speak, in September of 2006.  I did not speak of it in a broad public way until July of 2011, a full five years later.  I'm so glad I didn't.  I sometimes see people begin to try and facilitate too soon--even people who've clearly had profound awakenings.  This can arise out of well intentioned zeal, or egoic drive, or more often some combination.  All too often they hurt themselves or others, and mostly succeed in adding confusion instead of clarity to the view pool.  I did a little damage too, but happily it was confined to those close enough to me that they dusted themselves off, forgave their fool friend with the big grin and the crazy rap, and then went on with whatever it was they were doing that was more interesting. 

Of course some of those friends woke up, too, but that's another story.  A couple of those have since walked away from it, and others are still shining.  It's all good; nothing's wrong, or out of place.  In the end, those who want this thing the most are the ones who'll get the most from it.  When Nisargadatta talked about the value of earnestness, I am sure he didn't just mean to break through.  The  real earnestness comes if we truly want to break out. This pull toward awakening is the one desire really worth having.  If you have a little of it, protect it like a tiny flint and steel fire in the wind: cup it, blow on it, protect it, nourish it so that it can grow.


Now I want to go into the dirty little secret of Nondual spirituality.  It's an open secret, we speak of it, but no one really understands what it's like until they go through it.  We don't call a glimpse a glimpse because it's stable.  We call it that because it's generally fleeting.  A long glimpse might last a day or a week or two, but most of them are only going to last a few seconds or minutes, or maybe a few hours.  When I got my first glimpse of reality back in 1992 I thought it was just the end of the world, the Big Kahuna, true satori.  After all, what did I have to compare it with?  I thought, "Wow, I'm enlightened!"  I can now tell you now that this thought will not arise within enlightenment. It's oil and water; just can't happen.

Any glimpse, no matter how small, any piece of the jigsaw puzzle of reality, for the duration of that occurrence, will feel like the whole thing.  It will feel like, "Wow, this is it."  Any glimpse is of the same nature as abiding Nondual awareness, so the ring of authenticity is unmistakable.  It's self-confirming.  If you have an awakening experience you don't need anyone to confirm it.  What you do want confirmed is how much of an awakening was it, and most importantly, how awake are you right now?  An awake teacher could have told me my 1992 "satori" would barely qualify as a really modest kensho.  They could have also have given me some direction that would have been hugely valuable.  In the absence of a teacher, in the absence of real context, my little glimpse was speedily appropriated by ego and Fred was made more special for it.  It's a common thing.

To get back to my friend.  We talked for that hour.  He was clear.  This was it, he could see this obvious thing he'd been missing all of his life, he was grateful, yada yada yada.  Three days later I got an email from him saying, "I can't say that my experience was in any way remarkable." I could tell from his email what had happened.  I had told him ahead of time that it would probably happen, but I don't know that forearmed is forewarned in this case.  He had simply moved back into thinking.  There's a bit more to it than that, but that's the thumbnail.

A few hours after I got that email, I got another that said, "While I was waiting I sort of settled down and came back to where I was when last we talked. It is such a simple, subtle and then obvious non-thing. The mind wants to 'get something else' out of it. Not this it, some other it."  So did the guy wake up, or not?  Both!  My friend never woke up.  The animating presence within him woke up to its own dream.  Later, the unit, in a desire to understand and "claim" this experience tries to translate it into a concept--which can't happen.  Part of the whole can never contain all of the whole.

Still, we try our best to encompass reality with our mind; we try to hold it in our heads; and most of us try in one way or another to claim it.  I did all of that in my day.  Almost everybody does it.  I was first an enlightened ego, then I denied I'd had an awakening at all.  At several points I tried to return to seeking, and even to swear fealty to A Course in Miracles.  That way I'd have something to point to and say, "I believe in this."  It's sort of the antithesis of Nondual teaching, but we do what we do.

I often recommend Adyashanti's seminal book, The End of Your World to my friends or clients who've woken up.  Let me do so again here.  It's the best book I know on this subject, and he's the best teacher I know who's focusing a lot of attention on the post-awakening experience.  None of this is cut and dry, folks.  Everyone who wakes up reinvents the wheel, but once they've done that there are familiar roads we can point to that'll carry them more swiftly and safely to their journey's unending end.

I had another client this summer, a woman I worked with, who has a wonderful background in Nondual teachings.  She's read everybody, and met a lot of teachers.  She just hadn't had a glimpse.  After talking to me for an hour she had a real breakthrough.  She was absolutely as clear as a bell.  I promise you that for a couple of weeks there she could have held satsangs and done a damn good job.  And then thinking took over.  I got an email from her that seemed to be from an entirely different person.  She couldn't remember having been awake.  All of the clarity was gone; every bit of it.  But it's almost surely going to come back; perhaps it already has.  Her door is wide open; she's just been caught up examining the doorjambs.  I'm confident Awareness will become conscious of itself through that body again, but she taught me something.  I'm still relatively new to facilitating, and had no idea you could wake up that thoroughly and go back to such a sound sleep.  I'll confess with some embarrassment that there was some private ego in there, too.  How dare she go back to sleep on me!

Consciousness does what it wants to do when it wants to do it, and how it wants to do it.  There are no rules, no limits; that's why I say that everyone who wakes up reinvents the wheel.  It happens differently for all of us.  I used to think I knew a lot about all of this.  Now I see that I know very little.  But being aware that I know very little is quite a helpful thing.  I don't spend a lot of time second guessing God any more.  She giveth, and she taketh back.  Oscillation is a fact of life, but let me assure you that provided we press on, it's seen in retrospect as the highest quality problem a human being can have.


Like it or not, facilitators play a huge role in the Nondual Kingdom.  People wake up without direct help--I did--but I didn't stabilize until I sought help in the guise of Scott Kiloby a few years back.  After forty-five minutes of talking on the phone to Scott all my in-and-out, I-got-it, I-lost-it experience disappeared and the door to abiding presence swung open for what appears to be the last time.  And frankly, most people will probably not wake up without some help.  It's just such a subtle thing, and ego is ever-there to lead us back into the dream, back into the divine hypnosis, singing to us with its siren song.  Its magnetic pull is enormous.  And it's oh so clever!  Help from those who've gone before can be a huge plus.

But working with a facilitator can have its pitfalls, too. We really have to watch out for teacher addiction.  The way this thing often works is that--again we are languaging, meaning that all of this is close to the truth, but not on it--the conscious awareness in the client rises like a kundalini serpent when it sees itself in the facilitator.  In the presence of a spiritual teacher it wakes up, and in the absence of a spiritual teacher it sleeps.  This has nothing to do with the teacher, and everything to do with conditioning.  We literally train ourselves to sleep soundly unless we are getting an outside jolt of shakti, or presence, or what have you. 

A properly-intentioned, sharp teacher will watch for this, and help the client avoid this kind of behavior.  It's important that we be told about it, so that we can watch for it in ourselves.  Being around someone who is consciously awake is the single most important step we can take in our journey to awakening.  But we want to be sure and notice that it's not the presence of the facilitator, it's the absence of our own story that opens the door to transformation.  If we stay with a teacher out of loyalty, we are being loyal to the wrong person.  We need to be loyal to ourselves, and follow our own hearts.  Sometimes switching out of a dependent relationship is the wisest course of action.

Let's be clear that the facilitator is not helpful because they are somehow special.  They are helpful because they are so ordinary.  In the absence of specialness, the extraordinary can pour through.  I often ask people after they've had a glimpse of their true nature, "And what did I actually teach you today?"  Every single one of them has told me the same thing: nothing.  The old Zen masters used to laugh slyly and claim they were selling water by the river.  How right they were.  How funny.

Anyone for water?

© 2012 Fred Davis
All rights reserved.

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Housekeeping Notes:  
Please join us on December 21, when Jeff Foster will return as our Guest Teacher.

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