I will be honest with you. It is almost impossible to awaken. The way can be so difficult, so filled with distractions, and our minds are designed to fight freedom.
Our identities are mostly complete by the age of seven. The time between birth and seven creates the structure of our knowledge, our identities, and is made up of all the stories and fairy tales told to us at school and in our families. Culture forms our desires. We live in these stories; they become us and our world.
We feel something is wrong with the world. It is too ugly, too much pain, too many wars, too much killing, 10 billion animals killed each year just to feed Americans. We see increasingly corrupted politicians and businesses. We see everyone operates from a position of greed and poisonous reactivity. And, we want out. We don’t want to live in this world.
This was Robert Adams struggle. He did not fit; the world was too awful.
He struggled with this realization for over a year. Then one day he had a great realization, a precursor to his awakening experience three years later. He came to the realization that neither his body nor the world was real! They were stories created by the mind that overlaid deeper layers of consciousness. I really do not know what Robert did in those three years, whether he explored those layers or not. But I do know he was a troubled boy. He was hard to handle. The conflicts he saw still tore him apart. And then he awakened at age 14. You have to read his transcripts to find his expression of his awakening.
Most of us are also this way. We feel something wrong. Nothing seems right. We start looking and searching for the truth of reality. Mostly we read, then we learn about meditation, yoga, pranayama, karma yoga, chanting and gurus, and a few start a spiritual practice, and a very few become obsessed with finding truth. They are both the lucky ones and the cursed.
What is awakening?
You have to see that the definition varies from teacher to teacher based on their own experiences. There are endless awakenings. Some find union with God by becoming empty, some find union by giving themselves away in love. Some become empty, some become fuill. Some become humble and accepting, others become filled with driving energy to make the world better. As the Zen master Joshu said, he had thousands of small awakenings and 17 mind-busting ones.
So what is awakening for me? It is a gradual process of losing our minds and identities as humans, as small frail, mortal bodies, and becoming aware of deeper identities found in nothingness and love. So at what point can we consider ourselves awakened? This is for each to determine for themselves, and maybe as in the Great Tradition, search out masters for confirmation as did Robert over 17 years. His constant sadhana was to travel from teacher to teacher to see, as he said, “If I had missed anything.” Robert even had an awakening experience at age 68, the year before he died. Notice, Robert did not start guru shopping until after he awakened, not before.
But what does it take to awaken?
First, it takes a burning desire to be free, immense energy, unstoppable energy, an energy that appears to tear the body apart, leaves it burning and sometimes leaves one desperate for relief from the energies.
It takes an immense will to escape from the illusion and to see the truth.
It takes an awakened intelligence so as to not be trapped by false teachings and false gurus, including our own delusions and preconceptions.
It takes a single-minded practice, such as some form of meditation or self-inquiry, or abiding in the I Am and learning to love the I Am, which is my way.
It really, really helps to be with a teacher who has had many awakening experiences, even if not the mythical,”Totally Enlightened” being. To this I bring in the concept from self-psychology, which states you don’t have to have had perfect parents, or a perfect early environment in order to be a well-functioning human being. You only have had to have a “Good Enough” mother and father, and a “good enough” environment.
The same with your teacher if you are lucky enough to be open to one. He or she only needs to be “good enough” for your place on your path and your needs.
You know, there are so many people steeped in positive thinking patterns which they accept as the way to truth, that they think everything is unfolding perfectly, and all teachers are equally good for whatever student they are with. As some say, the entire universe is conspiring to wake each individual up. This is such Pollyanic nonsense. This is the way they wish it to be, because then everything is ok, from mass murders, wars, meat eating, plague and spiritual frauds. It just isn’t so. You have to be careful in the spiritual marketplace as anywhere else, because frauds and deluded gurus are everywhere. You have to be intelligent and sensitive to escape these traps.
Michael Langford wrote a book called, The Most Rapid and Direct Way to Eternal Bliss. It is really a great book for those who are ready to drop everything and begin a life of endless meditation on self. But you have to trust him and his method, otherwise doubts will finally end this path for you. But so very, very few will follow this path. Most will burn out before reaching the goal, or they will read another book that will change their mind, and they will begin a new practice.
Robert’s final advice to me was, “Persistence is everything.” By that he means to gain awakening, and to build a sangha. Persistence is everything. Do not despair if you have not awakened after 20 years. Just keep trying. For those who persist, they tend, as the baseball player who practices eight hours a day, to get luckier and luckier so far as spiritual awakenings are concerned.