I’ve been meditating for 10 (or 20 or 40) years, and I still feel like it's the same old story. All these people are talking about all these amazing awakening experiences they’ve had, but I haven’t experienced anything close.”
“I’ve been meditating for 10 (or 20 or 40) Years…”
For reasons I can only speculate about, when the topic of awakening experiences are discussed it seems people have a tendency to hone in on the idea that they should be more spiritually adept/perceptive/mystically-oriented/something-along-these-lines because they’ve been meditating solidly for a decade or four.
By all means, meditation is amazingly valuable. Pretty much, meditation is to a well-rounded spiritual life what water is to this planet: a matter of life or death.
However, as important as meditation is for spiritual growth, it is only one component within the larger process of conscious expansion. There is an abundance of other tools available to us for developing our awareness and thus creating more space for transcendent experiences to occur; each tool having it's own distinctive style, focus, and depth of reach.
In saying this, it must be stated that, no, even in using these tools, mystical experiences are not guaranteed. They should not be our objective anyway. Nonetheless, since each tool can expand our awareness and raise our chance of having an awakening experience, it may be well worth our consideration as to what other self-cultivative practices we are doing and how much time and energy we put into them.
We could ask ourselves:
- Does my diet consist mostly of organic, alkaline, vegetarian (perhaps vegan), unprocessed food and drink, including plenty of pure water?
- Do I actively work to become conscious of and make conscious my every thought, word, and deed?
- Do I frequently spend time in nature, particularly making flesh-to-earth contact?
- Do I “live” in a state of self-inquiry?
- Do I continue meditating even when I’m done meditating?
- Do I take part in spiritual ritual?
- Do I regularly immerse myself in written and audio/visual material from “Those Who Know”?
- Do I share what I have been given?
- Am I always open to higher truths or do I pretend I already have them?
- Do I go on retreats?
- Do I use mantra?
- Am I active in yoga or a martial art form?
- Do I regularly invest my time and energy in process work?
- Do I include my Divine/Higher Self as a necessary aspect of my daily life?
- Am I in a state of gratitude for all things in my life (past, present, future), and do I express it?
- Do I volunteer time and energy or donate money in service to those in need?
If we’ve answered “no” to any or all of the above, perhaps it’s time to try something new.
If we’ve said “yes” to any of the above but maybe dropped some or all at an earlier time, we may find it beneficial to give them another try. Life changes—it could be that when we’d first tried a practice we weren’t yet prepared to get on the proverbial “bus.” If we’ve once again found ourselves at the “stop,” maybe that’s our indicator that it’s time to try again.
If we’re utilizing all the above practices (and more?) but still seem not to perceive any bit of the mystical, I’ll suggest self-inquiry into other topics. We can begin by asking ourselves:
- Could this be my karma?
- Is this the life experience I’d chosen as a soul but refuse to accept in life?
- Am I attaching to or desirous of a certain outcome, feeling, or experience?
- Am I making expectations as to how my own experience should unfold based on the life experiences of others?
- Should I truly be having awakening experiences, or do I just think it to be so?
At first glance, some of these question may seem silly. " 'Did I choose this before I was born?' For Pete's sake, John. I can't even remember what I ate for breakfast yesterday morning! Do you actually expect me to remember something like that?"
Ha. No. Recall helps, and that's what we have process work for. But short of processes, we can remain open to the intellectual side of things, we can become consciously aware of whatever we experience/think/say/do/feel and acknowledge rather than deny it, we can remain open-minded about those things as yet unknown to us.
Accurate information, conscious awareness of what is both within and without, and the acknowledgment of a Higher Purpose—even if we have no clue what that purpose is—go a very, very long toward our being in acceptance of what is when the reason for perceived troubles is unclear.
Without our acceptance of the what is, there is no space holder for transcendent experience.
As we move into the next segment, let's consider the last few words of this part of our perceived predicament: "...I still feel like it's the same old story."
Do you hear what I hear? Maybe it is the "same old story"...
Awakening Experiences – Self-Judgment and Belief
While we're in the self-inquiry mood, why don't we check right away to see if we're harboring any form of self-judgment.
To judge one’s self is to de-grade one’s self. If we are doing this to ourselves, it means we have faulty beliefs that are distorting our interpretation of reality and keeping us in a lower state of awareness.
With the simple intention of wanting to be conscious of self-judgment in terms of awakening experiences, we could probably find at least some of our false, self-de-grading beliefs quite easily.
Perhaps the biggest pointer that we’ve hit on something important is that our consideration of the false beliefs will make us feel like crap. This happens not because they’re unhappy things to think about, but both because we’ve taken them on as our own and we know they are causing us suffering. To have these beliefs means we have to be comparing ourselves to others and doing so in a negative light.
Essentially, we hear of the experiences of others, we say: “I want that!” and then we judge ourselves as somehow “lesser” when someone else’s experience has not become our own. With these judgments come beliefs like:
- I’ll never have an awakening experience.
- I’m not advanced enough to taste transcendence.
- There must be something I’m not doing right.
- There must be something else I have to do.
As badly as we want to experience the transcendent, we actually end up barring ourselves from it because we’ve created beliefs categorizing our encounter with it as yet impossible.
But let’s think about this for a minute… If everything happens in the present moment—and it does—if we now believe something is impossible, and thus experience it as impossible, in what moment do we expect an awakening experience to occur?
Awakening Experiences – Attachment
We’ve not had any awakening experiences but would really like them based on their offering transcendent, perhaps blissful, first-hand experience with the Inexplicable.
The problem with this is that our desire is born from ego. By nature, the ego is a creature of attachment. The result is that, rather than allowing what is to be and experiencing our personal experience fully, we attach to the “materialized” stories and descriptions that the experiencers perceived while in a state of “immaterial” perception.
Because our finite minds cannot comprehend the Infinite, by taking the Infinite and trying to compress it into the finite, we attach to the Inattachable and give ourselves the idea that there is something we should be on the lookout for; as if awakening experiences aren’t spontaneous so much as we need only get someone’s story worked out in our minds (which we could never actually do) in order for ourselves to experience the same.
It’s important for us to remain aware that the issue of attachment applies to all people, not just those who haven’t had awakening experiences. For even if we’ve had one or three or 16 such experiences, maybe we’ve hit a point where they’ve just stopped.
It’s during this kind of scenario when it’s worth asking ourselves: Have I become attached to any of these experiences, whether mine or those of another?
As the Taoists would say, “The Tao flows.” We are all a part of the Tao, and so we are all a part of its flow. Yet, we cannot experience the Tao from a transcendental perspective if we’re not moving with its current.
Have you ever looked at a stream and tried to follow a ripple of water? Your eyes will be able to follow the water at speed and watch as the “same” area remains in continuous transformation, but you will never be able to focus on one, individual ripple. As soon as you look, it has changed—the eye needing to refocus 1000 times per second.
We would be wise to view awakening experiences from this perspective. For each one is but a mere taste of Infinite Possibility—an Infinite Possibility that flows, that consistently changes, that reveals itself uniquely to each of us.
We have no control over this flow except in the sense that we are able to remove ourselves from it by our own attachment to it.
Awakening Experiences – Variation
The river experiences voluminous flow.
The rapids experience choppiness and speed.
The pond experiences shallowness and placidity.
The clouds experience height and low density.
The glaciers experience rigidity and extreme cold.
The marsh experiences stagnance.
But in the end… It’s all water… and it all eventually returns to the unfathomable vastness and depth of the ocean, of the “one water.”
So, too, are each of us of the same “One Water.” While we may experience “placidity,” the guy next to us may experience “height.” Maybe we experience seeming “stagnance” today but will experience “speed” in a year from now. Whatever the case, in the end we will all be consumed by “The Ocean.”
Whatever we’re feeling, hearing, tasting, seeing, smelling, whether ordinary or extraordinary (and let me tell you, the “ordinary” often is where the extraordinary will be found), it is all necessary on our personal path.
We can’t necessarily know why our neighbor has an awakening experience per day when we don't have any. But we can learn to detach ourselves from egoic fantasy and expectation. We can learn to accept ourselves as unique, at our own personal place in our own soul’s evolutionary journey, as individuated manifestations of the Creator, offering perceptual experience that only we as singular entities can achieve.
Remember that the Universe does not waste energy—this means everything we (a form of energy) experience (energetically interact with) has to have a purpose.
With an ego of insatiable sensual desire in a society of instant gratification, it is very easy to become lost in our yearning for the extrasensory experiences that had once come to us or that we’d heard of as coming to another.
This yearning can cause us to create false beliefs, to attach, to become judgmental and discouraged, to do a number of things which actually remove our awareness from the present moment and decrease our chances of experiencing the very thing we yearn for.
While working to heal any disconnects between our perception and what is, let’s bear in mind that the awakening process is a very personal thing, as are the experiences which come along with it. No experience besides our eventual awakening (whatever “awakening” may mean) is necessarily guaranteed.
Life happens as it happens in spontaneous flow. If we can learn to respect this, we can more readily come to terms with our unique place within the “One Water.”