To Be Half-Awake (and Half-Asleep)

Last Updated on Teachings
Half-Awake Buddha

I am half-awake. Or half-asleep. Or even better, I am awake and asleep at the same time. It is a strange place to be, and I’m sure there are others who know what I mean. And I’m also sure there are spiritual teachers and writers who would say that such a state does not exist. But still, it is my experience.

What does it mean to be half-awake? The best way to explain it would be first to start with what being awake means. Being spiritually awake means the same thing as enlightened. I prefer the phrase “spiritual awakening” over enlightenment simply because it has less baggage associated with it. There is too much talk in the spiritual world about “enlightenment” and “enlightened gurus” for my tastes. And, as a bonus, awake is a nice description of what it feels like to awaken(although, to be fair, enlightenment really is quite accurate, too). It is almost the same experience as awakening from a dream at night. Almost.

Spiritual awakening, in its fullest sense, is the complete removal of delusion from consciousness. The Truth of your being, your reality as absolute consciousness, as the One consciousness that exists everywhere and is everything, is your natural state. For some inexplicable reason, the majority of humanity finds itself in what we could call a dream state, a state of consciousness characterized by a pervasive sense of individuality, a sense of “me” as a separate self, not connected to others, existing apart and alone from all other living beings and non-living things. Spiritual awakening is the reversal of this dream of separateness, a full, complete total reversal. Once one is truly awake, or as Jed McKenna would call “done,” there is no longer any doubt as to what you are and no tendency to re-enter the dream state of separateness. Even more, there is no “one” who is even awake, for the sense of individuality is gone. Consciousness has returned to a clarity, a clearness that is no longer deluded or confused.

Many people, although not that many when compared against the backdrop of 6.5 billion human beings, have experienced something rather profound, a spiritual awakening. They have experienced a realization of the truth of their being. They find themselves, for a moment, a minute, an hour, day, week or even year, as no longer this supposed separate self. They know at the depth of their core, all the way to the bottom, that the “me” they thought they were was merely a phantom, a psychological sense of self, no more real than any other thought, a figment of their imagination. And for that moment or hour or day, they are awake, utterly awake, as if they were never asleep in the dream state of delusion.

For most that have this experience, however, it doesn’t last. While much of the old psychological self, which many refer to as the ego, may have been blown out of the system by the experience of awakening, much may still remain. This psychological sense of self, the beliefs, thoughts, feelings, ideas, etc, that give it a sense of reality, has a certain weightiness, a certain momentum or inertia, that will continue to function after the experience has passed. And it may take many years for the inertia of this false self to wind down and eventually cease, like a pendulum that, once swinging, will swing and swing and swing until it finally comes to rest in perfect stillness. Cessation (the actual meaning of the term “nirvana”) is the eventual fate of the egoic self, but it almost always takes many years for that fate to come into full bloom.

This is the state I find myself in. Something happened to me that can only be described as miraculous, a gift from the divine. At some point, I will have to share that experience with you, because I think it might prove helpful to others. But as happens to the vast majority of people who experience a true spiritual awakening, the egoic self resurrected itself and came back in. I, too, experienced a pretty incredible “blowing out” of a lot of psychological baggage, but the material that was left came back with a vengeance! For over a year and a half, while there have been many amazing changes in my experience, there have been some old, buried items that have been raging in me at times, things I thought were over and done with 10 or 20 years ago.

There have been swings from fear to courage, from bliss to suffering. The dominant psychological pattern for most of my life, anxiety, has ebbed and flowed. While I became permanently free of panic attacks prior to this awakening, other forms of anxiety still plague me, and at the oddest times and places. All in all, I have to say it is simultaneously amazing and bizarre.

One of the hallmarks of the awakening process is the increasing inability to deny anything. You simply become incapable of hiding from any psychological issues that you repressed, denied or buried deep in your subconscious. You can no longer lie to yourself, and when you try, well, have you ever thrown a boomerang? The few times I’ve thrown one I’ve always ended up jumping out of the way of a rapidly spinning piece of wood itching to whack me upside the head. A whack upside the head is exactly what happens every time I attempt to lie to myself these days. What worked wonders 5 years ago is pointless, futile and outright foolish these days.

So, while I know the truth of what I am, while I can feel it, experience it, often see it in others, know it beyond question, I still am not fully aware of it yet. The description of enlightenment as “abiding non-dual awakening” is not my experience. Some days it is as if my awareness is on a roller coaster, going up then down, over then under and around. Moments of utter clarity then moments of delusion. And as I have come to realize, it is a perfect way to be, just as perfect as any other way of existence, lacking nothing. Like I said, it is strange.

Maybe a few of you are members of what I’m going to call the “Half-Awake (Half-Asleep) Club.” Most probably are not, and that is okay. It is a club that some of you will join soon, some will join at some point in this lifetime, and all of you are destined to join during some non-existent future life. Even a few of you may have “graduated” beyond the club. I’ll write more about the other members of this club in a few days, as there are quite a few of us. A sneak preview: most of the “enlightened gurus” and “spiritual teachers” floating around the world are fellow members. There is much to discuss about the strange existence I’m calling Half-Awake, and I’ll be saying more about it. Until then, I would suggest you read (or re-read) the article on Adyashanti’s View of Awakening…. Namaste.

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