Archives for posts with tag: awakening

At the recent Nondual
Wisdom and Psychology conference
, John
briefly introduced a simple, 3-stage model
for awakening. Here’s my understanding of this model:

  1. Waking up – this includes the spectrum of spiritual
    openings that people describe.
  2. Waking down –
    integrating the waking up experience into life. Bringing it down
    into the body.
  3. Waking out – expressing
    awakeness in the world.

The second step is
an interesting one; it is not all that different from the process
of psychological healing that one may undergo in therapy. This is a
time of transformation, healing and moving towards wholeness.
During this part of the process we face difficult emotions and melt
away entrenched habits as we give up anything that is no longer in
accordance with the true self. Everything I have described so far
can happen in therapy as well, so where’s the difference? The
difference lies in what becomes available during the first step.
The first step wakes up the fire of awareness. My experience of
this fire was of a withering internal gaze; withering because it
would cause internal blocks and momentary delusions to melt away.
This fire of awareness makes the transformation that happens in the
second step faster and easier. I could go as far as to say that it
takes over the process of transformation and all one can do is step
out of the way so as to not slow it down. I think that there is
more to the first step. I think it actually makes a deeper
transformation possible. This deeper transformation takes the
ego-transcendence of spiritual practice and brings it right into
the middle of life. It opens us up to a greater intimacy with
everything and everyone around us. It allows us to be flexible
where before we were rigid. From this place we can radiate out our
particular flavor of awakeness everywhere around us – this is the
third stage, waking out. You may have noticed that I described the
first stage as a spectrum. That’s because awakenings come in
different shapes and sizes and it seems to be pretty rare that
someone goes “all the way” in just one hit. This leads me to the
spiral process of awakening wherein we experience a spiritual
opening and once the dust settles begin the process of integrating
that opening into our lives. This transformation period is fueled
and guided by the opening we just experienced; its depth and impact
are likely also related to that experience. Having gone through
this period of waking down and having emerged on the other side
transformed, we now live from this newfound freedom to the best of
our ability until we hit the next insight and begin the process
again. Bringing this into the world of therapy, I believe that this
model shows how helpful spiritual practice is to finding
psychological well-being. It also shows that spiritual practice and
psychotherapy aren’t easy to separate. And, it tells me that any
amount of spiritual insight can be helpful on the road to

Found at the Albany BulbIn the Kundalini Yoga lectures, Jung continues in his role as physician for the Western world. In this role, Jung takes it upon himself to, first and foremost, understand the condition of Western society and through this understanding perhaps offer a course of treatment. Throughout his research Jung uses different works of religious, mystical or mythic nature as lenses through which to view his own culture. These various lenses afford him different points of view and therefore unmask issues that cannot be seen clearly when viewed from inside the culture itself.

In a similar way I find myself looking at maps of consciousness and of the spiritual path, looking for correlations between different maps and connections to my own experience. These comparisons have been useful to me in different way. Finding correlations between my personal experience and what has been described before has been supportive, especially in difficult times. Similarly, knowing what may be about to come can help me prepare and accept it when it does. Last, from looking at the various maps, I’ve learned about myself and about who I can be – what hidden potentials lie in me that I’ve not explored yet.

Lately two such systems that have been on my mind are the Buddhist process of awakening and Jung’s process of individuation. There are a several maps that describe the progress of awakening (for example Zen’s Ox Herding Pictures and the Theravadan Progress of Insight described in Buddhaghosa’s Vissuddhimagga), a few of which I’ve used over the last couple of years. More recently, I’m finding Jung’s exploration of Individuation through various lenses to be enlightening as well.

I find this comparison to be particularly relevant at this point in my practice as my movement towards transcendence (awakening) seems to have taken a second seat and instead I find myself focused more on wholeness (individuation). Some similarities come up, for example Jung’s descriptions of ‘letting things happen’ and ‘observing objectively how a fragment of fantasy develops’ in his commentary to Secret of the Golden Flower are similar to Eastern practices of non-attachment and mindfulness. Some striking differences come up as well, for example, Jung’s claim that the crown chakra, sahasrara, is “merely a philosophical concept with no substance to us whatever; it is beyond any possible experience.” (p. 57)

Statements such as the one above can be found in many of Jung’s studies of Eastern spirituality. They may demonstrate a misunderstanding on Jung’s part but they also seem to point to Jung’s focus on living a life that is more consciously in touch with one’s internal world. Jung saw Western civilization as disconnected from the internal life of the soul and therefore his focus was more on the instincts that move us and the archetypes that guide us. As I am naturally drawn toward living in a world of concepts and transcendence, Jung’s focus on the lower chakras (up to the heart chakra) may be a useful pointer for my own practice as well.