The Stairway to Awakening
What is Awakening?
There are a thousand different answers to this single question . In my quest to seek the one true answer, I came across several terms such as spiritual enlightenment, dissolution of the egoistic mind or the self identity, shifts in consciousness and soul transcendence among many more. While some schools of thought define a slow guided approach comprising of defined techniques, there are others that also claim it can be accomplished in a single moment.
Why do we wish to be Awakened?
The ultimate outcome of awakening, as it has been described, is love, peace and happiness – happiness in every state of being. During our lifetime, we devote time to various goals, from securing the highest grade in class, to finding a stable job, to maintaining healthy relationships, to acquiring wealth and to strive to live life to its fullest. It is the attainment of these goals that leads to happiness, but awakening centers around the goal of being happy and not experience it as a by product. In the pursuit of happiness, the idea of awakening has become so abstract, that we have obscured our minds with any notion that can bring us closer to our singular goal.
Where does Awakening begin?
Awakening begins with a simple question – WHY? This does not imply that we question our entire existence, trying to seek a purpose from life. It is these notions that drive our minds through an endless spiral of seeking, only to realize we missed the whole point. Questioning must begin with the self, to be more aware of our environment, and in turn make ourselves aware of the relationship with the environment. It is awareness that leads us to awakening.
Is knowing the same as being Aware?
The process of knowing begins from the day we were born. The time we first responded to the sound of music and cringed to the sound of harsh noise. From being the infant who spoke its first words, to the toddler who learned the first alphabet, to the teenager who felt her cheeks flush around a crush, to the trained surgeon who realized the meaning of death after failing to save a life. And when life comes full circle we eagerly wait to see our reflection in a new born child as parents. At every stage or staircase in life, we are rewarded with a new form of knowing. Our knowing also encompasses the terrible sights of mass destruction through a natural calamity and the various facets of human nature involving crime, deceit and hatred. Awareness begins when we question the knowing.
We often look back on our actions and experiences to understand what we know and eventually become aware – aware of the positive as well as the negative. For example, the first time we speak to a large gathering, an inexplicable fear and nervousness runs through us. However, on the next occasion, this feeling subsides because the mind is aware of this fear and learns to take control. We learn from our own experiences, from the times when we were angry, jealous, hateful to those when we felt ecstatic, pride and loved. It is the awareness of all positive and negative experiences in our lifetime, that defines who we are.
We are all unique and each one of us has perceived life in the most unique fashion with our individual experiences. For example, one form of music can have varied emotions between you and me. I may dance to it, but you might simply long for it to be over. Is your personal experience of traveling the world more rewarding, or listening to travel stories from someone you admire? If our perception towards the smallest of things is so unique, shouldn’t we expect to find the answer to our personal awakening in our unique awareness as opposed to following the guidelines from another experience?
Our identity builds from years of awareness, and acknowledging this identity is our truth. Should we then ignore our sense of self completely? Or do we realize that awareness of our identity is the beginning of awakening? Awakening is when our self-awareness is so intense that we no longer seek the positive and obstruct the negative to form any judgement and can perceive ourselves clearly amidst all other individual perceptions. It is when we accept the balance between positive and negative, right and wrong, fear and courage, love and hatred, and have complete control over the mind to negate any implication, that we are awakened. The outcome is the natural appreciation of life, with complete awareness of all its elements, leading to happiness.
The process of knowing is timeless. We will walk through life with a vast majority of varied experiences and each experience will lead to the expansion of our awareness. It is not the act of denouncing the world and its attachments that will bring awareness, but being surrounded by it all and having the awareness of its temporary nature.
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In conclusion, The Stairway to Awakening is an endless spiral. There is no loft because at every stage in life we will experience an awakening of the mind through new ideas, expressions and awareness. You own your life, and every bit of awareness that you have, is personal. It cannot be duplicated and the times you feel awakened, you are also aware that the same unique experience will never occur for another being.
“You are the student as well as the master”