The myth of awakening refers to any belief we hold about there being something called awakening that's going to happen in the future. The way we go beyond the myth of awakening is by accepting that we're already awake right now, exactly as things are.
This is possible and very hard to do.
The big challenge we face is that we tend to feel that we need evidence to prove that we're awake before we can accept it. We find it impossible to embrace the fact that we're awake now because we keep demanding evidence to prove it.
Most of us have developed ideas about what we think awakened consciousness should feel like and what an awakened experience is. So, we judge the experience we happen to be having against these ideas to determine if we’re awake. If we're having the experience we think an awakened person is supposed to have, then we believe we’re awake because we have proof.
Occasionally, we all get that kind of proof. We have an experience – and by the way it’s never what we were expecting – but it’s so big that it catapults us into a direct recognition of the truth of who we are.
If you meet someone in the middle of that kind of experience, they don’t have difficulty embracing the fact that they're awake.That experience makes it obvious to them. The challenge comes when the evidence fades away, which it inevitably does. When you aren't feeling that experience anymore, what happens? Most people doubt what happened and conclude that they are no longer awake.
One of the deepest assumptions of the current paradigm is that we must have evidence to know what’s true. One of the great hallmarks of science is that it’s evidence-based. The conclusions of science are not just logical conclusions, they are logical conclusions based on evidence. Evidence has been collected, data has been analyzed, observations have been made, and experiments have been run. What makes the conclusions of science trustworthy is that they are based on evidence and therefore verifiable.
This works well for science. It also works well for our judicial system. When you’re trying to find out what the truth of a situation is in court, two sides with opposing points of view present evidence to the judge, and then the judge decides which evidence is more compelling.
So, it's natural in our cultural paradigm to assume that truth should be verified with evidence. So of course, in our spiritual life, we find ourselves wanting evidence to prove that we’re awake.
The mind-shattering insight of awakening, however, is that who you are right now, with exactly the experience you're currently having, is already awake. Awakening isn't a verifiable experience that is different from the one you're having. The fact that you’re awake doesn't mean you're perfect. It doesn't mean that you’ve come to the end of your karmic habits or lower impulses. It means that the awareness that is aware of those things is already awake – and that is who you are.
When we are lost in the myth of awakening, we're lost in an assumption that we have to look somewhere else to find awakening. Unless we’re in the middle of a full-blown spiritual revelation, we assume that the experience we’re having is not it. Beyond the myth of awakening is the realization that this is it. Whatever experience we’re having, even if it feels unawake, even if we find ourselves looking for awakening somewhere else, that's still it. The awareness that is aware is always awake and always who you are.
Some years ago, I wrote a short book called Radical Inclusivity and the message of that book was that nothing you could possibly experience could ever be excluded from being awake. It's all included. There is always an awake awareness that is aware of every experience we could possibly have – no matter what experience you’re having, and no matter how unawake it might feel to you. As long as you have any doubt about that, as long as there's any part of you that believes that awakened consciousness has to be some specific form of consciousness, as long as you hold any possibility that you could have an experience that wouldn’t be awake, you’ll never stop assessing the experience you're having. You’ll never be able to be free of uncertainty.
The idea of being awake versus not awake is not a useful way to think. The awareness that is aware of you on your most clear, inspired, brilliant, and beautiful days is not more awake than the awareness that is aware of you on your most miserable, deluded and confused days. The awareness that is aware is equally awake in both cases.
If we're still busy trying to decide if the experience we’re having is awake or not, it's because we are identified with the experience we're having and not with the awareness that is aware of that experience. The big flip is no longer identifying with the experience we happen to be having, and instead, identifying only with the awareness that is always aware of every experience we could possibly have.