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Episode 5 What Happens After Spiritual Awakening?

There are hundreds — possibly thousands — of different kinds of spiritual experiences. They can be wonderful and transformational, and propel us on the spiritual path. Spiritual awakening, however, is not any of these experiences. It is a very particular kind of realization of who we are beyond any experience. What happens after spiritual awakening changes the way we experience everything going forward.

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In This Episode…

“When you’re awake to your true nature…there’s a fundamental satisfaction that’s untouched by anything that happens. It doesn’t stop you from being an evolutionary force in the world — quite the opposite. It can make you quite the evolutionary revolutionary but all from a place of profound contentment with what is.”

In this week’s episode, Craig shares two life-altering insights at the core of spiritual awakening. When these insights come together, they not only transform our understanding of who we are — they revolutionize our entire experience of being alive.

Listen to discover how spiritual awakening changes the ways we interpret experiences, explore ideas, relate to others, make choices, envision future possibilities, and more. Craig also explores how we can practice living from the posture of awakening right now — because it’s already who we are.

If you’re interested in exploring more of Craig’s meditation experiments, you’re invited to tune in to a 90-minute online workshop Craig will be hosting called Meditation 2.0 – The Miracle of Direct Awakening. Register for free at FreeMeditationWorkshop.com.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Episode 5 What Happens After Spiritual Awakening?

Craig Hamilton: When I speak about awakened consciousness or enlightenment, I’m pointing to something very specific. Awakening itself refers very specifically to the truth that who we are is not this limited, separate self or any of the thoughts and feelings that we previously identified as ourself or took to be our self. It’s the realization, oh, I’m not that. Who and what I really am isn’t just that. But instead we’re realizing that who we are, what we are, is consciousness itself or spirit itself. Who and what we are is actually this superconscious energy, intelligence, love, being, force.

So, to begin I just want to talk about what happens after spiritual awakening, and what awakened consciousness is and partly what it’s not.

There are a lot of different kinds of religious or spiritual experiences human beings can have, right? William James wrote a book called The Varieties of Religious Experience. Evelyn Underhill wrote a book called Mysticism in which she identified the stages of mystical experience. Throughout the ages, of people have been documenting the different kinds of religious and spiritual experiences humans can have. There are hundreds – possibly thousands – of different kinds.

Exploring the Variety of Spiritual Experiences

Many of us have had experiences of powerful spiritual feelings like bliss or ecstasy that overwhelms our system. We can have experiences of oneness, where we feel like we merge with everything and lose the ability to distinguish between our self and everything else. It’s all one. 

We can have experiences where we feel the interconnectedness of everything that can be just as powerful as a oneness experience – an interconnectedness experience – where we realize we’re part of what’s been called Indra’s Net, that everything touches everything. There’s no separate existence. 

How many of you have experienced awe? Reverence for the sacred. We can have spiritual experiences where we’re just overcome with awe. Sometimes it happens to us in nature. Sometimes it happens to us when we visit a sacred site, like the Buddhist stupa in Bodhgaya, India or the tomb of St. Francis in Assisi. I’ve been to both of those places. They invoke awe. You feel this tremendous spiritual power, and it invokes reverence, devotion, awe.

It’s also possible to have spiritual experiences with another person – a feeling like a deep soul connection with another; this kind of nakedness of the soul with another. It can be incredibly moving. We can have experiences of merging with another person, where we feel our consciousness becomes one. 

We can have experiences of merging with the natural world, feeling one with nature. We can have experiences of divine love, where we realize that we are loved by God or we realize that our nature is love that flows through us always. Love is always what’s here, ever present, always flowing, we just didn’t see it before, and it can bring powerful tears to our eyes, knowing this great love always exists, whether we see it or not.

There are also spiritual experiences of intense clarity. It’s a kind of clarity at the level of consciousness, where everything gets lucid and incredibly crystalline and clear.

Maybe you’ve had experiences of intense powerful energy? I remember once having an experience where I felt like I was plugged into the wall socket and it felt like thousands of volts of electricity surging through my body that actually went on for about five days; just intense energy. We can have these energetic releases or plug-ins, whatever you want to call it.

We can have spiritual experiences of expansiveness and openness, a boundlessness where all the boundaries dissolve and there’s just infinite space.

 

The Transformational Nature of Spiritual Experience

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of other kinds of spiritual experiences. These are all wonderful experiences to have. They’re often transformational. They often give us powerful motivation to pursue the spiritual path. When we have them we feel, oh, God exists or enlightenment exists or there’s something more going on here than I knew. 

That’s what propels us on the path and is often what keeps us going on the path as well. It can build our faith and keep us going. Some of them can even be transformational because of what they reveal to us. Someone who discovers that love very intensely can find their heart blown wide open and then it’s hard to shut it back down because they care so much now. It’s been blown open by care.

The Difference Between Spiritual Awakening and Spiritual Experience

Many of the experiences I described are things that could also be triggered by a recognition of enlightenment or what I’m calling awakened consciousness. So that can trigger some of those things to happen – the energy or the love, the boundlessness. A lot of the things that I mentioned could be triggered by an awakening experience. However, the distinction I want to make is that awakening itself is not any of these experiences. It’s not a particular special altered state of consciousness.

When I speak about awakened consciousness or enlightenment, I’m pointing to something very specific. It’s a very particular kind of realization. It’s been described as the discovery of our true nature, a recognition of our natural state, the recognition or discovery of our enlightened essence or the already-enlightened-mind essence or the discovery of our Self with a capital S and the recognition that that Self is synonymous with God. 

It’s not a particular kind of experience. It can trigger all kinds of experiences, but awakening itself is very specifically about awakening to the truth that who we are is not this limited, separate self or any of the thoughts and feelings that we previously identified as ourself or took to be our self. 

Realizing Who and What You Are

It’s the realization, oh, I’m not that. Who and what I really am isn’t just that. But instead we’re realizing that who we are, what we are, is consciousness itself or spirit itself. Who and what we are is actually this superconscious energy, intelligence, love, being, force. So we realize, I’m not this limited being. I’m consciousness, for lack of a better word. What I’m describing obviously doesn’t have a word to it. It doesn’t have a name. It doesn’t say, “Hi, this is my name – consciousness or God or spirit.” But I’m saying that we realize, I’m this. This dimension of consciousness is my true nature, and consciousness, awareness isn’t just an ordinary, mundane thing. 

We’re realizing that consciousness, spirit, this intelligence, energy, love, being, presence, force is superconsciousness, and that thing is already free, already whole. My essence is already perfected; that what I truly am is already this sacred beyond-comprehension dimension, perfected in its nature, missing nothing, lacking nothing, so full that it runs endlessly over, overflowing with goodness, love, wisdom, power, charity, humility, strength, courage, care. It’s the realization that our true nature is already this limitless perfection, this infinite power, consciousness, intelligence, love, creativity. 

It’s not just the realization that God exists. It’s the realization that that’s what we are; that that’s what I am. The thing I was always seeking and put outside myself and imagined was there looking over things, that hopefully there was a God, a positive, loving force taking care of things that I prayed to and hoped existed, and now I realize my own nature is that. That’s what’s looking out through my eyes and always has been. I just didn’t see it. And it shatters every belief in limitation that we had, every sense of lack, of not enough, every sense there was somewhere else to try to get to than right now. We realize the whole thing’s already here. I already am that.

So awakening means, first and foremost, realizing that, the true nature of our own consciousness, of our mind, of our own being. Just let it in for a minute. That’s your own mind, your own being. Your true nature is that. The idea that it’s not is just a story. It’s just a story your mind made up to try to make sense out of your life. This is what’s true about you, about me.

Discovering the True Nature of Reality

Here’s the second thing. Awakening is the discovery that this consciousness, it isn’t just my true nature. It’s the true nature of everything and everyone. This is the true nature of reality. This is what everything already is. 

So we discover that the most sacred, holy, incomprehensibly beautiful non-substance in the cosmos is actually what everything’s already made of. It’s the substrate out of which everything arises and manifest reality already is an expression of that. It’s a reality unimaginable to our mind and ego, to our little self. And yet . . . it’s what’s already the case and always has been the case, and awakening is simply discovering that, awakening to the truth of that. It’s, “Oh, that’s what’s true, and now I see it. I didn’t see it and now I do.”

AwakeningIs Not Just An Experience

I want to make it clear that this is not a special experience or altered state of consciousness. It sounds pretty altered, I know. It does lead to a lot of altered states of consciousness, no doubt. (laughing) It can flow from it, in a lot of the ways I spoke about before, but the realization itself isn’t any of those experiences. It’s a seeing of the truth. 

I think the reason it can catalyze so many powerful experiences is because for a human being to realize that, for a living, breathing, meaning-making, caring, conscious human being to discover something that earth-shattering, something that changes the game completely for life and human experience, it’s a pretty powerful thing to realize. It unleashes all kinds of things in the psyche – powerful energy, powerful emotion, that you can hear. I’m getting emotional talking about it, conveying it. All kinds of things. 

But in and of itself it’s not a special spiritual feeling or a particular kind of mental state. In fact, it’s really the recognition that every feeling, every mental state, every experience has the same essence. Everything has this same essence, and it’s a very special essence.

 

The Sacred Nature of Reality

Honestly, this is a place people sometimes get super confused on the spiritual path. They have a certain recognition of this, “Oh, everything has the same essence,” but they think it makes things kind of flat and void or everything’s equally uninteresting. They have like a glimpse of this, and they misunderstand it, turn it into a spiritual teaching that tells everybody to be detached and just witness everything that arises dispassionately, and that’s being awake. No, it’s not. That’s not it at all. 

The true realization that the mystics of the ages have been pointing to is the realization that the essence of all of it is sacred beyond measure, glorious beyond comprehension. When you discover it, it will bring you to your knees. That’s why religions are the way they are. That’s why they’re so devotional. That’s why there’s so much religious feeling wrapped up around religion, because all of the religions grew out of some mystical awakening to the truth that I’m pointing to in some way – the truth of enlightenment. It’s a very special thing.

But, again, to understand the practice a little, you see, it’s not the recognition of some special quality or state or feeling that is more special than other states, feelings, and qualities. That’s also where often we get a little confused or misdirected on the spiritual path. We have a powerful experience. We go, “Oh, that was very meaningful, sacred, powerful. I need more of that.” So now we’re aiming for these byproducts of awakening, missing the deeper point, which is that everything has that essence. So you can’t chase after any particular thing, any particular part of it or you’re missing the whole thing. You’re missing the thing that’s so profound.

Nondual Realization Includes Everything

It would be profound if there was something like… there’s the higher consciousness up there, and we can taste it and have experiences of it, and then there’s like lower consciousness and the bad stuff, and we try to not have that. We want the good stuff  and getting more of the good stuff, that would be meaningful. If it was set up that way that wouldn’t be bad. Obviously having a life of more of the positive spiritual feelings and experiences would mean that many good things would flow out of that. In a way, that’s a lot of how religion is set up, and spiritual practice, a lot of it is set up that way. In our practice, many of us are trying to get more toward the light, more away from the dark.

But I’m talking about what’s called non-dual realization, non-dual awakening. We realize that the essence of all the beautiful, good, and holy, light-filled things, that what it is that makes those so beautiful and light-filled, the thing that’s beautiful is actually shot through everything else too, even though it’s not as visible. You can’t see it as easily. You look at a beautiful sunset, you can feel a sense of the sacredness, the majesty maybe, if you’re sensitive. You look at a garbage dump, rotting stuff, it’s not as easy to feel that way. This realization is, oh, my God, it’s all made of this God-stuff, Buddha-stuff. We just didn’t see what it was before. 

So, awakening is the recognition that the same reality we currently occupy is the sacred reality. In other words, we’re not going to some other reality or some other dimension; we’re realizing what this dimension really is; this extraordinary thing that everything already is. We just couldn’t see it, and now we do and that changes everything.

When I talk about awakened consciousness – because that’s a term you’re going to hear me use over and over, it’s the term I’m trying to clarify – I’m talking about consciousness that’s awake to its true nature, which means your consciousness is awake to its true nature, which, simply put, means you are awake to your true nature. Awakened consciousness means you’re awake to your true nature. The consciousness of a person who’s awake to their true nature, who no longer thinks they’re something other than what they are. They now see who and what they are and who and what this all is. 

What Happens After Spiritual Awakening?

When you’re awake to your true nature, you start to find that things are very different than they were before you were awake to your true nature. You find that you start to see things very differently than you used to see them, and you start to relate to the same events of life very differently than you did before you were awake. Many things that used to seem frightening or risky don’t scare you at all anymore. You can’t even imagine why they were intimidating. Many things that used to seem like limitations don’t seem limiting at all anymore.

1. Not Resisting The Way Things Are

Some very particular ways of relating to life, ways of being, start showing up if you can stay resting in awakened consciousness long enough to observe it. So, what happens after spiritual awakening? One thing you’ll find is that you’re no longer resisting the way things are. That you used to always avoid things, deny things, desperately trying to change things. Now there’s no resistance to what is. You’re deeply content with what is, even as you might work toward changing things toward the better in the world. There’s a fundamental satisfaction and contentment that’s really untouched by anything that happens because you know how things really are, deep down. It doesn’t stop you from being an evolutionary force in the world. Now, quite the opposite. You want to manifest this sacred dimension as fully as possible in the world. It can make you quite the evolutionary revolutionary but all from a place of profound contentment with what is.

2. Seeing The World As An Indivisible Whole

You also no longer relate to others as separate from yourself. You find you’re seeing the world as an indivisible whole. It’s just one event going on, not a bunch of separate creatures running around. You can still understand the sense of separation and you have your life to contend with and deal with, be responsible for, but the whole thing now feels like a part of you. Life starts to show up no longer as a kind of collection of forces acting on you. 

3. Living Inside The Flow Of Life

Often we feel like things are happening to us in life. Oh, why did this or that happen? Life starts to show up more like a kind of unfolding dance of creativity that you’re participating in. You’re part of this flow, this dance, this movement. You’re just moving with it. Things happen and you’re open, receptive, responsive, being led, taking the lead as needed, not outside of life or feeling separate from anything. Flowing, dynamically responding, no longer trying to anticipate and strategize for every eventuality. 

It doesn’t mean you don’t ever strategize. Obviously, sometimes we have to makeplans–even big, long-term plans. But even the way you hold your plans is now much more loosely because you know, of course, things are going to change and you just need to be there for whatever arises and meet it.

4. No Longer Waiting For Anything

You also find that the whole human tendency to be holding out for a future moment, waiting for some time in the future when things are going to get better, you find that goes away. You’re not waiting for anything. All of your life energy is fully invested in the moment you’re in. All of your attention, all of your care, your whole self, you’re there for it, whatever’s happening. 

 

5. Embracing The Unknown

You find you aren’t grasping onto what you already know. Your certainties, your knowledge might still be available to you, but it’s no longer something you’re clinging to. You’re more open, innocent, curious, leaning into the next moment to see what it will reveal. 

6. Standing In The Awareness of Depth

There’s a natural awareness of this depth or this larger sacred context that’s always there and having the stable awareness of depth, let’s call it. It makes you a lot less reactive to what’s going on at the surface. You’re engaged with what’s happening on the surface, meaning all of the comings and goings, but your being goes deep. You know the truth of what’s going on here. You know the true essence of things and of yourself, and that knowledge doesn’t go away, so it enables a very different relationship to things.

I’m going through some of the natural qualities, natural ways awakened consciousness shows up to help you sense into it. I know many of you have had experiences of awakening, maybe even have ongoing experiences of it. Much of what I’m pointing to, what happens when you spiritually awaken, would be familiar to you if you do. Maybe you’ve just had glimpses of it but it would still be familiar. You go, “Oh, yeah, right. I remember being that way.”

What I’m saying is that all these ways of being are the natural ways of being of somebody whose consciousness is awakened, someone who knows their true nature, who’s awake to the true nature of things. That’s how they show up. That’s how life shows up for them. It’s a universal thing. Just like unawakened consciousness is very predictable how people are, even if we have differences. But the fundamental properties of it are the same. Awakened consciousness is all of those things and many other things too. 

The Practice of Direct Awakening

The radical assertion that this practice of direct awakening is based on is that we don’t have to wait for awakening to happen to us. We can practice all these ways of being that I just went through, directly.

Now, let me just point out what an unconventional idea that is. You might’ve been with me through my description of awakening, whether or not you’ve personally experienced that awakening I’ve been describing. You might’ve been able to say, “Oh, yeah, I can understand that. Right. If I thought I was this limited person, body, skin-encapsulated ego, and then I discovered that my true nature was this divine consciousness with all this power and wisdom and love and luminosity. I discovered that’s who and what I really am,” you could get it conceptually. You’d go, “Okay, if I were to discover that and also realize that was the nature of everything and everyone, I can see how that would utterly change me, and I would start to, in that awareness and that consciousness, start to show up in these different ways. I could have all those qualities I just described. 

That all makes sense. I get it.” And then what do we do? We say, “Okay, well, I’d better do something to try to hopefully someday awaken to that. I’m going to do some spiritual practices, chant some sacred words, and do some breathing techniques and some yoga and whatever else, and say some prayers, and hopefully someday the gift of awakening will be given to me because of all of this stuff I did.” Because that sure sounds like something you can’t just make happen, right? That sounds like something that kind of happens to you. Or it doesn’t. And it mostly doesn’t. For most of us that doesn’t happen. We don’t experience that. Or if we do, it just comes in a glimpse and then it goes away.

The radical proposition here is that we don’t have to wait for that to happen to us. We can directly practice awakened consciousness because we can see all of the ways of being that naturally flow from it. We can see the inner life of awakened consciousness – certain habits, certain ways of relating to thoughts, ways of relating to feelings, ways of relating to challenges, ways of relating to the future, the past. We can actually start to practice the natural, inherent inner postures of awakened consciousness. And when we do practice them, awakened consciousness naturally shows up. That’s the really radical proposition – not just that you can practice them but that when you do, awakened consciousness is there.

Why is that? 

The Ego Can’t Practice Direct Awakening

The reason it works is that the only part of you that can actually do these practices is your awakened self. It is awakened consciousness. Your ego, your unawakened false-self structure cannot actually do any of the practices. It can’t. You can’t, when you’re identified with that. 

The unawakened self, ego consciousness, it can’t let go. It can’t let things be. It can’t be innocent and let go of grasping after knowing. It can’t be aware of a context bigger than itself. It can’t be aware of awareness itself. It wouldn’t allow for any of that, because any one of those things would be its demise. It would be the end of it, so it won’t do it. None of it. Your ego will never do any of the practices of direct awakening. Trust me. 

That might sound like bad news. Oh, no. Well, how am I going to do it? The point is, you can. Who you really are can do these practices. Awakened consciousness can do them. And when you sit down with the intention to do them and you start doing them, it’s pretty clear right away ego can’t do it. So, either you’re not going to do it or the enlightened self is going to be there to do the practice, and that’s how it works.

It’s not a fake-it-until-you-make-it approach. It’s not like, oh, go pretend that you’re enlightened and then maybe you will and maybe it’ll happen to you. That’s not what this is. The point is, if this is who and what we already are, why wouldn’t we be able to do it, to be it? 

That’s the real question. If our true nature is that sacred, has all of that power, intelligence, love, creativity, energy, care, capacity, when are we going to stop insisting that it’s not here right now, that it can’t be here right now? When are we going to make room for it to just show up? For us, for our true self, to show up and live this life? Who we really are can do this practice, and when we do, it all happens.

 

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