I have been on a “spiritual path” as it is sometimes called, for a dozen years or so. I didn’t choose to be on one. It chose me. When I became what is sometimes called a “seeker” it was not a conscious choice, but something I had to do. I was overcome with the desire to know the ultimate Truth of what we are and why we’re here. The circumstances that led to the birth of the seeker are discussed in another post (LINK) and not relevant to this discussion. Suffice it to say that I received a “wake up call” which could also be called a “call to awaken.” I got the call and I had to answer. At that point, Life began setting things in place that would serve me on this journey. Trey the “Seeker” eventually turned into an “Awakener” (the way I use the terms, a Seeker is one who is looking for fulfillment through a number of spiritual outlets or techniques, while an Awakener has had a glimpse(s) of the Truth and has a more narrowed focus on waking up).
A recent conversation prompted me to answer the question, “What does spiritual awakening mean to you?” In a nutshell, this person I call Trey is not who I really am. What I truly am, is Awareness (aka Consciousness). Some people have heard variations of this sentiment hundreds of times from a wide variety of sages and teachers from around the world. To those who have not heard it before, it may sound rather silly. But the realization that one is actually just Awareness and not a person is what Awakening is all about. Self-realization (aka enlightenment) is the recognition of one’s self as Awareness.
“Why would a person want to realize such a thing?” one might ask. Well, the answer lies in how Life is experienced from the perspective of Awareness. When one stops identifying themselves as a person and begins to identify as Awareness, the limiting beliefs about the individual (and others) fall away, leaving the unclouded essential nature of this moment. From what I’ve seen in spending time with awakened people, the awakened character is loving, compassionate, accepting, non-judgmental, supportive, kind, authentic, empathetic, courageous, and unaffected by negativity. Though it may seem odd on the surface, when we no longer feel identified with the character we’re playing, we become beacons of light and love in the world.
About My Character’s Path
Trey’s path has been one of presence, acceptance and surrender. Some of my greatest early influences were Eckhart Tolle and Byron Katie. Despite resonating deeply with their teachings, I did not blindly adopt that path overnight. It feels as though I (the character) has been in a gradual trust building exercise with Life. I read the works of teachers then applied them to different areas of my life. The outcome was one of reassurance time and time again. I have gone through a number of challenging circumstances, and when applied correctly, this path of accepting all that comes transformed challenges into gifts. I started seeing the silver lining in all the clouds. In fact, challenging situations turned into opportunities to awaken more deeply.
A couple of years ago, Self-inquiry came alive in me. Self-inquiry is simply the act of becoming aware of Awareness. Ramana Maharshi, considered by most to be father of Self-inquiry, told his students to ask, “Who am I?” and then direct attention toward the source to which that question points (Rupert Spira does a great job of explaining it in this short video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JG9WuSk5gTI). This seemingly simple practice led numerous people to wake up, and many of those who woke up became teachers and began spreading the same Truth they found. Though each teacher has their own personal style, what they are saying is ultimately the same thing: We are all Awareness.
As I practiced Self-inquiry, or redirecting Awareness toward Awareness, it led to the ability to rest in Awareness for short periods, which often times is accompanied by blissful states and feelings of oneness. However, it can also bring up a number of challenging issues that need to be acknowledged. Some say “spiritual bypassing” occurs when someone uses a spiritual path to avoid dealing with negativity, but that’s just like hitting the snooze button on an alarm clock. Whatever it is that needs to be addressed will arise again until it is effectively met. For me, acceptance and surrender have been the tools used to deal with all that arises. Through this process, Life has become my teacher and I trust it completely to show me what I need to see.
As an aside, Ramana has said that the only two paths to Self-realization are Self-inquiry and surrender, and that all other paths eventually lead to one of those two entry points. Self-inquiry is considered the direct path. The complete surrender Ramana spoke about is not easy for most people. The people capable of total surrender are often those who have hit rock bottom and have lost the will to live (as was the case with Eckhart and Katie). One could say that complete surrender, as described by Ramana, leads to awakening, and situational surrender (more like I have been practicing) leads to being at peace with the situation at hand.
In the group sessions I’ve been facilitating for many years now, I see a lot of is people who have learned these various practices and techniques and have used them to lead a more peaceful life. Most of them have had a glimpse of the truth to which spiritual teachers point, which fuels their quest for enlightenment. It can also lead to the creation of what some call the “spiritual ego,” which is the belief that they are a person who is connected to Awareness, rather than just Awareness. I have seen this in myself and others, and it can be a confusing period where we continue to act out our egoic conditioning in our personal relationships while being able to experience blissful states in other areas of our lives. In short, the awakening process is not complete. So what to do?
There’s an old saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” I have seen that proved true many times in my life. The most recent example was a few months ago, when Dan Kelso appeared with what he calls Deep Self Investigation (DSI). After talking with Dan at great length, it became clear that DSI is the antidote for those of us still identified with the character, despite having numerous awakening experiencing confirming that we are in fact Awareness.
DSI is a more fine-tuned version of Self-inquiry designed to root out all of the beliefs we have to support identification with the character. I sometimes call it Self-inquiry 2.0 because it goes deeper than just becoming aware of Awareness. One can merge with Awareness in doing Self-inquiry, but still be identified as the character who is merging with Awareness. When DSI is used, more focused attention is directed toward those beliefs that make us feel limited in any way. We question those beliefs, relying only on our direct experience to verify the answers (not what we have learned or been told by others).
I have had some profound realizations in working with Dan and DSI. In the last session I realized what I have heard numerous teachers say on countless occasions – You are already awake, you just don’t realize it yet. Yes, we have always been aware throughout every moment of our lives. Whether the character was (is) experiencing sorrow or bliss, Awareness was (is) present and noticing. Awareness is always just aware. And I am Awareness. In effect, Awareness has never been lost in identification with Trey, it has just been seeing Trey and Trey has been believing that Trey is only awake during certain states of expansiveness. This is an example of how beliefs about spiritual awakening mask the ever-present Awareness that we already are, and always have been. One must be willing to surrender ALL beliefs, whether they have to do with spiritual awakening or being a person, in order to see what we truly are.
* Belief – I like to think that the inventors of the English language deliberately inserted the word “lie” in the middle of the word belief so that we would remember that beliefs are not true. Whether that’s true or not, it has been made clear to me that there are no such things as true beliefs. How do we know if what we think is a belief or fact? According to one teacher I sat with, if anyone on the planet would disagree with the thought, it’s a belief. There is nothing wrong with beliefs. We use them to navigate in this world. However, what we believe shapes how we see the world, so it’s important to question them to make sure they are in fact true in order to ensure we are living in alignment with what is. The Work of Byron Katie is all about questioning beliefs and has helped tens of thousands of people see how their thoughts limit their experience of life - https://thework.com.
Note about Dan Kelso:
One of the great things about Dan is that he is wide awake and is a shining example of what Awakened Living looks like. He radiates happiness, compassion and love, all while being an ordinary, down-to-earth guy who doesn’t want to be looked up to as a teacher. Instead he is just a good friend suggesting that one look deeper. One of the things he likes to point out is that we already are Awareness. We are already the fully awakened consciousness we’re seeking. He just wants to help people see it for themselves, which is where DSI comes in. Each DSI session I have with Dan brings more insight and less identification with the character. You can find out more about DSI at http://deepselfinvestigation.com/about.