Monday, December 05, 2011

The Awakening

I've attended several Buddhist teachings lately, including a weekend retreat 2 weeks ago. And I've been thinking a lot about meditation.

"Buddha" is most usually translated as "The Awakened One". Most people have some understanding that Buddhist Enlightenment involves some type of awakening.

The popular perception is that this Awakening is a major paradigm-altering step involving some kind of Awakening into an Otherworldly realm. 

Maybe it is. But on another level one can experience Buddhist awakeness at a very practical level. A level that can even address the skeptics retort "I dont need to awaken - I was never asleep in the first place."

If you've ever meditated you will likely know that the crux of the practice is about being aware of what you are thinking about, whilst you are thinking about it. "Observing the observer" is how some people put it. And you will also probably have experienced first-hand how difficult it is to accomplish this, even for a few minutes, without your mind wandering off. Once you realise that your mind has wandered off, the task is to let the run-away thought go and bring your mind back to its self-aware state.

In my personal meditation experience I have never really had trouble letting the errant thought go, once it has been recognised. My problem has always been the "drifting off" part, the fact that one minute I am sitting concentrating on what I'm thinking about and then the next minute, unbeknownst to me, my mind is in a totally different place. All meditators will be familiar with this experience.

So lately i have been trying to pinpoint and articulate this elusive moment of wandering off. What actually happens? What is it like?

Answering this is not easy as at the point when it happens you are, by definition, not aware of it happening. The observer has been lost sight of. But recently I've been thinking that perhaps the closest experience to this "slipping away" happens to us every night when we fall asleep. Think about it: despite falling asleep every single night of our lives, we can never pinpoint the exact time that we transition from normal thoughts into dream thoughts. Because, if we could do this - we wouldn't be asleep. We would be awake.

So next time you hear about the great Buddhist "Awakening", do not be intimidated that it is some far-removed concept only attainable by cross-legged monks sitting in caves in the Himalayas for years and years. You can experience it every day, in ordinary meditation, right where you are.

Mastering it of course, is another issue altogether...


  1. Once you are awakened, then what?

  2. i've never been successful at meditating


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