Table of Contents
Awakening is the experience that sets us free from the anxieties and worries that block us from experiencing life at its fullest, from a place of abiding peace and freedom.
This is my story of the major difficulties I had in my life, including childhood traumas, and my search for "the ultimate truth" which took me through religion, separating religion from the underlying truths hidden in religeous garb, and then ultimately to Non-Mystical Awakening, which set me free.
Life 1: Childhood
My life didn't start all-roses. I had a very troubled childhood: my father was physically and emotionally abusive, I was bullied at school, and at the age of 15 my mother (the only light in my life) was killed by a drunk driver.
My dad immediately remarried, and living with my step-mom was another two years of additional emotional abuse.
I opted to not go to college because it meant staying in that situation, and instead joined the US Marines.
Life 2: The US Marines
Fortunately for me, I had taught myself to program during high school, so I got a desk job as an Aircraft Analyst.
Unfortunately for me, I was too innovative and my efforts to modernize our system of mostly-by-hand calculations were met with a lot of old-man "that's not how my pappy told me to do it," and I decided to get out.
(Un?)fortunately for me I had broken my wrist in cold-weather training, and despite surgery and years of physical therapy, it never healed, so the medical board kept me past my EAS (End of Active Service) date "for the convenience of the government" while they processed me for a medical discharge.
Life 3: Fundamentalism
About a year before I got out I began "searching for the ultimate truth."
Here are some of the thoughts I had at the time on finding it:
- I was raised Christian, so I viewed everything through the "there is a God" lens.
- If there is a God, he would want to be found and have relationships with his creation.
- If I were God, I would make it so anyone who wanted to find me could, starting at something that is local to them. There wouldn't be access exclusive to one culture, location, or religion.
- I should start with the religion where I was, Christianity.
I began reading the Bible more than I ever had before, which had been quite a lot.
I met some fellow Marines who were also very studious, and joined their church.
It was a fundamentalist church, which at the time was great for me.
They were (claimed) to be based "only on what you can find in the Bible," and I enjoyed the rigor of building a belief system based on something that's consistent for everyone.
This life would last for about 20 years.
I learned a lot about myself, and applied the teachings of Jesus to the way I lived my life, primarily "Love one another."
I had a progression of insights that were stepping stones in my growth, preparing me for the next step in my life.
Christianity's Stepping-Stone to My Awakening
- The source of all sin is the self. This is an insight specific to the religious context, since most religions focus on sin and guilt. It was an insight necessary to get my focus inward, where all our problems come from, and therefore all our answers.
- Self-centered-ness is a view that arises when seeing ourselves as "separate" from everything else.
- Love is the attractive force that eliminates self-centered-ness and gets us to act as one.
- Love is the anti-self. (btw, this love isn't romantic, etc - it's the love where you put others before your self)
- From God's perspective, there is only one creation, and we're part of it. We see things as separate - animals, plants, other people, planets, etc, but he only sees things from one perspective - it's ONE creation.
Life 4: Meditation and Awakening
After about 7 years in the fundamentalist church, I wanted to understand what "I" am. I had read books like Ken Keyes "Handbook to Higher Consciousness" and many scientific articles/books on the biology of consciousness.
I began looking into mindfulness and meditation to learn more.
It was all very mysterious.
And most of the books were by Buddhist monks, or written from the perspective of an Eastern religion.
And I was already shedding "religious" beliefs - God(s), afterlife, supernatural, creation/origin, etc.
So I focused mostly on the techniques and ignored the rest.
I also fell in love with Zen sayings. I love how two things can apparently be in opposite of each other, yet both true.
And koans, those mind puzzlers that your brain can be stumped by until a flash of insight unlocks the whole thing.
I had to keep all of this on the down low.
I knew if any of the fundamentalist people I was around found out I was looking into meditation, they'd claim I was a Buddhist monk and the witch trial would start up. I wasn't interested in the Eastern religions, just the self-inquiry, but they wouldn't understand things that way.
Mindfulness and Meditation
I practiced mindfulness a lot. There were periods of years when I would drive more than an hour to work, and an hour back home. During those times I would listen to CDs (way back in the day) and audio books.
This simple practice teaches you to pay attention. Often when we listen to verbal audio, what we hear can trigger a thought, which then leads to the next thought, etc, and about a minute later we realize we haven't even been listening.
I would re-wind and pick back up where I left with my own thoughts.
Funnily enough, I would often have that same thought-chain lead me off again.
Over time I became familiar with how I was distracted and how to remain present with the current audio and let my thoughts go.
I tried meditation off and on, but without a clear understanding, no guide/teacher, the cultural pressure of keeping it secret, and the sheer wall of "am I meditating right? this is all wrong, this doesn't work!" everyone faces, I didn't establish a good habit of meditation until 2010.
In February of 2012 I had been in a painfully acute situation for about 4 months. It was the worst difficulty of my life. Without going into the details, it was clear my wife of 17 years and I were going to get divorced, and this was going to destroy everything I knew at the time.
At this time I was meditating at least 30 minutes a day and often several hours over the weekend.
I had obtained a recording of Goenka's 10 day retreat lessons and found it very helpful for establishing my own practice. I had listened to the recording many many times for several years at this point.
I was also listening to Adyashanti. His zen-ish approach of dealing with seemingly contradictory ideas and direct, but gentle, confrontation of mistruths was enlightening to me.
I realized almost all of my discretionary behavior (what we chose to do when we have a choice) was coping mechanism:
- I would go to sleep watching a movie, any movie, just so I wouldn't have to think about things.
- I would eat snacks to no end, mindlessly, often while participating in one of the other attention-capturing coping activities.
- I listened to audio teachings (like Adyashanti) as a way to not have to think about things.
- I prayed that God would help me out of the situation.
Awakening came when I stopped all coping and just sat with how things are.
I think these are the key ingredients:
- A conflict that creates enough sever internal suffering that we are willing to do anything to get out of it.
- Stopping all coping mechanisms and in their place just sit in silence, "facing" the difficulty.
- Exploring the distinction between the factual-actual event(s) happening as compared to our suffering.
- Seeing clearly the source of the suffering, and that it's not from the factual-actual event(s).
- An accumulation of an "Self Inquiry Toolkit" that includes:
- Self Honesty - this is developed only when we're wrong.
- Clear Mind - this is gained best by the continual practice of meditation.
- "Systems Theory" - a working experience of how your "self" is a "whole," while composed of separate, independent components.
Enlightenments Lead To Awakening
I go into this in more detail, but in brief I see enlightenments as flashes of insight that happen all along the way to Awakening, but it's not Awakening itself.
- There are many enlightenments, but only one Awakening.
- Enlightenments are necessary to become Awakened.
- Each person's specific enlightenments will be different, but will all fall into the categories I listed above in the "Self Inquriy Toolkit."
One of the enlightenments I had just prior to Awakening was while I was reading the Satipatthana Sutta (the writing containing how Siddhartha taught to meditate).
The specific section I was reading is the section on the mindfulness of mind.
It's phrasing is like this: "When you observe greed arises in your mind, this is the mind of greed."
It's really really basic - right?
The enlightenment I had was "When I observe enlightenment in my mind, this is the enlightened mind."
At the same moment I had that thought, was the same moment I experienced the enlightenment of that thought, making the enlightened mind - the thought was it's own self-fulfilling statement.
This experience is one we often speak about of "realizing you're already there."
With our thoughts we can think "I'm already there, no need to keep searching." But if we don't actually experience what "already there" is like, we don't believe our own thought, and are actually "not already there" in experience.
This experience was a necessary precursor for me to awaken. I need to experience the "already there"ness that comes from a self-fulfilling statement.
The Exact Event
The realization of Awakening happened about a day after the Awakening itself.
I had gone for two weeks of not engaging in any of my coping mechanisms.
I spent most of my idle time at work just staring at one of the cubical walls. Fortunately for me I was at the end of a long row and the person in the cubicle across the isle from me was a good friend. Later she told me she knew something was going on because she said all I would do was stare at the wall for days on end.
The key insight I had that would trigger my Awakening was the clear separation from the factual events of getting divorced and the suffering I was experiencing.
The divorce was going to happen if it was going to happen, and it wasn't the source of all my suffering.
I was superimposing all of my desires of not wanting to go through divorce, etc, ontop of the situation, and claiming the situation was what was causing my suffering.
Through meditation I was familiar with being the observer. This time the experience of being the observer shifted me from being the person experiencing their own suffering to be the observer deep inside who was watching the suffering as an external layer added on top of "me."
It was like realizing I was the hand inside the puppet, not the puppet. And all the suffering and drama the puppet had was all made up, and I didn't have to participate with it.
The next shift was realizing this observer/hand is the lowest layer of reality, it's the fabric that everything is made of.
It "presses" it's way up into reality as "me," the same way it "presses" it's way up into reality to be anything else. (I say "reality" here, but it would be more precise to say "apparent reality," since this fundamental fabric/hand is "reality".)
Instantly the suffering stopped and I entered a state of bliss.
The Immediate Unfolding
What happened over the next two weeks was growing in the insight of no-self, the imaginary self, etc.
During this period I experienced "no mind" constantly. No-mind is where the "monkey mind" that's incessantly voicing/visualizing inside ceases.
Prior to Awakening, I had a constant anxiety of losing my job. My boss could say the slightest thing, like "I've got to go to talk to Finance today" (which was normal since he was always getting purchases approved), and I would think "oh no, we're going to have a staff reduction and I'm going to lose my job."
This thought would literally blind me for the rest of the day.
I wasn't able think or focus on anything else, I was stuck in survival mode.
After Awakening, the thought of "oh no, I'm going to lose my job" would still pop up, but it was very minor. All I had to do was focus on whatever else my boss was saying and that thought would fade, and the anxiety I felt in my body would subside. In about 30 seconds I was back to normal.
Many things like this happened over the next two weeks, and it was during this time I developed my core practices, with my Awakening experience informing me of how to work with myself.
The Core Practices
From Awakening I developed three types of meditation:
- Vipassana - ok, this one was already developed. This is comprised of (a) breath meditation and after settling for about 10-15 minutes (b) body scans.
- Insight Meditation - Vipassana is "insight meditation", but my form is specific to gaining clarity into ideas, concepts, and situations.
- Embodiment Meditation™ - I start with the breath meditation of Vipassana, and then when settled will bring up events that troubled me in the last day. While bringing them to mind, I use the body-scan techniques to understand where in my body I feel them and what those sensations are like. I also look for and question the underlying beliefs I have that trigger the emotions.
I go into the details of each of these practices in depth on this website.
After Awakening we go through a (long?) period of adjustment. There are things that we change on rather quickly as a result of Awakening, like in my case giving up the suffering I was going through and a radical shift in the way I saw "myself."
But for the deeper work where we've developed habits from situations and traumas of the past that are hidden in our subconsciousness, it takes time for those to surface and be worked through.
I liken Awakening to two mountain peaks.
When we are seeking, we are trying to climb the mountain and we don't clearly see the way. There are trees everywhere, clouds, paths that lead us around to dead-ends, etc. We make progress only to face a sheer cliff - we're either at the bottom and don't know how to climb it, or we're at the top and we don't want to go down and lose progress.
We hear people talk about their Awakening, and we either (a) understand some of the concepts and ideas they talk about, but because we lack experience we don't know how to use them, or (b) we're totally baffled by what we hear others say about their Awakening experience and the insights that come from it.
We have our own experiences, but because we lack a clear working knowledge, like the religious people thousands of years ago, we develop "mystical" or misleading ways of explaining our experiences.
The more misleading "truths" we develop, the longer it takes to Awaken. Mistruths and wrong views keep us locked in to patterns of behavior that don't serve our inner progress.
Awakening is reaching the first peak. Suddenly it all makes sense. We clearly see the things that worked, and what things are a waste of time. We quit seeking.
And from here we see the second peak and the path it takes to get there.
The journey after the first peak (Awakening) is the start of "The Unfolding."
It's where all the insight we gained through the Awakening is put to practice and "unfolded" in our life.
Adyashanti talks about immediately after his Awakening, he went and got into a super dysfunctional relationship that was the manifestation of everything he needed to work on in his unfolding.
Not to break with his tradition, I did the same.
In one way, we may think this is a setback to progress, but in reality, it's the very remedy we need.
Just as I experienced the most extreme suffering, which pushed me to keep looking for "the answer" to unlock the suffering and set myself free, so also these dysfunctional relationships we pick up in the Unfolding serve to push us to apply what we've learned in the Awakening to become completely free.
Eastern thought uses the term "Full Embodiment" to be when we've completely put into practice everything from Awakening - what I call "the second peak."
I think the term "full embodiment" gets overloaded with a lot of other religious decoration, so I tend to not use this phrase, or if I do, I mean it only in the strict sense of (a) clearly experiencing reality exactly as it is, which leads to (b) living in a continual state of peace and tranquility, even during difficulties (because they aren't seen as difficulties, since in all reality, they aren't).
Life 5: Current
After 10 years of working through my major hangups, I felt I was finally ready (and more importantly) able to help others.
Asurion Mindfulness & Meditation
Through inspiration from some close friends, and a wonderful opportunity at my day job, I helped co-found "Asurion Mindfulness & Meditation" (AM&M) with a great co-leader and friend, Amy Goode. (Go check her out, her site is: https://goodelifetribe.com/)
Amy and I, it turns out, are very complementary in working together.
We joke that she's Woo-Woo and I'm a robot (actually we say I'm the scientist, but "robot" sounds funnier).
We emphasize to our group to not get too caught up in people's words or their framework, but to learn how to translate between what they hear into the way they see things.
An example is Amy may say that you can feel people's energy, and I'll say you feel their emotional state. This is a Tao concept: we use different words on the surface to work with the same thing on the inside.
I think it's important for us as leaders in the Spiritual Wellness community to learn how to talk to others within their frame of reference and understanding. While I'm not religious, because of my background and studies I can easily talk to people of both Eastern and Western religions in terms they understand when trying to help and encourage them.
We meet every other week in AM&M and lead various forms of meditation, anything from silent/breath meditation to sound baths. (Amy is one of the ones who plays crystal bowls.)
By the prompting of Asurion, I got several certifications to help make sure my meditation styles/types was rounded out (my personal practice is narrowly focused on those meditations which work best for me) and to make sure I "officially" understand the physiological impacts of meditation.
Non-Mystical Awakening™ and Embodiment Meditation™
I'm in the process of formalizing the process of Non-Mystical Awakening™, which will have at it's core Embodiment Meditation™, the practice that frees us from afflictive thoughts and emotions so we can experience the peace and happiness we are at our core.
The Awakening experience described in historical religious texts is typically thought to only be available to ascetics and religiously devote.
Non-Mystical Awakening is the shortest path to the same freedom and peace.
My approach is very scientific (after all, I'm the robot 😂) and I'm working with fellow practitioners on determining the fewest number of concepts and practices needed to experience the complete freedom of Awakening.
Embodiment Meditation is the most powerful meditation I've ever experienced. It's what I use to process difficult emotions and gain freedom from them.