An awakening is often followed by a honeymoon period, when you experience an expanded state of consciousness more or less continuously. Feelings of great freedom, elation, or Oneness may last days or weeks or months. How long that honeymoon period lasts varies greatly from person to person, as does what comes after that period.
After awakening, you may experience mental disorientation, physical aches and pains, or illness because the body and energy field need to make adjustments to the awakened state. Mentally, the experience can be one of lethargy, not being able to move or function, feeling lost or spacey, or detachment from any sense of self.
At some point after awakening, it’s common to experience some degree of spiritual inflation. The ego re-forms around “I am awake” and takes some pride and sense of superiority in that. This phase is pretty apparent, if not to you, to those around you. There’s often a tendency to talk about the awakening, to wonder who else is and is not awake, and to identify yourself as awake to others. An identity forms around being awake. This identification can be rather harmless, but if you don't realize the ego has taken on spiritual garb, this phase can last for some time.
One of the most dramatic results of awakening is the dropping away of much of your former conditioning. Many of your old beliefs, ideas, and self-images no longer show up in your mind. You understand them to have been the trappings of the character you played, and having been seen through, they no longer arise.
And yet, you are still here in the world, in the same body, and usually in the same roles: If you were a mother before awakening, you are still a mother. If you were a husband, you are still a husband. If you were a carpenter, you are probably still a carpenter. But in the midst of your roles and situations, you’re different. You respond more naturally because your mind is less cluttered by ideas about how to behave and who you are. You respond to what is needed in the moment instead of to your ideas about what should happen.
You don’t believe many of your old ideas anymore, and they just don’t interest you. You don’t spend time thinking about what you did or what you will do because that’s clearly irrelevant now. It doesn’t matter. Before, you thought it made a difference. Now you see that your thinking has never been anything but impotent and that the me has never been anything but another flimsy idea that has no reality.
This is a relief, but it’s also disorienting to be in the world without your usual beliefs, goals, and desires to be somebody. Once you see that you are both nobody and everybody, you can’t be bothered with trying to be somebody anymore. It’s clear now that all your life you have just been role-playing, and playing this character just isn’t interesting anymore.
But what takes the place of playing this character? It often takes years after an awakening before someone functions fully from the awakened state. So, for some time, you may continue to go back to your conditioned ideas about how to behave. During this time, it’s also common to feel a sense of loss or emptiness in being without your old familiar goals, self-images, desires, and rules for behavior. Before awakening, you knew who you were and what you wanted and where you were trying to go. Now you don’t. You are nobody with nowhere to go, and any remnant of ego remaining will find that empty, unfulfilling, and uncomfortable.
Many go through a period of emptiness and mourning, as if their life is over, before they become more fully established in the awakened state. It can take a while before the divine self is more embodied. Meanwhile, you may experience feeling lost, directionless, empty, sad, and unmotivated. This probably isn’t what you expected self-realization to be like! Many assume that after awakening everything finally becomes easy and clear and stable. They imagine awakening to be an endpoint, a completion, an arrival—not further unfolding.
This feeling of being lost and without motivation is actually the remaining ego’s experience of awakeness. The ego felt the same way before awakening whenever you experienced Presence, or the divine self, which is why the ego ran from being present then. But now the ego can’t escape the reality: It’s no longer in charge. Its goals are no longer primary. Its desires are no longer the driving or shaping force in life. Something else is shaping life. Something else has taken the helm, and it doesn’t operate through the mind as the ego did. A new way of being in the world has to be learned, as the egoic mind is no longer the guiding force.
It takes time before this new way of being feels comfortable and is trusted, but going back to the egoic mind is generally not felt to be an option, although that does happen. Some awaken and then fall back into allowing the egoic mind to continue to run the show. It’s possible to awaken and then go back to living as one did before awakening. When this happens, it’s usually due to the pull of unhealed conditioning. Depending on the amount of conditioning and woundedness that remain, the ego can still be fairly compelling.
After awakening, whatever needs to be healed will come up from the subconscious to be healed. This stirring up of conditioning is disconcerting to those who assume that awakening means the end of conditioning and ego identification. For most, awakening isn’t the end of all conditioning (just some of it); however, awakening does make it much easier to see and heal the remaining conditioning and not continue to identify with it.
The potential for conditioning and egoic thoughts to weaken and drop away increases tremendously after awakening, since being aligned with the divine self makes it easy to see, accept, and disidentify with one’s conditioning. The mistaken beliefs that fuel conditioned behavior and negative feelings can more easily be uncovered, and in that discovery, the conditioning is healed. As a result, evolution can progress very rapidly after awakening. So, if this is your experience, please understand that it’s the right experience and that what needs to be cleared away is being cleared away so that you can live more fully as your divine self.
To become more stabilized in the divine self after an awakening often takes at least a couple of years, and often much longer. During that time, there’s usually an unraveling of conditioning, as just mentioned. For many, the period after awakening may also be a time of modifying the structures in their lives to suit the divine self instead of the ego.
Anything about one’s life that is no longer aligned with the divine self’s intentions is likely to feel unpleasant and uncomfortable, and the person is likely to be moved to change it. Many make enormous changes after awakening, and others make none, depending on how aligned with the divine self your life before awakening was.
If your life before awakening was structured around the ego’s values and around people who are strongly identified with their egos, then your life will probably have to change if you are to remain awakened. This is one reason some go back to the egoic mind after awakening: This is an attempt to maintain the structures that no longer work. That person may not be able to remain in their old situation for long, however. It’s difficult to have seen the truth and then walk away from where it’s calling you.
How to Move in the World
Awakening is just the beginning of a new phase in your spiritual life. After awakening, the world is still there. Wood still needs to be chopped and water carried. Here you are in the world. You didn’t ascend into heaven to live happily ever after. Now what?
Learning to move in the world in a new way is your first task after awakening. What drives your actions now, if not conditioning? It takes a while before you learn to walk on your new baby Buddha legs. Your legs don’t move on the same basis anymore. They move on the basis of inner urges, not conditioned ones. The impetus to move and do comes from within, as it always has, only now it is unimpeded by conflicting desires or conditioned ideas about what you should and shouldn’t do, which have often superseded the divine self’s inner impetus.
Before awakening, the divine self was living through you, but it allowed the ego to direct your actions and behavior. After awakening, the divine self becomes the primary director, with the ego taking over occasionally, when remaining conditioning is triggered. The center of your being eventually becomes the divine self instead of the ego, and that is a very big shift, and one that will take some time to get used to.
During this transition period, before the divine self is more fully embodied, the ego is still somewhat in play, although never to the degree that it was. As a result, this can be confusing because, at times, you may not feel all that different than before awakening. Remaining conditioning still has some power to pull you back into the egoic state of consciousness, although this contraction of consciousness is more fluid than before and less likely to feel like a problem.
Now that you know who you are, a trip into the egoic state of consciousness isn’t really a problem. You know it’s just a trip and not a permanent condition. Before awakening, you resisted feeling contracted. Now you’re free to bring more curiosity to the thoughts and feelings that are behind any contraction because you know that you’re just visiting the ego’s world.
The curiosity and willingness to look at conditioning is what allows conditioning to be healed and released. When mistaken beliefs are met repeatedly with curiosity, acceptance, love, and the willingness to see the truth about them, they stop clamoring for our attention and eventually give way. Once the truth about our mistaken beliefs is seen, those beliefs no longer have the power to grab our attention. You stop paying attention to them because you see that they aren’t true. They may still arise, but you don’t react to them.
Although our conditioned beliefs may have some truth to them, they are usually more limiting than helpful because they are often not true now, in this moment. To find out what’s true in the moment, we have to look somewhere other than the egoic mind. Take, for example, the belief that you won’t be successful unless you work hard. Few are likely to disagree with that belief. However, is that belief a good guide for your behavior every time it arises in your mind? A thought like that one often arises when we are relaxing, so does that mean we should never relax? Isn’t it equally true that relaxing can be beneficial? So, what will guide your behavior, if not your conditioned beliefs?
There’s something that has been guiding your behavior all along, and your beliefs have either agreed with this something or gotten in its way. This something is the divine self. More often, our beliefs both support and get in the way of the divine self’s intentions because we hold many contradictory beliefs. So, if beliefs are your guide for what to do, you’re bound to feel confused most of the time.
Meanwhile, amidst this confusion, you continue to do whatever you do. Who or what is choosing this action or that one? Are your actions always based on your beliefs about how to act? Or do you sometimes do something completely different? How often have you decided to do something based on a list of pros and cons, only to do the opposite? Who made that choice?
In spite of yourself, life happens, doing happens: Suddenly, you pick up the phone and call someone. Suddenly, you jump out of bed. Suddenly, you stop doing whatever you are doing to do something else. If you pay attention, you see that much of what you do in a day just happens: You just act without thinking about it. Action of this nature is marked by non-resistance, ease, spontaneity, excitement, rightness, and satisfaction. What if all your actions were like that, unencumbered by the usual mental gymnastics?
After awakening, you move through life this way, instead of on the basis of ideas, beliefs, and opinions about what you should and shouldn’t do or what’s best. You don’t assume you know what’s best. You just do what the moment calls for. You see that the answer to what to do lies in the moment. This doesn’t mean that your actions aren’t informed by wisdom, but the wisdom that informs them doesn’t belong to the mind.
Actions motivated by the divine self spring out of nowhere, and those actions are different from one moment to the next. One moment’s actions can’t predict another moment’s actions. Who knows what the next moment will require? You don’t know until it arrives. After awakening, the only formula for life is responding to what is moving you now on a deep level… and now… and now. To the egoic mind, this way of moving through life doesn’t make sense, and the egoic mind doesn’t like it because it leaves it with nothing to do. However, in truth, that is what’s been happening all along, and the egoic mind has only gotten in the way.
The Ego’s New Role
The ego doesn’t ever actually die. After awakening, the ego continues to function and may still dominate at times, but it is relegated to a subordinate role. The ego, the sense of being a separate individual, is still needed after awakening because you continue to function in the world of illusion with others who believe the illusion. To get by in this world, where language concurs with the illusion, it’s necessary to join in, speak the language, and behave like a separate individual. If you don’t, others are likely to lock you up.
What changes after awakening is that you hold the idea of yourself more lightly. You know that the me isn’t the whole story, but for the sake of getting along in the world, you play your part, like an actor who knows that he or she is playing a role. Before awakening, you were only occasionally aware of playing a part. You took yourself to be the character you are playing, and now you don’t. However, as long as others take your character to be who you are, then to interact with them, you need to play the part of this character. Only now, you know you’re just pretending.
Playing this part isn’t difficult because the ego and the personality are still present. However, now the ego will do the divine self’s bidding, and that’s a big difference. Before awakening, my will was the driving force. Now Thy will drives one’s life. The ego is more like a puppet now, like a costume or vehicle for the divine self, instead of an independent entity.
The divine self begins to live through you increasingly after awakening. Some of your conditioning is still adhered to because some conditioning is necessary for managing physical reality. However, conditioning that’s limiting and interferes with the divine self’s embodiment in the world is likely to fall away, although that may take years and may never be complete. How completely your conditioning falls away depends on its strength and how much awareness and acceptance you bring to your ideas and beliefs when they arise—and Grace.
After awakening, the divine self and the ego join together to accomplish the divine self’s goals on earth, which couldn’t be accomplished as easily when the ego was in control. Consequently, life often changes dramatically after awakening. Before, you pursued a set of goals largely related to conditioning and the ego’s desires. Now, you move to a different drummer, one that may have little concern for customs, conventions, and other conditioned ways of being unless they serve the divine self’s purposes.
After awakening, you are likely to be experienced by others as independent, different, unconventional, and freethinking because you don’t follow the dictates of your conditioning as much. This doesn’t mean you won’t follow the rules, when breaking the rules would only cause unnecessary problems. But if breaking the rules or rocking the boat serves a purpose in opening people’s eyes to an injustice or to some other cause that the divine self feels committed to, you probably won’t hesitate to break the rules or rock the boat.
Above all, after awakening, you are true to the divine self that moves through you. Before awakening, the divine self’s nudges, which came through as intuitions and drives, were easy to miss or ignore. But after awakening, ignoring the divine self's promptings is much more difficult. And because the mind is no longer so noisy and cluttered by conditioning after awakening, occasionally the divine self can be heard in the mind in the form of a word or phrase. After awakening, the divine self’s voice and intuitions are more apparent and prominent, and the usual thoughts aren’t present to argue with these messages. As a result, the divine self's messages get through loud and clear, and action just happens.
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