The Awakening Stage is a radical experience that briefly takes you out of your everyday perception of reality and forces you to see it in a new way. It is a shattering event, an initiation. A new world opens up to you and you see how your previous understanding of the world is only part of a much greater whole. You may have believed this greater whole exists but now you know it existentially, in the depths of your being. It’s similar to focusing a pair of binoculars until suddenly everything becomes clear, only you’re not doing the focusing. It happens to you, and when things become cloudy again, you don’t know how to get that focus back. Even though brief, this experience changes you forever. You can’t deny this greater reality because you know that what you experienced is true. After an awakening experience, you long to have a more lasting or permanent experience of this reality and are willing to undergo the inevitable discipline and trials needed to get there. An awakening experience gives you strength for the journey ahead.
Distractions in Meditation
One summer afternoon, I dove down to the bottom of a pool, allowing my full attention to rest there. I heard children playing and laughing somewhere above me, but the deep water between us muffled the sound and didn’t disturb my focus. Later I thought what a great metaphor for handling distractions in meditation. They are present but of little interest. Sometimes the children rest and eat lunch, which is equivalent to finding yourself in silence as you explore the deep water. This is a delicious place to be! Most of the time, however, thoughts during meditation don’t take a nap, but they can be minimized if you sink below your mind’s surface to focus on something deeper.
On the Dark Night of the Soul
Some time ago, I recall merrily writing about the Dark Night and feeling satisfied with how the words flowed through me, when suddenly my computer quit, erasing all I had written. No pop-up window asked if I wanted to save my entries—the computer simply shut down. At first, I got angry and paced up and down, knowing I couldn’t recapture what I’d written. But then I had to laugh because this occurrence was such a great metaphor for the Dark Night.
You may have encountered beautiful spiritual states of consciousness and felt a deep connection to the Divine as it flowed through your whole being. You may have endured and succeeded on your path to a certain point, feeling considerable satisfaction with your progress. Then suddenly all your previous spiritual experiences, sense of spiritual progress, or ideas about the spiritual life are wiped away—an extremely disconcerting turn of events.