“Before enlightenment chop wood, carry water…after enlightenment chop wood, carry water.” – Zen Saying
The trouble with our perception of awakening is that after the initial bliss and euphoria our expectation can be that life will now be blissful and contented constantly, and life will be easy. This isn’t just an expectation within spiritual awakening or non-duality circles, but rather human attachment to the idea of a better life (a better ‘me’) which presents itself constantly, and in a myriad of ways, through our thoughts, wishes, desires, hopes and dreams. They can be dreams on any level, and the spiritual is not excluded from this.
Awakening is no solution to anything
But our lives are imperfect and no human being is perfect. And awakening is not magic.
Awakening is simply the seeing of the truth of oneness / wholeness beyond our addiction to beliefs about ourselves and others. Beyond our idea of a separate, solid individual that must be proven in some way. It is the seeing of that vastness without which none of the beliefs would arise.
Awakening deeply affects all aspects of ourselves – mental, emotional, physical. The energetic shift can be quite amazing and can render changes in us that are profound, healing and utterly indescribable. But regardless of its amazingness, this initial shift does seem to calm down. The fact is that awakening is incredible, yet it is not a miracle solution for the challenging human aspects of our lives – relationships, work, health, finances, loss, death. Whilst our perception of these aspects change radically upon awakening, in and of themselves they remain the same. Hence the wood still needs chopping, or in more contemporary terms, the dishes still need to be cleaned.
Can one remain in permanent bliss?
Thus in time, awakening can seem a real let down. It can seem so probably because enlightenment teachers and teachings have perhaps focussed very much on the bliss aspects but not the living of life after the bliss dies down. Thus a view has developed that awakening makes you suddenly invulnerable, or infallible, or perfect.
Can one remain in permanent bliss? I doubt it – not by effort anyway, only by Grace. It’s not something that you attract by willpower. The opening up of one’s energy into the fullness of oneness is not done by a you or a me, so it’s not like you can force bliss to remain, or appear in the first place. Otherwise we’d all be blissful all the time. We are human and rather, after awakening this humanity is much more open, more vulnerable, more honest. The mask that we were once wearing has gone, and it leaves us more raw than ever before.
Warts and all after awakening
This is why those who have awakened and are honest, will share that emotions are much more intense post awakening, much more enhanced. And so too are joy, peace, bliss. In fact you will travel all along the spectrum of all of you – the good, the bad and the ugly, even despite having seen so very clearly that the good, the bad and the ugly are part of an act, and mean nothing about you. Due to our imperfect lives, these moments arise, and the wonderful part is that they disappear pretty quickly, and don’t become sticky like before.
And needless to say, our imperfect lives can only arise within the greater perfection of wholeness. For how could we know what imperfect is, unless there is a sense of perfection? How can we feel a certain sense of separation unless there is some knowledge – however hidden – of wholeness?
Even the greatest sadness and greatest exultation are just an ebb and flow
Awakening is the acceptance of such ebbing and flowing of human life. Even the greatest sadness is just an ebb and flow. Even the greatest exultation is just an ebb and flow. Such is awakening. It’s what some spiritual teachers don’t tell you. There is no permanent blissful state. There is no point trying to attain such. There is no point trying to force life to be a certain way. Life’s situations do not define us. There is no ‘us’ to define. That realization is awakening. And after this realization, there is nothing to do in respect of trying to forge a perfect life or a perfect you. Because truly noone is ever going to think you are perfect and nor are you ever going to think this of yourself. So all striving towards an idea of ourselves is totally futile, except insofar as we awaken from this heavy dynamic.
All there is to do is to live life in whatever way it arises for you. Sure, have goals, and strive for things, and that’s how this game is of course played, but it’s the realization that it is a game, that takes away the stickiness. Stickiness meaning all the stuff we end up thinking about ourselves from what happens in our lives, down to the smallest conversations or observations. We are all the while judging, evaluating, protecting an idea of ourselves that is fictional.
This impetus contracts our energy and takes away our peace. These are not worth the effort in the end. They are like living a dream we have at night full of sound and fury and this dream going on and on in our waking days, months and years without us even realizing it’s just a dream.
And we get this whenever we get this. And when we do, we stop being parasites of a host called “I”. As the umbilical cord to the fictional host is cut, a life of quiet desperation comes to a halt. But what doesn’t nonetheless come to a halt is the ghost of the umbilical cord returning, but it is just a ghost.