> In Buddhism, waking up might be described as the cessation of suffering because of the cessation of desire (ie ceasing of attachments and aversions). Do your experiences fit that description, ceasing to suffer, letting go of attachments and aversions?<
I am not comfortable with the word “cessation,” it’s so absolute. As long as I’m alive in this body, e.g., I have no doubt that my body will crave air, food, warmth, etc., those sorts of things are built into the “hardware” of being human. Now I will note that in my ordinary state, where I spend 99% of my waking existence, there is a constant interplay and flow of attachments and aversions, I want to do this, I really should do that, I don’t want to do this other thing, I don’t want to feel like there’s always something to do, etc. A good deal of the time I am doing one thing and pretty absorbed in it, but these desires and aversions are always ready to pop in. Relaxing? What about that paper you’re supposed to write? Feeling too busy? Why don’t you relax. I think this is a description of “normal” consciousness for most people, most of the time.
When I’m more mindful and “awake” – remember, “awake” only in a relative sense compared to my ordinary mushy consciousness, not Awake in some grand and glorious spiritual sense – there’s an implicit feeling of contentment. A desire will come along, and sometimes if I’m staying mindful and present I’ll just note it but not be carried away by it, but often it will interrupt my mindfulness and I’ll be back in my ordinary, desire-and-aversion-drive state.
I suppose there might be some higher state of awakeness where you have worked through all those ordinary desires and aversions that are not necessary for biological survival and comfort, so they don’t even arise, but that’s just theory for me. Less drivenness, yes, “cessation,” no.
Anonymous again notes:
> Especially in modern times, because of our scientific outlook, people have a hard time accepting something unless they can understand it and I don’t think there is a very clear explanation about what waking up is.<
Yes, it’s easy to imagine fantastic things about “waking.” And there are probably various degrees of “waking.” What I’m attempting to describe may be moments of one of the lowest levels of it, but if it’s helpful to people to have a clearer understanding or goal, great! I’ve been told that one of my talents is to say and write things that are “perfectly obvious:” it’s just that nobody has ever said it before. I doubt the historical truth of that, it probably just means that the way I’m saying something now is useful for the listener, but who knows how many times it’s already been said before?
> Most people who hear about the end of suffering or letting go of attachments and aversions think waking up means being happy all the time, but I think the analogy to pain is more appropriate. Waking up doesn’t make pain go away it changes your attitude about pain. According to how I understand it, waking up doesn’t eliminate emotions it changes your attitude to them.<
That fits my own experience to date. Sometimes mindfulness, being present, being more “awake” feels great, sometimes it makes you much more precisely aware of just what a screwed up state you’re in! But that’s good, if you know you’re really confused, angry, etc. you may be smart enough not to act on your present state and feelings and so not create consequence you’ll later regret. Every once in a while I remind the students in my ITP mindfulness class to be careful not to change the sensing-looking-listening technique described in an earlier post into some other technique aimed at making you feel happy rather than mindful. Confusing imagination that’s pleasant with ongoing reality is the quickest way to feel happy, but then you do stupid things with later negative consequences.
> Is it just as apt to say “Before enlightenment worry, joy, anger, and love. After enlightenment worry, joy, anger, and love?”<
Sounds good to me. Same old emotions, but seen more clearly, less likely to start hours-long loops of compulsive feelings and thoughts. You come back to ongoing reality much quicker.
Anonymous commenting on Tor:
> I think everyone has to find their own balance of letting out (observing and understanding emotions) and letting go (displacing negative thoughts with neutral or positive thoughts, or just focusing attention on something else).<
We too easily fall into believing there is One Goal, reached by One Way. One of the jobs of transpersonal psychology as a field will be to investigate what sorts of ways work or don’t work for what sorts of people and directing those who want to grow appropriately. I’m sure there are times, e.g., when a little psychotherapy would be much more effective than spiritual practice, and visa-versa.