Nondual Zen Article:

Don't Miss Your Own Awakening

nondual title

Don't Miss Your Own Awakening
by Kathleen Sutherland

Pay attention, lest you miss your own awakening. This is easy enough to do. It’s a long-standing habit—we’ve been missing it all along! Our awakening experience has long been unfolding in myriad ways, both subtle and bright. It happened as we watched ourselves grow up and traverse the various stages of life. Although our bodies, abodes, and identities were in constant flux, we were always there, quietly observing. We were the stillness amid the whirling dance.

We always had a sense that something more was present beyond the mere accrual of experiences between birth and death. Glimpses or flashes shone through at various times: lying on the cool grass, gazing into the night sky; moments in church or temple; walking in nature; falling in love; the sense of flow from sports or creative endeavors; transport through music or dance; the ecstasy of wine or the visions of psychedelics; the stillness of meditation; the sudden cascade of grace during times of great suffering.

Some of us learned to treasure but compartmentalize these occurrences. They were uplifting, magical moments, but somehow apart from and irrelevant to daily life. They were anomalies, and, as such, not quite “real.” Others of us were intrigued. We saw these moments as “true,” and set off on the spiritual search. We wanted to find and open wide the portal to those rays of light, and bask and abide in their warmth. We longed for and dreamed of this place.

We missed that the light was eternally all pervasive, not just appearing in those transcendent moments. Believing that we were within a body and defined by an identity obscured the light most of the time. But we were never so constrained. We were never in the body. Rather, we permeated it, as well as the surrounding atmosphere, and the stratosphere beyond. We were of the light. We were the light.

But we mistook the heralds for the light. We thought it was the lover, or the music, or the wine that brought us joy and freedom; they contained the spirit that we loved, that we felt so incomplete without. And so we yearned for them, pursued them, perhaps we even worshiped them. But in themselves they had no power. They all did one simple thing: They moved us out of front and center. We became lost in our beloved’s eyes. Or the creative endeavor swept us away. Or the intoxicants dissolved the ego into pure sensation.

These experiences were our teachers, saying this is what you are. This is what you are absent the artificial construct of "me." Once you truly learn the lesson, you no longer need the teacher. You don’t need any experience or person or substance to transport you. Simply step aside and see what you really are, what we really are. You are the awakening, exploring this reality here and now. Look carefully at all that arises today. Only you can experience this moment from this location, through the unique conditioning that is yours.

This moment is divine. Every moment has always been the pinnacle of history, the point where past and future converge. And here you are, right in its midst, born of an infinite number of unlikely concurrences. Enjoy this moment, regardless of what it presents—ease or hardship—for you have arrived.

You can explore this dream with fervor and enthusiasm, or sit back and let its gentle waves wash over you. Sometimes you’ll do one, and sometimes the other. There is no need to direct the flow. You are being carried. With the desire for truth as your compass, the next right teaching, practice or experience will arise to meet you. You will learn what you need to learn, feel what needs to be felt. Welcome all that arises as your teacher and friend. But abide in that which neither comes nor goes. And that, of course, is all you can do. The rest slips from our grasp, for better or worse, no matter how or what we try.

How could I have missed my own awakening? Only an imaginary character could imagine there is something other than this. My true self never doubts who I am. I am that. I was not born, nor will I die. I am eternal. I am eternally now. I am the creator and created. I glimmer in every leaf of every tree, in every blade of grass. I am the wave sweeping upward, but absolutely still. Nothing ever happened, and nothing ever will. Breathe and be. You are me.