The problem with the metaphor of “awakening” is that the mind immediately compares it to physical sleep or waking, and why wouldn’t it? However, it’s only a metaphor, it’s only an approximation. Fact is, there are general “stages” that people seem to experience in roughly the same order (most of the time), but these “stages” sometimes overlap, or it proves to be a two-steps-forward-and-one-step-back sort of proposition. For some of us, it’s like hitting the snooze button. You wake up, smack the button, and back to sleep for a while, and, after enough awakenings, you stay awake, but it may still take a while to be fully alert and aware. It’s rarely (if ever!) a case of one minute you’re unconscious/asleep and the next you’re totally conscious, aware, and awakened.
I am someone who is notoriously disoriented and unfocussed when I first wake up. There’s a saying in our house that if you want it done before lunchtime, you’re probably going to be disappointed, because I’m just not mentally present until afternoon. My spiritual awakening process has been pretty much the same way (and I was a “snooze button” sort, too, though that wasn’t entirely conscious or deliberate). In fact, as of this writing in mid-April of 2011, I would not say that I’m fully aware/awake/cognizant yet, though I am awake.
Of course, that brings us to another question, which is, how do you know you’re awake? Well, that’s pretty close to impossible to articulate, unfortunately. I started to sense that I had entered into a new stage of awareness some months ago, but I wasn’t prepared to say, “Yeah, okay, I’m really awake now.” I wanted to wait and see if it would “take” (it has, though I have lapses into previous stages as I work out the tail end of certain processes that were begun in even earlier stages). I wanted to see if there would be a difference of perception that was continual and constant (there is). I also started to get very clear and repeated synchronicities and signs and messages and manifestations that told me “yes, you are awake”.
The biggest problem that I see with the metaphor of “awakening” as applied to this sort of metamorphosis of awareness is that we awaken from a dream in which we have been participating for all of our lives. When you wake up from a sleeping dream, you resume your waking life, pretty much where you left it (in fact, it’s extremely disorienting to wake up in a strange place or in other circumstances that are different from when you went to sleep!). When you wake up in the spiritual sense, you are waking up to a very different environment, one with which you may be entirely unfamiliar, or at least, have only seen in glimpses and the flat, two-dimensional echoes of it that sometimes make their way into the material dream.
My entire reality and view of life, the universe, and everything (including all the I, me, mine identity stuff) is completely and utterly different, and I see things and understand things in very subtle and sometimes profound ways. Sometimes, I can’t even find a means to express these things that I see and experience so clearly, because they are so very subtle, and they can only be seen/understood from a place that is somewhat removed from the usual framework of Objective Reality With Optional Supernatural Extras in which I spent most of my life and in which the vast majority of humanity spends theirs, never aware of anything else (that’s okay, it really is; at this time, I suspect strongly that it’s meant to be that way, that it’s part of the algorithm of Creation as a whole).
And at the same time, I’m mostly the same. People who knew me years ago would still recognise me. They’d still be able to carry on a conversation with me. People do, every day. I look the same, my life looks completely ordinary, and it is. I do not appear (nor do I feel) elite, enlightened (whatever that actually means; I don’t know, but I don’t feel like the word suits me), elevated, or anything else of that sort.
What I do feel is lucid. I feel, most of the time, like my reality is a dream (as Albert Einstein noted, “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”) in which I am aware that I am in a dream. Eventually, and I know this from many years of (sleeping) dreams, synchronicities, signs, and various messages, that I’ll work out how to manipulate this dream, just as a lucid dreamer might do.
And after that… I don’t know. Guess I’ll find out when I get there…