My Big Awakening Moment

Photo by Yeshi Kangrang on Unsplash

Stories of awakening and enlightenment are getting further into the mainstream these days, which is great — more awakening beings on this planet will give us a much higher chance of not sending ourselves and the planet extinct — but there can also be misconceptions about what this all means. In this piece I share my big waking up moment I experienced, and my definitions of awakening and enlightenment to help guide you towards what’s right next for you.

First my story

I started working with Piers Thurston in August 2018. In our first session he blew my mind with what he shared, I left with the ground beneath my feet seeming shaky and uncertain. I remember walking along the road, back to the train station, wondering what the nature of these people, trees and cars were that I was seeing. Was I in the matrix and about to see people glitching? Although the discombobulation was disorienting, I trusted him with where this was going.

Two conversations later, on the 23rd of August, I was taking a shower, running through what was happening that day, thinking about what time I’d be home that night & how it would be ‘good’ for the kids because I was going to be home early, having been late the night before. Then I saw that beneath this idea of ‘it will be good for the kids’ was the idea that ‘and that will make me a good mum’ and then, like ticker tape through my mind, I saw all the associated thoughts, ideas and experiences associated with feeling judged for not being a good mum and all the efforts I went to in order to resist judgement and gain praise in this arena – even if it was just in my own head: justifying, defending, qualifying – nobody else aware even aware of all that activity to try and maintain an idea of good.

And, crucially, I then saw that it was all made up. That the idea of ‘good’ was a construct, a thought. Something which could never be true because how would we ever agree on the measurement of ‘good’? Whose perspective would be taken as the right definition? And what if their mood then changed the next day and they changed their mind about what good meant?

In the next moment, a core experience from childhood appeared, one which I had held for a long time as ‘the way things happened’ and ‘the impact it’s had on me’ or ‘what this means for me and how I am now’ – and then that too was instantly seen with having no truth to stand on. The stories I’d carried around and told myself about it were, yes, my stories, and yes, might have born some resemblance to the situation all those many years ago, but were just being repeated over and over for no good reason. They were my regurgitated (most likely very skewed) version of a moment in time. Identified with and then creating suffering in my life by keeping me limited by their narrative. Or at least in the moments when I thought about it all and believed that it all said something about me and them and what I was like and what they were like. But none of it true! None of it stick-a-pin-in-it-definitely-this truth.

And so that too collapsed. Like a Jenga pile of thoughts it all collapsed in an instant. Describing it here I’m aware it could sound like a number of minutes worth of thought process, but no, it all happened and collapsed in a flash. And yet it was all seen so clearly. All these ideas that I’d lived my life by, thinking they were somehow needed to keep me OK – or to keep me being me – simply fell away. 

What followed was an overwhelming feeling in my stomach, like a huge solid lump. It felt like I was going to be sick. It moved upwards, like a wave, but solid, I could feel it up and up. A slight fear I was going to be sick in the shower and yet still also OK with it. The lump made it to my throat and then… there were sobs. Silent deep sobs. Sobs like when grieving, releasing a deep pain, a great sadness. And then, with the sobs still happening, tears still dripping, bent over double, from nowhere came the words ‘I’m ok. I’m ok.’ Repeating and repeating. And known deeply to be true.

After this came smiles. Great big Cheshire cat smiles. And a lightness of heart and being. So much lightness. Like the greatest weight had been lifted. My heart was singing, and I felt free. 

Floating back to my room, to get ready, noticing a white haze around the trees in the garden, curious about that, and still smiling and de-lighted with life.

I messaged Piers. One of the things he’d been talking about was to watch out for insights or realisations. ‘It feels like that might have been an insightful realisation!’ I said. Which seems hilarious to me today, to think I was questioning whether it was or not. But at the time I was genuinely wondering, checking it out with Piers in a ‘is this what you meant by insight?!’ way. Unsure what counted as one. Whereas now, looking back on it, I laugh that I could have doubted it. It remains the biggest awakening and enlightening insight of my life so far!

After this I experienced about three months of a quiet mind. It was amazing! No problems, no suffering, no challenges. Just living life. Continuing to explore with Piers, seeing through other stories of my experience and understanding the natural mechanism of the mind, but all with ease.

An awakening and enlightening insight that stays with me now, in my bones, a knowing that I am OK — no matter what.

And the mind crept back in. Of course it did. It does this. It’s been a habitual pattern for a while so it’s rare for it to completely go with one moment like this. We’re not all Eckhart Tolle! For most of us there’s a dance between times of feelings awake, light, clear; and then forgetting who we are and forgetting the role of the mind in life and things feeling sticky and difficult again. Which is perfect too – all part of the journey.

And so my exploration continued – but I’ll save that for another post. For now, I want to share more about what I mean by awakening and enlightenment, and why I’ve used both words for this experience back in 2018. From my years of exploration I’ve come to find it really useful to know what the map of the journey is, figured out along the way as I’ve gone, and so if it helps you shortcut some of that, then great! Bear in mind these are my words and definitions, which help me orient to what’s happened and is happening, but there are no absolutes with this (of course, no truths!) so if you’re talking to someone and they’re using the words awakening or enlightenment, it’s worth understanding what they mean by that so you can get a sense of whether what they say resonates for you, and whether it’s what you want. The same as I’d want you to do with these definitions I share here. They aren’t absolutes. They’re simply how I see them now.

What is awakening?

We could say that awakening doesn’t happen because you’ve never been asleep. But it sure feels like you have when you wake up! So what’s really happening that means we experience it as though something is different to how things were before?

My definition of awakening is to recognise your essential nature. To recognise and know (this is a before-the-mind knowing) who you really are.

Many people will sell things saying their product or service will help you ‘find out who you really are’ but most of these products and services are content-based in some way. Most are helping you find out about your preferences, strengths, common patterns of thought or behaviour, favourite ways of being or doing. There’s nothing wrong with this, I’m simply highlighting this to distinguish it from the ‘who you really are’ that I’m referring to. Because this ‘who’ that you are recognising in awakening is before all content. It’s before all sensory experience and therefore it’s before any thoughts, feelings, preferences, habits, traits or strengths.

This recognition of who you really are – your essential nature – is the recognition of who you’ve always been. It’s just not been pointed out to you or paid attention to, and this is why I say it doesn’t really happen because you’ve never not been who you essentially are, you’ve never actually been asleep.

You have always been you. You always will be you. And therefore you have and always will be awake.

In having our essential nature pointed out to us, in paying attention to who we are before the content of life, we ‘wake up’ when we recognise this for ourself. It’s like seeing what’s always been there for what it actually is. It’s seeing what’s been here in plain sight but ignored.

In my experience above, it was this recognition that led to the feelings of happiness, lightness and peace. It was this recognition that led to my in-my-bones knowing of my OK-ness. I couldn’t articulate it as the recognition of my essential nature at the time, but that’s what was going on. It was the waking up of myself to myself.

And this is why those who have woken up to who they really are have a lasting sense of OK-ness and fulfilment, irrespective of the ups and downs of the content.

So what about enlightenment?

What is enlightenment?

Again, this is my definition but one that helps me distinguish between awakening and enlightenment, and orient the purpose of my own explorations and those for my clients.

My definition of enlightenment is the lightening of the conditioned stories of the mind. The lightening of the seeming weight of pressures, stresses and responsibilities. Seeing through the stories of the mind about me and them and that, which have been previously held as truths.

You can see from my experience in the shower that enlightenment was also happening. As the stories about ‘be a good mum’ and the stories about ‘this is what my childhood means about me and them’ collapsed, there was an immediate lightness. The lightness was the feeling of our essential nature (as I’ve talked about there in awakening) and it was revealed by the collapsing of the mind and its stories. It was revealed by the lightening of the confusions of the mind, leaving only pure essence behind. 

Like clouds disappearing to reveal the clear and bright blue sky that was always there, enlightenment – or seeing through the mind’s stories as untrue – is the revealing of our clear and bright essential nature that was always there.

Good therapy and coaching already enables this process for people, allowing old stories to be dropped that are no longer serving the person. The difference here perhaps is that there’s no attempt or effort required to adopt, or take on, or believe an alternative positive story instead.

Who we really are has all the creative, responsive intelligence necessary to bring us the next thought we need for this next moment. The mind isn’t required in that process – in fact it only hinders it – so we don’t need to switch out the mind’s old, non-serving story for a new empowering one. All we need do is recognise that the mind and its regurgitated stories is the only source of any heaviness or difficulty in life, and to keep inquiring to see through those stories as untrue.

Lightening, lightening, lightening.

As this enlightenment process happens, our psychological experience gets lighter and lighter, the mind created cloud-cover gets less and less, and in each lightening of our psychology, we awaken more, recognising and feeing more of our essential nature. We feel more OK.

As a by-product we then find we no longer chase something better over there in the future, nor run away from something apparently bad back there in the past. Knowing that whatever is happening here is all that could be happening, and there’s an allowing of it. We increasingly know we’re perfectly resourced for this moment now, and that we are all the more resourceful when not buying into the stories of the mind. Then paradoxically (to the mind at least) we get ever more energised, productive, happy, and effective in life – irrespective of what we do.

The Dance

In this way, awakening and enlightenment are like a dance. Both inextricably intertwined, one enabling the other, one leading and then the other, and we can also specifically explore into awakening or into enlightenment depending on what feels good and right for us right now. 

There is no one right way, there is no one single magic bullet, but thankfully there are a plethora of options which are all designed to guide us back to who we are, and designed to lighten us of our confusions. Perfect!

What about you now?

What has caught your attention in this piece?

What is drawing you towards it?

Your mind might well try and talk you out of it but, when you’re ready, I guarantee that the draw towards awakening and enlightenment will overpower anything the mind has to say about it.

And returning home to yourself is beautiful.

With love, Helen

I have a community on Patreon where I share podcasts, articles and videos, as well as live calls, all about awakening and enlightening. So if you’d like to start dipping your toe in this water, it’s a great place to start. There are three membership levels so you get to choose what feels right for you. Go here to take your pick.

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