What Does It Mean to Wake Up? | Omega

"Waking up" is used frequently in modern spiritual dialog, but what does it mean, exactly? Spiritual teacher Sharon Landrith shares her understanding of this term and talks about her own awakening in this interview. 

Omega: Is the process of waking up to your true nature a gradual one for most people or is it sudden and spontaneous?

Sharon: I’ve been teaching for nearly 13 years and have been on the spiritual path for more than 50 years. In the last four or five years, there has been a huge increase in spontaneous awakenings. And they’re happening everywhere, including in places you wouldn’t think, like North Dakota and Kansas. But I’ve never seen a spontaneous awakening that takes you all the way through. It usually takes some guidance, teaching, retreats, or studying sacred texts to orient you to seeing the world as it is.

Omega: What was your experience of awakening?

Sharon: It was gradual and sudden. I had many different glimpses. As a child I had glimpses of a unified field, and there seemed to be something looking from behind it. I never thought much about it—I was always an intuitive child—but it felt very natural. Later I found that if I sat quietly, some presence would present itself, but I still thought that it was something outside myself. Eventually I found the teacher Jean Klein, who gave me the words and taught a particular kind of energetic Kashmiriyoga that allowed me to open up to the “big body.”

When I met Adyashanti and knew he would be my life teacher, there was a series of very quick recognitions of what love really is, but they would come and go. Consciousness would open up and I’d recognize everything was connected, but after a few hours it would fade. Then there was a moment—Adya calls it “up and out”—where I was out of the body, out of Sharon, out of “me,” out of the whole thing.

It wasn’t separate, but it wasn’t me that woke up. It came up out of the “me” into the totality, and it was absolutely, stunningly, brilliantly obvious. It was different than all of the hundreds of glimpses I’d had of it through my life. That moment changed everything. It was a wild ride—I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

Omega: But isn’t awakening what most people on the spiritual path are hoping for?

Sharon: I know, and it was all I’d wanted my whole life. And yet it was heavy rock and roll for me. But I’m seeing it happening more gradually, gently, and organically for most people. It doesn’t seem to have the tsunami quality of being thrust into a different state of consciousness. 

When a sudden awakening hits your life, anything that hasn’t been seen or loved will come to the surface and be liberated by this great brilliance. That can be a little challenging, even if it’s what you’ve always wanted, because the mind knows nothing about awakening. All of a sudden nothing within you that is familiar knows what’s going on.

But the saving grace is that awareness knows itself, and it’s now prominent. So even though the mind may be going a little crazy—in my case, there was a complete disconnect from the mind for a little while where I could function but I wasn’t connected to the habitual “Sharon”—awareness is awake. It knows exactly what is happening and it can guide you through being a person with a job, a husband, kids, grandkids, and friends, even if you don’t identify with that anymore. It’s like you’ve landed in a foreign country, but you’re actually home.

Omega: When we live from a place of awareness, how do we fill the typical roles in our life, which feel like separate identities or personas?

Sharon: What happens is you stop seeing division in your own life. Rather than "I’m sitting on my meditation cushion" or "I’m in retreat and over there is my daily life," it’s all blended. Pure awareness is seeing through the body’s eyes and experiencing the life. You can still be a boss or an employee or a mom or an athlete or whatever, it’s just coming from a different place. You are not split or divided. Your relative life is not separate from the ground of your being, the origin of everything. You put your attention on the relative, but you can look beyond the relative to see the life force that’s enlivening the whole thing and keeping it going. 

Omega: What was it like for your family as you went through the awakening process?

Sharon: Most of them have ignored it all! Most people around me don’t even notice that anything has happened. At first I thought, how could it be that my world has totally changed but no one even notices? My husband was on the same path with the same teachers, but he couldn’t really understand it because it hadn’t happened for him yet. So, early on I had to learn to just say, “Oh, okay,” and come back and live my internal life.

As things reharmonized it brought out repressed things in the family. There was a period of a year or more where there was a lot of resolution going on. And that wasn’t always pleasant or pretty. But the resolution then brought it into a greater sense of understanding, harmony, forgiveness, and connection with my children, grandchildren, husband, and friends.

Eventually there was a moment when it really didn’t make much difference. I had an inner connection, and if people were curious, I was available. 

© 2016 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies

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