Wide Awake Living

Wide Awake Living

The www.wideawakeliving.com site began back in early 2003 as simple personal expression, and now it has been moved to this page for the sake of efficiency.  It was always simply an expression of something that the author sees as a possibility for all people; the possibility of awakening out of lives of limitation and suffering into lives which are freely, intimately, and joyously at-one with all that is.

The larger site within which this now falls is perhaps a more mature expression, but the original words written back in 2002 and 2003 remain true in a way that makes them worth saving, coming so soon after my awakening experience.  Some of them can be found below.

Wide Awake Living

In our diverse spiritual traditions, phenomena such as spiritual awakening have long been the domain of spiritual teachers and adepts who have lived lives apart from our everyday world, in monastic or otherwise isolated settings.

Today, however, many people are finding that spiritual awakening is not so far away, not lifetimes in the future, but here, right in the middle of our modern lives. Right in the middle of our complex family dramas and our seemingly intractible world issues like climate change, poverty, violence and so on. All of these things are the backdrop giving us collective motivation to move forward into a new maturity for humankind which could provide future generations with a world we would be proud to have them inherit.

Spiritual awakening is seen not as a far-away dream to be reached at some future time, but as a different way of perceiving what is here now. A way where one looks to, and eventually lives from the core of who we truly are, rather than living out of a false identity built of ideas and concepts about oneself and one’s world.

Whatever your religion or spiritual path, whatever your level of development, whatever your gifts or shortcomings, whoever you think you are or are not, these very circumstances that life consists of, are the way for you. Your way to spiritual awakening.

The author of this site, Alice Gardner, is making no claims to any special state or stage or perspective. What is contained here is a simple expression of how things are seen to be, by this individual, and no claims of correctness or realization can be made based on that. There is a simple intention here though, that what flows onto these pages may be helpful to others who open themselves to the possibility of our awakening in the midst of life. It is the kind of helpfulness where a fifth grader might help a fourth grader with their arithmetic. It is not offered out of a distance apart or beyond where you are, but offered out of a time of having embraced our aloneness and now coming to a place where we welcome companionship as we move through this One life that we all share.

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The Most Amazing Thing

The most amazing thing is that all the time while we are thinking that we aren’t awake, we already are, and we are just confining ourselves from experiencing it through our thoughts about it.

The Most Amazing Thing is how we already have everything that we ever hoped for or wanted, and one day we just realize it! It was THIS all along that we were looking for. All those desires and aversions were just signposts leading us to where we already stood. Right here.

The most amazing thing is if we look deeply into ANYTHING, we can learn everything we ever needed, ever wanted and beyond, just from being fully there, right in it.

The most amazing thing, is that of all the things in our lives that we think are problems, barriers, or are somehow in our way, that it all IS our way. They are THE WAY, for us, for this moment, and as such are exactly perfect, no matter how bad they may appear.

The most amazing thing is how when we stop all of our manipulations, everything still keeps working out just fine!

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Getting Oriented, Seeing Where We Are

We have, since the time of the proverbial garden of Eden, been making a very fundamental, yet unconscious assumption. We have assumed that all our thoughts and interpretations and conclusions and ideas that we have about ourselves actually constitute who we are. This is a logical outgrowth of our whole method of investigating the world that has served us so well in matters such as building houses, getting food and water, and inventing the airplane.

Since we ate of the apple of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil we have pursued knowledge. How could knowledge of good and evil be a bad thing? It’s not. Mostly, of course, knowledge is a very very good thing. But if we think that we can, by means of the thinking mind, get at the reality of who we are, then we can be said to have strayed out of that proverbial garden, into a kind of a quagmire.

Who we think we are is inherently limited. Who we really are, is something that cannot be reached through concepts. Who we really are, is what is there unmoving when the concept-making process pauses for a moment. It’s what never changes while our thoughts and emotions move us from happiness to impatience to grief to satisfaction and on and on. Who we really are is what is the same no matter whether we’re feeling good about ourselves or not, no matter where we decide to live, who we decide to marry or not to marry, or what kind of person we are. There is an unchanging core in us that is completely out of the reach of any idea we might have about it, even this one.

This becomes terribly relevant as we spend our lives trying to find ourselves in, and bolster ourselves up through outer things; by being successful, through our relationships, our children, by being who we “should” be, or by rebelling. Those things don’t satisfy us in the end, and it becomes neurotic as we try to accumulate more money, finally find the one right relationship, surpass the neighbor’s accomplishments or possessions, or crush whatever seeming enemy is on our horizon.

What we are looking for in all these activities is already in existence, like the silence in which sound occurs. Like the unmoving screen that we take for granted, on which an action movie is played. We are so busy watching the action, that we miss the one thing that would satisfy us completely. We miss that who we are is something so beyond what we thought, that our ideas about it are like comparing a picture of a flower with a real flower. We miss that we ourselves are so incredibly and profoundly awe inspiring, and so already totally satisfied, that any further activity we might undertake comes from a simple intention to somehow creatively express the joy of life.

And then we don’t miss it.
We open our eyes,
We see beyond the picture of ourselves.
And like a fresh flower,
Damp with morning dew,
We open to awareness of birdsong and color
Beyond the known senses..
Who could have dreamed such magnificence?

By some great blessing, it seems that it is now possible to escape the life-like but ultimately unsatisfying world of conceptual reality, and encounter the incredibly fulfilling reality that lies behind or beyond it, and find it as familiar and closer than our own old socks.

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Identity Switch:
Switching from the Concept of self to the Unknowable Self as the one who is
Here living this life.

(Written in early 2003 – in an effort to make sense of what had happened with Eckhart Tolle the previous October.)

There have been many teachers and writers who, after experiencing awakening, write books and give talks that express the experience in general and even conclusive terms. Wonderful examples of such books are Eckhart Tolle’s books, or less well known, “Nobody Home” by Jan Kersschot. They, and many others do such a wonderful job at this, that I feel no need to try to do so myself. What more could one say? There is also the fact that this personal self doesn’t have a clue if it is qualified to write anything conclusive. So, instead I will write here from a personal perspective about my own experience. This feels right to do, not because the personal is essentially “Real”, but as a way of honoring the journeys that we all have made through this experience of the personal self. I wish to honor that journey as a beautiful and necessary part of our humanity. I also know that I have yearned and currently yearn to hear/read more of these kind of stories myself.

I will use the first person as I write, but because the content of the story is about who that is or is not, it needs to be read with an openness about who that first person speaker is. To assist with this openness, I (?) will insert question marks as the process unfolds which are simply meant as reminders to stay open to the inquiry into who is telling the story.

Since about the age of 15 I have been a seeker. The “I” that was operative at that time grasped the idea of inner heavenly realms as the only escape, besides dying, from the painful childhood maladjustments and teenage discomforts which plagued me. Spiritual development then was at first seen as a primary type of personal development; the ultimate self-enhancement. If one enhanced one’s personal self in sufficiently deep and profound ways then spiritual benefits would be bestowed on that personal self. It may sound silly verbalized that way, but this idea, when looked into truthfully, lurks, sometimes quite subtely, at the heart of a lot of spiritual thinking. This is not because we are inherently bad or screwed up; it is because the one who wants to be spiritual is, at first, the one who must be left behind in order to reveal the spiritual being in us. And that “me” naturally measures, discriminates, improves, judges, exerts effort, etc – its just the way it is.

But this is the only place to begin, or so it still seems to me now, and back then I was totally identified with what Tolle calls the “mind-made self”. This seems to me a very good term for the collection of ideas and concepts that we have about ourselves; about who we are and what we are like. As a young child, like everyone else I know, I became completely convinced that my ideas about me were who I truly was, and that there was nothing beyond that. The fact that the thoughts and feelings were so changable didn’t cause me to doubt this logic, but it certainly did give me extremely shifting sands on which to base my self-esteem, acceptability, etc.

So this limited idea of I began being a spiritual seeker, and I began seeking out personality experiences that had promise of taking “me” towards enlightenment. I practiced kundalini yoga with a passion. I mediated. I checked out gurus. I seriously considered the ministry. Throughout this time however, the intensity of my seeking would come in waves, tempered by periods in which knowing that one couldn’t progress towards enlightenment by trying to get there would frustrate and confuse me so thoroughly that I would turn away from the whole effort for a while..

By 1977 my seeking brought me to the Findhorn Foundation in Scotland for what would turn out to be seven years, during which time my children were born. Soon after arriving, I opened up to being able to “get guidance” from what they would have called my “higher self”. Any question I could frame would be answered from within me by a wonderful source of wisdom and enlightened perspective. Sort of like having your own personal holy book that you could always open up to the perfect page for what you needed to know. This was a tremendous education for this small, mind-made self! And it gave it a model for understanding it’s own limitations, or rather it’s own lack of substance.

Then, some time in the late 1980s, my guidance began telling “me” that it was time for me to outgrow the outmoded and somewhat schitzophrenic guidance model, and step into the realization that I was not the ignorant one who was asking the questions but that I was the one who knew the answers. It was asking me to BE my “higher self”. The small “I”, still very much in charge, choked on this idea thoroughly. It was fine as a lofty idea in a book that we might some far-distant day in the future have the potentiality to be enlightened beings, but it’s not OK to tell me that the person I’ve been living as all these years can bow out right now. That person was/is invested in being small, full of faults, humble, self-conscious and no better than anybody else, and was into keeping her head down and staying safe that way. “I” obediently stopped asking for guidance, but then turned away from spiritual matters, and sunk myself into a difficult marriage and an overly busy lifestyle for a while.

In 2002, after recovering from my second marriage, and after my parenting duties were starting to be less overwhelming, I started purposely crossing paths with some “enlightened” people. The most significant of those was Eckhart Tolle, whom I had discovered by searching “living in the present” on Amazon.com. His writing spoke to me with the voice of my own ‘guidance’ and very much caught and held my attention. After spending five days with Eckhart at a retreat at the Omega Institute in the fall of 2002, something about me(?) was totally different. It was hard to put my finger on what it was. Things seemed inside out, but that didn’t make sense. What ensued from that time, was a long process of acclimation to this newness, and repeated attempts by the small self to place this experience within it’s own structures, to make it understandable in that self’s own limited terms, to reduce it to being something that happened once to the same old self. The small self desperately wanted ownership of the experience, as it had had ownership of all the life experiences previous to it. The trouble was, it’s efforts were visible now; were able to be seen now for what they were, a diminishment of something larger that was now also experiencable. This something was beyond the mind’s capacity to grasp it, so it couldn’t be understood in the “normal” way. “It” was experienced as a process that had come to life in me, something with a life of it’s own outside of my old systems of goal setting and planning etc. A process seemed to have come to life, although it is probable that it was always here, and the small self simply became able to see it. After months of living in a blissful existence simply because of being able to see more fully what is here, (and that view is very incredible and awe inspiring), then the process took “me”(?) step by step through awareness of some pretty humbling content in the life of the mind and small self, which was still very much alive. Habitual patterns visibly rise to the surface; things that for whatever reason had never been visible before.

So here we have the small self that has called itself by the first person for nearly 50 years, co-existing side by side with a newly visible process. The small self desperately wants to understand what is going on. It understands that this process is the awakening that it has looked for. It has, after all, been educated. But the non-locatableness and transparency of what is generating this process confounds it entirely. It is the perfect impossible task for the small self, reminding one of famous Zen koans. It is a task that the small self cannot even understand, let alone accomplish.

The intensity of the discomfort increases. The small “I” is increasingly frightened and threatened and is busy creating endless and hopeless scenarios about itself. . Hunger, need, lack and insecurity are triggered. Horror and humiliation. This at least temporarily keeps its attention on itself. This “I” has a long track record of holding it’s own attention through having things wrong with itself and unsuccessfully and endlessly problem solving around that (and never could see it before this). It is trying harder than ever, but it’s efforts have never before been visible like this, so out in the open.

All this is occuring in a field/process of awareness that sees it happening and sees that it is good that it is happening. This field/process embraces and includes all the ideas about this small “me” with the fullness, the holiness, the wholeness of itself. The larger process with a life of it’s own has called up all that needs to come to light, all that serves to obscure Truth.

There are habitual patterns of thought at work which repeatedly are returning awareness to identification with the concepts around self, with the limited mind-made, insecure version of self. Patterns that amplify around fear. But in whom are these habitual patterns embedded? In whom is the fear trigger occurring? This is where the attention needs to remain. This is the Real, not the ever changing patterns of thought and circumstance. Circumstance has been following thought all along. Both are simply a play of pictures. Whether the thoughts try to imply that I am either better than or worse than others, none of it has the least substance of reality to it. Keeping the attention more and more on the unchanging nature of what these pictures rise up from and fall back into. Chasing down, pursuing with the attention, what is unmoving. Ignoring what changes. Saying “so what” to whatever changes. Viewing with increasing eqanimity those things that had previously been seen as good or bad; higher or lower; wanted or not wanted; enlightened or not enlightened.

Out of the muck is rising an awareness of awareness! This sounds like nothing, but THIS is what is not changing. This is what is here when all mental physical and emotional objects are subtracted/seen to be passing. This is the bedrock out of which my world rises, and into which it disappears. To know this, all that was ever needed was to stop running away from anything. All my resistances to what is here in each moment, have the power in each moment to veil this reality from my seeing of the world and of my own experience. Being loyal and true to this in many moments, in life’s most challenging moments, will, I suppose, be a challenge to savor lifelong.

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Mega-thanks to Eckhart Tolle, Adyashanti, Gangaji, Katie Davis, Stephen Tainer, my brother Hartley, Caitlin & Peter, Fritha & Ram and untold others for the behind-the-scenes roles that they have been willing to play in this story, and continue to play, as inspiration, confirmation, and troublemaking as needed.

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The author of this site, Alice Gardner, is making no claims to any special state or stage or perspective. What is contained here is a simple expression of how things are seen to be, by this individual, and no claims of correctness or realization can be made based on that. There is a simple intention here though, that what flows onto these pages may be helpful to others who open themselves to the possibility of our awakening in the midst of life. It is the kind of helpfulness where a fifth grader might help a fourth grader with their arithmetic. It is not offered out of a distance apart or beyond where you are, but offered out of a time of having embraced our aloneness and now coming to a place where we welcome companionship as we move through this One life that we all share.