THE STORY OF HOW I CAME TO BE BLOGGING ABOUT AN AWAKENINGWho am I? I am awareness. I am a sliver of the Source consciousness clothed in a body of forgetfulness named “Laura’, here to live a life and learn the lessons. Shall I tell you about this person?
As is the case for each of us, the story actually begins at my birth but I don’t feel like doing that much typing and – admit it – you’re secretly relieved I’m not going to back all the way up to the day I was born. Instead, I’m going to start with late summer 2016, when I was starting my 54th year on the planet and wrapping up what is likely to be my final job in healthcare, the industry in which I’d spent 30+ years. Though school taught me I was interested in both the arts and biological sciences, I elected to pursue the latter, studying microbiology in college and going on to hold positions with healthcare payers, private and group practices, hospitals, large healthcare systems, and a vendor before spending a year as an independent contractor. My skills at organizing – information, things, people, processes – and communicating led to middle and upper management positions in data technologies and quality improvement while my interest in the underlying medicine usually kept me engaged in even the most challenging projects. In short, my professional life had been, at least from one perspective, ‘successful’.
And yet not. Those same thirty years also showed me the US healthcare system is reliably unreliable and largely inhumane, despite its impressive cost, technology and the honest, compassionate efforts made daily by thousands of smart people to make it otherwise. Recent efforts to reform the system kept it essentially beholden to for-profit vendors, greatly limiting true change. News from the presidential campaign, in full swing as this story begins, promised to bring more politically-motivated mayhem but little real improvement. And suddenly, as the summer of 2016 drew to a close, the thought of continuing to tackle all these same issues and challenges for another ten or fifteen years before retiring … the very idea left me feeling a bit unwell, literally. Immediately, that part of my mind concerned with practical matters reminded me that not finding another healthcare job now would be incompatible with my well-laid plans for continued success and a comfy retirement, which added more angst to my growing uncertainty about my future.
By happy coincidence, I had earlier decided to take a 3-month sabbatical when my project contract ended in November. I assumed this long rest, already full of plans for long virtual-reality gaming sessions and some holiday fun thrown in besides, would have me ready to dive back into the fray of healthcare improvement. Because that’s what sabbaticals are for, right? Get the wind back in those sails! Read some motivational books! Rejuvenate and get ready to return to the work-a-day world!
Is There A Purpose To What Is Unfolding?
When the 2016 US political season promised to be a doozy, I started watching numerous documentaries in order to supplement my piecemeal understanding of our political and financial systems. These led me to documentaries on the history of U.S. politics, then U.S. culture, then world cultures, religious traditions and finally, human evolutionary history; I was suddenly enthralled with the topic as I started recognizing the connections to our current state of affairs. After consuming a small library of documentaries, the message was becoming clear: we are the problem. Not the systems created but the nature of the humans who create and then perpetuate these systems. And because the problem lies with the creator, so to speak, no as-yet untried combination of government, financial and social systems is going to fix what ails us; this lesson is writ large in our history. Unfortunately for us all, the conditioning of culture has reduced these critical lessons from our past into simple stories about who won and who lost, while the battles continue and millions suffer and die. It is madness. And astonishing to behold, once realized.
Speaking of madness … I should probably mention at this point that the worldview I was revising with all these films did not include belief in the teachings of any religion or spiritual tradition. I know many have turned to their spiritual beliefs in the face of the new challenges unfolding in this time; I tended to turn to reason and science. I had become captivated with the Christian story when in grade school and continued to reach back to that belief from time to time until, in my mid-twenties, I could no longer accept the contradictions and contrivances of these teachings, nor the incredible suffering brought forward time and again in their name. My contact with other traditions was minimal so my spiritual growth from that point on came largely through exposure via the visual arts and music of the world’s cultures, which have always caught my interest. But by my late twenties, I was done with the idea of subscribing to any organized religion.
Back to the history lesson … After subjecting myself to this deluge of documentaries on American and human history, the idea of working to effect social or political change in the face of such truths about human nature seemed foolish, like postponing an inevitable collapse. It felt ignorant. Does that sound harsh? It’s not that I came to think humans have an evil nature, it was simply the realization that we are developing around our true nature, instead of being informed by it, which led me to believe agitating for change would be senseless. If human nature is the issue, shouldn’t that be the place we start changing in order to bring about lasting peace? And does that mean that without a shift in basic human nature, we are destined to simply bring about more of the same; unsustainable population growth, continuous wars, environmental devastation and all of that? Do all intelligent species end up bringing about their own extinction, as some theorize? Or is there some way to individually and collectively change our basic nature? Will recent changes, as dangerous as they may feel, reveal a deeper purpose that drives humanity forward somehow, as some teachers herald? And in the midst of all these questions, the question of what I am meant to do in the midst of all this chaos was starting to concern me. My thoughts turned to the newly formed cannabis industry now booming in Washington state; as a recreational and medicinal user, I had first-hand knowledge on how helpful this plant was going to be to a lot of people and I wondered if perhaps that would be where I would finish my career.
Mushrooms ! ! !
It’s now the time of the 2016 election. Returning to a healthcare job still feels like a bad idea but no better idea has emerged and so finding a new direction is now much on my mind, perhaps even a bit of a worry. But by November 5th, such concerns felt dwarfed by the election results and the continued political, social and environmental upheaval it heralded. I truly felt like I didn’t understand how a lot of other people were deciding to be human on that night. But what was clear was the feeling of permanence in the event; whatever outcomes we’d been warned to expect from continuing this western lifestyle unabated, that night we took a large step in that direction – on purpose.
Feeling a tad adrift in the world, my mind recalled the psilocybin mushrooms I had gotten from a friend some months earlier and had stored in the fridge. I wonder – did some part of me know this day was coming when I decided to reach out to a friend who mentioned having mushrooms? After a few days of thoughtful consideration, I decided to take the plunge and go on what I thought of as a spirit quest. (I mean, what the hell else could possibly go sideways in the world right now, right?) Considering it had been decades since my last mushroom encounter (a few small sips of an awful tasting brew while hanging out in Mississippi heat), it still seems surprising to me even now that, on that November day, I could reach to the back of the cheese drawer and pull out a handful of dried local cubensis mushrooms.
I jest but I should probably make clear that I am not an experienced psilocybin mushroom eater. My first of three encounters came in college where I ate mushrooms, dropped acid and snorted cocaine under the supervision of a friend over the course of a few weekends. And just to demonstrate how ‘straight’ I was, I’ll share that I was engaging in this little binge to catch up with what I perceived as the ‘informed’ students in my biochemistry class, where we had just started discussing hallucinogens; the knowing glances exchanged between my peers and the professor piqued my curiosity. Those few early experiences were minimal; my conservative dosing resulted in trips on par with being very stoned on edible cannabis – a complete body relax with creative mentation and some visual effects/movement. In other words, nothing whatsoever like a typical mushroom experience.
But still, taking this handful of dried caps and stems felt like a big deal. And a hail Mary pass. And maybe also a chance to tap into the ‘something’ I had been hearing about in a few of the other documentaries I had come across while on my political tear, most notably “DMT: The Spirit Molecule“. Dark matter … Dark energy … A collective consciousness. Is there something out there?
After some research, I took the following on an empty stomach: 15 mg edible THC, a small glass of water with lemon juice and an unknown number of grams of dried psilocybin mushrooms; I couldn’t weigh them but took about the amount I knew others of about my size had ingested from the same batch. And at some point in the next thirteen and a half hours, I ‘awakened’. And by that I mean that in among the hours spent perceiving the emotional turmoil and visual wonders invoked by the psilocybin-induced state of consciousness, at one point I broke through to a state in which I experienced myself as pure consciousness, fully aware and awake but stripped of the ego and body that is ‘Laura’. I perceived ‘myself’ to be hanging suspended in an endless space of warm light and for a split second I wondered to myself where I was, even as I could feel the memories getting ready to flood back in. A voice in my mind said “Source” and then it all came back: I knew I was back at the place I come from. I was back in my ‘original’ form, back where I come from, where I return to, where I always am. Then – a sudden realization / remembering that there was no time in this state, time is an illusion of the material state. Then I understood what ‘eternal’ truly meant; not existing for all time but existing where there is no time. The awareness behind these eyes rests in this place of Source and so is eternal. This light I was surrounded by I knew was the Source of my consciousness; It was all the rest of the consciousness that mine is a part of. At one point I clearly remember that I had a body, a Laura-body, and it was curled up on a bed back in ‘the world’. I remembered that I had taken mushrooms and was now experiencing the very thing I had come to find – The Truth. The one truth from which all others arise. And the peace and certainty and clarity of the moment had a reality to them was far more….. dimensional?…. than this one. Not quite the right word but, as so many point out, this entire experience is defined by its ineffability. Words just fail.
After a few moments of floating in this Source, I tumbled (it felt very topsy-turvy) out of this space, came to and began experiencing the turmoil of returning to mass and form, which immediately felt very limited and heavy. When I fully regained my lucidity, about six hours had passed. I’m pretty sure my first words to the air were “I remember”. I was stunned. By what I had remembered, by the implications that were starting to tumble around in my head, by how different everything looked, by how tired my body was – my head was swimming. I was able to freshen up and even have a small snack before feeling another wave of visual effects begin to ratchet up. I was so tired from the first round that I did little more than observe some interesting effects and thoughts during this second wave, which surprisingly lasted about another six hours (!).
By the end of the two 6+ hr trips the mushrooms delivered, I had ‘remembered’ or perceived these insights:
- I am Source consciousness in a body; this body will end but this awareness will not; I am eternal.
- Returning to Source reveals a place of ‘no time’ and this place feels like home.
- All awareness comes from a single Source consciousness; we are all connected through Source.
- One human killing or harming another is the very height of insanity; it is ‘self’ killing ‘self’.
- There is both ‘dark’ and ‘light’ because the light is always emerging into – exploring – the dark; all living things are this light.
- Separating ourselves from knowledge of the psychotropic plants was a huge turning point in our evolution.
- The compassion I want to bring to others to heal the world I must first bring to myself.
- Next time, buy a kitchen scale and weigh the damn mushrooms.
That last comment is a reflection of the hours I spent during the trip in the clutches of some pretty dark inner spaces – also part of the mushroom experience. Fear. Sheer terror. Certainty that I was dying and then utter confusion when my internal body check revealed no signs of urgency. Then who’s dying? Why do I feel like I’m dying when I’m clearly not dying? Why am I suddenly so afraid of going to sleep? Where does this sense of terror come from? Do I think I deserve to know the truth? Have I earned any of these insights? On and on, this relentless inner chatter always managed to distract me from the wonders I experienced during the journey and the regular bursts of adrenaline were exhausting.
If I knew then what I know now, I would have recognized this enormous fear and incessant ‘voice’ as my egoic self, which actually was experiencing a kind of death at the time, a death arising from the mind escaping the illusion of separation. The egoic self and the physical body are in place to let us believe, sometimes for an entire lifetime, that we live as separate beings and the ego seems to sense when consciousness is about to pull the curtain aside to reveal who’s really running this show – and so it screams as if the world is ending, as if YOU are ending. Learning about this illusion from various spiritual teachers and texts has required a significant adjustment to my mental model; I used to think thought of ‘ego’ as part of a silent subconscious, not as the loud chatterbox now living between my ears. Now I know I am not the voice. I am not this body. I am the awareness, that which is absorbing everything that’s being perceived by this form; a ‘nothing’ that can be anything, and is currently in a form called ‘Laura’ (among many others). And it’s this lesson that may have been the hardest one on this journey so far – and one I have to keep learning – but the pain of this ‘dark night of the soul’ has since been healed many times over by the glimpses into my true nature that have followed.
The Search For Understanding
I almost titled this section “What The Hell Was That!?”. It has occurred to me – several times – that there must have been an easier way to learn about my true nature than spending over thirteen hours on a crazy twirl around inner space. And then it takes me just another moment to realize that running this particular gauntlet in this particular way was probably the only way I could have learned such a truth and actually believed it. If I had read about a lot of other people’s experience, I would have always wondered if those stories just seeded my own mind the ideas that I later experienced while on the mushrooms. I needed by my own felt experience – and the shock of the truth behind it – to overcome my suspicion and skepticism of all things spiritual. Of course, my nature and circumstances are known to the Source awareness that is running this show – and so I learned it the way I did.
The weeks following the awakening were spent reorienting myself in the world, largely by learning everything I could about altered states of consciousness. My 3-month sabbatical was extended indefinitely as I headed to the internet in search of anyone who had anything to say on the topic and within a day or two, I happened upon a SAND – Science and Nonduality video on YouTube. Suddenly, I had a whole host of ‘awakening’ related resources at my fingertips (such a flood of relief!). I listened to spiritual teachers and then listened to their teachers. Every book I heard referenced was added to a reading list and when I wasn’t watching, I was reading. There were articles, papers, websites – and every link led to three more. I took a lot of notes.
An aside … There are some very challenging worldviews swirling around in the human family, yes indeedy! But when I found myself instantly judging some of the stranger ideas out there, I’d remember that I’d just had my own worldview obliterated by an encounter with a mushroom – who am I to say what’s true? Source consciousness? Existing in an eternal state of no-time? The awakening made it abundantly clear that there’s a great deal we don’t understand – or even acknowledge – about reality and so I committed myself to being open to any notion I came across, no matter how strange. And since today’s technology enables a lot more people to produce and publish a decent movie or video, even sticking to major streaming services (Amazon, Netflix, Hulu) exposed me to some ideas that immediately seemed outlandish (if fascinating). But a few such films and books asked some interesting questions; I’ll share some of the more interesting examples on the “Movies & Videos” page.
Speaking of asides … All this new information that I’ve taken in and will blog about here, I consider ‘teaching’. In whatever form – book, lecture, video, website – what is being communicated is simply an idea or set of ideas from some person or group about a truth as they experience it. Listening to these ideas doesn’t make them my truths so I haven’t felt the need to check every claim or assess every speaker’s credibility before posting about it – or even before accepting or rejecting a teaching for myself. Instead, I leave it to my intuition; if the message resonates at all with what I have so far experienced on this new path, then into the new story it goes … somehow. (The model is still emerging.) Sometimes a teacher authors multiple ideas and only some click with me; Terence McKenna’s early assertions that time is a real ‘thing’ (his time-wave theory) doesn’t jibe with my felt experience but I’ll listen to him talk about art history and the nature of the psilocybin experience all day long. I know this because I have. So while I’ll offer the occasional comment on the philosophies I personally find a reach too far, generally I leave it to you, Dear Blog Reader, to determine for yourself where those thresholds lie.
Back to the research … So, the reason I started taking in a lot content that included many viewpoints was to map the landscape of a topic that felt very unknown to me. The fascinating side effect of this inundation was seeing a common set of messages emerge from our spiritual history. Still more intriguing to me was noticing that this thread runs through even the familiar monotheistic traditions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Not, of course, if you stick with the interpretations coming from most pulpits and alters. But if you look beyond the traditional resources, there is a rich library of non-dual teachings from Sufi poets, Christian mystics and Jewish Kabbalists. This realization started to weave together the wide variety of wisdom traditions that have surfaced in human history over time. Were all traditions originally written to tell the same story?
And then there’s the science – films and books from scientists discovering the spiritual through lovely data! As mentioned above, early on I found a YouTube video from SAND, a group intent on creating forums for the meeting of spiritual and science minds interested in pursuing questions about the nature of consciousness and reality. What a find! Since recent discoveries from the sciences had reignited my spiritual curiosity, finding this mix was the perfect remedy for the questions piling up in my mind. The first SAND video I saw, How Close Is Science to Understanding Consciousness, introduced me to the stimulating ideas of quantum physicist Henry Stapp, physician Stuart Hameroff, neuroscientist Julia Mossbridge, among others. From there, I was linking to discussions about the double slit experiment, then a presentation from a cognitive scientist, then a lecture on the results of psychedelic clinical trials. More than I could take in – and certainly more than I had hoped to find from just one website!
Indeed, it became clear after a few weeks of binge watching and reading that a whole arena of disciplines have been coming together in recent years around the recognition of the ‘something beyond the measurable’ that continues to suggest its presence in our sciences. Dr. Mossbridge actually makes a comment (@1:32:25) to this effect in the video linked to above, a comment which caught my attention as I had started to perceive the same thing – that is that our spirit of exploration is driving both our curious human selves and our inner spiritual selves to discover the same truths about reality and our true nature. What an interesting time to be alive!
Modeling a New Understanding of the Universe and Everything In It
After a few months of absorbing films, books and lectures from various spiritual teachers, two key concepts have emerged to form the basis my new post-awakening worldview. The first concept is of ‘non-dual’ spirituality. Simply put, there is one Source consciousness and all arises from this Source consciousness. And I mean everything. All form, energy, pattern, sound, perception, thought; all of this arises from and goes back into Source consciousness (I sounded like Rupert Spira just there). The second key concept is the ‘non-path pathway’ or ‘the pathless way’, an approach considers spiritual wisdom from any tradition, along with felt experience, to explore and gain understanding of the nature of self and reality. These are my definitions, by the way, and as I lay out the books, films and etc. I’ve encountered during my search, I’ll point out those that helped craft this understanding.
Now comes the building of the rest of the worldview; finding truths about why we are here, in this illusory form, in this illusory time. What are we here to do? What am I here to do? What happens after the body dies and spirit returns to Source? Reincarnation? Evolution of consciousness? Is the human race awakening? If so, why, what is pulling us towards this new state of being? And so I keep sifting through the stories, keeping those that resonate, tossing them in with others, seeing what takes shape. And all the while, or so is my intention, sharing here what I unearth along the way as a means to help others looking for a few strings to start weaving their own picture.
Regardless of where this path leads, one thing has become clear; there is much more to be learned from exploring inner space via the altered states induced by psychotropic plants. As I start this blog, I can think of little else I’d rather do or learn about or talk about. I feel like there’s much more inner mind to be perceived, should one want to continue seeking – and some do not. Some people have a psychedelic spiritual encounter, awaken and then move back into their lives more deeply aware, committed, inspired. But others, like myself, feel called to go in a new direction, called to focus on Source consciousness and nothing else, to go back into the world through just this door and and no other. But to what larger purpose all this is moving me, I haven’t yet seen … I suppose I’m searching for that as well.
I hope this story has helped explain who is speaking, why I’m speaking and what I’m sharing on this blog – or most of it. Not all my time is spent in in the grips of the serious contemplation – that can wear a person out! – and as I learn to be in the world without being of it, I’m also rediscovering our incredibly creative collective self – pictures, videos, sounds, music! Delighting in it, really, and sharing as much of it as I can without losing my train of thought. It feels hopeful to me to notice that whatever else we may have wrought for ourselves, we’ve never ever stopped creating works that also amaze, inspire, amuse and heal. There is much to delight in during our time on the planet and the internet puts a whole bunch of it at our fingertips.
Now, off to see where all this leads …
sidebar photo: Soroush Karimi ; absolum image: kit8.net/shutterstock.com ; bunny photo: Hans Eiskonen ; mushroom photo: kichigin/shutterstock.com ; awaken image: agsandrew/shutterstock.com ; canyon photo: holbox/shutterstock.com ; cityscape photo: manjik/shutterstock.com