Some thoughts on awakening

Ellen Serfaty

I listen to dharma talks, read, watch stuff on the Buddha, on Buddhism, on meditation.

Every once in a while I think about awakening. But from the very beginning of my "walk on the dharma side" it seemed evident that awakening is very personal, very different. Perhaps there is a BIG BOOM of awakening or enlightenment, but it seems more evident that it is the smaller events, tiny but meaningful moments that occur every time we sit, every time we are mindful, or are the aftereffects of those times – that are really the essence of awakening, the essence of life, the essence of being.

I sit in my usual perch in the swing outside our tiny fishpond, focus on the wind chimes, the water babbling, the little rock in the pond, the birds, distant traffic sounds. As I am about to sit, it is as if I am in a dirty bubble, removed from the smells of the grass beside me, numbed to the nudging of my dog who comes for a pet right before I start, the colors are drab…

Then I sit.

I begin with those first breaths that seem to restore life, like to a Frankenstein…dead, then starting to come  alive, bringing life to limbs numbed from the toils of daily life.

I set my intention. I am learned in resisting intentions that are greedy, full of want, focus me on the future and not on "now". I keep them simple. I like them simple: focus now and for part of my day; see the beauty, the colors around me; if I am scanning/sweeping – feel my body, each tiny part, alive! Connect with all those sore spots, release the sadness, the anger, the compassion; calm my jumbled mind; lift my heart for a few moments from the ashes to the light.

When I open my eyes, it is rare that I am not awakened.  Every time. But I am easy to please, a cheap date for meditation: I see the colors of my garden and they are so alive and vibrant and varied, that my heart sings! I put my feet down, and feel an incredible calmness that I only feel after a good message, a body peeling, a rare good night's sleep…a feeling deep inside that all is liquid and blending. I see a butterfly enter my sun room and flit, in colors so vivid that they blind me. Now that is awakening!
My dog and husband and daughter might start fussing right away — they know to leave me when I am off in my perch. They call it my "woo woo" time, my trips to "la la land". But when I return, they will make me pay. So they think!

I am immune to life biting — sharp words bounce off of me, my usually sharp tongue is happy and rested, my inner jolt system of stomach and gut and heart juice ups is quiet, happy not interested in the fight-flight. And if I notice this, this "stop", this "no reaction" – that must be awakening. That some of the suffering and strife in the world, as in my world takes two or more to tango, and if we stop….that is awakening.  I walk in life, happy to observe and absorb the light and colors and sweetness, but the jabs and smacks seem dulled, they lose their impact, their energy drains….now that is awakening!

And there are always times when the going is tough, where as I sit my intention is to make this time I am experiencing bearable, that I realize it is just feelings, it will pass. I set this intention. I sit, I "finish"….and I awake — the sadness, the feeling of impending doom, they are there, but just fleeting, dark spots that swirl in my mind, they can stay and visit, but I ask them to be quiet, not to storm my day.

I cannot connect with an awakening that ends all suffering, ends the struggle, brings my mind and heart together. That is too lofty, that is like asking for life to end. I cannot envision it. Maybe there is something wonderful on the other side of these big boom enlightenments. For the time being, it doesn't seem to entice me, I am not greedy for this. But I am greedy for those tiny drops in a pool spreading throughout my body and mind, like fresh water that dissolves the crusty surface on my skin that makes it prickly and brittle; like a lovely coat of Aloe and lavender on my skin that refreshes and brightens. Those tiny awakenings are always a surprise, I never know where the gift will land, how it will come, when it will come, and that is the part I love. But I trust that if I continue to stop and sit, I will bring myself that gift. And when they come, I never know how far the ripple will reach, how long it will live, how much impact it will have. And the wonder and beauty of that is awakening, that some gifts can go on and on, and you just know they will or will not.

I once had an early morning awakening — just as I was awakening from sleep, before the cortisol secretes of the  anxiety kicks in, I had a vision of myself as a light being, just a moving form of soft, but brilliant light, almost alien-like, removing a heavy, body-suit of an impenetrable material. Maybe the big boom of awakening is that creature inside the body-suit, maybe that is me, and I will experience that. Ordinarily I would yearn for that, but for some reason I don't. I somehow trust that that is inside me.
I saw a glimpse of that light being, strangely, a very similar type of form in the faces of the very old and aged at my mother's new nursing home. In the faces of those that are so old and infirm, that you know they are dying. I connect that inside each of us is this light being, waiting to be released, tapping at our heart and mind, and when the body is frail and old, and giving off in pieces, we start to see the light being all the time.