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Mindful Awakening

Mindful Awakening means using mindfulness meditation, in combination with other techniques and methods, to contact awakening. Awakening means classical enlightenment. It’s generally something that you begin to be able to work with after you have become fairly proficient in mindfulness meditation. Reading the articles on this page probably won’t give you awakening, of course, but it will begin to point to how the process of mindful awakening works.

What Is Awakening?

Human beings are caught in the dream within their mind. The stories we tell ourselves. Even the web of the senses. Awakening in any form means to be free of one of these, even for a little while. Once you see the dream, or the illusion, you will never quite be able to believe it again. Awakening means to wake up from these dreams and illusions.

Over time you will contact more and more such awakenings, and eventually you can have permanent freedom from many illusions. The most important illusion to be free of is that you are a self made of thoughts and feelings. The “I” that you feel is you is actually nothing more than the continuously changing activity of thoughts and feelings. Mental pictures, words in the head, some sensations in the body. It’s never the same from moment to moment and yet we think that to be our true self.

The Dream of the Self

Human beings have an advanced capacity for planning. We can project our imagination far ahead in time to plan our future actions. We can also remember the distant past in order to help our planning to be more accurate and effective.

As we are doing this planning (which amounts to fantasizing or daydreaming), we include an image of ourselves in the planning we are doing. I will go here and there, I will do this and that. All the while we are picturing a mental image of ourselves going about doing these activities. We also remember the activities we have done in the past and picture ourselves doing those. This mental image of ourselves is like an avatar in a 3D video game. It looks and seems real. But it is simply a mental construction. This avatar of the self in the mind is a big part of the ego, the thing we believe ourselves to be.

Most people believe that they actually are their mental image. It’s made more realistic seeming because we can feel the feelings of our memories or expect to have in the future, feel the emotions we had in the past or expect to have in the future. This mental creation of the sense of self is much more compelling and realistic than one of today’s video game avatars. Nevertheless, it is every bit as false, imaginary, and ephemeral. Most of our suffering comes from the fact that we believe ourselves to actually be this avatar. In reality, we are simply the biological organism in whose brain the avatar is generated. Seeing this clearly, we wake up from the dream of the self. This is the meaning of awakening—the beginning of liberation.

Real awakening is not a self improvement program. It’s something far deeper, weirder, and paradoxical than that.

mindful awakening

How to Wake Up from the Dream

There are many ways to wake up from the dream of the self, but first we will focus on, as the name of the page implies, mindful awakening. That is, using mindfulness for waking up. That starts out with using mindfulness meditation to learn the core skills of concentration, sensory clarity, and equanimity. This page will clue you into the many articles we have about doing that.

Once you have these basics under your belt, it becomes possible to use them to deconstruct the sense of self directly. This is one of the most paradoxical uses of meditation is to deconstruct the sense of self, the feeling of being you. This sounds weird and strange, and it’s reasonable to ask yourself why anybody would want to do such a thing. But the reason is simple: the sense of “I” that you depend on all day long is actually a construction, a dream, a fantasy, an avatar, an illusion (as mentioned above). It’s this construction of thoughts and feelings that insight meditation (i.e. mindfulness) will help you to deconstruct.  Here are a number of articles describe exactly how to do that:

Meditation: Why Deconstruction?

Deconstructing the Self with Mindfulness Meditation

Untangle and Be Free

Meditation on No-self

Deconstructing the Perception of the Ego/self

What Is the Self? An Interview with Thomas Metzinger


One of the main things to avoid in your practice of mindful awakening is the Observer Trap. What’s that? It’s the typical way people get stuck in their practice. Simply put: it’s making another avatar out of the being the person who is meditating. It’s also easy to avoid. Here’s a whole article about how to work with that:

Escaping the Observer Trap

mindful awakening

Various traditions focus on single paths to waking up, but actually the paths to awakening are numerous, maybe infinite. Here are a few articles that describe a few very interesting openings:

Follow the Threads: Mindful Awakening

Mindful Awakening: The Cost Is just Everything

Good Night Moon

Just Let Go—Surrender Everything in Meditation

Nonduality and Awakening

Nonduality or nondual awareness is the key to awakening. Nondual awareness is the experience of all things being one in consciousness. Nonduality is a big topic—to learn more about it, click here. Below are some articles about nondual awakening.

The Universe Is NOT One

Nonduality and Mindfulness — Two Great Traditions that Go Great Together

Nondual Meditation: One Practice of Total Awareness

Never Believe Anything


Mindfulness meditation, if practiced correctly and diligently, can lead to profound awakening. Waking up is both the most awesome and most normal thing in the world. But don’t believe me. Do it and find out for yourself what waking up is really like. If you have questions, leave them in the comments below.



Learn mindfulness meditation with Michael W. Taft’s bestselling book The Mindful Geek for free.




photo by Matteo Staltari

laughing monk photo by Sabrina Ariana

avatar by Sheila B

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