What Is Awakening?

A word which is so well-used and well-worn that it has a multitude of meanings. What I share here isn’t to suggest that my meaning is the absolute right one, it’s the definition that makes sense to me. What really matters is what the word is pointing to and whether that’s what you want.

What Do You Mean By Awakening?

This morning Sara Priestley and I recorded a podcast episode with Piers Thurston, to celebrate the launch of The Complete Book of Awakening, and one of Piers’s questions was ‘so what do you mean by awakening?’

Such a valid question.

Many people use this word and mean very different things by it, so I’d love to help you get clear on what we mean by it so you can get a sense of whether this is actually what you want.

In response to Piers’s question Sara shared about the fact awakening is a coming into reality, with reality, as it is. Or an alternative way of saying this, and as we write in the book:

[Awakening is] purely the recognition of your essential nature (absent of the added confusions).

Helen Amery & Sara Priestley

Both of these ways of defining awakening in fact mean the same thing — because reality and your essential nature are synonymous.

Reality and My Essential Nature Are Synonymous?

We tend to look out at the world and say ‘that’s reality out there — I see it right in front of me.’ But no, that’s not reality. That’s not ‘real’. If something is real, if it is a ‘reality’, then it is enduring, permanent, and agreed upon by all.

Check it this way…Have you ever had an experience, within what you think of as ‘reality’, and discovered that someone else had an entirely different perspective on it to you?

Which perspective is right? Which perspective is real? If you’re saying — ‘mine is’, would they also say theirs is right? So which is really real? Which is the reality? Or is there no single, agreed upon reality here?

When I looked up the definition of reality it said “the state or quality of having existence or substance”.

If you and your friend disagree, with your different perspectives, does either perspective therefore have substance? Or do both? Or could it be argued back and forth till the cows come home?

Think Of It Another Way

If reality is enduring, permanent, and agreed upon by all, what fulfills those criteria? What is the essential, irreducible nature of all experience? What is common to all experience? What is the only reality you’ve ever known for sure? And about which there are not two different perspectives?

We suggest that your essential nature is the fact of awareness, and that this is all you’ve ever really known. The only reality you’ve ever known.

Check it this way…are you aware? (Not aware of something, simply aware.) Now, have you ever known anything in the world (any object, person, thought or feeling) without first being aware? Is ‘being aware’ therefore the essential aspect of existence (or reality) which is required before any thing can be known?

Is Your Mind Arguing?

If your mind is arguing with me, or with these words, just notice that this is happening. It is the normal response of a mind that likes, and has been taught, to pay attention to things. And awareness isn’t a thing.

Maybe there’s a ‘this is stupid’ or ‘this is a pointless mind game’. Fair enough.

But in fact it’s neither of these. These are the very questions that support your enquiry into a nondual awakening.

And which — when engaged with genuinely, with fresh eyes — enable the nice life you’ve been looking for in the world. Because, when engaged with genuinely, they bring you into alignment with reality, as it is — awakening.

Awakening is to recognise that your essential nature is the only reality you’ve ever known.

Why Does This Matter?

To borrow again from the book:

To recognise this provides you the solid foundation in life you’ve been looking for.

Helen Amery & Sara Priestley

When you believe reality is this world that’s in front of you. This world which is in perpetual flux and change and about which there are a multitude of perspectives, you will continue to find yourself suffering in problems.

When you see that reality is you — awareness — the only reality that has ever existed, there’s a big sigh of relief. You’ve found the solid foundation you’ve been looking for. Yourself. Awareness.

And this is what you really want.

With love, Helen

PS If you want to check out the podcast episode, you'll find this and more HERE.

  • Helen Amery
    My work involves exploring with people who are on the awakening and enlightenment journey. They’ve already seen a lot but they can also feel that their understanding is more conceptual than felt, and lived. They can feel that there is more to be seen and understood and yet they also don’t know how to ‘get at’ that. I focus on this shift from conceptual into the deeper, felt understanding of it.

    You can find me at

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