By CC Leigh
(I hesitate to write about myself in this manner, having been deeply conditioned that it's not appropriate to blow one's own horn. And also because each awakening story is so utterly unique and individual that at first glance there may be little that one can really gain by studying others' experiences. In the end it is YOUR story that matters most. Still, there are some common elements to all our awakening stories, and to the degree that hearing mine might help you take heart, or take your next steps, I am willing to share this account.)
I began life with a delight in the natural world and a passion to explore and discover the possibilities here on earth. Around the age of 5 while living in Louisiana, I had a "magical" experience of seeing faces and receiving total unconditional love and acceptance from a pair of sunflowers. After a while, I seemingly forgot that experience until once again, at the age of 33, a sunflower "spoke" to me and reminded me of that total loving Presence. I then began to awaken to the possibility that this Presence was my own divine nature coming alive in me.
I was only 8 when my parents divorced. My mother took my older brother, sister, and me back to Massachusetts where she had grown up, resulting in us being 1,000 miles away from my father. From that point on, the brightness of my early childhood darkened into a seemingly endless period of being raised by a mother who had been shattered by the breakup of her marriage and thereafter experienced frequent bouts of severe depression requiring hospitalization. Although her intentions were good, she simply wasn't available for much besides survival, and the family just limped along in quiet desperation for many years.
I somehow managed to do well with my studies and made it to college on scholarships and loans where, while also exploring metaphysics and consciousness through the available means of the day (experimenting liberally with consciousness-expanding substances), I managed to turn my love of animals and the natural world into a degree in Animal Science. This then led to a career as a dog behaviorist, trainer, and breeder of Belgian Tervuren, a rare and wonderful breed of dogs. I married and with my husband made a home on acreage in the Santa Cruz mountains of California. This was my time for discovering and being grounded in "ordinary human life."
It was in 1987 that I received a wake-up call through a remarkable encounter with a sunflower that reminded me of my essential nature. This led pretty directly to my beginning to channel spirit guides who put me on an accelerated path of metaphysical and spiritual growth. It was a fertile time for me, with many expansions of consciousness and a delightful sense of being special and having new gifts to explore. I began to feel very connected to Spirit, and the unfoldment of these new possibilities became my highest priority.
Unfortunately, the rapid changes that were occurring in me were not shared or appreciated by my husband, and this led, sadly, to a parting of ways.
Despite the breakup of my marriage, the period from 1987 to 1991 was marked by much growth, expansion, and discovery, and included an intensive course of study called Awakening Your Light Body, by Sanaya Roman and Duane Packer. I learned and then began to teach this work, finding a great delight in assisting people in awakening to a greater connection with their spiritual nature, along the lines of my own discoveries. However, toward the end of 1991 I began to have some reservations about what I was involved with. I began to sense that my beliefs about reality weren't sufficient to address what was really happening here on earth, and I wanted to find that which was more reliable, perhaps more universal. I was being drawn toward a deeper truth, and it was showing up as doubts and outward "failures." My life began to fall apart around me. In Waking Down terms, I had entered the Rot.
I ended up letting go of my home in California and went into a sort of free-fall over the next several years that went through various phases of undoing, false starts, and disappointments, both in my personal relationships and in my work life. However, my inner longing to discover my deepest Truth, or reconnect with Source, burned strongly despite the challenges I encountered. Something was calling me Home. And beginning in early 1993, my meditations (inspired by reading some of Paul Brunton's books) took me into a series of breakthrough occurrences (for want of a better word) where the automatic process of "being me" would stop and only Consciousness remain. This is difficult to describe, though terms like nirvikalpa Samadhi seem to apply. What was revealed in this cessation of outer experiencing shifted my fundamental knowing of who I was, completely. My fundamental essence was revealed to be the "same"--of the same essence--as that which underlies, permeates, and gives rise to all of life and creation.
I had discovered my Holy Grail, and one aspect of my seeking came to an end.
Unfortunately, this discovery failed to give me any revolutionary insights about how to live my human life. It was quite disorienting, since I had held an assumption that reuniting with Source would confer special gifts and give me divine answers for all of life's questions and difficulties. Not so! This conundrum perplexed me for years.
I was no longer receiving inner guidance in the same overt way, that too having been stripped away by my dark night experience, but there was always the deep heart longing to understand and integrate the insights I was being given into my mundane human life. By 1994 I simply dropped out of the "standard American life" entirely. I borrowed a little RV (recreational vehicle) from a friend, and wandered wherever the spiritual winds blew me for several years. This was a time of healing for me, as I spent much time alone in primitive, wild areas just letting myself discover my true rhythms of living and being, of growing and integrating, and of encountering others along the way who showed me many things about the wonders and devastations of being human. My teachers during this time were mostly in books, in the inner impulses of Being, and Life itself in the form of nature spirits and synchronistic encounters.
Again and again, I found myself confronted with the limits of my Awakening. It seemed that this perfect Consciousness, this profound Love, ought to be able to heal and/or create anything. Yet I kept discovering how deeply broken people can be, including myself, and how difficult it really is for change and healing to occur. These limits broke my heart, brought me to the brink of despair and madness more than once, and ultimately evolved into a deep and profound compassion for what it is to be a human being.
Sometime in 1995 I landed in the realization that "this is all there is." Meaning that I had let go of most of the myths I had held around enlightenment, and was landing in a sobered recognition that this "now" moment, as exalted or mundane as it might be at any given time, was what was true and real, and it was more important and interesting to me than pursuing altered states or contact with non-physical beings. "This moment" carried with it a sort of dissatisfaction at the core that wasn't really pleasant, but I carried it with me wherever I went and could not escape it. And it also included an awareness of my infinite Conscious nature that never really went away any more, either--although it could certainly be pushed into the background by strong emotional experiences and reactions. I knew that this Consciousness was also everything, everyone, everywhere, and every when. Although I did not have the words to describe it at the time, nor really anyone around me who could reflect and validate my experience, this landing in all of myself--the divine, the mundane, and the wound at the core--was most likely my second birth.
Over the next several years I continued to ponder the strange paradox of my infinite-yet-very finite, divine-yet-very-human nature, where I knew the deep peace of Being itself but also experienced the frustrations inherent with the human struggle in its many forms. Some intuition kept me away from established spiritual communities of teachers and seekers, not finding enough room there for my own unique expression. Yet my resistance to being hemmed in left me fundamentally Alone in my wanderings, with only a couple of friends who could relate to my experiences and knowing. During this time, I discovered that the only thing to do was to keep following where my deepest interests took me, and to surrender to and learn from whatever came my way.
I never forgot that it was through teaching and sharing that I received my greatest satisfaction and happiness. Unfortunately, I was discovering that my passion for awakening was not exactly shared by the majority of people I encountered. I settled down into a rather "ordinary" existence, writing my insights and discoveries in my journal and occasionally poking my head up and sniffing around for what I jokingly called "signs of Conscious life in this Universe." Again, some instinct was keeping me away from the more traditional paths of awakening. I intuitively knew it was essential for BOTH the human and the transcendent aspects of our humanness to be welcomed, and that wasn't what I was seeing in most of the teachings I encountered.
In the fall of 1998, however, Saniel's newly-published book Waking Down rather synchronistically fell into my hands. I was living in Colorado at the time, having ended my days of wandering in the RV and settled down to live near one of my good friends. I recognized many of my own experiences in Saniel's de scription of the stages of awakening, including the second birth.
I found myself sufficiently intrigued by Saniel's welcoming embrace of the whole being--and in his community of awakened "adepts", as the teachers were called at the time--to send off for more writings, which continued to feed me in deep ways. In the spring of '99 I made a pilgrimage to California to visit the community and take a couple of workshops.
The depth of meeting I encountered there took my breath away. I had been so "incognito" for so long in the world, without peers who could see and validate me, that I had remained, in some ways, only half-born. And it was in the company of Saniel, Linda, Ted, Hillary, Van and others that I finally felt invited, and safe enough, to land more completely in and as my divinely human Self. Over the next months I clarified that I was, indeed, in my second birth.
I recognized that Saniel's Waking Down in Mutuality teachings incorporated the essential elements I had wanted to see in a spiritual path, and more. Mutuality intrigued me, especially after having been so isolated for years. I decided I needed a deeper immersion, and in the fall of '99 moved to Marin to be closer to the community. In short order, I began working for Saniel as his chief administrator, delighting in the opportunity to be among many very serious seekers and finders. It was the learning lab of my dreams. This period deserves to be a separate story in itself. For now, with significant oversimplification, suffice it to say that within a couple of years of intensive learning and maturation in the second life, I not only helped Saniel, Linda, and the other teachers grow the Waking Down work substantially, I also was welcomed into the ranks of teachers of Waking Down in Mutuality by the end of 2001.
With this, I was now able to begin living my Right Livelihood and expressing my natural gift for communicating and holding others in their own utterly unique awakening process. I moved back to my beloved Colorado to help support its growing Waking Down community. In addition to offering local sittings, I traveled and co-led many workshops and retreats around the country. I even visited England in the fall of 2004 to introduce Waking Down there.
When the growing numbers of teachers brought growing pains to Saniel's existing Temple structure, I was one of three volunteers in the spring of 2005 who helped design new structures that were more appropriate to the work in its current evolution. Perhaps more important than these outer forms was the ongoing evolution taking place in me and all the participants in the happening called the Waking Down in Mutuality community. The embracing of the human element was fraught with "challenge to the max," and integrating the many aspects of our natures wasn't always pretty, or smooth, or as nice as we'd like it to be. I found myself being repeatedly humbled by my own very human limits, and strangely ennobled by them as well--as in "broken open" or tenderized. To this day I am very much an ongoing work in progress.
At the same time, I find myself more and more seated in the unshakeable realization of unbounded Consciousness, and enjoying the profound Wellness of Being inherent in it. And the more my heart is broken by my own pain and challenges as well as by the human condition itself, the more I am blessed by the gift of Divine Compassion that is also inherent, though latent, in this awakening.
This path does not seem to be what many people would call "enlightenment," but it is so rich, full, passionate, and downright REAL that I find myself quite satisfied to be exploring this Life as it is, without expectations. It is my fervent hope, prayer, and intention that all beings may be so Blessed.
Map of Embodied Awakening
Using Focusing to Support Trillium Awakening