Awakening: My Story

handsstoryIt all began at the end of 2009. I was going through a lot at the time, but the worst was watching my father’s failing struggle against lung cancer. Each day being worse than the day before, he slowly withered away. And towards the end I just wanted him to die. I just wanted his suffering to stop; all the worrying made everything bleek and gray and nothing seemed fun anymore. It took all the joy out of life.

Although I knew that worrying was pointless, I couldn’t seem to help myself. No matter what I tried there was no controlling it. But somewhere, I found that curious. Why couldn’t I just stop? There was obviously no point to it – whatever’s going to happen will inevitably happen regardless of how I feel about it, I figured.

So I decided to learn how to stop the worrying.

And so it happened, that one day when I was discussing this plight with some friends, one of them said something that I believe set in motion something truly remarkable.

“You should try being more in the present moment,” he said, in effect, kick-starting the thing.

I don’t remember how I responded, but I immediately knew that he had said something important. Once I got home that night I went online and looked for more information on “being in the moment.” I soon discovered some guy on YouTube, an Australian buddhist monk whose dharma talks had been filmed and put up online, and I watched almost all of them.

This gave me a glimpse of what Buddhism was about, and although this guy had talked briefly—and somewhat vaguely—about this thing called enlightenment, I soon found others who openly discussed it. I learned that enlightenment wasn’t something mythical, it was something real, something that ordinary people like myself could attain. It was something that could be achieved by pretty much anyone who just put his or her mind to it.

But what was enlightenment, I kept asking. All they really told me was that it was the end of suffering. But I didn’t mind their vagueness – the end of suffering was exactly what I was looking for. And I started to believe that it was really possible – it seemed that a lot of people had already found this thing. I read all of their stories, and the more I read, the more I was convinced that this was the pinnacle of human experience; the ultimate destination – there was simply no greater accomplishment known to man.

I soon decided that I have to become enlightened. Whatever it took, I would do it. But it wasn’t because it was such a great achievement; it was because there was a deep urge inside telling me that this is what I’m supposed to do. And I knew that I would never be truly content unless I knew for myself.

And I was in desperate need of relief.

But then my father died. And while it was painful at first, my suffering subsided quickly after that. His suffering had ended – and with it, did mine. There was no need to worry for him anymore.

After that, things started to line up for me. Yet, although everything was mostly fine now, the pull towards enlightenment still remained. In fact, that drive inside of me was getting stronger by the day.

I had found an online community of people that shared my aspirations, and there were some enlightened people there too. At least they said they were.

“You become enlightened by practicing meditation,” I was told.

They gave me some pretty simple instructions, and said that if I just followed them,  enlightenment would be assured. Though the instructions were simple, executing them was not. I don’t know if you’ve tried it, but sitting in meditation is just plain boring. You were supposed to “investigate phenomena” which I figured was about as boring as it gets. And when one of the enlightened guys finally said that I would have to sit for years before I could expect any significant progress, I knew that I would never pull this meditation thing off. I couldn’t sit for five minutes, let alone five years.

So I went off looking for something different. I immediately found others who promised that enlightenment could be attained in no time at all, which I really liked. Instant enlightenment.

They taught something called Advaita Vedanta, and their core idea was basically that everybody is already enlightened – we just have to recognize it. And that, they told me, only takes an instant (although I later learned that sometimes you have to wait a very long time for that instant to come.)

These guys were saying that our true nature is Consciousness itself – and the recognition of this truth is what enlightenment is. More specifically, you were supposed to have an experience of Pure Consciousness, whatever that meant, at which point you had ‘awoken’ and would thereby be considered enlightened.

After reading a few books the picture became clearer.

Supposedly, the world as we know it is just an illusion. All of our ordinary everyday life is nothing but an appearance in consciousness – not some special magical consciousness, but simply our ordinary everyday field of experience – and as such, it’s not only the substratum of that experience, but the ultimate reality of everything.

In other words, there is no material objective universe. There is no time and space out there. There is only experience; only sense perceptions – just like in a dream. But unlike a dream, there’s no real reality outside. There’s nothing outside of these perceptions – there is no outside.

Since I knew that we could never verify what’s beyond our own experience, it seemed to me that this new alternative model was at least logically viable. One of the infinitely many possibilities, I thought, was that there’s absolutely nothing out there – but that would also be infinitely unlikely.

But according to that same logic, our ordinary consensus model of reality—the universe-model—would then also be infinitely unlikely; it would just be another one of infinitely many possibilities.

I had no reason to believe what the Advaita people were saying, but I had no reason to believe the ordinary universe-model either. There was simply no way of telling which one was correct.

But I couldn’t stop wondering either. My curiosity had awoken and now I wanted the truth. I wanted proof. None of the books I read could offer any more than empty claims. I wanted some real arguments, not dogma. Was reality an independently existing universe of time, space, matter and forces like modern science thinks it is? Or was reality simply my own field of experience like the proponents of Advaita Vedanta claims? I desperately wanted to know. Either of these two models was acceptable – I just wanted the truth. But no matter where I looked I couldn’t find any proof, evidence or reason to suppose one over the other.

It was quite a shock to realize that we basically knew nothing. We could never seem to rise above the level of speculation. What’s the point of investigating the universe, I thought, when we don’t even know if it exists? Should we just take it on faith? How’s that any better than what religion does? Science guys always criticize religious people for believing a bunch of arbitrary stuff, but it seemed to me that that was exactly what they were doing themselves. They were stuck in the same trap that they were ridiculing others for falling into.

Having no luck looking at eastern philosophy, I turned to western. I soon discovered Kant – and holy shit was I excited. At last, I had found someone who was thinking outside the box. I could instantly see that he was onto something. I plowed back and forth through those old texts with a newfound energy, determined to figure out what it all meant.

Eventually I got it. It suddenly became clear. I could derive from his philosophy my own irrefutable proof that would at last end all questions.

I had through Kant discovered the truth about the world.

It was exactly as the Advaita people believed it to be – all of material existence is merely apparent. Objectivity isn’t factual, but conceptual. My own subjectivity—this field of alive awareness—is exactly ultimate reality itself.

All. Is. Consciousness.

I began to write. I wanted to express my insights clearly, both to myself and to others – so I wrote and rewrote until my thoughts had crystallized into something very refined and profound. The result eventually found its way onto this website – at first in the form of my articles, and later, in a much more in-depth, detailed and thorough form – my book.

I had also realized that not only was our consensus model of reality—the one in which we exist as space-time entities in a physical universe of particles and forces—a complete and utter fabrication, but it practically impedes any chance of awakening. This model inevitably forces us to see ourselves as subjects (entities with perceptual capabilities) perceiving objects (piles of atoms) in effect maintaining the very division we seek to overcome. So, unless this model is abandoned as a means of experiencing, there’s no hope of ever healing the split.

That’s what I later found out experientially; that awakening to enlightenment means the moment-to-moment division of experiencing into subject and object finally ceases. No longer does it feel like I’m a subject in here, behind the eyes, watching an object out there in the world – instead, there’s only seeing, hearing, touching, tasting and thinking – and nowhere are there any objects to be found nor any subject watching them.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

When my writing frenzy had somewhat subsided, I could conclude the following things: My insights into the nature of reality had a profound effect on my everyday experience. It was a hollowing out of the solidness and the physicalness of perceived reality. It felt less and less like a solid material world and more and more like wisps of dream stuff. And I felt less and less like a body, and more and more like a free floating cluster of sensations.

I understood that I didn’t exist, that nothing did – that it was all merely a flow of phenomenality. It was the notion of ‘no-self’ in its most radical form. But I still felt very much like a distinct player in the game. I still felt like a subject, and it still felt like there were objects.

I still wasn’t enlightened.

And then I discovered another author to whom I owe everything. He wrote under the name Wei Wu Wei and had published 8 books in the 60s and 70s.

I read those books like I have never read anything before.

The books detailed exactly how the illusion of objectivity was maintained; how the mechanism of separation operates – and more importantly, how to dismantle it.

We experience by means of dividing what is nothing but pure experiencing into the subject I take myself to be and into the objects that make up the world. In other words, when I conceptualize a percept, that is, when I imagine it into existence as an ‘object’ by means of regarding it as such (which demonstrates the importance with which the universe-model plays into how we perceive reality,) I thereby imagine myself into existence as its subject. I do so because that’s the only way I can account for the seeming presence of that object. I mean, how would I otherwise explain its presence in my view? How can I see it unless I exist as its subject? That’s simply how perceiving works in the universe-model – subjects perceive objects.

I understood that in order to awaken, we must suspend this incessant turning of percepts into objective concepts. But that can’t happen if we still believe that subjects and objects are real. If you still think that the universe-model is an accurate depiction of what’s actually going on, you’ll simply never stop seeing things in terms of subjects and objects. But you can’t stop believing stuff purely by will. You must have a deep and thorough understanding of exactly how and why those beliefs are false.

But I had already gone through that. And the world became less solid by the day.

And so it happened that one day the hollowing out had finally reached a point where I no longer perceived reality in terms of the old model. The persistent conceptualizing ceased and experiencing was no longer divided.

The separation vanished.

Objects disappeared, and so did I as their subject. What remained was simply pure experiencing – seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, tasting and thinking – pure undivided consciousness.

Phenomenally, it’s not a blank, as one might think judging from the description of it – there being no observer and nothing perceived and all. It’s rather that the conceptual model that’s superimposed over experiencing—the model wherein there’s a subject perceiving an object, both existing independently of one another, in a universe that also exist independently of them—completely disintegrates—that is, vanishing entirely as a means of experiencing—which in a sudden moment of awakening reveals the transcendent non-dual nature that was hidden underneath.

That’s what happened.

And I sat down, exhaled, and took it all in.

I was finally there.

And it was fucking awesome.

Further reading:

29 Responses to Awakening: My Story

  1. Eezy Isempty says:

    Friend Goran,

    A thoughtful disquisition…

    Recommendation: Give meditation a chance.
    Why: Thought and awareness are distinguishable. Discovering thought is awareness in motion.
    Before: The mind is aware of the universe due to thought.
    After: The mind is aware as the universe due to awareness.
    Simile: Thoughts are like raindrops falling on the clear pond of awareness. Producing eddies of phenomena forming consciousness, mind, self, you, me, everything, nothing. Only thing, there is no thing as a thing. There is only: seen = seeing; heard = hearing; taste = tasting; tactile = touching. Emptiness = form = emptiness.
    Result: Insight and Realization.

    A Measurable Method:

    Question: Stress and suffering are the result of craving and clinging. What have you replaced craving with?

    Ezzy Isempty

  2. william says:

    Hi Goran
    I appreciate your setting out your ideas on a blog (and in the form of a book too). Amazing that I’m only the second commenter. I found your site through a mention by Ran Prieur at his site ( ). I’ve also been through a similar process as you, and have had a try at setting out my thoughts on It’s always difficult to put oneself in the shoes of another when you have invested so much into clarifying what you feel to yourself, so I’ll explore your thinking slowly. May I invite you to explore my ideas too? I think that we are on the same track. I’ll look up Kant and Wei Wu Wei. You may like to check out the books and lectures of Alan Watts.

  3. Goran. Wei Wu Wei knocked the bottom out of my bucket too. And “it was fucking awesome” as you say. Still is. I’m delighted to have found my way to your site and will add your link to my “mindshifters” page. In joy! -ml

  4. oolala53 says:

    I was talking with a friend about Kant last month. He said that it seems Kant himself didn’t quite see where all his stuff led. I’m not a philosophy student, but I don’t think I ever heard of any Western philosopher talking about living as experiencing. (This is just how Rupert Spira talks of it.) And I don’t know that they are famed for being happy at all. That’s a sign right there, no?

    I sent you some names of two local teachers, but it seems you don’t need teachers. Grace has come upon your efforts, and rather quickly! Sweet. I haven’t read much more of your site, but I’ll say anyway that you might still want to visit Francis Lucille when he returns to Temecula in August, just for giggles.

    I’ll be exploring a bit more here, too.

    • Göran Backlund says:

      I love Francis Lucille. But I live in Sweden! California is on the other side of the Atlantic!

  5. Goran:

    Thank you for visiting my website and leaving a comment. I love the clarity of your writing and will add you to my blog roll.

    As for the content above: It seems as if you arrived via “inquiry” whereas for me, the arrival to this vanishing of subject-object happened through spontaneous awakening/grace.

    I am curious to know: Did you move through a phase of being a witness to your thoughts and feelings? Did this preceed the shift where seer-and-seen dissolved. I believe Maharishi (TM movement) called this Unity Consciousness. In that model, there are preceeding states: Cosmic Consciousness (the witness/empty) and God Consciouness (Oneness/full) …

    Lori (The Awakened Dreamer chick).

    • Göran Backlund says:

      Hi Lori!

      Yes, before the full shift I had discovered this witness state that you mention. For a short while I even thought that that was ‘it.’ Then I realized that being a witness actually wasn’t that great (who wants to go around witnessing stuff all the time?) which made me want to go further. The witness is just another thing to deconstruct! Which reminds me of this post I wrote: The Subject-Object Illusion (for anyone reading this that might be interested)

  6. Nathan says:

    Did you become a more compassionate person?

  7. Marilyn says:

    The Dalai Lama was once asked, “What is the purpose of life?” He replied simply, “The purpose of life is to be happy.”
    You share, here with the world, of your direct experience of Enlightment, and the tenacious focus and process it required of you. By your ending comment, I conclude you found happiness…REAL happiness within.
    Although I long to experience “the fucking awesome” state that you have found, I’m much more curious as to how being Enlightened, in the way you describe it, plays out in your relationship with self and others. What does it alter your experience of making love to a woman/man (not sure your orientation/preference), being in an intimate relationship, dealing with other conditioned personalities (other human beings) at work, at home, with neighbors, friends, immediate and global communities? Are you no longer emotionally triggered by the people you love who know how to press your buttons?
    My experience of life thus far is that “everything exists in relationships.” We love and heal within relationships, especially the people in our inner circles. I would very much like to know how your Enlightenment has altered the vibration and quality of your significant relationships and in your general interaction with other people. I want very much to know whether you have completely silenced by directly experiencing, in essence, that Love is Impersonal, not personal.

  8. Wei Sheng says:

    Awesome read Goran! Wei Wu Wei all the way baby… Another book that will vibrate your core is “Thinking and Destiny,” by Harold Percival. This was the first reading to obliterate my old habits of thinking. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  9. Jas says:

    So now we know, but should we tell the children? : )

  10. Tim N. says:

    Dear Göran,

    I’m kinda curious now, how was that, the final disappearing of the separation, “fucking awesome”? Because from what I’ve read from most people, they report that everything stays exactly the same, it’s just that it’s seen as sufficient and the search for something more mostly disappears.

    The sense of being a separate person seems to have ended here, it was a very subtle, gradual process that happened as I was reading a book about nonduality and some stuff on the internet for a month or so. It was kind of barely noticeable. I just found at some point in time, the sense of having this giant timeframe of my life, the sense of having a long past and future, was gone. It’s certainly a relief, though not the biggest one. It’s an end to this whole “dear god, I’ve already been through so much in my life, just how much more will I have to endure?” because it’s seen that it never happened, nothing ever happened. No “long days” to endure anymore, only ever this moment.

    But here, something that I kind of expected to happen, didn’t (yet?): The seeing of life as a miracle, seeing the beauty in things, the sense of wonder. Everything is actually extremely ordinary now, probably more so than it was before. When I’m not feeling particularly good or bad, there’s quite a bit of indifference; I’m having my finals in about two months, and I didn’t do anything for them yet and have no idea when I’ll start, I’m disregarding the unimportant homework even though I used to be someone who cared a lot about that kind of stuff. It’s just like “ah, who cares? It’s going to work out somehow in one way or the other.”

    I actually kinda tried for my entire life to see life as a miracle. I didn’t want it to be “ordinary”. I always thought that life had something very special about it, something that was apparently hidden sometimes, and it would have to be natural to see the beauty and wonder in things, like I did as a child (probably? Memory isn’t the same that it used to be). And yeah, I also believed that life had a purpose and lots of spiritual stuff. I believed that this was the “lower realm”, and that we would be returning home to our loved ones after death and be forever happy, for the plain and simple reason that it felt right. It just felt like it was the truth.

    I still think life has some sort of immanent beauty to it, but it seems to be a very subtle thing – kind of like a piece of art, say a painting, that you dislike. You can see that there’s something “artistic” about it, but you still dislike the painting, and would rather have something else.

    So I’m wondering now, what exactly was “fucking awesome” about it? (It’s probably nothing. Which makes this pretty silly. Why do I always have to write ridiculously long texts?) Was it simply a feeling that just happened to come along with the final disappearance of the sense of separation, and went away shortly after? Was it “the return of childlike wonder”? Something encompassing every experience, or just a single experience?

    It’s probably different for every apparent person, anyway. For some this means increased appreciation of life, for some it means increased ordinariness. I guess childlike wonder is just another thing that either appears, or doesn’t appear… Yeah, life’s kinda stupid. I would still appreciate an answer, because you made me curious.

    – Tim

    • Erik says:

      Dear Göran,

      The stories are very, very similar, including Wei Wu Wei; thanks for saving a lot of typing here … 😉


    • Maury Lee says:

      Tim N. I enjoyed your post very much. Excellent writing I must say. I have to agree with your description of realization. It is ordinary. At first, when I began to have glimpses, or experiences of awakening, too numerous to mention, there was bliss, ecstasy, tremendous love, and tremendous beauty, but they faded. Experience always changes.

      I can share this about a particular experience. I fell into an ecstatic place. It was way too much ecstasy for me to handle. There was no me in the ecstasy, just the experience. However, as it left, this statement came to me. “You have always been surrounded by absolute beauty and you always will be, whether you realize it or not.” That I take to be a fact. However, as per the statement, I do not feel beauty or bliss most of the time. What I experience is okayness. The ordinary is good enough. Not looking for better or new experience. Whatever happens is OK. That’s the experience here.

  11. Teri says:

    Thank you, Goran, for sharing your story.

    I have read yout book twice now, with some time inbetween. I have been a ‘failed seeker’ of enlightenment for decades. I see one of my blocks to getting, seeing, what is said here is my science training. As a teacher of the biological and environmental sciences and coming from a line of scientists, the scientific world view is pretty firmly entrenched in my psyche. Im working on it. Intellectually i can entertain and understand these concepts, but the deep knowing evades me. I have just discovered your website and will explore a bit.

    I do appreciate your work. Something in me wont let go of this search, though sometimes i wish it would because it can be literally all consuming. So I will keep at it.

  12. Beji. says:

    “It was something that could be achieved by pretty much anyone who just put his or her mind to it.”

    “I soon decided that I have to become enlightened. Whatever it took, I would do it.”

    Enlightenment is not something you “do” to achieve. It jus Is. It just happens. It would seem that this is your Ego speaking and driving you toward a path that it seems would help ‘it’ gain more control over life. Enlightenment just Is. It just happens. It is not a reward for a journey you embark on. It is not like a test you study for to pass. It is hard to put something as abstract as this into words, (and everyone’s concept and experience of it is Unique) but when you feel “desperate” like you said you did, chances are that is your Ego pulling.

    It should never be a struggle, just a natural unfolding of Knowing.

  13. Lobma Thudrup says:

    What was finally there, and who found it awesome?

    Maintaining awareness in every moment is the key.

  14. thank you for writing this. I seem to understand from the “hearing” perspective. Subject and object collapsed for a brief moment. After a Goenka retreat when silence broke my visual gate bent like a tv screen. I didn’t understand what happened until sometime later as I referenced the “hearing” experience. My question is… after an awakening does this coagulation become less entangled? As if there is a deep knowing instead of only conceptual?

    I am not sure how to state this… Is ego the function of subject and objectivity? Meaning ego functions when the illusion of subject and objectivity is perceived? I notice that this function inherently craves for me and I feel the pain of wanting.

    For example after the “hearing” I understood that time and space are conceptual. It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. It just means our experience of it is conceptual.

    It seems these meditation practices point to what we are… not what we think we are.

    Lastly, are these the books you are referring to:

    thank you,

  15. Andrei Arba says:

    Hi Göran. Thank you for your detailed description of your path. It was an interesting read. You seem to be both, intellectual and emotional, which is a rare thing nowadays. I liked your path. The path of understanding and insight. I had a somewhat same path. Or rather, insight generated immense relief in me. Which is why I write here. I take that you read lots of things, so I hope I won’t impose on you by suggesting an author. Michael Sharp. He created the Lightning Path.
    In his books, he writes in a very simple style the deepest truths of the universe. What you experienced as enlightment, was a connection experience. You are absolutely right in saying that the brute materialistic belief makes enlightment next to impossible. Many people who have an induced connection experience (with drugs) are confronted with that belief during their experience. It is mostly not a pleasant experience. Good job on releasing that one. So, to make a long story short, on the Lightning Path, it is explained: what enlightment is from a neurological point of view, from an ontologic point of view, the parameters conductive for connection experiences (enlightment), why we can’t connect, how our thinking is organized in archetypes which set the tone of our experiences. There’s too much to write here, even if i just name the topics discussed in his books. He even created a wikipedia for spirituality, the spiritwiki. Anyhow, one thing is clear to me. Noone has described our purpose, our raison d’être, where we came from, what are we, the structure of “god”, or consciousness, what the body is, deep psychological mechanisms, generally all Big Questions, as well as he does. It’s quite fenomenal, i have to say. Have a look, let’s spread knowledge and insight, our world really needs it.

  16. Tamas says:

    Hi Göran,
    thank you for sharing your story. I’ve found your site recently, and I found it fascinating.

    However, I’ve got some questions for you, I hope you’ll reply.
    You said your enlightenment has not resulted in a blank state. And also that you found meditation plain boring. And that your enlightenment was awesome.

    It seems to me that you somehow still prefer one state of mind to another. What do you think, would an enlightened person be OK with, for example, extended periods of solitary confinement? Or a few days of complete sensory deprivation? As far as I’m concerned, sensory deprivation can lead to losing one’s mind. How is this phenomena to be reconciled with enlightenment? Is an enlightened one immune to these? Or even to what we call physical pain?

    When you get general anesthesia, you stop existing, it is blank, but not while you experience it, because there is no experience there at all. Only afterwards, when you realize that some time has passed, can you conclude that during the surgery you just didn’t exist. I guess the same thing happens when you die: the experiencing stops, no matter if there is or not an external world. It is irrelevant in this case, in my opinion. What is your opinion about this? If there is just experiencing, and no external world, how can it stop?

    • Göran Backlund says:

      It’s difficult to say, about the solitary confinement or sensory deprivation, when I haven’t experienced that. But drawing from my general experience, I’d honestly say I would have a difficult time being OK with intense experiences like those you talk about, despite enlightenment.

      Yes, without objectivity, how can experiencing stop? Like you say, from the subjective point of view, there’s no stopping. Only with inference + assumption of an objective reality can there be any speculation about the stopping of experience.

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