On a warm spring afternoon in 1982 a young American woman stood on a curb in Paris, France. Her name was Suzanne Segal and she was waiting for a bus. There was no way that Suzanne could have known, but in this ordinary setting, her life was about to change forever.
As the bus arrived Suzanne stepped forward to enter. And then, as she describes in her own words
“…I collided head-first with an invisible force that had entered my awareness,
blowing open my usual consciousness and splitting me in two. What I
previously had called “me” was forcefully pushed out into a new location
about a foot behind my head. “I” was now behind my body looking out at the
world without using the body’s eyes.”
Suzanne had no way of understanding what had just happened to her. She felt different.
The world looked different. She was afraid. What had just happened to her?
She consulted medical professionals. They believed she had undergone some kind of psychotic break and would need treatment , but they had no r idea of what that should be. She consulted spiritual teachers. Mostwere confounded by her condition. Finally, after a ten year search, she met a psychotherapist who had formerly been a Zen monk. After a thorough examination, he gave his diagnosis. She had awakened.
Awakening is the pivotal event in the Story of Enlightenment. Unlike the other parts of the story, which takes years to unfold, awakening is a single, brief and decisive event. It is the turning point in the narrative of our story.
Awakening is the end of the Hero’s Journey.
When the Hero removes himself from the story, then there is an openness, even a readiness, to begin something new.
The Hero works within the established structure of consciousness. This “me”-centered consciousness, and the resulting mis-aligned worlds, is a closed system. It does not offer any opportunity for a true new beginning.
The only way to break out is for the Hero to die. As long as the Hero keeps trying, the old structure of consciousness remains. This is why the Fork in the Road is the critical decision point for the journey. Only one fork will bring you to awakening. This awakening—some might call it a ressurection— can only take place when the Hero dies. With this death, the old framework of consciousness shatters into pieces.
Awakening alters the trajectory of your story.
Awakening is that moment when everything changes. This is the pivotal change which never happens on the Self-Fulfillment Journey.
The Self-Improvement Journey strengthens the feeling of being in control because the Hero has succeeded in making your life more fulfilling. You feel more in control now than ever before.
Awakening, on the other hand, is preceded by the experience of powerlessness. You have relinquished control and you feel powerless to do anything meaningful with your life.
When the “me” has been drained of its power, there is nothing left to replace it.
Remember, the “me” is the sum total of all that you have come to regard as your identity.
It is the thing that makes you truly unique. It is what makes you who you truly are, or so you think.
When that is gone, it is devasting. Where do you begin? How do you start? And for that matter, who are you, really?
For the time being, there are no answers to these questions. They will emerge in time. For now, you left feeling a huge void in your existence. You simply feel depleted.
Let us return to the story of Suzanne Segal. Her Hero’s Journey had ended, or so she thought. For years during and after college she was a participant in the Transcendental Meditation Program. She spent long hours each day in meditation. She was deeply committed to her path.
But at some point she became disenchanted with the organization. She saw some inconsistencies which troubled her and she decided to leave the movement. She looked into similar organizations and movements, but none of them felt right. She gave up her search. Her journey, it would appear, was over.
Sometime later she went abroad, married a doctor and settled into what she expected to be a normal life in Paris. She became pregnant with her first child and on a bright sunny morning in April, she decided to take a bus to her doctor’s appointment.
And on that day, her life changed forever.
Suzanne Segal thought she had ended her journey. The Flow of Life knew differently.
That morning, it reconnected with her in a powerful way.
There is an important lesson here. In the Journey of Self-Fulfilment you retain control.
In the Journey to Enlightenment you relinquish control.
Who then is in control?
As your Hero let go of control, you start to feel your life move along on its own. Where once you pushed, you are are now being pulled.
You find that the things you need suddenly start to show up in your life as if by magic.
Frequently they show up before you even realize that you need them. But when they enter your life, you quickly recognize them as something that is important for you.
The moment of awakening isf the point at which your trajectory changes. But long before this, life has sensed your readiness, your hunger, to find out what is missing. When life knows that you are sincerely committed, it moves in to gently guide your way.
The structural shift that Suzanne experienced that morning in Paris was the disintegration of her “me”-centered consciousness. When that fell away, she found herself emerging into universal consciousness.. She awakened into a whole new perspective on who she was and the nature or her reality.
It would take years for her to piece together fully her new life.