You could call it a chance event. What is chance? It is something that we do not control. It is something that happens of itself. It is something that happens not due to an act of our will.
Awakening is like this. Awakening happens of itself…not due to an act of our will. Awakening is a seeing through the illusion of “me”, but what can an illusory “me” do to see through itself? Any act of will by the “me” only reinforces the illusion of a “me”. We do not control awakening or make it happen…awakening just happens of itself.
This is like when we are trying to fall asleep. We do not will ourselves asleep. We do not really control when we fall asleep. What can we do? We can darken the room, close the door and windows to keep noise out, lie down and get comfortable, etc. We can only set the mood…so to speak. Then sleep comes to us…sleep happens of itself.
You will find that the more you want to fall asleep, often this is what keeps you from falling asleep. Instead you are thinking about how much you want to or need to fall asleep, but you just can’t fall asleep. Actually, thinking about anything too much…the problems of the day…the things that need to be done tomorrow…seems to ward off sleep. It keeps you awake. So you might try to let go of the past and future…and just rest. Before you know it, you fall asleep.
You don’t know when or how sleep comes. We don’t control when we will fall asleep. You can’t say I will cause myself to sleep this second…and fall asleep. It doesn’t work that way. In this way, you could call falling asleep a chance event.
As a chance event, there are things you can do to improve the odds of the happening. Again, if you want to fall asleep…what do you do? For me, I go to my bedroom, close the curtains, undress, lay down in bed, get comfortable, and keep still and remain peaceful. Sleep comes to me quickly.
What could we do to make awakening more likely to happen?
We can be present…100% devoted to the experience of now. This diminishes or ends thought. Silence of mind is conducive to awakening. Just be still, be quiet, be present. You could formally do this at certain times of the day. It is meditation. In Zen, it is called “just sitting”. But you could also consciously walk, consciously eat, consciously wash the dishes, consciously mow the lawn, etc. Really, any action can be done as meditation. Which just means doing the action being 100% devoted to the experience of that action in the here and now. When you eat…just eat…don’t think about what you have to do after dinner.
We can also investigate our minds and inquire into who/what we are. Basically, we are putting the light of awareness and consciousness on beliefs, thoughts, feelings, etc. With clarity of sight, we can see through the illusions of the mind and dispel ignorance. I am not saying try to change anything nor resist anything…just look at it – deeply. With deeply seeing something comes understanding; with understanding, things change on their own. I am also not saying you need to dig up and look for issues either; whatever presents itself in the here and now…look at that. If worry or some other form of suffering arises, you can investigate, inquire, and delve into it. Look for its roots…look for the source. Often it comes back to a “me”, which then the light of awareness and consciousness can be put on the “me” and just look at that.
We may also take on an attitude of unconditional acceptance and surrender…or perhaps more accurately an attitude of non-resistance and non-denial. Granted, this could be an egoic activity…an activity of a “me” – “me” trying to accept and “me” trying to surrender. However, it does not have to be an egoic activity if you are ceasing to resist and ceasing to deny. Resisting and denying is the ongoing egoic activity…but ceasing to resist and ceasing to deny are ceasing ongoing egoic activities. It does not become a new ongoing egoic activity. Doing nothing is not egoic. You can talk and clap your hands…making noise and therefore filling silence with sound, but if you cease talking and cease clapping your hands…silence is not an egoic activity – you don’t create or produce silence. Egoic activity requires effort and a “me” to do it, so you are looking for where you are making the effort and ceasing to make effort. Silence was always there, if we just cease doing/efforting. Likewise, if you cease resisting and denying, then acceptance and surrender is automatic and always present. Acceptance and surrender is non-egoic and non-efforting…resisting and denying takes effort and is egoic.
Lastly, we can associate with those who awakened and those who seek awakening. Really, associating with any peaceful, loving, truthful, joyful, or harmonious people does help. There is a resonance and harmonization that takes effect. Who we hang around with does effect who we are and our thoughts quite a bit. So if you hang out with heart centered bhaktas and chant kirtans…there is an uplifting you do get from the association. If you hang out with very peaceful souls, you will find you are more likely at peace. I believe this is one of the reasons that the Buddha put so much emphasis on the sangha. We help each other. Not only in knowledge or pointers, but energetically. There are many stories of people coming to satsang and feeling at peace or finding that thought stopped or whatever. Although it goes away when they go home and resume normal life, it does point to temporary upliftment due to the company. Associating with those who embody love, truth, harmony, or unity will always be of help.
These are some of the ways to set the mood (so to speak) for awakening to happen on its own.