Awakening from the dream of limited identity occurs outside the dream, outside of time. Our original condition, prior to the dream, IS only awakeness. Therefore, our “enlightenment” is sudden, tacit, implicit and already perfectly complete. And this awakening cannot be the result of individual effort. That is, it is not caused by any or all of our seeking, pushing, pulling, trying, struggling, warring, clinging, avoiding, or knowing. It is what we are, not anything that we can become.
Thus, you deeply awaken to the Great Process itself, not because of superior virtue or any specialness. You awaken without cause. Awakeness is reality, entirely uncaused (and therefore, not dependent on anything at all). You clearly intuit your true condition, and it is freedom.
The awakened mind admits of no levels or partial values within its Wholeness. Just as there are no degrees of pregnancy (“Mom, I’m sort of pregnant.”), there are no degrees of reality. Reality is only indivisibly total.
However, there are different degrees of stabilization of this awakening, and of the freedom and peace that accompany it. Some people wake up so fully (i.e., are so stable in their understanding) that they remain in a more or less transfigured condition once and for all (the Indian sage, Ramana Maharshi, comes to mind). But most of us fall into and out of the Heart of Wholeness; drawn back to separative identification with various phenomena in themselves. Very few awakenings are so stable that there are no further complications in relation to money, food and sex; the vital-life areas that cause most ego-entanglements.
Therefore, in most cases, moments of profoundly enlightened awareness and bliss come and go again and again; meanwhile the ongoing work is integration or personalization of the awakened heart-mind in daily life.
As Buddhist meditation teacher Jack Kornfield puts it, “After the ecstasy, the laundry.”