So... What is this thing called Aawakening, Realization, the First Step, the Gateless Gate? I can only speak from my own experience, that's all anyone ever has.
As I wrote in my last post, maybe some people have an awakening which wipes out all identifications, conditioning and old mental patterns in one go. That has not been the experience here, so I don't really know. The way I see it is:
Awakening has been the ignition of the fire of truth, a fire which burns
everything untrue. Everything which is not true or real gets burnt or drops away, some immediately, some slowly, till you're presumably left with nothing. (I say presumably, as I can see that I am not there :))
Starting from when one is an infant, the belief of being a separate entity from life is gradually created by our mind. Perhaps it is a default programming which is furthered developed by our parents, environment, language, etc. I think there is a default mechanism there, as I cannot imagine a child who is brought up away from society on its own wouldn't still develop the same illusory self. Who knows. As it is, we are taught that we are so and so, we are 'good' or 'bad', our personality is like this or that, we need to be special, ‘do well’, etc. Our self image develops along with our concepts, beliefs and use of language, creating an ever-thickening, constricting wall of 'me’. And our belief in a self becomes a deeply entrenched, unquestioned reality.
When this illusion is seen through, when it is seen that who we are is nothing more and nothing less than life living as these myriad unique manifestations, then a lot of this wall crumbles immediately; concepts and beliefs are dropped, our precious opinions seen as being nothing but thoughts that were believed in. ‘Our life’ as we knew it is seen to have been an imaginary reality in our heads!
However, some parts of this imaginary wall of self built over so many years are harder to burn away; old patterns of thoughts, some deeply entrenched conditioning or delusions remain. The mind is a tricky thing! Some of these identifications can be hard to see, and maybe even new ones develop. After all, the mind loves to have something to attach to, some identification. For example, one can get attached to the belief of being 'an enlightened person', or being superior, or becoming Awareness or the ‘Witness’. Perhaps these need to be consciously looked at, brought into the fire, so to speak, so they too can be burnt away, uprooted out of the system, or maybe life does it for us. Maybe we are happy with some parts of the structure remaining, or maybe it gets burnt to the ground anyway, until one is completely free.
And we are free to play our character again, free to rest in this wonderful unknowingness. Ego does not have to be destroyed, it is just seen for what it is, an illusion created by the mind.
This ‘burning down process' after awakening seems to be different for everyone in the sense of time, intensity, quality, the way it manifests, etc. Perhaps all the above is BS for you. Who knows for sure. I certainly don’t. As I said, all I have is my own experience to write about.