“Growing up is waking up is growing up” is my life’s passion. To me, “growing” and “waking” are quite interdependent. Here’s how:

Growing Up

By “growing up” I mean the developmental phases we go through in our lives. Most of us can see this happening with babies. When they are born they can’t walk, or talk though they are fully formed humans. As they grow up, and develop they change in several ways. Their body grows larger, but so does their mind’s capacity. They recognize people they know. They begin to learn words and they know what they like and don’t like. In other words, their bodies and their minds both grow, and develop. So ‘development’ means all aspects of growing up including body and mind.

At some point the body stops growing, though it continues to change through the years. However, most often the mind doesn’t stop growing. People can continue to develop and grow their ways of thinking and feeling, and their capacity to relate to others all their adult lives.

Waking Up

The second part of the phrase “Growing up is Waking up is Growing up” alludes to another process. Waking up means “to become cognizant or aware of something, and it usually begins with a “state”. Can we become more and more aware as we develop? Waking up seems to happen right now, in our experience, with “aha/surprise” moments bringing us insight. In my experience, those insights, it seems, can help us make sense of things we don’t understand.

There is much research to show how babies become more and more “awake” to their experiences and their awareness grows. For example, a baby, at first, doesn’t know that their arms are a part of who they are. As they begin to focus on parts of themselves they get feedback (they can feel their hand in their mouth for example so they make a connection between their mouth and their hand). Through experience, they become “aware” of various parts of their body being part of their physical self. Later, as they grow, they become aware of their interior seeing (visualization) and inner hearing, which comes on line between the ages 2, and 4 for most children. Still later they become aware that other people can see them. This growing capacity to wake up can also continue throughout our lives.

Growing Up is Waking Up

These two terms, “growing up” which speaks to how people develop through their childhood and adult hood, and “waking up” which speaks to how “states” help humans become aware as they develop, seem quite connected. As we grow, we learn, and in order to learn we must learn to zoom in and focus our attention at times, and at other times we need to learn to zoom out (be aware) in order to see the larger picture. The very process of development itself, (growing up) seems to support our waking up as well, so that “growing up is waking up.”

Waking Up is Growing Up

But is the reverse also possible? Can our waking up practices and our engagement with and experience with states help us to grow up as well? It seems that many states precede our developmental stages. For example one early state is that of visualization. This is a very important function to make ordinary for it is a large basis of our memory, which supports our growing up. But at first, visualization comes in the form of a state…it comes before the stage that requires that visualization is an ordinary experience. At first visualization, or our interior pictures can’t be differentiated from external reality (i.e., imaginary playmates). But eventually, these visualizations become so ordinary that they help to create and become a fundamental part of the second person perspective. We can trace other states to their support of developmental stages as well.

“Growing up is Waking up is Growing up”, seems to express the interdependence between states and stages very well.

A much more detailed paper on this topic, The Senses: Demystifying Awakening, is available on the Resources page.


Much gratitude to the artists whose images appear on this page!