Satori {悟り}

~ Here, I wish to muse upon a word, an idea, a feeling. One and the same, truly. I think to try my hand at elucidating it is to partly experience its effects —OR maybe have it escape comprehension altogether . For to try to explain it, may dispel it. I cannot know until I try. And even if I do my best job to describe its emotive quality, its true meaning to me may slip past unnoticed nevertheless. This is only my interpretation after all. And it does have a kind of transcendent meaning, which raises the stakes. All the more reason to try. ~

Satori {悟り} ~ is a Japanese Buddhist term for awakening, “comprehension; understanding.” … In the Zen Buddhist tradition, satori refers to the experience of kenshō, “seeing into one’s true nature”. Ken means “seeing,” shō means “nature” or “essence.

To further understand it and describe it, I have co-opted the term to appraise a feeling I’ve had. It’s a specific feeling, one I have had many times. I would be surprised if others haven’t experienced it as well, in their own ways, without knowing it or naming it. In the precision of the feeling’s power and meaning {not necessarily its content}, and my examination of my direct experience with it, I might just be able to lift the veil off the esoteric candor surrounding the term. It’s also certainly possible, in my personalized understanding of satori, I will further abstract it, or destroy it, or misname it to my own crude ends that have nothing to do with its telos. You might just disagree that these feelings exist at all, for anyone. Perhaps. It’s up to you to decide that. This musing follows my own nascent exploration into worlds of the fictional, spiritual, psychoanalytical, mythological, historical as well as mindful observations and experiences of my own, over my short life.

For me, satori is an unexpressed name given to a feeling I experienced long before I knew of such a word as enlightenment, or any other word, or the concept of a concept. In short, satori is a name for the nameless. As conscious creatures moving about in the universe, I believe we are experiencing small glimpses of its presence all the time.


I present four examples, without context {initially}:

~ You are reading a book, the words of another. Doesn’t matter what kind or by whom. Somewhere along the way, within the reading, the author draws together language, concept, and/or character in such a way that makes you stop. You stop reading, and your eyes are momentarily drawn away from the words. But not from the painting being pitched midway in your mind, or its meaning, to you. Maybe it’s a revelatory turn in the storyline, or just a riveting quote. Maybe a grand point was just made, the author’s thesis— or your own, summoned from the subtext of the things that author has left unsaid. Perhaps the words form a strange brew of emotional qualia contrasting a situation quite personal to you, from past or present, which draws you into a rumination of your shadow self’s transformative machinations upon your life’s road. Alternatively, all this occurs when you face a painting. In the words, or the image, either way —something is happening. Any way you were going, you stop, and now you are there.

~ You are walking along a path within a woods. It’s day, or it’s night. You are alone, or you are with a group. It’s a bit too cold, and despite your layers, you are uncomfortable. It’s a bit too hot, and in your ranging over these hours, you are uncomfortable. At a signifying moment independent of all else going on, a ray of sun/moon light glances between the branches of a tree and strikes your perception. A mysterious animal, going noticed or unnoticed, stares you down from the shadows just off the trail. A sudden stream of a wayward wind kicks through your party’s traversal up or down a slope. A soundful slam of a fallen tree in the distance, a howl from a wolf, a call of a bird. Somehow, in some way, you are given this moment in the walk. And the resulting sensation makes you stop. It changes your consciousness into a reflection upon nothing but it. You don’t know what it is or what it means, but you know it’s important, somehow, some way. Any way you were going, you stop, and now you are there.

~ You are in a fight, or a negotiation. It is with a loved one, or a hated foe. Maybe it started as a conversation and necessarily escalated into a match of heated shouts and forceful, pointed jabs and barbs of insightful verbosity. Maybe it is part seven in a thousand part series, an ongoing conflict of language and eventually, physicality, and then, the absence of one or more parties. Ground is made and lost. Words are said that cannot be unsaid. You continue speaking them because the conflict matters to you. You need to say your peace. You need this other person to understand because you love them / hate them. You keep going with the battle, despite its corrosive, corrupting, contradictory effects upon your spirit, because you need to win. You keep at the negotiation, despite the complexity, the ambiguity, the uncertain conclusions for you and yours, because you want to win. At some point within the fight and the negotiation, something is said by the other party — or it is said by you— and it makes you stop. Everything within the conflict has led up to this being said, whatever it is — it transmutes the grounds, shifting the engagement anew. Now the conflict must be waged with new terms and objectives, ones that the parties may or may not be able to effectively navigate. In all likelihood, these words end it altogether. Maybe the distinction between winner and loser still matters to the combatants, probably they do not. Any way you were going, you stop, and now you are there.

~ You set yourself to creating something. During the beginning, middle, and end of this process, there are a multitude of “Any way you were going, you stop, and now you are there” ’s.

There = satori.

These examples are meant to illustrate moments of consciousness that I would name satori.

~ Satori is about experience; satori sources from being present in the moment.

~ Satori makes one feel more alive, it gives one’s experience newfound meaning.

~ Satori is a revelatory meeting between the world outside you with the world inside you.

~ Satori always happens involuntarily, but is never unwelcome; paradoxically, it hits perforce but without force.

~ Satori are those moments — when you see, hear, feel something — and in reaction, your only possible proclamation is to think or say — “Damn. That’s true.” This may or may not be a ‘good’ revelation for you, persay. But either way, it carries weight, it’s powerful, it’s true.

~ Satori is a moment that quiets the mind like nothing else, awakening the soul to some sort of quintessential spiritual reckoning. Or just brings to you a flash of mindfulness, a second of bliss, the purposeful pain of a realization long past due. Anything dealing with the truth.

~ Satori is a single step towards enlightenment.

Satori defines Truth, experienced. It strikes when one beholds capital T— Truth — suddenly and unabashedly, from direct contact with it. Helplessly, you just sit in a reflection of what is being shown to you via one or more of your sensory and/or sacred faculties. For a cosmic instant, there is nothing to calculate or judge or consider beyond the moment of satori itself. The moment is effortlessly developed under the categorically {cosmic} imperative — being treated as an end and not a means to anything else. It just is. And so are you, for the moment.

“Any way you were going, you stop, and now you are there.”

It arises freely within the domain of your consciousness. But the seeds of its growth, the material components of its coalescence, were within you, unconsciously, before its destined arrival. It comes together now only as a result of this experience; whatever it may be, for you, it’s important. Why? Who knows. Regardless of reason, a sliver of ultimate self-awareness beckons you for a spell. What to do with it? Maybe nothing. Does it matter? Yes. But one has to explore how it matters. Or not. Mayhap it doesn’t matter. It melds the light of your consciousness with the darkness of your unconsciousness, a start to the formation of your individuated tao. One could deign to say satori provides a fleeting glimpse into enlightenment;fleeting” perhaps because Man is not meant for prolonged exposure to it, to Truth, to the stuff of “All-is-One.”

Of course, the true meaning behind the moment is formless, shaped only in introspection and only potentially; it may not come together at all for you. I do not go into detail to describe the revelatory Truth being revealed from the above examples because I do not know what it is. I know what the feeling might be, but only for myself, and it is crucially indescribable in all the ways that matter. It is always differentiated to each person taking it in. Individually, satori comes about entirely depending on the person, their past, their attention, their own singular subconscious makeup, fears and ideals and all else. In an exchange, the word or action triggering satori will be different for each person, or the resulting experiential consequences of it will be. Action, changes in the character of one’s mind or body, anything at all— may or may not follow the experience. Satori might just be the “Damn. It’s true.” And that’s all there is to it. Maybe that does all the work. Maybe there is no ‘work’ done. Maybe satori is an end and a means. Maybe satori is nothing, as in no-thing. All of this is {probably} true.

Satori is just the beginning, I think.

Alan Watts {the 🐐} might’ve likened satori to spontaneous laughter. For example, we all inherently understand the truest experience of a joke comes only the one way. When a joke is explained, one might laugh out of politeness. More likely, there is no laugh. One achieves a true belly laugh only out of the spontaneous experiencing of a joke, as a natural outgrowth of conscious experience.

The truest experience of satori comes in this way. You cannot recreate it — it must be like an awakening, a transient moment, built out of a combination of factors within our consciousness that is uniquely formed then and there.

By its nature, a peek into enlightenment cannot be recreated.


I don’t use “enlightenment” lightly here. I mean what I am saying. But I also don’t mean to say I am enlightened, or that I experience satori, this thing I call the “step towards enlightenment,” often enough to make me a noteworthy person. I couldn’t lay out to someone how to consciously ’seek out’ satori. {I think embarking on such a design might very well dispel all traces of it}. I cannot even describe to someone the nature of these own moments within my consciousness {outside of the general description above}, my first experience with something like satori {probably my first words as an infant}, or even the last time it might’ve happened to me {probably a dozen times during the last book I read, or twice the last time I walked outside}. But of course, these aspects are not the purpose of this musing. If you have gotten this far awaiting such answers, and nothing above has resonated, then perhaps I have failed. I do not write these words, my ‘musings,’ elucidating my understanding of my fascinations here with any certitude. In fact, in thinking and in writing, I am certain of nothing; self-expression doesn’t deal in certitudes. I believe it tangos much more closely with sheer uncertainty than anything else.

The point here being: I posit these moments of profound meaning —satori— exist for all. Across time and space, I have come to know satori in my readings, contemplations, conversations, travels, and all manner of interactions between my personal conscious/unconscious realm and the world outside of it. My hypothesis based on my own experience. And I am nothing close to well-traveled, nor do I consider myself well-versed in anything outside of my own mind {and there’s a ton of unexplored territory in here, trust me}. Thus, I can deduce that if I have experienced satori in spite of my inexperience and ignorance, then it is likely others wielding consciousness do too. Satori is simply the name I have put to this phenomena, from my conscious readings of Zen and likely from unconscious biases too. The name others assign to such a feeling might be necessarily different. Simply call it inspiration, insight, novelty, nothing more than a new idea. Perhaps the feeling should remain nameless, it’s inarticulate power shrouded in the esoteric out of necessity, unbounded by any definitive understanding.

But I believe if there is anything that approaches universality, across persons, cultures, and times, it’s something like this. It is a natural product of our conscious minds, our ultimate many-headed hydra of sensation, judgment, and experience. We are destined, condemned, always en route — to think, feel and understand, to adventure with novelty, to recognize and realize, to dance and to sing, to embrace, empathize, love. We are destined for satori, call it the masterstroke of our consciousness. And by way of {cosmically} poetic justice, there is no way to deliberately draw it forth. Satori originates from only one place, and always without expectation. This is probably the source of its power. It comes only from experience. Going, doing, creating, sharing, suffering, living. So please pay no heed to the man behind its curtain —there is no One there. ~

{Linguistic} satori ~

~ “A Man’s character is his fate.” ~ Heraclitus

~ “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” ~ Seneca

~ “Man is the only creature who refuses to be what he is.” ~ Albert Camus

~ “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” ~ Joseph Campbell

~ “With great power, comes great responsibility.” ~ Uncle Ben / Spider-Man

~ “Only hope can give rise to the emotion we call despair. But it is nearly impossible for a man to try to live without hope, so I guess that leaves Man no choice but to walk around with despair as his companion.” ~ Shinji Obara

{Visual} satori ~

The Great Wave off Kanagawa, Katsushika Hokusai
Traveller Above the Mists, 1818, by Caspar David Friedrich
Starry Night, 1889, Van Gogh

{Audiovisual} satori ~

Sonder: The Realization That Everyone Has A Story
The Philosopher’s Mixtape, Vol. I
Garden of Light – ISIS x Robot Carnival
The Dream of Life – Alan Watts
You Are It – Alan Watts Chillstep