Initiation vs the Aha Moment

What is an aha moment? How does it compare to initiation?

An aha moment is a sudden stumbling into a deeper truth. Suddenly you see a connection previously unseen. Suddenly what made no sense, makes sense. An aha moment is a turnaround. Disliking someone for a certain quality and suddenly realizing you dislike yourself for that quality, is an aha moment. Not wanting to go somewhere or do something, but saying yes, going and enjoying yourself, qualifies as an aha moment. Solving a difficult problem upon waking up in the middle of the night with an answer, is an aha moment. Being shown a bigger picture that you missed seeing; realizing you were doing something incorrectly all the while, are aha moments.

Oprah makes a big deal about aha moments. On Oprah’s website Julia Louis-Dreyfus describes an aha moment she had upon listening to Bobby Kennedy, Jr. speak about the environment and how our caring for the environment bears on caring for our children. Her aha moment was the seeing of that connection and the realization that she had to do a lot more to support the environment.

Juliette Binoche also describes her aha moment on Oprah’s website. I didn’t bother reading it. I just like saying her name. She’s the new face of Lancome, in case you didn’t know.

For purposes of the nonduality work, an aha moment is the realizing of a connection with your sense of being, with your sense of existence. Suddenly you realize the importance of the apparent fact that you exist. That’s a real aha moment. I read in the New York Times that a woman had an aha moment upon realizing she didn’t need to live in a building with a doorman. O-kay. Unless the doorman was Eckhart Tolle in a diaper, we really don’t need to dwell on those kinds of aha moments.

An aha moment happens without apparent assistance. An aha moment is like spotting a rare bird in a tree.

Initiation is like someone pointing out to you where the rare bird is located. But you still can’t see it. So the initiator takes your head in hands and directs it toward the rare bird and also points in the exact direction and say, “See?!” And you see.

The initiation is more personal and powerful than the aha moment because the force of the hands on your head and the precisely pointing finger never leave. Therefore you have been shown and are forever guided. Initiations are always long-lasting. Aha moments may be long-lasting, but usually they are more superficial. Initiations strike you at the cellular level. They change you from deep within. Aha moments strike at the level of personality, feelings, emotions, mind, and aren’t as penetrating.

A depiction of the aha moment experience:

Aha moments are new directions. Initiations are redirections. Aha moments add to your inventory of spiritual experiences. Initiations discard a mess of spiritual experiences. Aha moments take you in many directions. Initiation takes you in a single direction. Aha moments form a rainbow. Initiation is a beam of white light. You can sell aha moments. No one really wants an initiation. Aha moments are fascinating. Initiation can be frightening, painful, and sickening, since there is often resistance to the process of initiation. Aha moments are usually pretty cool. Initiation isn’t cool. You can share an aha moment. It’s hard to talk about an initiation.

A depiction of the initiation experience (see the difference?):

That’s all I really wanted to show, the difference between an aha moment and an initiation. I tried to include at least one aha moment. And it’s all initiation, right? Every letter.

4 thoughts on “Initiation vs the Aha Moment

  1. Anonymous

    Would you describe an “aha moment” as an “epiphany?” The latter is less irritating to read. (I expect “Ah, hah!” to be spaced and punctuated to some extent and stumbled over it in the article without fail.)

    If not, why not?


  2. Jerry Post author

    Yes, the aha moment is an epiphany. which is defined as “a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.”

    Part of the work I do is to mix popular culture and nonduality. The term “aha moment” is definitely part of pop culture as are other topics in the article.


  3. Gerard Waters

    I really enjoyed this article, and both the question from Anonymous and as well the comment from Jerry – Thanks!

    I was in a visualization not to long ago in which I had the intent to take upon me the suffering of all beings of the kind of suffering that was apparent in all areas of Gerards life: A belief in inherent existence; a belief in a sepperate me, apart from the world and others and all phenomena in general. In this particular visualization, I recall what Shantideva states:

    “Should even all the gods and anti-gods
    Rise up against me as my enemies,
    They could neither lead nor place me
    In the roaring fires of the deepest hell.

    But the mighty foe, these disturbing [conceptions],
    In a moment, can cast me amist (those flames),
    Which when met will cause not even the ashes
    Of the king of mountains to remain.”

    That helped me remember that regardless of what I think is causing relative problems outside of me, in reality — there is no
    danger, no risk of relative danger outside of conditioned consciousness. But, in fact, it is the internal belief in mental conceptions and inherent existence that leads me to hell (mental hell.)

    As long as we are stuck with such notions of a “us and them” other than appearance wise, then there can be no freedom. So I can describe an AHA moment for me as one which has repeatedly shown me that there really is no solid “me” other then for the purpose of relative happenings.

    This also reminds me of this passage from one of the Dalai Lamas books, where he speaks on the True Nature Of Mind free from any garbage — that can be an AHA moment when realized:

    “Consciousness is like a crystal stone; while a crystal is resting
    on a colored surface, you cannot see the real untinted clarity of
    the crystal stone, but once you take the crystal away from the
    colored surface, you can perceive its actual clarity.

    He goes on to say:

    Luminosity, or the natural clarity of the mind, is something
    that I cannot fully explain to you in words. If, on the other hand,
    you undertake these experiments on your own, you will begin to
    understand through experience and will eventually be able to say,
    “Ah!” (or AHA) “That is the luminous nature of mind!”

    Thanks again Jerry, I’m really glad to have found your site!

    Love & Light,


  4. Jerry Post author

    Thank you, Gerard, for giving greater depth than I did to the AHA moment. Sorry about not responding to your comment sooner. For some reason, I haven’t been good about commenting on comments.



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