Tom, you say
I suppose there is no way to know except within oneself whether the “shift” has taken place, or is real or illusory. Perhaps the degree of suffering one experiences is a good indicator.
I so much agree! We know when we know, self-knowledge is a process of maturation of the realization of one’s true identity. Suffering is definitely only tied to specific form, be it subtle (thought) or gross (body). That is why, in my experience, learning to let go of identification with whatever arises within consciousness- thoughts, emotions, experiences… all of it… letting go of all that is the fastest way to remember who/what I am, which is not the person 🙂
Just like you describe- knowing, experiencing reality in oneself and all brings profound awe. It’s another kind of awe than being “in awe” over a new device, theory or dress though, and one has to have experienced it to understand the difference. Rumi put it so well when he wrote “By God, when you see your beauty you will be the idol of yourself”.