What is a Spiritual Awakening?
A spiritual awakening is the process of letting go of your ego, and waking up to a bigger picture of what you really are.
From a spiritual perspective, the ego is a collection of automatic thoughts, memories and desires. We mistakenly believe that we are those thoughts and emotions, thinking them to be our ultimate reality.
But every thought, memory or desire arises from a space which is infinite and limitless being.
Spiritual awakening might be more accurately described as a spiritual awakening process, which doesn’t all happen in one go. It’s more of a gradual letting go, allowing the expression and creativity of the soul to shine through you.
Spiritual Awakening Process
You’ve probably heard about the spiritual awakening process beginning with a sudden and intense experience, called a spontaneous or sudden spiritual awakening. It could be during meditation, while on drugs, or even caused by a seemingly unrelated event, like a car crash or other trauma.
These events are described as blissful, ecstatic unions with the divine, where time stands still, and the boundaries of space disappear. The ego dissolves, and you’re left with an experience of what you really are. It normally lasts for from a few seconds to a few hours, but it can be longer.
After this experience, you’ll have a taste of true reality. But it doesn’t end there, this is just the beginning. Now it’s time for the hard work of integrating your new perspective into your everyday life and relationships.
But a spiritual awakening isn’t always a dramatic affair.
It can also be a gradual process over many years. There may be no bells and whistles, just a gradual letting go of the ego, a slow release into your true nature. You see this with people who are steadily following a spiritual practice such as meditation, contemplation or working deeply on themselves through psychotherapy.
It can be such a gradual process that you won’t see any obvious short term shifts or changes. But when you look back over a few years, the progress is clear – you’re be calmer, more compassionate, and less likely to be triggered by people and circumstances.
“Some people awaken spiritually without ever coming into contact with any meditation technique or any spiritual teaching. They may awaken simply because they can’t stand the suffering anymore.”Eckhart Tolle
Am I going through a spiritual awakening?
You may be wondering if you’re going through a spiritual awakening.
If you have a deep longing for awakening, or a yearning to discover more about who you truly are, you’re awakening has started.
It can start with a sense of dissatisfaction and a feeling there must be more to life. Or it may be a burning desire to know the ultimate truth, becoming obsessed with questions such as ‘who am I?, or ‘whose is the voice that asks the questions?’
The awakening can also come about through the practice of opening the heart. It could be an intense love for a guru, singing or chanting mantras, and other devotional practices, including the study of music or art.
These longings normally lead to an exploration of meditation, yoga, or some other spiritual practice. All of these practices have one ultimate spiritual goal, which isn’t always talked about – letting go of the ego.
But how do you let go of something you don’t even know you’re holding onto?
Hopefully your spiritual practice is helping you to develop sensitivity so you can learn to listen to yourself and begin experiencing life on a more subtle level. It’s all about stepping back from your thoughts, and learning to observe them as a witness.
Soon you’ll realise that you’re not your thoughts.
So who are you if you’re not your thoughts?
Enquire into this, and you’ll notice the space from which the thoughts come from and disappear into.
Sounds complicated? It’s simple, but not easy for the mind to understand without experiencing it.
How long does a spiritual awakening last?
Once the spiritual awakening has begun, there’s no going back.
A trajectory has been set in motion which will involve a restructuring of everything we know from the physical body to the mind to how we conduct our lives.
The spiritual journey ahead can take many paths, it can take many years, even decades to unfold. It can be anything from volatile swinging between transcendent highs and the deepest depressions, to a gentle and serene transformation.
In particularly intense spiritual awakenings, there can be a type of existential crisis, as your sense of self, along with negative thought patterns rapidly dissolve.
You can become mentally unstable, and feel like you’re going crazy. This can be a precarious time, when its important to get spiritual counselling from someone who understands the process.
It’s important to cultivate an attitude of acceptance, knowing that whatever happens during your process is part of the spiritual awakening journey. Support from a spiritual teacher or from a transpersonal psychotherapist can be very helpful.
“The question ‘Who am I?’ is not really meant to get an answer, the question ‘Who am I?’ is meant to dissolve the questioner.”Ramana Maharshi
Integrating a spiritual awakening
If you’ve experienced a spontaneous or sudden spiritual awakening, you might at first wonder if you’ve achieved some sort of enlightenment, or undergone a radical transformation.
It will feel like that for a while – hours or even weeks. But eventually it fades, and you might be surprised at how little it penetrated into your personality.
You’ll need to do psychological work to integrate this spiritual experience into your long term spiritual awakening process.
This means paying special attention to how you respond to people and events.
How well are you managing to stay in that spacious place?
Are you finding yourself easily triggered, and pulled back to something more closed?
It takes work and reflection to observe your reactions in the world, and learn to recognise when your ego is closing off from spirit. The aim is to retrain the ego to live in service to the spirit.
Spiritual Awakening and trauma
In an ideal world, you’ll have had a long period of preparation before your spiritual awakening. This could include diet, body, and mental and emotional preparations.
This is one of the benefits of long retreats, or the guidance of enlightened spiritual teachers.
But many of us experience awakenings spontaneously, sometimes with no prior interest in spiritual matters. In some of these cases, without adequate preparation, a sudden spiritual awakening can be immensely challenging and frightening.
Powerful energies can cause fragmentation of the personality or psychosis, occasionally requiring some time in hospital to become stabilised.
The psychological work still needs to be done, and will include working through past trauma, integrating the shadow, and coming to terms with a new perspective on life.
What’s a spiritual bypass?
Something to watch out for during your spiritual awakening is a something called a spiritual bypass.
This is where you attain a certain level of spiritual awareness, without integrating it into your daily life. You’ll use meditation and the spiritual life to ‘bypass’ your worldly life.
All the traumas from your childhood, the relationship difficulties, issues with managing money are ignored.
This probably wouldn’t be too much of a problem if you lived on your own on a mountain top, but for the rest of us, living in society, it can be a real problem.
It’s easy to develop a spiritual ego, and imagine that because you’ve reached the heights in meditation, that you will automatically be better prepared in your worldly life.
Unfortunately this isn’t true, and it can be a surprise to the newly awakened.
There’s a spiritual line of development, and also a human line of development.
They’re related but not the same thing.
While you’re on the spiritual path, make sure you don’t neglect your human life, which means your psychological well-being, and how you interact with people.
After a spiritual awakening, it’s time to integrate what you’ve learnt into your everyday life. Psychotherapy with someone who understands the spiritual process is a great way to bring your insight into the world.
What do you have to offer the world?
“Enlightenment is nothing more than the complete absence of resistance to what is. End of story.”Adyashanti
Spiritual awakening vs Kundalini awakening
A spiritual awakening can be experienced in many ways.
It can also be explained in many ways, often depending on the spiritual tradition that the awakened person has come through.
Some traditions emphasise meditation, some practice opening the heart, mantra recitation, praying or contemplation. Spiritual awakenings in other traditions include Satori (Zen buddhism), Samadhi (vedanta or yoga).
One awakening style you may have heard of is called a kundalini awakening.
It’s practiced within the Hindu tradition of India, and involves meditation and the guidance of a spiritual master. In meditation, the meditator learns to raise their kundalini energy from its resting place at the base of the spine, through the chakras, eventually reaching the crown chakra.
The methods for directly raising kundalini where until recently, hard to come by, but are now easily accessible to anyone. With this explosion of information, comes potential dangers, as the body and mind need a period of preparation and strengthening for the increased energy flow.
Spiritual awakening and relationships
You may think that once you have a spiritual awakening, it will transform your personal relationships.
Its a nice thought, but unfortunately not exactly how it works in practice.
The life problems you had before the awakening will still be there. The conflicts with close family members, the challenge of having satisfying relationships, the search for love.
Sometimes the search for awakening can encourage an emotional detachment, making relationships even harder to navigate.
But after a spiritual awakening, you will experience relationships from a different perspective.
You’ll be more connected to your intuition. You might not take things so personally, or find yourself not getting triggered as much. This is where it can be really helpful to seek guidance from a therapist, in order to integrate the insights from your spiritual life, into the every day world.
Spiritual awakening signs
Spiritual awakenings are different for everyone, and can come with their own set of physical sensations and manifestations.
Spontaneous bodily movements can occur as energy moving around the body encounters blocks, or places of resistance. These can range from vigorous swings of the limbs to very subtle vibrations.
There’s so many reported mental and physical signs associated with an initial awakening, that it’s hard to make a specific list.
Some are positive, and some seemingly negative, ranging from a profound sense of heightened awareness and a deeper sense of inner peace, to mental health problems, such as brain fog, anxiety and depression.
Because everyone’s own their own path of personal transformation, very few people have the same experience.
You might have heard about enlightened spiritual masters of the past, and how they were permanently absorbed in states of ecstatic bliss, sometimes even unable to feed themselves without help.
This may be true, but there are certainly many enlightened beings who live ‘down to earth’ existences, quietly and contently living in alignment to their true selves as they humbly go about their daily lives.
They’ve developed a sensitivity and serenity which allows them to respond to their deepest intuition, finely balanced between their own needs and the needs of the people around them.
If you’re going through a spiritual awakening, and need some support, please get in touch.