7 Things that No One Tells You About Spiritual Awakening
Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay
The Light Shows More than You Want to See
When you start to become spiritually aware of your own self you see things that you didn’t see before. It’s as if you’ve been living in a dark room all your life and suddenly someone has turned on the light.
This enhanced clarity seems good. But it doesn’t mean that the mess in the room will be cleared automatically. At first, it feels that higher awareness brings with it more challenges.
But those challenges were always there, you just didn’t want to see them. These challenges present themselves only when we’re ready to face them.
In other words, you kept ignoring the mess in the room either because you didn’t know it existed or you weren’t ready enough to face it. At any rate, it can be overwhelming often to see all these things that you need to work on. But that’s natural and happens with everyone.
Awareness precedes progress. Once we’re aware of our shortcomings, we can work on them. This initial period seems daunting at first and is hardly talked about.
Spiritual awakening is often supposed to come with peace, calmness, and more joy. And it does. But there are still such uncomfortable feelings we need to go through before we can be at peace with ourselves.
What we need to do is not loathe ourselves for the junk in the room. We were just lost before and didn’t know any better. Instead, we should surrender to the Infinite and then work on clearing that junk with a sense of calm detachment.
We get rid of our faults not through denial but through acceptance.
The Second Birth
In ancient Indian traditions, many Brahmins and spiritual seekers are called “Dvija.” It’s a Sanskrit word that means “twice-born.” The reason behind two births is simple — we’re born for the first time physically and we’re born a second time spiritually.
Traditionally this second birth is associated with a ritual of passage that initiates a person into a school for Vedic studies. This outer ceremony, however, is a mere symbol of what’s going on inside a person.
Just as we come to terms with new spiritual realities, we start to let go of our older identities and worldviews.
If you’ve had such an experience, you’d know that suddenly everything about yourself and the world changes. The definitions you held close now seem meaningless and the false identifications fall away.
Earlier I used to think of myself as an academic achiever, then an entrepreneur, then a marketer, then a writer, and so on. But after realizing the spiritual nature of life, I just am.
You may also find your interests changing drastically. For instance, many spiritual seekers I know stop going out with their friends, partying, watching movies, or just “chilling.”
It’s not that you’re suddenly “above all that”. It’s just that you can’t relate to your old ways of thinking, even though you’ve spent years in the same thought patterns. This brings me to my next point.
The First Thing That Changes
As our priorities in life change, and we stop having “fun” in the way most people around us do, we can’t help but spend less time with our friends and family.
This is the immediate change that happens when a person feels a spark of spiritual awakening inside them.
Going to a simple lunch often seems a burden to me. I love my friends and family, but if given an option, I wouldn’t want to be in the kind of vibrations they emit.
This may seem brutal but again, is extremely common. When I found a spiritual community, the difference in my happiness levels with them and with my usual friend circle became glaringly apparent.
When I spoke to a fellow spiritual seeker he told me his story of coming to the spiritual path. When he joined the community, he used to still take time out to visit his friends and try to spend time with them. Gradually, however, it started feeling like a burden.
Even though he loved his friends, they weren’t going where he wanted to go. So eventually, he just stopped hanging out with them.
The kind of company we keep shapes who we are. And when we want something different for ourselves, it makes no sense to be with people who will pull us down consciously or otherwise.
Freedom Comes with Confusion
As my self-definitions started falling off, I became freer. Free from societal and familial expectations. Free from personal ambitions that narrowed my path in life.
Since a young age, I’ve been ambitious and driven. By the time high school ended, I had a clear vision to be an entrepreneur. And I made quite a few attempts toward that goal. Some failed and a couple succeeded. Still, something was lacking.
And that lack was filled by a rise in spiritual awareness soon after I started meditating. That awareness made me realize how my ambitions, which I thought were mine, were actually based on outer expectations.
This realization gave me the freedom to rewrite my life. Yet, as wonderful as it sounds, it’s also dreadful and confusing.
If you could do anything, what would you do? How would you free yourself from your current life structure and form a new one?
This confusion is natural and will remain with you for some time. Gradually, as you start to accept your situation wholeheartedly, you’ll be able to take a step in the right direction.
“Holier Than Thou”
This is one of the most common pitfalls of a spiritual awakening — pride and ego. Once we find ourselves on a new path, it’s easy to think we’re better than others just because we meditate or follow spiritual teachings.
In simple words, we hang the “Holier than Thou” sign on our necks. It’s easy to judge people for their actions that you too once used to indulge in but now have outgrown.
You may have the urge to shout on the streets, “This is all a delusion; Come be enlightened!” just to get others to be on the same level as you.
However, instead of helping you transcend your ego, it will pull you down deeper into egotism. The way to get out of it is to serve others with empathy.
To realize that they are also lost like you once were and haven’t yet found the light. Everyone has their own spiritual journey to go through. No one is “ahead” or “behind” someone. We’re just on our own path.
When some of my friends drink or smoke, I have an urge to judge them and label them as “unenlightened.” But I avoid that by reminding ourselves that some people are just ignorant — just like I was.
Everyone is chasing happiness. Some people find it in a drink and others find it within themselves. We all our souls on a journey to Self-Realization. This leaves no reason to judge someone by their actions.
Empathize with them, don’t get dragged down to their level, and be free in your heart.
Past The Honeymoon
Many people refer to the starting phase of the spiritual path as the “honeymoon.” It’s when you feel overjoyed, perhaps have some spiritual experience, start to feel happy all the time, and see things improve in your life.
Sooner or later that euphoria starts to war off because you realize there’s a lot of work to be done. This is where the real work begins. At this stage, we can see those who are serious and those who are not.
The serious ones will continue to work on themselves and refine their consciousness. Others will not be able to take on that challenge and may go back to their old patterns of living.
The challenge with this phase is that it feels lonely and hard. But we can find solace in the fact that everyone goes through it. We all have to peel the layers of false definitions, habits, and tendencies to let the light within us shine.
Don’t leave your spiritual practices at this point. You should do them with more fervor. Meditate, pray, chant, practice affirmations, etc. Just like the enemy in a video game gets bigger with every level, you’ll face bigger challenges on the spiritual path.
Your spiritual practices and your love for God are your weapons to defeat your inner demons.
Feeling Like an Imposter
We often have unreal expectations of a spiritual awakening. One day, we’ll get up, our third eye will open and we’ll pack our bags to go meditate in a Himalayan cave.
In reality, even though you’ll go through profound inner changes, your life will look the same from the outside. You’d be doing the same things you did daily but something inside will constantly poke at your soul.
That feeling will remind you who you truly are. And being caught up in this battle, you’ll be confused about your identity for some time. You will wish to change your outer circumstances but that will take time.
You will want to align your inner and outer lives but until you do that, you’ll feel like a spiritual imposter. You may think that pursuing the “spiritual stuff” is useless.
Even though you don’t see it now, this seeming contradiction is what life is all about. Over time, you will learn to integrate your inner realities with the kind of life you lead. With increasing calmness, peace, and love.
In the movie Zen, when Dogen Zenji experiences enlightenment, his teacher tells him “Dogen forget that you’ve achieved enlightenment.” Buddhists often say,
“Before enlightenment, cut wood and fetch water. After enlightenment, cut wood and fetch water”.
This means that your outer life is not real. It’s a Cosmic Dream. Your inner life is what matters.
Spiritual progress is a slippery slope. It has multiple facets that one fails to see. Contrary to what most people believe, it’s one of the most challenging journeys that we can step on.
Yet, at the same time, it’s so natural because our souls remember that state of Cosmic Consciousness from which it originated. So don’t be disheartened by any of these aspects I mentioned.
There will always be challenges until at last, we rest in the Supreme Presence, free from duality. Only in that state, can permanent joy exist. Everything else is just a delusion.