Spiritual Awakening For Modern Seekers: A Beginner’s Guide To Enlightenment
The following 5-part blog series is an attempt to demystify what, for a lot of us, remains shrouded in some kind of vague fog, both in our own minds as well as on the internet-o-sphere: the famous concept of ‘Spiritual Awakening’.
From my own experience, having a little bit of background knowledge and understanding can bring greater peace, compassion and ease on this rollercoaster that is the path of awakening.
This series might very well come quite in handy for some of you as you navigate the seas of intense change, and perhaps reassure others that no, you are NOT going crazy. It might also explain a bit the ‘WTF!?’ state of the world that we are currently experiencing.
The information I present here is pieced together from my own journey, and from the experiences of those I have been serving over the past few years. While it’s hard to convey in writing the incredible beauty of a spiritual awakening, I will do my best to do so.
In all cases, by the end of it I hope you’ll be able to kind of understand what it actually is, what it might look like, and get a glimpse of it for yourself.
Here’s what we’re going to be covering:
What is a ‘Spiritual Awakening’?
The different forms and symptoms of an awakening
The path of awakening
The impact and result of an awakening
Some useful and recommended tools
What is a ‘Spiritual Awakening’?
Let's begin by defining what we’re talking about. You’ve seen the hashtag (#awakening y’aaaall!) and the memes on Instagram, but what the h*** is it? What do we actually mean when we talk about ‘awakening’? And is it the same as enlightenment?
There is a liiiittle bit of a mystery surrounding this concept. Many spiritual types (myself included), have up until now had a certain idea about how we should be talking about spirituality if we want to be taken seriously: think long white beard, flowing robes, flower necklaces and an ability to sit in lotus position for months on end.
And yet monks, mystics and hermits no longer have the monopoly on spiritual wisdom. Plain-clothes Seekers like you and me are fast becoming the ‘new normal’. The vast shift in consciousness that is happening on our planet at this point in time is triggering spiritual awakenings everywhere. Minds are being blown left, right and center, faster than Champagne corks on New Years Eve (if you listen carefully you can even hear them pop).
And since us Modern Seekers are in with the kids and down with the crowds (and tend to use iPhones and Netflix), it means we’re able to translate this ancient and sacred wisdom into relatable, understandable and applicable ways, while going beyond the social-media-friendly #awakening soundbites and dive into the very experience itself.
A few definitions
As case in point, I thought I would start with the following definition listed on no other but the Urban Dictionary:
“Spiritual awakening refers to a shift in consciousness, an apperception (i.e perceiving that you are perceiving) of a reality which had been previously unrealised. The culmination of such realisations is in the recognition of oneness with all of existence.”
So in a nutshell, according to the Urban Dictionary, a spiritual awakening is a process of recognising that:
That there are many levels of reality and consciousness beyond your current one
At the deepest level of reality, you are one with the entire universe
The awakening path, in my experience, is exactly that: a process of expanding beyond your limited and separate sense of self and accessing higher levels of consciousness, including connecting with the Divine/God/Spirit within us and in all things.
Different levels of reality
Did you notice how I said ‘at the deepest level of reality’? Because indeed, there are many levels, all interweaving and impacting each other.
For simplicity, I like to use the shamanic medicine wheel, in which the four directions represent four levels of reality which we need to navigate, from the ‘Earth’ level of paying our bills to the ‘Spirit’ level of true bliss and oneness. According to its wisdom, for true balance and wholeness we need to access, embody and integrate all the different levels.
This is important to remember in order to remain truly grounded: recognising that you are one with the universe is wonderful, but even as an awakened being, you still have to pay your bills, feed your body and get angry at your wifi provider. You still need to know how to navigate the world of form. The difference is, you no longer identify or attach yourself to it.
A wonderful example of this is the Dalai Lama: when asked what makes him angry, he unwaveringly reeled off a list of things that did.
Awakening = accessing higher levels of reality
What happens during the awakening process is that you begin to recognise that although your bills, body and frustrations look (and feel) very real, they are at their absolute and deepest level expressions of the ‘Spirit’ level.
In effect, you embark on a process in which you remember, experience and then identify more and more with what the absolute level: pure energy and consciousness.
As you do so, you begin to recognise that the world you live in (absolutely everything in it, including your own ‘self’ identity), as real as it seems and feels, is actually an expression of energy, an idea of consciousness, a temporary figment of your imagination.
In shamanic cultures, they even refer to this earth-plane as a dreamworld, and that we are all ‘dreaming our world into being’. We are turning formlessness into form through every thought, word and action.
The illusion of the separate self
If we were to distill an awakening into its purest essence, it would be the recognition of the illusion of separateness. Academic Charles Eiseinstein calls this the ‘Story of Separation’, on which all of our current societal structures are based upon. A story and illusion imprinted on us from a very, very young age.
Through the awakening process, we allow ourselves to access more of our true Self: the one infinite being that is the Divine/God/Spirit.
In doing so, the illusion of separation dissolves: we let go of our identification with the our external reality, ie. with our bank accounts, families and bodies. We forego our attachment to our separateness, and all of the pain and suffering this story causes.
It is a deeply internal journey: in our external reality we are still limited by the boundaries of time and space (things like walls and deadlines). But within, there is an inner freedom, space, knowing and beauty.
Is awakening the same as enlightenment?
Even though according to Wikepdia they are one and the same thing, the biggest difference between the two is in the word itself: awakening is a verb and hence a process, while enlightenment is a noun, and hence a state.
A spiritual awakening is the gradual (or accelerated in some cases) shift of your identification from a limited and separate self to a formless and endless being, one with all of existence.
Enlightenment, in contrast, is the state of living from that truth.
Is your mind-blown yet? If so, great, we’ll explore what happens during an awakening in part 2.