Spiritual Awakening for Modern Seekers (Part 2): Forms & Symptoms
The different forms and symptoms of an awakening
The following is part 2 of a 5-part series on Spiritual Awakenings. For part 1, click here.
The topic of Spiritual Awakening opens up a lot of questions. The next one that might spring into your rational mind is the dreaded ‘how’? How does it manifest? What does it look like? Is it something that happens in an instant, like being hit by lightening? Or something more gradual that slowly creeps up on you?
Two main forms
The truth is there are many different ways an awakening can manifest. The process varies greatly from person to person, ranging from gentle heart-openings to full-blown panic and anxiety attacks.
Some of the most radical (and talked about) spiritual awakenings are those of Jesus, Buddha, or Mohammed. Every single one of them went through a process of recognising their true divine nature, before sharing their newfound wisdom with the world. In most of their cases, what triggered their awakening was an intense encounter with the Divine (think talking bushes and glowing angels), i.e the sudden experience and recognition of a much higher level of consciousness.
In Zen Buddhism, this would be called a ‘Satori’ moment, a sudden awakening where the person becomes aware of a higher reality, and experiences a profound sense of liberation. This is like a full-out sprint, plugging straight into a new experience of the ultimate truth.
While this may certainly happen to us too, the majority of awakenings are a more gradual process of continuous learning and expansion through experience and insight. This is the path of ‘Kensho’, a process through which we are all evolving, and receiving various insights that are slowly pushing us towards the true self. In other words, a marathon where we learn from mistakes, sufferings and pain.
Most of us will experience a combination of Satori and Kensho throughout our lives. I remember for example the moment I was diagnosed with HIV in 2009 being a true Satori moment: the room slowing down, my heart opening, and a sense of Presence and inner knowing that all was unfolding exactly as it should.
First symptoms of awakening
As the energetic field of our Earth is changing, and as a result so is our own, more and more of us are experiencing Satori moments as well as an acceleration of our Kensho process, with life seemingly pushing us towards awakening.
You may first experience this as a sense that something isn’t quite right, that there’s something missing, like there’s a lot more to you and to life than meets the eye.
Some other possible ‘symptoms’ could also include:
a deep knowing that you are being called somewhere, but you're not sure where
not resonating with societal / cultural ways of doing or being
feeling a longing to be of service to others and the planet
an increasing need for solitude, silence, being in nature, meditating, etc
heightened sensitivity of your intuition and physical senses
a desire to form deeper relationships with people and nature
visions, dreams and premonitions that come true
a change in your diet and sleeping patterns
an urge to adopt more spiritual practices and lifestyle
More intense symptoms
These first symptoms are generally quite gentle, like a faint whisper inviting you to transform, or an itch that you need to scratch. These are what Joseph Campbell names our ‘Call to Adventure’ in the Hero’s Journey mythology. I like to think of them as our ‘Call to Awakening’: an inner knowing of our true nature, even though on a personality level we cannot put it into words.
However if you fail to listen to them and heed the first call, that little voice gets louder and louder, until more intense and in-your-face events manifest, like an illness, a near-death experience, being made redundant or the death of a loved one. This is basically the equivalent of screaming down a megaphone for you to wake up and recognise the truth.
You see, that is the infinite beauty and intelligence of life: it is always moving you toward the direction of your true nature. So when needed it will manifest events to accelerate that movement, bringing to an abrupt end jobs, relationships, homes etc that are not truly in alignment with your higher self.
So while on the surface it can sometimes seem that life is falling apart, with marriages breaking down or people losing their jobs or their health; in reality absolutely every single experience, person and occurrence is an invitation to awaken and transcend your current level of consciousness.
Why it gets messy
How much you are open to life’s invitation depends on a few factors. The more out of alignment with your true nature you are, the more your awakening will shake you up. And the more attached to a specific thing, belief, mask or state of being you are, the messier it will be.
Why? Because the more invested you are in your own identity and perspective, the harder it is to let go of it.
So needless to say an awakening can get quite messy, leading in extreme cases to panic and anxiety attacks or a profound sense of isolation or depression. Why this happens on an energetic and consciousness level is beyond the scope of this blog post, but just think of it as basically the unconscious cleansing all its limiting stories and stored emotions, i.e everything that isn’t in alignment with the true self.
To illustrate this point, just check out this a wonderful meme from the internet-o-sphere:
So as you can see, the awakening path isn't always an easy one. In part 3 we’ll take a look at what the path might look like.