What is a Spiritual Awakening?
Let’s start by defining a spiritual awakening. It is a shift in perception (what is real), perspective (what it means), and priority (what is important). Before we dive into each of these individually, let’s talk about what a spiritual awakening is to the different cultures across the world.
Enlightenment, nirvana, ascension, transcendence, evolution, salvation: Awakening.
Enlightenment means all-knowing while nirvana means to be at peace and free from attachment. Ascension and transcendence, to rise or rise above. Contrary to what you may believe, salvation is not exclusively a Christian concept, but something that flows through many religions, and ranges in meaning from liberation from suffering to redemption from sin.
A common thread runs through all concepts of awakening: freedom. Perhaps freedom from self or attachment, freedom from sin or ignorance, freedom from karma or the ties that bind, maybe even freedom from fear or suffering.
To rise above something is to be free of it. For anyone who has studied Hermeticism, you know that the science of alchemy or transmutation is known as the “Path of Mastery” and to polarize yourself to the end of the spectrum that you desire is to neutralize a negative frequency with a positive one. In this way, you become a cause rather than an effect. You are free from web of cause and effect.
You see, awakening is at the heart of all belief systems, even science. The Age of Enlightenment was marked by our freedom from the tyranny of the Catholic Church. We mentioned evolution as a synonym for awakening, let’s examine that. Evolution is the shift in characteristics that are passed from one generation to the next. While it may be a slow process, it is the freedom from things that hinder growth.
All of these concepts bring us closer to the understanding of our ultimate nature, which is what awakening is all about. It is a shift in what we know about ourselves, life, and the universe. Let’s dive into what these shifts look like, shall we?
A Shift in Perception (What is Real)
A shift in perception, or what you think is real, is a very broad way of looking at it, and for good reason. Notice how we said what you think is real and not what you know is real. Already we are challenging what you believe. Ask yourself: What is real? How do I know it is real? Where did the source of this belief come from? Do I trust the source? Why?
If what you believe came from anything other than your own personal experience, how can you know that it is real or true? For example, if you heard from someone else that something happened, if you weren’t there when it happened, how can you know? Well, perhaps if there is video footage or pictures to support the claim. But even then, videos and pictures can be faked.
So, without having seen something with your own eyes, how do you know something actually happened? Furthermore, even if you did see something happen, what if your perception of what happened is inaccurate? What if your mind misinterpreted the situation?
There are 10 cognitive distortions or ways that our minds delete, distort, or generalize information that we receive. We do this unconsciously because it is our brain’s way of simplifying information and storing it away so that we are not constantly overwhelmed by the massive amounts of stimuli that we are receiving every second of every day. Click here to learn more about the 10 cognitive distortions.
Now, what if your brain simplified information in a dysfunctional way? What if the way that you perceive things is not how they actually are? I know, it is a scary thing to think that you might not be seeing the truth of reality, but don’t think this means that you are insane. Your brain is simply trying to protect you, but it is doing so blind, without any direction.
All of us experience these cognitive distortions. Perhaps not some enlightened guru who spent forty years meditating in a cave, but the rest of us are stuck in the world of imperfection. Or are we? What if you could wipe these distortions away? What if you could see reality exactly the way it is without any distortions of any kind? Then could we learn to see the future? To read other people’s minds? To walk through walls? No one here to speak of. Just a bit of fun. If you can do any of these things, send us an email to let us know! [email protected]
Anyway, we will cover the topic of what is real more later on. For now, let’s move on to what it means.
A Shift in Perspective (What it Means)
A shift in perspective, or what something means, is a shift in the way you look at it, the mindset, attitude, or outlook you approach it with. What is the difference between those three things?
Let’s call your mindset the current state of your mind, the thoughts you are thinking, your emotional state, and how you feel physiologically. Your attitude is your current perspective, so, leading from your mindset, it is how you view things based on your current state. And your outlook is your overall perception of things in general: yourself, life, people, the world, and so on.
Shifting your perspective means shifting how you think, how you feel, and how you behave based on what you think things mean. For example, what does it mean to you when someone disrespects you? Notice how we said to you because it means something completely different to every one of us.
To the ego, disrespect means that someone doesn’t respect you. To the higher intelligence, it means that they don’t respect themselves. And to pure Source, perhaps disrespect doesn’t even exist because their behavior simply means that they are acting according to their own desire to avoid pain and to seek pleasure. The exact same things that drive your behavior.
So, how can you be “disrespected” by someone when their choices have nothing to do with you? Sure, they might affect you, but only to the extent that you allow them to. Disrespect is a concept created by the ego to convince you that you are superior or inferior to someone based on what their behavior “means” about either you or them.
A Shift in Priority (What is Important)
A shift in priority, or what is important, is a shift in what you value which is determined by what you give your attention and intention toward. Based on this definition, you might discover that there are things important to you that you didn’t know about or that you don’t actually find something important that you thought you did.
For example, if you give your attention only to entertainment, do you really value anything else? If you did value something else more, you would give that your attention instead. Also, you might think that your intention is to, let’s say, have a positive impact on the world, but if you don’t take steps toward making something happen, then your intention is actually something else. Intention is more than n feeling, it is an action, otherwise, it is just a wish or a hope.
So, how might your priorities shift as you are waking up? Well, as we have mentioned, they might shift from entertainment to having a positive impact on the world. Whether you are entertaining others or being entertained, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with it, but once you are awake, it will no longer feed your soul to simply be entertained or distracted, which is another way of saying the same thing after a shift in perspective.
Kyle Cease is someone who has woken up. If you don’t know, he’s a former comedian who has shifted from entertaining people to educating and helping them wake up. And, if you really dive into his teachings, you’ll see that he has had a shift in what he believes is real and what things mean to him.
Jim Carrey is another example. If you’ve been paying attention to his “crazy” behavior over the past decade or so, you’ll see that has had many of the same internal shifts as Kyle.
The thing to notice here is that no two spiritual awakenings are the same. Jim’s is more theatrical, while Kyle’s is more intentional. I believe this is because of the difference in their backgrounds. Jim was at the peak of stardom, which as we have seen with many others, can do a number on one’s psyche. His awakening is messy, not unlike many others. Not all of us can go sit under a tree for forty days and become enlightened.
5 Dark Signs and Symptoms of a Spiritual Awakening
Most other articles discuss the pleasant signs and symptoms of the spiritual awakening process, such as feeling more connected to the universe and finding inner peace, but we’re going to talk about the unpleasant ones they don’t want to discuss. Why? Because you need to be aware of them in order to navigate through them, and so you don’t feel alone or like you’re going crazy. Not all awakenings are pleasant.
A spiritual awakening is defined by a paradigm shift or “a fundamental change in approach or underlying assumptions,” according to Google. We have already discussed how it is a shift in perception, perspective, and priority. Now let’s look at where the shifts come from, why they matter, and where they lead you.
If you’ve studied Eastern philosophy, mindfulness, psychology, or simply personal development, you have likely learned about the ego. What is the ego? It is the illusion of separation. We could dive deep into the science and the philosophy of how everything is connected, but for now, let’s simply proceed with the assumption that everything is One. To learn more about this, check out our Unified Evolution course.
When you understand that everything is connected, regardless of your beliefs (spiritual or otherwise), you inevitably shift from self-centeredness to what is known as unity consciousness, or selflessness. You understand that you are not the center of the universe, and your priorities shift from a constant compulsion to satisfy your addiction to instant gratification, to delaying gratification in order to achieve something larger than what your body or mind wants right now.
Without further ado, let’s talk about the signs and symptoms of a spiritual awakening.
1. Feeling Isolated or Alone
In the beginning of your spiritual awakening process, you may feel alone, like no one else understands you and no one else is on your wavelength. This is because your spirit has awakened, raising your vibration to its natural state, which means you are no longer a vibrational match to the people around you unless they have woken up as well.
You may feel like no one out there thinks like you do or sees the world through the same lens, but that is your ego lying to you. There are millions of people who share similar beliefs, likely more. While no two of us are exactly the same, people who think like you are out there, and you will find them when the time is right.
“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”
This quote has been attributed to several different people, so I’ll leave it anonymous.
2. Feeling Lost or Disconnected
Generally, a spiritual awakening is categorized by a feeling of connection or finding a sense of purpose, but at times you may actually feel lost or disconnected like you don’t actually know your purpose or where you fit into this world. That is because you have awakened to something that is far beyond status or material wealth or anything else that you may have previously found significant or important.
Once you have shifted in the ways previously discussed, you will notice how your values and your priorities no longer align with most of the world, so you may feel like you are adrift in a sea of scarcity and fear. Don’t give up hope. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.
3. Feeling Superior or Inferior (Ego Traps and Trips)
The ego will fight you tooth and nail because waking up is essentially an ego death, and it will try to trap you in really insidious ways into believing that you are superior or inferior to others.
An ego trap is when you think that you are superior to someone who doesn’t do something that you do, such as meditating. Some people call these ego trips. Another kind of ego trap is when you think that you are inferior to someone who does something you think you should be doing. Meditation could be an example of this as well.
Transcending these ego traps takes time and practice. When you catch yourself thinking that you are above or below someone, shift your perspective by realizing that what people do does not determine their worth. We all are all inherently priceless and equal. Seek the light within yourself and others and you will find it.
Nihilism is the rejection of established laws or institutions. Sometimes it is equated with anarchy which is equated with chaos.
First of all, anarchy is the belief that human beings can and should govern themselves. It is the opposite of chaos. Secondly, there is more to nihilism than anarchy. It is the belief that all hierarchies, authorities, and establishments are imaginary.
You are sovereign. Anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is attempting to assert their authority over you.
12-step programs are prime examples of how self-governed organizations work. All service work is done voluntarily. Anyone who sees governing as anything other than service does so with self-seeking motivations. And this never works. We can keep arguing about which system works the best, but a selfless system is the only one that can ever possibly work, regardless of the logistics.
Anyway, nihilism can become a detriment to your spiritual growth because once you begin to see past the illusion, it can be easy to feel like everything is a waste of time and nothing means anything. The way to work through this is to seek the divine order of things.
Why are things the way they are now? How can we change them? What can I do about it? Where can I start?
5. Dark Night of the Soul
The night is darkest just before the dawn. This is ultimately and completely true of the ego. The dark night of the soul is the darkest point in the ego’s life because it knows that it is on the verge of being annihilated and will do whatever it can to convince you that its lies and manipulations are the truth.
This can be an especially dark point in our lives as a result, sometimes pushing us to become suicidal. The ego’s ultimate goal is to kill you. When you believe its lies, you think that you deserve death.
Opening up to the truth is the only way forward. This can be difficult because we live in the world of the ego and have been programmed by it to believe dysfunctional things that can make it extremely hard to break free of the limiting core beliefs that drive our behavior and thinking patterns.
In some cases, it takes extensive healing or deprogramming to break these patterns of thinking and behavior. Cognitive-behavioral therapy and EMDR have proven to be two of the most effective ways to heal from past trauma, which is the number one cause of limiting beliefs and emotional wounds. But your healing journey is your own and only you can know what will work for you.
Spiritual Awakening Techniques
Now we will discuss techniques to create a spiritual awakening and techniques to navigate through one. If you are reading this, chances are you have already experienced at least one spiritual awakening. Perhaps you’ve already experienced some of the signs and symptoms listed above.
If you’re seeking to deepen your spirituality or simply navigate through some dark times, the techniques in this section can help. The pathway to enlightenment is not an easy one, but it is the only one that will alleviate your suffering.
To some people this looks like healing and deprogramming, to others, it looks like asceticism and detachment from material things. There are basic techniques that will help anyone grow, and there are more advanced techniques that will help anyone who is serious about their spiritual growth reach closer to an awakened state.
Number one on the list for anyone who is seeking a spiritual life is meditation. This is because mindfulness or present moment awareness is the best way to root yourself in the here and now. This moment is all there is. The future is not here and yet and the past is gone.
Be here now to tap into the divine presence that exists within you. Eckhart Tolle is perhaps one of the most influential thought leaders in the space of mindfulness. The Power of Now will change your life if you haven’t read it yet. If you have, rereading it can help you see things you didn’t see the first time around, especially if it has been a while since you have read it.
Other than mindfulness, meditation is great for quieting the mind, calming the emotions, and reaching closer to Source. And it will help you in your dark moments when you feel disconnected or alone.
“Prayer is when you talk to God. Meditation is when you listen.”
Keep in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all technique for meditation and anyone who tries to convince you there is doesn’t know what they’re talking about. We are all different and have to find what works for us, no matter what we’re trying to do.
2. Research and Development
Some of the best advice I think I have ever been given is to approach life like a scientist. Be inquisitive and exploratory and seek what can be learned from every situation. Educate yourself.
If you want something, learn how to get it from someone who already has it, whether it’s a state of mind or an outward manifestation. Why would you take advice from someone who does not have or know how to get what it is you seek? The catch here, though, is you can’t always know whether someone truly has what you seek.
don Miguel Ruiz sums it up best in The Fifth Agreement:
“Be skeptical but learn to listen.”
If you haven’t read The Four Agreements yet, it is an amazing tool to grow your spiritual practice. Building upon the understanding that comes from that masterpiece, being skeptical but learning to listen is to approach life with a playful curiosity by not becoming attached to ideas or concepts and having an open mind.
3. Practice What You Preach
Here is a parable by Kim Chi that is a great metaphor for what it takes to learn something:
Imagine that you found all of the books that you could on how to ride a bike and you read them all. You took courses and learned from people who have ridden bikes how they did it. After all of this, if you never actually got on a bike, how well do you think you could ride one?
The answer is you couldn’t. But that is our current education system. In most cases, schools teach us a ton of things we don’t need to know and very little about how to do what it is we are “studying.”
So, how do you learn something? Get on the bike. It is that simple. According to Kim Chi, the best way to get good at something is to learn, practice, and teach simultaneously.
You might be asking, “But how could I teach something I know nothing about?” Teach others what you are learning while you are learning and practicing it. To teach somebody about a subject, all it takes is to be one step ahead of them.
If you are ready to deepen your spiritual practice, check out our Unified Evolution course in which you will learn the holistic principles that will give you the ability to expand your consciousness at will.