Going through a spiritual awakening can be one of the most illuminating and uplifting experiences as a human, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with its hardships too.
Spiritual awakening is a process of confronting our illusions and the overall illusory nature of our existence. We will meet our positive aspects, negative aspects and everything in between. A spiritual awakening is about getting to know ourselves on the deepest level.
Eventhough I’m going to try my best to summarize a spiritual awakening for those getting onto the path or who need some clarity, know it doesn’t happen as a simple step by step process. We are always coming back to solidify what we have learned in order to embody these spiritual concepts more deeply.
However we can gain a lot of peace knowing that what we are going through isn’t unusual, that there is a way forward and that millions of people are experiencing the same.
What is a spiritual awakening?
Before we dive into the different stages of a spiritual awakening, let’s talk about what a spiritual awakening actually is.
A spiritual awakening put simply, is coming to realize that you are more than the physical, that you have a spirit and then further along that you are a spiritual being.
The reason awakenings are often so abrupt and earth-shattering is because they come in direct contradiction to what we think we know or what we have been led to believe is truth. We experience a battle between mind and heart.
It’s like being waken up from a deep dream or foggy state of mind. A spiritual awakening brings into question our entire identity and way of being. We might feel incredibly unsatisfied, uncertain and lonely, from this place we dig for purpose.
Spiritual awakening is getting in touch with a different way of perceiving or interacting with reality; an experiential one.
Awakening can be very logical in fashion, but it also brings about a new way of processing things. You can’t deny what you are feeling in your gut, the visceral experiences your are having, and the ways you can hear your intuition.
Sometimes awakenings come about as a result of a drastic life change that brings into question our priorities. This could be a sudden shift in employment or lifestyle, a heartbreak or grief, or a complete apathy towards our everyday routines.
Other times we simply can’t ignore that sense in the back of our minds that something is missing, a knowing that won’t go away and that we can no longer consciously suppress. Awakening comes about when staying in ignorance is no longer an option – it just makes sense to confront what we are feeling into.
When we talk about awakening it’s important to realize that we are not talking about finding our soul or spirit (although we might use those terms at times) but reconnecting with our spirit, and remembering what our soul already knows.
Awakening is a deep remembrance rather than a search, although it can feel like the latter at times because we build up so many layers of ego that block the connection.
1. The sense that something is missing
An awakening is often characterized by this sudden realization that the physical world is not all there is, a spark of awareness that changes you forever. However I do think there is a more subtle awakening beforehand, which comes in the form of noticing that something is missing.
We might not connect all of the dots right away; that doesn’t usually happen. We read something or experience something that makes us question our outlook on life in the smaller ways first. We might dismiss or downplay these initial insights.
Even if we cannot put language to it or aren’t aware of what is happening, we can feel that something is off.
2. A spark of awareness
When we talk about spiritual awakenings, this is the stage we usually refer to. This is an important stage of spiritual awakening, but it isn’t the whole thing. We can come to many awakenings, big and small throughout our journey, and often can’t isolate a single moment of clarity.
However a lot of people do experience this seemingly singular moment of clarity or realization. A moment during a seemingly regular day where we take a huge step back in awareness, like having an out of body experience.
“And once you are awake, you shall remain awake eternally. ”Friedrich Nietzsche
We might be going about our usual daily routine, going through a deep introspection or sitting at our desk at work and suddenly it’s like we can see everything with fresh eyes – this is not what we want to do with our life, this is not what life is about!
Once this spark of awareness has subsided a little we might run through dozens of questions in our mind about existence, personal and collective identity, purpose and daily routine. This is where our conscious mind or ego comes in and tries to make sense of everything, prompting an existential crisis of sorts.
Ultimately, after some much-needed pondering, you come back to your original realization: there is more than the physical.
3. Going down the rabbit hole
In this phase of awakening we search out any and all information we can find about spiritual or esoteric topic, with the sense that we are missing some crucial element.
We might binge-watch YouTube videos on these topics, buy spiritual books, find teachers that we resonate with. There is nothing wrong with looking for guidance and help at the beginning of our spiritual journey.
However what we lack is the discernment to distinguish solid information from flimsy or oversimplified information. It’s a good idea to take everything with a grain of salt at this stage of your journey, and be prepared to reconsider what you think you know consistently.
What this phase leads us to is our own intuition. Having guides and teachers, reading books and articles is a great way to learn about spirituality, but the real work is in embodying these spiritual concepts.
That missing piece we are looking for is that spark within us; when we aren’t simply consuming spiritual information as a form of intellectual stimulation, but taking these spiritual concepts and applying them in our daily lives to affect change.
4. Feeling lost
Feeling lost on the spiritual path is a completely natural process because we are treading a path that hasn’t been outlined for us before; we are trying to navigate a space without a compass or map. We’re also battling between the ego and figuring out what our deeper motivations are.
Through feeling lost we are able to connect with our intuition on a deeper level and trust ourselves more. We might have relied on external information at first, but now we are more interested in going inwards.
What we realize, is that although spiritual guides, teachers, and books can teach us a lot, we need to do the digging ourselves. This is so that we can form our own organic perspectives on these topics, not consuming more and more information but deepening what we already know in practice.
5. Facing the darkness
A lot of people claim that a dark night of the soul is a perquisite to spiritual awakening, but I don’t think it always works that way.
Some people awaken after going through a dark night of the soul, others face the dark night once they have already been on the spiritual path for some time, and others face the darkness in a way that isn’t so dramatic.
A dark night of the soul is a phase during our lifetimes (often during a spiritual awakening) where we feel the weight of the ego and shadow heavily as if that is all there is. It takes great care and patience to hold onto hope and push through to the other side.
We all have to face our darkness, our shadows and our demons at some point on the spiritual path. It’s not really possible to come to such a deep understanding of reality which uproots our current lives, without digging deep and confronting the not so positive side of things.
Oftentimes we are told the spiritual path is all about becoming positive or raising our vibration – that can be a result. However there is also a side to spiritual awakening that involves reaching down and setting some roots.
We might revisit childhood dynamics, earlier adulthood experiences, our relationship dynamics, the way we move about the world. We might become more aware of the not so positive things going on in the world and feel great empathy.
All in all, this facing of the darkness and reaching below, allows us to set a solid foundation for ourselves. We aren’t going into this blind, and when we do go through difficult phases we can face them with awareness.
What a lot of people don’t realize is that being humbled is a great gift. New lows equal new highs.
As I said in the opener, awakening is a deep remembrance not necessarily a search; we aren’t looking for our soul. Shadow work allows us to see the layers of ego we have built up that block our spiritual connection, all of our fears and doubts.
On the flip side this phase can all mean confronting the doubts we have about embodying our gifts. We see the fear and anxiety we have around showing up and being consistent, for a lot of people this is terrifying too!
This is what Carl Jung called the Golden Shadow; this is the positive side of us that is also hidden or repressed. We all have positive traits that we don’t embrace out of fear of our capabilities or what other people might think, we have to grow into a new type of person to fully commit.
If you would like to learn about shadow in more depth, check out my guidebook.
This is a stage where we have seen our light and faced our darkness – we can see these two aspects of ourselves. We might refer to them as the ego or higher self, light and shadow, the labels don’t really matter.
Ultimately it’s about coming to a space where we can contain these polarities within ourselves, without necessarily drawing some arbitrary line…easier said than done. This is where we experience a deep level of wholeness and self-actualization.
This phase is characterized by a newfound sense of clarity, ease and flow. We talk about manifestation in the sense of gaining something a lot of the time, but really what we find here is that we become content and therefore different paths open up to us.
Integration allows us to see our desires more clearly. We might reconsider what we once considered important and also strengthen previous goals – ones that we might have dismissed before.
Here we might feel more comfortable expressing a certain side of us: a more academic side, a vocal side, our creative energy. Through facing ourselves we can more comfortably show up in the world and embrace our unique qualities and skills.
We might feel more comfortable reaching out to others, or forming community based on the work we have done. We might want to express some of the things we have learned vocally, artistically or in a written form.
There is a hermit phase during awakening where we want nothing more than to do deep inner work and introspection, to be in solitude. There is also this butterfly stage, where we finally come out of the cocoon or spiritual closet if you will.
It would make sense to place enlightenment at the end here, and that could be the case, but enlightenment is moreso a state of being that we move through rather than a defined end-point.
Even so, we can reach a state of alignment that perhaps isn’t perfect but to where we feel incredibly solidified and comfortable on our spiritual paths. This is where there is congruence between the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of ourselves.
I would say this is the stage where we begin to embody our higher selves in physical form.
The higher self is simply the part of ourselves that has a higher knowing, some may refer to this interchangeably with the soul. We understand what our mission on Earth is and don’t take on external criticism as strongly.
Often in spirituality we are led to believe that we must raise ourselves to higher and higher levels, but this is somewhat of a simplification.
Firstly, because higher and lower are ways we describe consciousness with human language that don’t really represent the many ways spirit can manifest, and also because we don’t have to go somewhere else to find alignment.
We can absolutely find alignment in our everyday lives, in normal careers or focused on our family life. We don’t have to elevate ourselves to 5D, a higher state of consciousness or live on a mountain (although those are fine too) – in the sense of becoming detached from our human form.
I think for most people it’s about becoming deeply comfortable with being human, without having that being defined as solely a physical thing.
As great as having these seven stages as a guide or reference might be, it’s important to eventually let go of any guidelines. Everyone’s journey is different and will come in a different order. Often we’ll find ourselves going right back to the beginning in order to solidify our awareness.
It’s not about taking on what other people say is spiritual, or internalizing other people’s beliefs as our own even if they provide a good starting point.
Guides like this are great, finding resources that resonate are great, but finding a path that weaves its own unique course is crucial – the path your spirit leads you down.
I hope this post provided some clarity, feel free to share your experience in the comments below.