Monday, August 30, 2010

Spirituality and Religion

From time to time, you hear people discussing spirituality and religion and grappling with what the distinction is. For those who already consider themselves very religious, they cannot see a distinction. And for many of the refugees of religion (who are many because they feel rejected by the dominant belief system in their region), they immediately see that you can still care very much about the divine without following a specific religion.

To help you in your spiritual growth, let me offer a few words on the topics of religion and spirituality. As always, practice listening to your inner knowing to find what feels true. Do your best to not get caught up in your ego desires to believe a certain way. Religion and spirituality can be hot-button issues, but if we are mindful and notice when we are triggered, we can uproot unhealthy beliefs in ourselves and make greater space for compassion and love--two of the most important characteristics we cultivate on the spiritual path and which should be present in any true spiritual path.

Religion As a Home for Spirit

I view religion as a channel for spirituality. In being a channel , religion does not inherently own spirituality. Spirituality is that immaterial substance that is in all of life, and the spiritual path offers us that road to deeper connection to source, to the divine, to God, to the universe (You can use whatever name you need to fit your beliefs).Another way to view it is that religion is a structure. It offers practices and rules to help us figure out how to live our lives successfully. Most religions have built up over thousands of years, and like geology, they house many levels of sediment and interests that harken back to different time periods. Consider what it would be like to find rules about how to live from the fifties if spiritual texts were still trying to include all kinds of rules for daily living. You might find how to use a rotary phone a hundred years from now, which would make no sense to your life. So you can appreciate that some of the more mundane rules that many religions house in their tomes are now no longer applicable.

Yet still, there are many important core elements to focus on. When we look at deeper themes that religions offer, we can focus on what is most important and timeless without getting hooked into issues that no longer are relevant, and yes, there are irrelevant aspects of spiritual texts simply because they're outdated. This can be upsetting to a fundamentalist, but then, the fundamentalist is playing an ego game. The timeless truth that is the foundation of all true spiritual paths, and it needs no defending. You already know many of these spiritual truths innately. They're things like offering kindness, not intentionally hurting something, honoring agreements, telling the truth, and so forth. The religions and those wonderful spiritual teachers who honor those traditions that focus on such things do us and the whole world a huge service.

Plus, spiritual truths ultimately are quite simple. Remember that whenever things start getting super complicated, then the ego is hard at work. And it certainly has done a job in wrecking some religions or at least how some of them are perceived.

Returning to the Essence

But you don't need to have a religion to learn how to return to the essence--how to connect to the divine. In some ways, we are all still benefiting from Martin Luther's 95 Theses, which is credited for igniting the Protestant Reformation and spreading the idea that people can have personal relationships with the divine. A third-party is not necessary for you to connect to the divine. I don't want to speak too much to history, but the idea that you had to go through a priest, minister, brahmin, spiritual teacher, or some other holy man (usually a holy man, unfortunately) has been a very dominant one for some time. But as we continue to embrace this simple little idea--that we all can connect to the divine on our own--we also can more fully recognize when structure--religion--can benefit us in our personal growth.

Now, I really want to emphasize that this ISN'T about picking and choosing what is comfortable. For some of my sincere students, you know how powerful and uncomfortable spiritual growth can be. It's not always this way, but in following your path to divine connection, discomfort comes up. Along the way, a religion and a particular structure may have limited use for you. At other times, they may be really supportive. The more in tune you are with yourself, the less likely you are to need an external set of rules or a spiritual person to tell you how to live mindfully and kindly. It starts to become innate. Being kind becomes natural because it is.

Honoring Others' Needs For Spiritual Guidance

Even as many of you understand and feel your connection more and more, I encourage you to appreciate religion's role in society and that other people may need more spiritual guidance than you. For many centuries, religion really was the only form of codified law in a lot of societies. Secular law is still very much in its infancy. And in many parts of the world, religious law is still the rule of the day, and that's okay. Every society has its own path and karma to follow. In societies with secular law, it's important to honor that many people still need and want religious guidance on a great many matters. This is okay. So long as no one is imposing their values on others (and I know this is a sticky point) or overtly hurting others, I encourage you all to have compassion for these differing needs.

Those of you whom I called "religious refugees" earlier may still have wounds from how a particular congregation and religious group treated you in the name of their religion. All I can do is encourage you to work through your wounds and heal. If something is egregious such as an example of child sexual abuse by a priest, then you have every right to seek justice. However, the deepest justice and peace you will ever find is in following the spiritual path inwards to heal. In this way, if you feel like religion failed you, then turn more deeply to the spiritual path--that path inwards to your own divinity that is always here.

When Religion Becomes Hollow

Because this is another topic worth mentioning, many people get lost in doing things and in having religious practices. By themselves, practices and beliefs are not the truth. If you do not understand the connection of the divine in your heart and soul, you cannot truly take communion and be baptized. It won't mean anything. You simply ate food and got doused with water.  In this way, religion is hollow instead of hallowed if we are not sincere in our inner devotion--our devotion to spirit within us and around us.

People who do not learn this underlying truth of spirituality can become exceedingly attached to the forms and when challenged about their religion, can become very angry. Without the religion practices and structure, they feel adrift. They can feel like the structure gives them spiritual meaning that somehow they believe they do not already have. As such, they already are adrift by focusing on these exterior concerns, which includes mental constructs about who they think they are. But spirituality cannot give us meaning. It doesn't need to. Because only the ego needs meaning. We already are, and we are beautiful. But no matter how forgetful someone is, the path inwards is always there for you. God is always there for you, waiting for you to come how to the truth of your divinity. And this is a most encourag

Finding Your Connection to the Divine

As you discover your connection to the divine, your need for external structures will shift. Some things will fall away. If meditation got you to a certain point, you may find that you don't need it as much if at all. In some ways, you'll find yourself embodying spirit--your spirit, the universe's spirit. You'll begin to understand oneness and the illusion of separation. But I'm getting ahead of myself here. I just wanted to remind you where we're going so that you don't get caught up in definitions like what is religion or what is spirituality. They're just starting points--questions to help your begin to focus your consciousness.

If I haven't simplified things enough, here are two very simple definitions for spirituality and religion:

  • Religion--The structure, beliefs, and practices that guide us to spirituality
  • Spirituality--Our divinity and connection to the divine, which is in all things


Plenty of Religions and Spiritual Paths to Choose

So go find your spiritual flavor. So long as a group is preaching love and openness, you can be sure that it's safe. There are some weird cults out there that get into mind control and fear-based tactics. They should be avoided at all costs. The big name religions you can be sure are pretty safe: Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, yoga (the full path not just the exercise poses) and so forth as long as they are focusing on loving kindness. Study the texts that they are founded on, and pay attention specifically to the teachers. There are lots of interpretation of spiritual teachers like Jesus and Buddha, but the closer you are to the enlightened ones, the closer you are to clear explanations of the truth. So listen to those teachers most of all, as well continuing to learn how to listen to your truth.

As you find a religion or spiritual path that serves you, don't hold on too tight. An open hand receives from the universe; a closed hand can hold very little and receive nothing. Proceed with an open hand and a discerning heart, and things can shift and unfold for you.

Next blog: What Is a Spiritual Teacher?

Monday, August 23, 2010

What Is God?

Compared to God, we are like the lady bug compared to nature.
Over the next couple of weeks, I'm going to work on building a basis of understanding for spirituality. I recognize that I'm in it so deep that it sounds like a whole new language in the way that I express it. It shouldn't. The point of spiritual awareness is to live your own life with love and kindness; it's not about setting up a new set of hurdles or ideology. If anything spirituality is ultimately antithetical to ideology. Ideology is about itself and the ideas it presents. Spirituality is about you; it's about oneness; and it's about how there's no difference between you and the other. But now, I'm getting ahead of myself.

Square 1: Believing in a Higher Being and Higher Purpose
In some way, if you're interested in spirituality and growing yourself, you probably believe in a higher purpose. If not, let's start there. What do you want? Why are you here? You don't need to have answers now. These questions are supposed to start your thought process. Obviously, we've got some idea of how you got here biologically, and we know some of the basic body "wants" (food, water, air, etc.). But a lot of the rest is up to you to decide.

God Is
For those you with a sense of what you want, you may be looking for a deeper connection. This is where God steps in. My sense of God is probably unique. I don't see God as one individual spirit. I don't see God as a man or woman. I believe that God is all that is. God is in you, me, the cat next door, the sun, the Andromeda Galaxy, and everything else. God is the universe. God is.

I know that some religions (Buddhism) don't believe in a God perse, but the Buddha starts to encompass a lot of those quasi-God-like qualities akin to Jesus. Nirvana can sound a lot like Heaven, although they're conceptually very, very different. The point is that there is still a connection for the believer with something bigger and more expansive than he or she is.

Bad Substitutes for Divine Connection
There are plenty of bad substitutes for divine connection. Money is a big one. Sex is another one. People are so desperate for connection that they sell out themselves and others. Just think how much time is invested in a bad relationship for the safety of companionship or to get sex. Or consider all the hours put into a miserable job to get lots of money. Ultimately, that money is supposed to bring fulfillment and happiness. But whatever modicum of satisfaction comes from having the three car garage home or the trip to Maui is overshadowed by the daily grind.

People join a lot of organizations to try and make this connection as well. Fraternities, the Peace Corps, volunteer organizations, and lots of other groups are put in as substitutes of relative positive or negative impacts. It varies, and there's nothing wrong with joining well-meaning organizations. However, they are still human run organizations with all the faults and flaws that humans bring to them. Whatever deeper connection or meaning they may offer will always be somewhat incomplete compared to your own connection with God.

Making Your Connection
People pray. People meditate. People read spiritual literature. People spend lots of time in nature. Really, God is everywhere. However, the intention and aspiration to connect to God is key. Until you look for that higher source, this blog post is just malarkey. It's a whole lot of BS that you don't buy into. That's fine. You're still caught up in your life. Live it fully. See what's there. See if you find the fulfillment you truly want.

For others of you, you know that you're restless in heart. You're looking for the way back to connection. God, the universe, Mother Earth, or whatever name you seek to use, is there for you, waiting with open arms to take you back home.

Next blog: What Is Intuition?

The photo comes from my friend and reader, Becky Stiller. You can check out her beautiful work on her flickr link.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Read: Start Your Own Spiritual Literacy Program

spiritual awakening, spiritual opening, bud, nature, picture, spiritual photography
One of the biggest pieces of the spiritual process is simply getting connected to Truth. Yes, that's truth with the big T. It looks impressive, doesn't it? There is a big difference between truth and Truth, and that's why it's important to immerse yourself in stuff with the big T. You already know a lot of the literature. The Bible, the Koran, the Torah, the Baghavad Gita, and many others are examples of where you can find it. Plus, there are many new teachers springing up left and right such as Eckhart Tolle, Don Miguel Ruiz, and more.

And thanks to the Internet, there are countless spiritual websites and blogs from so many different lesser known spiritual teachers. However, I always encourage you to use your intuition to find what feels true, which doesn't mean it always feels good or convenient by the way. Additionally, try not to get to caught up in creating a lot of beliefs. Ultimately, awakened state is beyond "beliefs." It simply is. Our minds use beliefs to help us understand and interpret life. Hopefully this blog post will help you find a few spiritual texts to better understand this and many other truths.

By the way, I think you may find this spiritual awakening blog post helpful as well:

Between Disbelief and Belief

Read, But Read Smart
Thich Nhat Hanh has said:

"We must not be attached to a view or a doctrine, even a Buddhist one. .. . The Buddha said that if in a certain moment or place you adopt something as the absolute truth, and you attach to that, then you will no longer have any chance to reach the truth. Even when the truth comes and knocks on your door, and asks you to open the door, you won't recognize it. So you must not be too attached to dogma--to what you believe, and to what you perceive. [in an interview with Diane Wolkstein featured in Parabola Vol 30 No 4]"

Along with not getting attached to concepts, the point of all the reading is to use your discernment. Start to find what feels true to you in your heart. Blind faith and adoption of doctrine doesn't get you anywhere. In some respects, it'll drive you further from the Truth because your intellect really isn't engaged. If all you're practicing is some kind of rote memorization, all you really know is what you're remembering. You have to learn to take lessons and apply them to yourself. You also have to take the knowledge and find out if it fits your life circumstances. It's not that you get to be selective in what you do or don't buy into exactly, but there's a lot of excess stuff that gets in the way of seeing everything clearly and knowing yourself.

Take, for example, the Buddhist mandate to do no harm. It's great statement in principle, and as you come to really understand and embody this principle, you'll be amazed at the peace and stillness that comes from truly understanding it. However, if you aren't using your discernment, you can get caught in mental abstractions that don't help you. One thing that comes to mind is a situation for a lot indigenous arctic tribes. A lot of Buddhists become vegetarians because they don't want to harm animals. If you're in the right circumstances, that's great. But if your main dietary need is met through eating seals as is for an arctic tribe, then this principle becomes problematic quickly.

I know that I'm taking a what seems to be a rather far-fetched example and am running with it, but there are plenty of other examples where you have to look at a principle such as "Do no harm" to really understand it and embody it. If you don't fully understand it, you'll be frustrated by the impossibility of the statement. You'll realize that antibiotics kill bacteria in your body when you take them. So is it okay to take that? You're killing plants to eat. Is harming vegetation okay? Under what circumstances is it okay to harm something? These are ways that the mind can get out of control. So while you develop a deftness of intellectual discernment in reading, you'll also have to understand that at some point the mind must be let go to reach the truth of Being.

What I Read in Past Summers
Okay, so I've read these in summers as well as winters, autumns, and springs, but here are some of the books that have helped me.

  • Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
  • A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle
  • The Mastery of Love by Don Miguel Ruiz
  • The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
  • The Sufis by Idries Shah
  • The Essential Rumi compiled by Coleman Barks
  • The Bible
  • The Baghavad Gita
  • Ethics for the New Millennium by the Dalai Lama
  • The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama
  • What's Right with Islam by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf
  • Rolling Thunder by Doug Boyd
  • Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki

There are plenty more. Hafiz is another great poet to read if you enjoy Rumi.

These build up through the years in the depths of your soul. They help to build your intellectual framework so that you can hold space for the spiritual experience. Most of our minds are much too small and caught up in useless minutiae to understand and process the depth of a spiritual awakening. But with your own spiritual literacy program, you'll be turning the mind to a deeper, sacred purpose. In so doing, you are taking the first steps towards your own freedom.

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Why Do You Want a Spiritual Awakening?

wind, change, spiritual awakening, spirituality, enlightenment
Spiritual awakening calls in the winds of change
This question is really important. Why do you want to awaken? I can think of any number of good reasons that you wouldn't want to, which may seem antithetical to the purpose of this blog. But this is one of the most important parts to the spiritual process: understanding your intention and setting an intention in alignment with what you truly want.

Understanding Your Intentions
Knowing what you want in life is so important to getting it. This is probably part of your pre-spiritual awakening homework. You can do it as you go along the way, but the better you understand what you're trying to get, the stronger the intention you can set. For instance, you may want to be happier in life. That's a great intention. The spiritual path can lead you to amazing happiness. But wait, do you want to be happier in just your romantic life and want all the rest to stay the same? Or do you want a more fulfilling career and would like to leave the rest alone? Ah, herein lies the rub. Spiritual awakening changes everything. You can't line item veto some part of the process. If you are willing to let go of everything to embrace a deeper more full happiness, then you're in the right place.

Know Thy Self
You'll notice that this subhead is much the same as the above one. It continues to keep the focus on you and what's going on inside you. It's important to note that spirituality doesn't change the world. It changes how you see and interact with the world. To use Wayne Dyer's words, "When you change the way you look at the world, the way the world looks changes." Of course, the spiritual path is much more than just a slightly new vantage point. The depth of your perception changes too, but all this comes from work within. You have to want to look at your beliefs, core suppositions, your deepest darkness, and your brightest light.

This is no small thing. That's why I'm writing this blog. I'm telling casual spiritual seekers who enjoy the occasional retreat and listening to gurus that it's time to get out now before real change hits. The spiritual path isn't an occasional retreat-high that burns off. It's an every day introspection and every day challenge to interact with deep integrity with the world. You can't limit it to one aspect of your life. And you can't make excuses like:
  • "It's not a good time."
  • "I need this job to put the kids through college even though I hate working here."
  • "He's okay when he's not drinking."
  • "I'm afraid of what might happen if I let go."

Seriously, this path is merciless. You'll be challenged on every front and then some.

This Doesn't Sound Fun at All
No. A lot of it isn't. This isn't the sugary-sweet, woo-woo, spiritual message that seems to be really popular lately. This is put on the heavy gloves and boots and grab your shovel. We've got some karmic crap to dig out of your soul.

And of course, it's beautiful too. The depths of connection and love and perception that you can touch when you clear away the garbage you've buried your soul under will leave you dizzy. The heights are unlike anything you can imagine. And the daily intensity of your own presence will astonish you. You truly are a beautiful and radiant being, and if you are ready and willing to embark upon the spiritual path, an awakening may come to you to show you just how amazing you really are.

Next blog: You're Going to Change

Today's lovely photo comes from my friend and reader, Becky Stiller. Please feel free to check out her beautiful work on this flickr link.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What Is a Spiritual Awakening?

spiritual awakening, spiritual awakening signs, spiritual awakening symptoms
A spiritual awakening is the abiding re-connection with reality. It's reconnecting you and the divine, which are ultimately one and the same. From that connection, your true self arises to heal old wounds, move you into alignment with the Divine, and shift you towards your truest way of expressing yourself and living your life.

Some of the things that a spiritual awakening reveals to us--along with the truth--are our self-imposed limitations. A spiritual awakening is felt throughout your body, heart, mind, and soul, but no sooner has that erupted then you are forced to see how limited you have been in so many regards. That bright light shining in the inner most depths of us asks us a potent question: "Now that we know the truth, will we clean up our home or will we try to ignore our illusions, pain, and misconceptions?"

By the way, for those who are interested, I have a newsletter called, "The Wake Up Call," in which I regularly talk about this and other topics. Sign up for free below:

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Many Initial Spiritual Awakening Experiences

There's no one way that people experience an awakening. The awakened state embraces all experiences and states of awareness. However, there are some common trends in awakening. For some, spiritual awakening is a sudden, penetrating moment where something is seen and realized. Sometimes there's a lot of energy to it, which is hallmark to what many people call a kundalini spiritual awakening. Sometimes, a spiritual awakening is a profound moment of clarity about something or some aspect of one's self. Sometimes, a spiritual awakening is a kind of collapse where someone finally lets go of something, and the truth is revealed.

People experience spiritual awakenings in many, many ways, and while they should not be confused with a spiritual awakening opening, there's no one way it happens to someone. However, the arising of the truth within you definitively stays, and your life is altered in a spiritual awakening. The question is do you embrace it or do your resist?

Reality Versus Illusion

From the perspective of the mind, a spiritual awakening offers you a clearer understanding of what is real versus what is illusory. You may perceive all the things that are made up, and when you get right down to it, just about everything is made up. The initial awakening may not be earth-shattering for most people. It may be more gradual as the individual begins to see how s/he bought into a certain way of living, decided some things were important and others were not, and so on. The basics of life also become very simple as the focus organically moves towards things like unconditional love, truth, and integrity to others. But in awakening, it also means giving up and letting go of tons of illusions about who you thought you are.

This is how the mind often views a spiritual awakening. Remember that awakening will affect everything--your heart, body, and subtle energy. Be aware that intellectually understanding a spiritual realization during awakening is just the beginning of embodying it.

I Get It!

Truly a spiritual awakening is an amazing moment, and as I've mentioned, it comes in all shades and shapes for everyone. I had one friend who says that she went around for a couple of weeks just saying, "I get it." And there's nothing more to be said really. This is very frustrating for all of us in the West where we quantify and explain the importance of everything. This spiritual awakening blog is in itself a bit of an oxymoron because I can't really explain a spiritual awakening. I can only point to something with these words, but these words are not awakening.

Another friend had a powerful experience where he simply asked, "Who am I?" In that sincere moment, the glass shattered, and the truth that he did not know who he was was seen. From that awakened moment, the truth erupted and began to re-shape his life.

When Your Spiritual Awakening No Longer Matters

Spiritual Awakening Signs

I am very cautious to label things as signs of awakening. In truth, a spiritual awakening is just the beginning. It is the light coming on in the house so that you can see everything for what it is. Now comes the immense urge to clean-up, heal, and expand your space, and all of this comes naturally in a rush of intelligent energy. Sometimes, it can feel so strong that the unconscious ego that may be clinging on will feel like this is all "happening to you." But be sure, you have chosen it, and if you don't feel that way, then now is an especially important to time to consciously choose what is already unfolding in your life.

In general, some real spiritual awakening signs are these:
  • Unconditional love
  • Being able to clearly see what is real
  • Loss of desire or need for anything external to complete you / wholeness as you already are
  • A profound sense of calm, peace, or serenity
  • An abiding energy that moves you intelligently and continually

This last part is key. Many people have profound spiritual openings and glimpses of awakening, which is wonderful. But in an opening or glimpse, the window opens, and then it shuts. When it shuts, a person can go back to the way they were acting before. This happens all the time after people have gone to spiritual retreats or spent time with spiritual teachers. But in awakening, the divine energy is now in motion. Your perspective, emotions, and physical sensations all move and align seemingly on their own. The lights in the house are all on. Sure you can close your eyes, but you know the truth. There can be a feeling that there is no going back.

All other spiritual awakening signs that you hear about can arise from awakening if the above ones are present. They're secondary spiritual awakening signs or symptoms, although I don't prefer the term spiritual awakening symptom. The word "symptoms" has connotations of experiencing a disease. In fact, you are being cured of the illnesses you have been living in.

Without the above spiritual awakening signs, there's all kinds of reasons people can feel fatigue, energy shifts, and what not. Many people are trying to self-diagnose a lot of issues, and so we must be very mindful about what we "blame" on awakening.

The Dark Awakening

I want to add a new term to this spiritual awakening blog post, and that's the dark awakening. When someone awakens and has tons of pain, they may plunge into a period of ego and/or physical collapse. This can be a time of undiagnosable physical ailments and all kinds of emotional pain. They feel totally in the dark and often feel very helpless. I've seen this happen with three students, and it can be confusing because there is no sense of peace, love, clarity, or wholeness. Instead, that abiding divine intelligence starts moving the person right into their issues, and any sense of bliss or clarity doesn't arise until much later--even years later--in their spiritual journey. Hence, many people who have a dark awakening don't even realize they've awakened.

The key in knowing if you've awakened or not is that spiritual inner work makes a huge difference. There are lots of reasons someone can get plunged into some kind of unknown illness or deep depression. However when someone awakens, spiritual help and inner work open up spaces inside that need to be healed and which are being pressurized by the awakened energy. As someone embraces the pain and learns to listen to it, they start to learn how to break down the walls that are resisting this inner truth and love. The darkness recedes, and they start to feel better. They begin to understand themselves and find clarity. With dedication, there tend to be moments of the aforementioned love and truth, and a person who has had a dark awakening might even have a moment of bliss that arises. However, a blissful experience is not the goal. Freedom is the real opportunity here, and in a dark awakening, the path to true spiritual freedom starts immediately by embracing pain.

How to Find and Release Physical Pain During a Spiritual Awakening

Spiritual Awakening in Eugene, Oregon

I have had many, many types of spiritual experiences, spiritual revelations, and spiritual realizations, but the one where I really was suddenly "here" was in a motel in Eugene, Oregon. I love saying this because so many spiritual seekers are running all over the place to India and ashrams and sacred sites to find themselves, but really, we're always right here. You're always with you. You can't get away from you--even if that's sometimes what you want to do.

No, no, my awakening wasn't in any sort of spiritual place. It was lying on the bed, staring at the ceiling of a motel room. It wasn't a comfortable bed. I remember it being stiff/hard and far too small for me. There was no aromatic incense in the room, and I'm not sure that I'd even meditated that day. In general, I didn't meditate at all during the time running up to my spiritual awakening (Meditation is important, but not in achieving enlightenment/awakening. Read this spirituality blog post about Spiritual Self-Work Turns to Self-Care for more on this topic)

Back to my story. And then, there I was. All the noise shut off in my head. It was like coming out from a really noisy concert into a silent inner room. I didn't need to do anything or go anywhere. All desire dropped away except possibly the desire to share the experience, which came later.

But I was here fully in the present moment, and then the inner work begin.

Letting Go and the Grand Revealing

Spiritual awakening (or enlightenment or ascension or many other words--they're the same to me) is not a new thing. It is always here with us. It cannot be attained because it is innately part of all of us. As such, spiritual seeking is often a little backwards. It can be useful to get started, but eventually, letting go is the truest way to this deep space of love and connection. I want to emphasize the connection part of this path. The unconscious ego gets us caught up in duality--separation. We get separated from ourselves mainly because we believe we are separated. The more we get caught up in the external world, in ideas, in experiences, and so on, the more separated we tend to get. This includes on the spiritual path. Some of the most unconscious people you will ever meet are on the spiritual path. The worst are the ones spreading hate about other "non-believers" of their path. This is in no way spiritual, even though the Divine loves them and holds them too.

Loving people who spread hate is a profound love, but it's a love to which we all have access. In a spiritual awakening, people find an amazing new depth of love and connection to all beings, although everyone gets different flavors. I wouldn't have described my spiritual awakening as having that dominating love flavor at first. That flavor has come out as I've moved into my self-work to pull away my lies and illusions. For others, love is a huge initial flavor while truth and clarity may be hazy for awhile. They don't really know how to express what they know. All ways that people experience a spiritual awakening are beautiful, but as I've said, what really sets this arising apart from the many, many other kinds of spiritual shifts is that it abiding. When the energy abides, healing and spiritual growth arise intelligently on their own.

Lost on the Spiritual Path

Spiritual Shifts Beyond Spiritual Awakening

There are many kinds of spiritual shifts. Spiritual shift is my catch-all phrase. Many people speak of spiritual awakening as the catch-all phrase for spiritual experiences, and I only point it out so that you're clear about how I'm discussing this topic. Spiritual shifts can be things like:
  • A small spiritual epiphany that someone's critiques at work are their way of helping you.
  • A spiritual realization that you're not happy with your marriage or job even though you've gotten what you thought you wanted.
  • A spiritual revelation such as you are not your mind or the thoughts that have been talking to you your whole life.

However, even with a spiritual revelation, people don't necessarily change. Some do. But a lot of your spiritual journey at this point is very manual: you have to put in the work. You have to figure some things out. It doesn't mean that hard work doesn't come with a spiritual awakening, But an awakening tends to drive you towards things in a way that frightens a lot of people at first. You don't know where you're going. Even if your latest revelation is that you never know where you were going in the first place, people tend to hang on to familiarity against their best interests. It should also be said that epiphanies, realizations, and revelations abound in an awakening. Integrating all of them into your heart, body, and mind can be more than a little exhausting.

The Paths to Spiritual Awakening

The spiritual path is not necessarily an easy path. Few people turn to the spiritual path because they're happy with their lives and don't want to lose what they've got. The path of outward success only works for those who have found that all the things they've achieved haven't given them the fulfillment they sought. The path of failure is much more often the path that leads people inwards. In failing, you're willing to open up to something greater because you feel like you've got nothing to lose. This is also the path of great healing, and spontaneous spiritual awakening does arise for those who never wanted it or sought the spiritual path. Truly, the path to spiritual awakening is many and varied.

Ultimately, the point of an awakening is to be able to live your life freely and without fear. It's about touching the deepest levels of love and connection, and it's already right here, right now.

Today's picture is a gift from my regular blog reader, Ricci.

Next blog: Why do You Want a Spiritual Awakening?

You can also enjoy my video on the topic here:

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