Monday, August 8, 2011

The Difference Between Healing and Awakening on the Spiritual Path

This may be splitting hairs or it may not be, but I think I'll spend a little more time defining things. It may help to give you an overall sense on what is really moving for you because there's so much confusion and misinformation around spiritual awakening. People really don't know what it is. They don't know what religion is supposed to do, what the spiritual path is about, or why they think they want enlightenment/spiritual awakening. So I'll start with that one and work backwards into this topic.

What Enlightenment Isn't
Enlightenment isn't an extended vacation from the crap of your life. It's not a merit badge that you put on your alter next to Jesus, the Buddha, and Shiva. It's not in any way a Utopia that gives you no more problems in life. It simply is coming into a profound understanding on every level of your heart, body, mind, and soul of what is real. From that space, everything in your life shakes and crumbles, and that's why spiritual awakening looks and feels so traumatic. Depending on how out of alignment you are with your life, everything can get torn down before you can re-build on a foundation of true reality. True reality is stuff like "all is love," "we're all in this together," and so forth. You won't conceptually understand these topics; well, you will, but you will also understand them throughout your being in a way that can make you come to tears. And in that deep space of union and understanding, your awakening flourishes, and your whole life tilts in that direction.

Crumbling and Healing and Opening
For many of you in awakening, healing, awakening, and openings all happen on top of each other. It's a big furball, and hopefully, this will help to tease out these things. While awakening is ultimately in all things, I'm going to be a little more dualistic in my explanation (duality: this is the world we live in that has separation, good and evil, you and me, etc., etc.). So here are a couple of brief definitions. Please substitute the deity of your choice if you don't like the word "God." I know it's pretty loaded for many of you.
  • Awakening: The sustained movement of coming into union with God
  • Healing: The removal of barriers to God
  • Openings: The initial glimpses of God which are fleeting and brief and can be confused with having happened because of a situation.

Awakenings happen on multiple levels and can simply happen. They don't need to have a reason. An opening can be confused with awakening because it's often the first time that you've felt really connected in some way. You have a great yoga session, and your body feels really open. You feel more connected to your body than you ever have. But after the session, the sensation goes away. You can erroneously feel dependent on the yoga session, type of yoga, or yoga teacher for that feeling. Awakening is sustained, so it keeps churning through you 24-7. That's part of why some of you have so much trouble sleeping; the energy has been unleashed and is going to go until it's finished (or you really screw yourself up and get depleted or lost in very healthy habits as a way to suppress the awakening energy and cut yourself off from it. Trust you me, you'd be much better off if you let it finish).


But Healing Feels So Good; I've Never Felt So Connected
For healing, I love to use the metaphor of the broken leg. If you've had a broken leg your entire life, when it heals and you can stand or even walk, it's phenomenal. You're just beside yourself. But it's not running. Healing out sexual abuse, physical trauma, rage, sadness, and so many other issues can make you feel  extraordinary. You're coming into contact with the deeper you that's been buried under these emotions. That's a wonderful thing. You should be very happy to have this feeling, and you shouldn't be reading this blog as any kind of disparagement towards that process. Instead, this post is simply letting you know that you can feel even more full and connected than ever before. At the same time, awakening is not something to strive after. If you're setting the spiritual practice and discipline in your life, addressing the issues you need to address, and healing, then you're cultivating the space for the awakening. And that will come in its own accord when you are truly ready.


Awakening's Fits and Starts
Some of you may be carrying so much pain from your life, past lives, and whatever else that you may actually get awakening in fits and starts. This is different than just having an opening. It's very involuntary. It hits you in the forehead, and you're incapacitated for a couple of days with energy running up and down your body. This doesn't really happen in an opening, although it can. Openings, as I said and in the way that I'm defining it, are much briefer and situation-dependent. Awakening isn't situation dependent, although it can use an opening like a great meditation to try and shoehorn its way into your life. Some of you already know that awakening is very insistent if it wants to manifest in your life (Some of the emails I get are people wondering when this train ride is going to stop too--you really understand this is hardly a merit badge; you're just trying to survive it).

The fits and starts are usually from blocking the energy because of heavy pain and really unhealthy habits (drug and alcohol abuse, brutal workouts, manipulative psychic work, and lots of other things). Healing becomes crucial. Clearing those habits and creating newer healthier ways of being are important to make space for all the energy--to make space for the fullness of you (Truly, you've been living in a shadow of your true self for most of your life). Healing can be excruciating, and for some others of you, you're already in full awakening and are having to work through openings into new ways of being. You are simultaneously healing pain and then embracing the full awakening. It is, quite simply, exhausting. You're going to need a ton of rest and support, and there is definitely no shame in that. But you already know that you're not and never were independent--that illusion should have been the first to go.


Healing Ahead of Time
If you sense that you're headed to an awakening in this life time, I can't encourage you enough to do your work to heal. There will always be lots of healing that happens with awakening. That's just the nature of the beast and the profound power of love and union with God, but doing your part is part of clearing space for awakening to come in some thing of a "manageable" way. I use the term manageable very loosely because you can't control this. You can't control water or air, but you can create loose containers to hold or guide them. And you can get rid of the barriers to those currents.

You already know where the barriers are, and if you want help, you can check out my "Heal" section of blogs starting with this one "Healing a Crisis of Faith" and following the links at the bottom of each blog post. Because you will feel better when you start to move out all of this pain that you've been reacting to and which has been controlling you throughout your life. And there's no way around it once the deeper awakening hits, as many of you know. So take the initiative and enjoy the opening that comes with it. The glimpses of deeper connection may startle you, and one day an even bigger shift may manifest in you.
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