Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Shifts in Consciousness and Spiritual Openings

consciousness, water, spirituality, spiritual awakening, becky stiller photography
Water Is Always Shifting, So Too Is Consciousness
In the grand scheme of things, our consciousness is always shifting. It's like the sea. There are greater and lesser waves that move through it, but in some way or form, it is always in motion even when it may be relatively still.

We are like this. We are this shimmering, interconnected life-form that extends from the tips of our collective noses all the way to the ends of the universe. Consciousness, to me, is a kind of alive energy. It is love. It is Truth. It is Beauty. It is everywhere. I know that different spiritual traditions have more specific meanings for consciousness, so I want to be clear about how I am using it. I am really using it in its higher truth sense. In this sense, nothing is unconscious. Even the tiniest rock has a certain level of consciousness and is part of the great sea of life.

Yet, as I alluded to with the rock, there are many levels of consciousness. No one is any better than the other. They simply bring about different interactions and opportunities in the world of form. So with all that said, I wanted to write a little bit today about the shifts in consciousness many people feel and the doorways that open to greater awareness.


Not All Shifts Created Equal

I will be clear that not all spiritual shifts are the same. In fact, no one ever really experiences the same kind of shift as someone else. Spiritual awakening is, in and of itself, just one type of shift in consciousness. Throughout our days, our consciousness makes subtle shifts. How I am when I am meditating is different than when I am showering or eating or writing or talking to friends. These are so subtle and normal that we hardly notice them. But if you ignore, block, or avoid inner shifts that need to take place, things can quickly get out of harmony. Then all kinds of issues crop up.

Consider if you need to speak your truth more. Your natural shifting wants to take you in this direction, but instead, you don't say anything. You keep biting your tongue and avoiding difficult conversations. Pretty soon, you feel like you want to scream. A shift may seem to burst out of you, but after the outburst, you may try to hide it all again. The cycle of pain and suffering soon repeats.

When we don't allow ourselves to naturally shift in our lives, things can get really uncomfortable and downright sour. Big shifts in consciousness may or may not be necessary in life. I'm not sure how much we would need major awakenings if we were all naturally living within our integrity and within the space of love. But regardless, each shift of whatever magnitude or of whatever issue will be different, and it will ask you to do or to be with very different things. And that's part of the reason that I am always cautious about generalizing these topics too much, and I caution you similarly about generalizing.


The Spiritual Opening: A Window of Light in a Room of Darkness

A spiritual opening is different than a shift in consciousness. I define spiritual openings with this key aspect: they're almost always dependent on an external situation. Shifts in consciousness like a spiritual awakening are internal movements. While certain situations definitely evoke internal movements, when those external forces (a spiritual retreat, a spiritual teacher, specific spiritual practices, angelic intervention, and others) go away, your consciousness returns to its usual state of being. You may feel like you've lost something.

Many of you may have had this experience with spiritual retreats or traveling to certain places. I know that lots of people love to go to India in search of spiritual experiences. They often have a great time, but when they come back, the energy high burns off. Life is once again mundane, and it is easy to begin to yearn for your life to be more like the retreat or the country to which you traveled.

But the beauty of all this is that the real depth that you are yearning for is already within you. That's why the spiritual path is always right here and now. It's because you are always right here and now. And I should think that's a very encouraging thing to know. It means that you don't need lots of money, an amazing teacher, or an amazing environment to be you.


Spiritual Openings Point the Finger to Greater Work

For some, however, the spiritual opening may suddenly shine a light on how unbearable and miserable your life is. If you return from a retreat in this wonderful afterglow and can now see how miserable things are, this is a great opportunity. It's a great opportunity to use the last remaining embers of that spark to ignite something that will last within you. No great teacher, healer, or spiritual person has ever been able to bypass the difficulties of their own life. The cup cannot be passed to any other, and so here is a chance to use this opening to see what is not in alignment with you.

More importantly, here is the opportunity to see how you are not in alignment with you. Because the trend for most people is to still blame the external world for not being what they want it to be. The external world will NEVER fit the ideas we have of it. How could it? Those are just ideas. Mental constructs. If mother nature wants to knock a house down, it doesn't matter how intellectual we are about it, the house gets knocked down. We cannot protect ourselves for this world with ideas, and if anything, a spiritual opening can help you start to see that.


The Blind Prefer to Be Blind

There's a bad saying that "Ignorance is bliss." But for anyone who has ever had a disease that they didn't know about and suddenly find out that they're going to die soon, I think they know the truth. Disease is one obvious thing that we can point out how important it is to be knowledgeable about ourselves because many diseases caught early on are easily treated. If you don't know yourself, you can keep getting into really bad cycles of pain. You suffer needlessly until you start to look at the causes for those cycles and make changes.

Consequently, most of humanity is diseased. They prefer to be blind. They prefer to play their games of blaming others. The world may even seem to play along for awhile until your stocks plummet and you're bankrupted one day. Usually, it has to get even worse before people are willing to realize just how blind they've been. It's why most people only turn to the spiritual path once things have gotten so horrendously bad that they have no more ideas about what to do. Only then when the shell of the ego is willing to say, "I don't know," a few rays of light can finally start to shine through the heavy blinds over the windows of the mind.


The Aspiration for Help and Awakening

The amazing thing these days are how many people are tuning into that deeper part of themselves that says that something is wrong. The amazing thing is how many people are interested in spiritual awakening because they already know that this heavily consumeristic and egoic society is way off course and that the results of this path are only increased suffering and disconnection. People are looking to reconnect again, and this is a very hopeful and inspiring thing. I'm always amazed at how young some of the people are who come looking for spiritual guidance. The spiritual path isn't just an end-of-life game anymore. It really is something that many people know they need in every moment of every day.

So here you are, reading this blog.

And even as you've been reading this blog, there have been shifts in consciousness. Little ones. Maybe even bigger ones as a realization burst forth from within you. Notice that I said, "within you." Your realizations are already there. My words in this moment are simply a different set of keys that you can use to unlock the doors to your own knowledge. Once you get started, it's a little addicting, but in a good way. You may wonder what other things you already know, and with that may come deeper and deeper shifts into your own consciousness.


Building Up to a Spiritual Awakening

Once again, I can't generalize, but for some of you, there is a build up and preparation time for a spiritual awakening. I know some traditions talk about this being something that can happen over lifetimes, but for the sake of this lifetime, I have also seen that people have a build up in the current lifetime in which they are meant to awaken. Often the individual is drawn to a wide variety of spiritual practices, starts making changes in their life, and does whatever they feel they currently know how to do to get closer to living a life of love. The tools people use is all over the map from weight-loss if they're overweight (essentially getting better aligned with their bodies) to Tarot to astrological readings to Eckhart Tolle to Christianity to Buddhism to Yogic teachings and so on. Everyone has a different set of keys that helps them to open up.

For me, a lot of it had to do with following my heart again and taking ownership of how mean I was being. For many of you, the idea of me being mean may seem absurd, but I certainly haven't always lived and acted from my current state of consciousness. I was much smaller-minded and harder hearted. And that had to change for me to make space for my awakened self, which burst forth after almost a year of build up time (keep in mind that I had no idea that I was going to have an awakening--I was just really passionate about following the spiritual path that had FINALLY opened up for me).


Letting Go of Definitions

As always, I encourage you to hold these definitions loosely. I encourage you to hold your shifts in consciousness loosely. One will come, and then another will come. It is part of the flow of consciousness. After an awakening, you may feel lots of shifting. You may feel like your awareness is all over the place. This is kind of like what I mentioned earlier about not honoring these shifts throughout your life. Awakening can sometimes be like a build up of energy. If it had been moving your whole life, it wouldn't be that big of a deal. But if you've been holding onto this energy for thirty years, the build up is massive when you finally erupt. At least that is how it can be for some people, certainly not all.

And as I mentioned earlier about spiritual openings, they are based on the external world. They can certainly spark an internal shift of consciousness both great and small, but they will not last. So don't hold onto them. Don't try to hold onto the feeling of them. Let them be beautiful for what they are, and as I said, let them be an inspiration to do deeper work and to allow a deeper spiritual shift within you. Because when you shift from within, your whole world can change.

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