5 stages of spiritual awakening is a breakdown of five symptoms that I’ve personally experienced on my own path of spiritual awakening. I’m still on the spiritual path (- and likely always will be) and it can be lonely at times. I feel I am constantly heading into the unknown, with many changes to my personal and professional life as I evolve. I found it cathartic to write about these 5 stages of spiritual awakening. It would be an extra blessing if my personal reflections were helpful to others going through a spiritual awakening.
Perhaps I should start by clarifying the term: spiritual awakening. What does this actually mean? For me, a spiritual awakening indicates a powerful change in consciousness that can be sudden or gradual. For many, a spiritual awakening is simply a realisation that:
- we are more than our bodies;
- we are ‘spiritual beings having a human experience’ and;
- we are all connected within an interdependent universal whole.
From my humble perspective, spirituality is about developing a personal and direct relationship with the divine outside of religious dogma. The word ‘God’ has negative associations for many who perceive this word to be synonymous with organised religion or the idea of an authoritarian ‘man in a cloud’ looking down on mankind in judgement. When talking about ‘God’ in relation to spirituality and spiritual awakening, I prefer to use the words ‘creator’, ‘universal energy’, ‘source’ or ‘the divine’ instead. This intimate relationship includes recognising the divine in myself, my surroundings, my life experiences and other people. Here are 5 stages of spiritual awakening that I’ve noticed in myself over the years. Perhaps you can add to the list?
5 stages of spiritual awakening: #1 – Self-care
There’s been a self-care explosion in recent years and the word is occasionally dismissed as the snowflake generation’s excuse for self-centred behaviour. Yet, I see self-care differently. When you tap into a deeper part of yourself and start to experience yourself from a soul perspective, i.e. mind and body interlinked with ‘the higher self’, it’s a natural response to want to perpetuate and nurture your connection to source. Feelings of enthusiasm, lightness, play, living in the moment, creativity, a sense of wonder, laughter and fun, are all very natural aspects of childhood that often get crushed under the daily grind of being an adult. Not to mention the subsequent disconnect, along with an absorption of unhealthy messages from society (via advertising, governments, media, peer groups, fashion and education), which all lead to coping mechanisms and crutches to fill the void inside. During a spiritual awakening, I started to feel differently about myself and almost automatically had the desire to treat my ‘true self’ better. I started to examine my destructive behaviours; negative relationships; addictions (- to drama, food or alcohol, worry, etc); patterns of self-sabotage and blind-spots in self-awareness.
During the first stage of spiritual awaking, a door opens, our perspective changes, a light goes on and our next steps become clearer. We get a glimpse of our soul’s potential in this lifetime. It’s instinctive to want to take action in alignment with that insight, and you may be guided to start new habits, as well as drop the old ones no longer serving your spiritual growth. New pastimes, such as yoga, meditation or exercise; time in nature; changes in our environment, diet and/or other forms of consumption; solitude; stronger boundaries; more self-respect; a desire to get our financial affairs in order; an unwillingness to stay silent or take responsibility for other people’s problems; changing what and who we give our precious time to; journalling; therapy or healing; resuscitating hobbies that we enjoyed when we were younger; facing the past; travel and a hunger for spiritual knowledge… All these acts of self-care support our ability to get more clear on what our heart calls us to do with our life.
5 stages of spiritual awakening: #2 – Relationships
Your outer world reflects your inner one. Therefore, as your relationship with your true self changes you will notice a ripple effect in your social network. Perhaps you yearn for a deeper connection with others, crave more meaning in your personal/professional life, or find the strength to refuse to put up with other people’s s**t. Relationships you felt were long-standing and permanent may feel less reliable or sustainable. You may be presented with a choice point about whether or not to continue investing your time and energy in certain affiliations. Loss and change are an inevitable part of life. Philosopher André Gide put it well when he said:
“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”
A spiritual bond with the divine strengthens your inner scaffolding and brings a sense of comfort, peace and safety as you venture into the unknown. Though gaping holes may appear in the fabric of your life, rather than these being a symptom of poverty and lack, these are the very spaces needed for new ideas, experiences and people to enter, and therefore should be welcomed. You may feel orphaned and crave to belong to a group, family or community. Yet, you can choose to create your own family of like-minded souls in time. Be you and your tribe will find you. You are never alone – and you never feel lonely when you are your own best friend.
5 stages of spiritual awakening: #3 – Empathy
Whatever has triggered a shift inside you – a trauma, a soul mate connection, an existential crisis or simply a desire to move on – it can also awaken the heart chakra. This chakra is associated with compassion, self-acceptance, good relationships, balance (-it’s the middle chakra) and capacity for intimacy. As your heart chakra opens you may be challenged to address any issues of dependency, possessiveness, enmeshment, jealousy, manipulation, emotional blackmail, demanding behaviour, clinging or a tendency to over sacrifice in exchange for self-esteem or acceptance.
As these shadow aspects of the heart chakra come into view, you may also experience pain as stored memories of past hurts are released so that the heart chakra can function more effectively. We are particularly sensitive to our own suffering at this stage and, consequently, more attuned to the suffering of others. This sensation extends to an awareness of the planet’s suffering, including animals and the environment. It is important for us to be kind to ourselves as we move through this healing process, and not to push away or repress difficult emotions as they arise. Blocks are being removed therefore it’s vital to adopt the attitude that ‘my feelings are my friends’. Why? Because you are becoming more whole and part of that means accepting your shadow (- the parts of our character that we prefer to deny), healing old wounds and releasing emotions that are stuck in your energy body due to being suppressed in the past (- usually because it did not feel safe to fully experience them at the time). Try to view any discomfort with detachment; knowing that ‘this too shall pass’. It is only a temporary symptom on the road to more joy and connectedness. Journalling, healing and other forms of self-expression can be helpful at this stage of spiritual awakening.
5 stages of spiritual awakening: #4 – Intuition
As you start to attune with and accept the full spectrum of your human emotions you realise that your feelings are your spiritual SatNav, a device that keeps you on track and out of ‘danger’. You start to be able to differentiate between your own feelings (and baggage) and what belongs to other people. If you are a HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) this stage can bring increased confidence as you begin to trust your emotions and cease being disoriented by other people’s ‘stuff’. Incidentally, it is very difficult to develop intuition when you are out of touch with your own emotions, which is why people whose modus operandi is explicitly cerebral can find it difficult to access their intuition to its fullest capacity.
As you start to understand the subtleties of your unique GPS, it’s as though you begin to have X-ray vision into people, situations and group dynamics. This can be disorientating if you are around people whose intuition is very closed down because you will ‘see’ and ‘feel’ a deeper truth yet not have that validated by others. Your sense of ‘reality’ is shifting. Ultimately this will serve you but it can feel inconvenient in the short term. People can say they feel one thing when you know their attitude is completely different. What you are ‘picking up’ may actually be out of their conscious awareness, so such people are not necessarily being dishonest when they are incongruent in this way. However, your ability to tolerate fake people, phoney situations and those who are unwilling to take responsibility for their own behaviour, is greatly reduced.
5 stages of spiritual awakening: #5 – Hero’s journey
This stage is really about the quest for deeper meaning in life. The concept of the Hero’s Journey was introduced by Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces (Princeton University Press, 1949), who described the basic narrative pattern as follows:
“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.“
You have already heard the call, but how will you respond? Courage is needed to leave behind the familiar and create a life that is aligned with your higher self. Many people will turn away from the adventure because it seems too risky. Yet, they may approach the end of their life with regret. “I wish I’d had the courage to live the life that was true to myself and not the life others expected of me.” Author of Top 5 Regrets of the Dying Bronnie Ware said this was the most common regret of all. “When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made…”
Now that you have ‘woken up’ you will be no longer content to exist on auto-pilot, going through the motions of a superficial existence dictated by the needs and expectations of others. Though the process of spiritual awakening presents more questions than answers, you already embody an amplified consciousness, and this energy is impossible to compress. I liken this stage to The Tower in the Rider Waite tarot deck: the confines that used to provide security and safety are falling away. Though this stage may feel dramatic and destructive, you have already outgrown these old structures. You are ready to live in accordance with an inner truth that compels you to be in service to a greater good. This is where life satisfaction – and the true meaning of life – is found.
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