While a spiritual awakening is often viewed as a journey, it is not necessarily a physical journey or pilgrimage; It is a process of going beyond your limitations and taking the next evolutionary step.
Few experiences over the course of a human lifetime can be as profound and transformative as that of a spiritual awakening. Identifying with your divinity and experiencing it directly represents a paradigm shift of the highest order. A spiritual awakening has the potential to tear apart the fabric of reality as you know it and usher you into a new life of conscious growth and evolution draw. As the term suggests, you “awaken” from the dream of everyday, mundane, material, ego-based consciousness to a higher spiritual reality. And as if waking up from a deep sleep, you can see the dream for what it is – an illusion to which there is no turning back.
Escape from ignorance
A spiritual awakening represents the lifting of the veil of ignorance or Avidya, which means “wrong understanding” in Sanskrit. This ignorance obscures your true nature and allows you to operate in the dark of the lower levels of consciousness. This is a state where you don’t know what you don’t know. At the heart of this ignorance is tamas, one of the three gunas or primary qualities of the universe. Embodying darkness, dullness, inactivity, and entropy, Tamas binds you to the physical, mental, and emotional quicksand of inertia. Fortunately, however, the process of spiritual awakening runs directly against the currents of Avidya in your life. The evolution of consciousness creates a forward thrust, a momentum toward growth, transformation, and change that is one of the most powerful forces in the universe. Like a spaceship reaching escape velocity, spiritual awakening propels you out of the limiting gravity well of ignorance and on to the ultimate goal of cosmic self-realization.
But how does this happen? Well, if you accept that all humans, and maybe even all sentient beings, are hardwired for evolution, then it stands to reason that spiritual awakening is your birthright—something you are meant to achieve. And when this process is mapped into your consciousness and body, then there must be clues or steps that indicate you are on the path to awakening.
The vision of your spiritual journey
One of the most useful metaphors to describe the stages of spiritual awakening is that of vision. In this model, five different visual qualities represent unique steps in the spiritual journey:
- Glimpse: The Call to Adventure
- Closer Look : Choose a path
- Search: Follow the path
- Loss of sight: Lose the path
- See: Merging with the Path
Let’s examine each of these stages in more detail.
1. Glimpsing Spirit: The Call to Adventure
Famed mythologist Joseph Campbell defined the so-called hero’s journey, an evolutionary path of growth and transformation woven into all major myths and stories: “When we stop thinking about ourselves and our own self-preservation, we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness.”
At the beginning of every heroic journey is the primary starting point known as the call to Adventure. The call to adventure represents a break from everyday life, a signal that bubbles up from the subconscious, grabbing your attention and leading you in a new direction. A call to adventure is the spark that ignites a spiritual awakening. Every life has a moment, when grasped, that will change that life forever. The call to adventure is an awakening event, a new perception that forces you to look at life differently. This spiritual experience can take myriad forms – a journey to a far-off land, a loss of innocence, an illness, a challenge, the death of a close friend, a near-death experience, or the loss of a job. Regardless of the details, the experience shakes your worldview and you see the world with new eyes. You are called to live ordinary life in unusual ways.
At this crucial juncture, Joseph Campbell teaches that your choice is to accept or reject the call to adventure. In reality, however, turning down the call is not an option because, at a deeper level, your own soul is beckoning you to transform. If you decline the call, thanks to your unique karmic influences, the opportunity will just recycle itself like a crack on a vinyl record, patiently waiting for you to take the call to a new life. Furthermore, once a transformative and deeply awakening event has been experienced, there is no turning back. Your eyes have been opened and you cannot fail to see the vision of the higher reality calling to you, no matter how much you might want to deny it.
Once you have answered the call to adventure, you step into a bigger world.You become a conscious participant in your spiritual growth and development. Responsibility becomes the operative word as you begin to direct your life toward opportunities that further expand your consciousness. A subtle shift in perception has taken place and everything feels the same and strangely different at the same time.
2. Closer Examination: Choosing a Path
In the face of the realization that your limited worldview can no longer contain your expanding consciousness, you realize that your life is on a spiritual journey, an awakening of your consciousness. While it can be an exciting time, this phase can also feel unsettling and unfamiliar. Anything that you once accepted as solid and stable (ideologies, worldviews, feelings of self and otherness, relationships) can be questioned. You are searching for answers—a means by which to repeat or return to the view of the spirit that originally changed your perspective.
At this point, you can begin your journey to find a new path – a new philosophy, tradition or practice that will help contextualize or remap your worldview. This is when many begin serious spiritual exploration. Often characterized by a period of information gathering, self-study, and immersion in world religions or psychology, you are drawn to practices and methods that are consistent with your unique personality and disposition. According to Vedanta there are four paths or Yoga back to the unity you seek:
- Bhakti Yoga: The path of love and devotion
- Jnana Yoga: The path of science and intellect
- Karma Yoga: The path of action and selfless service
- Raja Yoga: The Path of Meditation and All Its Related Disciplines
Each path offers a distinctive vehicle for self-discovery and self-realization. Some may choose one, others may explore multiple paths at once; There are no absolute or set rules for discovering your path. What matters is that it feels right for you and serves as a suitable vehicle for growth. Nobody can or should tell you which way to go; Only your own intuitive heart can guide you to the method or vehicle that suits you best. At this point, you would do well to remember the wisdom of the Hindu proverb that says:There are hundreds of paths up the mountain all leading to the same place, so it doesn’t matter which path you take . The only person who wastes time is the one who walks around the mountain telling everyone their path is wrong.
3. Seeking: Following the Path
The next level calls you to be a spiritual seeker. Once you find your path, regular practice, study, and discipline serve to lead you deeper toward the greater vision of expanded consciousness. The Sanskrit term for the discipline of spiritual practice is sadhana. Sadhana is the spiritual routine that transforms your practice from an isolated exercise into a way of life. They are dedicated travelers along the path, familiar with its twists and turns, ups and downs. As your practice deepens, you become more and more skilled and knowledgeable, not only of the tradition or practice you follow, but of yourself.
This phase is through the birth of the Self-centeredness, the process in which your identity begins to shift from external references (such as positions, possessions, and ego gratifications) to the internal reference of stillness, intuition, and higher guidance. You recognize yourself as a spiritual being living a human life while facilitating the progressive growth of your consciousness.
As you journey your path to expanded consciousness, there are two markers, two clues that suggest that spiritual progress is afoot.
- The first is an increasing sense of lightheartedness. With consistent spiritual practice, happiness and joy will become your basic state. You take life less seriously. Hysteria and melodrama have less impact on you. Carelessness and detachment flow out of you spontaneously and you feel much more comfortable in life.
- The second mark of spiritual progress is the ease with which your desires are fulfilled. Regular spiritual practice removes mental, physical and energetic blockages that hinder the manifestation of your desires. When these obstacles are removed, life becomes easier; You step into the flow of life and experience synchronicities, small miracles and experiences of grace that bring you closer to your spiritual purpose in life.
4. Loss of Vision: Losing the Path
The spiritual path, however, is not without struggle. The path of awakening naturally confronts you with your shortcomings, self-deception, cognitive biases, and resistance to change. Growth can sometimes be an uncomfortable process. Because your chosen path challenges you to change thoughts, emotions, language, or behavior to be more expansive, compassionate, forgiving, or kind, it’s not uncommon to find yourself struggling with being in this world, but not of it.Worse still are the outside influences that assail the spiritual seeker with temptations to give up the quest for awakening and return to a conventional life.
The most daunting challenges along the way come in the form of what Joseph Campbell called has Threshold Guardian. Threshold Guardians are the barriers (literal or symbolic) that stand in the way of major turning points in your life. They can be enemies, rivals, life circumstances, limiting beliefs, or setbacks that block your progression to a higher level. These antagonists can knock you down repeatedly, testing your resolve and making you question your chosen path. Such setbacks make you doubt yourself and your commitment, and may even convince you to give up the quest.
At this stage you may feel lost or helpless, as if you have succumbed to spiritual blindness. What you often fail to realize, however, is that this blindness or challenge is the escapism of your ego—your little self that fears its own annihilation in the ever-expanding field of the mind. Seen in this way, your spiritual challenges or dark nights of the soul become what spiritual teacher Ram Dass would say: “Greed to the mill of enlightenment”. Each setback then becomes an expression of your inner doubts and fears – trials and hurdles on your personal and self-made obstacle course.
There is no doubt that this stage requires both strength and courage to stay on the path, as you remember The words of the poet Robert Frost: “The only way out is the way.” Fortunately, from this darkness you can step fully into the light, continue your spiritual development and awaken.
5. Seeing: Merging with the Path
At last the seeker breaks through to a new stage; visionary, transcendent and manageable. At this level you have gone beyond sadhana; You have become practice. You no longer aspire to see, but exist in a state of oneness where seer, landscape and what is seen merge. A permanent shift has taken place and you are fully awakening to your true identity – the infinite, immortal, limitless Godpower that exists everywhere and in everything. You fully awaken to be the divine observer – the omnipresent witness self of the entire universe.
In this phase you return to yourself, but surprisingly the process does not involve accumulating or gaining more knowledge or experience. Instead, it’s a process of letting go, of continually losing weight. Like peeling the skin of an onion, the “you” gets smaller and smaller until only pure being remains. It’s a journey of insight from here to HERE. This is the sign of spiritual awakening.
The path of spiritual awakening is the greatest adventure you can ever undertake. You are deeply privileged just to realize the truth that such a journey lies before you. And accepting it is nothing short of following the heroic call of your life purpose and destiny.
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