Awakening. It’s a big term, one that encompasses a lot of spiritual arenas, and it’s mired in false definitions and proclamations. So I feel compelled to shine some light and clarity on what is spiritual awakening.
This is a definitive guide to spiritual awakening. I have been in a unique position to work one-on-one with hundreds of others who have had these various combinations of awakenings. Not to mention the experience of having had my own personal emergence. But even though I am uniquely qualified to offer some clarity here, it’s an awkward subject to talk about in such general terms because “awakening” is not black and white. There are a lot of grey areas.
If you’re ready to understand the breadth of spiritual awakening experiences that exist – this is a key article.
My personal experience of Spiritual Awakening
When I had my own awakening into original nature, including the emergence of full psychic awakening, there was a lot of disorientation. I was lucky enough to have had access to great teachers like Adyashanti and Eckhart Tolle. That said, I also met a lot of people proclaiming a direct realization when they were, in fact, not at all realized. I was confused and shocked at the number of teachers who were instead deeply involved in trance work or projecting these illusions about their teachings for marketing purposes. Many simply had a real delusion and misunderstanding about the spiritual awakening process, or even what a real awakening is.
I also met many who were authentically awakened into their true nature, but their lives were utterly dysfunctional. They had no skill for navigating life. What is freedom unless you can be free inside of your daily life?
And so, even for me, who was in the throes of awakening first-hand, I found it very difficult and confusing to understand. Sadly, awakened spiritual teachers can be as full of shit as the leaders of other industries, like movie producers, venture capitalists, therapists, doctors, lawyers, etc.
So let’s start with a basic definition of awakening.
What is the definition of awakening?
Awakening: The moment of becoming suddenly aware; coming into awareness.
To this definition, I would add that, in practice, an Awakening is a very direct and hugely transforming experience that changes your life forevermore.
Now let’s get clear on some other, more subtle definitions.
What is the definition of personal awakening?
A personal awakening is a profoundly transformative moment of personal evolution or personal development.
We can suddenly become aware of or more conscious of the present moment. Or we can suddenly become aware of a habitual dysfunction or pattern. But the point is that this is a direct and hugely impactful insight, what Oprah would call an “Aha!” Moment: a sudden recognition. And that is a wholly different experience to the light that goes on while reading or studying which enables you to grasp a concept or phenomenon much more deeply.
For instance, we can be stunned into understanding the depth of racism in our own country by a fantastically illustrated news story or book. And it feels like what the kids call, getting “woke”: you suddenly see what you didn’t see before. However, this is different than if you have a direct awakening of racism. Perhaps you, or your loved one, have been deeply scarred or harmed by racism, and you are suddenly and directly aware of this experience. This then deepens and expands your own insights on human behavior, and dramatically changes the trajectory of your life moving forward.
So we have all kinds of sayings in our culture: we as a people need to “wake up” about sexism; we all need to awaken to the climate crisis we now face; and so on. These sayings speak to gaining a general awareness, but this does not constitute a personal awakening.
Once you have had a personal awakening, you usually find yourself compelled to deepen your exploration of this subject. You want to dive deeper into your exploration of this remarkable recognition and understanding. You are also compelled to find other people who have also experienced these insights. You need community to reflect back on your insights and help you integrate and deepen your awakening.
Pitfalls and Traps:
It becomes really easy to start to preach. It is a slippery line where sharing your insights is perceived as preaching to others. You fall into the category of ‘yelling from the rooftops’ what you have discovered. As if others haven’t got their own unique journeys to follow, and this insight of yours is the most important thing.
What is the definition is psychic awakening?
The activation of the third eye, or the sudden awakening of seeing and sensing other dimensions of reality beyond our three-dimensional space and time. Basically, it refers to directly sensing and interacting with information from beyond the known material forms.
Some people start to have more energetic sensitivities, while others deepen their already sensitive energetic systems. This usually involves directly seeing spirit realms, more conscious interaction in dream realms, and activation of psychic insights. But it can also be the deeper sensing of the presence or energy of the world around us, like the presence of nature, or sensing the subtle energy fields of people around you. It usually involves sensing and attuning to various influences of the planet’s energetic fields and/or specific human energy fields.
This can include:
- Clairvoyance: this literally means clear-seeing, and involves the seeing of other non-material beings; these can be spirits or ghosts or insights of the past or future.
- Clairsentience: this literally means clear-sensing, and is more of an all-around sensing of other non-material beings and information. For instance, sensing loved ones who have passed, or the presence of entities or beings from other dimensions, or sensing information about the past, present or future.
- Clairolfaction or clairscent: this literally means clear-smelling, and is a profound sense of smell that can validate loved ones who are no longer with us in body. Additionally, it enables identification of the presence of spiritual entities or insights into past and future events.
A psychic awakening can activate one or more of these far reaching senses.
This one is tricky. Since a lot of people don’t know or believe that there are other dimensions to reality or even an energetic presence to the world around us, a big impact of this kind of awakening is feeling very “in the closet” with this information. And with that comes a real personal challenge around what you know you are sensing, and trusting that, versus doubting and questioning your own senses (and sometimes your own sanity).
Pitfalls and Traps:
There is a real captivation that can lead to disassociating from your life and the material forms around you. That can look like disconnecting from your friends and family, or being less interested in the basic three dimensions of reality. Usually, this comes in the form of feeling that something you sense from another dimension or another time is more real than the material presence and form under your ass.
In addition, there is a fine line between sensing information and “filling in the blanks” with added information. That is to say, it’s very easy to start adding “storytelling” elements to pieces of real information.
The Spiritual Awakening Process
By definition, “spiritual” is referring to the human spirit or soul. So the spiritual awakening process involves becoming suddenly more aware of the silent field that creates the human “spirit” or “soul”, and/or a profoundly transformative heart opening.
What this means is that you have a direct insight that catapults you into a huge transformation about yourself beyond your physical life, and can involve a very uplifted surge of compassion. It relates to a profound opening and activation of the crown and heart chakra.
When the crown and heart chakra are activated, there is an obvious recognition of the interconnectedness of all life. Usually this includes spontaneous sensations of love and a general overriding sense that everything is deeply “okay” just as it is. It usually involves sudden energy healing, light healing, soul journeys, etc. This direct connection to the interconnectedness creates this spontaneous healing and recognition of the innate wholeness of everything.
Colors and smells are brighter and the world is experienced through the senses in a much more vivid and alive way. This awakening refers to more than a moment or a glimpse. Instead, it is a permanent sense activation that usually includes an uplifted healing. The impact of this is so massive it changes the direction of your life, and you find you are compelled to find a process, teachings, community that calls you deeper into this devotion.
This is different than being immersed in teachings or knowledge that inspires your seeking. This is a direct experience that changes everything you previously thought about your life and the world. Suddenly, you become more aware of this deeper energetic and silent realm of your life and much less focused on your mental positions and various fears and ambitions.
It is a direct and magical experience. And those that have not had these experiences can not understand and therefore often undermine or mistake the profound reorientation of the experience (which can also be said about any awakening). Oftentimes, people will appropriate the experience, missing the full impact of what it means for the actual heart chakra and/or crown chakra to be blown wide open.
The call to follow a spiritual path will be unrelenting. Your goals and your life plan will become irrelevant. And slowly, or suddenly, everything in your life will be about this deeper spiritual call to silence. Your life is now focused on your inner world and healing, instead of needing meaning, recognition, and success in the outer world. As I discuss in Freedom is Possible, you’ll begin to live with less resistance and become free to move as life.
Pitfalls and Traps:
The biggest pitfall is that while it seems like you have seen the truth (since you have!), you have really only seen one facet of reality, not the whole of it. But it feels so much like you have really seen the whole meaning and reality of life. Therefore, it is impossible to imagine that you have really only recognized one facet of it. Because of this, you might feel compelled to lead or preach, when usually that is an immature movement.
Additionally, with a real spiritual awakening, your being radiates with a presence of interconnectedness, which is felt as an energetic peace and ease. But the pitfall here is that people start to “project” this state, taking on artificial poses of “peaceful” or a posture of an undisturbed equanimity. This emulation causes people to act and look like what I call ‘spiritual barbies’, burping “namaste” at every challenge, instead of a much more authentic expression of interconnectedness. It can be a challenge to discern a posture from an authentic expression.
Awakening into Original Nature
What is the definition of awakening into original nature?
This is not a personal or spiritual awakening; this is something else entirely. This is waking up out of anything personal or spiritual, and it is also waking up out of experiences. Ironically, awakening into original nature is to wake up to the reality that there is no you, no world, no other dimensions. It is to awaken directly into the deepest reality of life, that all life is simply an illusion projected from a vast silent spaciousness.
This is the sudden awareness that you are not you. Life is not life. This is a direct insight that you are, in fact, only a vast eternal awareness dreaming all of creation into being. This insight hugely transforms everything about you. Not just you, but everything in your past and future as well. This awakening wipes out your existence completely, and is quite literally your death. Not a physical or material death, but a death of being able to identify as you, a person in this world with a history, and a family and drive that motivates a future. Ultimately, this awakening wipes out your history, your dreams, your goals… even your family and your friends can no longer be seen in the same way. Many people can have a glimpse or a short spell of this awareness (a non-abiding insight), but don’t fully awaken into their original nature. Which is to say, they get very shaken by the insight, but don’t have the death that is the signature of an actual awakening into original nature. .
If you have not had this experience, it would be impossible to identify what this experience was. If you have had this experience, it becomes obvious who else has and who is falsely proclaiming this insight.
Life after this awakening is silent, spacious, and still. Often, it is rather difficult to interact in any relationship as you have before, and language can easily fall away. People can lose motivation to be engaged in life and their family and careers the way they used to. Sometimes, people walk and talk very slowly, and begin to live a very simple, almost monkish life.
After this awakening, there is no need to follow a formal spiritual dogma or path, because you are always in a permanent state of mediation. And you are always identified as the vast eternal spaciousness that is dreaming existence. However, there is an unstoppable spontaneous movement towards healing any traumatic or dysfunctional patterns. Invariably, any trauma stored in the body/mind becomes explosive in their need to transform to wholeness. And a long process of healing becomes the main focus of your life.
Pitfalls and Traps:
There is a false but influential notion that, if you awaken to your true nature, you won’t be able to maintain the responsibilities of your life. Everything in your life will fall apart, and you will become a “bliss ninny”, just sitting in silence and incapable of anything else.
In reality, everything in your life that was built out of fear will fall apart, but, and after much healing, it will be replaced with much more sustainable and clear movements. Depleting relationships will be replaced with nourishing ones. Even your responsibilities will be considerably more easy, effortless, and clear, with all fear having been washed out of these roles. Your work-life and/or your home-life as a spouse or a parent becomes considerably more effortless and effective. In 4 Behaviors That Block Purpose, I shed light to help you find your way back to your true path.
A false but influential notion exists that if you awaken to original nature you should become a spiritual teacher. This is strange, since you have woken up from the spiritual dream, and you many not organically be skilled at teaching. Regardless, many people who awaken to their true nature do want to be still, and talk about the true nature of reality, and need a lot of quiet time.
And as I mentioned, there is often a lot of healing that happens but sadly, many choose to teach before this healing is complete. Ironically, it actually takes ten to fifteen years to get used to living out of time, living as pure awareness. But many people start teaching much sooner than that. And therefore, they tend to remain stuck in emptiness, not fully integrated into their full awareness, and not fully integrated into the daily life of freedom an ease.
Full Liberation or Enlightenment
What is the definition of enlightenment?
This is to awaken from the dream of awakening into true nature. It is a sudden awareness that you did not, in fact, awaken—even that was a dream.
Note: The common misconception is that enlightenment creates “special” omnipotent powers in an individual. The gifted ones who now walk on air, so to speak, and can wield great power to influence others, reading their minds and influencing their actions. This is not true, and really speaks more to misconduct practices of any awakening process but especially psychic awakening. That said, liberated beings can often feel, speak, and sense simply with their awareness, instead of more familiar, see, touch, taste senses.
This is the deepest insight that returns a person into ordinary life… but a life that is considerably more functional, more aligned, and more clearly fulfilling. This awakening creates a day-to-day life that is truly meaningful, interconnected, functional, and clear. There can be a phase of huge transformation and healing, as all the dysfunctional areas in daily functioning become obvious and loud. And they undergo a transformation towards functionality specifically gaining skillfulness, capability, and expanded capacity for fulfillment.
Some people have awakened to their true nature and then have glimpses of this liberation, but without a full liberation, their awakening does not actually transform their day-to-day lives. Many teachers who claim full liberation actually have hugely chaotic and dysfunctional lives, including dysfunctional relationships to money, sex, and intimacy.
But when you have awakened to a full liberation, this dysfunction is replaced by a brilliant clarity and an expanded capability for daily tasks.
There is a total adoration and devotion to the present moment. Alongside this is a deep-seated sense of total safety for the individual body/mind. The individual body/mind becomes very central and gracefully cherished. A very organic self-love is included in cherishing all facets of life.
Pitfalls and Traps:
The biggest pitfalls come from those not having this experience but appropriating or projecting what this experience is. A projected story evolves that because all life is sacred, those who are truly liberated don’t kill flies or eat meat. Or a projected story that money no longer becomes meaningful and anyone who is “rich” or charges large sums is therefore not liberated.
These are immature folk tales.
When all life is sacred, there is no right or wrong. There is no “ethic” or “morality” that is more valid than another. Liberation means whole, and whole means it includes all, and is not polarized. Morality is replaced by an all-pervasive empathy with exacting discernment.
For a liberated being, there is only right action in a single moment. It is a right action that is loud and discernable. Essentially, there is no illusion of being separate from the whole moment, or any illusion that any single life form (animal, plant, human) is separate from the whole. Right action has no allegiance to any single expression, like “kind” or “compassionate”. Anger and rage, grief, aggression are seen to be as important to peace as expressions of compassion. However, right action can be tangibly felt by the liberated person’s community as intelligent, leading to a number of unforeseen alignments or wins.
Some liberated people can be hugely challenging and fierce. Others can be hugely accepting and soft. However, in all liberated people there is a freedom to be any shape or any expression at any moment, and those expressions bring about intelligent action that has a harmonizing effect for those around them. A liberated person is not acting as a “harmonizing” element, i.e., being kind and soft, not eating meat, loving all in any situation, etc. Rather, they are acting in alignment to the moment, and the moment becomes harmonized towards authentic or right action for many involved.
Again, these are generalized terms, as there are so many grey areas and unique qualities to each individual awakening.
The good news is that our world at this time is full of amazing teachers, coaches, and allies. And at every awakening stage, there is a great buffet of teachers to help you evolve, integrate, and find community. You will be drawn to the ones that you most resonate with. And if you would really like to heal from your own dysfunctional patterns, you will be captivated by leaders who have done that for themselves. However, if you would like to bypass your personal healing and instead try to become someone “special” or “magical” or “spiritual”, you will be drawn to those kind of teachings and leaders. Basically, once an awakening, whether a spiritual awakening or not, is emerging you will need the support of a mentor and a community. And you will be guided to the teacher that most resonates with your own desire and experience.
I had some friends over this past weekend, and eventually—as it always seems to happen—politics came into the conversation. And because it just goes around…
Question: Can you see the future? I feel intensely curious about it. I think there is something about wanting to know that is just an…
Lately I have been curious about little similarities between science and spirituality. Maybe it’s the lineup of science/spirituality conferences that populate Northern California or my…