Think you have to be religious to experience a spiritual awakening? Think again. Many people, like me, start out entirely secular. I didn’t believe in anything, was a proud and apparently rational atheist until the rug was pulled from under my feet. All it can take is a little boredom, a little dissatisfaction with the paucity of the material rewards offered by consumerism, a little frustration with daily life, for the searching to start…
Spiritual awakening is another term for the evolution of consciousness. As we seek deeper meaning in our lives, we are pushed beyond our comfort zones and discover there may be more to life than we assumed.
Many people experience spiritual awakening as a gentle emergence. Slowly the wounds of the past are healed, and the Self is discovered to be vast and full of joy. For others, this process of self-discovery is more painful and traumatic. Emergence becomes an emergency.
Spiritual emergency or crisis is what happens when the natural process of spiritual awakening becomes intensified. It moves faster and deeper, becomes enmeshed with earlier wounds yet to heal.
This can be triggered by spiritual practices such as meditation, prayer or yoga; or by drugs, whether psychotropic or otherwise. It can also be accidental, arising from any major turning point in life. The death of a loved one, illness, accident, divorce or the loss of a job, can all trigger a period of profound questioning leading to spiritual awakening.
Everybody experiences awakening in different ways. The restructuring of the psyche as it transcends and heals itself unfolds according to an inner blueprint. The process is impersonal and yet experienced in a unique way.
Positive, inspiring experiences can be mixed with terrifying and debilitating ones, making navigation through the storm complicated at best. Here’s a selection:
- Mystical experiences of oneness, bliss and awe
- Hypersensitivity to light, sounds, smells, etc.
- Confusion caused by the merger of inner and outer worlds
- Dark Night of the Soul or profound depression and loss of meaning
Resistance is Futile
Awakening is an opportunity to learn to surrender and trust life, to move into freedom and co-creation, and find wholeness. But before you get there you may have to confront the dark side. As consciousness expands, the ego resists. Old ideas and concepts are torn down, but the ego tries to hang on to the reins. Anything unresolved or repressed from the past will resurface and demand attention.
If you find yourself undergoing a spiritual awakening – don’t panic! You’re not going crazy. It’s true there is often regressive, psychotic stuff mixed in with the glorious transpersonal, and it can be hard to tell the difference when it’s all swirling through your head. But there is a way through.
What to do
Seek support: find friends, family, a spiritual community, or sympathetic health care professionals to help you through. You may feel alone, but you don’t have to be. Start with the links below.
Take your time: there’s no rush. Let the process unfold naturally. It’s not a race and you’re already at the finish line, even if you don’t yet realise it.
Write it down: find a way to express what you’re experiencing. Write, paint, dance, plant a window box, anything that gets what’s in your head, out so you can see it more clearly.
Look for the lesson: ask for insight, look for the deeper meaning. Don’t take anything at face value.
Don’t panic: it may look like you’re losing everything. Old structures like jobs, relationships, living arrangements, may change, but new structures will grow from the rubble.
Practise gratitude: be thankful for the opportunity to awaken. It’s a great gift.
Have hope: the sun always rises!
For more information I recommend In Case of Spiritual Emergency by Catherine G Lucas, founder of the UK Spiritual Crisis Network.
The following sites may also be helpful:
Good luck! And see you on the other side…
- Love’s Ordeal: The Dark Night of the Soul
- How to Survive a Dark Night of the Soul
- Dark Angel: Hecate and the Dark Night
- The Hidden Dangers of Mindfulness