Have you begun to awaken only to discover that you still struggle with basic issues like anxiety and depression, attachment and dissatisfaction? For many people Spiritual Awakening is a gradual process of self discovery and realization.
Somewhere along the way we’ve gotten this idea that one is either spiritually asleep or spiritually awake; that there’s only these two polarities. But as with most things in life, there’s often a middle ground, a transitional area, an in between.
We tend to think that in one moment one is lost in illusion, and in the next one is enlightened. But for many people spiritual awakening is a gradual process that may unfold over many years, perhaps even many lifetimes. And the truth is that we’re all on that journey whether we realize it or not, which means that we’re all destined to awaken eventually.
For those who are waking up, and are aware that they’re waking, there can be a great deal of frustration and disappointment. We have specific ideas in mind of what this awakening is supposed to be, and we often find those ideas challenged by the reality of where we actually find ourselves. We might find that even though we’ve woken up to a certain understanding about life and the universe, we still find ourselves struggling with common issues such as attachment, anxiety, depression and so on. And this can seem perplexing.
Some of us might just try to skip the entire process by trying to live in an enlightened way, according to our idea of what we think enlightenment means, but deep down we may still be feeling lost, confused, uncertain. We may even be aware that we’re faking it, but we don’t want anyone else to know. So we put on a facade that gives the appearance of being enlightened. And perhaps we have some sense that we’re deceiving others, and maybe even ourselves.
I used to think that being spiritual meant always being positive, being completely unattached, never feeling sad or angry, and having knowledge of all things spiritual and metaphysical. And there was a time when I could walk the walk and talk the talk whenever I was around other people. But when I was alone with myself, I was miserable, insecure, anxious and depressed. This was my shadow self, my dark side, my ego. And I had come to believe that it was bad; that it was un-spiritual, this it was my enemy. And so I had learned to repress it, to hide it, and even deny it. And as much as I struggled against it, it just wouldn’t go away.
Eventually I came to embrace this side of myself. I came to accept that I wasn’t enlightened, and that I had so many personal illusions and emotional issues. And I don’t mean to suggest that I was giving up on my journey. This was, in fact, a fundamental step in that journey. And until I was willing to take that step, I wasn’t really getting anywhere.
I learned to accept myself more fully, not only those aspects in myself which seemed noble and virtuous, but all of the bullshit, all of the negativity, all of the sadness and anger, uncertainty and ignorance – all of it. And that’s when things really began to shift. That’s when I began to make real progress.
I’m not suggesting that I don’t still have a lot to resolve. But here’s the thing. I’m no longer in a rush. I’m no longer fighting and struggling to get there. Do I still experience negative emotions? Sure, now and then these things arise. But when they do I don’t run from them. I don’t suppress them. I face them. I simply acknowledge them, I observe them, I bring my awareness to them. I look at them. I try to understand them; how they arise; where they arise from. What’s beneath them. What do they have to teach me about myself?
Because spiritual awakening is about discovering who you are, and you can’t know who you are without understanding who you aren’t. So all of that bullshit, all of those blockages, all of those beliefs and concepts, all of those identifications – it all has to be looked at. It all has to be understood. And you can’t understand anything by ignoring it. Ignorance means to ignore. And we can be so deeply ignorant, especially in regard to understanding ourselves. So let’s start there. Can we acknowledge this? Can we recognize even our unwillingness to look deeply at ourselves, and to see that all of these patterns of thought and behavior is what’s holding us back from being who we truly are, being authentic.
The more I awaken, the more I realize how asleep I am. And the more I realize how asleep I am, the more I awaken.
Spirituality isn’t about becoming enlightened. It’s not about becoming a better person. It’s not about transforming into anything newer or better or different. It’s about removing everything that stands in the way of who we already are. It’s a process of stripping away all the layers of false identification, false beliefs and concepts, until there’s nothing left but your authentic self.
And who or what that is no one can really tell you. And what good is it to have some answer from someone else anyway? All they can give you is another concept to believe in, another identity to become attached to. But what I’m talking about is going beyond concepts and identification, and seeing for yourself.
So how do we do that? We start by being authentic, right here, right now. And that means owning everything. That means owning the fact that we’re not enlightened, that we have these negative thoughts, feelings and beliefs. It means owning up to the fact that we’re not perfect, that we’ve got issues to resolve. And it’s about allowing ourselves to vulnerable enough to allow others see this side of us, without trying to hide it, without making excuses, without putting on pretenses.
And we need to understand that this process can take time, but there’s no deadline. So we don’t need to rush it. We need to relax into it, and allow it to unfold. We need to be patient with ourselves. We need to stop struggling to break free of negativity, and simply observe it with compassion and acceptance. Allowing it to be there, but also bringing our attention to it in order to understand it. And that’s it. You don’t have to try and change it. Just simply understand it.
The paradox in all of this is that the harder we try the harder it is and the longer it takes. And the more we let go of even the need to be liberated, the more liberated we become.
The more I come to understand these things in myself, the more they dissolve all on their own. And that isn’t to say that I come to understand them fully the first time I look. I’m often revisited by the same issues over and over again throughout my life, and each time, as I go a little deeper, I learn a little more. And the more I learn, the less of a hold they have on me. Because what I’m really learning about is myself. And the more I discover myself, the more I realize that these things aren’t who I am. They exist in my experience, as thoughts arising in the mind, but I am more than my experience. Because experiences are constantly changing. And who I am is constantly unchanging.
So, again, awakening is often a process, and I think it’s helpful to really understand that, to embrace it, and to have patience with it. And it’s important to be present in that process, which means allowing yourself to simply be wherever you are on the journey, with all of your imperfections, your personal issues and challenges, your various emotional turbulence, and even your illusions. And to fully embrace and accept yourself as you are, right here, right now, without judgment or disapproval.
And I make this emphasis because often what can prevent us from awakening is the belief that we’re already awake, when in fact, we may only be in the early stages. But the more we become aware of how unawakened we are, the more we awaken naturally and effortlessly.