What is an awakening experience? Is it really occurring for me? How do I know if my experience is the “real” thing, or a passing emotional event? What makes an awakening an authentic and deeper experience that endures?
Yes, these are significant questions on the spiritual path. And, often, they do not come up “one-time,” or, at the “beginning” of the awakening process. Asking what is spiritual awakening takes on new meaning as you travel further in your spiritual quest, and begin seeing your past, present, and future from a new perspective.
No matter where you are right now, I invite you to join me in this article, to reflect, contemplate, and broaden your understanding of your (beginning or continuing) awakening experience.
What is spiritual awakening: the inner and outer view
Attempting to answer the question of “what is spiritual awakening” in an article is a bit of a paradox. Why? Because, from my perspective, the most important source of awareness for any spiritual consideration is your own. Many descriptions of awakening emphasize “signs and symptoms” rather than direct experience. As a result, many people become focused on “what does this mean?” or “is this true?” rather than their own experience.
My intention is to help you ask the right questions and move past doubt of your inner knowing.
So, for starters, when examining your spiritual awakening experience — or any question for which you seek outside input — I suggest that you apply this question: “Is this (information, idea, guidance, etc.) relevant to me?” This is not an absolute question, but relative to where you are right now, and what you need. I implore you to use it when reading this article! (In fact, do you even need to ask yourself “what is spiritual awakening” and “is it real”?)
Any question that gives you just a binary answer — for example, yes/now, true/false, or right/wrong — will likely get you stuck in short order. In seeking a simple answer of yes or no (is this true? is this real?), you are inherently setting up a polarity. A polarity breaks apart connectedness and wholeness rather than inspiring ever widening expansion of awareness. To evolve and grow in your maturity as a spiritual being, it is necessary to continually bring in new awareness, perspectives, and deepen your understanding of the nature of reality.
To be clear, this type of spiritual maturation is not an intellectual or social process, e.g., reading more books, going to more workshops, or acquiring more information. Rather, going more deeply into the question of “what is (my) awakening” is a process of cultivating direct awareness and your felt sense of meaning, truth, and “rightness.”
Very often, what is truly right and good for you is the opposite — or at least very different — than what is right and good for someone else. Or what was right and good at another time and place. (FYI, one of the most common blocks to the transformative process that I have observed is not granting self-permission to change.)
What is spiritual awakening: beyond the stasis of polarity
Working with the question of “what is spiritual awakening,” or more precisely, “what is my awakening,” is a more effective and powerful inquiry because it is open-ended. That is, as long as you allow it to be. It is a common pattern to find an answer to a question today, from an outside source, or from within your own awareness, and believe that it is absolute. If you are genuinely continuing on your journey and soul path, it is most likely a temporary answer. Or, from another perspective, a partial answer. Temporary and partial are not problematic or inferior. To the contrary — they invite you towards more inquiry, reflection, and growth.
This IS one of the shifts that occurs in what I consider a “real” spiritual awakening experience. Rather than seeking to eliminate the unknown through hard and fast answers, you embrace a path of discovery with a new sense of inner peace. That peace does not come from an external source of validation, finding (and substantiating) a definition/answer/conclusion, or having confidence (or relief) in adopting a new belief system.
This type of peace comes from an inner confidence that “what is spiritual awakening” will not be answered simply, conclusively, or definitively. Either by someone else or by your current state of awareness. The peace comes from a state of connection to your inner wholeness — and confidence in your ability to explore, expand, heal, create, grieve, rejoice, and share from that place of inner wholeness.
While the manifestations of your spiritual awakening might change over time, the origin of your awakening does not.
When you reach that source, and know it in your spiritual heart (in comparison to your patterned mind), then you will have recognized the non-answer to the question of “what is awakening.”
What is spiritual awakening: the indefinite answer to the question
Isn’t that liberating? That the answer to the question of “what is spiritual awakening” is indefinite, or even, a non-answer? The origin of awakening is the destination, and the journey is the many manifestations of awakening. The manifestations of spiritual awakening are as vast and complete as you allow them to be.
In this sense, a “real” awakening ceases to be about anything “spiritual.” That kind of demarcation does not make sense any longer. When the (re)union of soul awareness and physical awareness becomes deep, complete, and thorough, it might be better described as a “life awakening.” Awakening is no longer tied to an event, location, spiritual practice, or concept.
What is spiritual awakening becomes something different when it turns reality inside out for you. The inside becomes the outside, and vice versa. Your awakening is as unique as your past, present, and future. Patterns and similarities to others can be comforting, but they also can be limiting and distorting.
I find many people come to the question of what is awakening because their experience does not look like someone else’s. Or does not follow an expected progression or set of steps. Sometimes these ideas come from an outside source, and other times, they arise from unquestioned expectations.
What is spiritual awakening: the unquestioned expectations
Much of what I share on this website is devoted to the quandaries that arise from unquestioned expectations about spiritual practice and experience. There’s a popular notion that the awakened life path is somehow easier or more delightful. In some ways, it is. In other ways, it is more challenging and painful when the light of awareness shines into darker places that request recognition, healing, separation, or dissolution in order to come to greater wholeness.
In another article, I discuss how spiritual awakening can be understood in the context of “ascension” and “enlightenment”, to help you move beyond specific structures, traditions, and thought forms to perceive your experience and soul path more directly from the perspective of energy and consciousness.
Just like describing or naming a problem does not solve it, experiencing or recognizing spiritual awakening does not bring it to fruition or full embodiment in all aspects of your life. Crossing (energetic/spiritual) bridges of separation, avoidance, non-remembrance, or disturbance requires ongoing physical effort and intention. And just like a physical workout, some days are exhilarating and others are grinding. There’s rarely one without the other.
What is spiritual awakening? The ultimate question
We return the paradox at the beginning of this article: the conclusion is the necessary beginning to more fully examine the question of what is spiritual awakening for you. When you expand your awareness through intentional self-reflection and questioning, you become more discerning of what you keep and what you disregard. Conscious discernment is the key to avoiding dead ends, repeating cycles, and fruitless inquiries/effort in the awakening process. While there is some comfort in the familiarity of those patterns, they do not contribute to transformation, elevation, and evolution on any level.
That is the key question — and inner commitment/answer — that arrives at your doorstep during soul awakening. How fully and deeply will you re-examine, re-invent, and awaken your reality?