Maybe yours was a burning bush moment. The lights popped off inexplicably when you were on your knees in a dark night of the soul. Or one day, your eyes grew wide when heard the voice of God finally talk back to you. Maybe you encountered a sign so undeniably a sign that, despite your best efforts, you could not formulate an alternate explanation.
Perhaps, like me, your perspective shifted to a degree so extreme it was as if in a split second, a whale had majestically breached toward the sky up, up, up…and then dropped hard on a sailboat sailing peacefully out at sea. You were the sailboat.
Or, maybe you’re waiting for your awakening. You’re hoping for God or the Universe or whomever to shake the hell out of you so you can WAKE UP and stop faking your way through life, stop playing small, and finally see the answer you seek.
Whatever your personal experience of spiritual awakening, you’re now searching on the internet for what to do next. And you’ve landed on my essay.
Let me prep you for disappointment by getting the truth out of the way: After a spiritual awakening, you still have to do the dishes, sit awkwardly in the dentist chair, and you still receive spam calls throughout the day.
You’re still you.
You will be a different you, but you’ll still have to fight the natural, constant wave of ego that laps up at consciousness. You will still have bad days, negative thoughts, bouts of tears and frustration, say the wrong thing, struggle, and feel awkward in the store when shopping for diarrhea medicine and a person walks up next to you.
But you wanted to hear the other part? Oh, my darling, it is beautiful. You will see yourself, your life, and all of existence in a whole new light. You will feel a golden shred of pure peace in your chest — a knowing, an understanding. It’s going to be ok. Your priorities will fall into crystal clear order and you will see at the top: LOVE. You will be able to take comfort in not knowing everything and you may be humbled with the realization that you know nothing and it will be so freeing! You will feel love and kindness toward strangers, and you’ll smile at them on the street. You may savor the taste of your morning coffee, smile at strangers on the street, feel more present than you ever have before, and appreciate the simple joy of being alive. You may even feel set on fire to live with vibrant aliveness!
Everything, everything is impermanent. The exhilaration of your awakening will fade, and you will need to work to keep its teachings alive in your daily life. You will be constantly presented with opportunities to react with your awakened consciousness or your old, ego-consciousness: when someone cuts you off in traffic, in a misunderstanding with a friend, when getting caught up in the crush of work projects, and when the sun sets each evening with either your eyes on the phone screen or on the oranges and pinks.
I wrote the original article, What Happens after a Spiritual Awakening, on a starry, cold night in Paris with unlimited possibility. By that point in my life, at 33, I had had two spiritual awakenings.
I’m updating this article not at all because it’s wrong. In fact, the magic possibility I felt that night in Paris when I wrote it came from an epiphany of its own: there I was, two years post-awakening, in a relationship with the complete wrong person for me who I was allowing to hurdle over, under, and through any boundaries I hoped to set for myself. I had allowed him to invite himself on my work trip to Europe and gritted my teeth as he picked fight after ridiculous fight with me along the way.
Sooooooooo awakened, right?
If you have had a spiritual awakening, don’t do like I did and expect everything in your life to be magically amazing afterward with no dedicated practice to integrate your awakening into your daily life, and to continue to grow as a result of it.
If you haven’t yet had a spiritual awakening, here are three important pieces of advice about awakenings:
- Clear up any fantasies of your awakening solving all your problems and shortcomings in life. It won’t. You’ll still be beautifully human and you’ll have to work to keep that awakening alive as time goes on.
- Know that you don’t have to wait for a burning bush moment to radically change your life.You can start today.
- You have probably already had an awakening, but chose to ignore it.
People ignore awakenings. People ignore epiphanies. People deny capital-T Truths. People fail to carry out the dying wishes of their loved ones. They pretend they can’t hear that voice of intuition that tells us to leave the relationship, take the chance, stop working so hard, say “I love you,” ask for help, and be our weird and wonderful self.
The human proclivity to lie to ourselves is profound. We create our reality through what we believe and the stories we tell ourselves, and we can fantastically warp reality. We can cognitively and emotionally reject anything — especially inconvenient truths.
What I’m saying is, if you’ve had a spiritual awakening or epiphany of any kind and are aware of it and trying to figure out how to live in your radical new understanding — YOU ARE ON THE RIGHT TRACK.
It took me a year to finally leave that relationship after that night in Paris, but I finally did. And it took me four years after my awakenings to realize that I have to keep working hard every day to keep the sparks & teachings alive in my life, but I finally did.
You have great power to radically change your life. You have great power to profoundly change your perspective. And if you are thinking about an awakening, you’re already there, man.
What you need to do now is to practice listening to your voice of intuition, to work on keeping your mind open, and to seek out mini-awakenings every day by making choices in alignment with your Truth.
What happens after a spiritual awakening is up to you.
Keep those eyes open, my friends.
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Original Article written November 2019.
Did you know that the experience of an awakening can fade? That to maintain a sense of aliveness, perspective, and peace one must actively cultivate it?
I had an awakening over the span of a little over a year. Today, I still possess the greater perspective I realized during that time, but life has, you know, gone back to life. I have now realized that to reap the benefits of a radical shift in perspective, it takes work, man! Like, the dirty stuff that everyone tells us: meditation, writing, a choice to seek and find joy in life, an integrated gratitude practice. Seriously — you have to do the thing every day.
I did, until I didn’t. For two years, I traveled around the world seeking and experiencing spiritual awakening. I didn’t know I had already found it, but in the meantime, I practiced meditation, yoga, mindfulness, and spiritual exploration in Japan, Indonesia, India, Nepal, and the US, among others. I lived a beautiful nomadic existence, and amidst challenge, I experienced peace. My last period of dedicated focus to my meditation practice was during the month of December 2017, when I was at teacher training in India. My meditation was deep and beautiful, and for many weeks after, I would meditate on my own for twenty minutes a day. I would emerge from these sessions in complete bliss, experiencing the physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits of meditation plus the pride in having autonomously practiced.
And then it faded away. I went back to the US, worried about money, eventually moved into a regular apartment, got another corporate job, and got caught up in the doldrums of life. I stopped meditating regularly on my own. Here and there, sure, maybe once every other week. I can feel the negative effects in my mind and soul. Thoughts run through my skull like butterflies on a sweet flower bush, fluttering in, out, around, through, on. Without meditation, I feel spiritually depleted and lost. I want the consistent brightness back.
The good news is that everything is within my control to change! I can choose to begin meditating any time I want. I can change my life circumstances to better align with what’s meaningful and nourishing for me. I can choose to look at the bright side of life!
I want to experience an awakening every single day. I want to appreciate the smell of flowers and coffee. I want to force myself to engage daily in the healthy habits that I know make my life brighter and more peaceful: meditating, writing, remembering I might die tomorrow, feeling gratitude.
Guess what? It’s now. I’m writing now (win!), I can write down three things for which I am grateful, and then I can close this laptop down and meditate for five minutes.
- I’m grateful for the human capability to experience perspective.
- I’m grateful for the seemingly simple of life: music, coffee, red wine, the breath in my chest.
- I’m grateful for possibility and the freedom to create my life.
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