Many of us have a few things on our bucket list that we know are important and want to do but put them off until doomsday. We have ready-made excuses for not pursuing them such as lack of time, not knowing where to start or how to go about it.
Exercising, healthy eating and family time often make the list. And so do mindfulness and spirituality.
Unlike others, spirituality is a vague and foggy concept for most of us. All we know is that it has something to do with the Creator. And maybe establishing a connection with the higher power.
Unfortunately, that is the beginning and end of our understanding of spirituality. We have no clue how to connect with the Universe or how to start a spiritual journey.
This article is an attempt at clearing the air about the topic. You will find here the true meaning of spiritual awakening, its importance, and how to cultivate it in your life.
Table of Contents
What is spiritual awakening?
Spirituality is an experience and like all experiences, it has to be lived and experienced to understand its true meaning. It is something difficult to put into words. Even the best of definitions falls short in conveying the real meaning.
That said, here is an attempt at defining spiritual awakening.
The dictionary defines spirituality as “the quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things”. That is as vague as we already are and doesn’t help much.
So, here is a better explanation.
Spirituality means connecting with or being one with the higher power.
This leads us to the question of what is the higher power and how to connect with it.
As this is a definition to fit in with all religious beliefs, the Creator or God is referred to as the higher power or the Universe. The Universe is believed to be on a higher level of existence than us humans.
The spiritual journey is this endeavor of ours to reach a higher level of consciousness. As we reach the higher level of consciousness, we call it a spiritual awakening. We use spiritual practices to help us elevate to that level.
In a more simplified language, a spiritual journey can be defined as a personal pursuit we undertake to reconnect with the Universe.
Related: 12 Stages of Spiritual Awakening
What is meant by the higher level of consciousness?
Now that we understand that spirituality is all about raising your level of consciousness, we need to dig deeper and learn more about it.
In the context of spiritual development, there are seven levels of consciousness starting from waking consciousness to unity consciousness. While the first three levels of consciousness – waking, deep sleep, and dreaming – are accessible and experienced by all of us, the remaining four – transcendental, cosmic, God, and unity – can be reached only with deliberate effort.
You can raise your level of consciousness in stages – from one level to the next until you reach the pinnacle of higher consciousness. Meditation is a path chosen by many to reach higher levels.
Here is a brief description of the four higher consciousness levels.
Transcendental: It relates to complete stillness or total silence. This is the state when your mind and senses are absolutely still and your consciousness is active.
Cosmic: It is the recognition of the existence of the higher power and the impermanence of our being. When you reach this state, you will realize how inconsequential you are in the greater scheme of things.
God: This is about our mind opening up to the immense possibilities and seeing the world with a deeper perception. In this state, you will find joy in everything.
Unity: This level of consciousness helps us to realize that everything in this world is part of the same Universe. When you reach this level, your mind expands to such an extent that there is only One. You have reached a spiritual awakening.
Why is it important to experience a spiritual awakening?
Reaching higher levels of consciousness is crucial for the optimum functioning of our body and mind. The farther we move away from it, the more confused and out of control our behavior will be.
So, this is the most selfish reason for traveling down the spiritual path.
The truth remains that this can also help in the functioning of the Universe as a whole. When each individual is performing to their best ability, recognizes and accepts the importance of higher power, and be one with it, the Universe would be working together like a well-oiled machine.
On a personal level, spiritual awakening allows us to experience inner peace and true happiness. This content state of mind is not as fragile as the peace and happiness we are normally used to.
However, there is a precondition attached to it. You should continue the spiritual practices without break. Or else, you would become out of tune and you would revert to the lower levels of consciousness. If you restart the practices, your consciousness level would go up again.
Most of us live with the feeling that something is missing in our lives. We feel as if there is something more to be done but have no clue what it is or how to learn more about it. As if in the jigsaw puzzle that is our lives, some pieces are missing and we don’t know where to find them or how to go about finding them.
Spiritual practices reveal to us the missing pieces of our lives and make us feel whole. It is like we have been able to land on solid ground after falling a long way down or drifting about in what seemed to us like the bottomless pit.
Before getting started on your spiritual journey
As mentioned earlier, your spiritual awakening is beneficial on a personal front as well as for the Universe.
When you are embarking on the journey with only personal gains as a goal, it would turn into spiritual materialism – something we need to stay alert of and avoid at all costs. Spiritual materialism is venturing down the spiritual path for the sake of personal advancement alone.
A point to note here is that a spiritual practice is not about gaining or adding something new or about advancing your state of mind. It is all about eliminating ego and selfishness from your life and attuning yourself to the Universe.
You would run into problems with spiritual practices when you consider it as a means of appeasement to the higher power. This distorts the meaning and purpose of the practice so much that it leads to boosting your ego – the very same thing you were trying to get rid of. This can only direct you down the path of suffering and pain.
Remember to stay clear of practices that perpetuate egoistic behavior. And don’t embark on the journey with the sole aim of personal advancement. All these can make things worse than they already are by enhancing the feeling of lack and inadequateness.
Now that you have been warned, let us take a look at how you can start preparing for and initiate the process of spiritual awakening.
- Declutter your personal space – Things that you no longer need or use serve only as distractions.
- Do the same with your mind – Fear, ego, judgment, and a whole lot of negative feelings need to be removed for the success of your spiritual journey.
- Revisit your belief system – Examine their relevance or need for you now. Do away with those not conforming to the new path you are about to travel.
- Broaden your horizons – Experiment with new beliefs and ideas. Travel down new paths. The idea is to try out and learn new things.
- Reconnect with nature – It offers the best possible way to see yourself as part of the Universe. Nature is the nearest thing to the Universe that you can see and feel.
- Take good care of yourself – Staying active and eating healthy is a simple way to connect with yourself and in turn, with the higher power. Unhealthy habits can create roadblocks in your path to spiritual awakening.
How to choose the right spiritual practice to kick start your spiritual awakening?
A spiritual practice is any activity or collection of activities that can help you get in touch with your sense of spirituality. That is your perception of the higher level of consciousness.
Spiritual practices can be broken down into two main types – ones that remove the obstacles on your path and the ones that help you reach the higher consciousness level. Obstacles referred to here are mostly mental impediments that can prevent you from moving forward. Such as ego, anger, fear, and other limiting beliefs.
The ego is one of the main obstacles in the spiritual path. It is the ego that persuades you to see yourself as removed from the rest. It is a product of your limited experience of consciousness.
Eliminating ego is one of the first and main objectives of a spiritual practice.
Let us now take a look at the spiritual practices you can use to build your own spiritual practice.
Even though spirituality and the spiritual journey seem abstract and hard to understand, spiritual practices are as real as they can get.
This forms the foundation for any spiritual journey. Mindfulness or living in the moment can overhaul your mindset and unbelievably change your outlook.
Most of us skim through life, not experiencing any of the emotions in the real sense. Mindfulness can transform your life in the most magical way.
Suddenly you are aware of feelings, thoughts, people, and things around you that you never noticed before or never knew existed. Now your mind is crystal clear and you realize the importance of truth.
Practicing mindfulness exercises can be done in the regular course of your everyday activities. However, to develop the practice, meditation is the best bet.
2. Letting go
This is often misunderstood as removing or eliminating certain feelings, thoughts, beliefs, and perceptions from our minds. This cannot be further from the truth.
The practice of letting go is more about letting go of the attachment to them than to the emotions and beliefs. By practicing non-attachment, you learn to handle your emotions rather than allow them to control you.
You will no longer hold on to your beliefs and perceptions if you find them harmful. Rather they are formed in such a way that they will help you move forward in your spiritual journey.
Letting go doesn’t mean you will stop feeling sad, angry, or scared. Once you perfect the art of letting go, you would still be able to feel all the emotions without them affecting you more deeply and permanently.
3. Destroying the ego
As said earlier, the presence of ego is the biggest hurdle you will face in your spiritual journey. As long as you feel superior or separate from others, it would be impossible to reach higher levels of consciousness and thereby spiritual awakening.
The first step in eliminating ego is to recognize and acknowledge its presence. That is half the battle won.
Most cultures around the world recognize the negative impacts of ego and offer solutions for its elimination. Service, whether to God or fellow human beings, is considered the best way to eradicate ego from the mind.
Service helps us realize the ultimate truth that we are all part of the same Universe and the concept of superiority is just an illusion.
4. Kindness and compassion
By practicing love, kindness, and compassion for all living things, you would notice positive changes all around you. The negative feelings and thoughts clouding your mind and judgment vanish into thin air. Your mind becomes quieter and you will have more clarity of thought. Your relationships transform and become more intimate.
However, for a person not used to them, beginning the practice of love, kindness, and compassion can be a tough task. Start small and take baby steps towards your goal.
Do remember that being human, you are prone to errors and missteps. Don’t expect to transform yourself overnight or see changes happening in the blink of an eye. Give yourself space and time to work on it.
Be steadfast in your goal to transform yourself. That is all you need to take care of. You will be able to develop compassion even for those who you dislike and harm you.
Aspects of a spiritual journey
Soul searching: For most of us, a spiritual journey begins as a result of a deep urge to look for something beyond ordinary life. This leads to a search for meaning and purpose and ultimately spiritual connection.
Awakening and discovering: As the search begins, the new learnings remove the veil from your eyes. You will wake up to new opportunities, perceptions, and horizons.
Emerging from the darkness: At some point in your journey, you will have to face your demons. If you are truthful, you will come out victorious.
The light shines: As you come out of darkness into the light, you feel as if you are reborn. Your mind will be clearer and stronger.
Integration and spreading the good news: Your next step is to absorb and bring in all the newfound knowledge into your life. And, you feel an irresistible urge to share your experience with others.
The spiritual journey in 7 steps
At the onset, you should understand that there are no hard and fast rules to follow on a spiritual journey. Each individual’s experience is unique. The starting point may be different, paths taken may vary, the pace of the journey need not be the same, and the obstacles overcome also differ from person to person.
The only common point is the goal – spiritual awakening or enlightenment.
Despite this, few common threads run through the steps taken to reach the goal. For the sake of a confused beginner, who is feeling intimidated and searching for a place to start, these steps may prove helpful.
1. Be kind to yourself
Don’t allow your enthusiasm and expectations to overburden yourself with deadlines and tough targets. Don’t be so hard on yourself.
Start slowly and find your way forward at your own pace. This is no race or competition. You will reach your goal as long as you are sincere and steadfast.
Again, as you move forward and discover new knowledge, you would be tempted to dive deeper and acquire a thorough understanding of them all. There is no need for this. You will be side-tracked if you indulge your temptations.
What seems like new knowledge is already inside you. You were not aware of their existence and are now finding them for the first time.
The right approach is to take it slow. You would be traveling more distance when you are calm and unhurried.
2. Identify the path
Ask yourself questions like why you started on this spiritual quest and what you aim to achieve with this. Is your intention to gain something or to lose something? Maybe you have a goal in mind or you want a certain experience.
Each person’s reason for embarking on the path of enlightenment is different. Some are trying to figure out life’s purpose, some are bored with their humdrum existence and want something more from life, or some others want to overcome some negativity in their lives like a traumatic experience or addiction.
You need to be honest about your purpose/goal. It may transform as you travel along the path. That is also fine. Embrace the truth and move forward with confidence.
3. Keep your mind open to new ideas
As you travel along the spiritual path, you are sure to encounter new ideas, topics, philosophies, and practices that will rouse your curiosity. Satisfy your questioning mind by exploring them further. A spiritual journey need not be dull, monotonous, and devoid of excitement.
In fact, multiple studies have proved that you learn and absorb the best when you are free of stress and enjoying yourself. As mentioned earlier, there is no set path that you need to follow. Find your own way as per your inclination and fill it up with fun and excitement. In short, follow your passion.
4. Avoid flitting around like a bee
When new ideas and possibilities open up for the first time in your life, it is natural to feel overwhelmed. You may want to try your hand at all of them. There is no harm in that.
However, don’t stretch this phase for too long. You cannot forever remain in this stage experimenting with new things and trying to find out what you want. You need to decide on one thing and stick with that.
Once you have done your fair share of searching around, take your pick. At a later stage, if you discover that your choice was wrong, that is okay. You can change the path then. The need of the hour now is to stop fooling around too much and commit to a single path.
So, do due diligence and find answers to questions like what catches your attention the most or which one seems the most beneficial to you. The key is not to overthink or overstress. Just make a snap decision. After all, you have the luxury of revisiting this phase later on.
5. Beware of tricksters
You may want to get the help of others while on your spiritual path. That is good as long as you are careful about the people you trust. There are all kinds of predators you may encounter in this field.
Some are in this for their personal gain. Others may not have any such agendas but do not have your best interests in mind. Trust your judgment and intuition.
Even if you made the wrong choice, you still can break free from them and continue on your spiritual journey in any way you feel is better. Just because you started the journey with someone doesn’t mean you need their guidance to finish it. Do not allow anyone to tell you otherwise.
6. Keep a record
Note down your experiences as you travel along the spiritual path. Use a journal dedicated to this purpose. You may come across many new ideas and practices. You may try some of them and choose what you think is the best one.
At a later date, when you are not satisfied with the way your spiritual journey is progressing and you want to change the direction, you may have forgotten these options. A journal can help jog your memory.
All you need to do is go back to the journal and try out some of the practices that you did not consider the first time around.
The journal is your personal record. You are free to keep it private or share it with others in real-time or after you finish your journey.
7. Learn and absorb
The spiritual journey is not about experiencing diverse ideas and practices and leaving it at that. The journey will culminate in enlightenment only when you integrate what you learned into your life.
This means absorbing the essence of the experience and making it part of your life. This is something you cannot set a timeframe for or rush through. It is a natural process that will happen in its own time.
You may take the help of any one or more of the spiritual practices mentioned earlier. Those are meant to help in slowing you down, introspect, and look inwards.
Contrary to the general view, a spiritual path is not up a mountain. Rather it is spread over a series of valleys with ups intermingled with downs. The ascents and descents in the path are natural and that is what makes the journey demanding and unique.
You may probably get lost in the middle not once but multiple times. Don’t feel discouraged by these distractions. You may even forget your path and start climbing the mountain.
You may have to tap into every ounce of willpower, dedication, and perseverance available at your disposal to reach the journey’s end. Getting proper guidance is always helpful in making the spiritual journey easier and smoother for beginners.