The Meaning of Spiritual Awakening
In its essence, spiritual awakening has nothing to do with religion, although it might be interpreted in religious terms by religious people. It also has nothing to do with astral travel, channeling or crystal healing.
Awakening is a psychological phenomenon. It is a shift into a more intense and expansive state of awareness, and into a higher-functioning psychological state. In awakening, it’s as if filters or boundaries which limit normal human awareness fall away.
Four Areas Intensified in Awakening
It’s useful to think of four different areas in which our awareness expands and intensifies in awakening. Firstly, our awareness becomes more intense in a perceptual sense. The world around us becomes more vivid and alive. We notice things that we didn’t pay attention to before. Things that used to seem mundane and boring now seem beautiful and fascinating.
Our awareness also intensifies inwardly. We become aware of an increased depth and richness within our own being. You could compare this to a diver swimming in shallow water, then passing through an underwater tunnel and suddenly finding a vast ocean stretching beneath him.
Thirdly, our awareness intensifies in terms of our connection to others, and towards the world in general. We become more empathic towards other people, and other living beings, with more love and compassion towards them. We feel connected to nature, with a new sense of respect and responsibility for it.
Finally, our awareness expands or intensifies in a conceptual sense, in that we have a wider and more global vision of the world. We transcend any sense of group identity (e.g. in terms of nationality or religion) and feel equally respectful and empathic towards all human beings, no matter how different they may superficially seem. We transcend the self-centered perspective in which personal issues or concerns seem more important than anything else in the world. We develop a much wider sense of perspective, with a greater concern for other people’s problems, and social and global issues. (See my book The Leap for a more detailed description of 18 main characteristics of spiritual wakefulness.)
Awakening Experiences Can Be Temporary
It’s important to point out that awakening can occur in a temporary form too. Awakening experiences are brief glimpses of wakefulness, which can last anything from a few seconds to a few hours – perhaps even a few days. In these moments, our awareness expands and intensifies in all of the ways I’ve described above. In intense awakening experiences, we may feel as if we are lifted out of ourselves, into oneness with all things, and become aware of a dynamic spiritual force – whose nature is bliss or love – which pervades all things and all space. However, after a certain amount of time, our normal psychological structure reforms, and we lose this heightened awareness – or, you could say, we fall back to sleep.
How Does Spiritual Awakening Occur?
In Le Saut Quantique, I point out that there are generally three ways in which people ‘wake up’ (although these sometimes occur in combination). Firstly, a person may exist in a state of natural wakefulness. They don’t need to follow spiritual practices, and they don’t need to undergo a sudden moment of transformation. Wakefulness is simply innate to them. Such people often become poets or artists, expressing their wakefulness through creativity.
Secondly, a person may attain wakefulness gradually, over many years, which usually happens as a result of following spiritual practices and paths.
Finally, a person may shift into a state of wakefulness suddenly and dramatically, which usually happens during a period of intense psychological turmoil caused by bereavement, depression, addiction or intense stress. There is a shift from an experience of deep loss and suffering to a state of liberation and intense wellbeing.
Steve Taylor is a senior lecturer in psychology at Leeds Beckett University, UK and the author of 13 books on psychology and spirituality, many of them best-sellers. He is the current chair of the Transpersonal Psychology Section of the British Psychological Society. He is the author of The Leap. StevenMTaylor.com, facebook.com/steve.taylor.1420
Thanks to Julia Watkins who created the colorful image about the Great Awakening above in 2017, https://energyartistjulia.com/
If you would like to learn more about awakening experiences check out the presentations at IMHU.org: