It happens in a blink of an eye, a spark, a whisper, or a fleeting breeze. Intangible and timeless, your worldly self has yet to know it’s true value. It may seem insignificant at the time and if you didn’t pay attention then you were surely to miss it. How could you not miss it though? There’s so many other things going on; your mind is engaged in other time bound activities: your eyes glued to a display of moving images; your fingers grasping firmly to your 21st century cell phone; your attention rests unshakably on a conversation with friends. Your mind is always up to something.
It’s quite difficult to explain the phenomenon. I’m tempted to term it “a shift in consciousness” because we seem to have some working definition for the term consciousness. Derived from the Latin con (with) and scire (to know), it is a state of being aware of one’s environment and one’s sense of self. This universal definition however seems all too simple, surely we all know that we are conscious beings. In other words, we are awake or aware that we exist in a system, we respond to our environment accordingly, and we often acknowledge our mental states. Well now, we’ve created a hard problem, we’re making consciousness a controversial topic. So we ask, are animals conscious beings? Surely they are, they respond to stimuli in the environment. However, we don’t know if they are aware of their mental states. So we classify this under creature consciousness. Well plants respond to environmental stimuli also e.g. response to light (termed phototropism) or response to water (hydrotropism). So are plants conscious? Plants are sentient beings, this most basic forms of consciousness is termed sentience, which is the ability to sense and respond to the world and is distinguished from perception and thought. Well then, what exactly are the necessary and/or sufficient conditions for consciousness? What makes human consciousness so complicated and so significant?
Since the topic is quite vast and rich, I’m going to narrow it down a bit. I’m going to focus on human consciousness. Let’s start by distinguishing human consciousness from other forms of consciousness. Statements such as “I think therefore I am” or “man is a rational being” exemplify awareness of our mental states as well as awareness of our selves in relation to the universe. This is often termed self-consciousness. Though I think that a shift in self-consciousness is synonymous to spiritual awakening, I’m going to use the term “spiritual awakening” from now on. Now, I know what you’re thinking. “You should have stuck to consciousness because at least there is scientific development there”. Well, even though neuroscientists today are tackling the theory of consciousness from an evidence-based perspective, science still can’t explain everything. There are even forms of consciousness (e.g. the unconscious) that we don’t fully understand. “Spiritual awakenings are outside the ken of physicality and there’s no amount of scientific explanations or theories to prove it” (Mahesh Ramakrishnan). Well, there really isn’t much out there and whatever theories or findings exist, you have to dig deep to find it. In fact, when you look up Spiritual Awakening on Google, all you’ll find are other people’s deeply personal experiences on the matter, which makes the subject even more difficult to articulate.
Let’s narrow it down further by defining a shift in consciousness and spiritual awakening, from there we can grasp the concept a little better. When I talk of consciousness here I mean self-consciousness which is essentially limited to first-person knowledge. We access this type of consciousness through introspection. A shift in consciousness is basically changes in the way you see the world, people, and your relation to the whole. Spiritual awakenings has been defined as a shift in consciousness or simply a realization of reality. A more theistic view would describe it as a reunion with you and the divine but I think this limits people who don’t believe in a Deity. Does that mean that they’ll never have an awakening experience? I like to believe that regardless of our beliefs, we can all experience spiritual awakenings. It is only a matter of attention and listening to that spark, whisper, or the fleeting breeze.
Now, I’ve spent several days researching possible scientific explanations for the phenomenon, or shall I say noumenon, to no avail. So I can’t quite explain to you how spiritual awakenings happens or why some people experience it sooner rather than later. All I can share with you is the exhilarating liberation that you can attain from it and to urge you to listen to your inner voice, your gut, or your intuition, if you believe in such things.
Let’s get one thing straight, spiritual awakening isn’t a one time realization that colors are brighter than they’ve ever been before or that you are made of light and have infinite potential. A spiritual awakening is just the beginning of a lifelong steady process of positive thought transformation, self-actualization, and a cultivation of the life you choose. Furthermore, it isn’t a one size fits all sort of experience because it is a subjective experience. Therefore, it happens differently for other people and you may not even know when it is happening to you. You simply feel different and experience the world differently. You can find a lot of bloggers online who list signs of spiritual awakening or define spiritual awakening, I’m not here to copy and paste their words. I’m here to help you to listen to your inner voice, to eliminate the misconceptions of the noumenon, and to help you understand some of my other posts better.
Up until now I’ve written about self-examination and understanding. I’ve posted articles about introspection, appreciation, and finding pleasure in the simple things. What I’ve realized is that these concepts, though possibly familiar to you, can be difficult to fathom. Most often because people associate spirituality to religion and that – that misconception is what I want to help you overcome. Narrowing the subject further, the stark difference between spirituality and religion is that is spirituality is “found deep within oneself. It is your way of loving, accepting and relating to the world and people around you. It cannot be found in a church or by believing in a certain way”. I couldn’t say those words myself so you can find the author here with a lot of other differences between spirituality and religion. Of course, religion can encourage spirituality but not everyone is religious and that shouldn’t exclude them from experiencing the truth of life. Now, for those of you non-theistic believers, when you hear the word God, please don’t turn away. Your idea of God is most likely the popularized human definition of God (a white bearded man sitting in the clouds, mediating our actions for the after-life). If you can take one thing from this post, it is that “words themselves are but a string of sounds and some scratches on a page. They only have the power that we have collectively decided they should possess”. Many words have been used in place of “God”, e.g. Yaweh, Allah, Jehovah, El, etc. Essentially these words mean the same thing yet their power is evidenced by the global violence that’s happened in the name of God. Religion seems to divide us more than anything.
Finally, we’re at the core of the subject and I’ve written over 1000 words now to soothe your mind and ease you into the subject. If you’re still reading this then I’d like to thank you for being brave and bearing with me. Spirituality, for the purposes of this post, is an awakening, a personal quest to discover truths, and transcendence above our material world. In my perspective, it is not about striving for a better life in the afterlife but striving for a better life here and now. If you’ve read my other posts then you may have seen the term essence; our intrinsic nature that determines our character. Don’t you ever wonder what your purpose is? Why were you born on this beautiful planet? Have you ever once looked at yourself in the mirror and was impressed by your glorified beauty and the perfection of your inner working? Just think for a second how we are all so alike yet so different. Why is that? What is that?
In my point of view, spiritual awakening is the realization that this life is temporary and the world is your playground. Knowing that death is inevitable allows us to transcend our fears. When we transcend fear, we realize that the world does not revolve around us. As a result, we stop worrying about people’s opinions of us and we start to have fewer judgements and we may begin to speak more impeccably. Again, this doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a work in progress as the self is always changing and actualizing.
I have been working on my patience over the last three years and when I was waiting for a friend at the Colosseum Cafe, I realized that though I had not mastered the virtue, I had become more patient. How did I know this? I didn’t feel frustrated nor angry but instead more compassionate and loving. I appreciated having this person in my life and I appreciated this life that enabled me to enjoy the small things: an Italian lunch and a cappuccino. It was blissful.
I’m still cultivating my patience but at the same time I’m working on my decision making skills. It’s all in the action.
Once you see the interconnectedness and impermanence in all things, you begin to appreciate life more. There’s really no other way to say: spirituality essentially means moving towards ultimate freedom, and breaking everything that limits us (Sadhguru).
What’s limiting you?