We often link “spirituality” to the context of religion, but in my experience, this is problematic. For now, let’s define the spiritual as a quality of being beyond the physical or material domain of existence.
Another common confusion is between the terms spiritual awakening and psychic awakening.
Psychic awakening relates to the activation of the pineal gland. With it, you open up to other dimensions of reality beyond this limited three-dimensional realm of space and time.
Spiritual awakening, in contrast, involves opening the heart center. It’s a process more closely associated with one’s psychology, the emotional body, and the soul.
Though quantum physics increasingly merges scientific theory with spiritual concepts, Western theories of the ego are limited to the material world. The central argument of materialism is that only the physical realm exists. If you apply materialism to the concept of what-makes-us-us, then we are exclusively physical beings. Our brain, made of physical matter, contains the mind, and the mind is the source of human consciousness.
The importance of spirituality is that its focus is beyond the material dimension. When you look beyond the material, the concept of who we are dramatically expands. Looking at the psyche from this perspective, we realise what-makes-us-us isn’t the thoughts we have about ourselves, but instead an expansive awareness behind those thoughts, the witness of our inner world.
In Eastern philosophy, this is our true identity. We are connected to a spiritual, divine dimension of pure awareness, pure being, God (eek!). Our psyche isn’t part of a greater whole, it is the greater whole, with no separation in between.
Here’s What Happens During Spiritual Awakening
We tend to identify exclusively with the ego.
As the process of spiritual awakening unfolds, the ego begins to sublimate to the Spirit. In the language of Taoism, the lower soul gets refined into the higher soul.
Arriving at this Spirit, or psychic wholeness, was the goal of Jung’s individuation process.
But despite popular belief, this doesn’t generally happen in a single “moment of awakening.” While we can have “peak experiences” that open us up to Self-transcendent reality, these experiences tend to be fleeting.
Instead, the developmental literature explains that there are stages of psycho-spiritual growth. And these permanent stages tend to develop over time.
And this is part of the reason many people are confused about spiritual awakening. Walking in nature or on a psychedelic substance, they may have a beautiful experience of oneness, for example, but this experience is momentary. The individual’s structure of consciousness hasn’t changed yet.
Spiritual Traps: False Signs of Spiritual Awakening
So before we go into authentic symptoms of spiritual awakening, let’s review common false signs.
Trap #1: Thinking You’re “Good” and Others Are “Evil”
This belief is deeply rooted in most of us as it’s a typical program taught in all Western religions.
To uproot this belief requires shadow work. You’ll know you’ve undone this limiting belief when you stop judging others and instead see yourself in everyone you meet.
Trap #2: Identifying Yourself as a “Spiritual Person”
This false identification is universal in both religious and new age circles. You are neither spiritual or material. You transcend and include them both.
Identifying yourself as being spiritual is a sign of a spiritual ego or inflation (discussed below). Again, shadow work will help you see that you’re no different or better than anyone else.
Trap #3: Seeking “Love and Light”
Pursuing “love and light” or “goodness” is another deep-rooted program in religious and new age teachings that block authentic spiritual development. Acting “spiritual” creates a persona or social mask that gives others the impression that we’re “good people.” While this persona might elevate our status and increase our self-esteem, it does not promote psychological or spiritual growth.
In truth, spiritual awakening comes from the opposite direction where we face the fear, anger, guilt, and grief stored in us since childhood. Coming to terms with these experiences paves the way for authentic spiritual development.
Trap #4: Acting Nice
Acting nice and being innocent isn’t a spiritual awakening sign but an indication of psychological immaturity. We are told by our parents and various institutions (school, religion, etc.) to “be nice” and behave ourselves. And we comply with this demand, to varying degrees, thereby reinforcing the shadow side.
If you’re acting nice, it’s a sure sign that someone is manipulating you. (The original manipulator or Trickster is usually a parent, but now it’s in you.) In contrast, a mature adult acts assertively without seeking the approval of others.
Trap #5: Secretly Believing You’re Better Than Others
Perhaps you see a pattern here: all of these traps points to ego inflation. Spiritual awakening grounds us in our humanity, and yet, more often, spirituality becomes another tool for disassociation, judgmentalism, and grandiosity.
This trap often occurs when you:
- Read a lot of spiritual texts
- Join a spiritual or religious group
- Start a spiritual practice
- Find a spiritual teacher
Specialness is yet another ego game.
When you think you’ve “found it,” be on high alert. This belief is a symptom of a specific early stage of psychological development, not a spiritual awakening sign.
All of these subconscious signs also point to emotional vampirism.
Beware of the Spiritual Bypass
Perhaps the biggest trap in the spirituality game is called the “spiritual bypass.”
Here, we use spiritual ideas and practices to avoid unresolved emotional or psychological wounds. These wounds must be addressed to proceed in our psycho-spiritual development.
We often resist this process because addressing these wounds requires going through the discomfort they represent.
These wounds are mainly childhood traumas. In fact, virtually every emotional trigger you have in your present environment is likely from your past.
A great many individuals in various Eastern and Western religions fall into the spiritual bypass trap.
Signs of Spiritual Awakening
- Your behavior spontaneously begins to change for the better.
- You’re experiencing a deepening of your emotional wellspring.
- You’re slowing down and reflecting on your past to understand the present.
- Your priorities are values are shifting from material toward spiritual concerns and God becomes your main focus.
- Your inner world is becoming a primary aspect of your life experience.
- You’re beginning to hold the tension of opposites together within you.
- You’re experiencing a growing sense of okayness and inner freedom.
- You’re willing to be honest with yourself and take personal responsibility.
- You’re making new lifestyle decisions in alignment with your moral and spiritual values.
- You’re realizing your interconnected nature with all things.
Ten Spiritual Awakening Signs
Now that we’ve looked at some of the false signs of spiritual awakening, let’s review some of the authentic indications.
Sign #1: A Noticeable Change in Your Behavior
Perhaps the most essential and authentic signs of spiritual awakening can be observed in your daily behavior.
Compulsive, neurotic, and addictive behaviors are symptoms of the ego or lower soul. The Spirit or Higher Self has no such tendencies.
The Spirit isn’t driven to meet basic needs because it’s already whole and complete right now. So when you feel this completeness or okayness, moment to moment, it’s a good sign of spiritual awakening.
And as a consequence of this okayness, you may be genuinely kinder (and less reactive) toward others without trying to be.
Sign #2: A Deepening in Your Emotional Wellbeing
Disruption in our emotional body is perhaps the main thing that blocks spiritual awakening. The Jungians call it a wounded feeling function. In resolving emotional trauma from childhood, we undo this wound, enabling us to feel more deeply and genuinely.
Re-engaging this emotional flow influences every area of our lives. Now, instead of being possessed by a host of archetypes, we become more authentically human.
As such, there’s less resistance to feel (even negative emotions we resisted before). Instead of sedating yourself and running from your feelings, there’s a growing willingness to confront emotions like fear, anger, and guilt.
Sign #3: A Tendency to Slow Down and Reflect Back
For the above signs to unfold, self-reflection is necessary where you turn back to understand the present. This reflecting back is challenging in modern times due to the fast pace we tend to run. The drive for achievement, productivity, and peak performance have their place, but they quickly become signs of neurosis. For spiritual awakening, laziness can become our friend.
So another spiritual awakening symptom is that you begin to slow down more often and reflect back. An impulse comes alive in you to more clearly understand yourself and your behavior. The Buddhists call this Stopping and Seeing.
Reflecting helps us access repressed memories in our unconscious that cause irrational behavior in the present. But this self-reflective drive doesn’t judge, blame, or criticize, as the Spirit is neutral yet curious.
Sign #4: A Shift in Priorities and Values
Locating authority within ourselves changes our values. Religion provides a moral code based on a system of rules. “Don’t do this; don’t do that.” But now we can develop our personal ethical framework where we evaluate what’s best in the context of the moment. The ego is unable to do this because basic needs drive it; only the Higher Self can.
This shift toward higher spiritual values is why our behavior changes during spiritual awakening. Maslow called these spiritual values “being values” or B-values, and they include wholeness, perfection, completion, justice, aliveness, beauty, truth, and self-sufficiency.
Sign #5: A Transformation of the Inner World
In the average person’s waking state, an individual’s ego is almost exclusively focused on their outer world. Work, money, achievement, family, friends, and social life are all elements of the external environment.
Another spiritual awakening sign is a profound shift from this external world to one’s inner realm of thoughts, feelings, dreams, and imagination. In Buddhism, this dimension is called the subtle realm, and it’s considered more real than the gross dimension of our waking state.
Sign #6: Holding the Opposites Together
Most of us have a rather rigid, fundamentalist mind that sees things in black and white. Red and Blue, Democrat and Republican, Male and Female, Good and Bad, Left and Right … you get the idea.
To avoid the ambiguity inherent in mature adulthood, we cut off one pair of opposite and identify exclusively with the other. For example, as parents, we might think we unconditionally love our children without acknowledging the wellspring of hate and resentment we have toward them.
And while dissociating from one pair of the opposite seems to resolve our ego’s tension, in truth, it only re-enforces our shadow. With our spiritual awakening, we begin to hold the tension of opposites within us, putting us on the road to psychic wholeness.
Sign #7: An Experience of Okayness and Inner Freedom
The ego is our source of fears, desires, and constant tension. When the ego is no longer in control, there’s an inherent sense of okayness—regardless of what’s happening in our lives (good or bad).
When the Spirit is at the helm, we naturally relax into ourselves, providing a sense of inner freedom we once sought in the external world. In Hinduism, they call this moksha or self-liberation.
Sign #8: A Deeping Sense of Self-Honesty and Personal Responsibility
As you begin to locate more authority within, there’s a willingness to be radically honest with yourself. You simply can’t tolerate the Magic’s shadow game of self-deception anymore.
Now, you feel a growing sense of responsibility and accountability for your thoughts, emotions, and actions. It’s for this reason that psychotherapist David Richo says the last gateway to mature adulthood is guilt.
When we’re unconscious to our behavior, there’s no accountability. And when there’s no accountability, there’s nothing to feel guilty about. But the guilt that comes from spiritual awakening isn’t from someone else shaming you; it’s from your conscience, driven by a desire to correct your way of being.
Sign #9: A Massive Change in Lifestyle Choices
Another noticeable sign of spiritual awakening is that you become highly conscious of your lifestyle choices.
Many “normal” things we did before becomes unacceptable now.
As your connection to the Earth increases, for example, your concern for your environmental impact begins to alter your behavior.
Ethics becomes a larger driving force over convenience.
Sign #10: A Sense of Interconnectivity or Oneness
The ego, or as Alan Watts calls it, the superficial self, feels separate and alone. It fears for its safety, clinging to life while fearing death.
The Original Spirit has no such fear or sense of separation. It doesn’t play the ego’s game of “us versus them.” The Spirit doesn’t identify itself with gender, race, nationality, religion, or a species. It simply is. And it exists outside of space and time, so death isn’t a relevant concept for it.
I’ll leave it to philosopher Alan Watts to drive this point home:
Nikola Tesla said, “ If you wish to understand the Universe think of energy, frequency and vibration. “ … It’s our doubt and changing frequencies and our inability to hold thoughts and visions for extended times that takes us off our path.
To be continued…..