What Is Spiritual Awakening?
In Spring of 2015, the renowned spiritual CD/audiobook publisher Sounds True celebrated their 30th anniversary. As part of this superb achievement, Sounds True founder and master interviewer Tami Simon interviewed 34 spiritual teachers, authors, psychologists and leaders in their respective paths, asking them pointed questions about what it meant for anyone to have a full spiritual awakening.
This was the key question she asked each teacher or author, right at the top of the interview – What is spiritual awakening? What does spiritual awakening mean to you?
Although the length of each interview varied, and the tone & content of each interview explored different topics depending on the speaker, there were at least two other key questions Tami made sure to pose to each teacher:
– Do you see spiritual Awakening as a single dramatic event or firm line one crosses over, a permanent shift in identity which leaves the aspirant forever changed and never going back to their old ego-self-driven ways, or more as a gradual and continuing maturing of awakenings & openings that doesn’t have a discernible “before awakening” and “after awakening” date or line of sudden, permanent change?
– Does experiencing spiritual awakening signal the end of all suffering for the awakener?
The result putting these critical questions to so many who have had profound spiritual awakenings – among them Adyashanti, Eckhart Tolle, Jack Kornfield, A. H. Almaas, Michael Beckwith, Mark Nepo, et al – is stunning. Perhaps the most remarkable and world-rocking discovery in listening, is that almost all of the 34 teachers had completely different definitions of what spiritual awakening means…and they were all “right!” Every answer rang with truth & beauty, even though their answers saw spiritual awakening from remarkably different, sometimes contradictory, angles.
It certainly put both our mind’s concept of, and quest for, some kind of ultimate spiritual awakening on the stand, and forced us to ask many crucial questions:
– Just because Adyashanti or Ramana Maharshi or even Buddha described the “moment” of awakening as this unparalleled “event” in our lives, is that the only way one comes to & experiences their full awakening?
– And is their built-in danger in looking for a “future” event that will finally fulfill us and perhaps make us permanently suffering-free? Doesn’t coveting permanent bliss and an end to suffering, in itself, key impediments to ever having that awakening (because we aren’t being totally present Now, with just what Is?
– And if so, how do we proceed with our practices and “desire for Awakening,” without getting lost in grasping? How do we do it as “heeding Spirit’s call” rather than inflating our own ego-mind’s quest for bliss, an end to suffering and more control?
– And, if all these varied explanations of what spiritual awakening is, are all true, how do I know what awakening will really “feel” like, or which kind I’m headed for, or which is the correct “ultimate” path to use?
All of these important questions must be answered for yourself. For myself, perhaps the best, most useful answer is this: There is no one type of spiritual awakening, and the classical awakening where the aspirant is flooded with Pure Awareness in an all-encompassing burst of realization or kundalini rising is just one of the many ways Spirit experiences “waking up” through Its human extensions. Since Spirit is already fully Aware of Itself, and since it is having all these experiences through us, endarkenment as well as enlightenment, misdirection as well as wisdom, suffering as well as bliss, it is only our human minds that would judge one type of experience as “better” or more righteous than another type. It’s all Enlightenment, It’s all awakening.