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5 essential stages of spiritual awakening (and 15 common symptoms)

Contrary to what most people think, spiritual awakening doesn’t involve a literal “waking up”.

You don’t emerge from sleep one day and feel like there’s a potent energy inside of you, beckoning for change.

Spiritual awakening is a slow, gradual process that happens when a person understands that their existence goes beyond the confines of the “I” or the ego.

In Taoist philosophy, Eastern spiritualists call the ego or the everyday self the acquired mind.

Who we are currently — the things we like, our behaviors, our preferences and convictions — are acquired over years of socialization.

These distinct characteristics we pick up, no matter how unique, don’t really make up a full self just yet.

As products of evolution, humans are a self-preserving species; it’s in our DNA to want to resist change.

That makes humans naturally egoistic beings; we can’t help but create a bubble and do everything we can to protect it.

And while a certain firmness in who you are and what you believe in seems like the very definition of the full “self”, philosophers like Carl Jung says this separation of the “I” from the rest of the world is detrimental precisely because we inevitably start limiting what counts as good and righteous as those qualities specific to us.

Think of it like this: your Spirit, coexists with your ego. Through the years of learning and interacting, the ego adopts things you like and don’t like, as well as convictions that separate what’s good and what’s evil.

Instead of going beyond your ego, your Spirit becomes trapped and dormant as the ego takes the reins.

The Limits and Pitfalls of an Egoistic Existence

The problem with letting your ego govern you is that you are limiting yourself from the full human experience.

The ego only knows what it knows through experience; it doesn’t understand the things outside what it knows.

Your belief starts preceding other identities, experiences, and thought patterns before you even get a chance to really understand other realities.

This limited knowledge becomes problematic because it forces you into a corner.

What you thought was a bubble is actually a shell preventing other beliefs and behaviors from refining your sensibilities.

For the most part, these thoughts don’t just remain thoughts. When left unchecked, the ego can manifest into things like addiction, bigotry, racism, and facism.

Egoistic beings devolve into an archetype. You don’t really wake up and live life; you just go through the motions and confront the world with the limited knowledge that you have.

But every once and a while we experience things that make us take a step back and reassess how we’ve lived through the world. This moment of openness and clarity brings us closer to our Spirit, and little by little we start identifying with things outside our ego.

What Does It Mean To Have a Spiritual Awakening?

Spiritual awakening is our return to the Spirit, or as Taoists call it, the Original Spirit.

The Original Spirit isn’t driven by self-preservation or basic human needs. It doesn’t want or judge or presume. The Original Spirit is calm, accepting, and flexible.

For most people, a spiritual awakening feels like a certain alienation towards yourself.

When you start reassessing your behaviors and thought patterns, you no longer exclusively identify with the “I”.

Alienation is a sign that you’re starting to recognize realities outside of your own individual ego.

A spiritual awakening isn’t about religion or spirituality. You don’t wake up and realize there is a higher power or that there is a magical frequency in the background you can tap into.

Spiritual awakening is all about unfolding your ego and peeling those layers one by one, until only the Spirit remains.

It’s about waking up the dormant Spirit and understanding that existence is so much bigger than yourself.

And when the Spirit finally takes full control of your consciousness, we shed away attachments and hang-ups that have kept us from feeling connected with the world and the people in it.

4 Myths and Traps About Spiritual Awakening

In today’s modern world, more and more people are waking up their spirits and understanding the virtues of inclusivity, diversity, and openness.

But this “mass awakening” also has its downfalls. For starters, the emergence of modern-day “spiritualists” creates a crude understanding of spiritual awakening and what it really means to truly be alive.

These include:

Myth 1: Chasing After the “Light”

Chasing after “light” and shutting away “darkness” is a common mental trap rooted in new age teachings and traditional philosophy.

Authentic spiritual awakening is about being open to the full human experience.

If you’re constantly chasing after the “light” then you’re falling back into the confines of the ego.

Keep in mind that the Spirit doesn’t get attached to definitions. In reality, there is no “light” or “darkness”; there is only permanence and flexibility.

Myth 2: Thinking Your Spirituality Makes You Better Than Others

Woke culture is the very definition of misunderstood spiritual awakening.

While they realize that injustices are wrong, they also vehemently oppress people who don’t understand other people’s realities.

Spiritual awakening isn’t about getting on a moral high ground. This process isn’t meant to be a competition or a dictatorship. Spiritual awakening is about self-improvement and self-refinement.

Myth 3: Defining Certain People As Good And Evil

Those new to spiritual awakening often experience a sense of self-righteousness.

After shedding their previous beliefs, they start clinging on to the “good” beliefs and actively label anything outside of that as evil.

This conditions people into believing that you have to think and behave a certain way.

But in reality, no amount of niceness amounts to authentic spiritual awakening because you’re only acting based on your new definition of good and evil.

To achieve real spiritual awakening, you have to stop treating good and evil as bipartisan. After all, the human Spirit is complex and is in a constant state of evolution.

Myth 4: Using Spirituality To “Heal”

Attachment and hang-ups are the two defining characteristics of the ego. Using spiritual awakening to heal your past is just a form or redirection.

You’re not really fixing anything; you’re just dragging old baggage with a new method.

The only way to achieve spiritual awakening is by letting go of whatever hurt you in the past so that you can be more receptive towards what’s coming.

15 Symptoms Of Authentic Spiritual Awakening

For the most part, the authentic symptoms of spiritual awakening are uncomfortable.

Some people don’t even know they’re undergoing a spiritual awakening and mistake this complex range of emotions as something else.

Don’t let the “thought” articles and influencers fool you: spiritual awakening isn’t all rainbows and butterflies.

As you shed the ego and reawaken the Spirit, you might feel psychological and even physical manifestations that are more imposing than you’d like to deal with.

The alienation effect is just one of these symptoms.

Do you think you’re undergoing spiritual awakening? Here are possible symptoms to help you self-diagnose:

1. You start craving a purpose.

You’re no longer happy sitting around doing nothing. You have a burning passion inside of you and you want to do something meaningful in your life.

2. You feel isolated and lost.

You look at the people around you and it just feels like you no longer belong. It’s difficult to identify with who you used to be and the people you surround yourself with.

3. You want to be alone.

Gone are the days when you used people to distract you from your own thoughts. You actually prefer solitude nowadays because it gives you the space to think and reflect on who you’re becoming.

4. You feel like your life has been a lie.

Past biases and convictions can make you feel like the entire structure of your being has been a lie. This revelation makes it difficult to come to grips with how you’ve lived your life so far.

5. You see through the people around you.

You become more sensitive to authenticity. You develop a radar that helps you understand if people are just enacting niceness.

6. You become more sensitive to unhappiness.

Spiritual awakening teaches you to go beyond yourself and focus on others. As a result, you develop a heightened sense of empathy.

7. You can’t stand shallow conversations.

You don’t want to talk about jobs, dating, and money. You want to talk about compassion, life, and helping others achieve their best selves.

8. You want to rise above and make an impact.

Transcendence is a major theme of spiritual awakening. You’re no longer content living in a bubble; you want to go out in the world and make it better in both big and small ways.

9. You become more curious.

Human existence becomes more interesting to you. You’re more receptive of new information and more excitable toward new opportunities.

10. You understand the meaning of unconditional love better.

You understand that human personality can’t be defined as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. You love people for who they are, even if they have grey areas.

11. You’re more confident listening to your intuition.

Without any bias, you’re no longer holding yourself back.

12. You experience vivid dreams.

Spiritual awakening takes off the things weighing in your mind. As a result, your consciousness becomes free.

13. You have a lower sex drive.

Base pleasures no longer satisfy you. You want more to life than just hooking up and meeting new people.

14. You feel more active and physically capable.

You begin to understand the importance of taking care of your own body. You start overcoming your body image issues and start working towards physical improvement.

15. You have better impulse control.

Addictions start to feel like an unnecessary form of attachment. As a result, you become less dependent on substances, ambition, and other false egoistic drives.

What Changed? Common Triggers Of Spiritual Awakening

If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms, you might be wondering what changed in the first place.

This discomfort is gnawing at your being and you simply don’t understand what sparked this seemingly drastic change in the first place.

Spiritual awakening has many triggers. You may experience one, two, or multiple triggers at once:

  • You just experienced something that shook you to your very core, including traumatic experiences like falling ill or experiencing a serious accident. These experiences make us acutely aware of our own mortality, driving us to make better decisions in the future.
  • Life-changing events like marriage or the death of a loved one can make us take a step back from our ego.
  • Existential crises, also referred to as The Dark Night of the Soul (more on this later) is a common occurrence for middle-aged individuals. As they cross the half-mark of their life, they begin thinking back to the life they’ve lived and whether or not it was a good one. People under the age of 50 can also experience an existential crisis
  • A natural awakening doesn’t involve anything out of the ordinary. Sometimes people meditate, read, or travel, and come up with a renewed sense of purpose and being.

spiritual awakening quote eckhart tolle

The 5 Stages Of Spiritual Awakening

1.  The Initiation

The start of a spiritual awakening always begins with a sense of inner turmoil. We feel isolated and disconnected from our environment, from our social networks, from our world.

We develop an enhanced awareness of who we are and what we’re like, as if we’re seeing our ego for the first time.

The life-changing and deeply tragic event that we must experience to trigger the start of a spiritual awakening leaves us broken and asking for more.

It knocks us out of the format we’ve become accustomed to, forcing us to figure out a deeper meaning for our lives that only we can discover.

2. The Query

The inner turmoil from the first stage takes us to a point where we realize that the only way out of our pain is to find answers to questions we never knew we had.

We start asking ourselves everything from larger than life questions such as “Why am I here?” and “What is my purpose?”, to practical, self-critical questions like “Am I right to believe the things I believe in?” and “Do I like that I’m on?”

The scaffolding upon which you built your reality was shaken when you experienced whatever tragedy you just had, and it has forced you to readjust and rethink the things that you simply once accepted as normal or unquestionable. Now you’re filled with questions, but with no idea how to find your answers.

3. The Quest

On your journey to find the answers to your new and difficult questions, you begin looking beyond the superficial.

Your life may have been once built on the material world — things and relationships and achievements and more — but now those aspects no longer satisfy you, and you want something greater.

So you look within. You may become religious, or you may become spiritual; you seek out ways to find answers to questions that no one can answer for you.

You seek to evolve into a person capable of finding your answers, and that means knowing how to stand on your own two feet in the face of spiritual enlightenment.

4. The Integration

There will be much pain during your spiritual journey. Learning how to integrate the “new you” with the “old you” will be a dangerous and destructive experience, because you must reconcile two different selves and teach both sides how to co-exist.

But these are growing pains, and as long as you progress everyday and push yourself towards growth, they will be temporary.

The goal is to reach spiritual alignment: becoming a greater version of yourself that involves both who you are now, and who you once were.

5. Spiritual Alignment

Spiritual alignment — alignment with both yourself and the universe — is the ultimate goal of a spiritual awakening.

Some people think of this as a state of nirvana, which can also be thought of as the death of the ego and the death of our personal suffering.

It is when we completely toss aside our sense of self, no longer prioritizing or caring about our self-identity, because we have fought off the feeling of isolation by becoming connected with the universe and everything around us.

This can be a lifelong journey, and not something you can accomplish in a month or a year. It is a goal we must strive towards constantly, because once the spirit awakens begins the journey, it can be impossible to turn back.

Why The Spiritual Awakening Is A Destructive Process

As we said earlier, there is no such thing as an easy and simple spiritual awakening.

For those who have yet to experience any kind of spiritual awakening, they might think of it as one of the most amazing and positive experiences they will ever feel in life, associating it with light feelings, bright positivity, and overall general perfect vibes.

But these associations couldn’t be further from the truth.

A true and complete spiritual awakening isn’t a peaceful, calm, or quiet process.

It’s one that involves a sincere inner-conflict, requiring you to look into yourself and force a change that you have never experienced in your life.

The spiritual awakening requires self-destruction the likes of which you have never known.

It involves the dismantling of core aspects of who you are, giving you the opportunity to rebuild yourself in a new and grander vision.

Here are the destructive qualities of the spiritual awakening you need to understand:

A “lie cleansing” of the self

We are filled with lies and we know it. We understand the biases and white lies that fill our everyday lives, and choose to live with them simply because they fill in the spaces and gaps in our beliefs that we don’t want to recognize.

The spiritual awakening puts your soul through the cleaners, forcing you to wash out all the lies you use to construct your reality.

This means dismantling that which you know, and forcing you to find new ways to accept and live with yourself without any of the lies from your previous self.

A spiritual nakedness

We have always believed the voices in our head; they construct our reality and help us see the world the way we want to see the world.

But a spiritual awakening forces us to see that those “voices” are just our thoughts, and our thoughts aren’t universal at all; they come from ourselves, and they can be ignored and changed as easily as they were made.

This leaves us feeling naked and revealed, until we learn how to live with the realization that we can no longer rely on that which we thought we could.

A rushed development of empathy

Spiritual awakenings maximize our empathy, because they force us to intensely feel the world and those around us at a level that we have never before experienced.

And increased empathy means increased awareness of pain, both our pain and the pain of everyone around us.

This wave of new and unexpected pain can be overwhelming, and may take much longer to get over than you might think.

An awakening towards loneliness

There is sudden loneliness experienced by those who undergo a spiritual awakening, namely because they lose the ability to keep accepting the same beliefs and lies that everyone else has agreed to accept.

Their priorities change, their relationships change, and the things that are important to them become radically different.

Until they accept their new life and reality, they will feel an immense loneliness, because they see that they can no longer relate with those around them as they once could.

An acceptance of nothingness

The spiritual awakening is an act of complete surrender, to the universe and to the natural underpinnings of our soul and mind.

For so much of our life, our understanding of the world is built around control, and our ego is fed the idea that we can control the things around us if we try hard enough.

When our spirit awakens, we understand that this control is a figment of the imagination, and the only thing true in the universe is absolute nothingness, and coming to terms with that nothingness.

It can be a terrifying realization, enough to stop people from undergoing their path to spiritual enlightenment.

This period of destruction is sometimes referred to as “the Dark Night of the Soul”. This is a raw and unique experience, primal at its core.

Before we can truly awaken our spirit and see the light for what it is, we often must walk through the shadows and experience a period of destructiveness.

Signs of the Dark Night include:

  • Your mood is always down
  • You generally feel lost and you don’t know what choices to make
  • You feel existential dread constantly
  • You are deeply tired no matter what you try to do
  • You have lost the motivation to do things you once loved
  • You feel abandoned by everyone — your friends, your family, your god and the universe
  • You feel isolated and alone
  • You have lost interest in everything, even hobbies that were once the most important things in your life
  • You feel like you don’t belong anywhere
  • You keep asking yourself deep questions like, “Why am I here?” and “What am I supposed to be doing?”

Your Spiritual Awakening: Your Journey and Yours Alone

The spiritual awakening is not something you just wake up and choose to do.

It’s something that must be triggered and must begin organically, through authentic experiences that affect you deeper than anything else you may have ever experienced.

But once you begin that journey, it is your responsibility to make sure you stick to the right path.

It can be so easy to fall off and let your spirit spiral into a storm of self-destructiveness and negativity, because the trials of the spiritual awakening are not easily faced.

By understanding what is asked of you and being prepared to tackle it appropriately, you give yourself the best chance to succeed.

But remember: this is a difficult path, and one that may take a lifetime. There will be ups and downs, and no matter how far you fall during your down periods, you can always get back up and try again.

Introducing my new book

When I first started learning about Buddhism and searching for practical techniques to help my own life, I had to wade through some really convoluted writing.

There wasn’t a book that distilled all this valuable wisdom in a clear, easy-to-follow way, with practical techniques and strategies.

So I decided to write this book myself to help people going through a similar experience to what I went through.

Here it is: The No-Nonsense Guide to Using Buddhism and Eastern Philosophy for a Better Life.

Within my book you’ll discover the core components of achieving happiness, anywhere at any time through:

– Creating a state of mindfulness throughout the day

– Learning how to meditate

– Fostering healthier relationships

– Unburdening yourself from intrusive negative thoughts.

– Letting go and practising non-attachment.

While I primarily focus on Buddhist teachings throughout the book – particularly as they relate to mindfulness and meditation – I also provide key insights and ideas from Taoism, Jainism, Sikhism and Hinduism.

Think of it this way:

I’ve taken 5 of the world’s most powerful philosophies for achieving happiness, and captured their most relevant and effective teachings—while filtering out the confusing jargon.

I then shaped them into a highly-practical, easy-to-follow guide for improving your life.

The book took me about 3 months to write and I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out. I hope you enjoy it too.

Check out the book here.

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Lachlan Brown

Written by Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 6 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter or Facebook.

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