I wish I could say that I had one single epiphany that changed everything. But for me, my spiritual awakening has been more subtle and drawn out than that.
Instead of an instant flash, it has felt more like a constant unfolding. An unlearning process, with many twists and turns along the way.
What really happens after a spiritual awakening?
Expect the unexpected
If there is one thing I’ve learned about spiritual awakening, it’s to expect the unexpected.
Much like life itself, everyone’s journey there is different. We all take different routes on our way to the same destination.
How long does a spiritual awakening last? I think it probably lasts as long as it takes.
If that doesn’t sound very helpful, it’s important to remember that spiritual awakening may share similar hallmarks, but there isn’t a pre-prescribed timeline.
You hear stories of instant and continuous spiritual awakening, like that of spiritual teacher Eckhard Tolle who speaks about an overnight inner transformation:
“I couldn’t live with myself any longer. And in this a question arose without an answer: who is the ‘I’ that cannot live with the self? What is the self? I felt drawn into a void! I didn’t know at the time that what really happened was the mind-made self, with its heaviness, its problems, that lives between the unsatisfying past and the fearful future, collapsed. It dissolved. The next morning I woke up and everything was so peaceful. The peace was there because there was no self. Just a sense of presence or “beingness,” just observing and watching.”
But, as I mentioned in the introduction, my own path has felt far more like a long and winding road than a direct arrival at any kind of peace and enlightenment.
So how do you know you are experiencing a spiritual awakening? (especially if it doesn’t come to you in a flash).
I would liken it to falling in love. When you feel it, you just know. Something clicks inside and things will never be the same again.
It brings with it changes, some of which are drastic and all-encompassing, others which are far more humble than revelatory.
I’d like to share what happens after a spiritual awakening, from my own personal experiences. I hope some of it resonates with you too.
What happens after spiritual awakening?
1) You’re still you
It’s an obvious point, but one I think still needs making. Even after a spiritual awakening, you are still you.
You may feel differently about many things in life, but in essence, much of your personality and preferences will likely remain intact. The experiences that have shaped you and molded you across the years have not altered.
I think I was waiting for the moment to arrive where I would become more Budha-like.
Where my wisdom would evolve to a point that I spoke like Yoda and instinctively knew how to sprout my own mung beans.
But alas, I was still sarcastic, still loved pizza and wine, and still loved a lazy lie-in more than life itself.
Even though your ideas, beliefs, and feelings about life may have had a makeover, you are still experiencing life from within your own skin.
Regular life goes on — traffic jams, office politics, dental appointments, unloading the dishwasher.
And along with the mundane, those perfectly human emotions still appear — frustration, grumpy days, self-doubt, awkward interactions, putting your foot in your mouth.
I’ll confess, I think I’d hoped spiritual awakening might offer more of an escape from self. A transcendence of all the parts of life that can sort of suck. Maybe it does, and I just haven’t got there yet.
But it’s been more of an acceptance of self.
Rather than create a utopian existence where suffering no longer occurs, it’s more of a recognition and acknowledgment that everything is part of the rich tapestry of life.
The good, the bad, and the ugly.
Spiritual awakening isn’t about creating a “perfect” you. It isn’t the end of a fairytale. Real-life continues.
2) The curtains come down and you realize it’s a theater
The best way that I can describe what it’s like to “wake up” during spiritual awakening is this…
Life before felt like I was at the theater. I was so engrossed in all the action, and would often get swept away in it all.
I would laugh at the funny parts, cry at the sad parts — boo, cheer and jeer away.
And then the curtains came down, I looked around and could see for the first time that it was only a play. I was just a spectator in the audience watching the action.
I had been getting so carried away and consumed by illusion. As entertaining as it was, it wasn’t as serious as I’d been making out.
That’s not to say I still don’t lose myself in the drama, because I do.
But I find it easier to remind myself of the truth that Shakespear so eloquently summed up:
“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players”.
This realization helps you to begin to let go of overidentification with what happens to you in life.
3) You re-evaluate
One of the most significant aspects of spiritual awakening seems to be the process of re-evaluation.
It’s not really a choice for most people.
Once the veils of illusion begin to lift you cannot help but question so many of the assumptions and beliefs you once held about yourself, and about life.
You start to see social conditioning that you once were blinded to.
It’s easy to believe we know who we are when really we’re only guessing. The truth is much deeper. And yet, we continue to hold onto these false notions.
So after a spiritual awakening, plenty of re-assessing begins. For some people, it may turn their entire life upside down.
The things they once found value in or enjoyed may no longer bring pleasure or meaning. For me, it was the 1001 things I discovered I had been hiding in.
Status, a career path, consumerism, and a lot of what I had once believed was the “expected path” to take in life. It all felt very pointless all of a sudden.
My inclination to do many things that once mattered to me seemingly disappeared. But throughout this unraveling, nothing concrete took its place.
Personally, I didn’t find that the things that once mattered were suddenly replaced with other things that mattered.
Instead, they left a gap. A space in my life. That felt simultaneously liberating, freeing, and slightly terrifying.
4) You might feel lost, detached or disconnected
For me, the process felt like letting go. There was relief and unburdening. But it also left me with a lot of uncertainty too.
Feeling lost after spiritual awakening seems to be a very common experience.
Spiritual awakening doesn’t come with instructions on what to do next, and a lot of people can feel pretty dazed and unsure.
You may experience a lot of lifestyle changes. You may release certain things or people from life but you don’t necessarily know where to go from there.
I questioned pretty much my entire existence. Everything I’d once worked towards.
And I guess I was quite lost (certainly to people looking at me from the outside) although I didn’t mind so much.
In fact, I quit my job, lived in a tent for a while, and traveled (fairly aimlessly) around the world for many years — along with plenty of other ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ style cliches.
I guess I was going with the flow. It did feel like I was more aware of the present, and less fixated on the past or the future.
But at times it was disorientating and confusing.
5) You have to avoid spiritual traps
As I got to grips with new beliefs and new ways of looking at the world I naturally wanted to explore my spirituality more.
Before this happened to me I would have considered myself agnostic at most, after growing up in an atheist household where Science was God.
So I experimented with new practices and rituals. I started to mix with more spiritually minded people.
But as I explored versions of myself I began to fall into a very common trap. I started to create a new identity based on an image I had of spirituality.
It was almost like I felt I should dress, act and speak like a spiritually conscious person.
But this is just another character we adopt or role we end up inadvertently playing.
The thing with spirituality is that it’s just like everything else in life:
It can be manipulated.
Unfortunately, not all the gurus and experts that preach spirituality do so with our best interests at heart. Some take advantage to twist spirituality into something toxic – poisonous even.
This is the spiritual trappings that the shaman Rudá Iandé speaks about. With over 30 years of experience in the field, he’s seen and experienced it all.
From exhausting positivity to downright harmful spiritual practices, this free video he created tackles a range of toxic spirituality habits.
So what makes Rudá different from the rest? How do you know he’s not also one of the manipulators he warns against?
The answer is simple:
He promotes spiritual empowerment from within, rather than an imitation of others.
Click here to watch the free video and bust the spiritual myths you’ve bought for the truth.
Rather than tell you how you should practice spirituality, Rudá puts the focus solely on you.
Essentially, he puts you back in the driver’s seat of your spiritual journey.
6) Your relationships change
As you change, it’s natural that your relationships with other people can change too. Some people felt like I’d changed, and I guess I had.
And that meant that some connections fell away, some remained strong, and others reached a sort of acceptance (I stopped trying to change people and allowed them to be who they are).
You may become way more heightened to inauthenticity or manipulation in others. I definitely think my own personal and energetic boundaries feel firmer now.
I’m sure I do have more friends and people in my life who also identify as being on a spiritual path, but I also have plenty of people who don’t either. And it really doesn’t feel like it matters.
I think that’s from the understanding that everyone is on their own path, and their journey is their own. I have literally zero interest in trying to convince anyone of my own beliefs or view on things.
7) You feel more connected to the oneness of life
Ok, so being more connected to the oneness of life sounds a bit fluffy, so I want to explain what I mean.
This showed up in a couple of really noticeable ways for me. Firstly, I felt a much deeper union with the natural world.
I had lived in the city before, but now being in busy places creates a total sensory overload for me.
It was like I remembered which world I truly belonged to. Natural settings felt like home and created a deep peace within me.
I can’t really describe it but I felt a strong energetic shift from simply sitting in nature and could happily be there just staring into space for hours.
I also felt far more empathy towards my fellow man. I experienced more love and compassion in my day-to-day life.
Every living thing felt like a part of me. Their source was also my source.
8) You don’t take things as seriously
You know when you see someone who seems completely unbothered by everything?
They seem happy, relaxed, and carefree.
Well, sadly that’s not what happened to me (LOL). But one thing is for sure, I started to take life a lot less seriously.
That may not sound like a good thing, but it really has been.
It’s not that I don’t care, because I do. But I don’t get as caught up in things that don’t matter. It’s far easier to forgive and forget. I don’t waste energy on grudges.
I’m not going to say that recognizing how my worries and grievances are only stories in my mind made them completely disappear.
But they pass through me a little easier. I’m less tempted to grasp onto them.
I remind myself, hey, it’s nothing serious, it’s only life.
I simply stopped caring about many of the trivialities. Life felt more of a game to be experienced rather than to take so seriously.
9) You become more aware of yourself
Generally, I feel a lot more connected to myself.
I get strong intuitive feelings that I can’t really verbalize but feel like a knowing. I feel like I’m more conscious of the feelings I experience.
Sometimes emotions still take hold and cloud me, and it’s only later I realize I was caught up in them.
But other times I am able to watch them from the outside in the moment I’m experiencing something.
That doesn’t mean I don’t still feel sad, stressed, judgemental — or whatever it is I’m experiencing — but it doesn’t take over me. The true me is still in control and observing these reactions come up.
I think you become more in tune with yourself and more self-aware.
As a consequence, it’s also harder to hide from yourself. I’m not going to lie, sometimes this can be annoying. Because let’s face it, a little bit of delusion lets you off the hook.
Feeling bad, go shopping. Feeling lonely, start dating someone. Feeling lost, watch TV. There are plenty of pleasant distractions which we get used to hiding in.
A lot of which no longer feel like an option anymore because you see straight through it.
You will probably feel a greater sense of awareness about the world, and that includes about yourself too.
10) You may notice synchronicities
I’ve lost count of the number of times things have magically fallen into place for me. The “right time and the right place” become a common occurrence.
I don’t know how to explain it. All I can say is that the more I surrendered my desire for tight control over life, the more effortlessly things seemed to happen around me.
I heard the analogy once of fighting against the current versus allowing yourself to flow downstream. I think that is a good way of explaining it.
People often ask me how I managed to quit my job 8 years ago, skip around the world from place to place and still have everything work out just fine.
The honest answer is that I’m not sure.
But day after day, month after month, and year after year it’s almost as though life is co-conspiring with me to make sure things fall into place the way that they should.
11) You still don’t have all the answers
I thought perhaps a spiritual awakening was somehow getting all the answers to life.
Again, I can’t speak for others, but I will categorically say that the opposite has happened to me.
The things I thought I knew about life, I started to question and see as falsehoods.
Eventually, after the unraveling of the views and beliefs I had once built my identity upon, I haven’t replaced them with anything concrete.
I once thought I knew things, and now I realize I know nothing — to me this feels like progress.
I am more open-minded. I discount far fewer things, especially if I don’t have any knowledge or personal experience of them.
Maybe once upon a time, I was looking for the meaning of life, but any desire to find conclusive answers has also gone.
I’m happy to just experience life, and that feels like the meaning of life now.
Every now and then I get glimpses of what I would call “truth”. But it isn’t an answer like some sort of an explanation you can even verbalize.
These are flashes of understanding, where you can see through the illusion, where it all feels right, where you have access to a deeper knowing, and you just sense that it’s all going to be ok.
12) It takes work
There are some spiritual teachers who make spiritual awakening look effortless. It’s almost as though they’ve had some sort of full download and remain in a fully enlightened state no matter what is going on around them.
And then there is the rest of us.
Spiritual teacher Adyashanti refers to this difference as abiding and non-abiding awakening.
Even though you can’t go backward and undo the truth you have already seen (or felt) you can fall back under the spell of illusion again at times.
One of my favorite quotes to illustrate this is from Ram Dass who rather wittily pointed out:
“If you think you are enlightened, go and spend a week with your family.”
The truth is it takes work. We’re asked daily to choose. Ego or self. Oneness or separation. Illusion or truth.
Life is still a classroom and there’s a lot to learn. It takes conscious effort and dedication to support yourself through this process.
Personally, I find certain practices really help me with this. They are the same ones that cultivate self-awareness and growth — things like journaling, meditation, yoga, and breathwork.
It’s crazy how something as simple as your breath can instantly help you to connect with your true self.
I was introduced to an unusual free breathwork video created by the shaman, Rudá Iandê, who I mentioned earlier, which focuses on dissolving stress and boosting inner peace.
Rudá hasn’t just created a bog-standard breathing exercise – he’s cleverly combined his many years of breathwork practice and shamanism to create this incredible flow – which is free to take part in.
If you want to connect with yourself, I’d recommend checking out Rudá’s free breathwork video.
To conclude: What is life after awakening?
I’ve done my best to explore some of the things I’ve felt on my own spiritual journey, I hope some things ring true for you. I don’t profess for one second to be any kind of wise sage or have the answers.
But I think that life after awakening is one where your perspective of reality shifts. It’s no longer solely based on your own separate ego.
You’ll probably start questioning everything you believed to be true before. You’ll start to look at your life differently. And maybe you won’t want to change anything, but maybe you’ll change everything.
Your priorities will shift. You’ll start to value experiences over material possessions. You may start to care more about the environment and animals. You’ll probably start to question money, power, politics, religion, etc.
You’ll learn to trust yourself more and to trust your intuition. Your relationship with yourself will change. Your relationship with other people will change. You’ll start to appreciate the beauty of nature and the world around you.
You’ll come to understand that there is no absolute truth and that we all create our own realities. This will lead to a lot of self-reflection and introspection.