Awakening? Spiritual Experience? Enlightenment? Psychic Change? Rebirth?
All of these terms have been used to describe different things.They are used freely among the masses in search of something bigger than oneself for centuries. These terms have often been described as a change within - defined as a greater purpose for one's own being.
If you're in recovery, there's no doubt that you've heard the term "spiritual experience" among peers, acquaintances and mentors as a vital step in the recovery process. During my own search for sobriety, I characterized a spiritual awakening as someone who had a white-light experience, turned water into wine (at the time I wouldn't have minded that), and was forever changed in an instant.
However, I had no idea that while pursuing sobriety, the daily process of pursuing humility, honestly, and practicing my newfound principles of life turned into a spiritual experience itself. For many, sudden changes happen overtime, which is what psychologist William James likes to call the "educational variety." That's definitely what happened to me. Different shapes, sizes and evidence can categorize the experience. Let's take a deeper look.
What actually is a Spiritual Awakening?
A spiritual awakening can generally be defined as a newfound awareness of a spiritual reality. No person can fully define a spiritual awakening for another. Of course, each person has a different outlook on life and defines things differently. It can happen at any moment or period in your life. This experience can be spontaneous, but they can also be triggered by major life changes like traumas, tragedies, addictions, life-threatening illnesses, car accidents, divorces, war, midlife crises, etc.
In the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, the definition a spiritual awakening is a "personality change sufficient to bring about recovery from alcoholism."
The ascetic sage, Gautama Buddha, more commonly known as "The Buddha" described his awakening when ignorance was destroyed; knowledge arose; darkness was destroyed and light arose, which happens in one who is heedful, ardent, and resolute.
Guru Eckhart Tolle's spiritual experience came when he was a 29 year old near-suicidal graduate student and underwent a cataclysmic and terrifying spiritual experience that erased his former identity. In the morning, he'd been flooded with a sense of "uninterrupted deep peace and bliss" that has never left him since.
In biblical terms, each person has been born into sin and are "spiritually dead." It is not categorized by "waking up," but as a resurrection from spiritual death. The new birth that Jesus spoke of—occurs not by some physical, mental, or emotional process but by the power of the Holy Spirit. One who is awakened by the Holy Spirit is recreated into a completely new person.
By no means am I a guru, however, when my pain got great enough, my life was stripped of the material things, and I was placed in a brand new environment I had to look at my life completely different. I felt "cut off" with the Higher Power of my understanding, which at the time, was money, power, and status. I became a fearful, timid, ball of anxiety who was newly sober and trying to figure out left from right. With no car, no cell phone and a couple of bucks in my pocket, I found myself relying on this Higher Power that those around me spoke of, and the substance of my "being" became more fruitful and whole.
How do you know if you've had a spiritual awakening?
When Eckhart Tolle had his spiritual experience, he wrote,
"I walked around the city in utter amazement at the miracle of life on earth, as if I had just been born."
For myself, my outlook on life changed. Suddenly my humility rose and my ego declined. People were placed in my life that showed me a greater way of living. In my opinion, they were divinely placed.
There is no set "way", so to speak to have a spiritual awakening, and signs can contrast from person to person. Here are a couple of them:
- Increased inspiration
- The feeling inside you that something has changed
- Increased "coincidences" in your life
- Wanting to make the world a better place
- The ability to finally be yourself
- Willingness to love and give without expectations
- A feeling of bliss
- Loss of interest in drama
- Other's noticing that something has changed in you
- Thirst for truth and self-fulfillment
What Does It Mean?
So, what exactly does all this stuff mean?
At the time, I found myself feeling like an alien. The material side of things were gone, and I was living in a world seeking spirituality and truth. I felt an unconditional and overwhelming love. If for a time I felt judgmental of others, I was able to look inward and find compassion and understanding for them. My awareness for each moment was so full, that time ceased to exist. My thoughts were on a higher plane and for the first time, I felt like my life truly had no limits.
Spiritual Awakening? Spiritual Experience? Enlightenment? Psychic Change? Rebirth? Nobody can tell another exactly what each means, for each person's experience is their own. However for many, fully embracing experiences, and having a newfound sense of personal freedom means a new definition for life.
French philosopher, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin stated that,
"We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience."
And how true this is once we are living life with a new pair of glasses.
Whether the, "white-light" experience, or the educational type, when I am quiet and aware of my surroundings, I can have small spiritual experiences everyday and live up to life's full potential.