What is a Spiritual Awakening?
In twelve-step fellowships, people often say that someone must have a spiritual awakening to heal their addiction. The reasoning is that the complete psychic change that comes about by having a spiritual awakening is said to extinguish the desire to drink.
But what exactly is a spiritual awakening? And how can you have one? This article will hopefully throw some light on this subject.
What exactly is a spiritual awakening?
Spiritual awakenings come in different shapes and sizes. Some people have a spiritual awakening and are transformed in an instant. Other people have a slower, more transitional awakening.
The end result is roughly the same, though: a lessening of the ego, greater connection to yourself, to others and to a God. Thus, enabling you to have a joyful and free life.
Before we go any further, it is important to clarify that you can have your own conception of what a God is. Essentially it needs to be a power that is greater than you and your addiction, one that you can build a loving and trusting relationships with.
For some people, God can be the feeling of love and truth. For others it can be Mother Nature, the spirit of the universe or a religious God. Whatever your conception is, be reassured that it is enough to have a belief and make a start.
How to have a spiritual awakening
The 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous talk of having a vital spiritual experience, which they equate to being awoken to the truth.
Other spiritual paths will refer to enlightenment and spiritual connection. Whatever the case may be, a spiritual awakening results in a profound transformation whereby you feel connected to something incredibly powerful and that is unlimited in its resources.
How you achieve this spiritual connection or awakening is really up to you. The main thing is that you believe in the process you are following and that you see the process working for others.
Do the 12 steps for spiritual awakening
The 12 steps can help you stay clean and sober. The ultimate goal, however, is to help you to have a spiritual awakening and connect with your higher power. The steps were designed to help you get out of your own way, restoring this deep hearted connection that has been there all along.
Doing the steps is a simple process, but it is not easy. When you work through the steps, you will look at who you are, and some people find this challenging. However, the rewards are well worth it. The 12 steps are a process of removal, they remove the blockages within that stop you from connecting to a power. Once connected to a power, staying sober becomes much simpler as you are no longer relying on your own will power to do so.
Shadow work for spiritual awakening
"The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek" - Joseph Campbell.
When you do shadow work, you bring the unconscious into the conscious. Doing shadow work helps you to understand yourself better. It also allows you to make peace with the parts of yourself that you try to ignore.
It helps you lead a more authentic and fulfilling life, and can also give you a spiritual awakening.
People often do shadow work in workshops, where they are guided through the process over a few days. If you decide to do shadow work like this, make sure you go with a facilitator who has the appropriate training.
Joseph Campbell, a great proponent of shadow work, wrote about the Hero's journey, a mono-myth that is found in all stories. This myth consists of:
"A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man." - The Hero With a Thousand Faces (1949).
We can think about shadow work and the path of spiritual awakening as a Hero's journey. The track is one that is beset by difficulties, but is also one where mentors are found and extraordinary adventures will take place. If we think about the road of spiritual awakening in this way, it helps to remind us that, like all good things, a spiritual awakening is not just about an end goal, it is about the journey too.
Connect with nature for spiritual awakening
Spending time in nature and allowing yourself to be surrounded by its beauty and peace helps you to feel closer to the natural forces that govern our universe. Many people say that they feel closest to God when walking in a beautiful area.
Spiritual practice for spiritual awakening
There are a million different spiritual practices that you can do that will move you a step closer to a spiritual awakening. Find one that works for you and stick with it. The key is consistency. If you want to get a spiritual awakening by meditating, make sure you set aside time each day to meditate. The same applies to any other spiritual practice that you do.
Music for spiritual awakening
Listening to music can help to calm the "monkey mind", which can help move you along the spiritual path. You can try listening to music that has been made with the divine in mind. This type of music tends to have repetitive lyrics and beats that help you get into a meditative state by calming brain waves.
Prayer for spiritual awakening
Praying is recommended to people in twelve-step fellowships as a way to get closer to God. There are plenty of prayers that people have already written that people in these fellowships regularly recite. These prayers tend to be Christian, though of course, people of all religions pray. You are free to use the prayers of any other religion.
You do not even have to belong to a religion to pray. Rather than praying to the God of a particular religion, you can pray to a higher power of your understanding. Whatever your conception of God is, try praying. You may find that it helps in your life and brings you further toward a spiritual awakening.
Yoga for spiritual awakening
According to Vedanta, there are four paths to spiritual awakening:
Bhakti Yoga: Path of love and devotion
Jnana Yoga: Path of science and the intellect
Karma Yoga: Path of action and selfless service
Raja Yoga: Path of meditation
You can choose any of these, and you can even explore more than one of them at the same time. You should select a path that calls to you and suits who you are as a person.
Our knowledge hub contains beginners guides for each of the four spiritual paths of yoga where you can learn more. Our wellness hub also offers many spiritual practices, one of which is yoga classes, taken by an experienced instructor.
Bhakti is one of the most popular paths in India. It involves devoting yourself to God entirely. You surrender yourself, allowing your ego to dissolve. This also helps you to feel closer to the people around you.
If you spend all of your time enjoying the process of learning, Jnana Yoga might be the right path for you. People who progress along the path of Jnana Yoga may read the various text of the world religions to garner truth from each one. They may also spend time reading scientific journals and books.
Karma Yoga is about service. A popular theme in twelve-step fellowships is the idea that service keeps you sober. Not only does it do this, but it can also help you to progress spiritually. Spending your time dedicated to selfless action helps to reduce your ego and increases your love and compassion for the people who are around you.
Like some of the other ways of moving towards spiritual awakening, people who are on the spiritual path will likely find themselves drawn to doing service. People who engage with karma yoga do it simply to help others and the joy this brings.
If you are already an avid meditator, Raja Yoga may suit you well. People who do Raja Yoga spend hours each day meditating, go on meditation retreats regularly, and take the time to perfect their meditation technique.
Gratitude for spiritual awakening
Gratitude is a theme in many different religions and spiritual traditions. It can change the way you feel when you are in a negative state of mind, but it can also bring you closer to your higher power.
Try writing down a gratitude list each evening. Write about the things you are grateful for in that day. If you feel like you have nothing to be grateful for, start with the basics: a roof over you, food to eat, air to breath, and the possibility of a better future.
Over time, as you practice gratitude, it can become something compelling. You can think of practicing gratitude as exercising a muscle. The more you practice, the stronger it gets
Simplicity for spiritual awakening
There may come a time in your spiritual journey when you feel the need to remove clutter in life to concentrate on spirituality. Simplicity can help you to connect with your true nature. When you simplify your life, you make room for what's truly important.
Simplifying your life has numerous facets. You might choose to simplify your life by reducing the number of material possessions that you have. When you are on the spiritual path, you will be unlikely to be as drawn to hoarding material possessions as you were anyway!
You may also simplify your social life and choose only to have a few friends. Of course, this does not have to be the case. Some people who are pursuing a spiritual journey decide to have lots of people around them. Some find the benefits of being around a sangha - a spiritual community - to help them on their spiritual journey while moving towards a spiritual awakening.
Let go for spiritual awakening
Do what you can, and then let go. When you become attached to the idea of achieving a spiritual awakening, or you get a certain idea in your head about what your awakening could be, you lessen the chance of having one. If you are interested in having a spiritual awakening, it is undoubtedly helpful to know the useful actions. But ultimately you should do the work and not focus on the goal of having any kind of experience, as this can be counterproductive.
Traps of spirituality
When you are engaging in spiritual practice (while letting go of the results, of course), there are some traps you should be aware of. Falling into these may cause you to lose track of true spirituality.
This is a term used to describe a tendency to use spiritual beliefs and practices to avoid dealing with difficult life challenges, emotions, and situations.
Spiritual bypass is something that people sometimes do in recovery communities when they are struggling to face the reality of their situation. It can take many different forms.
Some common signs that you may be spiritual bypassing include:
- Tending to see the world through rose-colored glasses and ignore or downplay anything that doesn't fit your spiritual worldview.
- Believing that spiritual growth means constantly positive thinking and trying to be happy all the time, regardless of what's going on in your life.
- Avoiding difficult conversations or situations by using spiritual platitudes or trying to meditate/pray your way out of it.
- Believing that spiritual growth means you no longer have to deal with negative emotions or challenging life experiences.
Fortunately, most recovery groups do not promote spiritual bypassing. Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous do recommend spirituality as a way of overcoming addiction, but they profess it as part of a program that involves self-analysis, which helps prevents spiritual bypassing from happening.
If you find yourself spiritual bypassing, it's important to remember that there is no shame in admitting that you're struggling. Life is full of ups and downs, and your spiritual practice should be a source of comfort and strength during the tough times, not a way to avoid them.
Thinking you are better/more spiritual than others
One of the more common traps of spiritual awakening is the idea that some people have that they are better than others because of their spirituality. This idea is common in new age spirituality groups, where people look down on others due to their beliefs or actions.
People who think this way may believe they have conquered the ego, but this is not the case. In fact, their ego is still very much intact and may even have grown, but they cannot see it due to the badge of spirituality they have.
If you start looking down on others who are not spiritual, it may be time to do some more self-analysis. Spiritual awakening is unlikely to happen when you are thinking in judgemental ways.
Using only spirituality to heal
Spiritual practice can be a great way to shift how you see things and gain a new perspective on life. This can be healing.
However, it should not be the only approach that you use for healing. Using spirituality in this way is a form of spiritual bypass, where you ignore dealing with things that have happened in your past. It will not work, and you will remain fractured.
Twelve step programmes, therapy, and modalities like EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) and TRE (Tension & Trauma Releasing Exercises) work well for healing.
Choose the right path for you
There are many different paths to spiritual awakening. Choose one that is right for you, but do not get too caught up in the need to have one. As long as you do the right actions, one day at a time, you will be heading in the right direction.
Try not to get caught up in the traps that often happen when people pursue spiritual awakening and remember to enjoy yourself! Spirituality should, for the most part, be a joyful affair.
No one will master spirituality perfectly, we are human with human traits and emotions after all. Part of spirituality is to accept that we all have flaws and love ourselves anyway, using spiritual tools to overcome human problems and emotions.
Many people find that once they grow in their own spirituality that physical and mentally they also feel great improvements. For this reason alone, a spiritual awakening can really help a person to overcome an addiction and have a healthier view and outlook on life.
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