Wednesday, May 7, 2008

How Do I Know If I've Had A Spiritual Awakening?

By Deon Du Plessis

Because of the fact that spirituality and mysticism are often such vague areas of knowledge, there can actually be quite a bit of confusion about the idea of a spiritual awakening. One of the most popular places that people hear about a spiritual awakening is in the programs of Alcoholics Anonymous or any of the other 12-step programs.

The 12th and final step suggests the possibility that a person can have a spiritual awakening and therefore arrive at some kind of final condition wherein their spiritual journey is said to be complete. The idea of coming to an "end", however, is problematic in spirituality and this is the reason we need to be clear about what is meant about a spiritual awakening. Great sages like Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta Maharaj, Lao Tzu and Sri Aurobindo have discussed these confusions in detail and suggested that the condition may be extremely rare even though it is often reported y many individuals.

The idea of "waking up" spiritually might be best understood by imagining that people are all relatively "asleep" when it comes to the reality of their day to day lives. Oftentimes, when you are asleep, you don't even realize that you are asleep because your dream can seem so real! This is a similar experience in relation to the spiritual "slumber".

People who first enter a spiritual recovery program or spiritual group of any kind can all be said to be somewhat "asleep" in terms of their awareness about what is real or what is most valuable in their lives. They seek out the instruction of other more experienced individuals to help them to "wake up" to the realities of the world around them. This can often be a very difficult and even traumatic experience as we don't particularly like to wake up to reality anymore than we like to be awoken from a good dream when we are asleep in our beds. Nonetheless, if we stick around a spiritual group long enough, we begin to become more aware of certain things and can be said to be "awakening" to a new reality.

The full significance of a spiritual awakening, however, is often much more extreme than most of us realize. We may have experienced certain dreams at night where we thought you had been awake and actually visited many "real" places such as our job, our school or our home but then later we discovered that none of this was real. We had either fallen abck asleep without realizing it or we had only been going through another dream, very lucid, yet unreal nonetheless.

This "dream" experience is also very common among people who begin to study spiritual truths and become very excited when they feel that they are finally "waking up". The reality of this "waking up" as a full blown spiritual awakening, however, is very far from a reality in most cases. As one great sage once said "You are mistaking a crack in the mirror for the full light of noon!" A spiritual awakening is something that is actually much more profound and comprehensive than most people realize. These experiences are classically restricted to a very small percentage of the population throughout history and have been discussed in many great books such as the Bhagavad Gita, the Kaballah and the New Testament.

There is wide agreement amongst some of the world's most notable spiritual teachers that only one in ten million people will ever truly become awakened to the full reality of the spiritual condition of mankind! Can this be true? The reason it may be correct is that spiritual work actually requires extreme dedication and effort over many years before a person can typically be said to become completely awakened to their spirit. Muhammad is known to have spent years in mediation before finally becoming "Enlightened" and certain issues surrounding life and death and the eternity of the soul are very profound and can only be intuited by those who witness extreme tragedies or experience near death transformations in their lives. Even after these extreme experiences, people often return to their original state and are only changed in a very profound way rather than being completely "awakened" to their spirit.

A spiritual awakening is something more grand than many people have likely been capable of understanding after simply hearing about the subject. The rarity of the experience, however, can provide great inspiration to those who would choose to devote their lives to that same spiritual quest. These great spirits have included such names as Muhammad, Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Krishna, St. Paul, Ramana Maharshi, Gautama Buddha, Lao Tzu, Jesus Christ and many others.

The quest for a spiritual awakening can make a person into one of the most influential figures in history, as th previous list suggests. If you set your course for the stars, you may just reach it someday! Once you do, there will be no more doubt about whether you have arrived or not.


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