When any of us dedicate ourselves in earnest to a spiritual practice, it eventually begins to bear fruit in our everyday lives. We begin to notice that we have more space around our thoughts and emotions. We gain more frequent access to higher states and perspectives. We have more insights and a deeper connection to meaning and purpose. These fruits of the practice are our first indication that we have entered into a genuine process of spiritual awakening. But what can we expect from here? Is this process of awakening something that continues forever, gradually unfolding ever higher potentials? Or will we at some point undergo a sudden and final shift, after which we will be permanently awake to this higher consciousness? In this 5-minute video, Craig illuminates the deep subtleties of the awakening process, highlighting the concrete ways in which awakening can involve both a gradual strengthening of our “inner muscles” and sudden, life-altering shifts from which we can never return.
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As I’ve engaged more in the practice of meditation, I’ve noticed that I’m becoming more consistently aware of awareness, all of the time. It’s now starting to show up in my everyday life. For example, I can be gardening and suddenly I’ll feel very connected, or walking and feeling very connected, or talking to friends and feeling very connected. I kind of dip in and out. When I’m in it, I’m starting to gain access to another level of intelligence that’s giving me new insights about things that I’ve never really thought about before.
I feel that I’m actually on the path, and I’m starting the whole process of awakening. My question is about how to respond to this new spiritual momentum. Is it like using a new muscle in that it just gets stronger and stronger and stronger? Or does something suddenly just click and you’re there all the time? I’m not sure how it works, and I want to know if you can give any guidance.
First of all, I’m happy to hear about the progression you’re describing. It sounds like you’re really taking your meditation practice very seriously, and then as a result, you’re starting to notice this organic awakening process beginning to unfold throughout your life. You’re not necessarily trying to do it; it’s all starting to happen naturally.
The truth is that we can make a lot of effort to evolve and awaken, but most of that effort is to get out of the way of the process and allow it to happen naturally. The thing about human beings is that in our most optimized, naturally functioning state we are naturally self-evolving. That’s what we are at our best. That’s what we are when we kind of get the gunk out of the machinery. We start to flow and our own consciousness starts to expand. Insights start to flow and a deeper understanding of reality emerges. Our heart begins to open and a deeper love starts to flow through us. To put it simply, when we get our ego out of the way, all of these things just begin to happen of their own accord.
The muscle metaphor is apt in the sense that we’re building the inner strength to stay true to our awakening. It’s one thing when life is wonderful and beautiful. But it requires much more strength and inner fortitude when things are difficult. It’s challenging, for example, to face the truth all the time and that’s one of the things that we have to do on the spiritual path. We have to always face the truth. We have to always stay in alignment with reality. We have to not distort, deny, avoid, defend. We’ve got to be undefended in the face of reality. And that’s a vulnerable place to be. So there is a strength required to stick with the process of awakening as it begins to open you up more and more. So in that sense, your concept of building our spiritual muscles is actually a pretty good metaphor for what’s involved.
The other dimension of your question is whether or not there is a point at which we cross a kind of spiritual juncture. I would say that, yes, there are actually several different junctures we can cross on the spiritual path that become new levels of stability—new, and higher foundations for our life. So both metaphors are true and transformation can happen in both of these ways. It can be an organic unfolding that just goes from one thing to the other. And there can also be a distinct crossing into a new level of stability in awakened consciousness that we don’t fall back from, because it’s become our new home.
But even getting to that crossing over point usually takes a lot of renunciation and discipline. Even though we’re talking about love and light and spirituality, there are battles that have to be fought in the soul. There are battles that have to be fought with all the momentum of our past. In many of the religions, they used to call them inner demons, and they literally had names for each of them. I think we can all now agree that there probably aren’t any real inner demons, but we do have to do battle with our habitual reactions, our conditioned responses, our primitive, animal nature, and our collective human consciousness, some parts of which are not very evolved or wholesome.
We have to shake all that off and become someone who’s capable of being what the orthodox Christians used to call a “God-bearing” individual. This is someone who can hold that higher consciousness in the face of everything the world throws at you and resist being pulled down from that more-evolved, more-conscious, more-awakened place.
So, the question is, “Can we achieve enough victories in those battles and become someone who’s reliably grounded in that depth?” And the answer is, “Absolutely, we can.” But is it necessarily going to be a big shift from A to B all at once?
For most people, it’s not. But even if it is, that doesn’t mean that now you get to take it for granted. You can’t let yourself off the hook by saying, “Oh, I’ve now shifted. I’ve had three months where I haven’t reacted in this way or that way, and I’ve been able to stay really present and conscious. So now I’m good to go. I’m fully awakened.” Then, lo and behold, on month four, something triggers you and all your old patterns come back and you say, “Oh no, I’ve lost it all.” Which would be a mistake, too, because all that really means is there is more work to do to evolve.
So in reality, it’s probably best for all of us to assume we’re in the first paradigm you shared, which is the gradual strengthening; rather than trying to achieve a big shift all at once to a level that we can’t fall back from.
I just discovered your site. This talk is so beautiful. I awakened “suddenly” after 50 years of practicing acceptance, surrender and gratitude. The awakening was profound and I am still joyfully adjusting. Your talks are a great resource. Thank you!