Have you ever had a spiritual awakening experience? A big aha moment that profoundly changed how you view yourself, life, and/or the world? Peak experiences can be powerful catalysts for growth. But once we come down from them, it can be challenging to figure out how to integrate them into our lives in a meaningful way.
However, if we don’t do this, we’re likely to miss out on the full value the experience has to offer us. It can slip through our fingers as a blissful memory. Or worse, trick us into thinking we’ve attained some permanent state of enlightenment that doesn’t require any additional effort from us. It can disrupt our lives, interfering with relationships, or leave us with a sense of dissatisfaction with what we now view as mundane or aggravating by comparison.
In today’s post, I’m sharing a step-by-step process you can take to translate peak spiritual experiences into your everyday, lived reality. I’m also showing you how to avoid several ego traps that commonly arise in the wake of big awakening moments. These traps can feel like they’re reinforcing your spiritual growth, when in fact, they’re impeding it.
When we contemplate a peak spiritual experience with the intention to glean its wisdom – and embody that wisdom in our daily life – we empower true transformation.
What Is A Spiritual Awakening Experience?
To start, let’s just establish what we’re talking about here. What constitutes a spiritual awakening experience? I confess, I feel clumsy attempting to define something that, by its very nature, transcends human language. But I’ll do my best. I’m intentionally keeping this definition as broad and inclusive as I can, while still offering some relatable meaning, because I know I’m not the authority on what counts as a spiritual experience. I offer this definition merely so we may have a shared way of talking about it moving forward. Your definition may vary, and if so, by all means, please hold onto your own as we dive deeper.
For the purposes of this post, I’m defining a spiritual awakening experience as any experience that opens our eyes to our spiritual essence, reveals the illusion of our ego patterns, and/or connects us in some profound way to that which is bigger than us – however we may call it. (God, the Universe, Source, Life Force, etc.) It lifts us out of our everyday monotony and shows us a bigger picture – one which we are a part of and with which we are intricately interconnected.
How & Where Do They Happen?
Spiritual awakenings can happen in a variety of contexts. Some examples include:
- spiritual contemplation
- reading a spiritual text
- church (especially rites of passage, like conversion or baptism)
- yoga (especially with a chakra or kundalini awakening)
- spiritual retreat, workshop, or other event
- while receiving a healing modality
- in the wake of a near-death experience
- a psychedelic experience
- a sweat lodge
- a powerful dream
Of course, this list is by no means conclusive. But regardless of how or where a spiritual awakening experience happens, people tend to know when they’ve had one. There’s a marked difference in perception, a heightened sense of awareness that can’t be ignored. The world suddenly looks different. You suddenly feel different. It rarely occurs during the ordinary routines of our life, because it’s an extra-ordinary occurrence. And this is precisely why it can be difficult to integrate into our workaday life.
The Aftermath of a Spiritual Awakening Experience
After a peak spiritual experience, it’s common to feel an after-glow. Because we’ve just been jolted out of our ordinary perception, we feel lighter. The weight of our everyday concerns has lifted, and this energizes us. We feel uplifted, charged, and even blissfully at peace. And with our new insight, we feel a sense of clarity. It’s as though the jigsaw puzzle of our self, life, and/or the universe has come together in perfect order. There’s a feeling that it all suddenly makes sense, even if we can’t put that sense into words.
The after-glow feels so good, most of us want desperately to hold onto it. We want this to be our new normal. In fact, one of the ego traps we’ll explore later is the expectation this should be our everyday reality in order for the awakening to hold merit. While relishing in this yummy bliss helps us naturally want to embrace spiritual growth, it’s important we resist the urge to cling to it. If we mistake that good feeling as the whole point of our awakening, we set ourselves up for disappointment.
Because the after-glow will fade. There’s no avoiding that. It’s a high like any other. The gravity of everyday life will set in. We can soak in the glow and fully enjoy it, but at some point we need to dig deeper into our spiritual awakening experience to find the golden nugget it’s offering us. What wisdom have we dis-covered? And how can we apply it to our daily life in a way that keeps us aligned with it, even in the midst of life’s inevitable ups and downs?
Steps To Integrate Your Spiritual Awakening Experience
Spiritual awakening experiences typically don’t unfold in the sphere of our logical mind. Instead, they tend to break us out of logic and thrust us into less familiar territory – where knowledge is felt or sensed holistically, rather than filtered through words. In fact, the moment we try to describe it with words, it can feel like we’re losing touch with the spiritual experience itself.
Once the peak experience has passed, and our after-glow is beginning to dim, it’s important we translate what happened into the language we use in our everyday living. We need to process it with our logical mind if we want it to catalyze lasting growth. Otherwise, it may slip away from us, becoming just a transient memory. We’ll wonder if it was real, or if it meant as much as we thought it did.
The following steps can help you with this translation. So you can integrate your awakening into your life in a way that empowers you to be truly changed by it.
5 Steps to Facilitate Integration
The first step is to ask yourself what stands out to you the most about your experience. There’s no need to analyze here. Just acknowledge what pops into your mind instinctively. Let your intuition and higher awareness guide you, instead of introducing your rational mind. Maybe it’s a visual image or a bodily sensation. Maybe it’s a general knowing or a profound insight. Whatever it is, once you’ve identified it, encapsulate it in a few words.
Next, consider how you might be able to relate what you noticed in step one to your everyday life. This step requires more thought. Essentially, what you’re trying to do here is draw a connection between what you experienced during your heightened state of awareness and what you experience in your ordinary life. For example, if what stood out to you about your peak experience is a sense of being deeply connected to all living beings, you might consider how connected or disconnected you tend to feel to other people on a daily basis.
Third, take some time to contemplate the correlation you just drew in step two. Dig deep. What can you learn? What patterns are present in your life that your spiritual awakening experience can shed light on? You’ve been shown an alternative perception. What can you do with it?
If we use our example regarding connection from above, this might mean assessing what’s getting in the way of you feeling more connected to the people in your life. Or, what’s keeping you from opening up to connecting with more people?
Once you’ve gained some insight, turn it into a piece of wisdom you can carry forward with you. In a sentence or two, summarize this wisdom. Again, using the example from above, your wisdom might sound something like this. We’re all a part of this one universe, like cells forming one body. My tendency to judge people keeps me from seeing this interconnection.
Finally, consider how you can embody this wisdom. Meaning, how can you put it into practice in your life? This is where the work – and the real transformation – begins. As time passes, and the high of your spiritual awakening experience fades, this piece is what keeps it alive for you.
What practices might support your intention to live in alignment with your new wisdom? How will you challenge yourself to do things differently, instead of living out old, habitual patterns? Returning to our example, the wisdom gained around interconnectedness might be embodied through loving-kindness or compassion practices. It might start as simply making a point to smile and speak to strangers more often. Or, to join a church, a yoga class, or some other social group.
Whatever you choose to do, the point is you’ve taken a big, spiritual moment and translated it into realized actions in the nitty-gritty world of your daily experience. You’ve grounded the mystical in the realm of the tangible. Which means you’ve allowed yourself to be meaningfully transformed by it. This is integration.
Ego Traps to Avoid After Spiritual Awakening
The high of a spiritual awakening experience can give rise to several ego traps. I like to think of them as opportunities to solidify our growth through conscious choice. After all, if we’re encountering them – as so many of us do – there must be something we can learn from them. Are we going to take the bait? Or are we going to see it for what it is and not get distracted by an ego illusion?
Before we get into the specifics of these traps, I want to point out that getting sidetracked by one of them doesn’t mean we’re trapped forever. It just means we’re taking a less direct path. Undoubtedly, if we remain sincerely dedicated to our quest for spiritual truth, we’ll learn whatever lessons we need to along this alternate route. We’ll realize how we need to correct our course and eventually shift directions.
I’ve fallen into some of these traps myself. Once I recognized how they misled me, I grew from the experience. And having discovered it for myself, I really owned what I learned. So in the big scheme of things, it served my growth. But, if we can avoid being ensnared from the get-go, our path is much easier.
Here are the 3 common ego traps:
Enlightenment Means Bliss
We’ll start with this one, since I already mentioned it. And because it’s an obstacle I’ve heard people lament over many times. With this trap, there’s an assumption that once we’ve had a spiritual awakening experience, we’re going to float through life with an ever-present feeling of bliss. Because we now have the answer, we’re somehow immune to the inevitable ups and downs of life.
It doesn’t take long to realize the fallacy here. Something – maybe even a bunch of things – will come along to rattle our inner peace. Even if we’re able to rise above the muck for a time, eventually we’ll react in a way that makes us question our awakening. And this is the real challenge presented by this trap. We may start to doubt the validity of our peak experience. Was it really as powerful as we thought? What was the point if we can’t hold onto it, if it can be taken away from us so easily?
Or, we keep seeking out experiences that can replicate our initial feeling of bliss. When we fail to access it again, or as frequently as we want, we become frustrated. What’s wrong with me? Why don’t I feel enlightened?
However, if we emerge from our awakening experience grounded in the knowing that enlightenment is an ongoing, everyday process, we don’t expect bliss. We accept that life will challenge us, and that the whole point of our spiritual growth is to learn how to skillfully navigate those challenges. Instead of chasing bliss, we seek to cultivate our inner self in such a way that bliss naturally becomes more accessible. The goal isn’t to attain bliss, but bliss ends up arising more easily. Though it may be nuanced, there’s a difference. And it changes everything.
Thinking We’ve Found The Only (or the Best) Answer
This ego trap arises from either a highly egocentric perspective or an abundance of enthusiasm for what we’ve experienced. Sometimes, maybe even both. It basically assumes whatever insight we’ve gained, or whatever led to our spiritual awakening experience, is the way.
Even though my own journey has been guided by wisdom teachings from many different paths, I’ve fallen prey to this trap before. It didn’t make sense. But nonetheless, it happened. I was so in awe of all my path had revealed to me, I felt certain it held all the answers anyone could need.
This trap can look as grandiose as outright saying our way is the only way, which can cause rifts in our relationships and cut us off from people who’ve found a different way. Or, it can be as subtle as silently discrediting someone else’s experience. However it manifests, there’s a sense that our way is the best or only way to find enlightenment.
When we fully trust in the merit of our own spiritual awakening, we don’t need anyone else to validate it. We can share what we’ve gained simply as an offering that others are free to receive or reject. And having experienced the powerful transformational process of our own spiritual growth, we can honor that process unfolding in others. We can rejoice in their growth, however it may be happening for them.
Believing Awakening is a Destination Instead of a Path
This trap is similar to the first one regarding bliss. However, instead of involving a feeling (bliss), it revolves around our sense of identity. After a spiritual awakening experience, it can be tempting to feel like we’ve arrived. We’re enlightened now. And this belief becomes a part of how we define ourselves. There can be a sense of completion to the process of our growth, which is what makes this ego trap especially tricky. Once we think we’ve learned all we need to learn, we stop looking – at ourselves and at the world – with the intention to grow and see more clearly. A rigidity can set in that closes us off from new perspectives, insights, and lessons.
I’ve had multiple spiritual awakening experiences, each at different stages of my life. And each one revealed new and deeper truths. But if I’d fallen into this trap, I might still be working with only the pebbles of truth I discovered in my twenties. Or, trying to stuff any new discoveries into an old box they don’t really fit into. There’s a quote from Richard Bach that I love, and it applies well here. It says:
This is a test to see if your mission in this life is complete. If you are alive, it isn’t.Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah
So long as we’re alive, we’re still awakening. When we own this truth, we remain humble to our process of continued refinement. And with this humility, comes grace. Grace for ourselves, as we navigate the complexity and truth of suffering that come hand-in-hand with being human. Grace for others, as we acknowledge they too are always a work in progress. And grace for the Universe, as we accept what we cannot yet – and may never fully – understand.
A spiritual awakening experience can catapult us forward on our spiritual journey. It’s a gift from the Universe. But to receive the gift fully, we have to unwrap it. And to get the most benefit from it, we have to actively use it. That’s what the integration process does for us. It helps us unwrap and effectively use our beautiful gift.
I wish you abundant bliss on your spiritual journey, as well as ever-unfolding wisdom that enriches your life’s purpose and reveals the gem of your soul daily. Namaste.
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