I recently came across Spiritual Awakening for Geeks. There is not a single word on there I don’t love. It’s the kind of thing I wish existed when I just got started.
I started meditating in my 30s—mostly for stress reduction. Around the same time, I discovered the work of philosopher Ken Wilber. He expressed himself both in the language of science and psychology (which I was familiar with) and the language of mystical spirituality (which was new to me). His work bridged those two cultures, making a personal exploration of mysticism possible for me for the first time in my life.
I was captivated by Wilber’s work; I consumed it voraciously. His Integral Theory (which unites science, psychology, and mysticism) became my new frame of reference for making sense of life. I started viewing myself as an evolving consciousness existing on a mystical ground of being, and I started viewing awakening the recognition of that ground. I didn’tunderstand that ground, but I was determined to make sense of it and experience it for myself. On Wilber’s advice, I turned to the world’s mystical traditions for guidance.
This is frighteningly familiar. It’s interesting to see other people’s journeys, how similar they can sometimes be and how they evolve. Given I still feel not that far along this trail, if I end up reaching similar landmarks and insights, the future looks bright.
If spiritual awakening is a process of evolution, then we can define a spiritual awakening as a step in that process. A spiritual awakening is a qualitative (rather than a quantitative) shift in consciousness—usually, a shift that’s experienced for the first time. For instance, strengthening one’s attention can be an important aspect of awakening—but when my attention gets a bit stronger, I probably wouldn’t call that a spiritual awakening. However, if my newfound strength of attention allows me to witness my stream of thoughts for the first time (without getting distracted by their content), I might call that a spiritual awakening.
It can be difficult to imagine what a given qualitative shift in consciousness will be like until we have actually experienced it. For this reason, the awakenings that we have not yet experienced tend to seem mysterious and alluring—and conversely, the awakenings that we have already experienced tend to seem mundane.