Ego on the spiritual journey (part 1/2): the wolf in sheep’s clothing

The way life actually works is that everything happens in consciousness and that our beliefs and thoughts coupled with emotions are literally creative. So, what shows up in the outside world in our respective bubble of experience is a mirror of what is going on inside of each of us in terms of beliefs, thoughts, and emotions.

Everything is safely held in consciousness. Even after we leave this incarnation we will still be a bubble of consciousness with some content, some experience in it. Real peace can only be found in that which is indestructible which is consciousness. And everything is interconnected via consciousness.

But the ego does not see it this way.

The ego thinks that we are separate. The ego thinks that our thoughts do not have an effect on our surroundings. And the ego thinks that what shows up in the outer world is separate from what is going on inside of us. And not only does it assume that the outer world is separate from what is going on inside of us, but it also assumes that the outer world can be threatening to us.

Now, against the threats the ego wants to have some protection. And therefore, it sets up defenses. At the root is usually fear. And that breeds many branches which show up in a variety of ways.

Ego is the part in me which wants to keep me safe. Really, it has only the best of intentions. It thinks that I am a separate being in world which is full of randomly moving separate objects and people who could endanger me. And it tries its best strategies to cope with that situation.

Ken Wapnick, the famous ACIM teacher, said that the ego is a “maladaptive solution to a non-existent problem”.

The wolf in sheep’s clothing

One important thing to learn on this journey is how to discern when a thought is from the higher self vs when it is from ego. Now ego is easy to discern when it shows up like fear or judgment. But what makes it challenging is that ego can show up as a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Ego can show up as over-responsibility which at first glance feels like it comes from love, but underneath that could be looking for an acceptable excuse for not going forward with life in more alignment to the soul.

Ego can show up as an overly controlling and coercing behavior, for example, on children which at first glance looks like parental love. But what it really might be is fear that if the children do not conform to society’s expectations, they will end up poor and will not be able to sustain themselves later.

Ego can show up as procrastination or as confusion. When I know I have to sit down and write the next blogpost, but writing takes a bit of effort and feels uncomfortable, and suddenly I feel the inexplicable, strong urge to tidy up my living room instead of writing – that bout of procrastinational cleaning urge is from ego. It is just masked as something acceptable. Sure, the cleaning and tidying up might be necessary because my mother in law is about to visit us and then it should be clean, right? Aah, it is hard to spot ego and even harder to discuss with it.

I didn’t mean to imply that any sign of responsible, parentally caring, house-cleaning behavior is caused by ego. But it could be.

It is important to look not so much at what is done but why it is done. What is the real underlying motivation? Do I clean my house because I like my MIL and want her to have a good experience when she visits us? Or do I do it because I am afraid that she might judge us if the house is dirty? Or do I clean the house because I need an excuse for not sitting down and writing another blogpost? Because even though cleaning the house is no fun, writing a blogpost about ego is even less fun, and therefore cleaning the house would be the easier choice at the moment.

The same investigation of the underlying motivation can be done for any other choice, of course. When someone does excessive physical exercise, for example, is that because they do it because they just love the act of exercising? Or is it because they want to be very slim and muscular? Is being in very good physical shape important to their self-image? I remember that Adyashanti shared that being able to ride his bike very fast was part of his self-image. And how life weaned him from keeping up this self-image by repeated mysterious sicknesses which caused him to be unable to train as hard as before.

So, it comes down to the underlying motivation for things, and discernment and remaining vigilant is important on this journey.

Emotions on the spiritual journey (part2/2)

In the previous post, I mentioned the various types of emotions which came up for me during my journey. Here, I describe what challenges I noticed while dealing with them.

Unexpected intensity
What struck me was the unexpected intensity of these emotions. While before, my emotional state used to vary only little around a normal of relative calm with mental focus (the state of mind I entered when I was reading books or doing computer programming), on this journey I entered a rollercoaster of emotions with an intensity which I sometimes found hard to endure.

I remember one time when the feeling of guilt became so much that I felt strong nausea that I had to will myself to not feel this emotion any longer and direct my focus elsewhere even though I thought this might mean that I was evading or suppressing the emotion.

Labeling was not easy
When I felt an emotion, I sensed it in my body and then tried to name it.

However, it was not always easy to find a label.

Were my tears from sadness? Or from relief and from joy of coming Home? And if they came without a reason, did I cry because of something in my own life, or did I pick up on something much vaster which did not belong to me?

Were the slight tension and anxiety I felt on some mornings before getting up as sign that I was in fear and that something was wrong which I should look at more closely? Or was it just a sign of a feeling of anticipation, partly joyful and excited, but also alert and a bit tense, like one would maybe feel right before going on a travel adventure? I wondered whether I should meditate and try to breathe it away. Or should I rather take it as a signal that it was time to get up and tackle the issues of the dawning day.

When I felt very little motivation to do anything, was this a sign of depression? Or was it just a necessary pause between phases with high activity? (I eventually settled for the latter explanation).

And what was this strange, uncomfortable feeling which came up when I was confronted with difficult guidance? Was it guilt and remorse because I did not feel like obeying? Or was it reverence and submission toward the divine?

There was much confusion and lots of questions. I didn’t always find an answer. The emotions came, and with them, the thoughts and the confusion came. And later, the emotions vanished and the confusion about what had happened also lessened.

After all, maybe it was not always necessary to find out what it was that I felt and why I felt it.

Developing more sensitivity
Over time, I also found that I developed greater sensitivity for my emotions. After all, I had learned that inner peace was conducive to miracles while anger would cause trouble like burned out light bulbs, for example. So, I started to notice anything that felt off inside of me. Anything which was not inner peace and calm even if it wasn’t as obvious as strong anger.

And boy, were there a lot of different shades of emotions to discover. For example, the grumpiness in the mornings when I had to get up early. The boredom and annoyance which came up during repetitive easy tasks like putting the wet laundry on the laundry rack for drying. The uneasy feeling of saying ‘yes’ when I really wanted to say ‘no’. And feeling under pressure when I had to do many things within a tight time schedule.

These emotions were not as strong as anger, for example. But they were not inner peace and calm and therefore needed to be noticed.

Processing emotions
What I found particularly challenging was processing these emotions. Suppressing them was bad. I knew that. So, I thought, okay, I would just let them come up and feel them. But then I was in danger of drowning in them and that was bad, too.

Inner peace was the thing to strive for because that was where all the good thing happened. But when I went to inner peace prematurely while I still had anger and grief in me, would that not mean that I was about to suppress my emotions?

One possible solution was provided by methods which questioned the underlying thought. Is this thought which makes me angry or sad really true? Maybe the opposite is true (Byron Katie’s approach)? Or maybe the Holy Spirit can give me some guidance on how to see this differently (ACIM’s approach)? If I could only manage to see things differently, then I would not have to be angry or sad anymore. These methods were applicable in cases where there were underlying thoughts to the emotions.

But what if there were just the emotions and no previous thoughts, at least not on a conscious level, which seemed to have caused these emotions? What if there was just grief or anxiety coming up for no reason? Then the above mentioned methods of seeing things differently did not work. I had to find something else.

Here, I chose to feel the emotions and when I had enough and was fed up with it, then I would try to alleviate it by whatever worked best. Anger could be channeled into physical exercise like swimming or riding my bike, for example. And grief could be alleviated by keeping myself busy with practical everyday tasks.

Layers of emotions
I found out that when I stayed with my emotion of anger and released it, for example, that there was another emotion below it, which was sadness. And when I stayed with sadness and released it, there was another emotion below which was fear.

So, there were layers of emotion like in an onion. As if one emotion was covered by another and then by yet another. All because the initial emotion was too uncomfortable to feel so that I put another emotion on top of it which was still not happiness and bliss, but at least it was tastier than the initial emotion.

I found that remarkable and something to think about. Imagine, we do not only tend to evade the experience of uncomfortable emotions by using addictive behavior (like alcohol, drugs, chocolate, shopping, excessive physical activity, anything that will help us feel better). No, we can also numb uncomfortable feelings by putting another feeling on top of it. Anger felt much better to me than sadness or fear, for example. So, it was tempting to find someone else to be angry with instead of just staying with the initial emotion of fear or sadness.

To sum it up, a variety of emotions came up which were difficult to endure, sometimes hard to label, and not always easy to process.

Emotions on the spiritual journey (part 1/2)

What struck me particularly about my spiritual journey was the variety and intensity of emotions which came up. Sometimes the emotions were so strong that I thought I could no longer endure them. And at other times, I felt something but was not able to label the emotion.

Walking the winding road uphill on my journey, where every turn of the road represented a challenge I was facing at the time, I experienced many emotions and feeling states which are typical for challenging situations, especially helplessness and despair, overwhelm, anger, but I also experienced the feeling of strong intent and determination to deal with the external circumstances in order to improve them so that I could then change my emotional state. That was sometimes a successful approach, but not always. Sometimes, I had to find my inner peace first and then attend to the uncomfortable circumstances.

Along the journey, there was a feeling of homesickness. A strong yearning for that place of Home which is my birthright. After coming into contact with the inner peace from the Awareness Watching Awareness meditation, I felt like hanging out in that peace forever and not wanting to come back to engage with life. Somewhat like NDEers may experience a reluctance to come back into the body after they had been in the bliss of the unconditional love of heaven.

Then there was the collapse of meaning. My previously held goals, especially regarding work, were not valid anymore. And the 3d realm was not our real home anyway. So why should I bother to engage with anything here? What was the point? I sank into a calm and disengaged state with very little motivation to do anything. In addition, I was observing my body as if it was a space suit for interacting with this virtual reality game. Everything seemed distant and unreal.

Being in the witness place gave rise to suppressed stuff coming up which was mainly a feeling of strong guilt without any apparent cause.

Added to the mix of these unpleasant emotions was often a feeling of confusion. Was this normal? Does everyone on the path go through this? Why do I feel such a strong guilt without any discernible reason? How do I deal with these emotions?

But there were not only the unpleasant emotions mentioned above. There was also inner peace and joy found from looking back at awareness itself. There was awe, wonder, and gratitude for the synchronicities and little miracles which happened. I felt safe and supported, developed heightened intuition and also a greater sense of fearlessness when it came to setting boundaries.

So, for me this was definitely not a continuous climbing up the vibrational ladder as some texts about this journey would suggest. But it was a frequently changing mix of a wide variety of partly very intense emotional states. In my experience, it was definitely not just about peace and bliss.

The next post about this topic is here: Emotions on the spiritual journey (part 2/2)

Challenges and benefits of sharing my story

I would like to share my view about the challenges and benefits of sharing my story.

On the challenging side, there was the fear of making myself so vulnerable and in danger of receiving judgment. That was a big one.

And what was my message and who was my target group? For whom was I going to write? This would affect what my message was and how I packaged it. Maybe my target group were not my fellow travelers on WordPress (who wore the t-shirt ‘been there, done that’). But maybe I should address more the random visitor to my blog who found me via a search of the terms ‘Dark Night of the Soul’?

Then there was the more practical challenge of finding an underlying theme or connecting thread in my journey and choosing a metaphor for telling my story.

And of course, there were countless hours of reviewing old journals and taking notes of which stories would convey the message best and trying to organize this stuff into a readable form. After all, I am not a professional writer.

And even after that, I found myself in a struggle again over some stories. Was it okay to share them? Was it not too personal? What if other people were involved, family members or not. Was it okay to share stories about difficult relationships, too? How do I protect their anonymity?

Now about the benefits.
In Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, the hero returns after his long and lonely adventure and brings a gift. So, returning with some gift is built into the blueprint of this journey. While I could not channel or heal or see auras or whatever, I decided that my gift would be sharing my story and sharing my insights about this journey. That was my intent: to share a travel report of my journey for fellow travelers.

Writing down my own story in a form that could be shared with readers (and not just in my journal) forced me to decide on what was my truth. In my journal, I could flip-flop back and forth between my ego’s perspective and my higher self’s perspective. But on my blog, I didn’t want to write anything which I would regret later. So, I forced myself to aim for that higher perspective when sharing things. Which did not mean that I had to pretend that all was seen through rose-colored glasses all the time. Quite the opposite. I decided I would authentically share even those feelings which were not spiritually correct even at the danger of receiving judgment for it. So, trying to find the higher perspective when sharing difficult events helped me to process these things. In that respect, finding a narrative to make sense of my life in retrospect had a healing effect.

I hope there has also been a benefit for others from reading my experiences. I always found that messages from other spiritual authors stuck in my memory best when there were transported via a story. And not only via a parable, but with an authentic real-life experience. These were the stories and messages I would remember best. And I aimed to share my messages in the same way.

Last but not least, while writing itself was often laborious, in the end I often felt satisfaction after having birthed a well-written text.

Soul alignment and the happy dream

The spiritual journey as I experienced it had two parts, A) getting to know who I was (creative consciousness) and then B) coming into alignment with what guidance asked me to do.

I think of this process as being connected to my higher self with a string with much slack in the beginning which allowed me to exercise my free will without severe consequences. As my journey progressed, the string got shorter and shorter and choosing to go against guidance was felt like an uncomfortable jerking sensation. If that higher power told me to take a right turn, but I insisted to take a left turn on the road of life, then I would get more and more immediate unpleasant feedback. So, I still did have free will, but using it against guidance became more and more uncomfortable.

As I mentioned in the previous post, each piece of guidance which I got (like writing a draft for a book, setting up this blog, doing my first youtube video) would put me on a fork at the road. There was a way sign pointing to the right which said ‘Follow Divine Guidance, but there is Fear’, and a way sign pointing to the left with ‘Avoidance and the Easy Way’. I thought that ‘Fear’ didn’t sound attractive, therefore I would rather choose ‘Avoidance’ because it sounded like the easier way.

However, I came to realize that not only did this left-hand path never lead anywhere, but it would lead me in a circle back to the decision fork over and over again. And also, it was not just the easy way, but even though there was no fear, there were other unpleasant emotions, namely strong guilt and then all sorts of weird stuff happening, like sickness and things breaking down in the household.

Eventually, I had to take the leap and surrender, over and over again.

So, what did I learn from that?

One bottom-line, key takeaway is that it is not enough to just rest happily in the bliss of looking back at awareness itself. Awareness is not just the silent, detached witness. But the void of awareness is a place from which direction comes. This place has a will, the divine will. It directs us. And resistance is possible, but it hurts more and more the closer the connection is.

This void of awareness is not just the detached witness, but dipping my big toe into it, I felt that there was a current like in a river. And like in a river, it is possible to exercise free will and insist on swimming upstream. Or grabbing onto some branches at the riverbank. But swimming upstream will only exhaust us. And holding onto branches at the riverbank will leave us bruised when the current moves by very fast.

Recently, I saw the movie Evan Almighty which is not only entertaining and funny but also shows many of the features of this process of coming into alignment. Evan, a politician with high career aspirations, is suddenly told by a mysterious guy who introduces himself as God to build an ark. But Evan does not see the point and does not want to abandon his career and make a fool of himself. So, he resists until resisting becomes more and more difficult because things keep happening that reveal to him that this is indeed the path he must take even if he does not like it.

When I read the description of the movie after watching it, I realized that Evan had actually prayed to God to have the opportunity to change the world, a fact which I overlooked when seeing the movie. But he meant to change the world with his political party, not with the ark. But the story with the ark seemed like an answer to his prayer nevertheless.

I liked the movie because it covers a lot of the features of the process like the persistent and steadily increasing guidance Evan gets as well as his thoughts ‘Am I making this up? Maybe I am just crazy. What will other people think? I don’t want to make a fool of myself. How on earth do I share this with my spouse? Can’t I just pretend to still be the same old me?’

So, coming into alignment has a certain inevitability about it.

Even though coming into alignment may have happened after overcoming a lot of resistance, isn’t there something good to say about alignment? And yes, there is. This state does not only have the features which appeared for me after choosing inner peace above anger, which are faster manifestations, new intuitive abilities, and things falling more into place in general. But on top of that, there is a renewed sense of purpose.

Being in alignment is still like a dream, because I still think that I am the person-avatar carrying out a mission in this virtual reality game rather than living in constant nondual awareness.

But it is a happy dream.

Guidance on the spiritual journey

After awakening, guidance kicked in. It was there already during the early time on my path when I first became interested in metaphysical literature. But it came in more strongly after awakening to awareness.

What was a surprise to me was that guidance came in many different forms. Due to the channeled literature I had read, I was familiar with the notion that there was guidance at all, but I thought it would mainly come in as an inner voice which some people were gifted enough to hear.

But guidance came in many different forms. It could be on my inside as an inner voice (sometimes audible, but mostly silent), as visions, songs in the head, dreams, inner knowing, inner urge, physical sensations (like tingling or muscle twitching), or illness.

It could also show up in the outer world as words, pictures, numbers, animals, patterns of events (with literal or metaphorical meaning). It could show up uninvited and spontaneously, or it could show up after asking for an answer and then drawing a tarot card, opening a book at random, or getting a psychic reading.

In 2017, I gave a one-time, in-person workshop around this topic and afterwards put the content into a script which you can download here if you are interested in more details about the topic of divine guidance.

When guidance came in, I realized what a powerful force there was behind the veil which would point me into a certain direction.

Resistance

I often struggled with resistance to this force. Why wasn’t I free to decide any more what I was going to do? Or, well, I still did have free will. But if I exercised my free will and went against what I had been told, then there would be unpleasant consequences like weird stuff happening in the house or I would get sick. So, that was not really free will, I thought, if exercising my right to say ‘no’ meant that I couldn’t breathe properly anymore.

Manifesting excuses

I realized another interesting phenomenon around the resistance. The resistance would often result in procrastination. And in turn, this would somehow manifest little distractions all over the place. It was as if when I procrastinated, then suddenly many little, annoying things were provided as excuses so that my procrastination was justified (because I had to deal with these annoying little things).

Loss of personal will

My resistance to the guidance had several different causes. Fear of being vulnerable and being judged was one of them.

But another important one was the loss of my personal will. I had lost my drive and motivation to do anything. If I was just content in awareness with life as it was, why do anything? If this body and this life was just something like a virtual reality game, then what was the point of pushing my avatar up to the next level? Why bother? I was never into games anyway, neither board games nor computer games. While I was good at setting intentions and pursuing them with intense focus, effort, and also success before awakening, afterwards I fell into a blissful relaxation which was bordering on apathy. I had to learn to muster up the will to set an intent again and to pursue it with effort and discipline as usual.

The decision fork and procrastination loops

Each piece of guidance which I got (like writing a draft for a book, setting up this blog, doing my first youtube video) would put me on a fork at the road. There was a way sign pointing to the right which said ‘Follow Divine Guidance, but there is Fear’, and a way sign pointing to the left with ‘Avoidance and the Easy Way’.

I thought that ‘Fear’ didn’t sound attractive, therefore I would rather choose ‘Avoidance and the Easy Way’.
However, I came to realize that not only did this left-hand path never lead anywhere, but it would lead me in a circle back to the decision fork over and over again. And also, it was not just the easy way, but even though there was no fear, there were other unpleasant emotions, namely strong guilt.

Eventually, I had to take the leap and surrender, over and over again.

Integration of an awakening

When I was on the uphill part of my journey, chasing to see this elusive ‘awareness’ that all the spiritual books were talking about, I was focused only on that. I did not have any thoughts about how life would unfold after finding it.

It was a bit like when I was one of the women in the birth-preparation class, pregnant with my first child. We were all totally focused on the birth process. This was the big goal to reach. We did not think much about what life would be afterwards.

And then?

Then there was a newborn to take care of. Sleepless nights; much responsibility for a little baby but no experience yet; difficulties with nursing; the body healing from the ordeal of pregnancy and birth; an onslaught of well-meant but annoying advice from nearly everyone. And in my case, there was a sudden, severe onset of rheumatoid arthritis on top of it all.

Similar on the spiritual journey. On the uphill part, I was focused to find consciousness, awareness. Focused to find that place which Nisargadatta Maharaj was talking about in his book I Am That.

And then?

Somehow I did not worry about how life would unfold after finding that. I thought since the spiritual teachings which I read told repeatedly how important it was to wake up to awareness, I assumed that somehow this must be it. After reaching that goal, then somehow everything would fall in line and life would be wonderful or whatever.

Yeah…. , dream on!

On the one hand, life did become more wonderful with little miracles and synchronicities. Or I was in a mental place where I would notice synchronicities more.

But on the other hand, there was a good deal of integration to be done. More lessons and more tests.

The lessons were about the relationship between consciousness and the material world. Now that I knew that I was awareness, what did it mean to live that in everyday life? It was pointed out to me that the way how I treat others comes back to me (Golden Rule).

The tests revolved around topics such as: How calm could I stay in the middle of challenging circumstances? How well could I manage my thoughts and stay away from anger and grief regarding past disappointments?

To sum it up, awakening to the fact that we are awareness which is beyond the body and the mind, which embraces as well as permeates everything, and which is the only constant in a world of ever changing things, – this is important. Yes, very important. But it is not the end of the journey. It is more like an important milestone.

It is like a shift in perception, like that the earth revolves around the sun and not the other way around. Or that the earth is round and not flat. And after this shift in perception, a new part on the journey starts. Like believing that the earth is round and not flat did enable people to not fear to fall off the edge of the earth when they went out too far (- old maps said about the edge of the flat earth , ‘here be dragons’). Instead they could sail out far and discover new continents.

Likewise, a new chapter in life started for me after awakening.

What changes after awakening?

There are many things which change after awakening, but rather than mentioning them all in this post, I just want to talk about the root causes, which are A) awareness of connection between the inner and the outer world, and B) motivation for now.

I started to notice the connection between my inner world of thoughts and emotions and the outer world. Anger would cause weird things to happen while inner peace would allow for little miracles. This was an encouragement for me to watch my thoughts and emotions and to try not to sink into anger or sadness. This is an ongoing task.

The other thing which changed for me was the motivation why I would do things. Before I discovered the deep inner peace and joy of looking back at that which is looking – awareness itself – , I would search for fulfillment in the outer world. If only I could get this promotion at work or a cleaner and more ordered living room, then I would be happy. Like a child always needing the next toy to feel fulfilled, only to find it boring after two days already and then wishing the next thing. So, before awakening to the feeling of completeness and contentedness inside of me, I would try to get this from the outside.

I have to note, though, that not everything I did earlier was because of the motivation to fill an inner hole. Much of what I did (like dancing and Irish fiddle, for example) was because of the joy of expression and passion. But there were also other things that I did where the motivation was not pure joy and passion but was derived from this attempt to find fill the hole inside of me. It was like trying to regain the lost paradise, but doing so with the wrong means. Like looking for love in all the wrong places.

But after waking up to this place of inner peace and completeness inside of me, this motivation changed. Now there was peace, joy, and completeness inside of me. No more need to prove my worthiness to anyone by anything. That resulted in a drop of motivation to do anything. After all, the former motivation had fallen away. If I don’t have to prove to myself or anyone else anymore how smart or capable or whatever I am, then why would I need to take on challenging tasks at work? If I don’t believe anymore that a promotion and a pay raise would bring me happiness, then why would I still want to work my butt off?

Unfortunately, this lack of motivation was also present regarding the tasks I got from my guidance. If I was content with life as it was right now, why would I make an effort to write my journey down and share it? If I didn’t think that getting appreciation from others or becoming famous would make me any happier, then what was the point of coming out of hiding at all? Journaling for myself was so much easier than writing a coherent text for readers. And even though I very much enjoyed talking to open-minded colleagues at work one-on-one over lunch about my experiences, I dreaded the task of going public.

Then why did I start blogging at all? Because there was guidance which would give me a hard time when I did not follow. There were odd things happening like clogged drains and breathing trouble in my throat when I resisted. And I also experienced a very unpleasant feeling of guilt when I did not obey the guidance.

So, to sum it up, there was a newfound awareness of the connection between the inner and the outer world and also a difference in my motivation for doing things before awakening and after awakening. Before awakening, I chose what I did based on the thought, “I’m gonna go and get this or that because I assume that it will make me happy.” versus after awakening, happiness was already there. No need to chase anything. Here the motivation was more a yielding to guidance.

What is awakening?

At one point during the spiritual journey, there is an awakening. As mentioned in my previous post, it can come before or after a point of crisis and breakdown. (Not every crisis leads to an awakening, though.)

I want to talk about how I define awakening. For me, it meant becoming aware that there is something more than the visible and tangible 3-dimensional realm. I realized that there was an invisible force behind the scenes which was orchestrating events and guiding me.

It started out as slowly changing belief systems, like ‘angels do exist’, and ‘we still exist even after death’, and it culminated in the insight that I am consciousness which is another dimension and that my thoughts coupled with emotions are creative and can manifest events.

Before awakening, I thought that consciousness comes from the neurons in the brain. After awakening, I was aware that we are consciousness and that it is another dimension which embraces and permeates everything here in the 3-dimensional world. This is a shift in perception which is comparable in magnitude to the Copernican shift of world-view. This was my experience on my own journey. Other people may define it differently what awakening meant for them.

Awakening can happen in many different ways

There are many ways how awakening can happen. For me, it happened initially by reading stories about children who spontaneously remembered their past lives. That was when I first realized that we are consciousness which survives after death. And then this awakening developed over time with observations of synchronicities and during meditation. But for other people it has happened it different ways.

People can wake up via a Near Death Experience (NDE) or after having taken a psychoactive drug.
Or it can happen during meditation, maybe via a spontaneous out-of-body experience (OBE).
It can be a flash insight seemingly out of nowhere.

Some have reported a disastrous time of crisis where they reached the end of their rope. And just when they hit rock bottom, the voice of God or a spirit guide started to speak to them.

Awakening can be a sudden and fairly complete event or it can develop gradually over time.

Now, I want to share some metaphors about waking up.


Awakening is like waking up from the virtual reality game

Imagine you are playing a computer game with an artificial world and avatars running around. Maybe the game has virtual reality goggles which provides a very convincing experience that this whole thing is real. The game has a goal, like that the people in the game must achieve a mission, for example, to defeat someone or to build a city structure or something like that.

Being in the game means feeling as if we are the character in the game who is trying to accomplish a mission. Waking up from it means we recognize that we are not a character in the game but that we are more like the person sitting in front of the computer who is steering several characters and who has programmed the whole game.

Awakening is like seeing that we are the movie screen and not the movie character

This is a metaphor which was used by Ramana Maharshi. Before awakening, we think we are the characters in a movie. After awakening, we realize that we are that which is unchangeable, which is the movie screen. This points to the awareness in which everything happens.

For me, this revelation came in a flash insight where I felt myself as consciousness expanded like a balloon skin on which everything in my field of awareness appeared. Body, bed, pillow, and wall were all like painted on the inflated balloon skin.

Awakening is like stepping out of the timeline

Imagine an anthill, but a two-dimensional one. Something like these ant farms which can be bought online as educational toys for kids. These are narrow, transparent plastic containers which contain some substrate in which the ants can build their tunnels.

Each ant tunnel is like a timeline. An ant in the tunnel is like a human on their timeline. Behind them is the past. Before them is the unknown future. And they are moving slowly forward on their timeline and are only aware of their past in memory and their present. They are usually not aware of the other parallel ant tunnels.

In this metaphor, waking up would mean to step outside of the acrylic container and view the whole thing from the outside. The kid who watches from the outside what the ants in their tunnels are doing is aware of the future branch of a tunnel. The kid can also see other tunnels which are parallel to a specific tunnel.

Waking up is going to the timeless place inside of us which is awareness itself. The witness place or the void. Being in this place can sometimes give rise to dreams or flash insights about future events, for example.

All these examples above were meant to say that awakening was a shift of perception for me. It was not necessarily that anything inside my bubble of experience changed, at least not immediately. It was just that the way I in which I thought about what I saw had shifted.

Coping with loss on the spiritual journey

On the spiritual journey, there is often change, and that means loss of what once was and the corresponding emotional upheaval.

The loss or crisis (think about something like burnout, divorce, loss of a job, death of a loved one, illness, trauma) can be either before the awakening to a spiritual dimension of reality or it can come after awakening (or both). Some people have the breakdown first, and then they wake up as a consequence of hitting rock bottom. Or they awaken first, and then circumstances in their life are rearranged by an invisible force and that means loss of the old and arrival of the new. Asking new questions about the meaning of life may well mean that the universe thinks it is time to end an old job or relationship – to replace it with something of which the higher self thinks that it is better.

Regardless of whether the loss, crisis, or trauma occurs before or after awakening, it is usually some time of stress and emotional upheaval. When the awakening was before the crisis, then there may already be some understanding about the process and that can make it easier to cope with the crisis. Somewhat like it is useful to have had a childbirth preparation class before going through labor pain.

But unfortunately, teachings about the phases of the spiritual path do not belong into the curriculum at school, at least not in the western world. Therefore, people may go into the journey unprepared, like a woman who is suddenly feeling the nausea of pregnancy or the pain of giving birth but without any awareness that she was pregnant in the first place and without any knowledge about the process of pregnancy and birth.

If there is no knowledge about the process of the spiritual journey and the reason for the loss, then there is just the experience of loss or crisis. And this can be utterly painful and terribly devastating. For some, it can be close-to-suicide devastating.

Among the periods which were difficult for me were the severe onset of rheumatoid arthritis right after the birth of my first child (2003); then, the anger about what I perceived as unfair treatment at work and the subsequent disengagement and loss of passion (since 2009); a phase of apathy in spring 2014; and the loss of trust in my guidance after a health-damaging hike in 2016 and the subsequent dismissal of a negative spirit guide (2017).

Here, I want to list some things that have helped me to cope.

Talking about it
I found it helpful to talk to others about it. However, it was tricky to find people who could ‘hold the space’, that means they would listen and not judge or try to fix things.

Journaling
Even when I had no people to talk to, there was still journaling. It was important for me to write everything down which was going through my mind. My journal was a safe space. It would always listen, but not judge me or try to fix me. After I had written down all my frustration and calmed down, I would then try to see things from a different angle. Why had it happened? Were there any benefits of the new situation?

Feeling the emotions
It is very important to feel the emotions and not suppress them. Suppressing them because it seems to be more socially acceptable or more spiritually correct to always be happy can lead to health problems. So, I felt my emotions. Bouts of anger and waves of grief.
However, here comes the tricky part. I felt the emotions, but I was likely to drown in them. I received nudges from my guidance that I should eventually arrive at a point of letting go. Easier said than done.

Value of inner peace
I had experienced the contrast of anger vs inner peace. When I was angry, light bulbs would burn out and other weird stuff would happen. On the other hand, when I was in inner peace, then I would experience small miracles, synchronicities and a feeling of being more in the flow of events. Having experienced this contrast, I was motivated to get back into inner peace whenever possible.

Learning about the stages
There are several models out there about the stages of the process of loss. A well-known one is the model about the five stages of grief by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Another model suggests the following phases: Shock and numbness; yearning and searching; disorganization and despair; reorganization.
I have found it helpful to have a map of this process of coming to terms with life after shit had hit the fan.

Hoping that it was good for something
From the books Your Soul’s Plan and Your Soul’s Gift by Robert Schwartz, I had learned that sometimes we plan difficult circumstances in our lives before incarnation. That insight helped me to shift my feelings about the difficulties in my own life. Surely, there was a gold nugget in what I had gone through, even though I might not always be aware what that benefit was.

What was also helpful was forgiveness work, for example, using the processes described in A Course in Miracles (which is to be still and in inner peace and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the higher perspective) or in The Work by Byron Katie (which is about questioning the truth of my beliefs and thinking , and how about if the opposite of what I believed was true?)

Reading stories of others
I also found it helpful to read stories of others who had gone through sometimes tremendous difficulties in life and to see how they experienced it and how they eventually coped. Not only did I learn something about their coping methods, it also gave me hope that it is possible to overcome this.

Seeing glimpses of the divine
On my journey, I found it comforting to catch glimpses of the divine shining through the veil. Every meaningful dream with guidance, every little synchronicity that seemed to be a message like ‘you are loved’ or ‘there is nothing to worry about; have faith’ was a reason for me to feel joy and awe.

Guidance leading me out of crisis
I realized that there was a powerful, invisible force active behind the veil, that would send me messages through various channels (dreams, inner voice, songs in the head, synchronicities etc.) that were answers to my urgent calls. It was a bit like having a psychotherapist or coach constantly by my side who was nudging me with suggestions like, ‘Maybe you’d like to you read this book.’ or ‘Here is another way to look at this disturbing situation.’

It’s not real anyway
For some people, breakdown and loss is meant to lead them to the only real thing there is which is awareness, our I AM presence. We are usually so focused on the ever changing contents of our consciousness (things, places, people, emotions), that we overlook that one thing which is forever unchanging, and that is the awareness or consciousness itself. This place is Home and it moves us like puppets are moved by a giant hand of the puppet master. As long as we don’t realize where Home is, we keep looking for love in all the wrong places – until Source says, ‘Enough!’ and takes our toys away from us so that we can eventually go looking for love in the right place which is within.

The channeled work A Course in Miracles (ACIM) uses this approach (that what we get upset about is not real) to forgiveness.

“Nothing real can be threatened.
Nothing unreal exists.
Herein lies the peace of God.” (ACIM)

In retrospect, I see that even though my slow and winding road uphill on my spiritual journey was arduous with all its difficult and painful challenges, it led me to recognizing myself as awareness and it led me to the joy in the Awareness Watching Awareness meditation. Even though it was hard, it was probably worth it.

Having knowledge about the general map of a spiritual journey
One tip from my side to those who are going through crisis would be: Do whatever you need to process the emotions and feel better, but also familiarize yourself with the general trajectory of the soul which is about waking up and coming into alignment with divine will. From this bird’s eye view, maybe it is a bit easier to understand what the bigger picture is and make peace with crisis, breakdown, and losses.