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.

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.