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‘If you want to be spiritual, ask uncomfortable questions,’
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Do you remember how it was at the beginning of your journey?
You had just started meditating a little and had read some New Age authors, or perhaps you had read Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi? You were a little concerned that you could be alone on your journey because your family and friends didn’t understand your new interests.
Your first meditations were like beautiful day-dreaming, or perhaps they were showing you some different realms – who knows? As you became more committed to your journey, or perhaps more lucky, you met a spiritual teacher, a spiritual community, or perhaps – out of the blue – you Awoke.
Perhaps this awakening was drastic and powerful, perhaps gentle, but it certainly wasn’t what you had thought it would be. You did not become the embodiment of pure bliss – in fact, you felt like you were struck by a thunderbolt and, instead of instant clarity, you became more confused yet strangely sure that you were doing the right thing, that this was a part of the journey, and that somehow all of this turmoil is a gift – if sometimes too strange too bear.
Does this sound familiar?
In my case after the initial blissfulness, I entered a state of great confusion. My new vision did not comply with my old desires. You see – until then I wanted to be a famous writer and suddenly a broader, more embracing vision was open to me where being ‘famous’ was not a priority anymore. Before the Awakening,
I had used to completely rely on my mind. While after the Awakening, my emotions surfaced with great power and I had to learn how to feel instead of relying on being a sarcastic intellectual.
For a while, it felt like walking in a dark room. At times, it felt like an unbearable turmoil but this is what I needed to learn: feel and open to a higher mind (intuition).
There are two misconceptions about Awakening, and one of them is that is instantly fixes everything and we will happily be tip-toeing on a bed of rose petals for the rest of our lives.
The experience and testimonies of the great yogis and mystics say otherwise. Awakening requires internal work.
It is an internal re-working of our being; you have just woken from a limited reality and become awake to your full potential, even if you do not know what that is yet.
For a while this can be confusing, as our whole system of beliefs, our whole view of the world is re-wired in front of our lives.
And as we are able to see more, it becomes more uncomfortable for us to accept what we took for granted before – whatever you believed your life to be will be questioned and possibly changed for a while at least. A ‘total re-wiring’ of our being is a description that works best for me.
Once, a priest-professor at the University of Toronto told me the story of St Francis of Assisi – a story that encapsulates both personal awakening and its aftermath. Young Francis was the son of a wealthy merchant in Florence. One evening as he was parting with his friends on the streets of Florence, he had a spiritual awakening.
Suddenly, he saw everything from a completely new perspective and, instead of following his friends, he intuitively began walking in the opposite direction.
I think this is the quintessential story of Awakening – a vision takes you by surprise and it takes you in a different direction to where you thought you were supposed to go!
Imagine: until that moment Francis’ life had been laid out for him by the expectations of his family and society. He was already gifted, wealthy and handsome, was destined to inherit his father’s wealth. Yet his vision took him elsewhere – and he became an iconic figure of compassion in Christianity, both Christ-like and Buddha-like.
His story is not different to that of many other great sages from all traditions, including the Buddha, who walked away (see the ‘walking away’ theme) from what appeared to be his destiny – as a pampered prince sheltered from all the unpleasantness of life.
In more recent times, the American spiritual teacher Ram Dass, who became a Harvard professor in his 20s, had his own rather dramatic Awakening which culminated in him going to India, finding his teacher, Neem Karoli Baba, and more or less starting the spiritual revolution in the US in the 1960s with his book Be Here Now.
Even more recently, Byron Katie, an ordinary person like you and me, after ten years of depression woke up one day established in the state of permanent joy.
Let me tell you, none of these stories were told light-heartedly by the protagonists, as they all required making tough decisions and commitment to follow their vision.
And following their vision often meant letting go of what they had previously believed was their life.
Fortunately for us we are not saints but the same principle applies (a sigh of relief here).
So how do we survive Awakening?
- Awakening asks us to re-vision our lives.
More than that, it asks us to trust this new vision. Still more, it asks us to act on this vision, even if (and especially if) this is not what we had previously planned for ourselves.
But think about it: when you wanted to be a (fill in the blanks) you did not have a full picture or full vision of this.
Now that your vision is more complete – isn’t it wise to re-vision your old view?
- Awakening is not a single event.
We are asked to work on ourselves as challenges arise. And, yes, meditations can sometimes be difficult and bring up things we do not want to look at but need to look if we want to grow. Let’s think of this as a shedding of old layers that prevent us from flying.
Toni Morrison, the American writer, said it for all of us: ‘If you wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that is weighing you down!’
Personally, I don’t know a better way than meditating but do what works for you.
Ask yourself: What inner tendecies or ways of thinking hold you back?
Having a teacher helps, but a teacher can only take you so far and will eventually disappoint you. And you know what? That is part of the journey – the part where you are asked to walk with your Self.
- By seeking balance whenever possible.
I like what Joseph Campbell said about mystics and artists. He said they are essentially the same, except that the mystic allows him/herself to be carried away completely by the Inspiration/Energy/Divine/Grace/God, while the artist co-creates.
So choose which you prefer to be and act accordingly. A mystic lives in a state of Grace and abandon so deep that they often lose interest in basic survival. For example, a great Indian woman-ecstatic Anandamayi Ma needed to be fed as she would not remember to eat.
Being a writer (and thus following the artist metaphor), I prefer what Elizabeth Gilbert said about being an artist: do your art and pay your own bills. In a way, being an artist of your own life is more difficult (bloody bills) but – ah – you can create now with an expanded vision!
- It will all make sense eventually – so be patient and trust the process. What you are going on through is a necessary process. Often we have to work through many layers of inner blocks, conditioning, misconceptions and even dreams that do not makes any sense to us anymore. This might present itself as a feeling of being stuck: the feeling that what had worked for us in the past does not satisfy us anymore.
Only now, things are starting to make sense and come together for me. People emerge from the past and new people come my way with the same vision – and we help each other, all committed to the vision of oneness and compassion. Together the vision of oneness and compassion is one single thing truly needed in this world.
Note: Awakening does not have to be of a ‘religious’ kind. It often is an awakening to a more holistic view of the world, based on the idea that we are all in it together rather what is there for me. It can take a form of some form of activism, volunteer work or even a more reclusive and meditative life.
Whatever form it takes – Stay Awake x
This all does not mean you can always control where Awakening takes you – sometimes it occurs with comical results. Soon after my Awakening through Shaktipat (Kundalini Yoga) I had to speak at an academic conference in Lisbon.
I was still in a state of total bliss and, to the amazement of my audience, instead of talking about migration and citizenship, I began talking about Yoga! That is still the most embarrassing and out-of-control moment of my life.
I still remember the poor conference organiser first looking frantically through the pages of my proposal which had nothing to do with what I was talking about (Yoga) and then finally resigning herself to the possibility that I probably just went mad!
But it passed and I am closer and closer to integrating the Awakening into my life – this blog is testimony to that. And now if I go to conferences it is to speak about spiritual experience (both in the proposal and during the actual talk :).
Practical application or Workbook for the Goddess News Spiritual Blog:
- What was the moment of Awakening for you? Don’t judge yourself, it could be something small, a thought, a scene you observed, a feeling.
- What vision, understanding or questions did this experience awaken in you?
- What emotions did it bring forward?
- What can you do to embed this vision into your present life? Again, this doesn’t have to require anything drastic or dramatic; small steps are often the best steps. And remember – one at a time.
- It was through a series of moments but the biggest one was the Shaktipat (for me it happened within the tradition of Yoga or esoteric Hinduism).
- This awakened a vision of unity for me and awakened my interest in new spirituality, away from traditional religions which I found too dogmatic and limited by cultural beliefs. It also awakened an environmental interest and an interest in the divine feminine which is completely misunderstood and has been (mis)appropriated by institutionalised religions.
- Both fear and excitement.
- I have changed what I write about. Instead of writing about my sexual experiences I began writing about spiritual experiences (yes, these include sexuality and spirituality=Tantra – watch for future blogs). There is a smaller audience for spirituality but I know it’s only a matter of time. I believe the most important thing is that vision of unity and spiritual evolution. The step I have taken today – is writing this blog.
As always, I love connecting with you and love your comments :). And if you like what you read, please share it with others xxx
Sending Love, Joanna
Dr Joanna Kujawa
Books to read: