‘I had a spiritual awakening! It was amazing! … Why is everything still so hard?!’
I love this question because it opens up several avenues of thought and discussion.
It asks us to consider what exactly ‘spiritual awakening’ means. For many, myself included, the ‘awakening’ is a visceral experience of deep connection with something greater than themselves. It may include a deep sense of well-being and of being ‘supported’ and of lightness, the removal of a great weight that’s been creating an existential burden.
In the wake of an awakening experience, everything may feel as if it’s perfectly aligned and in flow. It can feel like life has changed and that now it will be easy.
And it is!
Until it isn’t.
I’d gone through all of these trials, crossed through the proverbial Lake of Fire to enter the deep Cave of Fear and emerged, battle scarred and weary, into the Rainbow Kingdom (or whatever) and now. . .I had to go through the f&cking Lake of Fire AGAIN?!
After some whining and thrashing about, I did it. Passed through the dark night of the soul (again) and emerged into the Rainbow Kingdom. And felt light, open, seeing the world with new eyes. Again.
But this time, I knew what would happen: after some period of time, the shadow would come back. And things would get uncomfortable and the Lake of Fire would beckon, orange tipped surf lapping at my feet.
I also knew that the Lake of Fire would look a bit different. It might show up as fear around growing my business. Or around being vulnerable in a group of people. Or maybe around feeling like I have to change who I am in order to gain acceptance or achieve success.
However it showed up, I knew that its arrival would be accompanied by an unsettled feeling of uncertainty. A sense that my feet had lost their path or even that the path itself had disappeared. I’d be stumbling along this pathless path until. . .well until I had an ‘awakening’ experience. Again.
‘Waking up’ isn’t a prize or an end point on a journey. On the contrary: it’s the beginning of a process of punctuated equilibrium, spurts of growth that occur over a lifetime with interspersed periods of relative calm and integration. Whether we embrace it or not, we are in a process of ongoing evolution.
The ‘hardness’ of this process depends on the degree to which we embrace it. If we expect the path to get easier, then it will seem more difficult. If, however, we accept that the path is built for challenge and not comfort, then it gets more tolerable.
Here’s what I try to keep in mind when the path disappears on me:
- Whatever is happening is in the service of something greater that I can only glimpse in retrospect.
- It will pass.
- I’m not alone in the discomfort.
- This process of growth is an essential part of being human and there are people–poets, artists, authors, teachers–who have left work that can provide comfort and support.
We are all players in a game of ongoing change and creation. Awakening, or whatever you want to call it, isn’t a one time deal. It’s an ever unfolding journey that sometimes kind of sucks. The key is to embrace the sucky parts with the same eagerness with which we approach the transcendent parts.
So we have a choice. Plunge into the Lake of Fire with gusto. Or resist until the riptide pulls us into the deep waters. The end result will be the same. It's just that one is 'harder' than the other.