You’re not going crazy, you’re just waking up! That’s been my favorite quote about the overwhelming feeling of a Spiritual Awakening. And as I work with more and more people in my private coaching practice, I’m noticing a pattern. There are actual stages to all of this. Stages of spiritual awakening!
There seems to be a sophisticated awakening process that the universe follows, to help us navigate from the state of autopilot living to conscious living. But wait, let’s take a step back.
What even is a spiritual awakening? And is it the same as being ‘enlightened’?
A spiritual awakening is like an AHA moment, where you finally begin to see the limitations of the human mind and human life. You begin to realize that there’s much more happening behind the scenes, in the ‘spiritual realms’ than you had realized!
You literally “wake up” to seeing and experiencing life through a much bigger and wider lens.
Enlightenment? Well, I’m not there yet so I can’t really talk about the experience of it from a personal reference. But what I understand it to be, is finally realizing that not only are you really more powerful and more expansive, you are infinite and limitless. It’s knowing the soul’s eternal nature, all the while being “aware” of our finite time here in the body.
And with that first-hand knowledge, being able to live a higher quality of life. One that isn’t waivered by the ebbs and flows; one where the individual has mastered oneself at all levels – physical, mental, emotional, and unconscious. Wouldn’t that be something!
While our journeys towards this sense of infinitude are unique, and the catalysts for our growth differ per our soul contracts (the spiritual lessons we chose to learn with others), here are my observations of what the various stages of spiritual growth encompass.
I hope that this resource will help you understand how to start, or even how to continue your spiritual journey. I get how confusing it can be when you’re first having spiritual experiences and through this guide, it’s my intention to give you some grounded examples of what to expect.
Stage 1 – The Dark Night of the Soul
This is the precursor. Every single person I’ve spoken to so far has told me similar stories :
- “I felt like going to a psychologist”,
- “People asked me if I’m in depression”,
- “I was having an existential crisis”,
- “Life feels shallow or meaningless now”.
The Dark Night of the Soul is a period when your vision of how life should be begins to shatter. It might occur after the death of a loved one, a divorce or breakup, or a huge tragedy or trauma that hits you at a deeper, subconscious level.
Or in some cases, it could arise out of the absence of tragedy. As was my case. For me, everything felt perfect (at least on paper.) To the point where I began experiencing extreme frustration and life felt vain. Though societal standards made it seem like this was the life to be striving for, in my eyes, it wasn’t good enough. Not even near being good enough. Here’s my full story, from back in the day.
While on the surface, it can look like your mental health is dwindling due to feelings of anxiety or depression, there’s something much deeper at play. I love what one of my wonderful clients, Chelsey once shared with me, about how her dark night felt different from depression, because, unlike depression, this time, she was able to still get things done. And yet, she felt dark clouds and lots of heaviness leading up to her awakening.
While the term “dark night of the soul” has its origins in Christianity, its become widely popular amongst the spiritual community because of the very darkness that everyone experiences leading up to their awakening. I see this stage as a
The initial heaviness can last for months, or for some people, spread across years. There’s the good news of course – all this perseverance adds up to something, which you discover eventually! This brings us to the next stage.
Stage 2 – A Ray Of Hope
Somehow, you keep going. You don’t want to give up, maybe just not yet. And finally, one day, there’s a breakthrough.
This marks the before and after of your life. The movement from autopilot to conscious living. In other words, the dark clouds finally part from the previous stage and you realize that there’s a profound sunrise illuminating your mind. And this light invites you to see life in a way that’s much deeper and more present than ever before.
For me, it started with a deep sense of calm that came from chanting OM during my first days of meditation. And then finally, one day when I saw the sign and looked into the meaning of seeing 11:11 on the clock, it all added up!
This “lightbulb moment” is so fun to hear about from everyone! You might search “am I going crazy?” one day and find spiritual awakening as your search result and then go down a rabbit hole of research and AHA moments. Or you could stumble upon a book like A New Earth that sets things into motion for you.
Whatever is your soul’s choice of awakening, as soon as it happens, it is certain to instantly relieve you of that initial heaviness and discomfort. As you begin to see that you’re not alone and this “suffering” might not be a coincidence, you experience a turning point. And even though you don’t have all the questions answered yet, you’re beginning to believe in the possibility of finding the answers.
Stage 3 – Inquisitiveness
This is where you start binging on information about anything and everything that has to do with spirituality.
When my journey began and I reached this stage of my spiritual awakening, I was feverishly reading book after book. After book. This is exactly why I have dozens of recommendations for spiritual books, sprinkled across the blog. Because I became OBSESSED!
Suddenly, you’re eager to know more about what a soul is, the purpose of life, reincarnation, soul contracts, and then some. You may notice yourself reading beyond your own inherited religious texts, diving deeper into the other eastern, western, or ancient scriptures. You might find new meaning to the word faith and begin questioning your faith. Know that it’s NORMAL! And you’re not going to get in trouble from the people “up there” for having these waves of doubts.
Personally, despite being from the country of all things spiritual (India), I was gravitating more toward western tools and practical spirituality. I was more interested in reading books by skeptical psychologists instead of the mystical gurus. It wasn’t until much later that I enjoyed the works of enlightened masters like Osho and Paramhans Yogananda.
There’s nothing wrong with any of that, contradictory to what outdated ideologies might “preach”. My journey from East to West, to integrating knowledge from both sides of the world, was the unique path that helped me find my answers. In contrast, I’ve had many clients that were raised Catholic or Muslim that talk to me in Vedantic terminology, and that’s just as beautiful.
At this stage of your spiritual awakening, it’s important to just find what works for YOU, to really help build your spiritual muscles. And until you don’t find it, keep looking!
Stage 4 – Denial & Inner Conflict
I believe that you swing between Stage 3 and Stage 4 for a while. You want to believe in the existence of something beyond this reality. But the ego-mind isn’t able to put 2+2 together yet.
Things that aren’t logical can’t be trusted, right?
And what if it’s all just a bunch of confirmation bias?
Also, am I really spiritual? I mean, I’m always so angry and irritable. I’m losing control of myself. Isn’t that the opposite of being spiritual?
And on go your questions.
Sometimes you let it in and guide you, sometimes you don’t. In this phase of your spiritual awakening, it can feel like you’re walking through a maze, always being met by surprises and never really sure where you’re going.
It’s mostly the logical aspects, like metaphysics that begin helping you move past the conflict and denial. Here are some solid books that scientifically-back spirituality, if you are seeking more proof to strengthen your trust in the process.
Also to lovingly remind you that sometimes the logical mind can become an obstacle to our healing.
This is also one of the stages of a spiritual awakening where you feel the most overloaded and overwhelmed. The ego-mind fights against all the unfamiliarity as your charter unseen territory with your spiritual knowledge, and you can feel extremely tired. It’s not pleasant, but it is a part of the package.
I’ll dive deeper into the workings of this ego in just a minute. Let’s first talk about the spiritual makeover that many people experience in this awakening.
Stage 5 – Spiritual Makeover
At some point, you will receive enough signs and divine guidance to know that this isn’t a coincidence anymore. And then, your Spiritual Journey will really kick in. It can seem like experiencing a crash course on evolution. Everything happening all at once, being rapidly pushed through a tight tunnel towards a bigger Light. For example:
- You’ll experience a deep sense of self-awareness arising,
- The guilt or shock will make you rapidly start re-evaluating and changing behaviors to be in alignment with who you really are,
- A lot of old preferences and hobbies will be shed, and you’ll gain new interests,
- You’ll also grow conscious of those around you that are still living on autopilot, and consequently, repel them sometimes,
- You’ll feel angry and/or sad to see the world as it is,
- Also, you’ll want to help everyone jump on the spiritual boat but quickly realize that you can’t make other people heal, thus feeling periods of sadness and dejection,
- You may experience a deeper sense of emotional sensitivity, and find yourself avoiding crowded places to protect your energy.
So on, and so forth. This is perhaps one of the most visibly revolutionizing stages of spiritual awakening.
The spiritual community is commonly heard terming the process as a metamorphosis.
The journey can truly be seen as though one transforms into a beautiful butterfly, breaking free from the stigmas and old patterns that were holding us back in our cocoon.
I also know that at this point, just like many others, you’re probably feeling lonelier and distant from people around you. I know this feeling through and through. And so do the dozens of people that contributed their experiences to my book, Homecoming: A Spiritual Guide For the Awakened & Awaking.
Trust me, your loved ones might not “get it”, but they do NOT want you to suffer or to have to do this alone. It took me years to figure that out, and I hope you come to the same realization, much sooner.
Stage 6 – Spiritual Ego
Well, now that you’ve established that you’re a “spiritual” person, there’s a subtle sense of pride rising within.
- You’re rare because you woke up, but not everyone does,
- You’re better than those that don’t live life consciously,
- People don’t deserve your attention, ugh!
- Some people are just so toxic for your divinity,
- You don’t belong here, you’re actually an old soul that’s just here to help other people,
- And so on…
You may also experience spiritual bypassing, believing that fear is an illusion and that love and light are all there is, therefore escaping negative emotions or being unwilling to deal with your darkness.
It happens to all of us. And several times. This isn’t a one-time thing, and there’s nothing to be ashamed of. Like one of my friends in the spiritual writing community says, “it’s difficult not to get cocky sometimes when you’re doing so well”.
I also remember an incident when a guy on LinkedIn that had the title of a Spiritual Coach was belittling me for not being enlightened. It was amusing to see how neither one of us was, but only one of us could see that!
At such a stage, what helps is to build awareness and integrate the ego-mind so that you’re able to see these shadow aspects of yourself with compassion. That’s what we all really need – to be able to embrace all parts of ourselves, even the ones that we aren’t so proud of. As we do so, our scale doesn’t keep tipping from one side to the other (light to dark, or dark to light, and back again).
We learn to find our inner “tao”, that place of perfect balance that neither puts others on a pedestal nor ourselves.
Of course, learning to witness and balance the ego is a work in progress for many of us, so we must allow ourselves the grace to get there at whatever pace we can. One step at a time. There’s no rush, there’s nowhere we really need to be other than here.
Personally, I’m a big advocate for “noticing” the ego with compassion and without judgment, in order to bring my darkness to the light. If that sounds like your jam too, I highly recommend trying out the 30 tools in my workbook-styled, self-paced course called 30 Days of Enlightened Thinking and Being. The intention of the material is to help you integrate the ego and soul, by using a blend of key concepts from ancient spirituality and modern psychology.
Stage 7 – Grounding & Getting Serious
Sooner or later, your first reality check hits you. At that point, you understand that you’ve been flirting with the spiritual ideas but you might not have been really “integrating” the knowledge.
So far, the journey was on and off, you weren’t committed. But in this and the upcoming stages of a spiritual awakening, you experience yourself getting into a serious relationship with the Universe and its magic. Some people consider this the mysticism phase.
Here are things that you might begin to realize:
- You are fully accountable for clearing out your karmic debts and taking the plunge towards an enlightened existence;
- The universe is always helping you attain enlightenment, but it is your choice how fast you want to learn the lessons being taught;
- No one’s journey is better or worse than the other’s;
- We are all one, merely here to experience our duality and expand the consciousness of existence;
- Our key objectives are to heal ourselves and help others heal in their journeys;
- And so on…
As an attempt to ascend faster, you will thus notice a growing inclination towards certain spiritual healing techniques. Of all the stages of spiritual awakening, this one is perhaps the most exciting!
These could include:
- Energy work such as reiki or pranic healing,
- Subconscious healing (hypnotherapy, CBT, etc),
- Body healing (yoga, breathwork, Ayurveda, etc)
- Energy body healing by working on your prana or chi,
- Healing crystals, stones, sage & essential oils,
- Past of future-based work using tarot cards, astrology, etc.
I want to add a caveat here that the stage requires special attention and balancing oneself. Initially, when you get serious, you may notice yourself getting obsessed with spirituality. If left unchecked though, you may develop spiritual vices.
Stage 8 – Coming out of the spiritual closet
It surprisingly takes quite a long time for most of us to begin openly talking about what’s going on internally, with our loved ones. Many people on the spiritual path feel scared about sharing the woo-woo stuff with their current network and start building their ‘tribe’ outside their original circle. Sometimes, it’s easier to share the journey with strangers across the world than the person sitting next door.
I’ve met countless friends through Instagram myself! It is reassuring to know that you’re not alone and that there are many others going through the same wave of change.
But eventually, as you experience deeper healing and undergo the transformative phases, you learn how to balance your physical and spiritual realities.
You will find yourself more and more comfortable talking about your interests, whether it is meditation or burning sage. This is also the stage where many spiritual aspirants start stepping away from their daily jobs and having serious thoughts about starting their own holistic health professions.
Understanding this need for a community, I’ve created a high touchpoint and accessible monthly membership called Heal with V. Together we create the magic of learning, healing, and growing together.
Heal With V
It takes a village to raise a child. It also takes a village to raise adults. Understanding this need for connection and community, Vasundhra (V) has created Heal With V.
As a member, you are deeply held and supported through:
- Monthly group coaching calls with V for the latest psychospiritual education, answers to life’s deepest questions, and high vibes.
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I want to make sure spiritual seekers from around the world have access to powerful tools, consistent support, and friendship. That none of us have to do this thing called spirituality, alone anymore!
Stage 9 – Walking your purpose
When the spiritual journey begins, the initial turmoil and helplessness go away. But for most people, there’s still a feeling like something is missing. I’ve noticed that as soon as you begin realizing how you will be giving back to the world with your own unique skills, the remainder of the missing dots connect for you.
Like American writer, Joseph Campbell shares through the Hero’s Journey, you finally come home to your true purpose to protect, heal and help those that are counting on you.
Despite the fact that I’ve always been passionate about writing, it took me really long to realize that being a spiritual writer was so significant to my life’s purpose. I used to do this more casually, first writing in school magazines and as a ghostwriter. But once my corporate life really began to feel unfulfilling and like I was wasting my time, it forced me to reevaluate the direction I wanted to take in my career.
There was a time when I got electrocuted and had a reality check. The universe really wanted me to write my own book, and fast! It took a long time to finally make it happen, but when it did, it was the most natural thing to do. That’s when I finally overcame my shadow aspect of perfectionism and published my first work about the power of our Spirit Animals.
From being an anonymous writer on Instagram to starting this blog, and then publishing a book, I worked through a lot of self-limiting beliefs that were holding me back from stepping into my purpose as a writer. The same series of confusion, self-doubt, and clarity happened when I stepped into the role of a spiritual life coach.
While in itself, no activity or profession is “qualified” as purposeful or not – I do believe that we have our unique ways to express ourselves, through art, teaching, or whatnot. And that this longing to do more for the world comes out of our desire to express ourselves more freely.
Back in the day, when I wasn’t sure what I’d do (but didn’t want to keep up with my corporate life), I channeled a framework that helped me put things on paper and get more clarity about my path. I have now converted that into a free, step-by-step guide for others to try too.
Amongst the many stages of a spiritual awakening, this one can bring a momentous shift in your reality. It can also bring a lot of confusion. Some people might find themselves conflicted and uncertain of what to do in order to step away from the cliche 9 to 5 job, and into their purpose. In contrast, some people find it hard to quit their job despite wanting to.
Again, all this confusion is a part of the process. The only thing that can help you out of this confusion is allowing yourself to be the Universe’s conduit, and show up every day to be of service to the community.
Stage 10 – Mastering Spiritual Lessons
This is where old patterns begin to resurface. It can almost feel like once again, you’re becoming “un-spiritual”, and you might feel like you’ve disconnected from the Universe.
And it’s an unpleasant feeling to have at this stage because as you walk into your purpose, you almost want to feel like a Buddha. Serene and calm, with everything effortlessly under control. But if you look deeper, something magical is happening.
Life brings forth the lessons we seemingly overcame a long time ago, but it isn’t to remind us of our failure. It’s to help us clean our act in a deeper, more refined way. Remember in the beginning how I suggested enlightenment is about self-mastery? Well, true mastery comes from repeatedly being able to make the highest choice for all concerned.
And come to think about it, like my editor reflected: recurring lessons help us see how far we’ve come. Have you ever experienced deja vu for an unpleasant experience and noticed how little it affected you? That’s GROWTH!
Currently, surrender and faith are two lessons I’m working through this year (2022). But I’ve got this! And so do you. So just keep going!
Wait…what about enlightenment?
Maybe this is an unpopular opinion, but I believe that enlightenment isn’t a destination, nor the ‘end goal’ of these stages. It’s a way of being, a state of existence and it comes and goes in between these stages. How?
This journey isn’t about being perfectly happy around the clock of course. But it’s about being able to rise above the nuances and stay in the flow of life. To surrender and have lesser and lesser personal preferences. And as a consequence, you become naturally more joyous.
If you’ve been on the journey for at least a few stages of spiritual awakening, you’ll agree with me on this. Sometimes you experience bliss and absolute calm. And most of the other times, you’re fighting between the two – ego versus soul. But the journey is about taking one conscious decision at a time to pick the soul’s subtleness over the ego’s drama.
The initial stages of a spiritual awakening are somewhat in-order but the latter come and go several times. Especially the spiritual ego, always followed by a reality check, which spirals around each other like yin and yang.
The journey is exciting, strange, and mystical. But more importantly, it is unique to your soul’s evolution. So make the most of it. Let yourself shine through and through. And let me know if you need my help, I’m just an email away.
Vasundhra is the Founder & Writer of My Spiritual Shenanigans. After seeing 11:11 on the clock one fateful night, her life turned around. Ever since, she has been blending modern psychology and ancient spirituality, to help herself and people around the world elevate the quality of their lives.
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