After a spiritual awakening opens up your heart, every emotion you can imagine becomes available to you–every single one. In an open heart, we embrace every emotion that we can humanly experience. We remove our limitations on what we can feel, so we can feel the fullness of love, compassion, terror, hatred, sadness, and more. This is what it means to be truly open-hearted.
Do you understand what it means to be unlimited now? I hope you do. And I’m sure it’s not what you normally thought of in terms of having no limitations.
Because having no limitations is all about our inner world. We’re not talking about being able to fly and jump over buildings. These superhero stories are metaphors for the inner space, which is vastly clogged and complicated by limiting beliefs. After a spiritual awakening, many of those beliefs are washed away, some are momentarily broken, and others remain in tact. It is different for everyone, which is also why some people have more or less of an emotional release inside of them at different stages of their spiritual awakening.
Furthermore, just because you have some of the more upsetting emotions during this great time of spiritual healing doesn’t mean that you get lost in them. It doesn’t mean you act out feelings of terror, hatred, jealousy, and so on. You have to learn how to process them mindfully, and that’s a big part of what I’m talking about today.
And I realize that having this emotional turbulence is deeply challenging for many people. Wading through all the joy, bliss, anger, hatred, fear, self-loathing, and more that can come tumbling out is powerful work. It is not insurmountable. With dedication to your practice and to staying present with what is moving, the emotions will pass and the waters will settle into a deeper state of peace.
Not everyone gets a huge bliss stage after their spiritual awakening. Many people go right into the emotional processing. If you do have a bliss state, marinate in it. Cultivate it. Breathe into it. Let it expand. It will help you to see more clearly and to churn up the issues that are trying to hide out in the dark. Unfortunately, for many people, the bliss state is a kind of an escape to which they will try to return to again and again. This is often the state of awareness that people confuse as being the “enlightened” or “awakened” state of awareness. For others, a blissful experience is a momentary reward. But mainly, I want to emphasize that the bliss phase is a passing experience like all emotional states. Enjoy it while it lasts.
Because the work is coming. It is coming because most of us human beings hold onto pain instead of releasing it. In our avoidance, old pain grows and grows. Then a spiritual awakening or another profound spiritual shift comes, and it all comes tumbling out. The human reactions range from feeling lost, overwhelmed, wanting to run away, shutting down, and a variety of avoidance tendencies. The importance of your practice and learning to breathe into whatever you are feeling is crucial. No particular spiritual technique is needed, although some can help soften the space. The raw power of your presence and loving awareness are the central tools, and they’re ultimately what helps us to process through these painful left-overs. It’s not a magic trick. It’s a real thing, and breathing into pain is its own kind of practice. The better you get at it, the more quickly you will be able to process your old emotions.
The Prevalence and Persistence of Fear
Most people should expect to make fear a good friend. Really, you should see fear as your best friend for the duration of the initial awakened transition. Once things calm down, you probably won’t need to hang out so much as you rest in your regular awakened growth cycles. But at first, many people will find a ton of unaddressed fear. On top of that, many people’s physiological response to upsetting emotions is MORE FEAR! That adds resistance on top of resistance, and this can get you quite stuck for years.
Did I emphasize that enough?
Fear has frozen many people’s lives, including after a spiritual awakening. In awakening, the fast spring has come to help bring you out of deep freeze. Things are melting and grinding and cracking. It’s not a comfortable place. I know. But the important part is to keep breathing and relaxing into it. Do not add additional resistance on top of the upsetting levels of fear you may be feeling. In this way, you’ll do yourself a gi-normous favor and enable yourself to process what needs to process out. If you do let yourself get caught in fear because you don’t believe you can handle your emotions; you think you’re dying; and/or you’re afraid of the unknown; you will not process anything, and you’ll feel completely stuck again.
You just have to let go, dear ones. It’s how it is, and it is a good thing even if it is messy at first.
Anger: Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire
Anger is one of the guard dogs on the path to emotional healing. It is not as interesting as what it is guarding. We often use our anger to re-direct stuck energy or hide emotional wounds. So we get angry at others, at the world, at Congress [insert your country’s political system], at parents, at romantic partners, at our children, at bosses, at employees, and so on. We do this to try and diffuse all the upset energy inside that is coming up. Think of it like steam coming out of a tea kettle. The pressure it builds up can be immense, but letting some of the steam out doesn’t address the fire underneath the kettle.
We also can inflict our own anger on ourselves. It’s like we feel we’ve been stabbed in the chest by a situation in life. So we get so emotionally mad that we metaphorically stab ourselves in the leg. Think of this like bulimia, being a workaholic, anorexia, using steroids, and any other kind of self-inflicted pain you can think of. This is anger turned inwards, and it causes further pain.
As you become more mindful, you can learn to breathe into your anger and ask, “What is this about?” Usually, our initial responses are useless. They’re generally coming from our programming. People will say, “I’m mad at that person for cutting in front of me in line at the grocery store.” No. You’re not. You’re angry because you feel like someone took your power from you. So now, it’s time to figure out when you first felt disempowered. Breathe into it. See what pains start to show themselves to you in your body.
Your body does not lie, by the way. It is one of the most sure fire way to find emotional, energetic, and actual physical wounds that haven’t fully healed. Take your time practicing this. The better you get at it, the quicker you can heal. And the less you’ll have to deal with anger.
The Well of Sadness
The well of sadness is an appropriately horrible place that can unfortunately get eclipsed by the pit of despair, which is what it can evolve into when we do not heal our wounds. For some people who come to me, I can feel this well of sadness in them. You get the sense of falling forever into an emotional hole that feels like you can never come out again.
But this is not true. You can come out again, and in journeying into this well, it is generally very helpful to have a healthy social support system around you. If you don’t, I encourage you to cultivate a social support system as an important step to dealing with this space of sadness. Because I know a lot of people will not engage with such deep sadness because they’re afraid of being lost and swallowed up by it forever. Social support (of which the spiritual teacher is just one piece and not the whole of the support) tends to be very important when dealing with deep sadness.
If sadness is already rising up out of this well, let yourself have your tears. Do your best to breathe into them and witness them. When you’re really engaged with them, it can also feel strangely like you’re watching someone else cry. This isn’t dissociated. This type of engaged, but witnessing feeling is distinct because you feel everything (where my understanding in dissociation is that you feel nothing). But as with any emotion and any pain, as you release it and get closer to the core issue, the sadness will dissipate. And something will be revealed.
What Are You Hiding?
One aspect of engaging with some of your emotions can be asking yourself, “What are you hiding?” Another question can be, “What do you have to tell me?” All your emotions have a story behind them. They have some pain or belief that they are trying to communicate in the language of the heart. When you find the tension, pain, nausea, tingling, or whatever physical sensation that is associated with the emotion in the body, you can discover and process even more of the core issue. The deeper you go, the quicker the emotions subside. In deep releases, we can actually forget what was upsetting us in an instant when an issue lets go deeply. This isn’t forgetful in an ignorant way, but rather, many issues are illusory. They exist only because we resist them, and we believe in them (you have to believe in something to resist it even if it is done unconsciously). When we lose all belief and energy in the issue, everything shifts. Your natural emotional equanimity can re-assert itself once more.
But I want to emphasize that you must be persistent. Many of you have gotten very good at hiding your pain from yourself. If awakening has thrown all those issues out of the closet into your metaphorical living room, take it as a gift. Deal with it. Don’t stuff it all back into the closet.
Guilt, Shame, Self-Hatred, Jealousy, Pride, and More
Fear, anger, and sadness are generally the big three emotions people face, but obviously we have plenty more. And to be truthful, I think sadness and fear are the more core emotions of the three. Usually, where they are strongest is closest to the core issue. I can’t say that that’s always the case, and I leave it to you in your self-discovery to dig inwards to find out where your most core painful emotions are harbored and rooted.
With emotions like guilt, shame, self-hatred, jealousy, and pride, we see more diverting and hiding issues. They gum up the works, to be sure. But they are generally more guard dogs trying to “protect” you in very unconscious ways. Here are some quick thoughts about these ones.
- Guilt. This is an emotion that likes to hide stuff and makes you feel bad about yourself. When you feel guilty for not calling your mom on her birthday, that is most likely guilt hiding some level of sadness and wounding in your relationship with your mother.
- Shame. Shame is even worse of an issue. It really hides and suppresses a lot of things. Shame is often a huge stumbling block in healing an abuse issue. It makes people typically feel even worse than guilt. The hidden wound, fear, and sadness that are usually buried under shame are the emotional paydirt that you want to get to.
- Self-hatred. I’m not saying just “hatred” because all hatred is just self-hatred re-directed at the world. To me, it is an escalation of anger. The worse the hatred, the worse the wounding inside of someone. As with the other emotions, find the wound and the core emotions to defuse self-hatred.
- Jealousy. Jealousy comes from a sense of not having enough and wanting to have what someone else has. This can hide a fear of not having enough (survival fear). It could also hide a self-worth issue that is trying to use things to hide the deep sadness of not liking yourself.
- Pride. Pride will hide EVERYTHING. I won’t even attempt to say what it hides. It’s one of the big tools of the ego that can and often does bury all other emotions until an event strong enough like an awakening, near-death experience, or something else breaks it up enough to let things start to move.
Your Emotional Balance
After awakening, it can seem like you’ll never come back to an even keel in your heart. But you will. When you are sincere and engage with the emotions that are unlocked, you will process through them. Additionally, some trapped good feelings can come up as well. However, most people who trap good feelings are dealing with a lack of self-worth–they don’t feel worthy of feeling good about themselves. Most other people don’t hold onto good feelings because we fully embrace them in the moment without resistance. In this way, they come into our lives, and then go out. Which is how all emotions should behave.
The more you embrace all your emotions, the more access you have to all emotions. This includes amazingly deep connections. Connections to other people and the many, many, many flavors of love now become available to you as you clean your inner house. This is the truth of being unlimited in your emotional spectrum. You can feel such amazing emotional highs that were only things of myth and soulmate-legend. Now, you don’t need a soulmate or magical concoction to feel these connections as they arise. I simply encourage you to let them go when they’re done and the moment passes. That is the mature spiritual practice of the awakened person. We learn to be with every emotion as it comes. We embrace it, and then we let it go. In this way, we can rest in deeper and deeper spaces of inner peace regardless of how calm or upset the external world is.