As I’ve watched a lot of people enter into the transitional phase after awakening–aka the spiritual awakening process–I’ve seen many responses. I’ve seen people give-up. I’ve seen people get bogged down and stuck in pain. I’ve seen people create new illusions for themselves and find a way to spiritually plateau. And I’ve seen people move through the transition into new realms of openness, love, and peace.
For any of those who have really opened into these new realms, mental resilience seems to be a key and common trait among them. This mental strength is a kind of paradox because especially early on, it comes from the ego self. The person has to make a decision to endure, to trust, and to learn from the process. While initially it seems like that decision has already been made, people can wear down the spiritual awakening train and derail it. It’s a great sorrow to see someone do that, but depending on their illusions and the pain they carry, the person may be fully set against transformation. Even something as powerful as a spiritual awakening can be stopped.
To really embrace this transformation, at some point, the person has to choose to do so. They have to get on-board. And they’ll have to choose to do it again and again at each major internal crossroads. That choice is the part of a necessary mental resilience that the person must have as they learn to embrace discomfort and the unknown.
Without this fortitude, it’s easy for people to return to their habitual way of thinking and living. I know that many of you have had this experience, especially after a spiritual opening. You glimpse the truth, but then you return to what you know. A lot of old patterns, beliefs, and bodily experiences–such as how that old fight or flight instinct works and feels in your body–are not going away easily. They only go with dedication and determination, and those are critical aspects of mental resilience.
Whether or not you feel strong in your mind and your ability to stick to things you choose to do, there is nothing like a spiritual awakening to open the doors to every conceivable trait and mental ability inside of you. There are so many untapped abilities inside human beings, and most of them are hidden by our unconscious ego and the beliefs about what we can and cannot do. So if you don’t feel like your mind can handle this or any kind of difficult change, this is as good of time as any to learn how to face personal challenges.
I want to emphasize that this strength and resilience isn’t about thinking about anything special. It’s not about creating a new set of beliefs to hold on to. Most of our old ways of thinking stink, and any new beliefs we create tend to be built on the old ones. These old thinking patterns and beliefs have nothing to do with anything. They’re just old bits and fragments of songs we’ve heard sung by others. They get interwoven into a general and sometimes frightful cacophony of noise that you consider to be who you are and the normal way that you think. Because of this huge amount of noise in a lot of people’s heads, this is why many of you are blown away by a quiet mind experience that you may have in meditation, awakening, or some other time. It’s like, “Wow. I didn’t know things could be so silent. Is this real?”
Yes. Yes it is.
The silence can stick around if you start to focus more on the silence and letting go of thoughts than on creating new thoughts and recycling the old ones. In truth, most of what people do is recycle old thoughts, and that clutters up your mental space. It creates and perpetuates conflicting beliefs that create conflicting demands. The conflicted mind is a truly a weak place, and thus learning to be present and watch your thoughts is a doorway to silence. And that silence is a doorway to deeper kinds of mental strength.
Learning to Watch Your Thoughts
Since thinking and trying to act out illusory beliefs are so draining, learning to watch your thoughts is a key step out of this mental circus. You simply notice them. You notice your feelings and body sensations too. You learn to witness all of this going on inside of you no matter how enjoyable or difficult. As the timeless witness, you get a front row seat to how bat-shit crazy it is in there, but as you realize you are watching this ongoing drama, you also start to realize you choose what you play out in your mind-space. Realizing that you have this power over what you think about is important. It leads you towards re-developing your thinking, but let’s not get too far ahead just year.
Why do I say this?
Because too many people after awakening start trying to create new beliefs before they’ve fully unearthed all the issues inside. I call this re-wallpapering the prison cell walls. A spiritual awakening tends to tear down some of the wallpaper and pokes a few holes in the walls, but not all of our false beliefs are removed. Most of our core issues and walls remain. Removal of the remaining wallpaper exposes the walls–the deeper pains and issues. Many people feel so exposed and raw that they seek the safety of new beliefs. This covers up the deeper issues, and voila, a new spiritual ego emerges. However, it is no better than the last. It’s usually still underpinned by issues like the fear of the unknown, lack of self-worth, fear of failure, and others. So here we see that the fear of being in a mental uncertainty traps people even after awakening. Part of developing your mental strength requires you to be in an intellectual limbo while the divine within you is transforming you and starting to show you the truth.
Accepting the Truth, Not Rejecting or Bartering
One of the ways that people perpetuate mental weakness is by trying to hold onto false beliefs or justify them with the spiritual truths they’ve just learned. Either kind of response is a rejection of the truth, not an acceptance.
One of the ways people get in trouble and feel like they are losing their minds is when they hold onto their old beliefs and try to barter with it. Bartering with what you discover about the reality of life just leads to strange half truths because you’re trying to save some of your illusory beliefs and work them into this deeper understanding. That causes problems because a half truth ends up creating untenable lies about life. It’s kind of like seeing that you are in a bad relationship, but since “everything is perfect as it is,” you stay in that bad relationship. In this instance, you would be using a spiritual truth without truly understanding it to avoid your own fears of leaving the relationship and other associated issues. This just creates more pain. This bartering can be followed up by the person being confused and thinking that they need to “accept” their partner more as the relationship continues to go poorly. They keep getting more and more confused trying to justify their illusions with the truth. Ultimately spiritual truth lets you see life as it is. If you are at peace with a bad relationship, then you would not be upset by it. However, anything that does not foster love in our lives is not usually something awakened people continue to do. This is one reason that many relationships end; the individual starts seeing reality and that reality is often not based in love.
Furthermore, many people just reject spiritual truth outright. One example that springs to mind is the spiritual truth that life is meaningless.
I know that just reading that last sentence can send a shock through most people’s systems. It can be especially shocking to spiritual people because they’ve been taught that spirituality is about creating meaning for themselves and for life in general. Thus, when someone realizes that meaning is only an ego construct, a person may want to fight this spiritual realization or try to rescue some part of their belief system. They do this because deeper fears get exposed in the face of spiritual truth. The fears expose how many ego selfs want to believe that they are special. To be “special” requires there to be some kind of meaning to differentiate one person from another. Being special actually rejects equality. If we are all equal, then no one of us is better, which is not what a lot of egos want to hear. Additionally, Westerners believe that intellectual meaning brings safety. If you can say that something means something, this is a cue to the ego self that we should feel safe. Just in writing this, you can see that our need for a feeling of safety is the real interest in this whole meaning issue.
Feelings are different than ideas. We care much more about how we feel than what we think, and too often a messy immature mind will mask feelings or attempt to manipulate feelings through ideas. To go deeper inwards requires learning this difference. If we don’t accept the truths that we realize, then we can’t go deeper. We block ourselves at the level of the intellect. In accepting life as inherently without meaning, we can find deeper insecurities and core fears. We can face them, and in so doing, a mental resilience is born because we find that we can face our own discomfort and pain. We stop being afraid of feeling uncomfortable. Furthermore, when we are at peace in ourselves, suddenly a spiritual truth like needing life or our lives to have meaning becomes surprisingly irrelevant.
Breaking Down the Ego to Break Open the Mind
In my blog post about the fear of losing one’s mind, I talk about the difference between the ego and the mind. The ego, in general, uses a very small portion of the mind. It tends to maintain beliefs in such a way that you only remember certain things and look for specific things in your life with which to engage. The unconscious ego is ultimately trying to keep you safe, but mostly, it keeps you trapped. So at times, learning how to be mentally strong is going to mean breaking down parts of the ego to find that strength.
This creates an odd tension between a new ego perspective and an old one. The new ego perspective is all about letting go and doing what it is necessary to understand what is arising. The old one is about holding on. Thus, surrender tends to be the main “concept” that a new ego perspective needs to adopt, and surrender isn’t a concept. It’s the cessation of action.
Meanwhile the old unconscious ego will keep pulling at you to act and react in all the old ways that you’re used to doing. It can seem like for many people that they can’t stop thinking, believing, or doing things the way they used to. That’s the power of habit. When we’ve paved over a road in our brain pathways so that it’s a super freeway, thought seems to want to keep running that way like water flowing through a riverbed. This is another reason why resilience is so important. At first it feels like you are resisting yourself, but really you are starting to stop. You are ending a lot of constant “re-paving” in there so that your mind can relax and open. Being with this mental discomfort is yet another reason why I can’t emphasize enough why a resilience and determination to surrender is so key after a spiritual awakening.
Facing Your Own Threats
Things tend to get worse the harder the issue we are dealing with. That’s when the ego starts jumping to ridiculous conclusions and threats. Some of the things the ego will say when you’re processing through powerful issues include:
- I’m dying.
- I can’t make it.
- My world is falling apart.
- I’m losing my mind.
- This is taking away everything I love.
If you’ve done serious inner work and/or have awakened, I’m sure you can easily add to the list. Part of mental strength is listening to these things without reacting. You’ll find that parts of you still react. The idea that “you are dying” will come, and your body will react with fear. You have to watch that too. You have to choose again and again to breathe and relax as much of you as possible while the rest of you has a total meltdown.
Ultimately embodying spiritual truth means going beyond just a mental understanding of it. A mental understanding of spiritual truth is not enough. The more you work on staying open to what is arising, the more your old ego self will break down. Without your energy and attention, it can’t continue to exist. It is and has always been a house of cards just waiting to collapse. As it does, your mind opens, and you proceed deeper into the heart of the matter.
The Rebirth of the Mind
The mind’s rebirth is its own. The heart, body, and energy have their own rebirths, but for many Westerners, they need the mind to be reborn first. After which, the intellectual mind can be humble enough to get out of the way of the next levels of inner change.
With this rebirth, a conscious ego does get born. But the conscious ego isn’t about creating a new personality that you have to be and judging all of life. It’s about being in service to the truth. A conscious ego knows that it is made up, and it quickly learns that it is not much important to the greater powers of the universe. Through the humility of a conscious ego, you find new levels of mental resilience and a more intelligent way of engaging with life. Through breaking down and breaking open, you experientially learn that you can transmute the mind and that you do not lose it. As you discover how strong you can be, you find yourself more willing to endure the deeper levels of intensity that arise in spiritual transformation. You find it easier to be with the intensities in the heart, body, and energy, and it becomes more natural to choose the transformation again and again and again because you see how openness so deeply benefits you. That choosing, that surrender to the process, and that little bit of experience all lend themselves to deeper and more profound levels of mental strength.
Tested to the Limit and then Past it Again and Again
A spiritual awakening will push you to the limit again and again and again. Each time you face and embrace the issue that is being forced into your awareness, you will find new levels of inner resilience. It’s not just the mind that becomes more naturally resilient; it’s all of you. As I said, the mind tends to be the first doorkeeper for a lot of Westerners. Most people don’t get past it from what I’ve seen, and even fewer get past the deeper issues of the heart, body, and soul. From what I’ve seen, it’s the ones who choose over and over to be with the intensity and actively–although not always knowingly–develop these inner levels of fortitude that go deeper into clarity and peace.
Ultimately, nothing can be left out. Every kind of sensation, thought, emotion, and energetic shift has to be embraced because that is what true love does. Love embraces all.
And true love is one of the most fundamental lessons a spiritual awakening brings. We learn to love and accept all of us, and in so doing, we can love and accept all of life. When love becomes this complete, no more resilience is actually needed because there is no longer any inner resistance to any part of life. Thus, we find that resilience becomes a passing trait that is deeply necessary at certain parts of our spiritual journey until we are so free that that trait can be released and you flow from the perfection that you are.