Have you woken up and suddenly been hit by a world of confusion?
This is common.
Maybe you’d never heard this term of “spiritual awakening” before and have no idea what this thing is.
For those who had heard the term before, this might not be what you thought it would be.
Confused About What an Awakening Is
A spiritual awakening is waking up out of the ego dream. A dream is full of illusions. In the waking, some of the illusions stop, and we start to see a piece of reality.
I want to emphasize the “piece” part.
The totality of reality is beyond the conceptual grasp of a human being. In terms of light–just light–we can only visually process a very small part of it. And reality is a lot more than light!
That said, seeing even a piece of reality can be quite a jolt. With so many promises about feeling blissful or having all your pain taken away and other things, the reality of a spiritual awakening is often not what people expected.
Reconciliation or More Disorientation
After awakening, we have a choice to go on a journey of reconciling ourselves with what is real and letting go of what is not.
But we’re rarely prepared even if something inside of us is ready. It’s almost like being dropped out of a plane into a country where you don’t know the culture, language, or geography.
How do you handle any of this?
Unlearning Your Spiritual and Religious Practices
I’m going to come at this from a completely different angle.
I’m going to talk about the spiritual and religious beliefs and practices that get in the way.
You see, most spiritual and religious traditions don’t want you to be free of ego.
They want you to follow their rules.
The carrot here is that you’ll get everything you want. In some cases, the carrot is the reward of Heaven.
The reason why some people fall into existential crisis and religious doubt is often because the religious and spiritual rules they’ve followed start failing them. Usually, the religious institution or spiritual belief system deflect this failure back on the individual.
If things aren’t going well, it’s all your fault.
Shame and blame are always bad signs that a spiritual or religious path don’t have any true reality to support them.
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a proponent of individual responsibility. You’re going to have take on a new level of responsibility to think clearly on the path to spiritual freedom.
If you’re having a spiritual awakening, you’re going to have to unlearn many practices and beliefs that you may have been taught before you could walk. That’s no small task, and but then the ego headache of conflict can begin to subside.
And you can start building a new spiritual practice.
Conflicting Spiritual Beliefs and Deepening Confusion
If you’ve been indoctrinated since childhood, this process of unlearning religion can feel like your soul is being ripped out of you.
Your core sense of life and meaning just blew up.
It is a time when people will most want to go back to their original beliefs or try to fill the void.
Filling the void is dangerous because the initially awakened person is no way in a place to make new decisions. Their ego structure is only disrupted, not gone. The unconscious ego is still making most of the decisions.
Breathe some more.
Choosing Reality Over Illusion
The choice of reality over illusion always sounds like the easiest thing. But if you’re going through a spiritual transformation, you know how much a part of you wants to believe what it has always believed.
There is a very neuro-biological reality here too. Your brain has to be taught to re-wire itself. Thinking differently is wiring your brain differently.
Thus, I want to encourage you towards patience and diligence. Some of this is going to take time.
You will have to choose reality again and again.
The good news is that each time you come back to awareness to observe the conflict and confusion in your ego, the false ideas that create the conflicts are running out of energy.
Illusion needs your constant attention and belief. It cannot exist without it.
It’s like the electricity flowing into your computer playing a movie. If that electricity cuts off, the movie disappears because it does not exist.
Meanwhile, reality will still be here.
Reality has never needed you to believe in it or remember that it exists.
Just like gravity, it has been a force in your life that has either aided you or blocked you, depending on your orientation to it. Understanding what gravity is and surrendering to its reality has allowed people to successfully fly and land airplanes. The truth is power.
And the subsiding of your brain electricity around illusions brings clarity out of the awakening confusion.
Ego Bargaining and Deepening Post-Awakening Confusion
Instead of choosing to come back to awareness, many people bargain.
“How can my old false beliefs be aligned with my new realizations?” The ego wonders.
But people try.
Again, this can be really hard on people coming with a strong sense of spirituality built on illusions. And again, most are.
Finding out that you’re wrong about your whole spiritual system that underpins your way of understanding reality can be an avenue into a dark night of the soul.
Still, the ego perseveres. It tries to make the dogma of other spiritual traditions and religions fit in with its realizations. This tends to create strange ideas and even stranger actions. It can also make many people feel like they’re holding together tectonic plates that are pulling in opposite directions.
A more grounded example is:
“How do I keep going to my church and get people to be conscious like me?”
It’s not going to happen. Everyone is free to be as they are: conscious or unconscious.
But the ego wants control–which is one major issue in itself. There’s also the assumption of how conscious the awakened person is. We usually understand how unconscious we are in retrospect–after coming out of the illusions.
Meanwhile many religious institutions don’t make space for individuals to realize the truth. In so many situations, the institution only allows people access to the Divine through a savior, priest, guru, or other spiritual gatekeeper.
Personal realization and control over personal realization aren’t getting reconciled.
It’s time to surrender to this conflict.
Surrender the fight.
Stop fighting gravity. It is what it is.
When you stop splashing around in the lake of your mind, the waters settle. More of reality can be seen.
The Ego Fight Gets More Confused and Darker
I wish this didn’t happen, but again and again, we really want to believe we’re right. We want to have our ideas justified. We want our experiences to have the meaning we’re already taught to believe they have.
For some people, waking up feels like a nightmare and the end of their world. In fact, Adyashanti has a book called, “The End of Your World.”
Some of this also has to do with trauma.
Trauma is a beast in the room that destroys whole lives. While awakening can be super powerful to coming out of trauma, trauma healing work is no joke. Awakening doesn’t fix trauma. Rather, it helps people to see that they have a choice to leave it.
The more resistance a person puts up, the more confused, depressed, and despairing they can become.
While any step on the spiritual path is a great time to ask for help, this is an even more critical time to ask for help.
Put down your illusion of individuality (we are all interconnected) and reach out. Then reach out for more.
I’d love to give you a perfect set of tips for finding a perfect therapist or spiritual teacher, but a lot of it is trial and error.
Along the way, there is this blog and my YouTube channel with tons of advice on things you can do to build your spiritual practice. I encourage you to practice meditation, improve your nutrition, breathe better, and come back to awareness. These can really save you.
Resting in Clarity then More Confusion
Unfortunately, surrender isn’t a one time deal. We find out that we’re lost in illusion about many, many things. We find that we will head back to the ego negotiating table multiple times.
We are profoundly committed to illusion.
You will go through multiple experiences of seeing some other level of truth, and then your ego is like:
“That can’t be true.”
“I don’t believe it.”
“How could I have not seen that?”
Then the confusion comes back.
You have to integrate this reality, and then you return to clarity.
If you resist the truth, the confusion deepens.
As you go, these cycles tend to get shorter, although it does depend on the type of realization. It can take a lot longer to resolve some issues (lifestyle toxicity realizations versus an inefficient way of folding laundry) than others.
But the confusion ends, and you learn more and more about how to live this curious and amazing thing called life.