I just finished reading the book, “Waking From Sleep: Why Awakening Experiences Occur and How to Make Them Permanent” by Steve Taylor. In it, the author details the conditions that lead up to such experiences, as well as many people’s experiences in having them. He also proposes ways to structure our lives so that we experience them more often. It helped me re-visit and put into context an experience I had in 2008, while living in Sausalito, California. This experience totally changed me as a person and therefore the trajectory of my life, and now that I understand it better I’d like to share the details with you.
Before doing so, I’d like to give you an overview of what a spiritual awakening experience is. Apparently, according to this book, many of us have experienced them without really knowing what it was that we experienced. He defines an awakening experience as one in which we step outside our normal level of consciousness to a higher level of consciousness. Our normal level of consciousness is dominated by thoughts, worries, activity, and a sense of separateness or isolation from others that at times may cause us to question the meaning of our life. We experience life from a more limited perspective (our own), through the filters that we have been conditioned with. This is normal life, which the author of the book likens to a kind of sleep (also my own experience).
Occasionally we may be woken up by something that causes us to, for a moment, see everything differently. We may feel more alive and joyful, and our perception becomes clearer making everything we see more crisp and beautiful. The smallest detail delights us and everything seems beautiful. At a higher intensity, these experiences make us feel as though we are connected to everyone and everything and we experience a great sense of joy and gratitude to be alive. And, at the highest intensity these same characteristics intensify and a sense of the complete meaning of life and the benevolence of the universe is absolutely felt.
The catalysts for these types of experiences are varied, ranging from sunsets, witnessing a child being born, experiencing extreme suffering, a diagnosis of a terminal illness, to certain types of drugs. Ever had an "AHA" moment? That's a mini-spiritual awakening. The commonality between all these experiences is a sense that THIS moment is real, and that our normal state of consciousness is somehow false or incomplete. We feel that we are seeing clearly, and it all makes sense. Hence the conclusion that these are indeed “awakening” experiences to a “higher” level of consciousness and not just an alteration of consciousness.
It was very helpful for me to read this book, in being able to understand more about my own experience. You may be asking, "Why should I care about this at all?" Based on my experience, my life is much more pleasant, easy, joyful, meaningful, and peaceful since experiencing this awakening and now, in learning how I can continue to cultivate it.
In general, a spiritual awakening is a cornerstone for finding and living your truth gently, but consistently. These experiences illuminate the truth for us, in a clear and powerful way.