Spiritual awakening is not a state, an experience or a goal to be achieved in the future. As the Buddha taught, it is not a superhuman achievement or accomplishment. You don’t have to travel to India to find it. It is not a particular state of perfection reserved for enlightened beings, the lucky ones, or the privileged.
Spiritual awakening is not experience outside the body, and that does not imply living in a cave, detaching oneself from the realities of this world. It cannot be passed on to you by a sophisticated guru, nor carried away or lost. You do not need to become a disciple of anyone.
It is a constant and ancient invitation, at every moment of your life, to embrace you exactly as you are, in all your glorious imperfections. Spiritual awakening is about being present, getting out of the epic story of the past, and the future (“the story of my life”) and showing up for this precious present moment, knowing that even your feelings of non-acceptance are accepted here.
It is a question of radically opening up to this extraordinary gift of life, by embracing both the pain and the joy of it, bliss and pain, ecstasy and overwhelm. Knowing that you are life itself, vast, awake, alive, free, never separate yourself from the whole.
Here are 10 simple life-changing principles of spiritual awakening:
1. There’s no destiny, only the here and now:
The present scene from the movie of your life. Step out of the epic history of time and space, past and future, regret and anticipation, the search for different states and experiences, even the search for spiritual enlightenment. Relax your usual focus on “what’s gone”, “what’s not there yet”, things you can’t control from where you are.
Get out of the story of “My Life” and let yourself be fascinated by what is alive here right now. Be curious about this living dance of thoughts, feelings, feelings, and impulses that happens where you are.
Remember, now is the only place where real answers can possibly emerge from. The present moment is your real home, before time and space. That’s all there is; calm in the middle of the storm.
2. Our suffering comes from our thinking and resistance:
Pain is not the real problem; the real problem is our thinking about pain, our resistance to discomfort, our attempt to escape all this and reach an imagined future. The real problem starts when we start ruminating on our pain, our sadness, our fears, our anger; meditating on our discomforts, rewinding, and rapidly advancing the movie of our lives!
We are chewing on the pain of yesterday and tomorrow, rather than exploring and living out the experiences of today as they come. We add an unnecessary layer of rumination and resistance to life, which creates suffering.
The invitation? Come out of the past and the future, seeking and striving, and meet life in its raw state, at this moment, without judgment, and without waiting for “peace”, “relaxation”, enlightenment or any other change. Meet the moment on its own terms; see it all as a gift. Introduce yourself, for the pleasant and unpleasant, the pleasure and the pain, without agenda.
3. Thoughts and sensations are not the truth, they aren’t personal:
Think of thoughts and feelings as neutral and impersonal events in consciousness. Just like the sounds we hear, thoughts and physical sensations arise and disappear spontaneously, like waves in the ocean of you. They cannot be controlled, deleted, or escaped from.
Cultivate the same gentle attitude towards thoughts and feelings that you already have towards sounds. Meet all thoughts and feelings with an attitude of kindness and curiosity. Consider them welcome guests in your presence.
4. You aren’t a thinker, you are space for thoughts:
Thoughts are not you and they are not reality; these are just suggestions, possibilities, rumors, propaganda, judgments, voices, images, rewinds and fast comings and goings, clouds in the vast sky of you.
Do not try to immobilize, deactivate or stop them, delete them, or control them. Be space for them, even if they are very active right now! Remember that if you notice thoughts, you are aware of them, you are not trapped in them. They don’t define you. You are the silent container, not the contained. Be what you are, the vast in which thoughts can come and go as you please.
5. Breathe into your discomfort and pain, honor it:
Breathe into uncomfortable sensations; give them dignity. Honor them rather than close yourself to them, starving them for warmth. As you breathe into, imagine or feel your breath moving through the neglected and tender area, infusing it with life and love.
Fill your body’s uncomfortable area with oxygen, warmth, and dignity. Do not try to “cure” the sensations, or even “let go”. They want to be met, honored, included in the current scene. Suppose that even discomfort holds intelligence; that it is not “against” you. Know that true joy is not the absence or the opposite of sadness or pain, but the will to embrace everything.
6. You don’t “do” acceptance, you are it:
Acceptance does not mean that an unpleasant thought or feeling will go away; it can stay for a while. Do not try to accept it (because this is often a disguised resistance) but recognize that it is ALREADY accepted, already there, already part of the scene.
Treat it like it’ll always be here! This removes the pressure of time (trying to make it go away, wondering why it’s “still here”). It’s here, now. Bow down to THIS reality. Be curious. And allow any desire, any feeling of frustration, boredom, disappointment, or even despair to arise and be included. They are all part of the current scene, not blocks. Even a feeling of blockage is part of the scene!
7. There is no “always” and no “never”:
There is no “rest of my life”, no “for years”, no “all day”. There’s only now, your only place of power. Sometimes even thinking about tomorrow is just too much work. Be here.
8. In order to get “there”, you first need to be “here”:
Often, we focus so much on the goal or destination that we forget the journey, we disconnect from each precious step, and stress is created, the feeling that we are not there yet. However, joy can only be found in the here and now and has nothing to do with goals, destinations, or getting what you want.
Turn away from the 10,000 steps to come, the 10,000 steps that you haven’t walked yet, the 10,000 things that are missing right now, and remember the current step, this ancient land of life, your own intimate presence. Breathe. Feel the life in your body.
Often times, we don’t know where we’re headed, and it’s going perfectly. Make friends with uncertainty, doubt, apprehension you feel; learn to love this sacred place without answers. It is alive and creative and full of potential.
9. Your stumbling is perfect as well, embrace it:
If you realize that you are lost in a story, that you are disconnected, that you have forgotten the moment, celebrate. You just woke up from a dream. Great intelligence is alive in you, the power to realize and to connect.
You have stepped out of millions of years of conditioning. Don’t punish yourself for forgetting, but celebrate your ability to remember! The moment doesn’t mind that you forgot it! Forgetting is a perfect scene in the film. Let yourself forget sometimes!
Be humbled by the journey rather than trying to be “perfect.” Doubt, disappointment, and disillusionment will be constant friends on this pathless path. There is no destination present, no image of “success” to live up to. You can’t go wrong when there is no “right” place.
10. Do not compare, you are unique:
You are unique; your trip is totally original. We can all be expressions of the same ocean of consciousness, but at the same time, we are all unique expressions of this very ocean, totally unique in our wave!
Don’t compare yourself to anyone else! When you start to compare, you devalue your own unique and irreplaceable gifts, talents, and truths and disconnect from your unique current experience. Do not compare this moment with a picture of what it could have been, should have been, or could have been.
Healing is possible when you say YES to where you are, even if it is not where you dreamed that you would be “by now.” Trust, and sometimes trust that you cannot trust. Maybe you can even trust your inability to trust here, and even the feeling that you cannot hold the moment is itself already being held.