Over the last five months, I have been going through a powerful and at times very difficult transformation.
This summer, I went through what I can only describe as an awakening experience, otherwise known as a "spiritual emergence."
I've been reluctant to talk about this directly because of the risk of being misunderstood.
Awakening is not about becoming morally perfect, healing the sick, or becoming all-knowing.
Awakening is simply realizing our true nature: the felt sense that we are the cosmos, and the cosmos is us.
This truth opens our heart to flowing love. It liberates us from our cramped personal identities. We become capable of immense compassion, free from attachment, and directly connected to the sacred nature of the universe. It is the central teaching of all mystical traditions.
But truly believing—and living—this truth can be frightening and destabilizing. A spiritual emergence can lead to what Stan Groff called a "spiritual emergency."
In an attempt to make sense of my own experience this summer, I've begun seeking out and speaking to people who have had awakening experiences.
They are far more common than I previously thought, and they can be far more challenging and destabilizing than I imagined.
Popular spiritual notions of "awakening" make it seem like it's the best thing that could possibly happen to you. What they don't mention is the psychological turbulence of premature awakening.
Three people I spoke with entered into psyche wards as a result of their awakening. One person experienced weeks to months of debilitating, nightmarish disillusionment. Saeed Khan, a consciousness teacher I spoke with, described how his awakening led to a prolonged state of clarity, after which he fell into intense depression before stabilizing himself.
(I've had my own struggles integrating my experience, and I am grateful to Saeed and a few close friends for supporting me in challenging moments.)
In my interview with Saeed a few months ago, he introduced me to the term "stable awakening," and I feel like that hits the nail on the head. Stability is what's missing in discussions of awakening, and in the global spiritual culture more broadly.
Moving forward, I am committing to speak openly and clearly about my experience of awakening. This is for two reasons:
1) Living from a place of awakened consciousness may be the single most important shift we can make in our lives and for our world.
2) This shift can be immensely confusing and difficult without support.
The mental health system (and psychology in general) aims to create ego-stability. It has virtually no frameworks for ego-transcendence, and as a result pathologizes awakening / emergence.
According to Christina and Stanislav Grof:
... many of the conditions, which are currently diagnosed as psychotic and indiscriminately treated by suppressive medication, are actually difficult stages of a radical personality transformation and of spiritual opening. If they are correctly understood and supported, these psychospiritual crises can result in emotional and psychosomatic healing, [and] remarkable psychological transformation. (more here)
Similarly, coaching primarily tries to strengthen and secure the ego. And while strengthening the ego is a valuable first step to transcending the ego, it only gets us so far.
That's why in the new year, I will no longer be taking on new coaching clients.
Instead, in 2023 I will focus my work on studying and helping others achieve stable awakening using a system of IFS parts-work, ritual pilgrimage, and love-based practices.
I particularly want to work with those coming from a non-religious background who are resistant to the idea of entering a Buddhist monastery or traveling to India to find a guru.
If this sounds like something you're interested in, get in touch.
Wishing you a happy new year, and a stable awakening.