When Spirit Awakes

The awakening is a wave traveling miles of ocean to reach your shore. It was born to greet you, long on the days of near despair. It comes to remind you that life is inexhaustible. A deep sigh that empties your lungs.

This is the beach where children collect sea glass and soft driftwood that toss in the sand and foam. This is your life now, surprised by how much is left. You thought the sand was running out, but it was brimming with colors that had not yet announced themselves.

This new land has turned its love to you. These are not the skies of your youth, with their bland promise and abrupt discouragement. These are not the streets that seemed to reject you in their very essence. You never thought your skin could be accepted by the world, so you hid your skin away.

Can this possibly be that same world? You see that it is now made of new substance, warm to the touch. You can taste it from a distance; you can taste it on your lips. It sings a sustained nourishment.

The awakening wave has moved back out to sea, but you have been touched by a love and cannot turn dark. Darkness has lost its grip and dissipated. Light now the fabric of your being.

When night comes, the sky goes purple and the woods come to life. You are welcome here finally, right in the middle of your life. Even your bones feel the deep hum. Stand tall into this new air. You are everything the world has hoped.

The Taste of Sky

When the struggle comes to an end, the suffering lifts. You are not who you thought you were. You thought you were caught here in the world. You thought the world had dominion over you. You believed there was such a thing as dominion.

The sky is more blue than you ever thought possible. Blue like a taste. Blue like a thin film you can walk through.

You thought you were close to solving the problem, but the problem is not here. There were so many answers that seemed to be surrounding you, but they have flown off like feathers, delicate and light. They don’t need you today.

You thought you were something. You thought you were nothing. You found that everything is not enough. You found that nothing is too hard to bear. Then you watched your self float off like shiny dust.

There is a song that has been singing you for a thousand years. Now that your self is drifting, you can hear it once again. It is awake in the taste of the air that turns blue and disappears.

Night and day merge as night grows darker and the day vanishes. You were only here for a moment, but it lasted centuries.

You have spent your entire life in the now and you have everything to show for it. Everything can fit in the now. Nothing can fit anywhere else.

Soon you will lose the sense of falling. You will smell the damp leaves that warm and become your nourishment – until you need no nourishment. You will fill up and disappear.

My God it’s great to be alive.

How Does a Spiritual Awakening Help You?

How does a spiritual awakening change your life? You have the same personality, the same body, the same family and friends. At first, everything is the same. Yet when your spiritual awakening comes, everything changes.

You see that you are one with everything around you. You are not separate. That understanding takes away your fear. Maybe not all at once, but bit by bit, your fear begins to stop running your life. You come to realize you have nothing to fear. It’s not that you gain courage. It’s simply that fear has become irrelevant.

You come to see that you have been afraid most of your life. Your reactions, your responses, your decisions have all been based on fear, based on the belief that you are threatened, that you can lose everything that matters, and that you will die.

Lift that fear and you see that nothing that matters can be taken away. You see there is no such thing as death. You are free now. It doesn’t matter who loves you or who doesn’t love you. You suddenly have no argument with anyone – you have no argument with life.

Everything slows down. For perhaps the first time, you can catch your breath. The cloud of cares and worry begins to dissipate. You are lighter now, free of resentments and free of anger.

Your decisions are no longer based on what you need – they are based on kindness and how you can serve. This detachment doesn’t mean you don’t care. You care more for this world than you ever have. Never before have you really seen its beauty. In this caring, you become a caretaker.

You don’t renounce the world; you embrace the world, for the world and you are one.

The Accidental Mystic

For many years, I followed the New Thought beliefs at Unity and Religious Science meetings. I attended Self Realization Fellowship. At all of them, I enjoyed the meditation and the message. I believed strongly in the teachings and became involved in these groups, including board activity and teaching the kids. I studied New Thought literature and read books by sympathetic thinkers such as Emmet Fox. When our minister was out of town, I often conducted services.

This involvement had a positive effect on my life. But it took a health crisis to really connect with spirit.

I woke up from a three-week coma a couple years back, and the person who woke was different from the person who entered the coma. When I woke up, something else was looking out through my eyes. Something larger than the little me.

As I recovered, learned how to walk again, and resumed my life, the sensation or presence didn’t go away.

In trying to understand what was happening, I read further than deeper. I now think that what I’ve experienced is what is often called oneness or non-duality. I’m the same person walking around, working, and interacting with family and friends. My personality is generally the same, but there is a presence that is with me all the time, something positive that seems to neutralize negative feelings. Anger and frustration are gone. And while humor is still part of my life, the cynical side of humor is absent.

Reading about spirituality is quite different now that I’m trying to understand what’s happening to me rather than trying to make something spiritual happen. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect the decades of spiritual study helped bring about this positive change. Don’t know. But the world – which once seemed inhospitable – now seems beautiful.

Now People Just Get Prettier

The world can seem inhospitable, or the world can seem a beautiful place that is getting more beautiful yet. The difference, of course, is perception.

In his song, “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again,” Bob Dylan sings:

Now the rainman gave me two cures,
Then he said, ‘Jump right in.’
The one was Texas medicine
The other was just railroad gin.
And like a fool I mixed them,
And it strangled up my mind.
And now people just get uglier
And I have no sense of time.

For many years, I could relate perfectly to Dylan’s words. My mind was quite strangled up, and indeed, I had no sense of time. In that negative view, I thought I had a clear understanding of the world. I thought life was “nasty, brutish and short,” as Thomas Hobbs described it in 1651. I also believed spirituality was an intellectual fantasy. And I was drinking quite a lot.

Much has changed in my life since then. I’ve come to believe the world is charged with spirituality. I now believe the very molecules of reality are spiritual. This change didn’t happen because I was influenced by a book or by a teacher, but simply because I started to see that it was true. It became self-evident, just as waking from a dream makes the events of the dream intrinsically unreal.

Books and teachers have since supported what I see, and they offer ways to articulate what came to me through a crisis. I suppose my new view could also be seen like an intellectual fantasy. And I do expect I will wake up from this round of consciousness as well.

In the meantime, people just get prettier and everything seems so well timed.

A Shift – And Then the Search Is Over

A friend asked what is meant by “spiritual awakening.” I thought, good lord, that’s like trying to explain the taste of ice cream – or why the Beatles meant so much once. I decided to see if anyone had a decent description I could borrow. I researched a whole host of descriptions of mystical experiences: Kundalini awakening, psychic break, deep meditation, LSD, psilocybin, sweat lodges, the effects of following a guru. While I found exciting tales of dips into the mystic and powerful revelations, none described what I was seeking to answer my friend’s question.

Then I found a site that just nailed it. It was Bonnie Greenwell, Ph.D.’s site, awakeningguide.com.

Her description is simple, eloquent, and blessedly void of drama: “The experience of waking up is different than mystical events, and in fact has often been said to be no experience. It is a ground-level shift that occurs right now, right here, and whether it lasts a minute or a lifetime, the Truth of who you are is known,” says Greenwell.

She continues with her clear description of a spiritual shift: “Waking up is what happens in response to the question ‘Who is having these experiences?’ and searching neither thought nor emotion to find an answer. It is not the process of having an experience, however ecstatic and profoundly mystical it may be,” says Greenwell. “It is the understanding of that which has an experience, or that which lives through us and is eternally present through all time and experience. To wake up we have to give up the idea that we are a personal identity who is seeking experiences, and begin to wonder what is really true underneath and behind all experiences that humans live.”

She also well describes the absence of effort involved in awakening: “When there is no longer any struggle, because all that is left of the little ‘me’ is a slight memory and flavor, and perhaps a few insignificant preferences that can easily be put aside, the spiritual journey is over.”

Thanks you, Dr. Greenwell.

 

It Guides Me Now

For most of my life, I’ve been aware of a “still small voice within” that seemed more important than the rest of the thoughts banging around in my head. While many associate this phrase with the Old Testament, Mahatma Gandhi also used it when he said, “The only tyrant I accept in this world is the still small voice within.”

For much of my childhood and adult life I was aware of something inside me that was more essential than all the noise of the world. During much of that time, I could only barely hear the voice, and I could only barely feel the presence that seemed to go with the voice.

I often thought, there is something inside me that knows.

I had an odd confidence in that voice. Yet the nose of the world nearly obscured it for years. There were times I tried deliberately to increase the volume of that still small voice. But it stayed remote and scratchy, like a radio station in the middle of the night you can barely hear – a station that happens to be playing the music you most want to hear. It slips away again and again.

Then, I experienced a physical trauma that suddenly changed how it felt to be in the world and changed what it meant to be in the world. All for the better, surprisingly.

As part of that change, the still small voice became clear. The shift in clarity seemed almost physiological. The voice was suddenly at hand, and the sense of presence I always associated with the still small voice seemed to permeate the very cells of my body. Instead of far away and indistinct, the voice and the presence became accessible.

I don’t know what to call it. I don’t know what it is. But I trust it and it guides me now.

It’s Gonna Take a Miracle

D.H. Lawrence said just the fact we’re here is a miracle. I believe everything in this world is miraculous. Walt Whitman agrees: “To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle. Every cubic inch of space is a miracle.”

Sometimes a miracle doesn’t even seem like a miracle, but it changes your life. I went through a health crisis that left me believing it was a miracle that I’m still in this world.

A Course in Miracles states that miracles are normal occurrences. If miracles are not happening, that means something’s wrong.

Sumner Davenport asserted that thinking positively is not sufficient to bring real change. For that it takes a miracle. “Positive thinking by itself does not work. Your embodied vision, partnered with vibrant thinking, harmonized with active listening, and supported with your conscious action, will clear the path for your miracles.”

Phillips Brooks believes that we ourselves are the miracle: “Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle, but you shall be the miracle.”

According to Saint Augustine, we’re in a land where miracles are natural phenomena: “Miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary to what we know about nature.”

Maybe a miracle is simply a reminder the substance of our world is divine. Dwight Longenecker said, “Maybe miracles are given not to prove anything, but simply to remind us that the physical world is not so solid and real and dependable as we think.”

It takes Buddha to say it so simply: “If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.”

 

Spirit Is Singing Everywhere

As I began to awaken to the spirit within me, I also began to awaken to the world. During most of my life, I had difficulties with the world and in the world. I believed that only after this life would things begin to make sense. I saw this world filled with massive contradictions, barely inhabitable – in many areas and for many people, uninhabitable.

That has changed remarkably.

I look out my back window as I write this and I can see elm branches rustling in the wind, heavy with April seed pods. I hear a basketball thumping on cement next door. I hear the cooing of a mourning dove. I hear the chirping of our pet parakeets in the room behind me. I see a stone rabbit in the backyard garden that has yet to bloom – and all of it is beautiful.

I didn’t realize spirit was on the outside too.

I am still aware of the pain and fear that dampened my world for so many years – the constant gnawing inside – sometimes a low hiss other times a bone-crunching intensity. This is the pain and fear we all experience.

That pain and fear forces our growth. It insists we find a way to solve it, to move beyond. Leaving it behind takes work, daily effort. That effort takes practice, experiments in grace, and the risk of entertaining the stupid belief that life can be welcoming, healthy, and beautiful.

Once the spirit begins to grow inside, the outside reflects the glow.

I see that beauty on the outside now, in the dazzling world of wood and leaves, on the streets that used to seem so vicious, in everyone’s eyes. And the rushing vitality outside reflects again back through me.

I am not Pollyanna. I know there is much work to do in this world. But there is so much more that I can do now that I see the world as worthy and pain and fear no longer cloud my vision.

Spirit Looking Through My Eyes

As time passes it becomes clear that I am seeing the world as spirit. The “me” looking out through my eyes has changed.

For many years, I invested myself in a world that didn’t seem like spirit at all. I tried to fit into the world, to make my way, to find love and love others, to be a good partner, a caring dad, to learn the workings of the world and help where I could. Those intentions were fine. I cherished them.

But the insecurity of falling short over and over was unbearable. And we cannot help but fall short.

The insecurity brought dread and self-loathing. I tried to sooth those painful feelings with alcohol. It worked for a while, but alcohol only works for a while. Then it quits working. After that, it produces its own dread and self-loathing.

I tried to wrestle peace out of the darkness of a world without spirit. A fool’s errand. There is no peace in darkness. I fell further and further behind in my goal of being a decent person.

Thank heavens a crash came. The crash was inevitable. It was my health. And surprisingly, it came with an overwhelming feeling of relief and a final, “OK, I give up.”

Surrender was all I had left, but I had no idea that surrender was a door, the only door. My surrender was followed quickly by healing. It was surrender and healing, over and over, day after day.

Once I was back on my feet – a bit wobbly – it was clear I had become a different creature. Something else was looking out through my eyes. And the world I saw had become a spiritual place. Now I know that it had been spiritual all along. My eyes were finally seeing the truth.

A friend observed that my spiritual awakening was not intentional. Indeed it was not. It came through a life-threatening health crisis. Nor can I credit myself for my recovery. Recovery came through medical science and sustained sobriety. I can’t even credit myself for the sobriety. When I awoke into this new world, all desire for mind-altering substances was gone.

So I can’t say follow my path. Please don’t. But I can say, the world is a spiritual place to the eyes that look out through me to the world. It’s a spiritual place for you as well.