Awake and the World is New

Sometimes we rouse from sleep slowly, grab a cup of coffee and nurse it quietly on a cool spring morning as the sun warms our skin. Other times, we jump out of bed and dash at the day, waking at full speed. Spiritual awakenings are no different. They can come as a gradual unfolding of light and understanding, or they can feel like a jolting breakthrough that disrupts everything.

I love the gentle percolation of the slow awakening. Years might go by gently on a soft plateau – a pastoral spirituality. I also love the thrill of getting rocketed from slumber.

There is a third way. Instead of a progression or journey from sleep to wakefulness, we might experience a different form of waking, where suddenly everything changes in the blink of an eye. There is no sensation of travel. It’s like a light gets switched on suddenly. Darkness goes away in an instant.

We travel a great distance from the old world to a fresh new world with no sense of movement. This has happened a few times in my life.

One day the world has a particular texture with specific challenges and pressures. The next day, the very nature of reality has shifted. The old physics no longer apply. We have become a new creature. We have to learn how to walk again, learn how to be in relationships again We have to discover who our friends are and who our family members are.

This sudden change is not isolating. I’ve found myself quickly surrounded by new friends or old friends who are now different, glowing in new light. Family members once distant are suddenly close. The world becomes warm and welcoming where it was once full of tension and difficulties.

I don’t know whether I changed or the world changed. But it was clear there was no going back, and the world had taken on a bright sheen that glowed down below the surface of everything.

Transformation Now

Or at least years from now.

Spiritual transformation happens slowly, and then all of a sudden. We might walk the path of spirituality for years before experiencing an out-of-nowhere change.

I have participated in many spiritual groups – book reading groups, meditation groups, “A Course in Miracles” groups. Many of my fellow members have been unsure of their spirituality. They learn the vocabulary but they don’t experience a personal change or a spiritual breakthrough. I watch people work at it for years, sincerely, and still they experience no discernable transformation. Things in their lives may improve slightly, but there is no dramatic psychic change.

Transformation makes its own plans and moves at its own speed. If the student is patient and determined, the transformation will occur and life will change — dramatically. It may come gradually with a glow or a hum. Or it may come suddenly in an instant when the very fabric of reality changes, and in the distance, you begin to hear voices singing.

When my children were young, we would catch tadpoles and bring them home to watch their transformation. They changed slowly. First a couple small stubs for back legs appeared. Those legs would slowly grow larger. Later, the front legs would appear. Even when the tadpole had four tiny legs, it still used its strong tail for swimming. But gradually the tail was absorbed by the body. Then one day, with its tail nearly gone, the frog would crawl out of the water and onto land.

The gradual transformation suddenly produced a new creature. The tiny frog would sit on the shore in its new skin, with their new lungs pumping air, and it wouldn’t move. This little creature seemed stunned by the sudden change. After a day or two, the frog would begin to crawl around in search of insects, its new nourishment.

Spiritual transformation is similar. We develop slowly, gaining metaphysical arms and legs so we can function as transformed creatures. But our lives may seem essentially the same for years. Then suddenly, we become the new creature, breathing new air with young new lungs. Seemingly out of nowhere, we are on to a new life, seeking new nourishment.

Spiritual evolution takes years. During those years, growth can seem so slow it’s imperceptible. But change does occur, and one day, we suddenly realize we are a new creature stepping into a new world.