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Awakening is a unique journey that can only be experienced. The closest description I can come up with is that it feels like finally seeing the true colors of the world for the first time after having taken off a pair of tinted glasses that was tied around your eyes since birth.
As you are running down the path with enthusiasm, you realize just how magnificent everything is and you are eager to inhale all its beauty. You long to find all the treasures you never thought were there, and every time when you find something and hold it in your hands to examine its intricate details, you remember it is something you’ve left behind long ago. In fact, the entire journey looks familiar.
Eventually, it dawns on you that this is the path that takes you back to your true origin and the further you go, the more illuminated your path becomes until you see an infinite number of paths all around you and billions of souls traveling at their own pace back to the same place, a place that has birthed the light.
With the excitement of finally starting a new chapter in the journey comes a series of challenges and confusions that can be overwhelming. After all, rebirth is never without its labor pains and some can be quite intense to the point of making us wonder whether this is worth it.
There is no “one size fits all” formula or linear path that works for every individual; however, these are some steps that can be taken to ease the impact of the speed bumps. Usually, the more out of alignment we are prior to awakening, the more intense the journey can be felt on all levels because there is much that needs to be unlearned.
It is a journey of letting go and home coming.
Step 1. Acknowledgement
“Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one area I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realized, and I was still alive….And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” – J.K. Rowling
Many would describe one of the triggers of the awakening process is hitting rock bottom. The common feelings accompanying this step are often depression, anger, despair and loneliness.
It can be a dark period of time when we feel no matter how much we try, we continue to slam our faces against the cold brick floor of the pit we have fallen into. We condemn life and everything in it believing it has all been a mistake and we have reached an end.
It is only when we can acknowledge the defeat of the existing paradigm will we be able to liberate ourselves from it and awaken to our true nature. When we are faced with our greatest challenges and darkest moments after having failed to change what is outside of ourselves, we often are left with only one choice - taking the journey inward and changing ourselves.
As difficult as this step is, being in a place in the absence of what we desire in life be it love, joy or fulfillment becomes the motivational factor that pushes us to journey within to a sacred place where higher wisdom can be accessed.
This step is the starless dark night before dawn and the ferocious storm before the rainbow. Many refer to it as the dark night of the soul.
As debilitating as the step is, underneath the pain is tremendous love and grace that allows us to journey back to who we truly are if we choose to, but the journey must be taken outside of the mind and existing beliefs.
The more we can question every belief we hold onto and see beyond the thin veil separating what’s real and what’s illusive, the more we will be able to see our existing system as a mirage created by others around us to maintain a facade of this dream state.
We begin to realize just how heavy our baggage is from carrying and living those beliefs that we have internalized from our caretakers, teachers, peers and culture without ever questioning whether they represent who we are.
Eventually, we begin questioning ourselves, “If I am who I thought I was, who am I?”
Step 2. Trust
“Faith is trust. Faith is a deep sense of connectedness with Being.” – Eckhart Tolle
Trusting that all will work out for the greatest good when nothing seems to be is a crucial step in the process of awakening. It can also be one of the most frightening steps because it requires a giant leap of faith.
Personally, I feel it is the catch-22 of awakening. We simply cannot move forward without at some point making a deliberate choice of being willing to let go of any and everything. However, without knowing how long the tunnel is and whether we will ever see the light at the end, we hesitate with each step because we are consumed by fear of possibly making the wrong move hence losing everything we’ve ever worked for.
This step always involves much fear of change.
As miserable as we may be with certain aspects of our lives and as much as we yearn for the better, we are so used to things being one way that we fear once we change, we will change for the worse and end up with regrets. This is why we often choose to stay in failing relationships and careers. We tell ourselves we’ve invested too much in something, that the only way we may change it is if we are guaranteed some kind of success while that very belief keeps us trapped in less than satisfying circumstances for years and decades.
Everything in life is energy that flows to us and from us. When we refuse change, we are placing roadblocks to limit or stop the energy flow and eventually causing stagnation in life force energy. Blocked energy in our bodies creates dis-ease while stagnant energy in our lives creates distressing situations. When we say to ourselves we are stuck and we are not moving forward, we are essentially referring to the lack of energy flow.
The truth is, we are change and life is change. In 1 year, 98% of the subatomic particles in our bodies will be different, yet we continue to attempt to hold onto the same beliefs and expectations by imprisoning ourselves in the cages we build with them. By choosing not to change, we are ultimately still choosing and that choice comes from fear.
Awakening requires us to shed our caterpillar skins so we may emerge as butterflies, and trusting the process of metamorphosis is an absolutely necessary step to awaken. Underneath every fear is a dream waiting to blossom and a wish waiting to be fulfilled.
In order to wake up, we must trust enough to take the red pill. That leap of faith is a trade-off with the divine intelligence in the universe. To remember and claim the greatest gift we each have - the gift of our ability to consciously create, we must first give something in return, and that is our very doubt in that creative power.
The journey of awakening is nothing but a process of giving back everything that is not us so we can travel with the lightness of who we really are.
Remember, life begins once we step out of our comfort zone.
We may ask ourselves at this point, “How is my fear holding me back from living the life I desire?”
Step 3. Allowing
“The wound is where the Light enters you.” - Rumi
We all have wounds. Prior to awakening, it is tempting to cover them up with bandages so we can present ourselves to the world as whole and perfect based on the world’s expectations.
When we finally come to the realization that we have been dragging others’ baggage all along and realize the wounds have never healed from being covered up, anger is usually a common response.
It is easy to slip into a phase of judging and blaming ourselves and others for the flawed lives we have lived. We begin to see problems in everyone and everything. Our families, friends, media, society and often times ourselves all seem to represent sources of our pain. More often than not, we are so eager to shed the disempowering beliefs that we couldn’t purge them fast enough.
The risk of finger pointing is that we can easily slip back into the old victimhood except instead of being the victims with blindfolds on, now they have come off to reveal to us the dungeon we believe we are in.
Some of us during this time will turn to teachings of law of attraction without first having taking care of the baggage. We convince ourselves in order to attract what we desire in our lives, we must raise our vibration to that which matches what we seek. As a result, we attempt to bypass all the intense emotions of awakening which is equivalent to introducing new expensive Italian furniture into a packed house that has never done spring cleaning.
The emotions we are bombarded with when we take the first few steps to awaken are part of the journey, and must be processed and integrated before we continue.
If we try to resist by judging, denying or repressing any of them, we are still reacting to them and identifying with them which essentially means we are placing ourselves at the mercy of those beliefs we so desperately want to get rid of.
Know that the reason we may still be categorizing emotions into good/bad, positive/negative, acceptable/non-acceptable is because we have been conditioned to attach beliefs to the entire spectrum of emotions that are otherwise natural to us.
This is the time to allow ourselves to feel without judgment or resistance. We can do so by journaling, talking to our emotions, practicing sitting with our emotions to understand their language, and inviting all parts of ourselves to participate in our meditations.
By being fully present with all emotions and sitting with them, we are beginning to step into our own power of being conscious creators.
The question we may ask is, “What are my emotions trying to tell me?”
Step 4. Acceptance
“I don’t let go of my thoughts - I meet them with understanding. Then they let go of me.” – Bryon Katie
The Golden rule is, We cannot disown anything before we own it.
If we pick and choose what we wish to accept be it an aspect of ourselves or a person in our lives, we are only shining the flashlight in one corner of the room and leaving the rest of it in the dark. It is only when we have the courage to turn on the light fully and see all there is to see in front of us without looking away can we truly decide which ones no longer speak to who we are.
As our emotions are being processed, more and more clarity begins to surface to guide us in being selective with our thoughts, company we keep and experiences we wish to have.
It may be tempting for us to judge parts within us that we do not like, or judge others for being in deep slumber and engaging in activities we do not agree with. We may get judged by others for being different. We may even feel the urge to persuade others to awaken so they can lift the thin veil between the dream state and reality.
It is important for us to understand that the journey of awakening is an inbound journey that involves individual souls remembering who we are through divinely placed and timed circumstances that are specific to each one of us; hence even if some of us are lucky enough to share it or travel parts of it with others, ultimately, the journey is unique to each individual as no two paths are alike. Just as we cannot rush a bud to blossom, we are not helping anyone by attempting to rush them to awaken or judge them for choosing to be asleep.
What we can do is to accept all there is with love and see the perfection in everything.
To clear a common misconception, acceptance has nothing to do with agreeing to or condoning anything that is not aligned with who we are and seeing the perfection does not mean forcing ourselves to glorify things and calling them fabulous when they are not. Rather, by accepting, we are dropping our stories of how our experiences and people around us should be, hence freeing ourselves from fear attachments and whatever actions we decide to take from there emerge from a much higher vibration and clearer understanding.
This step, like all others, is simple but not necessarily easy.
For those who have experienced trauma at the hands of others, even the concept of accepting certain people or past events without judgment and anger is simply inconceivable.
After the ending of my 8-year abusive relationship, I held onto the trauma for another decade and it was evident to me that my wounds were never fully healed when I had to take sedatives to fall asleep night after night without ever skipping a dosage. I made up stories and excuses to either condemn or justify why it happened so I could work through the forgiveness; the person went from a monster to someone who deserved pity as I continued to assign him new identities which secured my attachment to the very thing I tried to heal.
Eventually, I dropped my role of the storyteller and I met my past with acceptance and understanding—it happened and the person was who he was. When I accepted that what I thought shouldn’t have happened happened because it did and no amount of inner dialogue about the person or experience would change it, it transformed my life and spontaneous healing took place that led to instantaneous recovery of the natural sleep that eluded me for 14 years.
It is easy to mistaken acceptance with passivity especially if we are still in a situation where harm is being done to us. Acceptance is the opposite of taking no action, committing to no change, agreeing with and inviting abuse as well as denying our pain which are all fear responses of non-acceptance.
Rather, to accept means to not argue with what is so we can convert the tremendous energy we spend in opposing reality to healing and rebuilding our lives in the present moment whether it is to leave an abusive relationship or stand up for ourselves in a situation. When we accept life and open the space within us, inspired action arises.
When we can embrace all parts without labeling, when we can see the perfection in everyone and everything, we are in a powerful position to forgive, release and heal.
A question we may ask while going through this step is, “What stories am I telling that are keeping me from moving forward?”
Step 5. Releasing
“Enlightenment is a destructive process. It has nothing to do with becoming better or being happier. Enlightenment is the crumbling away of untruth. It's seeing through the facade of pretense. It's the complete eradication of everything we imagined to be true.” ― Adyashanti
It is only after we have allowed and accepted every aspect of our lives can we finally make the decision to keep, or let go of certain people and patterns based on who we desire to be rather than who we thought we had to be. If we try to release a pattern or belief out of fear, that energy only acts to strengthen the bond between us and that which we seek to dismiss.
The step of releasing can take place simultaneously with the other steps. This is a rather chaotic step and is often referred to as “ego death.”
Initially, it can resemble a demolition project in which drastic changes are made and we go from changing jobs to letting go of relationships within a short period of time with little care about what others think. There may still be fear lingering but it cannot match our enthusiasm to finally live differently as we taste the sweetness of liberation.
Our decisions are influenced and fueled by our desire to be and do all that was once held back by our own fears in the past.
Suddenly, our new and lighter vibration begins to attract like-minded individuals from unexpected places and teachers begin to appear out of nowhere. We are also likely to notice divine synchronicity and all those perfectly timed events, resources and people just pop up when we ask for them!
This step is an intimate dance between pain and joy, destruction and reconstruction, confusion and clarity, and despair and hope.
On some days when we feel everything has come crashing down and we have absolutely nowhere to hide, somewhere in the middle of the most violent storm, there is a glimpse of hope that lights up like a beacon and the light cannot be extinguished by the waves.
Eventually we come to know that the beacon is our spirit guiding us to the shore. We become our own bridges of past and future anchored in this very present moment, inspired, or, in spirit.
One may ask the question, “Where am I going?”
Step 6. Integration
“If we imagine that we’re free of all labels, all separation, and all judgments about this world and the life inhabiting it, we can begin to understand oneness. The place we want to enter is of simply being. We can picture the Source of being as an energy that’s as available to us as is the sky. There’s no anger toward anyone or anything because everyone and everything is Spirit. This Spirit is God, our Source of being. We are it, and it is who we are.” – Wayne Dyer
At a certain point, we realize nothing needs fixing as nothing has ever been broken. Instead, we see the perfection of every moment in our timelines as we can look at our existence from a much bigger picture.
We know from a deeper place within us that even those who have caused us pain were beings who were intended for our paths to push us in this direction.
Everything, the good and the bad, the laughter and the sadness, everything has been orchestrated by divine intelligence that flows inside of us based on the energy of what we needed to master at the time.
A stream of dreams and aspirations fills us with endless inspiration. We no longer feel the void from those we have let go of because we understand it is only from this infinite space can we write the stories we desire to write. We know whenever we encounter a less than ideal situation in life, it is something that has been called forth by ourselves and we only need to go into that space within ourselves to call on the gentle wisdom. We rely less on others’ teachings and more on our inner resources.
Every once in a while, we may still notice the faint and weak voices from our old patterns trying to speak to us and we consciously choose to overwrite them. We see fear for what it truly is - an illusion as False Evidence Appearing Real. The echoes of our past surface few and far between, and when they do, we approach them with curiosity and understanding knowing no experience is innately positive or negative, it is only our perception that gives anything meaning.
We realize that the ego is not the enemy; it was only doing its job by trying to keep us alive on this dimension. Once we have remembered who we truly are, we can come to a compromise with the ego to allow it to do its part as needed without having to take over. The inner harmony allows us to blend all experiences we’ve ever had and we emerge with greater purpose.
As we are integrating all that is within us, we also experience a deeper connection with everything and everyone around us. We know that energetically, we are all connected as we have all come from the same source. We replace judgment with love; we honor differences but transcend division. Our decisions become driven by the knowing, “We are all one.”
The question may be, “How may I serve?”
Step 7. Gratitude
“The struggle ends when the gratitude begins. The search is over when the finding starts. And the finding is not a finding at all, but a creating. You cannot find what you have been struggling for, but you can create it. And the jump-start of creation is gratitude." – Neale Donald Walsch
Gratitude naturally arises when we approach the gate of non-duality on our journeys though it may appear much sooner in conjunction with any step towards awakening.
Heartfelt gratitude is more than an affirmation, a feeling or a prayer, it is a state of being.
That means it is no longer dependent on or conditional to what is happening in us and around us. It is a song and an eternal blessing we are immersed in no matter what we choose to focus our attention on.
We welcome and thank every person and experience that comes across our paths knowing there is a gift that we may choose to accept that will serve us in our evolution. We send gratitude to the ex-lover who “forced” us to remember how to love and value ourselves, to the boss who drove us to quitting that job and finally answering our calling, and to all the moments of tears and struggle for reminding us to step into our inner strength so we can make empowered choices.
The imperfections in life become perfections because we know even if they may not be apparent at the moment, they are here to invoke greater wisdom within us.
Gratitude is on the same vibration as love. Love is the highest vibration of the universe. It is the divine source, or life energy itself. We are all beings of love.
When we choose to live in gratitude, we are naturally aligning our creation with the very vibration of what we are made of. When we are gratitude, our every thought, word and deed is infused with this infinite creative life force energy that resides in everything in the universe. Our every expression declares and demonstrates who we know ourselves to be - love and Oneness, and from there, creation becomes effortless.
Gratitude allows us to let go of our need to control as control only stems out of the insecurities of our ego. When we allow our experiences to come from our Being and from gratitude, we are stepping into our true power of the creator role we have all chosen prior to this home coming journey.
The question for everything becomes, “What can I create that is a demonstration of love?”
Whether it seems obvious or hidden from us at the moment, we are all given the same creative power of free will. Our destinies are not written in the stars. The happenings in our external environment only reflect the conscious and unconscious choices we’ve made so far, and if something is not to our liking, it is only through inner work can we create a desirable outer reality that matches our own raised vibration.
Know that there is absolutely no destination or requirement in this human experience called life but only perfection wherever we are. The people, experiences and events in our lives at this very moment are exactly what we need to take the next step to create, demonstrate and declare to the world who we are based on the choices we make right here, right now.
We are here to experience every aspect of our infinite Being. We are life energy, manifested in physical form.