What is Spiritual Awakening? How to Wake Up Without Religion

What is meant by the term ‘spiritual awakening’? What does it mean to ‘wake up’? Are there things you can do to make it happen?

On my page oneness – the ultimate healing experience I talk about how the the mystical experience of oneness can lead to instant transformation.

On this page, we’re going to delve deeper into what we actually mean by spiritual awakening and attempt to get to the heart of the matter in jargon-free language.

The thing is that so much spiritual teaching is shrouded in the mists of nominalisations (words like ‘enlightenment’, ‘nirvana’, ‘spirit’ etc.) that have no intrinsic meaning other than what we, as individuals, give them.

I want to attempt to see through the mists, using simple, everyday language, but without nullifying the sense of awe and mystery of spiritual awakening. It is, after all, a never-to-be-forgotten experience. You are forever changed afterwards.

To this day, more than ten years after my own spiritual awakening, the experience of oneness remains the key event of my life. I suspect now that it cannot be surpassed.

What you’ll read here is based on my own spiritual awakening experience in 2010 and the years of research I’ve carried out since…

spiritual awakening - sunlight pouring through tall green trees
Image: Pixpoetry

Spiritual awakening and the mystical state of oneness – a definition

It amuses me when I watch certain BBC programs here in the UK…

Just before the programs begin, the word ‘oneness’ sometimes appears on the screen. You see pictures of cats purring, or people together smiling and having fun as if this somehow depicts oneness. It doesn’t.

The type of experience I’m talking about here is not about hanging out together with your friends or singing ‘as one’ on the terraces of your favourite football team. Nor is it about ‘togetherness’ and ‘camaraderie’ that you might feel whilst pursuing a joint venture in a group.

Although these types of experiences can often connect you to others (an important emotional need) they don’t usually connect you to The Other. They don’t usually lead to spiritually transcendent experiences.

For Christians, The Other means God. Native Americans might refer to it as ‘Great Spirit’. In ancient China, it is referred to as The Tao. Hindu’s talk of Atman – the one eternal undifferentiated consciousness. Buddhists speak of enlightenment and nirvana.

Whatever the religion, beneath the layers of dogma, the main purpose is unity.

It is this state that gives rise to true spiritual awakening.

Spirituality without religious dogma

The Oxford English dictionary defines oneness as…

“…the state of being completely united with somebody/something, or of being in complete agreement with somebody.” How drab! How soulless!

The way I’m defining oneness here is this…

“Oneness is a felt-experience of merging with All That Is. It is where your individual consciousness becomes one with universal consciousness. Subject (you) become one with object (The Other). No separation. No duality. Everything becomes One.”

But how are we to achieve such a state? Is it worth the effort to even try? And what purpose does it serve?

You might think you need to be religiously orientated to have any chance of having such an experience. But years of praying, or meditating, or reading scriptures, or attending spiritual retreats are no guarantee of any type of transcendent experience.

What we’re talking about here is connecting up to something much larger than yourself – a bigger reality. Thus, an atheist – with a strong disbelief in concepts such as God – can experience oneness in nature or by immersing him or herself in the wonder of the universe. Spiritual awakening experiences don’t have to rely on your being ‘religious’. The experience can happen to anybody – someone with years of religious piety or a drunkard living in the gutter.

And it can happen out of the blue, as it did for me…

A direct experience of oneness

Ok, this is where I get personal and tell you a bit more about my direct experience of oneness…

I’ve written a little about it on my page ‘oneness – the ultimate healing experience‘ and my story was published in best-selling author, Steve Taylor’s, book ‘Spiritual Science’…

spiritual science by Steve Taylor

I won’t repeat myself here but want to go more into how I’ve come to an understanding about my own spiritual awakening experience throughout the years of research I’ve done since.

Why was I offered the hand of God? (I’m using the word here to mean ‘Bigger Reality – All That Is’ rather than a narrow, dogmatic belief about what God is; there is no bearded old man in the clouds orchestrating the universe).

But maybe there is an organising consciousness, something beyond ourselves that we are able to tap into occasionally – sometimes purposefully, such as in deep meditation or through the use of psychedelic medicines, and sometimes spontaneously when, like me, you’re just walking down the street.

Questions about spiritual awakening and oneness…

So, how and why did it happen to me? Had I done anything to help create it or increase my chance of having such an experience?

Perhaps my studying esoteric and ‘occult’ subjects from the age of 15 (Tarot, dreams, astral projection, ESP, altered states, hypnosis, mysticism and the like) had primed me to have a mystical experience (that occurred at the age of 42).

But if such experiences also happen by chance – a moment of Grace – why do they only happen to some people and not everybody? Remember, my experience happened whilst walking down a busy street. No sitting cross-legged for hours like the Buddha under a tree.

But we must take our questions further…

What, precisely, is happening during the mystical state?

If us humans are capable of such an experience, what purpose does it serve? Is there some ‘cosmic intelligence’ with an agenda? Is spiritual awakening part of human evolution? And what are we to do after the experience?

These questions haunted me for ten years until I stumbled upon the Hindu science of Advaita Vedanta. There I was, searching in the mind-body-soul section of my favourite ever secondhand bookshop – Treasure Chest Books in Felixstowe, Suffolk – when my eyes lighted on this…

the book of one - the spiritual path of advaita by Dennis Waite

The fourth state of consciousness

Suddenly I had some sort of answer! There was an explanation! I’d experienced something that mystics have harped on about for thousands of years.

In Advaita, they talk about a fourth state of consciousness – beyond waking, sleeping, and dreaming – referred to as ‘Turiya’. It is better known in the west as oneness: an experience of ‘pure consciousness’ where your individuality gets swallowed up and merges with The Other.

All and any pre-judgments you have, personal stories and conditioning, fears, anxieties, hopes and dreams – indeed, anything that defines you as an individual being – is gently enshrouded by the cloak of a super-consciousness. You become That.

So, after years of searching, I started to gather the pieces of this cosmic jigsaw and slot them into place…

Consciousness experiencing itself

It wasn’t until several years later, when I was helping guide someone’s Ayahuasca session – and we later spoke of ‘cosmic consciousness’ – that I fully understood what had happened during my oneness experience.

In simple terms – though which are still difficult to understand – I became consciousness witnessing itself. During the state of oneness, my individual consciousness (my ego/personality) and the ‘centre of my awareness’ (my Observing Self) connected to, and was then filled with, The Other.

Everything out there I saw through my eyes and felt in my heart was also ‘pure consciousness’. ‘Out there’ was also in here. Pure consciousness witnessing and experiencing pure consciousness.

There was no me and you. No me and it. No me and other/Other. No subject-object. The witnessing-I became One With All. What I witnessed, I was.


God as the ultimate state of consciousness

So, is this what we’re really talking about here? If we strip away the religious dogma of the last 2000+ years, could we ask whether the idea of God is really about a much greater consciousness?

Can we come to see God not as a thing or a noun, but more as a verb, a happening – an experience of a greater reality? An expansion of your individual ‘wave of being’ into the ‘ocean of beingness’?

And would this help us lay aside the religious fervour that has caused so much death and destruction over the centuries (and still does to this day)?

Can we consider a return to a more ‘cosmic’ religion that is at the heart of all religions?

The Coming of the Cosmic Christ by Mathew Fox

And if we can grasp this idea – and have the direct experience of it – what are we to do afterwards (on a personal and collective level)?

What do you do when you’ve stumbled upon the Holy Grail?

Spiritual awakening through unconditional love

During and after my spiritual awakening I felt more loving and altruistic towards everyone and everything. I became far more tolerant and empathic.

Even though the actual experience of oneness lasted only 20 minutes, the affects lasted several weeks. I felt closer to people, more connected to nature, everyday objects had a numinosity about them. Everything seemed more alive.

The state of oneness had shifted my ‘centre of being’ away from the person I was. To this day, over ten years on, I still don’t quite know where the old me went!

I can only assume it must be similar to what St Paul described during his ‘conversion experience’ on the road to Damascus.

“It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me…”

What causes spiritual awakening?

For myself, perhaps it was a result of becoming a father for the first time. In hindsight, I realised that one important aspect that could have triggered the mystical state was the feeling of unconditional love I felt as I pushed my baby son along in his pram.

Did my consciousness pick up on his? Was I detecting his feeling of love for everything as he lay in the pram? Is this what babies feel before they get conditioned by us and develop their own personalities?

And if so, how did that unconditional love then spread out to everything and everyone around me? (Or did the love come from The Other and into me?)

As you can see, there are still pieces of this cosmic jigsaw I’m trying to piece together.

Maybe I’ll never understand it fully. Maybe it is enough to have touched the hand of God/The Great Mystery/The Tao.

After finding the Holy Grail…

I feel blessed. But I know there is more to do…

You don’t leave the Holy Grail sitting gathering dust in a cupboard. But I won’t go preaching in the streets.

Perhaps it is enough that I’ve shared my personal account here. Maybe I’ll create a workshop where we could explore these ideas together? Or perhaps I’ll write a book?

One thing is for sure…

My spiritual awakening and those twenty minutes in the mystical state of oneness is something I’ll never forget. It will go with me into the next life.

I already know what heaven is.

Please share your spiritual awakening stories with me…

I hope you’ve found this article interesting and informative. If you’ve had spiritual awakening experiences and would like to share your story please get in touch.

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Three more great books on spiritual awakening

Steve Taylor’s The Leap – the psychology of spiritual awakening explores how and why these experiences happen and what they might mean. Like all of Steve’s books, this one is an excellent mix of spiritual ideas underpinned by psychological enquiry.

The Egoless Self: achieving peace and tranquillity beyond all understanding by Cardwell Nuckols is a simpler read, though nonetheless profound. Again, mine is covered in pencil scrawls and it’s worth a second reading to garner more insights.

And Tim Freke’s The Mystery Experience: a revolutionary approach to spiritual awakening had me spell bound a couple of summer’s ago! He draws upon ancient wisdom as well as sharing some of his own contemporary ideas, embracing science, philosophy, and spirituality.

Remember to check out my library of over 40 Books to Change Your Life if you’re interested in reading more about spiritual awakening and personal development.

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