Let’s consider the words “spiritual” and “awakening,” as a helpful start to exploring the topic of spiritual awakening symptoms. Awakening is described as the action of waking up or rising from sleep. 

The word “spirit” is from the Latin word which means to breathe, to blow, to inspire, and to live. Stop for a moment to consider these integral and potent words! Breath is what animates us. Are we truly living, and how might spirit guide and benefit us?

“Death is not the greatest tragedy in life. The greatest tragedy is what dies inside us while we live. We need not fear death. We need fear only that we may exist without having sensed something of the possibilities that lie within human existence.”

-Norman Cousins

Origins of spiritual awakening terminology

We often use “spirit” more generally to refer to intangible human aspects such as our thoughts or beliefs, or our mind, feelings, character, and soul. Some synonyms for “spiritual” include psychical, transcendent, mystical, numinous, and metaphysical. “Spiritual” can also be used in a religious context, about the sacred, holy spirit, divine, and devotion.

“Spiritual awakening could be defined as inspired and super ordinary, quality living.”

-Janet Wakelin

Spiritual awakening may be experienced as a slowly growing spiritual awareness, or take the form of a vivid, new, and spontaneous awakening of consciousness and Beingness—a deeper, all-encompassing, cosmic, life-transforming, “light bulb moment.” We refer to this in recent times as enlightenment. Someone who has “moved into the light,” or is centered in divine energy, is a presence of tranquillity, clarity, insight, and wisdom. 

Originally, the term “enlightenment” is from the European Enlightenment movement of the 17th and 18th centuries, which emphasized reason. Westerners have come to associate the term with yoga, meditation, and the ancient practices of Hinduism (over 4000 years old) and Buddhism (over 2500 years old). We use it more generally to describe the transcendent spiritual state called “nirvana” reached by Gautama Buddha, and “moksha” or becoming one with Brahman, the supreme God force present within all things, in the Hindu tradition.

Did you know that spiritual awakening and enlightenment are present too in the world’s more recent and most followed religions, Christianity and Islam? To find out more, consider exploring the writings of the Christian mystics and the Sufi mystics, on becoming one with God, the Beloved, or Divine Presence.

One went to the door of the Beloved and knocked.

A voice asked, “Who is there?”

He answered, “It is I.”

The voice said, “There is no room for Me and Thee.”

The door was shut.

After a year of solitude and deprivation he returned and knocked.

A voice from within asked, “Who is there?”

The man said, “It is Thee.”

The door was opened for him.

-Rumi (13th-century Persian poet and Sufi mystic, 1207 – 1273)

Life’s adventures and more often challenges prompt us human beings to question life and why we are here. This can be the start of a spiritual awakening journey. Some of the triggers will be discussed a bit later on in this article. 

Keys to spiritual growth, health and the awakening process is a gradual stilling of the usually incessantly busy mind and thoughts, leading to deep silence immersion, and the integration or uniting in Presence—use the name you are comfortable with for God, such as Divine Presence, Great Spirit, etc. For some this stilling can be an uncomfortable and even frightening experience, especially for those of us caught up in obsessive-compulsive thinking.

The part of your mind responsible for its sense of I-me-my personal and individual identity is the ego or small self. Being attached to this identity stimulates judgmental, fear-based thinking, usually about what happened in the past, and or what may happen in the future. 

We make spiritual progress when we become the observer and practice letting go of these fracturing thoughts. Our minds become still and the ego quietens and dissolves. In an increasingly centered more peaceful space, we feel our constricted heart-center relax and open, and we release, merging into the infinite spaciousness and eternal embrace of Divine Presence. 

Some on the spiritual journey experience the first spiritual awakening signs of inner stillness and spaciousness with shock. People describe feeling as though they were “tripping” on psychedelics as their thoughts began to still, and some feared they were dying—so habituated to our busy thoughts we are. 

With regular spiritual practice, we become more comfortable with the growing spaces between our thoughts and eventually surrender in Presence. I have found it helpful at the start of my meditation, to use a visual, or opening phrase like “Rest in God who is Love,” or “Rest in Love’s Presence,” or simply “Rest in Love.” I share this vocally to commence a group meditation, and or silently as an individual, internal invitation.

When and how spiritual awakening may occur is not a fixed process with a timeline like baking bread. It’s in growing inner stillness and heartful spaciousness that Spirit guides us, and in God’s time, we may receive the sacred eternal kiss of spiritual enlightenment.

Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; Who looks inside, awakes.

-Carl Jung

Recognizing the initial signs of a spiritual awakening

The first sign of a true spiritual awakening experience often starts with questioning why you are here, and whether this is all there is to life! Usually, because of some measure of challenge in your current circumstances, inner turmoil, or sheer heartbreak. 

These reflections can prompt a lifetime’s journey of becoming aware of your patterns and choices. Initial confusion, negative emotions, and past experiences may surface that you may have forgotten, or thought you had left behind…

Recognizing that ego fear-based overthinking has been causing you endless suffering can be a relief, but also frustrating. Especially if it has controlled key life choices, and resulted in “lost opportunities” on your life journey.

The shifts in you can create a feeling of disconnection from friends and family who don’t know what planet you are on which can lead to inner and outer conflict. Realizing that unconscious patterns have been repeated in your family, likely generationally, can all be painful and difficult to process. 

You may find yourself experiencing the stages of grief. What helps is to avoid blaming, and re-mind yourself that people are only able to respond according to their level of awareness and consciousness. We are not responsible for waking others up. Awakening happens when someone is ready.

As you spend more time centering, uniting, or communing in Presence, a recalibration takes place energetically and you become more heartful and peaceful. As you navigate on your new feet and path, you communicate less reactively and more lovingly, authentically, and constructively.

Spiritual awakening shifts a person’s thinking, beliefs, values, behavioral patterns, and lifestyle. It could be considered a rebirthing process.

What triggers a spiritual awakening?

Triggers of the spiritual awakening process are as diverse and individual as we are. Here I look at what may help to elicit a conducive inner space for spiritual awakening. There is no specific timeline in which a spiritual awakening can be said to occur.

“When you succeed in awakening the Kundalini, so that it starts to move out of its mere potentiality, you necessarily start a world that is totally different from our world. It is the world of eternity.”

– Carl Jung

Examples of spiritual awakening triggers might look like the following:

  • Difficult past experiences and negative emotions associated with losing a loved one, the fear of death, dealing with a terminal illness, losing a job, and financial insecurity can prompt us to question the meaning of life and why we are here. Dealing with emotional pain, fear, and great loss, can reach a point of seemingly overwhelming breakdown, and prompt us to explore new ways of living and being, that lead to a breakthrough
  • We might notice that some people navigate challenges more graciously, wearing life as a “lose garment” while others are crippled by similar trials and the drama of life, remaining stuck for long periods. This may prompt us to explore our patterns… which is the start of the spiritual awakening.
  • Time in nature. Have you found yourself in such deep and all-consuming awe and appreciation of our spectacular natural world, that you experience an in-the-moment, infinite embrace? On daily, fresh, early morning walks with my precious retriever, I pause reverently before fragrant flowers. I gently lean in, close my eyes, and slowly and deeply inhale into my being, savoring the exquisite fragrance and beauty… merging into the timeless Eternal Kiss.
  • Becoming aware of each of the senses allows us to “drop” into our bodies. Following the breath, and then with awareness of the beating heart. Be the observer of occasional thoughts, as they appear, then return attention gently back to the heartbeat or breath. We surrender (thy will be done) to resting in stillness (be still and know that I am God, who is Love). Spacious awareness grows as we rest in Love’s heart-opening unifying Presence.
  • The dark night of the soul, famously written about by the 16th-century Spanish mystic and poet, Saint John of the Cross, in which he describes his spiritual crisis and journey towards union with God. A dark night of the soul can last months or years…
  • Mindfulness as a practice is about being in the present moment. I am a human being, Being moment to moment with what I am doing. I AM conscious awareness, open-hearted presence, attending to my day. When I slip from mindfulness, I become a human doing, on “auto-pilot” physically completing one task while mentally racing on preoccupied with what is yet to be done in the future, or wasn’t achieved in the past… usually with added commentary, judgments, blaming and a lot of resistance… unaware of what I am doing, burning my fingers on the bread tin triggers presence! Whew helpful re-minder. When trying to extract yourself from an overly busy mind and thoughts, a useful step is to become the observer of your thoughts, and then gently grow the spaciousness between thoughts, and rest in Presence.
  • Guided visualizations are a useful way to still the mind and enhance focused attention and then lead into meditation.
  • There are many styles of yoga (which means “union”, of individual consciousness with God or Higher Consciousness). Practicing yoga involves movement, breathing, and meditation techniques. These require attention and awareness, which can help to trigger awakening.
  • A kundalini awakening is another example of a spiritual awakening. Kundalini yoga is a set of practices called kriyas that work to awaken the dormant kundalini energy at the base of the spine and channel it upwards through the chakras or energy centers, to the top of the crown. There are seven main chakras are the root chakra, sacral chakra, solar plexus chakra, heart chakra, throat chakra, third eye chakra, and crown chakra. The kriyas create a flow of energy and this balances our chakras and energetic bodies, awakening kundalini. Each chakra has specific attributes, and should any of the chakras become imbalanced you may experience physical or emotional symptoms specific to that chakra.
  • Kriya yoga, as taught by Paramahansa Yogananda, works with postures, energy, chakras, and breath control. See the Self-Realization Fellowship founded by him in 1920.
  • Religious retreats or pilgrimages may be opportunities for awakening. Retreats are the perfect opportunity to be “Be still and know that I am God”, from the Bible, Ps 46:10. Taking time away from normal day-to-day activities to spend in contemplation and God’s Presence gives us opportunity to personally experience and know God. Religious pilgrimages too can trigger spiritual awakening. This is becuase we are more likely to be aware and present when we travel to new and unfamiliar places, and we are more inclined to be in open-hearted gratitude, awe and devotion, which all enhance the opportunity for spiritual awakening.

When you are present in this moment, you break the continuity of your story, of past and future. Then true intelligence arises, and also love.

– Eckhart Tolle

10 Examples of Spiritual Awakening Symptoms

These are some signs you might be experiencing spiritual awakening symptoms.

  • Open-hearted, centered connectedness, Being (in Presence), walking in Spirit – feelings of connection, with others and nature.
  • Clarity of inner space and in dealing with self and others (wisdom and discernment).
  • Increasing awareness of and following intuition.
  • Increasing awareness of synchronicities and what these may be presenting.
  • Compassion – to be there for and with the “other” (people, creatures, and planet), moved so completely that we are compelled to respond.
  • In Presence (Love) all is connected, all is One (in and beyond space and time). What I do to myself, I do to the earth and others. What I do to the earth and others, I do to myself. It is the principle of first do no harm, walking lightly on the earth, or living heartfully, with heart-centeredness.
  • A holistic approach to body, mind, and soul health. Presence inspires loving, healthy choices. Our choices shift naturally and effortlessly as a result of recalibrating in Presence, and Being, light-heartedness boosts our immune systems.
  • A growing expansive inner peace, and reducing mental noise, inner dissonance, and stress associated with fear-based controlling behavior, judgment, unforgiving, attachment, and living in the past and future. The mind is used rather as a tool to accomplish tasks.
  • Equanimity, calmness, and composure, especially in difficult situations.
  • Enhanced energy, general wellbeing, and radiance. When we are Present, we are in flow with cosmic energy which is the life force that exists everywhere.

The awakening process is just the beginning to embodying deeper levels of spiritual connectedness

Spiritual awakening has been available to humans for thousands of years. Could its purpose be both individual and collective, part of our evolution?

Prehistoric evidence of religion and rituals dates back to the Middle Paleolithic era, 45 to 200,000 years ago. Along the coast of South Africa, rock art that depicts abstract thinking dates back 80,000 years ago. Could each of the world’s religions originally have come about as a result of and as avenues for spiritual awakening? 

One of the main schools of thought on the evolutionary psychology of religion is that religion evolved due to natural selection and has a selective advantage…

The arts often reflect and fulfill an evolving need in society. In recent decades there has been a proliferation of superheroes in science fiction and fantasy films. These stories often contain underlying spiritual truths, the triumph of light over dark, love over fear and anger, and the enlightened ones saving our beautiful world. 

People consume these films for action, adventure, and perhaps inspiration. Are they aware of the messages and spiritual teachings being conveyed? In the music world, Coldplay has sold over 100 million albums worldwide, possibly the most successful group of the 21st century. Their colorful visuals include extensively using the flower of life, and their lyrics are often spiritual, as they encourage their millions of followers to “Believe in Love.”

What solutions are there to the mounting challenges being faced by humanity, which is constantly fed fear instilling messages of doom and gloom by the media and elsewhere? 

Has what we thought would bring us success and happiness, such as the consumerist model, delivered on its promises or fueled our addictive need for distraction? What aspects of high-tech are benefiting humanity and the planet—are we depending on neural implants and AI to save the day? Have we forgotten that humans too are a species and that our well-being may be linked to that of our natural world? For how much longer will we keep expecting that external human-made “solutions” will bring us deeper meaning, health, joy, peace, and love?

The definition of insanity could be doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Perhaps the appeal of following a spiritual path is becoming increasingly attractive and necessary, as a means to ending human suffering, and to grow and progress towards fulfilling our highest potential. It seems, driven by fear, anger, ego, and greed, we are leaving a trail of destruction, hurting ourselves, each other, and the planet, our home. Perhaps the seemingly heightened challenges and pressure of “these times” is catalyzing a needed mass individual and collective spiritual consciousness awakening and evolution. Lives and actions guided by and in Presence are Love’s inspiring, healing and unifying work.