Sooner or later, we all get the feeling. We become particularly pensive, or look back and think, was that really me ten years ago, three years, or even a month ago? Could I have changed that much? There is a conscious awareness and recognition that something is different, in our priorities, our sense of responsibility, or the way we react to both the positive and negative actions of other people.
Experiences that may have seemed baffling reveal their meaning and our attitude changes toward them. We are surprised by a sense of lightness, clarity, and joy, see the extraordinary in things that went previously unnoticed, regain a sense of abandon and playfulness, and see true beauty not only in the philosophy and mechanism of life itself, but in the actual act of living each moment mindfully with one’s full heart and wisdom. We tire of the monotony and unreliability that the material world alone provides and are ready to rise up, find answers, and claim our right to happiness. The following list describes ten signs of spiritual awakening found in people who have chosen to conquer human limitations to reach the innate truth within.
1. Self Control
By not depending on sense experiences or the default influence of past habits, one can exert true free will and experience the inherent happiness of the soul. Whereas the norm is to act based on what one is accustomed to doing rather than following one’s true wishes, a spiritually committed person throws out bad habits that offer temporary pleasure before ultimately bringing suffering and chooses the lasting satisfaction of the spirit found through self-control.
A spiritual person’s willpower grows, exercising wisdom and good judgment supported by meditation and good company. In the book Man’s Eternal Quest, spiritual teacher Paramahansa Yogananda describes that while the effects of alcohol, drugs, and sex are temporarily exhilarating, they shut out spiritual power by intensely binding the mind to body consciousness. Many people turn to alcohol and drugs to cope with anxiety and unpleasant or sad memories, but this sort of avoidance hides the inherent soul wisdom needed to overcome trials and be lastingly happy. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali also speak of mastery over the senses, explaining it as true personal victory and freedom from body and mind. They teach that all people should build up power over the mind, never allowing it to fall back. This way, one becomes capable of anything and finds internal peace and joy that extends to the rest of society.
A spiritual awakening is cultivated by the willingness to learn and show understanding, striving for the well-being of others and contributing to the environment by setting an admirable example without speaking of one’s greatness. Once one realizes that the self is something far beyond the body, that the soul is a microcosm of the greater Spirit, one acts with the intention of being a vessel for this benevolent force to express itself. Rather than taking credit for good actions from an egotistical perspective, it is possible to present successes as offerings to the divine aspect of the self, holding gratitude rather than pride for the attributes and achievements one is blessed with. When thoughts are centered on the welfare of others, truth manifests.
3. Selfless, Unconditional Love
Love is the driving attractive force that gives life and purpose to existence. Spiritual Master Sri Yukteswar said that ordinary love is selfish and based on personal desires and gratification, while divine love is boundless, changeless, and unconditional. Spiritually awakened beings live in harmony with nature and other people, loving equally all humanity and holding compassion indiscriminately regardless of creed, nationality, deed, or any other boundary. Love entails great freedom, but comes only when the mind is quiet and selfless. Only love, mercy and goodwill developing in each individual can bring peace and stability at both a personal and global scale.
4. Calmness and Concentration
Spiritually-developed people have formed great powers of concentration to accomplish their goals. If one compares the true Self to the bottom of a lake, it is only visible when the ripples of thoughts have subsided and the water is tranquil. If the water is muddy or disturbed, the bottom cannot be seen. Events, memories, concerns, and desires all try to intrude ceaselessly throughout a person’s day. If thoughts are strongly attached to emotions, they are even more difficult to let go of. Concentration and meditation techniques train the mind to prevent restless thoughts from clouding and obstructing the experience of one’s true spiritual nature.
Part of spiritual awakening is mental freedom from possessions. By practicing non-attachment, one can enjoy things and perform material duties with a sense of service rather than of personal gain. The ego wants to cling to objects, ideas, youth, and other aspects of worldly experience; by letting go of these things gracefully when they have served their time, inner peace is strengthened.
Intuition is a resolute, unfailing source of wisdom and guidance to one who is receptive to its subtle advice. When one taps into this resource by surrender and daily meditation, one is able to hear and trust what the right course of action is to fulfill his or her best interests. Everyone has this quality and with increasing awakening and clarity, it becomes a fountain of growing insight and security.
Those committed to a spiritual path constantly examine themselves in order to make progress and implement necessary changes. Spiritual teacher J. Krishnamurti asserts that without knowing who one really is, there is no starting point for right thought so there cannot be transformation. By being aware in each present moment of one’s thoughts, intentions, and desires, one can begin to chisel away unwanted personal qualities and give life to new traits that lead to triumph over oneself.
With increasing spiritual understanding comes the wisdom to know with certainty the right course of action and the resolve to let nothing stand in the way of upholding a choice. This does not imply stubbornness or impulsiveness, rather a state of self-awareness that consists of staying true to convictions while having the humility to admit when one is wrong.
Everyone strives to be happy. One becomes devoted to the spiritual path ultimately to find an unchanging peace and bliss that is elusive in material things. Paramahansa Yogananda explains that one can never be truly and permanently happy until one seeks satisfaction in spiritual progress and avoids influences that inhibit this transformation. When it comes down to it, the absolute proof of spiritual awakening is real, unconditional, never-ending happiness.
In the end, one is individually responsible for his or her own habits, mistakes, and resolutions. Once the greater Self is found in the soul with devotion and faith, one attains freedom and life is truly beautiful. The Bhagavad Gita says, “Unattracted to the sensory world, the yogi experiences the ever-new joy of Being. His soul engaged in the union with Spirit, he attains indestructible Bliss.” Spiritual awakening is a major occurrence in the lives of people because it reveals a purpose for existence. To solve life’s labyrinth, to see the marvel in everyday experience, fulfill the soul’s craving for union, and ultimately find one’s way home is the true meaning of spiritual awakening.