Becoming spiritually awakened for most people is not a one-time experience and forever after they are awakened and free. People have Near Death Experiences, enlightening dreams, visitations of relatives from the other side, meditation and prayer experiences which uncover their normal awareness to a state of vast brilliant light, a love without end, a realm of being with no observer, only intimacy and freedom beyond words. The experiences are so real that there is no doubt about their authenticity. Everyone who has a spiritual awakening knows there is much more then our normal everyday reality. There is God. I, as vast and pure awareness continues long after body and personal story in this life comes to an end.
These experiences can be very vivid, foremost in one's mind for months and years afterward. Nevertheless most people who have a spiritual awakening find themselves back in the old shell of their personality, challenged physically and socially like everyone else. An experience of spiritual awakening can be a bright light exposing our normal thoughts and feelings. We may see more clearly our usual selfishness, desires to be comfortable, and everyday worries. Knowing the great love does not make love one's entire reality. The everyday world can still live around and very much within after a spiritual awakening. The experience of the Divine does not take away one's humanness but for many highlights it. The inability to integrate how human we are and how divine we are can lead to a state of depression.
Many people after a near death experience report their reluctance to leave Heaven to return to normal life. As one lady simply but accurately stated in her refusal to return to Earthly life, "People are not nice there!" This is an understatement to say the least. Another person finally agreed to return after understanding the other side had no chocolate. There are somethings of real value in being human. The contrast between Heaven and Earth for those who have experienced both can be too much. How does mind and heart carry the experience of Paradise and human suffering? For many, they do not. The weight of this world and weightlessness of who we really are, can lead to depression.
Certainly the power of knowing God is real, feeling life's essence, understanding the pure love is who we really are, is a life changing event. The imprint cannot be erased. In the course of normal life with a partner, child, enjoying beauty in any form can be similar inspirational events. When our mental life is turned down and the volume of the heart is turned higher the realm of peacefulness, a connectedness with no borders, no resistance, the experience of letting go, falling into waves of love can be present. The contrast of love's power and everyday loneliness can however be a separateness too difficult to overcome. Depression can be an inability to express one's self whether human or Divine.
The contrast trying to play the game of life, doing, achieving, and having success while knowing meanwhile love is the ultimate reality can be confusing, conflicting, and tying heart and mind into knots.
Awakening experiences often happen when we are vulnerable, our defenses are lowered, or literally when brain activity stops. People think to stay in that awakening experience or return to it, they must live in an altered state. How do they do this and take care of everyday life?
Meanwhile after a spiritual awakening priorities are questioned, goals change, life can profoundly turn upside down. Work, relationships, so many paths become choices. What is important in life? Knowing love is all that matters does not necessarily give us a life of love. Sincere effort, prayer, surrender, understanding, compassion, and every other tool in the human potential box do not necessarily give us the life we want.
Managing an inner life which knows a great love and an outer life which can be anything but loving is a bridge too far for many. They fall down in between the two vastly different worlds. Many give up on being awakened. They are overwhelmed just managing life itself. Others try throwing themselves into their inner world while their daily world falls apart. Neither solution brings inner peace or well being. Depression can be the result.
To meet the challenge of depression after a spiritual awakening requires a new foundation in life. The first corner stone is a life of choosing joy, daily joy, simple joy, yes fun, freedom -- moment to moment receiving the beauty in life. As spiritual awakening brings us to the present, it is easier to be present as we make everyday choices of joy. Relationships, activities, work, and play which nourish our heart and the hearts of others, nourish our awakening. As joy becomes a corner stone in life so does our spiritual awakening.
A second corner stone for continuing our awakening is a meaningful spiritual practice. The awakening experience can be connected to in meditation. Meditation can be a Near Death Experience without the drama. The overwhelming love we found in awakening is within us. Awakening shows us when our worldly self is put aside, our inner self, the world of our heart is more present. In meditation we can free ourselves of our busy mental world by bringing our awareness to the world of our heart. The peace and quiet of the heart is the same peace and quiet discovered in spiritual awakening. Time for heartfully being instead of mentally pressed to be doing is important. In the silence, we can be free of the cultural lack of love around us while absorbing the silence, the vast love is found within us. The brilliant light found in spiritual awakening does not require us to die to be in the light. Spiritual practice is a daily receiving and absorbing our awakening experience, in our awareness, meditation, and letting it spread in every aspect of our lives.
The third corner stone for our new life is heart full community. Instead of hiding our awakened self or living in fear of being judged, we want community which embraces and supports our awakening. So often friends can be competitive instead celebrating our light inwardly and the joy we find in the world. Our lightness of being wants to be in the world with others enjoying the lightness of being in everyone. Usually this is found in a meditation community which is less dogmatic and more heart based. Aciste is a well respected organization bringing people with spiritual awakening experiences together for community and support.
And finally the fourth corner stone for the awakened life is offering, giving ourselves to those around us. Almost all who have experienced life after death found the most important aspect to this life is what of ourselves we give to others. Service is not only in the big things we help organize and do but very much in the small moments we are present, receiving, and giving to one another. Joy, spiritual practice, community, service give us the foundation for the awakened life to build and blossom in a world that has so few gardens.
In truth we all are awakened. And we all live in an overly mental world that covers our light. To live beyond the lonely corridors of the mind calls us to live more consciously in the hallways and grand castles of the heart. Without our inner garden honored and cared for, the world we live in is indeed depressing. The gardens call us. The little flowers of life are the rain of Heaven nourishing us and everyone.
Bruce Davis is spiritual director of Silent Stay, a non profit silent retreat center near Napa, California supporting people who have had experiences of spiritual awakening.