The Path To Enlightment Is Always Under Construction:
Spiritual Emergence And The Awakening Process
By Lynne Namka, Ed.D./Get Your Angries Out
"The Truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable." - The Talmud
This is a hastening time for many of us. We, like Mother Earth, are in the process of our own healing. Individuals who are on a spiritual path are a microcosm of that much larger process that is happening on a planet level. As the vibrational changes stream into our planet, individuals are being quickened in spiritual growth. We are experiencing what has been called Earth Plane Anxiety! This is an intense time for those of us who clearly identify with being on a spiritual path as long-held attitudes and values are being challenged to push us on to further growth.
Psychological issues involving our past family history and present relationships are being heightened and brought to the forefront for clearance. We are being asked to make rapid changes in belief systems and behavior. Developing spirituality has been likened to peeling an onion to find the true core. As outer layer issues are cleared away in an individual, deeper psychological issues and concerns come forth literally reworking and restructuring the personality. The journey continues with the Higher Self presenting the unique and unusual experiences that the person needs to learn the lessons for which he has come.
Christine Grof describes spiritual emergence as non ordinary states of consciousness accompanied by unusual sensory and psychic experiences that represent evolutionary crises to help the individual elevate to a higher consciousness level. For some, reality is being shifted rapidly. It is as if some of us are being offered a chance to look at the "crack between the two worlds." Many people are currently walking between the two worlds as they undergo powerful mystical experiences and surrender to what Ken Wilber calls "remapping the soul to enlarge the territory." He describes the process as a disintegration of the lower levels of the self which are negated and transcended to move on to higher levels of consciousness.
According to recent surveys, over one third of the people in the U.S. have reported mystical experiences. Profound religious experiences may occur to provide a rapid elevation in consciousness. These experiences include voices, visions, telepathy, exaltation and ecstasy, Kundalini energy, channeling, paranormal abilities, near-death experiences, karmic experience and beliefs of possession. Fear may become paramount during these unusual experiences. Richard Moss says that the process may result into entering a spiral of fear that clouds the larger perspective. Looking into the process at a deep level is the way to cement the new found knowledge.
Authors in the field describe such fear producing experiences as themes of personal death, world destruction, being changed into the other sex, as well as inflated visions of being a savior. Going into the void to experience the "dark night of the soul" is the most profound theme. All images whether they are presented in dreams, meditations or visions are used to bring about a renewal or new birth in the individual and are part of his unique spiritual journey. Some people have intense experiences of a spiritual nature, but this can be a trap if not put in the proper prospective. This is NOT the time to attach to spiritual experiences and feel superior. Many of the spiritual traditions of the world warn against being carried away by positive revelations and mystical mind blowing experiences that the individual may encounter.
Emergence or Emergency?
Christina and Stanislaus Grof have described the concept of spiritual emergency as "non ordinary states of consciousness accompanied by various emotional, perceptual and psychosomatic manifestations." Spiritual emergency refers to an acute crisis which allows for the elevation of the person to a higher state of being. The purpose is to activate spiritual energies but often leaves the individual in a highly vulnerable state.
Hyper-ventilation techniques such as rebirthing or Grof's techniques of Holotrophic breathwork typically stimulates powerful emotional and psychic experiences that surface repressed material from the subconscious. Powerful spiritual experiences are also sometimes brought about by emotional stress, an illness or accident, childbirth, physical exertion or exposure to psychedelic drugs, music and repetitive activities or meditative practices. Some workshops and spiritual practices are designed to shake the individual's core beliefs thus opening up the way for new ways of thinking. However, a few workshops open up the person but do not have techniques or abilities to move them on through the depths of their process leaving them in a raw state dealing with pain and chaos.
Emergence - Into the Chaos
Virginia Satir, eminent family systems theorist, has described the chaos process that both provokes and provides change. In the status quo stage, everything remains on an even keel with all members in the social system functioning to keep things the same. As change is always inevitable, a foreign element enters the system. This foreign element can be external changes in the environment or a conflict in the person's belief system which functions to throw the individual and his social system into chaos. During this stage, the Higher Power of the person may draw painful events or experiences to the individual to promote growth.
Satir believed that chaos and crisis represent constructive confrontations with the status quo to bring about a shift in perception. Old expectations and the accompanying blockage of negative energy are cleared allowing a higher state of consciousness. When the chaos stage is completed, then old painful memories are no longer tapped to negatively influence current behavior and the individual moves into the integration phase which is characterized by adopting new values and beliefs. The final stage is practicing the newly formed attitudes and behaviors. The individual then goes back into a new status quo period until the next period of chaos comes up.
After a highly charged experience where energies are transmuted from lower to higher consciousness, the individual may feel that he has lost his groundedness and feels vulnerable and expose. These experiences bring about rapid shifts in values. Old perceptions, beliefs and patterns of behavior are shattered and fall away to make room for the expanded self. Old psychological defense no longer work leaving feelings of rawness. There may be a "healing crisis" where the physical body responds through illness or diarrhea as the body undergoes a physical detoxification.
Fatigue may be present along with a need for time spent alone. The process requires intense energy to integrate these changes. This is the physical body's need to shut down to deal with the intensity of the emotions and adjust to the rapid vibrational change that has taken place on a cellular as well as a tissue and organ level. At times an acute bout of depression can function to shut down the person's energy and focus on one all-absorbing crisis that need to be worked through.
When the sensory and psychic experiences become too intense and overwhelming, spiritual emergence can become a spiritual emergency. Traditional medicine has not typically recognized the difference between mystical and psychotic behavior. Currently the research literature is explaining the difference between mysticism and psychotic behavior with mystical features. In both states, the boundaries between what is real and what is not real can become blurred. A mystic differs from a psychotic in that he is discriminating to whom he tells his experiences. Psychotics become caught in their purely subjective experiences and cannot interpret the external world objectively. The mystic moves on through the temporary state of perceptual uncertainty as he integrates the knowledge of the experience into his being.
According to professionals in Transpersonal Psychology, a branch of the psychological field which studies these events, spiritual emergence can be viewed as events which can deepen the individual, rather than as mental disease. Socrates described the phenomena when he said, "Our greatest blessings come to us by way of madness, provided the madness is given us by divine gifts."
Techniques for These Times of Highly Energized Change
The word psychology comes from the root word psyche which means soul or spirit. Indeed the journey through life with it's accompanying developmental tasks is essentially a journey through the psyche. Psychology originally delved into theories of the subconscious mind through Sigmund Freud's influence. Psychoanalysis sought to describe human behavior in terms of instinctual drives and their repression. Behaviorism became highly popular for a period of 50 years through the theories of John Watson and B. F. Skinner. This theory sought to reduce human nature to complex chains of positive and negative reinforcements.
In the l960's, Abraham Maslow opened up the way for the shift in the field when he studied healthy people and described love, meaning, purpose and humor which were neither reducible to infantile drives nor external reinforcement.
Now the psychology profession is again placing emphasis on the unconscious content of the mind to study the spiritual aspects of human consciousness. A lead article in American Psychologist, official journal of the American Psychological Association, said that there was a scientific turnabout on consciousness in l970 which was a true paradigm shift. Now as new energy streams into the planet, powerful opening up techniques are being discovered. Jungian psychology and the use of dreams, myths and archetypes are currently undergoing a revival of interest. Thought Field Therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization, neurolinguistic programming and hypnosis are some of the deep level techniques that continue to give possibilities for personal change. Other positive ideas to deal with emergent states come from Buddhist psychology, shamanism, Native American Medicine and Chinese Energy Medicine.
Like other developmental stages in life, there are tasks and goals to achieve during the process of becoming open. The individuation process described by Carl Jung provides an overall framework for understanding the various aspects of spiritual emergence. Goals of integration of the new aspects of the self can give the individual a framework to help understand what is going on during the emergence process. Education about the unusual events that may occur during the process will help reduce the difficult and painful aspects of the journey . Techniques can be taught to work with any aggressive tendencies and anger that may surface from the subconscious.
Other goals include the restructuring of old patterns of behavior as values rapidly change. The excess energy that accompanies the intense emotional and sensory events needs to be directed and assimilated. The ego attachment to the heightened experiences along with feelings of superiority which leads to separation from the Oneness can be explored and released. Personal myths and archetypes can be analyzed as to the importance that they hold for the individual's transformation. The fear that accompanies rapid personal transition must be confronted and embraced. The different aspects of the Shadow self must be acknowledged and integrated. A balancing between self love and love for others further reconstructs the personality into higher levels of consciousness.
Understanding and integrating these unusual experiences is often challenging in a society which views them skeptically. Roberto Assagioli, developer of Psychosynthesis, states "Spiritual development is a long and arduous journey through strange lands full of surprises, joy, beauty, difficulties and even dangers. It involves the awakening of potentialities hitherto dormant, the raising of consciousness to new realms, a drastic transmutation of the "normal" elements of the personality and a functioning along a new, inner dimension" He suggests using a guide to help the person stay balanced during the rapid shifts. A spiritual support group of like minded people is extremely helpful.
According to professionals in the field, reducing the intensity and speed of the experiences can be accomplished by a heavy diet, consumption of sugar and honey drinks, avoiding stress, and stopping meditation or discussions that bring them on. Deep breathwork which often triggers the mystical states might be temporarily discontinued until the individual becomes more stable. Releasing deep fears and staying in the here and now of groundness becomes paramount.
"Reduction of the ego" is a recognized aspect of spiritual development. The ancient spiritual literature repeatedly warns against the dangers of emotionally attaching to newly found mystical experiences. Yet some people are fond of telling their story of the unusual and exciting spiritual events that have happened to the. This is the "inflation of the ego" trap which often accompanies rapid spiritual growth and development. Feeling superior because one has achieved intense spiritual evolution is but another attachment of the ego self. Paul Brunton, noted English writer, described the many ways that the ego puffs itself up during the spiritual journey. Healers who are beginning to recognize their healing gifts often experience feelings of superiority. Alice Bailey's works describe ways of ego reduction by giving the metaphor of being a part of the numerous anonymous spiritual workers who are bringing change to the planet.
The recommended practice to deal with ego involvement is to play the observer role. Buddhist meditation practices describe the technique of using the breath to watch the experiences come and let them go. The purpose of the mystical experiences is to learn and grow in consciousness and then surrender without awe or attachment to the sensory events themselves or to the heightened intuition that accompanies them. Alignment of the ego with the spiritual path is found in serving others; serving without feeling a personal increase in self esteem is one sign that the ego is in alignment with highest spiritual guidance.
The Surrender Process
Moving through Spiritual Emergence experiences has been described as an emptying of oneself so that a filling of the Oneness can take place. The ongoing process of focused surrender begins with an issue that the Higher Self brings forth to resolve. The individual focuses deeply on the issue trying to find clearance. George Leonard, in The Silent Pulse describes the how the process of intensively trying to force the issue through great determination bring the person to his knees physically, psychologically and spiritually.. Personal energy becomes depleted. When the point of total exhaustion, resignation and despair is reached, the ego is relinquished. The person says "I give up." and admits helplessness and hopelessness. This surrender point happens when the self is emptied of all roles, images and attachments that it had been holding. The issue, which has been obsessed over in the rational, left brain which operates out of fear,is transferred to the right, gestalt brain which operates out of love and knowledge of oneness. The transformation occurs with tears, intense emotion and feelings of relief.
The deep concentration required through out the process helps the person focus in a new way to reframe and restructure the issue at a higher level of consciousness. The movement from the position of fear to love happens when the person goes to a state of mind that lets go to the "Thy will be done." This is the essence of healing of the mind/ body/ spirit. There is a respite period where there is a respite period to provide integration, then the surrender process begins anew with another issue.
One important anthology on the process of surrender is "The Choice Is Always Ours", a collection of short pieces edited by Dorothy Phillips, Elizabeth Howes and Lucille Nixon about the process of the spiritual journey. Further information can be obtained by reading the works of Stanislaus Grof, William James, Abraham Maslow, Ken Wilber, Jackie Small and Roberto Assagioli as well as the scriptures from the ancient religions of the world such as the Bible, Unpanishads and the Tao.
This is an exciting time in which to live for those of us who are in the opening up process of finding our true identity. Some of us are being asked to walk through the dark side as we let go of old ego defenses and belief systems based in fear consciousness. Fortunately we are being given the help to understand these more unusual aspects of the spiritual journey. As we participate in our own healing, we contribute to the overall positive changes that are helping heal our planet.
Dr. Namka is an author and a Licensed Psychologist in private practice in Tucson (520-797-0102) and is deeply involved with her own issues of spiritual development. Her latest book, How To Let Go of Your Mad Baggage, describes the energies of anger and its use on the spiritual path. She has a free spiritual newsletter which can be subscribed to by e-mailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org Her award winning web pages on anger management can be reached at http://members.aol.com/AngriesOut/index.htm
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