Updated: Oct 5, 2022
For the first time in history, we have access to a mammoth and unprecedented amount of information.
While this freedom to learn brings countless opportunities for personal growth, it can also get quite overwhelming! There are so many thoughts, opinions, debates, and discussions out there.
Who do we listen to?
Spiritual ascension (or spiritual awakening) is one of many major topics out there which can become confusing very quickly. Everyone seems to have a different understanding of what spiritual ascension means. The plethora of information out there doesn’t help: it can make you quite disoriented in a short amount of time. Personally, I believe that almost all definitions of spiritual ascension are right because it is an exquisitely multi-layered concept and experience that cannot be shoved into a box that easily.
That being said, it does help to categorize and label the different aspects of spiritual ascension so that we can understand them better – and that is my intention for this article.
What I am going to share below is based on my own experience, insight, and observation of myself and other people. You’re welcome to redefine or add to this list however you see fit in the comments.
What is Spiritual Ascension?
Spiritual ascension, also known as spiritual awakening, is a natural evolutionary process which involves the process of shedding the old self and experiencing an inner rebirth. Many people speak about spiritual ascension in terms of being “upgraded,” “rebooted” or being elevated in vibrational frequency. All of these terms are a way of referring to the inner evolution and expansion of the mind, heart, or soul. As the name implies, spiritual ascension is about reaching new heights and transcending old limiting habits, beliefs, mindsets, and ways of being.
Spiritual ascension, however, is not all angels, unicorns, and roses. It is often accompanied by severe and shocking shifts that result in what is called the Dark Night of the Soul.
5 Types of Spiritual Ascension
Spiritual ascension (or spiritual awakening) is mentioned a lot in spiritual circles. Everyone has a slightly different definition. But every interpretation can, more or less, fit into the following five categories:
1. Awakening of the Mind
This type of awakening comes when you experience a major epiphany or sudden mental realization. This deep understanding does not necessarily translate to integrated experience, but it does feel like an astonishing flash of ‘enlightened’ perspective that can help you mentally understand life.
How to know if you have experienced one: Have you ever experienced that sudden ‘click’ when a piece of information/word/synchronicity falls into a larger puzzle? This is called a mental awakening. And often such realizations stay with us, motivating and inspiring profound changes in our lives.
2. Awakening of a New Personality
When mental awakenings are consistent and go deep enough, over a period of time they can result in the development of a new personality. This type of transformation and ascension involves cutting away and moving past old limiting and toxic patterns and developing qualities such as self-acceptance, empowerment, and understanding. While this type of awakening isn’t as deep as say, a soul awakening, it is nonetheless still vital on the spiritual path.
How to know if you have experienced one: Think back to the kind of person you were one to three years ago. Are you still pretty much the same person? Or have you made some major life-enhancing positive shifts? If you think you’ve changed (in a good way), you’ve likely experienced a personality awakening. This type of awakening is caused when previously repressed, ignored or shunned parts of the personality have been integrated to create more wholeness.
3. Awakening of Spiritual Energy
‘Spiritual ascension’ can sometimes refer to awakening spiritual energy within the body and energy field. When life force energy (commonly referred to as qi, prana, or kundalini energy) is awakened, major changes can occur on the physical through the spiritual levels. Ancient practices such as tai chi, yoga, meditation, and tantra, help to awaken this energy, but sometimes life force energy awakens spontaneously. This sudden activation is called a Kundalini Awakening, which enters the realms of the soul and total awakening (see the next two types below).
How to know if you have experienced one: An awakening of spiritual energy can feel mild all the way to extreme. (And when I say extreme, I mean intensely overwhelming and often too much to bear.) Common signs of an awakening of spiritual energy involve feelings of enhanced vitality and energy on the physical level, energy rushes, tingling and electrical feelings throughout the body, changes in sexual libido, sharpened awareness, and feelings of cosmic interconnectedness. Negative symptoms can also arise (for the uninitiated) such as mood swings, mania, physical hypersensitivity, insomnia, seizures, loss of appetite or overeating, extreme and scary altered states of consciousness – just to name a few.
4. Awakening of the Soul
Soul awakenings can be brief and sudden, or long and drawn out. Brief soul awakenings are often referred to in Zen Buddhism as ‘Satori’ which is the experience of seeing into one’s true eternal nature. This glimpse of enlightenment is often short and doesn’t last very long (one moment to a few days). On the other hand, long-term soul awakenings are experienced as a deepening of contact with one’s Soul. This could involve consistently uniting with one’s soul purpose, spirit guides, or higher self and thereby understanding and beginning to experience oneself as Eternal and Limitless.
How to know if you have experienced one: Have you ever had a moment in which you felt the division between yourself and the World disintegrate? Have you ever shifted from the ego-perspective to the universal-perspective? Have you experienced any moments where you’ve felt deeply aligned with your life purpose? These are all signs of a soul awakening. Developing virtuous qualities such as compassion, tolerance, forgiveness, and unconditional love also accompany soul awakenings.
5. Total Awakening (Enlightenment)
Enlightenment, or total ego death, is a rare experience in which the ‘self’ dissolves and all that remains is Unity With All. This state is called by many names: Oneness, moksha, non-dual awareness, Buddhahood, illumination, and so forth. Such an intense state of being can arrive spontaneously or through years of spiritual study and discipline – but in both instances, total awakening is a gift of grace, it isn’t something that we can “achieve” in the normal sense of the word. When enlightenment occurs, there is an experience of being both nothing and everything all at once; it is a state that transcends thought and the mind itself, it is a Mystical Awakening. The ego is finally seen, understood, and overcome, and all that remains is the Pure Awareness, Presence, Love, and Truth.
As we can see, spiritual ascension comes in many different shapes and sizes, with the ultimate form of ascension culminating as Total Awakening, self-realization or enlightenment.
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