Spiritual awakening is a term used to describe a profound shift in consciousness and newly found increase in awareness of your true nature. Spiritual awakenings lead us deeper in connection with the divinity of our universe.
An awakening can be an empowering and transformative experience, leading to a greater understanding of life and purpose. But how do you know if you’re getting closer to that sought after divinity? What are the signs of spiritual awakening you should look out for?
Today we’re going to explore some of the most common signs of spiritual awakening to help you identify and understand this transformative process.
The 2 main types of spiritual awakening
There are two schools of thought in the realm of spiritual awakening in eastern traditions. Gradual enlightenment and sudden enlightenment. Awakening can and should be talked about from multiple angles since different religious and cultural traditions define awakening in different ways.
In fact, the two schools of thought often go head to head in debate. For that reason we’ll look at both here.
The idea of a sudden enlightenment comes from the Zen tradition in Buddhism. The word used to describe this is Subitism, which means sudden awakening.
This is the idea that pops into our mind when we think of awakening. The one moment when the universe blesses us with divine wisdom and we merge with the cosmos and feel oneness with everything!
This idea of complete enlightenment in one moment is more a fantasy than reality. The truth is that you might have multiple minor awakenings over the course of your spiritual journey. Though they may feel profound at the time, they are most likely temporary.
Tibetan Buddhism, which is noted as the original Buddhist path, follows the notion of gradual awakening. The original dharmic path involves gradually following a step by step path to gain higher consciousness which could potentially take eons over the course of multiple lifetimes.
Gradual enlightenment refers to a process of spiritual growth and awakening that occurs gradually over time through consistent spiritual practice and self-reflection.
The reality is that both are true in their own way. Gradual and sudden awakening happen simultaneously.
You should commit yourself to a slow growth process in your spiritual journey, reflecting and practicing everyday. However, if you’re serious about the spiritual path you will have moments of sudden awakening.
These enlightening moments are profound bursts of insight, awareness, or wisdom. It is not a book knowledge you learn, rather it is a profound experience that appears in your awareness.
Although these moments of awakening don’t last forever, they leave you one step closer to the divine.
Multiple sudden awakenings are a key part of the gradual path and it’s important to reflect on and integrate awakening experiences into your life after a profound enlightenment.
> discover what stage of awakening you’re in with our “Spiritual Awakening Quiz”
The signs of spiritual awakening
1. You’ve had an awakening experience before
If you’ve had an awakening experience in the past, this is a great sign that you’re beginning to wake up.
The truth is that the awakening process includes a cycle between waking up and falling asleep again. Some days you might feel your consciousness expanding and others you feel miserable and cut off from the universe.
The good news is, if you’ve ever had an awakening before you’ll likely have another in the future. The path to waking up will include many peaks, valleys, and awakenings along the way.
2. Disconnection from materialistic values and social norms
During spiritual awakening, an individual may question their previous beliefs about success, happiness, and material wealth and begin to see these as less important in the larger scheme of things.
You may have a growing detachment from the beliefs and values that have been imposed by society and shift towards a more inward and subjective understanding of reality.
3. You have increased intuition
As you awaken, you may experience an increased sense of intuition. This can take the form of vivid dreams, inner guidance, or a heightened sense of knowing. This inner guidance comes from a growing connection with your true nature.
The closer you get to your divine nature, the more its force will guide you. You begin to trust and follow your gut more, listening to the subtle messages you receive from your mind and body.
This intuition can provide us with valuable insights and guidance as we navigate life, helping us to make decisions with added clarity and confidence.
4. You notice your perspective shifting
Spiritual awakening often leads to a shift in perspective, causing us to see the world in a different light. This shift can lead to a greater appreciation for life’s simple pleasures, a deeper understanding of our own thoughts and emotions, and a greater sense of gratitude and joy.
During the process of waking up, your perspective will change many times. Things you once took for granted become peculiar and things you once found important may seem unimportant to you later in your journey.
As your awareness grows you may start to see the bigger picture, fitting observations and ideas into a bigger more divine paradigm like puzzle pieces fit into an infinite puzzle.
5. Dissociation from your body
This one may sound strange, but you may start to disassociate from your body as your sense of self grows. As you awaken you may start to realize that reality isn’t quite as it seems.
One major awakening you can have during your spiritual journey is that you are not your body. It’s possible to disidentify with your human form and identify with the greater divinity of the universe.
As you draw closer to awakening and this mergence with the universe, you may start to feel dissociated from your body. You may also start to feel like you are observing a body or observing this human you call “yourself” or “me”.
6. You feel more at peace than you used to
One of the most notable signs of spiritual awakening is a growing sense of inner peace. This peace is often described as a feeling of calm and serenity that exists even in the face of life’s challenges and difficulties. It is a feeling of being in the present moment, with a deep sense of contentment and joy.
As you continue down your spiritual journey you will begin to have more peaceful days than you used to. Even on days that you may feel sad or anxious, you may have more space from those emotions as your ego detaches from your mind and emotions.
7. A desire for self-reflection
As we awaken spiritually, we experience a desire for self-reflection and introspection. This can take the form of journaling, meditation, or simply spending time alone. The love and beauty found on the spiritual path have this certain pull to them that makes us want more. One way we find more of this divine love and beauty is inside of ourselves.
You may feel a force pulling you inside. This self-reflection allows you to gain deeper insights into your own thoughts and emotions, helping you to understand your divine nature.
8. Increased feelings of connectedness
Another sign of spiritual awakening is a feeling of connectedness to the world around us. This can be experienced as a deep sense of compassion and empathy towards others, or as a connection to nature and the environment.
The feeling of connection ultimately comes from the dissolution of the ego. People with strong egos will feel separate, disconnected, and defensive of the world around them. Those who are detached from their identity as individual human beings will actually feel more connected to everything that exists.
As the boundaries between self, other, and environment blur, we find a connection to the divine everywhere. This feeling of connectedness can help us to see the interconnectedness of all things and to understand that we are all part of a larger whole.
9. A greater sense of creativity
As you become more connected to your inner self and source of inspiration, you may experience a greater sense of freedom and playfulness through creative expression. You may feel a greater sense of flow and ease in the creative process, as your ideas and inspiration come to you more naturally.
Many creatives find their music, painting, or drawing to be a deep source of presence and fulfillment.
10. Your suffering becomes a source of awakening
Awakening will entail many peaks and valleys. The highs are high but the lows are low.
As you begin to awaken further you may find that the negative feelings you feel in the lows don’t bother you as much. You come to accept yourself and your mood however it may be. You don’t pressure yourself to try to feel good in those moments.
Instead, suffering becomes a source of further self-exploration. You start to tap into your bad moods even further, giving up all resistance to it. Eventually, the suffering from a low mood can bring you further into the present and awaken you even more.
11. You quit trying to change people
During spiritual awakening, you come to understand that everyone is on their own unique journey and that it’s not your place to impose your beliefs or values on others.
Instead of trying to control or manipulate others, you may begin to focus on your own inner growth and self-improvement, developing a greater sense of compassion and understanding for others.
You may also come to understand that everyone has their own reasons for acting the way they do and that these reasons are often rooted in their own experiences and past traumas. Most of how people behave is often unconscious and automatic. As you grow to understand this, you start accepting people where they are.
12. You can access the present more easily
The present moment becomes more and more enticing the more we awaken. Mindfulness and awakening are highly correlated events. The more we bring mindful awareness to our lives the more we will awaken and vice versa.
You may feel that you are able to tap into a deeper source of wisdom and guidance when you are fully present in the moment. As you come to find more and more divinity in your present situation, the more you want to be here presently experiencing it.
13. You have more empathy than you used to
Having more empathy is a common sign of spiritual awakening because, during spiritual awakening, individuals develop a greater ability to see the world from others’ perspectives.
As your ego dissolves you become more connected to the world around you. You may even come to realize that there truly is no boundary between “self” and “other”. As your awareness increases, you realize that loving others is just another form of self-love.
On top of a greater awareness for others, awakening can also include a profound opening of your heart. You begin to access more and more love as you awaken. As this love fills you it begins to spill over into your environment and the people you encounter in it.
> see my article “The Illusion Of Self: The Secret To Judging Less And Loving More“
14. You see good in things labeled as “bad” by society
Seeing good in things labeled as “bad” by society reflects a shift in perspective and a greater understanding of the interconnectedness of all things.
During spiritual awakening, individuals may begin to see that everything, including what society deems as “bad,” serves a purpose and is an integral part of the larger tapestry of life.
You may even find that “good” and “bad” are relative terms used to keep our reality separate and protect our egos. As you awaken and your ego dissolves you will start to see the beauty in all things, including suffering and death.
15. You crave spending more time in nature
Craving time in the natural world reflects a deeper connection to the universe and a greater appreciation for its beauty and balance. As you awaken you will see more divine presence not just in nature but in all things.
However, the peace and quiet that often accompanies natural environments is enticing to spiritual seekers. Nature offers you a space to introspect, slow down, and connect to something greater than yourself. The vastness of a forest, the ocean, or the night sky can bring an overwhelming sense of love and profundity to life.
16. You more readily accept life’s constant changes
More readily accepting life’s constant changes is a sign of spiritual awakening because it reflects a greater understanding of the impermanence of all things.
You may begin to see that everything in life is constantly changing and evolving. With experience, you may find that resisting this constant change is much more work than accepting and flowing with the changes.
Giving up and surrendering control to the natural flow of changes in the universe will then allow for more peace and love to permeate your life.
17. You’re taking life a little less seriously
one of the signs of a spiritual awakening is the shift in perspective and how you view life. When you start to take life a little less seriously, it means that you are starting to understand the deeper meaning and purpose of existence.
The material world and all its distractions can cloud our judgment and pull us away from the true essence of who we are. But as you awaken, you begin to see through the veil of illusion and understand that life is not just about chasing external things and pleasures, but about discovering the inner peace, love, and joy that lies within.
Taking life less seriously also means letting go of the fear and anxiety that often come with trying to control everything. You begin to understand that everything happens for a reason, and that life has a flow to it. This allows you to surrender and trust in the journey, and to let go of the need to micromanage every aspect of your life.
So, if you find yourself taking life a little less seriously, know that it is a sign that you are on the path of spiritual awakening. Embrace this shift in perspective, and allow yourself to dive deeper into the inner wisdom that lies within.
18. Your consciousness feels sharper and more vivid
a sharpened and more vivid consciousness means you are becoming more fully present. It means you are more awake than when you started your journey.
Consciousness is really the key to all of this. Many enlightened teachers over the years have deduced that consciousness really is the only thing that exists. Everything that we experience must exist in our consciousness. We experience sights, sounds, and feelings because they arise into our awareness. Without consciousness, nothing is experienced.
As you become more awake you become aligned with life’s true nature your consciousness will grow sharper with it, because consciousness is all there really is.
19. An increased sense of synchronicity
Synchronicity is the occurrence of meaningful coincidences that seem to have no logical explanation. When you start to experience synchronicities, it is a sign that you are becoming more attuned to the spiritual realm and that your connection with the divine is strengthening.
The increased sense of synchronicity is a sign that you are opening up to the universe and that your intuition is becoming more refined. You start to see patterns and connections in things that seemed random before and clarity in the chaos. This heightened awareness allows you to experience the world in a new and more meaningful way.
An increased sense of synchronicity is also a sign that you are becoming more aligned with your soul’s purpose. The universe is conspiring to bring you closer to your true self, and the synchronicities are there to guide you on your path. They are signs from the universe that you are on the right track, and they’ll give you the confidence to keep going.
20. Material success seems less appealing
Wealth, status, and power become less important as you start to see the world from a spiritual perspective. You realize that material achievements don’t bring lasting happiness and that they’re not the end goal of life. Instead, you may begin to seek inner peace, wisdom, and connection with the divine.
This shift in priorities is a sign that an individual has awakened to their true purpose, which goes beyond material success. You understand that the ultimate goal of life is to experience the joy of spiritual growth and to evolve into the best version of Yourself. You see that material success is fleeting, but spiritual growth is eternal.
The Stages of Awakening
(The 10 Oxherding Pictures of Zen)
One of the most famous and beloved expressions of the Zen path is the series of ten ox herding pictures, which depict the journey of the spiritual seeker from ignorance and delusion to full enlightenment.
The ox herding story uses the metaphor of finding and taming an elusive ox to represent finding and becoming awakened.
1. Searching for the ox
The first stage of the journey is one of searching and longing. The seeker is lost, confused, and searching for meaning in a world that seems chaotic and unfulfilling. This stage is often depicted as a young man wandering through a dense forest, looking for a missing ox.
This stage represents an individual before they even know that the spiritual path exists, just wandering through life unaware that awakening is even a possibility.
2. Discovery of Footprints
In the second stage, the seeker discovers the footprints of the ox, which give him hope that he is on the right track. This stage symbolizes the beginning of a deeper understanding and the development of a clearer sense of direction in the search for enlightenment.
3. Perceiving the Ox
The third stage is one of revelation, as the seeker finally perceives the ox and begins to understand its true nature. This stage symbolizes the awakening of the spiritual seeker to the truth of the world and the beginning of a deeper and more meaningful connection with reality.
A hallmark of this stage is having a sudden awakening experience. Though fleeting, the quick experience of something greater than ourselves can leave you wanting more.
4. Catching the Ox
In the fourth stage, the seeker catches the ox, symbolizing the moment when he fully understands and begins to embody the teachings of the Zen path. This stage represents a turning point in the journey, as the seeker begins to make real progress towards enlightenment.
5. Taming the Ox
The fifth stage is one of discipline and self-mastery, as the seeker begins to tame the ox and integrate its teachings into his daily life. This stage symbolizes the need to cultivate discipline and mindfulness in order to sustain progress on the path.
6. Riding the Ox Home
In the sixth stage, the seeker rides the ox home, symbolizing his return to his true nature and the realization of his own spiritual identity. This stage represents a deep and profound realization of the nature of reality and the self.
7. Ox and Self Transcended
The seventh stage is one of transcendence, as the seeker transcends the duality of the ox and self and realizes that they are one and the same. This stage represents a profound realization of the unity of all things and the interconnectedness of the universe.
8. Both Ox and Self Forgotten
In the eighth stage, the seeker forgets both the ox and himself, symbolizing the transcendence of all dualities and the realization of the truth beyond all dualistic concepts. This stage represents a deep and abiding awareness of the nature of reality that is beyond words and concepts.
9. Reaching the Source
The ninth stage is one of return to the source, as the seeker returns to the source of all things and realizes the ultimate nature of reality. This stage represents a profound realization of the oneness of all things and the unity of the universe.
10. Reaching the Other Shore
Finally, in the tenth stage, the seeker reaches the other shore, symbolizing the ultimate goal of enlightenment and the realization of a state of perfect wisdom and understanding. This stage represents the ultimate goal of the Zen path and the realization of a deep and abiding connection with the world.
In the final stage, a fully awakened person is able to come back to reality and live among humanity as one of them while also being utterly and completely spiritually awake.
It’s important to note that these signs can vary greatly from person to person, and some may experience more intense symptoms than others. Spiritual awakening is a highly individual and subjective experience, and what may be considered a sign of awakening for one person may not hold true for another.
We do, however, have a pretty good roadmap laid out for us by several spiritual traditions like Tibetan and Zen Buddhism. The path to awakening may be long and confusing, but it is possible to attain through patience and humble learning.