Being spiritually enlightened will mean something different to each person.
I define it as having more awareness and an expanded consciousness, which allows me to be present in my life.
I also see spiritual enlightenment as something that allows me to observe myself and other people without judgment.
If you’re wondering how you can begin on this path, this is the ultimate guide for beginners.
Don’t try to escape from your life
First things first, living is hard…
You see, alongside all of the beauty and joy of life, there is a lot of pain that surrounds us. Difficulties arise all the time, and things aren’t plain sailing.
It’s natural to want to escape from life and to get away from these feelings.
In fact, without realizing it, a lot of us try to escape from our lives.
Let me explain:
We live in a culture of distracting ourselves… Of numbing ourselves even.
The things we do each and every day can actually be seen as numbing techniques, which cause us to not have to face our realities.
Distraction techniques show up in different forms.
These can be everything from turning on the television – and spending hours sitting in front of it and just staring at it – to drinking a bottle of red wine and losing touch with ourselves.
There are things around us that allow all of us to constantly escape from our lives… Meaning we run away from facing reality and the things we might need to address.
I have been at this point so many times, and I have to make such a conscious decision to try and not fall back into this trap.
It’s not easy!
As I say, living is hard…
What’s more, we have all of these numbing agents at our fingertips and they’re all so normalized, so you almost end up feeling like the weird one for not engaging with them!
But this needs to change if you want to start out on a path towards enlightenment.
If you want to reach spiritual enlightenment, it is necessary to commit to being truly present in your life, and to get rid of all of the distractions.
Yet, in our modern society, that can feel like an impossible task.
You see, so much of our socializing surrounds drinking alcohol, while most homes have televisions and junk food is so readily available.
It might seem like distractions surround you no matter which way you turn… But you can make the conscious decision to not engage with them.
For example, you don’t need to reach for the remote to turn on the television…
…You can suggest that you meet friends in the daytime over a cup of tea, or you can do a healing activity like going to a yoga or meditation class together.
… You can ensure that you’ve got fresh food prepared, so you don’t find yourself reaching for something fatty and full of sugar.
I’ll be honest: it took me a while to take full responsibility for these things.
I spent years only socializing with people over a glass of wine and, truth is, it took a long time to learn how to socialize differently… But it is possible.
What does this mean for you?
Well, you can take back your power and control the things that you do!
You just need to be conscious about your actions and intentional about why you’re doing what you’re doing.
It’s especially necessary if you want to reach a state of being spiritually enlightened.
Focus on being mindful
Going hand-in-hand with not distracting yourself is being mindful.
Simply put, in place of looking to distractions is the art of mindfulness.
It means being in the present moment and aware of your reality as it is in the moment.
It means being in the here and now.
You see, we can all find ourselves thinking about the past and worrying about the future… Again, this is just totally natural.
But this does no good, other than taking away from our present moment just as it is.
We can literally miss life going by if we’re not mindful, and we don’t place an emphasis on being present and with the moment.
What’s more, being in the present moment is a core component to spiritual enlightenment.
It encourages us to remember that we’re here, having a human experience.
So how do you become more mindful?
Well, it’s a conscious process.
It means really actively listening to someone when they speak, so not thinking about what you’re going to say next but instead being totally engaged.
If you’ve typically been someone who always has something to say and is known for cutting people up mid-sentence, it might take some time to recondition this trait…
..But that’s OK. It’s simply a part of the process!
If you catch yourself thinking that it’s time to say something when another person is talking, just decide not to act on it.
What’s more, when you do speak you could ask them a question that shows you were totally engaged.
Don’t start talking about yourself, but engage with them on what they were saying and validate their experience.
As if that’s not enough, another tool for helping you become really present in the moment is through engaging your senses.
Your smell, touch, hearing, seeing and taste…
Ask yourself: when was the last time you stopped and took a moment to think about what you could smell, hear or see? When were you last really present with what you ate?
As in, like really thinking about your surroundings and what’s going on in the moment?
This is a great practice to do multiple times a day to encourage more mindfulness, and to help you on your journey to spiritual enlightenment.
Now, much like the art of actively listening to another person when they speak, engaging the senses can take time…
..Especially if this is totally new to you!
Don’t be disheartened if it doesn’t come naturally to you at first and you find your mind wandering. Instead, just continue with the practice…
You will get there eventually.
Something I like to do regularly to engage my senses is to stop and ask myself a few questions. These are:
- What are the three colors I can see?
For example: What color is the sky? What color is my food? What color is the nature around me?
- What are the three sounds I can hear?
Are there any animals? Is there traffic around me? Are there voices of other humans?
- What can I smell?
Is there the smell of food? Is there the smell of rain on the ground?
- What are three things I can feel?
Is it my clothes on my body, the ground beneath my feet or the hand of my partner?
- What can I taste?
How is this food making me feel? What is the texture?
These questions really help anchor me into the present moment… And I have a totally different experience with whatever is going on!
What’s more, there’s no limit on the amount of times you might want to do this each day.
Maybe you could start with three times a day, and make a point of being mindful at meal times and in conversations with people!
Set aside time to do what it is you really want to do
Many people spend such a large portion of their life working just to pay the bills.
This is the society we live in, and it’s one that I’m a part of too!
While it’s not possible for most people to suddenly stop working, most of us will find it possible to carve out windows of time where we do things that we actually want to do.
Let’s be honest:
There are brief moments we can create to do things we want to do… Be it following a quick exercise video or practicing a language you’re learning.
In my experience, I used to always say that I had ‘no time’.
Maybe someone in your life is guilty of often defaulting on this… Or maybe you are!
I used to say this all the time… Truth is, I filled my spare time with alcohol and socializing with people.
What does this mean for you?
I’m sure if you were honest with yourself, you’d realize that there are pockets of time that can be dedicated to doing things that you really want to do.
Not only is it amazing to see how much time we can create for ourselves when we become mindful, but it allows us to become much more enlightened.
As you set aside time for yourself each day, you can really connect to what it is that you like to do and how you want to spend your time.
In these moments, you’ll actually get to know yourself better and what is important to you.
It’s a chance to listen to your favorite music, to get creative or to sit in stillness!
Don’t judge your thoughts and let them pass
We live in a culture where judgment is super prevalent.
Without even realizing it, we judge people around us… and ourselves.
We’re programmed to compare ourselves to others, and to buy products that make us feel better and more worthy.
But judging doesn’t do any good for anyone; instead, it causes us to feel bad about the action and to go round and round in a loop.
Now, did you know that there is an option in place of judging?…
…And it’s one that will help you on your path to spiritual enlightenment:
It’s the act of acknowledging the thought you’ve had but not clinging too tightly to it, and letting it pass.
I know that might not make sense if this is new to you… But there is such a thing as observing a thought and not accepting it as something that is the truth.
It comes back to mindfulness that I spoke about earlier.
Being mindful about our thoughts means just accepting that we’re having the experience and that the thought exists…
…And not having to act on it or worry about it as a result.
For example, maybe a thought surrounds a fear about an upcoming job interview or whether your relationship is going to last with your partner because you’ve been arguing.
Of course, these are valid thoughts and worries – but if they’re not helping you in the present moment and there is nothing you can do, bring mindfulness to the situation and let the thought go.
Thought leader on mindfulness, Eckhart Tolle, explains:
“The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but thought about it. Be aware of the thoughts you are thinking. Separate them from the situation, which is always neutral. It is as it is.”
Now, don’t confuse letting thoughts go with suppressing your thoughts. These are different things!
By letting thoughts pass and not judging them or yourself, you are not suppressing yourself… But instead choosing empowerment!
In this eye-opening video, the shaman Rudá Iandé talks about the importance of why and how a spiritual practice should be all about empowerment.
He explains that suppressing emotions, and judging others and yourself, are the things you want to avoid if you want to reach spiritual enlightenment.
Instead, the focus should be on accepting yourself for who you are in the moment, while seeking to connect deeply with yourself.
You see, this is ultimately empowering.
What’s more, at the core of reaching spiritual enlightenment is a lack of resistance.
As Eckhart Tolle says:
“Always say “yes” to the present moment. What could be more futile, more insane, than to create inner resistance to what already is? what could be more insane than to oppose life itself, which is now and always now? Surrender to what is. Say “yes” to life — and see how life suddenly starts working for you rather than against you.”
In other words, rather than always wanting things to be different and living in a discontent state, focus on just accepting things for what they are at the moment.
Simply put, be OK with the present moment.
It doesn’t mean that a person stops striving if they’re trying to reach spiritual enlightenment, it just means that the approach to living is different…
People who are on the path of spiritual enlightenment aren’t trying to run away from what is, yet there is an acceptance of life in the present moment.
Now, it’s not an easy thing to achieve!
“It is not uncommon for people to spend their whole life waiting to start living.”
I’ve been this person many times throughout my life.
I bet there have been times that you’ve also thought:
‘Once I buy that thing’ or ‘once I go on that trip’ everything will be resolved and I’ll finally start living.
But this couldn’t be further from the truth…
…You see, if you constantly live in the state of thinking that everything will be OK after this action, you’ll never reach a place of being content.
You’ll carry forward the same feeling and approach to all of the things you do, and not be able to fully enjoy them and be present in the experience.
Truth is, there has to be a true acceptance and surrendering to what is in the present moment if you want to reach spiritual enlightenment.
Each time you catch yourself thinking ‘but what if…’ just bring it back to surrendering.
Now, the more you make a conscious effort to catch these thoughts and redirect them, the stronger your spiritual practice will become.
Like anything, this takes time and commitment… But it’s worth it.
What are the steps to spiritual enlightenment?
It’s suggested that there are five stages of a spiritual awakening.
These will differ from person to person, but Chopra defines an awakening as having five steps.
They explain it includes:
- Glimpsing: the call to adventure
- Closer examination: choosing a path
- Seeking: following the path
- Loss of sight: losing the path
- Seeing: merging with the path
But what does this all mean?
The call to adventure is something that changes the course of your life. They explain:
“The call to adventure is an awakening incident, a new perception that compels you to look at life differently. This spiritual experience can take countless forms—a trip to a faraway land, the loss of innocence, an illness, a challenge, the death of a close friend, a near-death experience, or the loss of a job. Regardless of the particulars, the experience shakes your worldview and you see the world with new eyes. You are called to live the ordinary life in a non-ordinary way.”
It’s suggested that even if you refuse the call to adventure, your soul will push you in this direction until you finally accept. They add:
“Once a transformative and deeply awakening incident has been experienced, there can be no going back. Your eyes have been opened and you can’t unsee the vision of the higher reality calling to you, no matter how much you might want to deny it.”
At this point, the person on the quest to reach spiritual enlightenment must choose a path.
This time can feel unsettling and you will feel like you are in search of answers to so many new questions.
“At this point, you may set out to find a new way—a new philosophy, a different tradition, or practice that will help to contextualize or re-map your worldview.”
Now, what your path looks like will be unique to you… And it’s not something that anyone else can tell you to do.
But committing to the path is next.
This means making it a way of life, and having a regular practice or study that allows you to integrate it into your everyday life.
However, people must be aware that reaching spiritual enlightenment isn’t without its struggles.
“By its very nature, the path of awakening confronts you with your shortcomings, self-deceptions, cognitive biases, and resistance to change. Growth can be an uncomfortable process at times. As your chosen path challenges you to change thoughts, emotions, speech, or behavior to be more expansive, compassionate, forgiving, or kind, it is not uncommon to struggle with being in this world but not of it.”
Other people and external influences can also play a role in tempting someone away from the path to spiritual enlightenment.
People can be tempted to return to a more conventional life.
But if you make it past this stage, the final stage to spiritual enlightenment is merging with the path.
Simply put, you become the practice and you’re no longer in a state of striving to see.
In other words:
“A permanent shift has taken place and you awaken fully to your true identity—the infinite, immortal, unbounded, God-force existing everywhere and in everything. You wake up fully to being the divine observer—the ever-present witness-self of the entire universe.”
Now, this doesn’t happen overnight and it isn’t always so straightforward and linear…
…So don’t feel disheartened if it feels like one step back and one step forward.
You will get to the place you want to be through commitment and dedication to your ‘why’.
Once you find that, you will walk the path to spiritual enlightenment each and every day.