It’s usually something we hear when we’re oversleeping.
But it also applies to when you’re spiritually asleep and your soul isn’t really achieving its real potential or mission.
Here’s how to know if your soul is slumbering and what to do about it.
1) Believing convenient narratives
The first of the key signs of spiritual sleep is that you buy into convenient narratives without really questioning them.
A narrative is simply a story or message which is reinforced for ideological reasons.
For example, take the narrative of “life is about doing what brings you joy.”
Or take the narrative that “hard work is the basis of success in capitalism.”
“There’s somebody out there for everyone.”
These aren’t necessarily fully true or false narratives and they could be a bit of both depending on the situation and specifics. But the point is their power to herd and shape thoughts.
They are simplistic and strongly reinforced ideas which you hear commonly in many contexts and from many people, companies, advertisers, governments and stakeholders.
One of the signs you haven’t really woken up from spiritual slumber is that you find narratives satisfy you.
It’s not just that you believe them, it’s that you’re apathetic about what’s true and figure that whatever narrative makes you feel best or seems most popular is probably good to stick with.
2) Idealizing the past or the future
The next sign that you’re not waking up to your full spiritual potential is that you’re stuck in the past or the future.
You’re idealizing days gone by as the better days, or thinking of the future when many of our challenges and problems will be done with.
Or so you imagine.
And herein lies the problem.
Daydreams have an important role, but they’re not the same as spiritual progress or insight.
When we get too lost in fantasy, we switch off our desire and capacity to observe what’s in front of us, confront our feelings and grow our spiritual abilities.
The problem of modernity is a serious one indeed, especially the isolation so many are experiencing alone in their digital silos.
But the answer to feeling alienated from the harsh, mechanistic reality of modernity isn’t to role over and go back to sleep.
When you’re in the middle of a nightmare, the best thing to do is to wake up.
3) Buying into toxic spirituality
Another of the unfortunate signs of spiritual sleep is buying into toxic spirituality.
This is a term that may be controversial for some.
It’s the type of spirituality we’ve all run across, you could also call it pop spirituality or Sleazy Guru syndrome.
It often creeps into New Age communities and among groups who revere faiths like Buddhism or practice meditation but without much knowledge of the deeper esoteric roots.
If you find yourself latching onto an idea like the Law of Attraction, you’re being misled.
Furthermore, if you’ve found that you’re among people who are trying to eliminate all “negative” vibrations or be positive all the time, you’re not going to benefit and you can actually make yourself sick.
Far too many gross gurus are out there promising the “purifying” of your soul in return for money, sex, power and worship.
The sad thing is that even if you pay or give enough to attain the “high” levels, you become the very example of spiritual sleep that your guru embodied, which is believing you are superior or more “pure” than others.
No matter the insights, knowledge and spiritual “levels” you ascend, if you believe you’re fundamentally better than others or that you’ve superseded “regular” normal life, you’re still very much asleep.
The best key to unlock this door of toxic spirituality and get free that I’ve found comes from shaman Rudá Iandê.
Rudá himself got deeply involved in the New Age community for years, but came to realize that many of the teachings were holding him back and limiting his spiritual awakening.
Check out his free masterclass on freeing your mind and overcoming toxic spirituality here.
This isn’t just some other guru acting holier-than-thou, and Rudá doesn’t consider himself any better than the rest of his.
But he is a man who worked with ancient indigenous tribes and in the modern world to come up with real answers to the challenges many of us face.
4) Failure to remember or appreciate most of your days
Next up in the signs of spiritual sleep is a failure to be present.
This often manifests in a failure to remember or appreciate most of your days.
You take in the beauty of nature, other people or special moments with a dismissive, fast-forward mentality.
You’re all go, all the time.
You don’t ever stop to “smell the roses,” so to speak.
This is a sign of spiritual slumber, because a big part of becoming spiritually awake is to realize that you don’t need more than what you have.
Your simple day spent next to a river while working or watching the funny antics of kids in a long checkout line in the grocery store is perfect for right now.
You don’t need to be “grateful,” just observe and see what your senses take in.
One day you may remember it with deep joy or fond nostalgia.
When you let the days fly by without remembering them, you do yourself a disservice and keep your eyes closed.
5) Gullibility and lack of intuition or discernment
Next up in the signs of spiritual sleep is gullibility and an inability to separate truth from fiction.
Spiritual awakening is like installing a giant spam filter on your mind and heart.
Not a lot gets through once you see how much of what surrounds us in our culture and environment is fake and unnecessary.
You’re able to observe painful and difficult situations compassionately and with empathy, but you no longer feel the need to jump in and have the answer for everything.
You also no longer feel drawn to involve yourself in useless drama or in the problems of others that don’t concern you.
You choose your battles more carefully, and you don’t get dragged into scams or shady situations nearly as easily as you might once have been.
6) Prizing looks and appearance above character
I’m not going to sit here and say looks don’t matter.
Also, appearances are about a lot more than just aesthetics, too.
Thousands of years of evolution has gone into our filtering of the world and instinctive reactions to those we meet when we see their face, body language and appearance.
You can’t stop yourself from having an instinctive reaction to anyone, no matter how wrong it may be.
But that’s why it’s a helpful practice to leave space for getting to know someone past your initial impression or their appearance.
Many times you may find there’s a lot more under the surface than just the makeup or the crazy hairstyle or intense eyes that freaked you out.
That’s why one of the signs of spiritual sleep is judging people on their appearance without much, if any, curiosity about what’s underneath.
It’s not that it makes you a “bad” person to do this, by any means, it’s just that it makes you spiritually dormant and potentially losing out on connections you might otherwise make.
7) Judging people at their worst instead of their best
If I was only judged by people on the way I acted at my worst I’d have nobody who even talks to me anymore.
That’s something to think about the next time you find yourself judging people by their worst moments, even strangers.
Of course, every person we meet is different and in different situations.
If you meet a restaurant waiter for half an hour, what else do you have to judge her on than her behavior toward you within that half hour window?
In this respect, it’s inevitable you’ll make some surface judgments.
Saying “that was poor service,” or “that girl is so hilarious and nice,” is a perfectly healthy response to what you experience.
What you want to avoid, are deeper judgments about somebody’s character, motives or beliefs.
You just don’t know.
Also, be nice to your waiter.
8) Giving into addiction without trying to stop
We all experience addiction in some form in life.
The way I look at it, there are healthy addictions and unhealthy addictions.
Even the unhealthy ones can teach you a lot, but they’re best avoided for any significant length of time.
If you’re experiencing addictions that are taking away your time, energy, empathy and ethical compass, you are spiritually asleep.
I don’t even mean that as a value judgment.
It is just that when your attention and energy is absorbed by an addiction (even a potentially healthy one like exercise or work), you don’t have energy for introspection and meditation.
That’s why addictions are something to be faced down and beaten: so that we can focus on living a balanced life and devoting some of our energy to spiritual growth and awareness.
9) Investing in codependent relationships
The next of the things that saps our spiritual energy and keeps us asleep is wasting energy on codependent relationships.
In an empowering context, love and intimacy can be a pathway to great growth and spiritual truth.
But in a codependent and toxic context, relationships can be an energy sink that robs our potential and spiritual energy.
If you’re in a codependent relationship where you’re falling into the role of a “savior” or “victim,” then you need to try to get out as gracefully as possible.
If you find that you’re out of one but feel yourself being attracted to potential partners with many of the same warning signs, hold yourself back.
You can do better!
Focus on waking up and becoming comfortable and true to yourself.
10) Worshiping money and material gain
There’s no doubt that money and assets are necessary in this life to provide for ourselves and those we love.
Money can also be an excellent pathway to contributing to the lives of others, building worthwhile businesses and investing in things we care about.
There’s nothing “bad” about money.
But the worship of money and material gain is something else entirely.
It’s a form of addiction that I wrote about earlier.
It traps us in fixation and idolization of something that is only a means not an end.
Money can be highly positive and beneficial, certainly, but when we treat it as a goal and not as a means to our goals, we get stuck in a very physical-focused mindset.
The physical is important, but it’s not everything.
And all that’s physical is temporary and subject to time and impermanence.
Which is why it can be a hindrance to our spiritual awakening to get too solely focused on outer success and prosperity.
11) Betraying and backstabbing others to advance yourself
The next of the signs of spiritual sleep relates to worldly conduct and loyalty.
This ties back to viewing everything as being about money and personal gain as well.
If money and power are your goal, then why wouldn’t you do anything necessary to get them?
Far too often, we see how flexible people’s moral codes are when push comes to shove.
This is especially true with betrayal, and folks at all levels of power stabbing their friends in the back or only transactionally using friendship to get what they want.
It gets even messier when sex and love are involved and are also used as weapons.
12) Approaching life as a zero-sum game
The last of the major signs of spiritual sleep is approaching life as a zero-sum game.
You see this everywhere these days in modern culture, from popular music to economic models to dating.
“Either I get what I want and need or you do. One of us is going to have to lose.”
Here’s the thing:
Within a certain lower, animalistic reality this can indeed be true.
If there’s only one piece of bread and we’re both starving, then dividing the piece isn’t always a realistic option.
But for almost every situation in life, seeing things as a zero sum game with a winner and a loser is a self-fulfilling and disempowering prophecy.
Not only will you lose out on many win-win opportunities.
You’ll also hamstring your own spiritual development by becoming addicted to a desperate me-first mentality that leaves no space for trust and peacefulness.
How to wake up from spiritual sleep
If you want to know how to wake up from spiritual sleep, start with this free video from shaman Rudá Iandê that I recommended earlier.
Next up, it’s crucial to point out several things about being “asleep” or “awake” spiritually.
First of all…
Being potentially spiritually awake in some ways does not make you better or superior to anybody around you, even somebody who is fully asleep.
In fact, spiritual teachers like George Gurdjieff and many others have emphasized how awaking to reality and spiritual truth is actually a much greater responsibility.
When you understand so much of the illusion we’re living under, it’s not a blank check to just relax by the beach.
As I mentioned earlier, achieving some form of awakening does mean you no longer want to get into whatever drama is happening or involve yourself in people’s personal issues.
But it does mean that you may want to get involved in bigger problems and responsibilities, such as how to make this world a more loving and meaningful place, how to heal disease, or how to provide a spiritual path for seekers that doesn’t exploit them.
Next, it’s very important to not think of “asleep” and “awake” as black and white terms.
This is not like a light switch that’s turned either on or off.
Almost all of us are asleep to some degree. We all have small parts of ourselves that are awake, or “wake up” at moments of great beauty, pain, transformation and positive or negative shock.
The reality of life is something that’s hard to absorb all at once, and just like sleep in physical life, spiritual sleep can be a way to regenerate, gain back our energy and recuperate.
In fact, to be more spiritually awake you need plenty of sleep!
But even more to the point, we shouldn’t think of these states as binary on-off states.
Being spiritually asleep isn’t usually 100% and being awake is rarely 100%.
Plus, as I mentioned, even if you were technically fully awakened (like the boddhisattvas of Buddhism), that would just give you even greater responsibility and work, not less!
The prize isn’t a vacation, the prize is a promotion with more work and responsibility.
Being spiritually asleep is not “bad,” nor does it make you lesser.
Think of it, instead, as fertile ground for growth.
Out of that sleep can come a beautiful blooming and awakening.
Out of that sleep can come a powerful, conscious journey.