Imagine you have been watching a play your entire life, but you didn’t even know it. You were so engrossed in all the action.
You were busy laughing along with all the silly scenes, crying at the sad scenes, getting enraged at the angry scenes, and of course, stressing out at the tense scenes.
And then, all of a sudden, the curtain comes down.
To your great surprise, you glimpse (if even just for a moment) that you are actually in a theater. You realize that the action playing out before your eyes was some sort of performance.
The real you was not the performer, it is the spectator.
Pretty mind-blowing stuff, right?
And understandably that can send your thinking mind into a spiral.
Quite frankly it can freak us out and cause some serious anxiety. That’s why anxiety and spiritual awakening can for many go hand in hand.
First things first, make sure it is spiritual anxiety
Anxiety exists in many forms and can be triggered for many reasons.
Yes, spiritual awakenings can activate dormant anxiety or create new spiritual anxiety.
But it’s also important not to ignore any existing anxiety or anxiety of any type that you are struggling to deal with.
In these instances, it’s important to consult a doctor. For example, some anxieties are created by imbalances in the body.
Whilst spiritual practices like meditation or breathwork can help relieve symptoms of anxiety, it might not be enough.
But plenty of treatments do exist, and it’s important to seek professional help to find one that works best for you.
Having said that, if you don’t normally suffer from anxiety, you might be wondering why it has suddenly arisen as part of your spiritual journey.
What is spiritual anxiety?
Ok, so what does spiritual anxiety feel like?
Spiritual anxiety can create feelings of worry, uncertainty, and doubt.
You may simply have a sense of unease that you can’t quite put your finger on. It may be generalized anxiety that puts you on edge.
That can disrupt sleep or make you restless.
But it can also create a wide range of emotions — hopelessness, shame, fear, sadness, loneliness, a sense of being out of control, heightened sensitivity, etc.
The spiritual reasons for anxiety
These different forms of spiritual anxiety occur as your perceptions of the world start to shift.
This can leave you feeling on incredibly shaky ground.
That’s because an awakening involves the dissolution of certain beliefs, ideas, and thoughts about not only the world around you, but yourself too.
It is a disorientating time.
Not only that, but the process of awakening can begin to stir parts of your life and yourself that you had tried to bury.
That might be feelings and events that you did not want to deal with.
But as the spiritual light shines its truth on the darkness, hiding no longer feels like an option. And the reality is that this is confronting, and not always comfortable.
A spiritual awakening can bring a lot of energy with it that is overwhelming to both the body and mind.
What creates spiritual anxiety?
1) Your ego is freaking out
Your ego has been in the driving seat for your entire life.
But when you start to awaken it feels its grip is loosening. And it doesn’t like it.
Personally, I don’t think of the ego as “bad”, I feel it’s more misguided.
Its job is to try to keep us safe and protect us. But it does this in some very unhealthy and ultimately destructive ways.
I imagine it like a scared child acting out. Consciousness is the wise parent that wants to come and teach us a better way.
But to the ego, that is threatening. So it acts out.
Your ego can cause anxiety when it has a meltdown and refuses to accept the new order of things.
2) You feel resistance
It’s strange—especially when we really do want to awaken—but many of us still try to cling to our old life.
Well, the ego does anyway.
Giving up what you knew isn’t always easy. We aren’t always prepared to let go. Part of us liked certain elements of the dream world. It’s hard to give up on the fantasy.
So instead, we continue to create suffering by trying to hold on. We don’t feel ready for the magnitude of the new truths we are being shown.
3) You are questioning life
When you suddenly start to question every single thing you once took as gospel, who can blame us for stressing out?
Part of the awakening process is this deep re-evaluation of pretty much everything. And that leaves way more questions than it does answers.
So it’s bound to be really unnerving and unsettling.
4) Life as you knew it starts to fall apart
Another hallmark of many spiritual awakenings is the disintegration of your old life.
Aka — everything falls to sh*t.
As we’ll explore more later, an unfortunate part of a spiritual awakening is loss.
Of course, technically on a spiritual level, there wasn’t anything to lose as it was just an illusion. But that rarely makes it feel any better.
Anxiety can be created as we grapple with elements of life that are seemingly falling apart in front of our very eyes.
There may be lost relationships, jobs, friendships, worldly possessions, or even our health to contend with.
5) You can no longer hide from existing pain
Do you remember that scene in the Matrix film where Neo takes the red pill and awakes into the real world?
There is no going back from it. He can no longer hide in the construct of reality like he once did.
Well, during a spiritual awakening, we find it increasingly difficult to try to hide in all the things we once sought comfort and distraction within.
And that leaves us having to confront whatever it was we were trying to dodge:
Numbing the pain through alcohol, shopping, TV, video games, work, sex, drugs, etc. doesn’t hit the spot in the same way.
Because now, we see through it. That awareness inside cannot be so easily switched off.
6) You are opening yourself up to new things you’ve never experienced before
A spiritual awakening is new territory.
It brings countless exciting, yet simultaneously scary things with it.
That may be new ideas, new beliefs, and new energies.
As a consequence people often become far more sensitive to the outside world. So your body can very quickly feel overwhelmed.
It’s a bit like sensory overload. It feels like stress to the body. And it can be made worse when your mind starts to panic about those sensations.
7) Your nervous system might be shot to pieces
Our nervous system is our messenger service for the body. It sends the signals that enable us to function.
And so it controls a lot of what we think, feel, and what the body does.
It interprets all the data from outside our body and creates information with it. It’s our translator.
But all these changes and extra stimuli can be understandably overwhelming to your nervous system as it tries to adjust and get to grips with these new sensations.
8) We don’t know what will happen next
As we’ve clearly seen, so much newness brings so much uncertainty.
So it’s totally normal that it is frightening.
We can feel anxiety during a spiritual awakening because we have no clue what will happen next.
For most of us, a sense of being out of control can quickly create panic on an almost cellular level.
It’s like getting on a roller coaster. All the uncertainty makes us fearful about what is to come next.
The path to spiritual awakening for many is pain
I know, it’s not such a cheery heading, but hey, it’s also the truth, right?
Why is spiritual awakening so painful sometimes?
The reality is that loss of any kind is usually painful. Even if it’s for the best. And even if deep down you want to give something up.
The fact remains:
The process of letting go isn’t an easy one.
We are being forced to question everything we once accepted. We are having our illusions shattered. We have the things we once clung to for comfort ripped away from us.
We are being awoken from our sleep…and sometimes that’s not a gentle stirring. It can feel far more like a violent shake.
I think part of the problem is that we aren’t entirely prepared for the rude awakening.
After all, we associate finding spirituality (God, Consciousness, the Universe — or whichever words you most identify with) with finding greater peace.
So the realization that the path toward that peace is actually not so peaceful at all can be shocking.
As harsh as it feels, sometimes we may need an extra push from God.
As the 14th-century Persian poet Hafiz so beautifully puts it in “Tired of Speaking Sweetly”:
“Love wants to reach out and manhandle us,
Break all our teacup talk of God.
If you had the courage and
Could give the Beloved His choice, some nights,
He would just drag you around the room
By your hair,
Ripping from your grip all those toys in the world
That bring you no joy.”
Spirituality doesn’t always speak to us sweetly
When I first read this reflection of spirituality from Hafiz, I wept.
Partly for the relief I felt in hearing these words.
In a way, they felt like permission for my spiritual journey to be a messy one.
Let’s face it:
We can feel so much pressure in life to try to do things perfectly. My ego grasped onto the notion that my spiritual awakening should be as seamless as possible.
I felt like I should be quickly becoming wiser, calmer, and more angelic with every step. So I didn’t like it when I lost control, had mini-meltdowns, or sank back into delusion.
Because to my mind (or my ego), that felt like failure.
But beyond the ‘teacup talk of God” real spirituality, just like real life, is rawer than we would hope.
It is vivid like the blood running in our veins. It is rich and gritty like the earth beneath our feet.
And so the peaceful path is simply not how it unfolds for many.
Because as Hafiz goes on to say:
“God wants to manhandle us,
Lock us inside of a tiny room with Himself
And practice His dropkick.
The Beloved sometimes wants
To do us a great favor:
Hold us upside down
And shake all the nonsense out.
But when we hear
He is in such a “playful drunken mood”
Most everyone I know
Quickly packs their bags and hightails it
Out of town.”
We can so easily fall into spiritual traps created by the ego
So when our spiritual path doesn’t neatly unfold as an ordered and linear route, we might worry something is wrong.
Which rather ironically can pile on even more anxiety.
We wonder if we should feel so anxious still, so sad, or lost when we have started a spiritual awakening.
That’s because in many ways we were expecting spirituality to “fix” these perceived flaws for us.
As the Hafiz poem highlights, without even intending to, we create ideas of what we think spirituality should be. Of how it should look and feel.
No wonder it feels unsettling when the reality doesn’t end up fitting this false image we’ve constructed.
But it also presents other potential pitfalls.
We can end up falling for the myths and lies floating around out there about spirituality.
I started to wear a new mask of Spirituality
When I had my first spiritual experience, I felt like I had glimpsed truth.
I couldn’t put it into words, I couldn’t understand it with my thinking mind.
But I knew I wanted more.
The trouble was it felt fleeting. I didn’t know how to get it to come back. So I looked for ways to find it again.
Many of which are activities that we know can support us on our path. Such as meditation, mindful movements like yoga, reading spiritual texts, etc.
But as I did, I noticed I increasingly began to identify with these so-called spiritual activities.
I started to think I needed to act a certain way, speak a certain way, or even hang around with certain types of people if I were to take this whole spiritual awakening thing seriously.
But after a while, it dawned on me:
I was just trying to swap my old self for a shiny new spiritual self.
The obvious problem being —an awakening has zero to do with the self.
In fact, it is the total opposite. It is about waking up from the illusion of self.
My ego had taken hold, and in the process, it had simply created another mask for me to wear.
It was striving for yet another achievement to conquer. Another thing outside of myself to make me whole.
But this time that was becoming enlightened rather than climbing the corporate ladder, meeting the love of my life, or making more money, etc.
Taking control of our own spiritual journey
Maybe something similar has happened to you? Or perhaps you’ve fallen for one of the many other potential pitfalls in the spiritual world.
It’s so easily done. That’s why I’d really recommend checking out a free masterclass with shaman Rudá Iandê.
It’s geared to help us transcend the things that still hold us back. But it’s different in some important ways.
For starters, it puts you in the driving seat of your own spiritual journey. Nobody is going to tell you what is right or wrong for you. You will be called to look inside and answer that for yourself.
Because that’s the only way to have real authenticity. Anything else is just us trying to copy someone else — which is bound to come from ego.
But significantly, the ‘Free Your Mind Masterclass’ also talks a lot about the most common myths, lies, and pitfalls surrounding spirituality, to help us better navigate them.
It’s essentially for anyone who wants support to step out of the frustration, anxiety, and pain that this spiritual journey can createand into a place of greater love, acceptance, and joy.
As I say, it’s free, so I really think it’s worth doing.
Final thoughts: It can be a bumpy ride but take comfort that you have started the journey
I wish I had taken the express train to enlightenment, but alas that wasn’t to be for me.
Instead, I seem to have hopped into Cattle class.
And along with it, I’ve stopped at several less-than-desirable stations along the way.
In the words of Marianne Williamson:
“The spiritual journey is the unlearning of fear and the acceptance of love”.
And I guess how we get there is always going to be as individual as we are.
Unfortunately, this journey doesn’t come along with a scheduled timetable. So we don’t really know how long it is going to last.
But hopefully, we can take comfort in the fact that we are at least on our way.