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The Stages of Awakening
A Guide for the Modern Mystic
an act of waking from sleep.
an act or moment of becoming suddenly aware of something.
The word ‘awakening’ is often used to denote a sudden awareness of the divinity that exists around us and within us.
Yet the awakening experience itself is as diverse and individual as the human species.
Each of us have a different experience of what it feels like to ‘wake’ from our spiritual slumber; the slumber which cuts us off from our awareness of being a soul living in a human body, having a human experience.
For some, the awakening process is sudden and intense, brought on by a specific event or moment in time that is shocking, life changing, and/or entirely transformative.
For others, it’s a slow, steady and subtle process. One that you don’t even realise is in progression, until you look back in hindsight and can reflect on the subtle milestones.
Recently, I had the pleasure of being a guest on the ‘Sol Revolution’ podcast hosted by Monique Lume, where we discussed the Stages of Awakening as well as my vision for The Modern Mystic!
What I have personally found, is that despite the diversity of experiences on the ‘awakening’ journey, it is helpful to denote the process of awakening into linear ‘stages’. Although the journey itself is abstract, non-linear, and can often vary from these stages, I believe many of you will resonate with the stages and identify your own journey within them.
For this podcast discussion, I decided to create a written PDF companion of the Stages, available to all new subscribers of The Modern Mystic.
However after further contemplation, I realise I wanted to share the content of this PDF as a published Substack post here too for those already subscribed.
So let’s continue with the Stages, shall we?
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What Is the Purpose of Awakening?
This discussion on the ‘Stages’ serves as Part Two to the first content piece I published on this topic titled ‘The Spiritual Path & The Journey of Awakening’. In this first post I dove into the purpose of awakening from the perspective of the soul; offering deeper context by synthesising wisdom from multiple traditions and schools of thought.
If you haven’t read it, you can do so below:
The Spiritual Path & The Journey of Awakening: A Contemporary Understanding of the Journey Home to God
A Note on the Word 'Awakening’
I know the word ‘Awakening’ has been highly overused in contemporary spiritual circles, and for many has lost its significance and can even be a slight turn off. I considered this as I wrote the Stages.
However more important than the few who no longer resonate with the word, is my intention that TMM uses accessible language. As such, I do think the word ‘awakening’ is easily recognised and understood by all seekers of all backgrounds, and I prefer it to the word ‘Ascension’, which is why I’ve continued to use it in this context.
I refer to the Stages of Awakening, as ‘stages’ rather than ‘levels’, as the the human experience can be thought of as a drama we play out on a cosmic stage. I try to avoid use of the word ‘levels’, as the ego mind often can’t help but associate it with some false spiritual hierarchy. In the world of spirit, there is no such thing as better or worse than, superior or inferior. There is only that which brings one closer to god, and that which brings one further away.
A few more points to note:
The stages do not always happen in the ‘order’ I have listed. One can move back and forth between stages, can jump stages, or even experience multiple stages at once. Stages often overlap.
As mentioned before, there’s no better or worse. No stage is better or worse than another.
The spiritual awakening journey is not ‘linear’, but processing it in a linear way can help the human brain ‘get on board’ so to speak and make the journey easier.
Within each stage there are several smaller stages and milestones. For simplicity sake I have grouped the experience of awakening into 4 major groups.
There is no use in trying to ‘rush’ through a stage to get to the next. Doing so would be considered ‘spiritual bypassing’ and will actually hinder your evolution.
Now that I’ve said what’s needed to be said, let’s dive into the Stages of Awakening!
Stage One: The Main Character
You may have come across the reference to ‘being the main character’ in personal development circles, viral instagram reels, or quippy captions along the lines of “I’m in my main character era”.
For our purpose, the main character constitutes the first stage of awakening.
In this stage, we ‘awaken’ from the slumber of our genetic & social conditioning. No longer does one desire to live their life on ‘autopilot’, a victim to preset external circumstances or beliefs that define what one's life can be.
In this stage, we step out of the ‘victim mentality’ and into one of ‘personal responsibility’.
We realise that we are not the thoughts or feelings that are simply playing in our mind and body on autopilot; a culmination of the programming we’ve taken on from our familial, societal and karmic systems.
We start to dream of all the possibilities available for our life. We start to ask ourselves the question ‘What do I want?’. We begin to distinguish between what others want for us and what we want for ourselves.
We begin a curious exploration into the worlds of personal development, quantum energetics and manifestation.
Learning how to ‘manifest’ our desires attracts us and excites us.
We realise that ‘everything is energy’, and our brain and body has the ability to transmit frequencies into the ether to ‘attract like frequencies’.
“Wait, you mean I actually have the creative power to manifest what I want?”
We learn the universal law of attraction, and begin to consciously manifest the reality we desire to live out externally.
We realise, that actually, we’ve always been manifesting, we just weren’t doing so consciously.
Our life starts to feel a little magical, a little mysterious… filled with synchronicities and perceived ‘signs’ from a higher power.
We become the hero of our own story. We play the main character gladly, acting out the drama of our life on the cosmic stage, fully embracing our role as the experiencer, learning how to make our human experience feel gratifying.
Beware of the false guru
When we awaken, we are flooded with a sense of power that has long been dormant inside of us. This is heightened by our sense of curiosity and willingness to learn and soak in all we can from who we perceive to be ‘experts’.
In our hunger to learn and our perceived ‘newness’ to the material, we can easily abdicate our power to a guru, a misguided teacher, or even a ‘master teacher’ whom we put on a pedestal. We treat them as God, instead of recognising that they to, are human, and are subject to error. We expect perfection, and take every teaching to be the ultimate truth, without practicing discernment.
It’s important to always practice discernment. Don’t take every teacher's word as gospel. Instead, ‘try it on’. Does this feel true to you? Does this resonate with you at this point in your journey? If it does not resonate, it does not mean the teaching is wrong… it simply means it is not for you at this time. Trust your intuition.
Subconscious belief programming & core wounds
Learning how to manifest can be very exciting, and we may experience quick success with it. However depending on what subconscious beliefs or core emotional wounds we carry, manifesting what we desire may actually prove to be more challenging than it seems. We may find it works in some areas of our life, whilst in other areas we keep hitting roadblocks and coming across the same challenges. This is completely normal.
When we’re ready to do the deeper work to address the subconscious beliefs, shadows and core wounds that exist within, we move into the second stage of awakening.
Stage Two: The Narrator
In the second stage of awakening, we become aware of the stories that unconsciously drive us.
This is the stage of shadow work, subconscious reprogramming, inner child work, generational healing, and deeper spiritual seeking through various lineages or paths.
No longer completely identified with the Main Character, the Narrator is the one telling the story, watching as the main character ‘reenacts’ the drama of the script.
This stage can be divvied up into two main phases. In the first, we become aware of the script, the stories and the patterns that are playing out in our lives.
In the second phase, we actively take charge of the script and decide to shift the story.
Contrary to the Main Character stage which is often full of ‘newness’ and ‘magic’, the Narrator stage can at times feel slow, painful and arduous.
It is fraught with identity deaths and rebirths’ shedding of who one ‘thought they were’, and lessons that ultimately dismantle the ego’s hold over you.
At times we may wonder what happened to the ‘magic’, why ‘god has abandoned us’ or why it feels like we are making no progress in our journey.
Rest assured, if you are experiencing this, know you are making great progress, but it is happening ‘behind the scenes’.
It is important to trust the process. There will be seasons when you are deep in the work and feeling called to action, and there will be seasons for rest. It is important to trust your intuition, which will only become a stronger and louder voice as you continue to walk the path.
And that is a very good thing.
“Overdoing it, overdoes it” - Melanie Ann Layer
There is such a thing as ‘too much’ healing. In our desire to ‘get to the other side’ of the pain, the shadow work, the confrontational aspect of addressing ones inner demons, we can throw ourselves into the ‘work’, treating ourselves more like a self-improvement project that needs ‘fixing’, instead of a perfect, worthy human made by god, that of course has its flaws as all humans do.
Just remember, there is nothing wrong with you. You are enough just as you are, without all the ‘inner work.’ If you choose to ‘do the work’ so you can tell a different story then the script you inherited, then do so because it’s what you are called to do. Love and forgive yourself for any perceived shortcomings.
The journey is more important than the destination
In our effort to ‘shift the script’, it can be easy to get caught up in ‘wanting it all to happen now’, rather than enjoying the journey in the present. Remember what it felt like to first ‘awaken’ and look upon the world with fresh eyes? Although the ‘newness’ may have worn off, we can still access this feeling of magic and wonder simply by bringing our awareness to the present moment. It is likely that at one point or another, you dreamed of what you have and how you are living now.
Stage Three: The Witness
Moving into the witness stage denotes a significant spiritual shift.
As the witness, one is no longer identified with the ‘main character’, or even the narrator telling the story.
One is simply the observer.
You are the watcher, witnessing the drama of life unfold on the cosmic stage.
No longer are you actively sitting in the ‘driver's seat’ as the conscious manifestor of your life either.
Instead, you hand the wheel over to a divine power that you perceive to be both immanent and transcendent. Life unfolds in accordance with divine will, whilst the human part of you watches it unfold as an active participant.
Spiritually, one who is the ‘witness’ begins to live a primarily heart-based existence. The world is witnessed through the lens of love, compassion, empathy and forgiveness.
Although there can still be pain and suffering as the ego-self is still very much present, the witness sees the inherent beauty in all experiences.
No longer the ‘experiencer’, the witness observes the human in all its emotions. Thoughts aren’t ‘mine’, feelings aren’t ‘mine’. They are there, they exist, but they are not part of one’s identity.
Uncomfortable feelings can be alchemised through the lens of love.
ie. The human still grieves, but it is because the human loves.
The human still experiences fear, but it is because the ego desires survival. We want to live. And love is what powers life.
Victim Consciousness Masked as Surrender
The topic of Surrender is a tricky one for the ego mind to grasp. The witness in its truest sense of surrender is fully in its power, still the active participant in life, still fully grounded in the 3D world as a human. However the ego mind can so easily and subtly shift from true surrender into victim consciousness and abdication of power. One can sit back in the name of ‘surrender’, secretly hoping life will change due to some divine ‘chance of luck’. Surrender does not mean waiting for someone or some ‘external force’ to save you. Surrender does not mean doing nothing. Surrender does not mean holding back from doing what we know we must but are too afraid to do, in the name of ‘divine timing’.
Disassociation & Spiritual Bypassing Masked as Non-Attachment
Many spiritual seekers are attracted to ‘high-level’ spiritual teachings, such as that on witness consciousness, because the ego wants to avoid the discomfort normally addressed in ‘The Narrator” stage of awakening. As a result, rather than truly being a ‘witness’ who is deeply embodied in their spiritual wisdom and practices, they are disassociated from the human self. It is all too common for seekers, healers and spiritual teachers alike to be totally detached from the human realm, more comfortable living in the cosmic realm, mistaking this for an advanced spiritual state.
There is nothing advanced about repressing the human self. This is why the embodiment work which normally begins in the Narrator stage is so important.
Fluctuation of Stages
Most of us have experienced the witness stage at times, but find ourselves moving in and out of it. It is normal for us to have moments where we are truly ‘the witness’, only to be ‘drawn in’ to the consciousness of the experiencer once again, usually triggered by a certain external event. Fluctuating in and out of the witness is a normal part of this stage. The more we simply ‘become aware’ and ‘observe’ how the ego mind operates, choosing to surrender again and again to the deeper guidance of our soul, the more our consciousness settles into the witness as a more permanent way of being.
Stage Four: Union
Very few humans ever reach this stage in their awakening journey, and rather little is known about it.
The word ‘Union’ in this context refers to a group of advanced states of consciousness, experienced by those we call saints, mystics, enlightened beings, and the great avatars (Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, etc.)
In this stage, the individual consciousness unites with God. No longer does a human consider themselves to be a separate ‘I’, instead they operate from within the field of divinity. This is true ‘oneness’.
It is not possible for me to speak on the challenges of this stage, as I have not personally experienced this stage of awakening.
But what I do want to say, is beware of ones who claim to be awakened to the point of union.
The enlightened teacher does not walk around, proclaiming they are enlightened.
Those who call themselves enlightened, claim to ‘be the voice of Jesus’, or otherwise claim to be ‘chosen by God’ are normally deep in a state of religious psychosis, or under the influence of astral beings.
Qualities of the true enlightened teacher include humility, humour, inclusivity and compassion.
It is also possible to experience moments of this stage. It is not uncommon for one to have a near death experience, or an otherwise sudden or momentary experience of being one with the exquisite love of God. These moments can be extremely transformative, and can even bring about spontaneous and miraculous healing of body, mind and spirit. Some of you may have experienced such moments!
This concludes my brief summary of the Stages of Awakening. My hope is that this companion can serve as a reference and guidepost on your journey.
Make no mistake, the journey of awakening is the journey home to God.
God, forever the doting parent, awaits our return patiently, with open and loving arms.
And so it is.
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