On a recent post, questions came up about why some seem to move quickly and some slowly on the spiritual path. Also, why some seem to go further than others.
The biggest thing to note up front is that it’s very difficult to gauge progress subjectively. Much of the progress and preparation takes place out of conscious awareness. We’re not conscious of changes the crown chakra is making, for example. We also have no idea how much work there is to do. But there are milestones on the journey.
I can’t suggest every variable but there are some typical factors that set the stage for the shifts:
1 – Cumulative. Development of Atman and development of Sattva are both cumulative from prior lifetimes. When we come into this life, we pick up where we left off (although there may be a lag while we work off some karma). We’re not all starting from the same place. Some are born ready to pop when the time is right, some have just a few things to clean up, and some have aways to go. You wouldn’t be interested in this blog if you were not well along.
2 – Karma. Some people tackle a lot of karma in this life so they can maximize progress. That can appear to be barriers and distractions. But when that karma completes, progress becomes more clear. Another reason subjective progress is difficult to gauge.
For example, I went through an extended outward stroke where I was very involved in a career, home, and marriage. Then that completed and fell away. Only then did it become clear how much clarity and integration had developed in the background, setting the stage for awakening.
3 – Practice. Do we have good practices that maximize spiritual progress? This can come from prior life practices that show up again. I stepped back into the same tradition in this life as the last two. This also relates to why being initiated in a lineage supports us long term. (Careful with energetic lineages not founded in spirituality. Some of those are more binding and may later need to be cleared.)
4 – Healing. While a good practice does wonders for connecting us to source and clearing the detritus, most of us have some harder nuts that some supplemental work will help clear. I’ve also seen how people can relax an issue, only to revive it again in activity. If we can resolve the source of these contractions, we improve quality of life and make the unfolding clearer and smoother.
5 – Guidance. Getting good guidance at key points of the journey helps us stay on track and cooperate with the process. This relates to karma and a lineage too. For example, Eckhart Tolle famously spent two years sitting on a park bench to sort out what had changed. He had no guidance.
6 – Understanding. Good understanding that supports a full and balanced progress is important. Again, this relates to lineage and historical development. It’s much easier to get where you’re going with a decent map.
It’s also important to have language. Otherwise the mind can’t digest experiences as easily and doubts things that are vague and abstract. They can be forgotten until something similar comes again.
On the flip side, our concepts of what enlightenment is supposed to look like have to be dropped to allow the shift to happen. The map is not the road.
Poor ideas can create barriers to opening, like an expectation of required perfection to wake up. Or the idea that awakening will end all your problems.
Similarly, people awake can get stuck if they think they’re done. See More below.
7 – Timing. This relates to the timetable of the souls journey in this life and the larger cycles of consciousness. When the times comes, things just happen. The value of practices (above) is in preparing the ground for a smoother, clearer shift when grace arrives. If we’re not ready, it may be missed or lost.
Also related is the need of the time. If one soul misses a scheduled stop, then another may be called to step up to the plate. Grace works in the context of the whole.
8 – Darshan. Few people wake up spontaneously on their own. Awakening is the Self waking up to Itself here. We have no historical experiential references for this shift. Being around a living example you resonate with can help trigger it when you’re ripe. The awake Self in them can alert the same Self in you.
This is why I’ve seen many, many people wake up. I’ve been hanging around the awake for over a decade.
There are quite a few people out there who have been practicing good techniques for decades and have become very ripe. They need darshan to help trigger the shift.
There is the tendency for the teacher to show up when the time is right but if there is an investment in a certain understanding like how it’s supposed to happen, we may dismiss opportunities that arise without realizing it.
Further progress post-awakening:
Once we wake up, living life awake brings progress. It’s like we’re in deep meditation 24/7. But there are some things that can interfere.
9 – Verification. Awakening feels very ordinary and normal. (And extraordinary at the same time.) Most are surprised by that and how simple it is. The open space of awakening often causes what is unresolved to come forward for resolution, crowding the initial peace and reducing clarity. Unless someone has the understanding, and unless the shift is clear and becomes integrated, doubt can arise.
Purification also gives the mind an opening to try to regain control. It generally fails but the winding down can take time.
Experienced teachers will verify a shift but ask you to see how it stabilizes rather than making grand proclamations. This is because awakening is anything but static. There is often lots of house-cleaning plus further stages can start to unfold.
10 – Clean Up. Most people will have lots more to clean up post-awakening. If we cooperate with the process, the shift will become clearer and more integrated and further stages can unfold. If we learn to self-heal, we can support the process. If we don’t that may limit our progress.
11 – More. At various points on the journey, we can feel complete and done. If we don’t understand there is more, we can get stuck there. This is directly related to Understanding above. If we start teaching our reality, we can get even more invested in it. I’m yet to meet anyone who is “done” – even world teachers.
The sage Vasishtha mentions in the Rig Veda the importance of desiring Unity. This suggests some light intention to move forward is helpful. I would add that you need to know it’s there to desire it, part of what motivates my work. When you know, the desire is natural to continue.
12 – Surrender. Later stages require surrendering the prior enlightenment. Just as we surrender ego identification in awakening, we surrender Self Realization for Unity and Unity for Brahman. In some ways, each is a larger letting go. But Unity has a series of sub-stages that give us a lot of practice. It includes a progressive series of larger and larger inclusivity.
For some, this is natural but others are more reticent to let go. This can be even more so for some teachers who’ve invested their work in what has been here.
The Brahman shift is the biggest step as we surrender our oneness with all. It’s called the Supreme Awakening. The old texts suggest some people choose not to make that step as they want to keep the close intimacy of Unity. The challenge is in the shift itself, not what flowers out of it. Recognizing the potential of pure Divinity may help encourage that leap into nothing.
There are markers in a Vedic birth chart that show a propensity to awaken and also a tendency to move quickly through the stages. A chart isn’t fate, it’s the framework we came in with – our karma, inclinations, abilities, and so forth. As we transcend our karma, we also transcend the chart.
Having key things in a Ketu (liberation) nakshatra in the D1 or D9 is ideal. AK in a Jupiter placement helps too. Timing takes a skilled jyotishi and a very accurate (or rectified) birth time but relates to Dasha & Bhukti being Moksha house lords or Rahu or Ketu.
The ones I know who have been stepping through the stages have a long history of practice, many witnessed for years before waking (helping increase clarity), learned to let go, spend time with others very awake, and had a good understanding to support their process.
As group consciousness rises, the thresholds get lower. At one time, you had to devote your life to it. Towards the end of the 20th Century, some woke up by spending extended times with a guru in India. Now, people are waking up with simple darshan or a few weekend retreats.
The speed varies widely though. I know a few who took years just to be clear they were awake. And others who have stepped through the stages rapidly. Each of us has our own process and rate and we won’t know what that is until we can look back on it.
Do your best with the building blocks and your quality of life will gradually improve. And then one day, when you least expect it, the lights will come on. You’ll have stepped through the door of infinity and made it home.
[I’m at the SAND conference so there may be a lag in comments]