Countless people are becoming more aware of the problems in the world and also of the fact that certain outdated ways of life need to change, both in our inner and outer world. Can you feel it too?
If you do, it’s possible you are going through one of the stages of spiritual awakening. Through these stages you will find that your consciousness is growing, your interests are evolving, and the meaning of life is deepening. All this is accompanied by the desire to first change yourself in order to change the world.
Stages of Spiritual Awakening
(and What to Expect With an Ego Death)
You may be having a spiritual awakening right now, and chances are you don’t even know what’s happening behind the scenes! But it turns out that spiritual awakenings tend to follow certain patterns or stages that you can easily recognize to help make sense of what’s happening to you. Often the very first phase of spiritual growth is the ego death.
[Read: “The Week I Burned My Ego.”]
Breaking away from the ego and returning to our true nature—one of love—can be hard, because most of us are controlled by our ego, which is our sense of self. The ego hides behind “I” and “me.” It tells us who we need to be and how we fit into the world.
Understand, the death of the ego is just one step on a lifelong path of spirituality. It isn’t a grand opening into enlightenment, but rather an initiation into a more peaceful way of being. Once you learn about the stages of spiritual awakening and how to work with them, you’ll notice your own spiritual awakening and personal advancement becomes easier and more peaceful. The stages help support you.
Stage One of Spiritual Awakening: Waking Up to the Void
The first phase is when you start to leave behind your daily routine and dissociate from the life you’ve created. It is considered a spiritual awakening as you start to question everything. Perhaps your job is no longer fulfilling or your living situation is stagnant.
You may feel as if something is missing and, no matter what you do, you cannot fill it. Most often this spiritual awakening is accompanied by depression, lack of motivation, and feelings of being lost. However, in this phase, you are waking up.
[Read: “14 Affirmations to Assist in Your Spiritual Awakening.”]
Questions to ask: Who am I? Why am I here? What is my purpose? What am I supposed to do?
Stage Two of Spiritual Awakening: Dark Night of the Soul (Ego)
This is often the darkest, lowest point of the journey. In this phase we are in complete despair, and we know that something has to happen in our life, something drastic and meaningful, or else there will be a death in us. This is the ego death in initiation.
[Read: “Is This My Dark Night of the Soul? Or Just a Case of the Blues.”]
We may even become isolated from others (and even ourselves) and feel the heaviness of the world. Actor Jim Carrey has said that “depression is your avatar telling you it’s tired of being the character you’re trying to play.” This is the theme of the second phase of spiritual awakening: the character you’ve been playing is retiring. If we recognize that this dark night is actually the ending of the old so the new can begin, we can shift through with more grace.
Questions to ask: What character have you been playing? What masks and are tired of wearing?
Stage Three of Spiritual Awakening: The Sponge
This is the explorer phase, where you aren’t sure what you want, but you know clearly what you don’t want. As you start to chip away at all things that no longer resonate, you create more space for what is true and in alignment with your reality.
This looks like experimentation with new hobbies, jobs, people, and experiences. You start to fill the void with things that bring you peace and joy: writing, art, more time in nature, getting a new pet, astrology, healing modalities, new books, and new friends are all very common in this phase. I call it the sponge phase because you’re soaking up new ideas and shifting into new habits. This is a time when you are starting to give yourself permission to explore and treat everything as an adventure for your soul. Often in this phase, you will branch out to new spirituality, tools and teachers.
Questions to ask: What brings me joy? What do I feel called to do?
Stage Four of Spiritual Awakening: The Soul Sessions
This next stage is not to be rushed. In truth, it can take months, years, even decades. It is the true you emerging and developing a structure for your spiritual self to exist and thrive. The soul is growing, and as you learn more about yourself, you start to implement new tools, routines, rituals, and strategies to help you stay aligned to your true self.
[Try: “Guided Meditation: Alignment Into Being.”]
This looks like working with new coaches, teachers, meditations, and healing practices. Reiki, essential oils, crystal healing therapy—the list of healing modalities is endless. The soul’s mission in this stage of spiritual awakening is to discover what works best. And just because it works for someone else doesn’t mean it is aligned with you. The goal here is to trust your intuition and honor your own path.
Question to ask: What practices, tools, and rituals help me feel most aligned?
Stage Five of Spiritual Awakening: Surrender and Allow
In this stage, you’ve done so much internal work and you may be living in more balance, peace, and harmony than you were in earlier stages of spiritual awakening. Now it’s time to fully let go. Let go of who you thought you were so you can be all you are destined and truly meant to be. Having become familiar with your true self, as you let go, give your true self permission to shine.
In this stage, you surrender everything that is not part of your true nature. Everything that was created by your ego will now fall away. This includes patterns, habits, people, situations—everything that is no longer in alignment with your soul’s highest expression. For this step to be most effective, trust that not knowing what is next is safe, as you lean into faith and trust that the Universe is working on your behalf to support, uplift, and guide you, and you will always be provided for.
Questions to ask: What no longer serves me? What is falling away? What is emerging?
Stage Six of Spiritual Awakening: Awareness and Service
The last stage is full awareness of your divinity, your light, and your love. You no longer live in a place of ego, and spreading your light is your mission and service to the world. You do this by honoring your joy and living your passion. Doing what you love daily is one of the highest forms of happiness, and by committing to this happiness, you help to uplift the world. You understand joy is your birthright, and peace is your priority.
Adapted from Return to You: 11 Spiritual Lessons for Unshakable Inner Peace
by Shannon Kaiser, published by Sounds True April 2022.