““Breakthrough artists always expand the very concept of freedom.”
~ Talismanist Giebra
Press play to hear an audio enhancement as you read.
One reason we admire breakthrough artists of every kind is because they remind us of our own inherent ability to escape self-imposed comfort zones, and one of the most addictive in self-improvement circles is the spiritual bypass.
We’ve all met workshop junkies. They stream from one peak experience event to another, soaring and crashing their way through life. Meanwhile, authentic masters tend to discount phenomena as distracting and champion consistency instead.
In The Leap: The Psychology of Spiritual Awakening, Dr. Steve Taylor identifies what he calls 18 unmistakable signs of spiritual awakening which provide a detailed expose of everyday life on the path. We’ll explore these in our next few blogs. Here’s his list:
1. Intensified Perception
2. Increased Presentness / Timelessness
3. Awareness of “Presence” or an All-Pervading Spiritual Energy
4. Aliveness, Harmony, and Connectedness
5. Inner Quietness
6. Transcendence of Separation / Sense of Connection
7. Empathy and Compassion
9. Absence of (or Decreased) Fear of Death
10. Lack of Group Identity
11. Wide Perspective: A Universal Outlook
12. Heightened Sense of Morality
13. Appreciation and Curiosity
14. Altruism and Engagement
15. Enjoyment of Inactivity: The Ability to “Be”
16. Beyond Accumulation and Attachment / Nonmaterialism
17. Autonomy: Living More Authentically
18. Enhanced, More Authentic Relationships
Taylor begins by describing Intensified Perception. “Spiritually awakened people see the world in a very childlike way — struck by the wonder, beauty, and intricacy of phenomena that other people take for granted and don’t pay much attention to. One of the signs of spiritual awakening is that the world is a brighter, more fascinating and beautiful place to them. In particular, they are captivated by nature — the amazing is-ness and beauty of the natural landscape, the sky, and the sea; the strangeness, complexity, and intricacy of animals, plants, and other phenomena.” 1
His nod to nature is noteworthy because one characteristic of those lost on the spiritual bypass is disconnection from the physical world. What’s imagined to be “spiritual” is often “mental,” that is, preoccupation with thoughts. For many, nature has become a mere backdrop for life, something incidental rather than important.
Those having an authentic spiritually awakened experience celebrate every dimension and understand that this earth plane may, in some ways, actually be the highest one… because all the other levels are represented here. One of the people Dr. Taylor interviewed for his book reported “a sense of awe and a new appreciation for simple pleasures and activities like walking, cooking, eating, and simply attending to their surroundings.”
Number two on his list is Increased Presentness / Timelessness and he writes: “In wakefulness, the past and the future become much less important, and the present becomes correspondingly more important. Awakened individuals spend much less time recalling past experiences or ruminating over past events, just as they spend less time looking forward to the future, daydreaming about future events or focusing on future goals. Instead, they focus on their present experience, on the surroundings they’re in, the people they’re with, and the sensations and impressions they’re having.”
Committed meditators enjoy this experience every day. In fact, the true purpose of meditation has always been to deepen and extend this experience of timelessness to the point where it becomes the norm. We learn to be vividly present, no matter what’s going on. This means that we pay attention to events and people, we listen and learn. In other words, we get out of our heads and into our lives!
Awareness of “Presence” or an All-Pervading Spiritual Energy is number three. “In my research, one person described this as ‘a deep sense of a living presence within that is both magnificent and also very ordinary.’ Another person described one of his symptoms of awakening as ‘a vast presence which is just infinite and pretty mind-blowing. Especially in nature.’”
He makes another reference to nature here, which introduces one of the most enjoyable, easily accessed, inexpensive, and effective paths to take for those serious about spiritual enlightenment: a walk in the woods!
Some of us are fortunate to live in nature settings which makes that easy. But all of us can find a nearby park, not to jog for exercise but to stroll for meditative nourishment. As John Muir famously said, “Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.”
The next time you need a break, or a breakthrough, instead of imagining that you need to sign up for the next workshop, just head for the woods!