The Four Phases of Spiritual Awakening

The Four Phases of Spiritual Awakening

I had so many responses to my last essay, “You are the boat”, that I wanted to tell you a bit more about what I know about the phases of spiritual awakening. And of course, talk more about the boat!  

The metaphor of a kayak navigating the rapids and how it relates to spiritual awakening first came to me when I learned to kayak about 15 years ago, just after finishing chemotherapy for cancer at age 32. I was going through an intense physical, emotional and spiritual crisis and was looking to understand more about why all of this shit was happening to me. At that time, I had an epiphany where I finally understood the idea of myself and the boat as two parts of the same being — my human self and my spiritual self. My understanding of the other phases came later, as I deepened my spiritual practice.

There are four phases of spiritual awakening in this metaphor. Progression through these phases takes you from being ego-bound and unable to escape your own suffering all the way to understanding that you are both everything and nothing (the manifest and unmanifest) and that, in fact, there is no “you” there to suffer through anything at all. 

So, let’s go through the phases, one by one. 

Everyone got your kayak ready? Got your paddle? Got your desire to be one with the universe? 

Excellent! Let’s go. 

Phase 1: 

When you first learn to kayak, you’re constantly flipping over and it’s hard to control the direction of the boat. This is phase one – where our emotions and belief systems about the world feel out of control, just like the kayak. In this phase, life seems unpredictable, unfair and it feels like no matter what you do, there’s always someone or something that gets in the way. Maybe your boss is really difficult or you’re always rehashing the same fights over and over with your partner. Maybe you just can’t get a break and it feels like the world is against you. There’s also an internal struggle going on as well, and you often worry about what other people think of you or how they will react to your choices. You worry about if you’re good enough and fear people will see through you. Life feels uncertain and precarious and like you’re stuck on this emotional rollercoaster where trauma and drama keep happening in your life, over and over. 

Phase 2: 

Phase two is when you start to learn to control the boat. You learn how to steer the boat right and left, how to back paddle to slow down, and how to shift your weight so that the boat goes where you want it to. In this phase, you’ve learned some emotional regulation skills so that when you feel like life is going off the rails you can do something to “control the boat.” This could be tools like deep breathing, guided meditation, or going for a walk. You’ve been to therapy or learned how to do some thought work, like Byron Katie’s The Work and can now understand that you shouldn’t believe everything you think. You’ve done a lot of work to address the trauma in your past and look at how your thoughts, behaviors and choices come through that lens of your trauma response. Life seems calmer now and you understand that while you can’t control much of what happens to you, you can control how you react to it. 

Phase 3: 

Phase three is when you realize that successfully making it through the rough rapids isn’t about trying to control the boat much at all. It’s about learning to listen to the boat and follow its lead. The boat is designed to float, so if you react to what the boat wants to do instead of trying to control it, you’ll make it through with much less effort and a sense of partnership with the boat. This is when you start to understand that you are a spiritual being having a human experience. There are two parts to you – the human self (passenger) and the spiritual self (the boat). Once you let the spiritual self lead the way, life becomes a whole lot easier. In this phase, you’ve had some experiences with ego dissolution through meditation or with plant medicine and you’ve come to understand that you have a soul or spirit. You also understand that the idea of “you” as a separate being is just a temporary illusion you’re experiencing while you’re incarnated here as a human. In this phase, intuition becomes much stronger and you have a good sense of your “spiritual compass” or karmic area of study you’re supposed to explore during this lifetime. There’s also often a sense of comfort or peace as you deepen your awareness of universal consciousness and know that as an eternal being, you are always safe and nothing can ever really hurt you. 

Phase 4: 

Finally, we get to phase 4. At this point you’ve realized that not only are you both the passenger and the boat, you are also the river. And the rocks. And the trees. And the birds and the wind…. You are everything, all made of the same stuff, the unmanifest made manifest. This is when you’ve reached enlightenment or awakening. At this point, you can easily access a blissed-out state of feeling connected, and all feels right in the world. Even when things are going “wrong” you see that there is a rightness there. You accept all as right and good because if it’s happening, it has to be right and good. There is equanimity to joy and pain and everything in between, it all loses its meaning other than, “it is”.  In this phase, there’s a heightened level of intuition and an opening of deep reservoirs of compassion and love for everything around you. Once you understand that you and everything outside of “you” is the same thing you understand that all there is to do is be love, emit love, and receive love. 

Is there a phase 5? There could be! At my point in this journey, I’ve only been able to experience these 4, but I know that I am an ever-evolving, ever-changing being and I don’t yet know what I don’t know. 

It’s important to note that these phases don’t necessarily go in order and that we often cycle through the phases depending on the day, our mood, our past experiences, and so on. We can also be in one phase for months or years before we experience the next one, and many people never go past phase one or two in this incarnation. This is as it’s supposed to be, there is no here that is better than there, it all just is as it should be. 

I’m curious — tell me how you’ve experienced these phases. Where are you and your boat today? 

Xo Megan

You are the boat.

I’m sitting in my red kayak, paddle across my lap, staring at the class 3 rapids just ahead of me. I’d pulled over to a calm spot on the river to mentally map my path through the rapid. Three days before this was the first time I’d ever been in a kayak in my life. Six months before this, at 32-years-old, I’d been diagnosed with stage III colon cancer.

I was on a weeklong program through the non-profit org First Descents where young adult cancer survivors learn to whitewater kayak. We were also learning how to face fear again after having one of the scariest things imaginable happen at a really young age – a cancer diagnosis.

Looking out over the rapid, I calculated which course I should take to try to avoid flipping the kayak. In whitewater kayaking, you’re “attached” to the boat by a rubber skirt, so if you flip, it’s no fun to try to find the ripcord to get out of the boat while upside down, with no air, in the middle of a rocky, turbulent rapid. Like I said – I was facing fear again, but this time it was my choice and not some shitty cancer diagnosis that life had dealt me.

As I stared at the rapids, I had a realization. I was in a boat! (I know – not the most profound realization. Stay with me.) The boat was designed to float, so instead of trying to control the boat, I needed to listen to the boat. The boat knows how to stay upright in the water, all I had to do was feel into which way the boat wanted to go, try my best to be one with the boat, and follow its lead.

So, I did. And it was so much easier than trying to control the boat. I had faith in the boat’s design and its ability to do what it needed to do, I was the passenger and I let the boat do the floating.

I made it through the rapids unscathed and with a newfound understanding. As the adrenalin of the rapid run wore off, I knew that this was about more than just a boat. This was a lesson for life.

Here’s a spiritual truth – if you try to push, resist or control anything in your life, it’s going to be much harder. If you simply trust “the boat” of life and follow where your experiences, intuition and karma lead you, it’s much easier.

One of the secrets of a peaceful life is to respond to what’s in front of you rather than trying to push, resist or control. There are so many aphorisms that teach us this: “What you resist persists” or, “People make plans and God laughs.”

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have goals or go towards what makes you happy, fulfilled and inspired. It means that you should detach from HOW it’s going to happen.

When I was in my boat, I knew I wanted to get through the rapid. But HOW to get through – which path I take – that’s better left up to the boat, the boat knew how to stay afloat.

I started to use this perspective shift in my life when I got home from my kayaking trip. “Trust the boat,” I would think as a new obstacle came my way. I would lean into what felt right, or what was the easiest path forward right in front of me, and just do that, without overthinking it.

It was so much easier.

Now, the easiest path forward wasn’t always how I’d wanted things to go. I had to release a lot of feelings of control or preference about how things unfolded. But knowing that there was a larger force in my spiritual self that knew how to stay afloat through this “life” thing and having faith in that awareness was simpler and felt more right than trying to push and control.

As I’ve learned more about myself and the nature of our existence, I now know that the reason I can trust the boat is because not only am I the passenger, I AM the boat. And the river. And the rocks, and the sky and the birds and the trees. I am all of it, one consciousness.

As you deepen your intuition and your ability to communicate with your spiritual self, you can feel this too. It’s not difficult, it’s just a matter of switching from trying to control and plan to sitting and listening.

Feel into what your life wants for you.

It’s right there, waiting for you to listen.

Xo Megan

You are a spiritual being having a human experience

 Years ago, when I first heard the phrase, “You are a spiritual being having a human experience,” it felt comforting and like I was being given a pass from having to feel the burden of being human all the time. Oh yes, that’s right! This is just an experience, something I’m going through, something temporary.  

In the past few years, I’ve learned a lot more about our reality which has helped me more deeply understand this maxim. The first big leap in understanding came during my NDE, and since then I’ve been shown even more through meditation, channeling, and spirit journeys. Through these experiences, I’ve been able to travel to the place where we are all pure source energy connected with All That Is. Lemme tell you, it’s a really lovely place. If you can, you should go sometime. Five stars – highly recommend!

Here are 4 things I now know are absolutely true for all of us spiritual beings having a human experience:

1. We are limited in our perception of reality. So, here’s the deal – you have a fancy monkey brain. Our human brains are pretty awesome in terms of higher-level cognition and problem solving compared to other types of brains here on Earth, but they’re still limited in what they can do. Imagine trying to teach algebra to a chipmunk. It could be the smartest, most dedicated chipmunk student ever, but it wouldn’t ever get it. That’s sort of the way we are, too. We simply can’t conceive of some of the complexities of our reality.

We only have 8 senses, so if we’re looking for confirmation of this reality through “evidence” from our senses, we won’t always be able to get it. Did you know that there are extra patterns on flowers that only bees and other creatures that can see in the ultraviolet spectrum can sense? Yep – all around you, every day here on Earth, there are things your senses can’t perceive. So why would we think we’re capable of perceiving everything that exists? We already know we have to rely on ways other than unaided, direct, sensory experience to understand things like ultraviolet patterns on flowers, so why wouldn’t there be other things in our reality that we can’t perceive? Fortunately, there are things like meditation, plant medicine, and intuition that allow us to get glimpses of these aspects of our reality.

2. We agreed to all of this – not every single detail, but all the major plot points and narrative or focus of our life story. Before you incarnate, you know what you’re getting into. In fact, oftentimes we have many incarnations in order to work on the same issues. It’s almost like we’re studying a specific subject at university. We’re here to look at a certain issue or theme from many different perspectives and through diverse experiences. Each lifetime is an opportunity to look this issue in a new way and our job here is to grow in our experience and understanding of these perspective shifts.

3. When we come here as humans, we often experience this world with a feeling that something is off — we feel disconnected or unworthy but we can’t quite figure out why. When we incarnate, we experience ourselves as separate – separate from each other and separate from Source.  However, this is just a perception, just an illusion, so that we can go through life learning and expanding by having different experiences from everyone else. And while our souls are very excited to come here and be a human for a while, we feel that separation – there’s a part of us that remembers being interconnected and contiguous with all that is and now we can feel that we’re not. This can cause us to think that we’ve been abandoned or we’ve must have done something wrong to cause this feeling. However, this isn’t all bad! This feeling of separation, and the unhappiness it can trigger, are one of the main reasons people start on the spiritual path and eventually remember who they really are – a hologram of source energy.

4. Our perception of suffering is because we have an ego. I know that 1000 spiritual teachers have said this 1001 times, but our ego is the big source of our suffering. If we didn’t identify as having an ego or “self” then there would be no way to experience our ”selves” feeling hurt or suffering (or joy or serenity, for that matter, since it’s a package deal). Our ego/self experiences suffering when we have a desire, hope, or expectation that something would be different that how it is.

But here’s the thing – having an ego is part of the package of being a human. We can lean into the spiritual aspect of ourselves and transcend the ego for a while (or even for a lifetime for fully realized humans, those lucky rascals!) but our day-to-day experiences here on earth are a like a swing of the pendulum from ego self to spiritual self and back again.

Once I knew that there was a place without ego, where I couldn’t experience shame, anger, sadness, disconnection or hurt because there was no ME to experience this, I realized that all my suffering was only my current perspective from a place of being a human. In our spiritual state, as our eternal Selves, we are one with everyone and everything. We are connected as one consciousness, one being. So, I cannot be hurt by you because there is no you or me. We are part of the same thing – the everything.

This is why unifying with source felt like calm, eternal bliss – no perceptions or stories coming from ego. No feelings of disconnection or worry about judgements from others, since there were no others. And while I didn’t experience “emotions” in the same way as I do here as a human, there was a deep calm and a feeling of being accepted and loved unconditionally, not because I was “worthy” of that love and acceptance but because that was just a fundamental state of being part of universal consciousness or source energy, there was no other way to feel or be.

I’d love to know if any of this resonates with you. When I learn about these things, there’s a feeling of remembering the way things are, rather than learning something new and I think, “Oh yes! That’s how it is. I remember now.” How does all of this feel to you?

Xo Megan

Do you know how to be proud of yourself?

The other day, my mentor asked me, “Are you proud of yourself?”

I had just finished running my new course, Unconventional Tools for Healing, for the first time and was telling her how pleased I was to get some really lovely feedback from the participants.

I stopped for a moment and reflected on her question. I answered honestly, and felt myself holding back tears as I responded:

“I don’t think I know how to be proud of myself.”

The first time I ever remember hearing, “I’m proud of you” from any of my family members was in an email from my father after I’d finished cancer treatment. I’d been writing a blog throughout my treatment and he responded to one of my posts, telling me he was proud of me.

I cried big, wet tears for about 20 minutes. I didn’t realize how long I’d been waiting to hear that from him.

The insidious fallout for children of emotionally immature or abusive parents is that we often don’t learn what it feels like to take a moment to be proud of ourselves. If we’re hyperfocused and hypervigilant on being the good girl or boy and keeping all the plates spinning in the air, we never learn to stop and take stock of what we’ve achieved.

That moment of feeling pride is important. It’s a moment of rest, reflection and integration before starting the next task.

But in the day in and day out nature of extreme emotional caretaking, there is no rest and there is no moment to reflect.

If this is what “normal” was for you as a child, then stopping, reflecting, and being proud of what you’ve achieved can feel uncomfortable and perhaps even a little anxiety provoking. There’s no awareness of the importance of resting and feeling proud of your achievements before taking on the next challenge.

Here are some signs that you might never have learned how to rest and integrate:

  1. You feel anxious of uncomfortable when you have nothing to do. Your brain wants to know, “what’s next?” and you quickly find something to busy yourself. (This can also manifest as ADHD.)
  2. You think that your achievements are just the bare minimum of what you were supposed to do. I finished chemo? Well, I had cancer I was supposed to. I launched a successful online course? Well, I was supposed to, that’s what you do when you have your own business.
  3. You think that all of the success you’ve achieved might be because of a fluke and not because you worked hard and deserved it. The good things that happen to you are courtesy of chance. The bad things that happen to you are your responsibility.
  4. You don’t think your needs matter or are worth taking into account and this includes your need for rest and integration.
  5. You feel that you are not enough. You feel like you have to go above and beyond every time and that nothing you do is ever quite good enough.
  6. You think that you are too much and you need to work on toning it down.
  7. You believe that if you take time to rest, you will be chastised for being lazy, needy or selfish.

If any of these feel familiar, then please let me be the first to tell you:

Rest, my child.

You deserve to rest.

You deserve to take time for yourself to reset, realign, and heal.

You deserve time only for yourself, with no responsibilities for anyone or anything else.

And furthermore, I am proud of you. Even if you don’t feel like you’ve lived a life that’s anything special or you’ve done anything particularly praise worthy, I am proud of you.

I am proud of you because you have made it this far through some pretty tough shit. You’ve survived some things that probably temporarily broke you, and you’ve picked yourself up and put the pieces back together.

YOU did that. And that’s pretty amazing.

So, please, hear me when I say I’m proud of you.

And now, let us rest.

Xo Megan

Questions for Saul: “What Do I Do When I Feel Stuck?”

 If you’re new here and unfamiliar with Conversations with Saul, I channel a collective of spirit guides who prefer to be called Saul.  They are  representatives of universal consciousness (aka Divine Source), here to answer questions that we as humans may have as we navigate through this incarnation. You can learn more about how I began channeling Saul here.

In this morning’s workshop, someone asked Saul a wonderful question about what to do when we feel stuck.   I have often asked myself this same question, and I’ve heard it from so many people as they try to make their way forward in life, so I thought it would be helpful to share Saul’s wisdom here. 

Being stuck is actually a need for rest and reflection.

You can watch the video for Saul’s full answer, but if you’re pressed for time or need to be strictly sound-off, here are the two pieces of advice Saul gives for what to do when we feel stuck: 

  1.  Ask if what is actually happening is that you need a period of integration, download and rest. This is a natural part of any cycle as we can see when we look at any living system, such as watching a plant grow, the cycle of the seasons (hello, winter!) and many other natural processes of growth and rest. Sometimes being stuck is actually a need for rest and reflection, which is why you don’t feel inspired to move forward. The belief that we have to always be in a phase of productivity and forward momentum is not part of the natural cycle, but rather a by-product of patriarchal, capitalist extraction culture. (That last sentence is my added commentary on Saul’s wisdom – I’m much more of an SJW than Saul.) 
  2. Ask if you are reacting to fear. This could be fear of making the wrong move, trying something new and failing, feeling overwhelmed, or making a mistake. If this is the case, you can use your intuition to decide what to do, and Saul gives some solid advice on how to do that in this video. 

If you’d like to learn more about Saul, or have a chance to ask them a question, you can find out more here.

Take care and be kind to yourself today. 

xo,

Megan & Saul 

 

Why It’s So Hard To Rest And Relax

The other day, my mentor asked me, “Are you proud of yourself?”.  

I had just finished running my new course, Unconventional Tools for Healing, for the first time and was telling her how pleased I was to get some really lovely feedback from the participants. 

I stopped for a moment and reflected on her question. I answered honestly, and felt myself holding back tears as I responded: 

“I don’t think I know how to be proud of myself.” 

The first time I ever remember hearing, “I’m proud of you” from any of my family members was in an email from my father after I’d finished cancer treatment. I’d been writing a blog throughout my treatment and he responded to one of my posts, telling me he was proud of me. 

I cried big, wet tears for about 20 minutes. I didn’t realize how long I’d been waiting to hear that from him.

The insidious fallout for children of emotionally immature or abusive parents is that we often don’t learn what it feels like to take a moment to be proud of ourselves. If we’re hyperfocused and hypervigilant on being the good girl or boy and keeping all the plates spinning in the air, we never learn to stop and take stock of what we’ve achieved. 

That moment of feeling pride is important. It’s a moment of rest, reflection and integration before starting the next task.  

But in the day in and day out nature of extreme emotional caretaking, there is no rest and there is no moment to reflect. 

If this is what “normal” was for you as a child, then stopping, reflecting, and being proud of what you’ve achieved can feel uncomfortable and perhaps even a little anxiety provoking. There’s no awareness of the importance of resting and feeling proud of your achievements before taking on the next challenge. 

Here are some signs that you might never have learned how to rest and integrate: 

  1. You feel anxious or uncomfortable when you have nothing to do. Your brain wants to know, “what’s next?” and you quickly find something to busy yourself. (This can also manifest as ADHD.) 
  2. You think that your achievements are just the bare minimum of what you were supposed to do. I finished chemo? Well, I had cancer I was supposed to. I launched a successful online course? Well, I was supposed to, that’s what you do when you have your own business. 
  3. You think that all of the success you’ve achieved might be because of a fluke and not because you worked hard and deserved it. The good things that happen to you are courtesy of chance. The bad things that happen to you are your responsibility.
  4. You don’t think your needs matter or are worth taking into account and this includes your need for rest and integration.
  5. You feel that you are not enough. You feel like you have to go above and beyond every time, and that nothing you do is ever quite good enough. 
  6. You think that you are too much, and you need to work on toning it down. 
  7. You believe that if you take time to rest, you will be chastised for being lazy, needy or selfish. 

If any of these feel familiar, then please let me be the first to tell you: 

Rest, my child.

You deserve to rest. 

You deserve to take time for yourself to reset, realign, and heal. 

You deserve time only for yourself, with no responsibilities for anyone or anything else. 

And furthermore, I am proud of you. Even if you don’t feel like you’ve lived a life that’s anything special or you’ve done anything particularly praise worthy, I am proud of you

I am proud of you because you have made it this far through some pretty tough shit. You’ve survived some things that probably temporarily broke you, and you’ve picked yourself up and put the pieces back together. 

YOU did that. And that’s pretty amazing. 

So, please, hear me when I say I’m proud of you. 

And now, let us rest. 

xo,

Megan