Spiritual Awakening Stages: The Heroic Journey to the True Self

Written by:

Gemma Clarke

Published date:

Estimated reading time:

Spiritual Awakening Stages

Do you feel like an infant with eyes wide open, absorbing the world consciously for the first time?

Do you want to shake others around you awake, desperate to know you’re not alone in this?

Do you yearn for something more for yourself, and for the world?

You might be in the first stages of a spiritual awakening.

It is the age of Aquarius, and our world is once again going through a massive upheaval. The collective consciousness is healing, as more seekers become aware of the quilt we are all woven into- the universal fabric of the mind. More people are experiencing spiritual awakenings.

Are you ready to join them?

On Spiritual Awakenings

image 59

Carl Jung once said we are born three times. Once, when we physically enter this world from other mothers’ wombs. Second, when the ego develops. And third- the birth of the spiritual consciousness, or, a spiritual awakening.

A spiritual awakening is neither simple nor linear. And unfortunately, it is not something that everyone will experience in their lifetime. People are stuck and trapped in the paradigms of their families and societies. To give the true self permission to thrive, one must embark on the spiritual awakening journey with intention, patience, courage, and discipline. I will spend the remainder of this article exploring the stages, what they look like, and the signs you might be ready for yours.

Spiritual Awakening Stages: A Hero’s Journey

Waking up to the true self, denying conformity and materialism to explore and expand consciousness is the process of individuation. It is not unlike the Hero’s Journey, first described by Joseph Campbell, and played out in front of your eyes a million times over in books and film.

“When we quit thinking about ourselves and our own self-preservation, we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness.” – Joseph Campbell

image 60

Spiritual Awakening Stage One: Waking Up

image 61

Eyes wide open, take a deep breath, and look around. Is this your dream life? Are you fulfilled, inspired, joyful? Or are you on a rutted path not of your own conscious choosing? The moment you truly begin to ponder this, and consider alternatives for yourself, you are waking up.

In the hero’s journey, this first stage is the call to adventure. When Frodo volunteers to take the One Ring to Mordor, when Katniss volunteers as tribute in place of her little sister. They noticed the beckoning, heeded the call, and grasped it tightly. Not only for themselves, but also for the wellbeing of humankind. Whether or not they knew it, they answered a call to aid the effort to heal the collective conscious of their worlds.

The call to adventure is an awakening that changes your life forever. It changes your perception on why it is you are here, why we are all here, your connection to your dharma and the divine. It is a persistent little thing. If you fail to answer it once, it will continue knocking with less and less subtlety.

This call can look like any number of life-changing events. The death of a loved one, meeting a soulmate, losing a job, a serious injury, near-death experience, or any other traumatic or transformative experiences.

During this spiritual awakening stage, it is common to begin to feel disenchanted, disillusioned, lost, depressed, and isolated. You are waking up in a world full of sleeping people, and your journey is just beginning.

Spiritual Awakening Stage Two: The Dark Before the Dawn

image 62

Ego death is initiated. One of the ego’s main functions is to protect the fragile human psyche through inhibition and careful calculation. The ego does not like to take risks. It repels failure, rejection, and embarrassment. This is an evolutionary part of what makes humans an advanced life form.

However, chances are, your ego is stuck in overdrive (as is the case for most modern humans). Your little protector is so obsessed with his job that he has gone from a state of perception to limitation.

It is due to the ego that most of us live in a state of fear of the unknown and the unordinary. The ego, therefore, must die for you to take this journey into spiritual consciousness.

The ego death is a difficult and scary stage of spiritual awakening. The ego will try to claw his way back to his seat of control using fear-mongering and psychological warfare. The ego senses danger (you know, a journey to Mordor) and will do everything in his power to protect you from it.

image 63

The dark night is brought on by this newly created rift between the inner and outer world. Outside, your life probably still looks more or less the same. But the inner landscape has changed drastically. Your reality is now one all-encompassing cognitive dissonance. There is a deeper sense of the spiritual self, a yearning for more knowledge, discovery, and adventure and something else.

But what?

Spiritual Awakening Stage Three: The Spiritual Seeker

image 64

In the hero’s journey this is the choosing a path stage. Leading spiritual writer and teacher Shannon Kaiser refers to it as the sponge stage. However you look at it, the goal remains the same. Try everything.

At this point, you know you are looking for something more in your life. You are seeking spiritual growth and your true nature. But your waking life still looks the same. That is what shifts in this stage. This is your explorer phase, where curiosity prevails.

You will find yourself meeting new and different types of people, you will try new hobbies and new healing modalities. In our globalized and virtual world, we have access to every type of spiritual teaching and practice you can imagine. Crystal healing therapy, oracle cards, breathwork, psychedelics, astrology, meditation, and endless possibilities for creative expression.

The vast number of choices can be overwhelming. Stick your toes in each one. At this point, using the 4 paths of yoga to guide your exploration can be beneficial.

  1. Bhakti Yoga: The path of devotion
  2. Jnana Yoga: The path of wisdom
  3. Karma Yoga: The path of selfless service
  4. Raja Yoga: The path of meditation
image 1 41

During this stage, you find yourself walking away from friendships and relationships that empty your cup. You start exploring new hobbies and interests. Activities you used to enjoy, like binge drinking or watching TV, seem banal to you. People in your life comment that you are changing and seem different.

They are right about that.

Spiritual Awakening Stage Four: Satoru and Sadhana

image 65

This stage can be summarized with the Japanese Buddhist term Satoru, which means “to know,” or “to understand.” It is the root for the Zen Buddhist word Satori, or, enlightenment. This stage is also akin to following the path in the hero’s journey.

Although enlightenment is far from reach, this is the first time since you embarked on your spiritual journey that fruit begins to ripen. Seeds are sprouting. Finally, you begin to glimpse your true self. Habits, routines, and rituals are established that aid your spiritual awakening process and honor and embody your true nature.

In yoga, we might say you have found your sadhana, or discipline of spiritual practice. All of those practices and modalities you were exploring before, now become a way of life. You decided what works for you and what doesn’t. The very fabric of your life is woven with practices that deepen and expand your spiritual perspective.

This often lasts the longest of the stages of spiritual awakening. Learning, exploring, and discovering continue to flourish. But there is also an established sense of self discovery and new confidence in walking your own path.

Light heartedness and ease prevail.

Spiritual Awakening Stage Five: Surrender and Ego Death

image 66

This is a complex and painful stage. A large part of you is ready to fully surrender to the soul’s highest expression. You have found and chosen your unique path, and you are ready commit fully to it. However, there is still a piece of the ego fearfully holding on.

You have done so much internal work. To continue the spiritual awakening process, the ego’s grip must loosen, and vanish. And, of course, the ego senses the danger to the self and will fight tooth and nail to survive.

Campbell called this stage losing the path. At this point, there is much working against you. The ego fights its own death. The patriarchal capitalist western world fights to keep one more set of eyes glazed over, punching in and punching out, a zombie to the status quo. Not to mention, you are doing the hardest internal work of your life.

Once again, you feel lost. The dark night returns.

image 67

You see, the spiritual path is not an easy one. Self care and wellbeing have become such commoditized industries. With retreats in the most beautiful corners of the earth, sparkling crystals, form fitting and buttery soft yoga sets, and “good vibes only” and “have a nice trip” mindsets.

None of that is true spiritual growth.

Spiritual awakenings require journeys through the sticky and layered muck of the deepest most repressed parts of your psyche: trauma, failure, disappointment, shame, guilt, regret, shadows, and inner child. You must look all of this square in the face, and it is ugly.

However, all of the soul growth, awareness, and knowledge you have cultivated so far on your spiritual awakening journey has prepared you for this stage. With courage, fortitude, discipline, and trust, you will emerge from this darkness into a new light.

Spiritual Awakening Stage Six: Full Awareness of the Soul’s Mission

image 68

Enlightenment, merging with the path, oneness with all, spiritual awakening. Released from the ego and the desires of the material world, you are free to pursue your dharma and be of deep service to others.

You are a warrior of the light.

You will never be the same again. Frodo, upon completion of his quest, boarded a ship for the Undying Lands. There, he lived in peace, free of pain and suffering; with immortal beings and other ring bearers. After his transformation, he could no longer bear to look upon the Shire with his changed eyes.

Spiritual awakenings are a hero’s journey, indeed. Finding your true self in a world that seeks to suppress it is a heroic act. It is only through this process of soul growth, heightened awareness, ego death, and consciousness expansion and exploration that the collective conscious can heal, and we can all emerge from the dark night.


What are the major spiritual awakening symptoms?

Symptoms of spiritual awakenings include doubting what you have been taught by your family, culture, or religion; feeling disconnected from your job and people in your life; remembering more dreams; you become more compassionate and forgiving; you feel more connected to nature; you desire to serve others; you feel more energetic and curious; you feel more spiritual and comfortable in your own skin.

What is the highest stage of enlightenment?

In Hindu yoga, Samadhi is the final stage in the path to yoga, or union. This is when union with the divine is reached through a state of deep meditation.

How do you recognize a spiritual person?

A spiritual person is compassionate, generous and patient. They find joy in serving others and do not like to criticize or take advantage of people. They want to make the world a better place. And they have a humble spirit. They do not go around bragging about their stage of enlightenment or all the good they have done.

What are dark night of the soul symptoms?

Feeling confused, lost, helpless, angry, isolated, and hopeless are all symptoms you are experiencing the dark night of the soul. What you want and what your life currently looks like are in direct opposition, but you don’t quite know what path to go down yet.

What are the four cycles of reincarnation?

In Hinduism, all life goes through the cycle of samsara: birth, life, death, and rebirth.

Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!
About Gemma Clarke

Gemma Clarke is a certified and experienced yoga & meditation instructor. She has been practicing meditation since 2014 and teaching since 2018. Gemma specializes in yoga and mindfulness for emotional wellbeing, and she has taught in Thailand, Cambodia, and the UK. Gemma is passionate about sharing her expertise and experience with meditation to inspire others to live more mindfully, becoming happier, healthier, and calmer. Follow me: Instagram | LinkedIn

1 thought on “Spiritual Awakening Stages: The Heroic Journey to the True Self”

  1. There are no ‘stages’.
    It comes as a Grace directly from God one day. It is a tremendous shock to the system and takes months or years to come to terms with subsequently, when you realise the Buddha was NOT enlightened, he only showed the way. Google ‘Spiritual truth from direct experience over decades’ for details.


Leave a Comment