Explore the profound journey of spiritual awakening, delving into the essence of our true nature and the wisdom that lies within.
Table of Contents
Yoga philosophy unveils a profound revelation: beyond our tangible body and fleeting thoughts lies a deeper realm, inviting us to embrace our spiritual essence.
Life's powerful questions arise from our soul's yearning to realize our true nature and actualize its divine potential. We wonder how that actualization is possible. How does life change with spiritual awakening?
Yoga philosophy teaches that we are neither the body nor the mind. We are spiritual beings. Yet, rather than seek deeper knowing at the soul level, we try to answer our most important questions at the mental level alone (or by asking others or even Google). Why would we do that? Because at that moment, we forget who we are and the depth of wisdom within us.
We forget we are individual expressions of Absolute Reality or God. Instead, we identify ourselves as the thinker or voice of reason in our head, but that is the intellect, and we are not that. What is witnessing the mind think? Who is listening?
"On the awakening journey, it is necessary to train our mind to look beyond the surface of things. We must heal our heart; realize that we are not our ego, our ideas, emotions, or memories. We are not confined to the body or circumstances we were born into. We are spiritual beings."
—Yogacharya Ellen Grace O'Brian
The mind changes — thoughts change, feelings change, even memories change, and we can observe that. We are not the mind that changes. We are—our essential Self is—the witness of the mind, pure, unchanging, absolute, Supreme Consciousness.
We are Spirit. We are the light of consciousness that shines into the mind and makes perception possible. We are the spiritual light that enlivens the body. That Supreme Consciousness was not born when the body was born, is not altered when the body or the mind changes, and does not die when the body dies.
The first step to learning to live with wisdom and compassion is to realize the truth of our being. That is the foundation.
The second step is to learn to clarify the mind so we can directly perceive the soul's deeper wisdom. We can learn how to anchor our attention and awareness in the unchanging Self instead of being tossed about by the turbulent mind and emotions and our reactions to people and circumstances.
In the second chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, verse 55, we find the description of a person of steadfast wisdom.
The blessed Lord spoke:
When one leaves behind all desires emerging from the mind, Arjuna,
And is contented in the Self by the Self,
That person is said to be one whose wisdom is steady.
Have faith in your Self. Trust your Self. Develop that trust. Most of us have trusted our self and then regretted it later. With hindsight, we realize: That was a bad idea! When we have a deeper understanding of our true nature, we see that the problem wasn't that we trusted our Self. The problem was lacking awareness of the true Self. The problem was trusting our false self—the unreliable ego-mind, misguided thoughts, or emotions masquerading as wisdom.
In the process of spiritual awakening, our wisdom is steady when awareness is anchored in the true Self. We learn how to do that by meditating regularly. Otherwise, insight is obscured by restless thoughts. If the mental field is clouded by thought activity when we contemplate a question, all we get is confusion.
To develop faith in our Self, we learn to anchor our attention in the Self and trust the divine wisdom and inspiration that arises from that. When we meditate, we can observe what it is like when thoughts settle, and we are simply aware. We're aware of being aware—free from identifying with thought activity. Insight from the soul can then shine unobstructed into the mental field.
As part of our spiritual awakening journey, we must first have faith that soul wisdom will arise. Then we can develop the patience to wait for it, recognize it, accept it, and take a step inspired by it when it occurs.
It's helpful to remember that we are quieting the mind to consciously connect with the true Self. Our essential Self as an expression of God, is already clear, wise, and compassionate. We are not trying to become clear, wise, or compassionate. We are simply arranging conditions to allow that essence to reveal itself.
In the context of spiritual awakening, Stephen Mitchell's rendition of verses from the Bhagavad Gita beautifully captures the truth of our essential nature:
I am the self, Arjuna, seated in the heart of every creature.
I am the origin, the middle, in the end that all must come to…
I am always with all beings; I abandoned no one. And
However great your inner darkness,
You are never separate from me.
Let your thoughts flow past you, calmly;
Keep me near, at every moment;
Trust me with your life, because I am you,
more than you yourself are.
That verse sums up the reality of our spiritual nature and gives us a practice to align with it.
Life’s powerful questions arise from our soul’s yearning to realize our true nature and actualize its divine potentials in our life every day. How is that actualization possible, we wonder? What does enlightenment look like? How does life change with spiritual awakening?
One of the most powerful ways I know to encourage wisdom from the soul to arise is the willingness to sit with uncertainty, to allow a question to remain in my heart and my mind long enough for clarity to prevail and guidance to come through.
Paramahansa Yogananda wrote:
Your trouble in meditation is that you don't persevere long enough to get results. That is why you never know the power of a focused mind. If you let muddy water stand still for a long time, the mud will settle at the bottom and the water will become clear. In meditation, when the mud of your restless thoughts begins to settle, the power of God begins to reflect in the clear waters of your consciousness. 
That inspired quote from Yogananda echoes Stephen Mitchell's version of verse 15 from the Tao te Ching, p.15
Do you have the patience to wait
till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
till the right action arises by itself? 
To stop clinging to what we want or resisting what we do not want, to have the patience to wait until the mud of restless thoughts settle, it is helpful to trust that our questions connect to our deepest wisdom.
Our minds are part of the omnipresent, omnipotent mind of God. If we have faith in that and allow our initial thoughts to come and go until we perceive what is true and unchanging —we will recognize the wisdom that is for us because it arrives bearing peace. We know, and we know that we know.
I could tell you many stories about my experiences of waiting for wisdom to arise and discovering how divinely powerful it is. Beyond what we try to decide or figure out, a calm, clear, divine direction comes if we trust it and wait for it.
Dogen Zenji wrote:
Don't follow the advice of others; Rather, learn to listen to the voice within yourself. Your body and mind will become one, and you will realize the unity of all things.
Even the slightest movement of your conceptual thought will prevent you from entering the palace of wisdom.
If you can't find the truth right where you are, where else do you think you will find it? 
On your path of spiritual awakening, find the truth right where you are. As you continue your journey of spiritual awakening, embrace uncertainty and trust in your soul's wisdom. By doing so, you'll experience the profound transformation that comes from aligning with your true nature and the omnipresent, omnipotent mind of God.
 Paramahansa Yogananda, Journey to Self-Realization: Collected Talks and Essays on Realizing God in Daily Life, Volume 111 (Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 2000) 280
 Tao Te Ching, version by Stephen Mitchell (New York: Harper and Row, 1988) 15
 Dogen, The Practice of Meditation from The Enlightened Mind: An Anthology of Sacred Prose, Stephen Mitchell, Ed. (New York: Harper Collins, 1991) 99
© 2023 Ellen Grace O’Brian