The awareness of greatness inside of us can be an overwhelming experience. To some it comes in waves, to others as a nuclear warhead striking without notice, eliminating everything in its path. The feeling of impending doom, the uncertainty, the fear; it may be too much for a person to handle alone. The emergence of a deeper knowing, this spirituality, is common and happens more frequently than we would like to believe.
It is possible and a necessity to accept this awakening and step into a place of purpose. Throughout history, humans have experienced symptoms of Spiritual Emergence and Emergency, all so we can rise to a place of awareness and growth in our consciousness. The important part is knowing that you are not alone in this process and that many before you have gone through a similar experience and there are those you cross paths with in order to provide opportunities for more shifts. Our ability to ride the waves and dive into the waters of our consciousness is possible with the integration of experiences and allowing ourselves to accept this period of awakening in life.
Having worked eight years in mental health, I feel there is a need for further exploration in the area of Spiritual Emergence and emergency so we can step away from pathologizing experiences and more into empowering people.
Defining Spiritual Emergence and Emergency
Spiritual Emergency and Spiritual Emergence fall along a spectrum of experience; the degree to which these play out in our lives varies. Defined as “critical and experientially difficult stages of a profound psychological transformation that involve one’s entire being,”(Bragdon, 2017) Spiritual Emergency (SEY) may leave one feeling alone and uncertain of where they are to take the next step in their life. When this crisis unfolds, many have difficulties maintaining their daily life and this could lead to periods of time where they are required to go inward and be supported by others who can validate and ensure safety to their being. Sometimes these experiences can become so traumatic and lead to an external pathologizing of the experience (i.e. Psychosis and other mental health diagnoses).
On the other end of the spectrum is the experience of Spiritual Emergence (SE) where one is also awakening to their role in this world and feeling a sense of connection to all that is around them. According to two of the leading minds in transpersonal psychology, Dr. Stanislav Grof and Christina Grof, SE can be described as “the movement of an individual to a more expanded way of being that involves enhanced emotional and psychosomatic health, greater freedom of personal choices, and a sense of deeper connection with other people, nature, and the cosmos. An important part of this development is an increasing awareness of the spiritual dimension in one’s life and in the universal scheme of things.” (Grof & Grof, 1990)
The person going through a SE most often finds it possible to continue on in their day-to-day functioning. Because both of these experiences can vary in degree of intensity, it is important that a person educate themselves that firstly these experiences are a natural occurrence; and secondly, there are ways to manage the intensity. The main difference between SEY and SE is that the latter tends to be more fluid in its presentation and allows the person to maintain functioning. Unless we shift our willingness to work with those in SEY by providing more support, we will only add to the struggle. In the literature there are about 12 categories of Spiritual Emergency, including (but not limited to) Dark Night of the Soul, Shamanic journey, Encounter with ETs, Near Death Experiences, and Psychic openings.
I believe that either SE or SEY can be accounted for from these 12 categories, and there are a variety of factors that determine the ability of a person to integrate and move forward in their new found knowledge.
My personal experience with Spiritual Emergence was one of a sudden wake-up call to my life’s purpose. The shift into this new understanding shook me to my core, and though there were many sleepless nights and anxieties crawling through every part of me, I was so thankful for those in my life that provided me with the information and empowerment to emerge from it. It is still an amazement to me when everything aligns and information, people and events seem to fall right into my lap.
Of course, I had to accept this information and integrate it into my life on my own. That is also something that each of us must do in order to move forward. I understand how easy it is to want to give up and allow the events to continue to play out around you without taking the reins. But I assure you that it is possible to embrace where you are at and begin to visualize where you would like to be. Test it for yourself. Even you reading this article is the next step. You began to ask the questions about your own situation and now here you are reading these words and feeling a sense of calm because it resonates with you in some way. Continue to ask the questions and trust that the answers are coming to you in all forms. Dig deeper into what it is that you feel needs to be uncovered.
The Take Home
There are a variety of ways in which you can uncover your experiences and push yourself to the yet uncharted realms of the mind. This can be with the use of breath work, meditation, being in nature or other shamanic practices. It is my belief that with the legalization of Cannabis in Canadian society, we will see an expansion in human consciousness. Whether we agree with the legalization or not, I believe we must come from a place of engaging each other and begin to support those who are going to have a wide range of experiences.
By normalizing peoples’ experiences and allowing them to share their truth we can begin this process and set the stage for this shift to unfold. This change in viewing mental health will allow for the use of more positive language and acceptance of others. The resistance that has occurred over the centuries is losing its grip and so we must prepare ourselves. I implore you to see where it is you can best support yourself and those around you while the world adjusts to this change.
My hope as a Spiritual Emergence Coach and Energy worker is to facilitate healing in others and provide a safe space so this can occur. I give thanks each day that I have been on the path I wake up to every day as I know that it is to bring more light to the world. I give thanks that all of humanity is also on the path and finding their unique way to bring light to others.
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