What if the desire for spiritual enlightenment is as they say., ‘a pipe dream’.
I say, “ok, great., give me the pipe!”
The saying ‘pipe dream’ comes from Opium pipe smoking in the late 1800’s. Opium being a hallucinogenic that caused people to see things that aren’t there. Or at least aren’t there according to practical science. And ‘pipe dream’ has since become a slang term referring to an unrealistic goal.
Is spiritual enlightenment unrealistic? That partly depends on the definition of the term.
What is enlightenment
In 1784, German philosopher Immanuel Kant wrote an essay answering that same question. The first sentence of that essay was:
“Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity.” Kant states that this immaturity is caused by a lack of courage to use reason, intellect, and wisdom. And is not a result of a lack of understanding. He also says, that this immaturity is held by the reliance on guidance from others. So by Kant’s definition, becoming enlightened seems within reach. Because self-reliance, wisdom, and the ability to think with intelligence and creativity are achievable to almost anyone.
Since Kant’s essay, enlightenment has picked up a more spiritual flavour. And as such has been associated with spiritual enlightenment or spiritual awakening.
Spiritual enlightenment and spiritual awakenings
Spiritual enlightenment takes the idea of enlightenment a step further into spiritual awakenings. Although the two terms have become interchangeable or seen as one leading to the other. Spiritual enlightenment could be said to be a simultaneous awareness of the individual self., and how the self connects with ‘all that is’.
Said another way., you are the drop in the ocean, and you are the ocean itself. This level of spiritual awareness contains the ability to maintain both connection and separation. And this requires a change in how a person filters information from the world around them. Including a type of Ego dissolution. Ego in this case being the sense of self as mostly separate from any cause and effect of the outside world.
And this spiritual awakening evolves further when instead of just being the observer, you ask… “who is observing?”
Spontaneous spiritual awakenings
What if a flash of lightning came down from above, took away your problems, and made you spiritually enlightened? Maybe the lightning is a step too far., but instant spontaneous spiritual awakenings can happen. Spontaneous spiritual awakenings are profound and transformative experiences. They are experienced as a sudden and direct sense of connection with the universe, God, or the divine. The altered states of consciousness produced during these awakenings are reported as being like psychedelic altered states. The potential for therapeutic benefit therefore, is very similar. And although there are some reports of the experience being slightly negative., the end result is almost always positive.
The feelings associated with spiritual awakenings include a deep sense of inner knowing, understanding, and remembering of the true nature of life. And a heightened sense of peace, bliss, gratitude, and unconditional love.
What causes spontaneous spiritual awakenings
Studies have confirmed that practices like yoga, mindfulness and meditation can cause slow or even sudden awakenings. But there are other causes. These include near death experiences, out of body experiences, experiences in nature, during sex, intense physical activity, fasting, trauma and sleep deprivation. And not surprisingly, through the use of psychedelic drugs. Interestingly, the most common accounts of spontaneous spiritual awakenings are following prolonged psychological challenges. Spiritual or religious beliefs do not seem to play a vital role is having such an awakening. And surveys show that almost 50% of people report having a life changing experience at some point. Leading some researchers to think they may be more common than science would suggest. Interestingly, research shows that the most regularly practiced activity before a powerful awakening experience is being in nature., while the least regularly practiced is Kundalini yoga.
Spontaneous Kundalini awakenings
Spontaneous Kundalini awakenings are considered a subset of spontaneous awakenings. And in general they have a slightly more physical experience to them. The body is usually more involved with a higher sense of tactile energy movement and sensation. Tantric and yoga traditions have reported this type of awakening at least back to the 5th century AD. Sometimes these sensations lead to a paranormal type of experience. And these result in increased experiences of telepathy, synchronicity, hearing voices, and feeling the touch of the divine.
Kundalini awakenings and traditional belief
Kundalini experiences are seen as awakening dormant energies by unifying the separated mind into oneness. These yogic traditions see kundalini energy as being dormant until it is woken up. Typically, this energy is considered to be coiled at the base of the spine. As it uncoils, the energy makes its way up through each of the seven chakra’s (energy points). And it continues until it reaches the crown of the head. As this energy collects and flows to the crown of the head, it promotes spiritual ecstasy and enlightenment.
Sometimes the experience of a spiritual awakening brings with it negative feelings and sensations. This is what is commonly called a spiritual emergency. A spiritual emergency may arise as a result of the experience itself. Because the person may be left feeling confused or overwhelmed by drastic shifts in perception and energy. Or spiritual emergencies can also occur during integration of the experience. Especially as the person’s beliefs and concepts of life are challenged. And without the ability to interpret new insights and levels of perception, this can add to the confusion and overwhelm. So it makes a big difference to the awakening experience if people have an appropriate support system. There are some parallels between spiritual emergencies and psychological disorders but rarely does one lead to the other. There remains unfortunately a level of misunderstanding between psychology and spiritual awakenings. This can sometimes lead to inappropriate treatment.
To learn about integration read: Integration of psychedelics >>>>
Spiritual enlightenment and personality trait absorption
It turns out there are ways to predict the likelihood or intensity of a spiritual awakening or spiritual enlightenment experience. One of those ways is by a scale that measures trait absorption. In psychology, this refers to the ability or habit of a person to be fully immersed in their experience. And this applies to both sensory experience and imagination. In practice, these people tend to be more open to fantasy, daydreaming and altered states of consciousness. Those who are high in trait absorption tend to enter altered states of consciousness easier. And being open to altered states and fantasy, makes it more likely that a person will go with the experience rather than fight it. Enlightenment is for most people a new experience. And new experiences require letting go of old ones even if only temporarily.
Spiritual awakenings and brain micro-seizures
Another predictor and theory around mystical experiences and spontaneous awakenings is that of temporal lobe lability. This theory suggests that these types of altered states of consciousness are due to micro-seizures in the brain. Not epileptic as such., but an epileptic sign that is present in a large proportion of the ‘normal’ population. And this level can also be measured. The electrical coherence created, allows access to forgotten memories, lucid and out of body experiences, and distortions of space and time. One common trigger for this is personal trauma and crises. People on their death bed will often exhibit this type of brain activity. Because of this, a reduction in anxiety around death often occurs.
Spiritual awakenings and transliminality
Transliminality is a term used to describe a person’s threshold for unconscious processes and external stimulation coming into consciousness. In essence, there is a threshold/line between that which we are aware of consciously and that which we are not. And that line is thin for people with a high level of transliminality. People who are high in transliminality tend to have higher levels of belief in paranormal and mystic experiences. And they also tend to be highly creative. Highly transliminal people are more susceptible to large amounts of imagery and idea creation from sources outside of normal conscious awareness. And there is a strong correlation between transliminality, temporal lobe lability, and trait absorption. Because people with high scores in these three personality traits are more likely to have unusual experiences that result in spiritual enlightenment or awakening experiences.
Creativity, mania and enlightenment
There is also a slightly higher chance of these people having strong contrasts between highs and lows (mania), addiction and depression. Many of histories highly creative people have had these challenges. And it has been suggested that transliminality serves to clarify the common interrelationship between creativity, mystical experience, and psychosis. Although they are by no means always connected. And as already mentioned, sometimes a diagnosis assumes a problem where one does not exist. Because misunderstanding can lead to misdiagnosing.
Near death experiences
Medical advances have made it possible to bring someone back from death. For example, combining mouth to mouth with heart stimulation (CPR) is reasonably recent in medical terms. And the accounts that people give of their experience after such events are remarkably similar. Reports of experiences of being in the presence of God or God-like situations are common. And often these experiences are described as being more real than real life.
Scientists have tried to explain near death experiences as effects caused by a dying brain, lack of oxygen, or misfiring of neurons among others. However, the variation of conditions encountered during death have made these explanations incomplete. Such as people on life support, oxygen and in a coma but otherwise alive.
Near death experiences and natural DMT
Studies of rats that suffer a heart attack show a spike in DMT just before death. DMT is a hallucinogen that is sometimes used recreationally for psychedelic effects. But it is also produced without drugs by the pineal gland between the eyes. And this is also referred to as the third eye. Although this term is mainly used in the spiritual community and not science., the relevance is interesting. Because the inner structure of the pineal gland is similar to the rods and cones in our eyes. Some scientists suggest that near death experiences (NDE’s) are the result of a natural psychedelic trip. Or more commonly a dream where one meets past loved ones or prepares for a profound journey. People in the last stages of life (like in hospice care) report these dreams too. And it’s possible that this affect could be the minds way of helping us transition without fear. Because these dreams bring a sense of peace, new perspectives and even an acceptance of death. Suggesting that perhaps such dreams and visions should be seen as a positive part of the process of dying.
Near death experiences created by psychedelics
Real or imagined experiences close to death result in a non-ordinary state of consciousness. And this state brings experiences like leaving the body, feelings of timelessness, peace, and bliss., and the sensation of traveling through a tunnel toward a bright light. Often the person also experiences a review of their life. Individual near-death experiences (NDE’s) have similarities that cross different cultures. And this suggests an underlying neurobiological effect. Similarities between NDE’s and certain drug-induced altered states of consciousness lead to interesting conclusions. Ketamine, salvia and DMT have all been reported to give similar effects to a NDE. And this leads to the possibility of potentially using psychedelic experiences to purposely ease the fear of death or help integrate spiritual emergency type situations.
Spiritual enlightenment and near death experiences
Not surprisingly., people who have a near death experience often have a sense of spiritual enlightenment. Maybe partly as proof of life after death. There are many common elements of near death experiences. Including meetings with mystical beings. And this often results in a change of perspective and an awakening of both the senses and beliefs about life. The descriptions of Salvia and Ketamine (other psychedelics) experiences are very similar to DMT. Why would people near death get a type of DMT trip? DMT has been found in the brain in lower levels just like the more common dopamine and serotonin. For DMT to have its hallucination affect, it needs to be at sufficient levels to overcome the ‘noise’ in our brain. It’s possible that as life approaches its end., that this noise is reduced. And these levels may now be strong enough to affect the quality of dreams.
Brain activity after death
Not all near death experiences are positive. Sometimes the experience can be traumatic and cause the person to go through major life changes afterwards. And in fact, some people feel angry at coming back after experiencing the bliss of near death. One of the other theories around near death experiences is that of the brain still continuing after death. And EEG evidence in humans backs this up. Animal studies show that brain cells can be made active again hours, maybe even days after death. And despite improving scientific study., there is no evidence at all to show how brain cells could create thoughts. Adding to the suspicion that thought and consciousness are independent of synaptic (brain) activity. Add this understanding to the out of body experiences that people often have, and it becomes more plausible that any type of spiritual enlightenment or awakening is the result of a brief connection to the part of us that never ends.
Spiritual enlightenment through depersonalization
Eckhart Tolle, a famous teacher and writer of spiritual enlightenment had what he recalls as an unpleasant awakening. He suffered from a disorder called depersonalization. And this is typically brought about by trauma. In Eckhart’s case, this was a traumatic out of body experience. In fact, it is estimated that 1 in 50 people suffer from some form of depersonalization on an ongoing basis. So, it’s more common than you may think. Depersonalization is the brains way of preparing someone for perceived intense danger. It does this so that the person has a higher chance of reacting with action rather than freezing with fear. And usually, after the traumatic event the symptoms dissipate, and the person returns to normal. However, for some it becomes more permanent as a form of anxiety that can either lead to personal evolution or anxiety disorders. There is debate as to whether depersonalization is in fact enlightenment by another name. And certainly, the experience has some remarkable similarities. In Eckhart Tolle’s case, it certainly did lead to his own form of enlightenment.
Near death experiences and integration
Some people don’t realize for years that they’ve had a near death experience. It’s only after they notice effects that they start to piece it together. These effects can include sensitivity to sound, light, smell and certain chemicals. And becoming more caring, generous, or feeling love for everyone. Or it can manifest as difficulty with everyday tasks like managing finances and timekeeping. These and other changes can be challenging for friends and family. Not to mention how challenging they can be for the person who had the experience. As with any significant experience., how that experience is integrated can make the difference between it having a positive or negative impact on the person’s life. And some people can be diagnosed and treated for psychosis in an un-useful way. Or friends and family could dismiss them as crazy. Whether the experiences are real or not becomes irrelevant. Because to the experiencer, they are real. And thus, with support and application of proven integration models, the end result is more likely to be beneficial for everyone.
Create your own spiritual enlightenment or awakening
The irony seems to be that for most people, seeking enlightenment rarely leads to enlightenment. And more common is to prepare the grounds ready for the seed to grow. I certainly wouldn’t recommend seeking a near death experience. Bizarrely some people do. There are however ways to get a similar experience. And there are clues to that in the science of DMT release at or near death mentioned already. More on that later.
If enlightenment has as one of it’s traits a type of dual awareness, then the two main focuses become obvious. Those being a type of mindfulness of your surroundings., and self-awareness. Most people would agree that simultaneous awareness of self, and how the self connects and interacts with ‘all that is’., is fundamental to enlightenment. Personal growth and evolution starts with an awareness of the present moment followed by the desire to change it. It could be said that enlightenment is presence.
Mindfulness and enlightenment
Mindful practices can help you develop your connection to all that is around you. Because by practicing being fully present in the moment, you notice more of what is there to be noticed. In essence, you adjust your neural filters to see, hear, feel, taste and smell more. Our brains filter the available information around us to avoid being overwhelmed. These filters are produced and controlled by past experience and the resulting beliefs. And some of those filters will be useful. However, many of them are learnt ways of thinking and being that limit our experience. And many of those are protection mechanisms made when we experience the result of behaving differently than others. Which causes us to feel separate and different from the world around us. Practice paying attention to more of what is available to be experienced in any moment. Especially when you are in nature. Slow down!
Self-awareness and enlightenment
Self-awareness requires being conscious of your own habits and thoughts. It’s only in asking yourself new questions that you can come to new answers. And then make changes based on those answers. This is like looking at yourself from the position of another. And can be assisted by journalling, meditation or involving another person through coaching or therapy. Noticing your own patterns is the first step to coming out of living life on autopilot. What this isn’t is an excuse to give yourself a hard time. Because every habit and pattern has it’s purpose. What this is, is an opportunity to find new ways of achieving that purpose. And doing so in ways that produce more enjoyment and connection. Take time to ask yourself questions from the perspective of someone who knows nothing about you. Why do I do this? What else could this mean? How can I do this another way?
Self-awareness through meditation
We are surrounded by noise. And not just the noise of society and technology. But also the noise of constant thoughts and brain activity. Meditation combined with mindfulness creates awareness of patterns of thought and behaviour. Stillness and silence must be sought in a noisy world. Otherwise, you may never give your mind a chance to be calm. And it’s a calm mind that reveals truth and knowledge worthy of acting upon. People spend many years and resources trying to change something about themselves that they are aware of. The irony., is that once a habit or pattern is made conscious, it is now a choice. You can either choose to keep doing the same thing, or make the decision to do something differently. Use meditation as a way to gain insight and peace. And then if a new decision needs to be made., make it from that state instead of a state of anxiety or stress. One of the fundamental truths about being human is state management. And as a rule, decisions made from a state of feeling bad., have a higher chance of being bad decisions. Whereas decisions made from a state of feeling good., have a higher chance of being good decisions. Makes sense doesn’t it.
Gratitude and enlightenment
You’re unlikely to find any practice that encourages spiritual awakening or enlightenment that does not mention having an attitude of gratitude. Being grateful for what you have is a powerful way to connect with everyone and everything around you. Looking for and noticing things to be grateful for is its own form of mindfulness. And it also encourages awareness of self. Because being grateful includes being grateful for how you perform and act even if it’s not yet perfect. And don’t get stuck on only being grateful for the big things. Be grateful for all the many small things too. William Shatner from the star trek movies and TV series recently visited space. A realisation of a dream based on many years of playing a role of an intergalactic space explorer. He expected the trip to be a celebration and culmination of all this experience. Instead, he felt a sense of sadness and grief for our planet. Why? Because from that vantage point he realised more than ever before how we take this planet for granted and abuse it’s gifts. It’s this lack of gratitude and awareness of what we have that stops growth.
Take inspired action from awareness
Nothing you learn from being mindful or self-aware will change your life unless you change it. Inspired action is action that comes from connection and awareness of your surroundings and circumstances. And inspired action feels different than forced action and usually results in better progress and growth. Too often people have potential life changing experiences without changing their life. And an example of this is people who use psychedelics or spiritual retreats thinking that the experience alone will do the work for them. A type of spiritual bypassing. What is often missing is integration. Integration is about taking the new states, knowledge, and decisions into the future with you. And rarely does this happen without some effort.
I’ve written about integration from the standpoint of psychedelics here.
The psychedelic model of integration is one of the best available. And I have included specific techniques to help you integrate ANY significant experience.
Psychedelics and enlightenment
Used correctly with the right set, setting, and integration., psychedelics can assist people in their journey to awakening. The brain on psychedelics has the opportunity to reach a reset point. A point where new choices can be made. Rewiring of neural circuits becomes easier during and immediately after a psychedelic experience. And another result is the switching off of the Default Mode Network (DMN). The DMN is partly responsible for our experience of being unique and separate from our surroundings. Hence with this temporarily reduced., people can have a stronger connection with that which we refer to as the divine or ‘all that is’. Without integration however, these revelations rarely last. And again, the result is often a misguided expectation without personal responsibility. It’s worth remembering with psychedelics that often it is said that, ‘the container is the medicine’. Container in this context being the set and setting where the experience is had and the following integration practices. Because psychedelics are only a tool. And they cannot create the container or integrate the result.
Enlightenment through Brainwave entrainment
Brainwave entrainment is the effect produced in the brain by consistent repetitive patterns of light, sound, or other external stimulation. The Roxiva RX1 featured on this website uses a mixture of light and sound. By purposely manipulating the frequency of this light and sound, the brainwave patterns can be synchronised to the RX1 and taken in any number of directions. The resulting altered states of consciousness can be profound. And what can take years of meditation practice to achieve can be achieved in minutes. There’s no guarantees of instant enlightenment with this technology. But the feelings of expansiveness, self-awareness, and connection between the conscious and unconscious mind during and after sessions is real. And the opportunity to create the container needed for personal change is there at the push of a button.
The other use of this type of light machine technology relevant to this article is that of psychedelic light experiences…
Drug free psychedelic trips as a model of near-death experiences
As mentioned already, studies show that near death and/or at the time of death there seems to be a spike in natural DMT in the brain. One of the results of this release of DMT is vivid kaleidoscopic fractal patterns, imagery and hallucinations. People who have a near death experience often come back with insights about their life that allow them to change habits and beliefs. During a psychedelic light experience these same vivid kaleidoscopic fractal patterns are produced in the brain. And the brain takes this stimulation, amplifies it, and produces similar imagery and hallucinations. The result is a non-ordinary state of consciousness similar to one induced by DMT or other psychoactive drugs. And in some cases even similar to a NDE. For people unable or unwilling to ingest a drug that has no stop button., this becomes a viable alternative for exploring consciousness.
Spiritual enlightenment, spontaneous awakening, or journey of transformation
I’ve had many private messages in the years I’ve been developing brainwave entrainment and psychedelic light sessions. One of my favourites was from a user who let her elderly mother do sessions to help with illness and anxiety. After one such session she opened her eyes and said.., “I’m not afraid of dying anymore., I’ve been to the other side”. Her whole demeanour changed after that. What a gift. Spontaneous events like that can and do happen. There’s no predictable way to get anything spontaneous though. For most of us we continue our journey of transformation one experience at a time. And the irony is that when we learn to celebrate not getting what we want as much getting it., we have all that we need. And perhaps spiritual enlightenment is that simple. We are perfect as the drop., and perfect as the ocean.