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Spiritual awakening in a toxic society

Sun streams through the forest

The choice to awaken spiritually is not that easy. Especially not in Western society, where we constantly have to put ourselves aside and stand our own ground. Our primal brain also does not help, because it longs to to a group. Thats why we will go very far in adapting to a group. But what if this group/society is so toxic and you actually don't want anything to do with it? Is it possible to have a spiritual awakening in a world like this? How did things get to this point? In this blog I briefly explain what spiritual awakening entails, how society encourages shame and I share my own experience with spiritual awakening in a toxic society.

What does spiritual awakening entail?

When spiritual awakening you will learn to look honestly at yourself and the world around you. You no longer blindly believe what others say or what you have been taught. If there are blockages, you no longer run away, but you listen to yourself and try to confront them. You shift your attention from outside to inside yourself.

A culture that encourages shame and separation

When I think about an unhealthy culture, a piece written by Tara Brach (in the book Radical Acceptance) always comes to mind. Here she describes a short anecdote: 'Some time ago, a small group of Buddhist teachers and psychologists from the US and Europe invited the Dalai Lama (spreading wisdom from Buddhism). An American teacher asked if the Dalai Lama could tell him something about self-hatred. The Dalai Lama looked bewildered. 'What is self-hatred?' he asked. The teachers tried to explain it to him, but the bewilderment only increased. "Is this state of mind caused by a neurosis?" he asked. When those present said that self-hatred was not the exception but rather the rule among their students and clients, the Dalai Lama was extremely surprised. How can they think that way about themselves, he wondered, after all, everyone has a Buddha nature.'

This anecdote describes how normal we have come to consider it to hate ourselves, while this is actually not so normal at all. Especially in Western culture, feelings of shame and self-loathing are enormous. Many of us are raised as children without a close and nurturing family bond or environment, so it is not surprising that we feel so alone and unheard. We learn from an early age that we have to prove and outdo ourselves in order to be worthwhile and receive some 'love'. It is therefore very normal that we have the urge to be the best at everything, we are encouraged to become beautiful, intelligent and rich. Since we are made to belong to a group, it stands to reason that if we learn this from our childhood, we will often become the same as society if we don't become aware of this.

The myth of Adam and Eve being banished from the Garden of Eden still strongly defines Western culture. We often underestimate its influence, yet it still reflects our society. We are taught that we are originally sinful and therefore have no right to be happy. When we are, it is inevitable that adversity will return. Tara Brach describes it all in her book: 'We don't deserve to be happy, to be loved by others and to be at peace with life. We must overcome our mistakes by mastering ourselves physically and emotionally, and exercising control over our natural environment and the people around us. We must strive tirelessly: work, collect, consume, perform, email, self-effacement, always rushing, in a constant quest to prove ourselves once and for all.'

Spiritual awakening in a society like this

It is not going to be easy to awaken spiritually in Western society. But believe me, it is not impossible to take big steps. I have already come a lot further in my awakening process, I have now been working on it for 4 years. Awakening is certainly not easy in this society, because no one wants to listen or be open to the pain and emotions that this process entails. You will often feel very unheard, alone and rejected. Listening to yourself and tackling things with love and tranquility, while someone shouts because they think you are too slow and he is in a hurry, is not easy. To still listen to yourself and approach everything with love takes a lot of perseverance and courage. You will often fall back into old patterns, but that's okay.

The process of spiritual awakening in a society like this is slow. I often fall back into old patterns/(intense) fears after a few months, but I still see a lot of progress. Each time the relapse is less severe and I feel less fear than before. So it is important not to give up and to keep listening to yourself. I have not yet managed to fully awaken in this society, it feels unsafe as my real self is rejected by almost everyone. I feel that it is not possible to fully awaken here, as everyone needs a basis of mental safety. It is good to remain aware of this, so that you can eventually leave and build a life that you like and with values ​​that suit you.

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