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One of my favorite poems is "The Road Not Taken," by Robert Frost. In it, the narrator, while going out for a walk, stops when he sees the path in front of him diverge into two. He prods at which to take, mulling it over and comparing the paths. One bends deeper into the forest’s undergrowth, while the other appears more welcoming, its path marked by tufts of grass and looking as though it hasn’t been heavily traversed. After contemplating and accepting that he may never be able to reverse his decision, the narrator opts for the second path—"the one less traveled by."
The poem is ultimately a metaphor for the choices we make and the role of uncertainty as an influential component in the decision-making process.
The act of “awakening” follows a similar dilemma. After an awakening, perspectives shift and it’s time to take action, but for many of us, this is easier said than done. We contemplate our next course of action, but unlike Frost’s narrator, rarely do we come to a satisfying resolution without that tinge of uncertainty creeping upon us.
Take this, for example. Maybe you’ve had an awakening that’s prompted a want to switch career paths. You’re giddy and excited at first, but it’s not long before certain doubts stream into your consciousness—But I’ve done all this work, is it worth restarting? Will I succeed? Who am I letting down if I do this?
It’s simple to see how uncertainty shrinks our aspirations and limits our ability to grow.
Left unchecked, this uncertainty has the very likely outcome of undoing those initial feelings or realizations caused by an awakening, leading us to revert back to our previous states of mind.
To truly reap the benefits of awakening means doing the necessary work and employing the right types of methods to uphold your newfound awareness.
While the post-awakening experience is different for everyone, this article will highlight universal key steps to consider if you find yourself uncertain about what to do after you’ve had an awakening.
What is an Awakening?
Awakening, also known as nirvana or enlightenment, has many definitions and interpretations, but at its core, it is a concept rooted in the spiritual process.
Awakening is the reaction following a person’s newfound awareness regarding their place in the world. This means that awakenings are often synonymous with questions concerning existential significance—Who am I? Why am I here? What is my purpose?
With this higher level of awareness comes the added realization that the individual self shares a unique connection with the world and everything inhabiting it.
Take, for example, the metaphor involving a page and a book. Prior to awakening, you only view yourself as the page, one aspect of a greater whole. But upon awakening, you now see yourself as the page and book, able to distinguish the two, yet simultaneously acknowledge that both are connected.
Simply put, awakening disrupts our basic modes of thinking in favor of more nuanced perspectives that allow us to act and see the world differently.
What Causes an Awakening?
Awakenings are prompted by intense realizations concerning your state of being or after reflecting on intense/traumatic experiences.
But awakening isn’t just limited to important events or moments. Certain people of influence within your life, like a loved one, good friend or mentor, can also cause your awakening.
Now That You’re Awake, What’s Next?
Here are some strategies to consider if you find yourself unsure what to do once you’ve had an awakening.
Step Away and Reflect
After awakening, one of the best things you can do is carve out some time for yourself to reflect. Limit yourself from doing strenuous activities or being in places that bring you anxiety.
With this time away, use it as an opportunity to employ meaningful practices that allow you to fully reflect on whatever realization you had. Journaling, meditation, and practicing mindfulness are just a few of many wonderful ways to reflect after an awakening.
If you find yourself having some trouble approaching this step, here are some reflection-based questions to consider:
What are my current ambitions?
Where do I see myself in 3-5 years?
What new habits can I form to keep myself motivated?
What feelings and emotions has my awakening brought about within me?
Set Your Goals
Consider doing some goal-setting. Goal-setting is the process of making decisions in an intentional manner to make your desired goal a reality. Through goal-setting, we are able to make the most of our current skills and push our abilities to achieve success.
Take the time to think about what goals you want to achieve and write them down somewhere. Don’t rush the process or feel overwhelmed. The purpose of goal-setting is to have a clear idea of what you want and how you plan to get there.
If you find yourself having some trouble approaching this step, here are some goal-setting-based questions to consider:
What is one thing I’ve always feared, but am willing to try?
Why is reaching my goal so important to me?
Can my goal be measured?
Is it possible to reach my goal without compromising my values?
Throughout this process, keep progress on your goal. You can do this by keeping a journal or web-based document to track your goals. This way, striving for your goal stays at the peripheral of your mind, always there and something you’re slowly working towards.
If you find yourself giving up on a goal you’ve made, consider these two things:
Goals fluctuate. It’s certainly possible for an existing goal to transform as you work towards actualizing it. All you may have to do is make some adjustments to your current lifestyle to get the outcome you want.
Remember why you are working towards this goal. By recognizing the why, we create longevity and purpose behind the practice. During moments of doubt or hesitation we can turn to the why for a reason to keep sticking to our goals.
Strengthen Your Support Systems
After awakening, you might find yourself in an emotionally vulnerable state. During this time, do your best to not isolate yourself! Time alone to meaningfully reflect can be effective at processing the feelings introduced from awakening, but there’s a fine line between reflection and self-pity.
It’s best to be surrounded by others who will uplift and support you. Think of people, organizations, and services that provide you peace of mind.
The right support systems create the positive environment needed to facilitate your awakening as you process the transformative realization you’ve made.
One of the biggest traps many fall into (myself included) is believing that awakening is a one-and-done process.
As the author of The Soul Solution, Dr. Jonathan Parker explains, “Don’t mistakenly think you’ve somehow reached the end of your evolution; rather it just means a lot of the distortions the mind previously projected are seen with more clarity.”
Parker demonstrates that contrary to the popular belief, awakening is a life-long journey we must continuously work on. Acknowledging this and bolstering our endurance through meaningful reflection, goal-setting, and strengthening our support systems allows us to stay conscious of our awakening.
“You realize that what you experienced before was a hazy dream,” he says. “In other words, life goes on and will be what you make it.”
Awakening is a truly wondrous experience that opens our eyes to realities we may have never previously considered.
While you may find yourself uncertain about how to proceed once you’ve experienced an awakening, consider the steps provided in this article as your guide. As you work through the process, look forward to the life-changing results that stem from awakening.
About the Author:
Aaron Talledo is currently pursuing his BA in English at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He finds inspiration from literature, music, and film and expresses creativity through writing. In his free time, Aaron enjoys fitness, meditation, and video games.