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What is Spiritual Enlightenment? And 21 Profound Signs

Our experience as human beings here on earth is naturally dualistic–both good and bad, joyful and sorrowful, confusing and enlightening. If you are on a spiritual path, you may see this dualism on a deeper level than others around you. And yet, you crave more explanation and understanding, to experience such freedom and unlock the emotional state of pure bliss. Many people, especially early on in the spiritual awakening process, begin to wonder: how do I know if I am spiritually enlightened?

Any enlightened person knows that the experience of spiritual enlightenment is not a destination, but the path itself. 

We can never arrive at enlightenment, only develop spiritual practices to become our true self and align more with a higher power in each and every moment. The more we are able to act from a place of love, understanding, and non-judgment, and release all expectations of life the more we are in line with the principles of true enlightenment.

Below, I will discuss in detail that first spark that caused you to seek spiritual answers, the lessons of spiritual teachers, the signs and symptoms of spiritual awakening, and stages of spiritual awakening, so keep reading.

Woman in green dress with a lantern, metaphor for signs of spiritual awakening

Becoming Spiritual Seekers

The world is becoming awakened at a much more accelerated rate than in past generations. This has led more and more of us to seek different states of consciousness, and the path of spiritual enlightenment is available to all of us!

No matter the way you slice it, some profound shift caused you to seek answers on a spiritual level, however each and everyone has their own individual experiences. There are many different ways to get your first spark of insight into the spiritual realm. 

I, for example, experienced a dark night of the soul–a tremendously painful experience that can only be described as rock bottom–in 2010. I have a spiritual teacher who had a pure consciousness event during meditation in which he became the room around him. He was the chair, the floor, the sun, the sky, the universe. Others may have out-of-body experiences, a subtle shift in the way they see the world, experiences with the spiritual realm, or near-death experiences.

Now that you have good reason to pursue answers and deeper meaning, the only way forward is to live a spiritual life. I hope you congratulate yourself on your first steps from an ordinary consciousness into a deeper connection with the extraordinary life force that flows through our world.

RELATED POST: The Best 16 Books to Help Your Journey to Spiritual Enlightenment.

Spiritual Teachers on Spiritual Enlightenment

There is no consensus on the definition of “spiritual enlightenment,” but we can learn from the spiritual teachers who have come before to put this mystical, spiritual experience into more concrete terms. Such people were ones who broke through the limits of our physical world to touch on a mystical state that few have achieved on earth. Leaders like Thich Nhat Hahn, the Dalai Lama, Pema Chödrön, and Master Eckhart Tolle are teachers of modern times that can lead us to a deeper state of enlightenment, but the mystical experiences of true masters like the Buddha and Jesus have lasted through the generations and are always wonderful examples to look up to.

No matter the spiritual teachers you choose to follow on your spiritual path, follow that spiritual guidance with an open heart and open mind.

Here are a few of my favorite explanations of spiritual enlightenment.

Thich Nhat Hahn

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From Oprah’s interview of Thich Nhat Hanh:

Oprah: Are most monks enlightened, or seeking enlightenment?

Nhat Hanh: Enlightenment is always there. Small enlightenment will bring great enlightenment. If you breathe in and are aware that you are alive—that you can touch the miracle of being alive—then that is a kind of enlightenment. Many people are alive but don’t touch the miracle of being alive.

In other words, so many people live life through their egos and don’t even realize there is another way! By taking a breath, by feeling grateful, by experiencing a simple joy of life, you can touch a new state of consciousness. This is awakening.

On a side note, I did a Buddhist meditation retreat (online) through Plum Village, which is the monastery founded by Thich Nhat Hanh. Read more to find out what I thought.

RELATED: What does it mean to have a beautiful soul?

Deepak Chopra

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From Deepak Chopra’s website:

“According to Deepak Chopra, awakening happens when you are no longer living in a dream world where you filter everything through your ego and focusing on the future and the past. Instead, you have an almost simultaneous awareness of your individual self and the connection between that and everything else.”

Chopra described enlightenment as “getting rid of the person that never was”.

We experience everything in our life through our ego, through our past experiences and suffering, and we want to avoid future suffering. But when we are able to surrender to both our suffering and our happiness, that is the true reality of a fully conscious life.

Pema Chödrön

According to the renowned buddhist nun, Pema Chödrön,

Spiritual awakening is frequently described as a journey to the top of a mountain. We leave our attachments and our worldliness behind and slowly make our way to the top. At the peak we have transcended all pain. The only problem with this metaphor is that we leave all the others behind. . . . 

In the process of discovering our true nature, the journey goes down, not up. . . . Instead of transcending the suffering of all creatures, we move toward the turbulence and doubt. . . . 

We explore the reality and unpredictability of insecurity and pain, and we try not to push it away

If it takes years, if it takes lifetimes, we will let it be as it is. At our own pace, without speed or aggression, we move down and down and down. With us move millions of others, our companions in awakening from fear. At the bottom we discover water, the healing water of compassion. Right down there in the thick of things, we discover the love that will not die.

This is my favorite explanation of spiritual enlightenment. Pema tells us that on our spiritual path we must descend into our deepest, darkest parts of our soul. We must learn about our ego, we must learn about the world, and through the emotional experience of peeling the layers away from our inner self, we allow our true nature to shine.

Instead of transcending pain, we go through it and make it out the other side. 

Spiritual enlightenment and spiritual growth happens in the midst of turmoil, chaos, and pain, just like the mud lotus, which blooms because of the mud, not in spite of it.

RELATED POST: Spiritually Enhancing Crown Chakra Affirmations

Spiritual Awakening vs. Spiritual Enlightenment

In general, there is a slight difference between enlightenment and awakening. Awakening is the process of learning about our true selves. It is an increased ability to see the external world for what it is. Enlightenment is the heightened state of being that occurs from regular spiritual practices and increased awakening. Enlightenment is doing the inner work and having it reflected in our external reality.

21 Signs and Symptoms of Spiritual Awakening 

When you’re working on your spiritual path, awakening is the first step.

Sometimes when confronted with an ultimate truth of life, we don’t even realize that we’re suffering. Humans are so good at pushing down our pain and ignoring it in order to persevere. But eventually, that pain and suffering will make itself known to you and can change your life in some pretty drastic ways, as you’ll soon learn.

This truth, this suffering, ultimately leads to death of part of the ego, which controls our worldly desires. This idea is very Buddhist in nature. (Try Buddhist Affirmations and Mantras for your suffering and spiritual enlightenment.)

What are the first signs of a spiritual awakening?

Signs of a spiritual awakening can vary from positive to negative, from earth-shattering to ever so subtle. But one thing is for certain: when you experience an awakening, you’re forever changed. Your perspective has experienced such a shift that you will never see the world the same. 

In many of my own spiritual awakenings that I’ve had through the years (yes, it’s common to experience one and then awaken a little more later on), I would say the first sign was that I was daydreaming and dissociating

This mental state was an effort of the ego to remain tied down to my current state and not let go.

But the first signs of a spiritual awakening differ for each person. Some people find their outer world has changed and then they make the discovery that their inner world has changed as well. For many others, they change internally and then alter their outer world to match.

Here are a few things that you might be experiencing right now as you’re on your process of spiritual awakening:

1) You feel “different”

Your friends might even comment how you seem different than you used to. Maybe it’s your smile. Maybe it’s your energy. Maybe there were toxic people who used to use you and you’re suddenly standing up for yourself.

Whatever it is, you’re simply different. As time progresses and you discover more little ways that this spiritual awakening is manifesting in your life, you’ll have a deeper understanding of why you’re so different.

2) The people in your life are changing

Is your usual group of friends suddenly foreign to you? Maybe they are judgmental or harsh towards each other (or others outside of their group) and you are left wondering why they’re like that.

Often during a spiritual awakening, we start to set boundaries with people as we learn to honor ourselves and our truths. This may make others feel suddenly threatened by your new-found independence.

Or perhaps you’ve discovered new friends whose priorities and values align more with your own new ones. You find yourself naturally drawn to spending more time with them.

3) Time moves differently

Spiritual awakening signs include time shifting different than it used to in the past. In some cases, you might experience time moving slower because you are hyper-aware of everything going on around you.

But conversely, you might find that you tap into flow and creativity more easily and in the midst of an artistic session, hours have passed by suddenly!

4) You had epiphanies about your childhood or past

Woman drinking tea, looking pensively to the right

One of the glaring signs to me of being awakened spiritually is sudden truths that come out about your past. Often, these aren’t good ones.

Some people discovered during a spiritual awakening that they were sexually abused as a child. Others might have memories return about a scary encounter they had with a stranger in which they felt extremely threatened.

You may have realizations about the personality traits of people from your childhood, like your parents, or your siblings or yourself. Maybe you discover that you used to be a covert narcissist like I did.

5) You feel more connected to others and animals

A huge part of spiritual enlightenment is the connection you feel with other people, animals, plants, and the whole earth.

Thich Nhat Hanh describes this as interbeing, and he uses it as a verb. We inter-are with every living organism on earth. I inter-am with the wind, rain, mountains, seas, fires, and trees.

When we stop seeing ourselves as separate from other people and from the world, we start to treat people, animals, and things differently.

6) You don’t react the same

Often, when something big has shaken up your world, your patterns of reaction change. When you used to get angry over someone at work interrupting you in the middle of something, now you might be surprisingly okay with it. You find yourself to be more mindful and in the moment.

Conversely, if the ego is trying to hang on for dear life, you might find yourself getting more frustrated when little things disrupt your day.

Either way, chances are that you’re finding yourself reacting or responding differently to things you used to have an established response for.

7) You feel vulnerable and emotional

I hear from a lot of people going through a spiritual upheaval that they feel emotional and raw. Perhaps you can’t stop crying, or you feel overwhelmed easily. 

This could be your masculine and feminine energies finding a new balance, or it could just be that in your spiritual awakening you’ve relieved so much of the trauma that suppressed your emotions that you need to heal.

8) You’re having trouble sleeping (or sleep a lot)

Woman sleeping on a desk. Another symptom of spiritual awakening may be sleeping a lot

Sleep happens differently in a spiritual awakening. Last year, when I was having a spiritual awakening and shedding my childhood/generational trauma, I went from sleeping 6 hours a night to needing 9 hours of sleep a night or more. Your brain needs extra time to sleep, recharge, and rebuild itself after a tearing down of the “old you”.

You might also experience insomnia. Difficulties falling asleep, waking up in the middle of the night, and very vivid dreams are all signs that your brain is processing something big.

9) You feel like a lot of things are meaningless

Feeling a little depressed is not at all uncommon while becoming spiritually awakened. You’ve just made a huge shift in your world, and you may feel like before your awakening you were wasting time. 

Or perhaps this new perspective has cleared all the toxic positivity that infested your life before, and you’re wondering if you’ll ever feel hopeful again (you will, or at least in my experience, I did).

If you’re feeling lost and aimless, then head over to this post to discover what to do if you’re feeling unsettled because of a spiritual awakening.

10) You can hear that voice in your head talking incessantly

Mickey Singer talks about his spiritual awakening back in the 1970s in his book The Surrender Experiment (which I highly recommend reading). His first step into a deeper spiritual world was recognizing that voice in his head and learning how meditation could quiet it down.

Finding your ego yapping at you all day long is a very clear sign of awakening.

11) You feel like a part of you has died

If you’re feeling like a part of you has died, that’s because it has. Spiritual enlightenment is death of the ego (self/oneness) and acceptance of interbeing, so you’re experiencing your ego dying away.

This death (like any death) can be emotionally painful. You may also feel relief. This is totally normal. You aren’t the same person you were before.

12) You experience bodily pains

Bodily pain may be a physical sign of spiritual awakening

Although your experience is spiritual, your body may feel physical symptoms just the same. Just as all beings are interconnected, your body, mind, and soul are linked in such a way that if a part of your soul changes, so will your body and mind.

A subtle sign of spiritual awakening is body aches and pains. Perhaps your joints feel tighter than they used to in the morning, you’re having headaches or neck tension, or you feel like you need to get a massage every week.

These manifestations of a spiritual awakening in your body are real, not just in your mind.

13) Sometimes, you view your life through a lens

Have you ever had the experience of suddenly viewing your life from outside your body? I have, and it’s an interesting experience.

Maybe it happens when you’re rocking your baby to sleep at night–you see yourself with your little one as if watching a TV show. Or maybe it happens when you’re talking to your boss and you completely lose your train of thought (that one has happened to me as well).

This viewing of your life from a different perspective, literally, is a sign that something is changing in your life.

14) You mourn the loss of a part of your life

As mentioned above, you may be feeling like a part of you has died. I do recommend taking some time to grieve the loss of part of yourself that went away in the awakening.

You may be mourning the loss of a career path that you suddenly want to change. You might need to grieve the loss of family and friends who no longer fit in your new life. You might just be sad to see that person you were suddenly morph into someone new.

These are all valid. Grieving is a natural part of the process, so allow yourself to have some time to embrace and gently let go of everything you lost.

RELATED POST: The Best 16 Spiritual Awakening Books to Read on Your Spiritual Journey

15) You get lost in thought

Another spirit to mind connection, often a sign of spiritually waking up is that you’re consumed by your thoughts. Ego is trying to hold on, and you’re desperately trying to figure out what is going on with you.

You might find yourself having flashbacks to past events or drowning in the desire to “figure out” what’s happening with you. Either way, you should take some time to write these thoughts out as they come up in order to free them from your head space and give them room to breathe.

16) You feel less emotional than you used to be

Woman's hands in mudra as she is meditating

Although there are many cases that your emotional blocks break open and you feel like you’re drowning in your feelings, sometimes, you might actually feel less emotional than you did before.

If this is the case, you may have been overly emotional before, and waking up spiritually has helped moderate your flow of emotions. You might experience feelings of calm, peace, inner happiness, and all kinds of other feelings of contentedness.

17) You’re finding more joy in life

While spiritual awakenings can be painful, sometimes a sign of this awakening is that you are actually happier!

You’re spending time embracing the simple pleasures that life brings you every day, every moment. Your daily life may feel lighter and happier without a specific experience of profound bliss. Just a natural state of joy!

18) You have accepted and surrendered to your path

Whether or not you struggled or found pain in your awakening, you might reach a very peaceful state of acceptance and surrender. You might feel that you’re letting go of the expectations you place on yourself and others around you, and that you are happier to just go with the flow of life.

This surrender is working in conjunction with the energies of the Universe (God, Goddess, Mother Earth… whatever you want to call the divine power). You’re likely to be able to surf the waves of your life a little easier and don’t get knocked under as easily.

19) You feel angry

Because an awakening can unearth a lot of things from our past—traumatic experiences, abuse, pain—you might develop feelings of anger. Sometimes you might be angry at life or the situations you were put through. Other times, you feel angry at people who were close to you, such as parents, grandparents, friends, siblings, or past significant others who may have hurt you in ways that you didn’t realize until now.

It’s okay to feel angry, as much as you might want to control your anger, it’s impossible to do without hurting yourself further. Make sure you find an appropriate outlet for your anger, like journaling, running, or doing something creative, like knitting or writing poetry.

20) You feel closer to death

Woman looking at sun through the forest. When going through a spiritual awakening, you may feel alone in the world

With any spiritual enlightenment comes the inevitable feeling that your life is finite. Getting out of our comfort zone reminds us that all things, good or bad, must come to an end, and that includes our own life.

Letting go of our physical body is something that must happen to everyone, and we never know when it will happen. But when you experience a spiritual awakening, you know that you are birth and death simultaneously

21) Daydreaming

As mentioned, this is often the first hint to me that an awakening is coming. I find that dissociative states are the ego holding onto the “old worlds” of your life.

Your awakened state is telling you to live in the moment and become present, but your ego wants to maintain the self and prevent itself from dying away. If you’re consumed with thoughts, fantasies, dreams, and ideal worlds, you just might be experiencing a spiritual awakening.

How Do You Know If You’re Spiritually Enlightened?

Once you have started the process of walking that spiritual path and dedicated yourself to the hard work of inner peace and outer influence, you may wonder if you’re an enlightened being. Spiritual growth comes in many forms, but it often looks like very concrete qualities.

Look for these spiritual practices in your own life. (But generally, if you’re questioning whether you’ve reached spiritual enlightenment, you’re probably still working on it.)

1. You don’t turn away from discomfort or fear.

You understand discomfort, fear, anger, and tense situations as part of the human experience. You are vulnerable and turn toward those things in order to help foster understanding, relief, and peace.

2. You don’t get upset, frustrated, angry, or spiteful anymore.

When something bad happens, you are incredibly accepting. You understand that these things happen, even if someone acts angry or hateful to you, you do not get drawn into their energy.

3. You are consciously aware of energy and life force connections between yourself and all other living things.

You are compassionate toward animals and other creatures. You understand that we cannot live without animals, bees, plants, forests, and rivers. All of life forms a symbiotic relationship on earth.

4. You actively seek compassion, healing, and love.

You share your desire for understanding, love, and peace with others, whether in small or large ways. (This includes self-love.)

5. You always act from a place of understanding.

Even when others do not understand you, you accept that as a human reaction and the fact that it does not mean that person will not be more enlightened in the future. Everyone has their own path. You seek to understand, not to cut down, judge, or sway someone to your own point of view.

6. You live in the present moment.

You’ve accepted your past and found peace. Your future is yet unwritten and you accept that. You’re not consumed with worry or anxiety about what is to come.

7. You understand that life is truly a miracle.

Yes, life is something to be lived and enjoyed in the present moment. You marvel at baby kittens, a fresh rain, or bees in the springtime. To everything there is a season, and each season is incredibly beautiful.

RELATED POST: If You’re Feeling Lost During a Spiritual Enlightenment, It’s Totally Normal

What is Spiritual Enlightenment?

Simply, spiritual enlightenment is awareness of the world (mindfulness) and a release of all pain and suffering. You no longer feel fear or aim to protect yourself. When confronted with something that would provoke negative emotions, instead, enlightened people only feel love and understanding.

Think of spiritually enlightened people of history like Jesus. Regardless of whether you are Christian or not, you must admit that his spiritual enlightenment was one of the highest of those ever on earth. On the day of his death Jesus forewent protecting himself, released all emotions of pain, frustration, and anger, and offered compassion and forgiveness to those with him (the two others who were crucified with him) who were suffering.

In fact, spiritual awakening is inextricably linked with suffering. Sister True Dedication (pupil of Thich Nhat Hanh) says:

“We need to see the suffering, the truth, in order to get the awakening. There’s a deep connection between the two.”

This is the essence of spiritual enlightenment. Spiritual enlightenment is the true state of our souls.

RELATED: Affirmations for Spiritual Enlightenment
Spiritual Healing Gifts for a Spiritual Person


Spiritual enlightenment or awakening is not one event. It is not something that everyone experiences the same way.

But the common threads lie in the death of the ego and a deeper connectedness to the world around you. It is an ongoing process of personal growth, deepening spiritual values, and reaching the true potential of our highest selves. It is the regular practice of spiritual concepts and understanding.

When you experience an enlightening moment, you can never really go back to being the person you were before: you are forever changed.

If you are working on your spiritual practices and path, you might consider taking a solo spiritual retreat.

Are you experiencing signs of a spiritual enlightenment or awakened state?

What kinds of things are you going through? Drop me a comment below!

What is Spiritual Enlightenment, Really? 21 Signs and Symptoms


Saturday 10th of September 2022

Hi! I love how informative and great your articles are. Can you recommend any other blogs that share blogs that share information on Spiritual Awakening or spirituality in general? Thanks a lot!

Thee Empress Beloved

Tuesday 30th of August 2022

Thank you for sharing this message 💜

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