Navigating the Waters of Awakening: Can the Journey Cause Anxiety?

Embarking on the transformative journey of awakening holds the promise of profound self-discovery and inner peace. However, like any transformative process, the path to enlightenment is not always smooth. In this exploration, we delve into the question: Can awakening cause anxiety? Let’s navigate the complexities of this spiritual journey, unraveling the layers that contribute to anxiety and discovering how individuals can navigate these challenges.

The Unsettling Nature of Change:

Awakening is synonymous with change, a force that, no matter how positive, can be inherently unsettling. As individuals experience shifts in perception, beliefs, and priorities, the unfamiliarity of this new terrain can trigger anxiety. The fear of the unknown, even when on a path of self-discovery, may lead to moments of unease. It’s essential to acknowledge that while change is a constant in life, the velocity and depth of change during an awakening can be particularly disconcerting.

To mitigate the anxiety arising from change, individuals can embrace mindfulness practices. Mindfulness cultivates an awareness of the present moment, allowing individuals to navigate change with a sense of groundedness and acceptance. Recognizing that change is an integral part of the awakening process can empower individuals to face it with resilience and courage.

Here a 3 effective mindfulness practices that can help in the moment when anxiety arises:

1. Breath Awareness:

– Find a quiet space to sit comfortably.

– Close your eyes and bring your attention to your breath.

– Inhale deeply through your nose, feeling the breath fill your lungs.

– Exhale slowly through your mouth, releasing tension with each breath.

– Focus on the sensation of the breath, the rise and fall of your chest, or the feeling of the air passing through your nostrils.

– If your mind starts to wander, gently guide your focus back to your breath.

– Practice this for a few minutes, allowing the calming rhythm of your breath to bring you back to the present moment.

Why it works: Breath awareness is a simple yet powerful mindfulness practice. It helps anchor your attention to the present moment, creating a sense of calm and reducing the grip of anxiety.

2. Body Scan Meditation:

– Sit or lie down in a comfortable position.

– Close your eyes and bring your awareness to different parts of your body, starting from your toes and moving up to the top of your head.

– Notice any sensations, tension, or discomfort without judgment.

– As you identify areas of tension, consciously release it on each exhale.

– Progress through each part of your body, paying attention to the physical sensations and letting go of any tension.

– Finish by taking a few deep breaths and allowing your entire body to relax.

Why it works: Body scan meditation helps you become aware of physical sensations associated with anxiety. By systematically releasing tension, it promotes a sense of relaxation and ease.

3. Grounding Technique:

– Find a comfortable seated position.

– Take a few deep breaths to center yourself.

– Bring your attention to your immediate surroundings.

– Notice five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.

– Engaging your senses in this way helps anchor you to the present moment.

– Continue breathing deeply as you observe and acknowledge each sensory experience.

Why it works: This grounding technique is a quick and effective way to shift your focus away from anxious thoughts. By connecting with your senses, you bring your attention back to the tangible and immediate environment, reducing the intensity of anxiety.

These mindfulness practices can be valuable tools for managing anxiety in the moment. Consistent practice over time can enhance their effectiveness, providing individuals with a valuable set of skills to navigate challenging emotions and foster a sense of well-being.

Existential Anxiety:

Awakening frequently involves contemplating profound existential questions—the very fabric of our existence. As individuals grapple with questions surrounding the meaning and purpose of life, a sense of anxiety may emerge. The vastness of these inquiries and the uncertainty they bring can be overwhelming for some, stirring existential angst that echoes through the depths of their awakening.

Addressing existential anxiety often involves engaging with philosophical and spiritual teachings. Exploring various perspectives on existence, purpose, and the nature of reality can provide a framework for understanding and alleviating existential angst. Additionally, connecting with a supportive community that shares similar existential inquiries can offer solace and a sense of shared exploration.

Here are three examples of spiritual or psychological teachings that individuals can engage with to lower existential angst:

– *Principles:

– MBET combines existential philosophy with mindfulness practices.

– It emphasizes present-moment awareness and acceptance of one’s thoughts and emotions.

– Encourages individuals to explore existential concerns without judgment.

– *Practice:

– Engage in mindfulness meditation to cultivate awareness of the present moment.

– Reflect on existential questions such as the nature of life, death, and meaning.

– Use mindfulness to observe and accept these thoughts without becoming overwhelmed.

– Explore how embracing existential uncertainties can lead to personal growth and a more profound sense of meaning.

Why it works: MBET offers a holistic approach that combines the insights of existential philosophy with practical mindfulness techniques. It provides a framework for individuals to approach existential questions with curiosity and acceptance, reducing anxiety about life’s uncertainties.

– *Principles:

– Logotherapy, developed by Viktor Frankl, focuses on finding meaning in all forms of existence.

– Emphasizes the importance of a sense of purpose in coping with life’s challenges.

– Encourages individuals to discover meaning through their experiences, relationships, and contributions.

– *Practice:

– Reflect on personal values, goals, and aspirations.

– Identify areas in life where a deeper sense of meaning can be cultivated.

– Connect with activities that align with personal values and contribute to a sense of purpose.

– Embrace challenges as opportunities to find meaning and grow.

Why it works: Logotherapy provides a framework for individuals to actively seek meaning in their lives, empowering them to navigate existential questions with a focus on purpose and contribution.

– *Principles:

– ACT combines mindfulness strategies with behavioral techniques.

– Encourages acceptance of one’s thoughts and emotions.

– Focuses on living in accordance with personal values despite uncomfortable thoughts and feelings.

– *Practice:

– Develop mindfulness skills to observe and accept existential concerns without judgment.

– Clarify personal values and what matters most in life.

– Commit to actions aligned with these values, even in the face of existential uncertainties.

– Embrace the idea that discomfort and uncertainty are part of the human experience.

Why it works: ACT provides practical tools for individuals to cultivate mindfulness, accept existential concerns, and take committed actions in alignment with their values. This approach can be particularly effective in reducing anxiety related to the uncertainties of existence.

Engaging with these spiritual and psychological teachings offers individuals diverse perspectives and tools for addressing existential angst. Depending on personal preferences and beliefs, one or a combination of these approaches may resonate more deeply and provide valuable insights into navigating life’s existential challenges.

Dissolution of Ego:

At the heart of many awakening experiences lies the dissolution of the ego—an intricate process involving the deconstruction of the identity constructed over a lifetime. While this dismantling is essential for personal growth, it can be accompanied by feelings of vulnerability and anxiety. The ego, which often seeks stability and control, may resist this transformative process, leading to a sense of internal turmoil.

Integrating practices that foster self-compassion becomes crucial during this phase. By embracing vulnerability and acknowledging the discomfort associated with ego dissolution, individuals can cultivate a more compassionate relationship with themselves. This shift in perspective can not only ease anxiety but also foster a more authentic and resilient sense of self.

Here are two examples of self-compassion practices:

1. Write a Compassionate Letter to Yourself:

– Find a quiet and comfortable space to sit.

– Take a few deep breaths to center yourself.

– Begin by acknowledging a specific challenge or difficulty you are currently facing.

– Write a letter to yourself as if you were writing to a dear friend who is going through a similar struggle. Express understanding, kindness, and support.

– Validate your own feelings and remind yourself that it’s okay to experience challenges. Offer words of encouragement and acknowledge your efforts.

– Reflect on the shared humanity of facing difficulties and recognize that you are not alone in your struggles.

– Once you’ve written the letter, read it back to yourself with a compassionate mindset.

Why it works: This practice helps individuals treat themselves with the same kindness and understanding they would extend to a friend. It encourages self-compassion by recognizing and validating personal struggles while fostering a sense of connection with the broader human experience.

2. Self-Compassion Break:

– Steps:

1. Mindfulness: Pause and acknowledge that you are experiencing difficulty or distress.

2. Common Humanity: Recognize that challenges and suffering are a universal part of the human experience. You are not alone in your struggles.

3. Kindness: Speak to yourself with warmth and kindness, offering words of comfort and understanding. You might say, “May I be kind to myself in this moment,” or use other comforting phrases.

Why it works: This practice, developed by Dr. Kristin Neff, provides a structured way to respond to moments of self-criticism or stress. It encourages individuals to approach themselves with the same compassion they would offer to a friend.

Many times it also helps to say the words you would speak to a crying child.

Integration Challenges:

The integration of newfound insights into daily life can pose significant challenges. Balancing the demands of societal expectations, personal relationships, and the evolving self can create internal conflicts, leading to feelings of anxiety. The struggle to align the awakened self with the practicalities of everyday existence can be a source of tension that requires careful navigation.

Practical strategies for integration involve setting realistic goals and expectations. Individuals can create a supportive environment that allows for the gradual implementation of newfound perspectives. Seeking guidance from mentors or spiritual leaders who have navigated similar challenges can provide valuable insights into managing the integration process with grace and authenticity.


Heightened awareness and sensitivity, common attributes of an awakened state, can lead to overstimulation. The barrage of sensory input and the intensity of emotional experiences may overwhelm some individuals, resulting in anxiety. Learning to manage and navigate this increased sensitivity is a crucial aspect of the awakening journey.

Practices such as meditation, breathwork, and sensory grounding exercises can be effective tools for managing overstimulation. By developing a heightened sense of self-awareness, individuals can regulate their responses to external stimuli, fostering a sense of balance and calm amid the heightened awareness that comes with awakening.

Resistance and Fear:

The resistance to change and fear of the unfamiliar can hinder the progress of awakening. As individuals confront deeply ingrained beliefs or face aspects of themselves they’ve long avoided, anxiety may surface. The process of embracing change and surrendering to the unknown can be anxiety-inducing for many.

Recognizing and embracing resistance as a natural part of the process is crucial. Rather than viewing resistance with judgment, individuals can approach it with curiosity and compassion. By exploring the roots of resistance and fear, individuals can uncover valuable insights that contribute to their overall growth and transformation.

Anxiety might be overwhelming in the moment it arises, but like all other emotions, it is an energy that once triggered, wants to move through the body. Accepting it instead of fighting it will support a faster dissolvement.

The question of whether awakening can cause anxiety is nuanced and multifaceted. The journey of self-discovery is inherently complex, and anxiety can be an integral part of this exploration. Acknowledging the challenges and potential sources of anxiety during awakening is the first step toward cultivating a compassionate and resilient approach to the process.

Ultimately, by embracing both the light and the shadows of the awakening process, individuals can foster a more holistic and compassionate approach to their evolving selves. In this expansive journey of awakening, anxiety can be a transformative force, inviting individuals to explore the depths of their consciousness and emerge with newfound wisdom, resilience, and a profound connection to the essence of their being.

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