Waking From Sleep: Natural Spirituality | Steve Taylor, PhD

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From Spirituality and Psychology: “A few years ago, feeling serene and exhilarated after a meditation, I decided to go for a walk. It was a beautiful evening – clear blue sky beginning to get dark, orange where the sun was going down, a few stars beginning to shine through. I walked around the field near my house several times, looking at the sky, amazed at how beautiful it was. My mind was quiet and I felt full of vitality. I began to feel as though I was being engulfed in the sky, and my normal sense of space was changing. The sky didn’t seem ‘up there,’ it seem to be around me, a part of me. I felt that the blue-black space around me was alive, that the universe was a living being. Every time I stared at the sky, the feeling grew stronger. It only stopped when my mind started thinking again.

Most of us have experiences like this from time to time, when the world becomes more real and beautiful. Natural phenomena like trees, rocks and the sky become alive, and reveal their inner being to us. An atmosphere of harmony seems to fill our surroundings, which may intensify into a radiant energy or ‘spirit-force’ which pervades all things. We feel a tremendous sense of well-being and the world becomes a benevolent and meaningful place. Our normal sense of separation fades away; all things seem related, as if they’re expression of one essential oneness, and we feel a part of this oneness too.

These experiences are sometimes referred to as ‘higher states of consciousness’ or ‘spiritual experiences.’ However, in my book Waking From Sleep, I suggest that rather seeing them as transcendent or ‘higher,’ we should see them as natural. I believe these experiences represent a way of seeing and relating to the world which was once normal to human beings, but which we have lost.

It’s possible to see ‘normal’ human consciousness as a kind of ‘sleep’ which we wake up from in these moments. Most people are asleep in the sense that their perception of the world is automatic, so that they aren’t able to sense the is-ness and alive-ness of our surroundings. They’re also asleep in the sense that they see all things as separate to each other, and experience themselves as separate entities, as egos enclosed in their mental space with the rest of the world ‘out there.’ Seen through this state of consciousness, life seems meaningless, and the universe may appear an indifferent and even hostile place.

This state of consciousness is extremely dangerous, and can be seen as the root of our species’ reckless disregard for the environment. Since we see the natural world as inanimate and as something other to us, we have no qualms about abusing it. We see it as nothing more than a supply of resources to use for our own devices, without responsibility.

However, I believe that this state of sleep is really a psychological aberration, and that it is actually natural and normal for us to be ‘awake.’”

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1 COMMENT

  1. I agree with the author that awakening and spiritual experiences have not been just “neglected” – but downright denied – by psychology.

    And I will say being weaned off the psych drugs, which resulted in my case in two different three month long “awakenings,” (which would be dismissed as a “super sensitivity mania” and “a return of your mental illness.”) But they were awakenings very similar to those described in this article. I had no idea I could dance that well!

    And I agree, “it is actually natural and normal for us to be ‘awake.’” Let’s hope others will garner insight into the importance of awakening, and wake up.

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