I recently received an email from a friend of a friend wanting some help finding a spirituality that would “give [her] some peace.” As I pondered this request, it became clear to me that some sort of “Beginner’s Guide to Spiritual Awakening” might be of use to her and hopefully others. This article is the first in what will probably be several on how to get started in spirituality with an emphasis on awakening.
Since many guides for beginners can at times be long and confusing, I’m going to attempt to keep these articles simple, in other words, no more than five to ten simple steps that one can take or brief comments awakening and spirituality. That should make it easier for someone just starting out to dive in easily and quickly (which is exactly what I would have liked 22 years ago).
8 “First Steps” for Someone New (or Old) to Spiritual Awakening
- Start sitting. As I often say, you probably can’t sit too much. I’m far less interested in what you do while sitting, more interested in that you spend time sitting often. However, I think it safe to say that fantasizing and planning your day are not the best uses of your time. Rather, spend time doing absolutely nothing. You are not trying to still your mind, you are not trying to focus on breathing or a thousand other meditation techniques. You are just sitting still, maybe noticing what is here, what is now, what is your current experience. There are no mental tricks or games or practices. Just sitting and being. That’s really enough. Maybe try doing some sitting, allowing everything to simply be, for 15 minutes every day.
- A little bit each day, put your attention on awareness. If you would like to know how, read this article and follow the suggestions.
- Find a teacher or two or three, and pay attention to their teachings. Don’t try to precisely comprehend it all, but instead allow the teachings to “soak in.” You don’t need to become a follower of these teachers, take them as your “gurus” or send them all your money. But having someone (or several someones) to guide you along the way can be very, very helpful.
- Read a wide variety of spiritual books. These books can be very helpful. Don’t try to find “the answers” in those books. Rather, allow them to move you and guide you, not satisfy your minds desire to figure out everything. Some suggestions for books? Here are two: Emptiness Dancing by Adyashanti and Ask the Awakened: The Negative Way by Wei Wu Wei. You can find both at Amazon (using these links help support this website).
- Make-up your own damn mind about what’s what in the spiritual world. Don’t believe a single word any teacher says, any books says, nothing(!), unless it really resonates with you. You don’t need to be an out and out skeptic. But don’t take anyone’s word for it. So what if Swami Salami says that enlightenment is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Is it? Do you know that? How about sitting with it and seeing what arises in you?
- Attend a few satsangs. Satsang means “talk or gathering about truth,” and attending, watching or listening to one can be extremely helpful. If you don’t live near a teacher with whom you resonate, then watch satsang online (and no, that isn’t just a plug for online live satsang with yours truly). There are a number of teachers doing satsang and posting videos online. Adyashanti has many short video excerpts available for free, as well as full satsangs in video and audio form for a modest cost. Rick Archer from Buddha at the Gas Pump has done 85 (and growing) video interviews with various teachers and placed the videos and audios online for free (including one with me). And YouTube has more videos on spiritual awakening than you could ever hope to watch. For those of you who live in Hooterville like I do, the Internet is a veritable godsend.
- Recognize one very important truth about spiritual awakening and spirituality in general: most of what passes for spirituality is not going to help you in the slightest. I know that sounds extremely critical, but I don’t intend it to be. The issue at hand is really simple: what is going to help you the most on your journey? That’s all the matters. And the crazy part is that there is no “one-size-fits-all” path or approach that works for everyone. In a very real sense, you have to discover the unique path that is for you and you alone. And so the obvious realization: most of what’s out there just isn’t going to work. That’s why I keep encouraging you to…
- Sit some more. Really. I know I am making a big deal about sitting, both in this article, during satsang, and in the Shortcuts, but it really can’t be over-emphasized. It is a rare person who sits too much. If you will notice, most of the teachers and gurus out there, as well as most historical “enlightened” folks, did a lot of sitting. It’s about seeing how the mind/ego ticks. Most people won’t see through it without some time getting familiar with it. Sitting is the best way to do that. Remember, how is less important than actually doing it.
I think that’s more than enough for anyone to get started. I’m quite certain that many will read the above and want to know, “okay, but what do I do?” I know, I’ve been there a hundred times. But you just have to know, right now, at the beginning, that it isn’t about what to do. It’s all about seeing truth for yourself, realizing what is real and true. That’s the spiritual journey.