The path of spiritual awakening can be really lonely at times.
First, there’s the fact that you’re the only person who lives in your body. So, essentially, your very nature is to be alone. You move through life and no one outside of you is able to fully feel or experience what you’re feeling. This is just a fact of being human.
Yes, people can have compassion, empathize with you, or share similar experiences or stories. But basically you’re the one feeling your emotions and feeling what it’s like to be YOU, living your life every day.
Second, the separation (or difference) you feel between you and other people can become even more pronounced after a spiritual awakening. Or you might realize that you’re just not resonating with certain people anymore.
This article explores the feelings of loneliness and fear that can come up on the path of spiritual awakening.
*Important note: on a spiritual level, you and I and everyone else are interconnected and part of the same whole. The sense of separation and difference we feel is ultimately an illusion, but this article focuses on the human experience of these feelings, which can be challenging and painful.
Spiritual Awakening & Ego Identity
We can define spiritual awakening as a moment – or series of moments – where you recognize that:
- you’re a Soul having a human experience
- there’s a spiritual reality beyond what you can see, touch, taste, feel, and know through your physical senses
- you’re an active participant in your life and have the power to co-create with the Universe (which leads to the realization that you might have created some unwanted things in the past)
- things don’t happen TO you, but rather FOR you – there can be purpose or meaning in every experience
- ultimately, everything is energy
When you wake up spiritually, you realize that you were once asleep. That you once couldn’t perceive the spiritual reality beyond your human experiences. That you used to believe only (or mostly) in the material world.
A crucial part of spiritual awakening is realizing that you’ve been overly attached to an ego identity.
This identity includes your physical body, your appearance, your clothes, house, money, car, job, social status, relationship status, and other physical attributes. Your ego identity is also made up of regrets about the past, self-judgments, your idea of yourself (especially compared to other people), and the narratives about your life that you’ve been telling for a long time.
As you recognize that you are much more than an ego, you might experience an identity crisis. This happens as some (or most) of the things, relationships, possessions, and circumstances that you once used to define yourself start to feel empty or meaningless.
Of course, underneath the surface, something very good is happening here – you’re experiencing a form of ego death. This process is really important and worthwhile but, as the name implies, it can also feel terrible – like death.
It can feel like your old life is dying, like the old you is dying. And sometimes it feels like there’s nothing left to hold on to.
This is where you might start feeling a sense of loneliness, as you question:
- who was I before this? who am I becoming?
- who do I want to become?
- who can I share my life and experiences with now?
- who will understand this profound transformation I’m going through?
- what is there to hold on to? what actually matters to me?
When the ego weeps for what it has lost, the spirit rejoices for what it has found. – Sufi Proverb
Feeling Lonely after Awakening
After you wake up up spiritually and experience the death of your old identity, how you relate to others also begins to change.
You start realizing you don’t have as much in common with some (or most) people in your life anymore, as your interests and priorities change.
You might also recognize that some of your relationships have been codependent or unhealthy, and you’d rather release them now. Maybe certain friends or relatives are attached to things, situations, or ways of being that you used to tolerate but can no longer allow into your life.
When you wake up spiritually, your energy and frequency change. This means you will no longer resonate at the same vibration with certain people in your life.
It can be so hard to try to explain your spiritual experiences and new understanding to others who aren’t resonating with you.
You might have friends, coworkers, or family members who are still asleep, so they can’t understand or relate to what you’re going through.
Wakefulness versus Sleep
Living life awake is radically different from living life asleep.
When you live asleep, you tend to react to things rather than consciously responding to them. You also spend most of your time in survival mode, stuck in fight, flight, freeze, and/or fawn patterns.
You suffer extreme emotional ups-and-downs due to ego identification, as your ego runs the show and dictates your motivations and behaviors.
You live mostly according to conditioned habits and automatic (unconscious) patterns of behavior, and you tend to see yourself as inferior or superior to others – sometimes both in the same day or hour!
Living asleep often involves chasing “success” and worthiness as defined by your culture, society, or family (e.g., to be worthy, you must earn X amount of dollars every year, be a certain weight, or have X number of degrees).
The biggest ego trip is getting rid of your ego, and of course the joke of it all is that your ego does not exist. – Alan Watts
In contrast, once you wake up and take ownership of your life and evolution, you:
- begin to respond to life more consciously, with less knee-jerk reactivity
- can shift out of survival mode into creative mode (where you joyfully create the life you want)
- experience more regulated and manageable emotions, or at least can sit with your emotions without judging, suppressing, or exacerbating them
- live mostly according to your spiritual alignment and intuitive guidance (there’s no single roadmap!)
- begin to see that every human, including you, is inherently worthy
- place high value on living according to your own personal truth and defining “success” in your own way, detaching from cultural, social, and family expectations/beliefs
Once you awaken, it’s difficult to communicate clearly or share your perspective with someone who is still asleep. So you might look around and find that you have less people in your life, or at least less people with whom you can be totally yourself.
Being with the Lonely Feelings (and Other Spiritual Tasks)
First, I want to acknowledge the feeling of loneliness you might be experiencing. It isn’t easy to be where you’re standing.
I also want to acknowledge YOU for having the courage to follow your heart and listen to the call of your Soul.
When you first experienced a spiritual awakening – whether that was a month ago or 20 years ago – you had a choice. A choice to open a doorway that would lead towards your truth, sanity, personal integrity, and spiritual evolution… or to keep that door closed because of fear.
It takes a courageous soul to step through the door of spiritual awakening. It takes an even more courageous soul to stay on the path of awakening, seeking new ways to break through illusions and release unhealthy attachments.
Courage is needed to no longer pretend to be anyone or anything than who you really are.
In this process of becoming fully yourself, you’ll face a variety of challenges – we could also call them spiritual tasks.
One of these tasks is to let go of the need to be understood or acknowledged by others. Which also means releasing the fear of being misunderstood. You must learn how to acknowledge and understand yourself, without depending on anyone else’s approval, permission, or attention.
Another spiritual task is to allow others to be where they are, without judging or trying to change them. Being compassionate and wise means understanding when someone is asleep, and allowing them to wake up in their own time.
Another task is to learn how to be with your feelings without trying to numb, escape, or suppress them. In this case, it might mean learning how to be with the loneliness while having unconditional compassion for yourself. Here are some introspective questions to gently ask yourself when you feel the lonely feelings:
- where do I feel this loneliness in my body? what sensations do I feel?
- if this loneliness was a person, what would it say to me?
- what am I really grieving? (a person, a relationship, the idea of a relationship, my old identity, etc)
- what does my heart need from me to feel supported?
Mourning Your Old Life
Another spiritual task in the process of awakening is to mourn the old.
Mourn the old relationships, your old life, your old way of being, your old habits and patterns, your old distractions, even your old dysfunctions. (I, for one, miss eating an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s in one sitting! But in my awakened state I don’t want to do such harm to my body, so I consciously choose not to eat it. As hard as it is.)
It could be that the loneliness you’re experiencing is actually grief. You might be feeling lonely not for a specific person or relationship but lonely for your old life. Terribly missing your old self.
So it’s important to feel and express this grief. To take time and space to mourn the old, as you recognize – sometimes with great joy, sometimes with regret – that you can’t go back to sleep now.
You Can’t Go Back to Sleep
I hear from some clients and spiritual friends that they would rather go back to sleep. That ignorance maybe really is bliss. That if they knew awakening would be like this, they wouldn’t have “signed up” for it.
But these clients and friends – and you and I as well – didn’t come here to coast. We didn’t come here to be asleep.
We didn’t come here to fill our lives with one-sided, codependent, draining, or limiting relationships just to avoid feeling lonely.
We didn’t come here to live according to other people’s ideas and expectations.
We didn’t come here to suppress our truth, please others, pretend things are ok when they’re not, or be robotically driven by unconscious conditioning.
Beyond the Illusions
What you’re really mourning, then, is the illusion that you could ever live life asleep (and that such a life would be totally happy and carefree).
You’re mourning the illusion that you could remain blissfully ignorant and avoid the commitment, mindfulness, and integrity it takes to live a spiritually aligned life.
The more you mourn these illusions, and the more you can sit with your loneliness without victimizing yourself, the more your heart will open to the new relationships that are coming.
In time, you will not only develop meaningful, authentic relationships with people who are resonating at your frequency; you will also develop new relationships with yourself and with your life.
And, trust me, the people you’re seeking – your soul family, the ones who will resonate with you – ARE out there. They might be going through their own awakening right now. They’re probably feeling lonely, too, and looking for you.
Continue being true to yourself, courageously taking on your spiritual tasks, and trusting in the most highly aligned timing for all of this. The new souls you’re meant to interact with will show up, when the time is right and when you’re both ready.