In response to my last article: ‘Why Spiritual Awakening Isn’t Glamorous’, hundreds of you wanted to know more about ‘Spiritual Crisis’. So here it is…
I’ll start by saying what it isn’t.
It isn’t an “Ah-HA!” moment. It isn’t a gentle awakening or realisation of something beyond physical life. It isn’t existential angst and wondering why you are here or a realisation of your purpose.
Spiritual Crisis is something quite different and is often mistaken for and misdiagnosed as conditions such as psychosis, bipolar or schizophrenia.
Spiritual Crisis is defined by The Spiritual Crisis Network UK as:
- A turbulent period of spiritual opening or transformation.
- The spiritual crisis is also known as a spiritual emergency, where a process of spiritual emergence, or awakening, becomes unmanageable for the individual.
- Psychological or mental health difficulties may be experienced: if understood and supported appropriately, these experiences can be deeply transformative, offering the possibility of breakthrough rather than breakdown.
My own spiritual crisis was triggered by the death of my mother (it is often triggered by trauma) and began in February of 1998.
I was just waking up. Waves of grief overwhelmed me. Suddenly I could smell my Mum’s perfume and feel her presence. I started to panic. My body became rigid, my eyes snapped shut and there was a scorching heat in my lungs. A rumbling screech like a freight train raged through me and there was a disgusting smell. I couldn’t move as energy surged through me. I was terrified.
It passed after a few minutes and left me in agony, as if every muscle in my body had been torn.
I instantly felt different afterwards and was aware of spirits and energies all around me. In the months that followed, I had these ‘seizures’ every night and most mornings. Each day I woke with a new ability and enhanced sense. I could see inside people’s bodies, I knew what they were thinking and feeling, my face changed when I looked in the mirror and my body moved into spontaneous yoga postures. It became overwhelming and I could no longer function in daily life.
For me, it led to depression and adrenal fatigue. Eventually, it led to a physical breakdown and to a diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia.
In many cultures, my experience would have been called a ‘Shamanic Initiation’, a ‘Kundalini Crisis’ or a mystical awakening. I would have been apprenticed to the village ‘seer’, mystic or witch doctor to train as a wise woman to serve the spiritual health of my community.
In the western world, if I’d gone to the doctor I would have more than likely been misunderstood, diagnosed with a mental illness and medicated.
As it was I instinctively knew not to go to the doctor. For some people that would have been the best thing to do but for me somehow my path led me to healers and teachers who helped me integrate my Spiritual Crisis. I was able to embody the gifts and wisdom it brought, eventually using them to help others.
The support that helped me integrate and embody my crisis of awakening included:
- Earthing myself barefoot in nature
- Mindful awareness of my own thoughts, emotions and spiritual experiences
- Simple, practical, physical activity like walking, cooking and being outdoors
- Becoming conscious of my breath
- Receiving regular Reiki
- Gentle Hatha Yoga
- Slowing down and simplifying life
- Reducing exposure to noise, technology, the news and negative or over-stimulating input
- Sharing my feelings and experiences with someone who could just listen and not try to fix or analyse.
- Eating healthy, hearty and grounding foods.
- Learning about ‘Energy Hygiene’ and how to manage my personal energy and keep it clean and clear
- A practice of present moment awareness, focussing on my body and physical sensation so I didn’t spin out and follow every thought and vision I had.
Spiritual Crisis can also be triggered by over-zealous spiritual practice and with the mind/body/spirit industry growing so rapidly we need to become more aware of the risks and how to support those whose awakening becomes unmanageable.
It’s time to raise awareness and remove the stigma associated with extreme spiritual experiences and make healthcare services aware of this process.
We can make a change by telling our stories of crisis and awakening.
When we tell our story in an empowered way we change the world.