Spiritual experience can come in many forms, and the experience itself can differ from person to person. A spiritual experience can come in an instant and disappear as quickly as it came, or it can be lasting. Whatever the case, it’s natural to want to have a ‘head’ understanding of the experience, and to share one’s experience of ‘spirit’ with others.
In order to understand each other we need terms of reference that give common meaning to personal experience. In the world of spirituality, however, common terms of reference are not so easy to relate to. Different spiritual terms mean different things to different people, while different religions have their own understanding of spiritual terms. Spiritual experience is highly personal, and the question is, what terms does one use to describe spiritual experience in a way that others will grasp and understand.
I have been struggling with this for a long time, wondering how to describe my own spiritual experience – wondering which terms and words to use to capture my experience in a way that others can grasp and understand. What I’ve discovered is that there are no words that can describe spiritual experience; as soon as I try to translate my own experience into words the experience itself dissolves, and only words are left. This is because words are used to describe ‘something’, whereas spirit IS that ‘something’ that words are attempting to describe.
Still, I try to find an overarching term to describe my experience, and so far I’ve found three terms that I could use: A spiritual awakening, spiritual enlightenment and Hara awareness. The terms spiritual awakening and spiritual enlightenment are reasonably well known, while Hara awareness is perhaps lesser known.
The word awakening is described as “the start of a feeling of awareness in a person” (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/awakening). Other words used to describe awakening include arousal, waking up and activation. A Spiritual Awakening, then, can be described as a spiritual arousal, waking up or activation, or as the start of spiritual awareness in a person.
The term enlightenment is defined as understanding, knowledge or insight (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/enlightenment). It can also mean illumination and clarity. In Buddhism Spiritual Enlightenment describes the supreme state of Self- realisation; a state of total freedom from the ego mind. For Buddhists Spiritual Enlightenment also means freedom from wordly suffering and release from the cycle of reincarnation. Sometimes I’ve seen Spiritual Awakening and Spiritual Enlightenment used to describe the same thing. But are they the same?
Hara Awareness, on the other hand, refers to Awareness that arises at the Hara, the core of our innermost Being, the ‘source of all life’ that lies just below the navel.
When I think of my own spiritual experience in the light of these three terms, I see that my experience fits them all. During the early stages of what I can only call a transition from living life from my head to living from my soul I had initial, seemingly isolated episodes that I would call Spiritual Awakenings. These awakenings occurred prior to the more profound experience I had of enlightenment, which for me is a continual state of being that among other things offers insights, inner knowledge and clarity.
Furthermore, my experience of spiritual enlightenment involved a ‘descent’ to the core of my soul, to the Hara, where I became aware of my essence, my wholeness, my Being.
In his book ‘Hara, the Vital Centre of Man’, Karlfried Graf von Dürckheim, writes:
“Man’s way inward is the way of uniting himself with his Being, wherein he partakes of life beyond space and time…To realise Being in all and everything then becomes the sole function of his life.”
To realize being in all things has now become the sole function of my life.
Kate Loving Shenk says
Words diminish our experiences. Perhaps the rest of our lives should be spent in silence? Lol!
They do Kate, more than we realise:)