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Understanding Ascension, Awakening, and Enlightenment
Exploring the Spiritual Journey
What is the difference between ascension, awakening, and enlightenment? These terms are thrown around a lot in spiritual circles. I often will see them used interchangeably on social media. More often than not, they are thrown around too lightly and aren’t given the respect and reverence they deserve.
There definitely is some squishiness to many concepts in spirituality or new-age philosophy. By their very nature, we are trying to describe the ineffable. But I think appreciating their distinctive characteristics goes a long way in assisting us in knowing what tools, resources, and practices can deepen the process and understand some of the pitfalls along the way.
As with all things that are explored across many disciplines and with different points of origin, interpretations vary. And it can be incredibly valuable to go deep into a concept from one particular perspective. Especially when it comes to tools and practices. For example, Buddhism has a very specific view of enlightenment and has many practices that are aimed at attaining it. So it may be less valuable to take a buffet approach than explore it in depth from one philosophy.
What is Ascension?
Ascension refers to the process of transcending to a higher level of consciousness or existence. Ascension is both an individual and collective journey towards a higher state of being. And is thought of more as an energetic/spiritual process rather than a physical one.
Many people talk about raising your frequency or consciousness, but I feel that talking about it in terms of being more or less dense is more accurate. Higher frequencies being less dense and lower frequencies are more dense. This distinction becomes relevant in the conversation about ascension because many spiritual teachings talk about us ascending from the 3-D material reality to the 5-D.
These are not physical shifts as much as they are changes in our perception and understanding of reality. We do become lighter and less dense because we understand we are part of a larger field of consciousness and live from that awareness. This shift is characterized by moving from a world based on ego identity, separation, and Us vs Them mentality to one of love, unity, and interconnection. From this higher state of being, we have heightened perception and greater intuitive capacities. Gaining access to spiritual gifts that were not previously available due to the density of the 3-D world.
One of the biggest pitfalls in focusing on ascension is spiritual bypassing. People are so concerned about keeping their vibration ‘high’ that they go straight to the “love and light’. While it is easier to stay above the fray when seeing from a higher perspective, suppression or repression of emotions or not being honest about an event’s true impact is not ‘high vibrational’. We can’t fool our bodies.
What is Awakening?
Awakening can be thought of as what is happening as we move from the 3-D to 5-D world. If ascension is the larger process, awakening is the unfolding realization and recognition of the nature of reality that happens within that process. Bringing with it profound insights and shifts in perception, leading to increased mindfulness, spiritual growth, and a deeper connection to oneself and the world.
These realizations can happen suddenly or over a long period of time with steep stages and plateaus. It can be triggered by unexplainable events, a life transition, or a peak experience. It starts with a deeper appreciation that we are part of something bigger than just ourselves.
With each new stage of realization and growth, we also require integration. These realizations are clusters of frequencies that need to be integrated into the body and energy field. Whether people are aware of their ascension or not, integration is an integral part of the process and necessary for the upgrade to stick.
That is where some people falter. Much of their awakening experience is mental and focused on individual growth. People read so many books and listen to teachers, but they require experiential practices and rituals too. This is why you can awaken somewhat but can quickly fall back into old behaviors and patterns.
Learning is great, but without embodiment and experiential undertakings, it is not really walking the path. The mind is powerful but there is a big difference between understanding something and being it, living it, and feeling it. We must be willing to play with the mystery and be awed by it. Awakening is not just a mental or intellectual exercise. It is the daily expression of the larger truths.
What is Enlightenment?
Enlightenment is often considered the ultimate result of awakening in spiritual traditions. It is an absolute state of being that once you have achieved it, there is no other way of being.
The idea of what the ultimate result is can vary from tradition to tradition. For Buddhists and Hindus, it involves liberation from the cycle of rebirth. In Taoism, enlightenment is seen as a return to the inherent harmony of the Tao (the Way), the natural order of the universe. Some others believe that it is simply non-duality.
It is safe to say that there have been very few enlightened people in humanity's history. Enlightenment transcends the limitations of ego and conditioned patterns of thinking and involves living with the knowing of our oneness (non-duality). So, it is not easy to achieve. I have seen articles like 9 Signs You’re Enlightened, which are just silly.
We tend to focus so much on ‘doing the work’ that we forget beingness and unity. We forget that part of this work is not for the individual but so that the universe may know itself. While I do think that more and more people are awakening, the path from awakening to enlightenment is one that will only be traveled by a few.
Practices and Rituals
Because these concepts are interrelated, all of these practices lend themselves to the awakening path. Remember, we are holistic and integrated beings, so everything shifts our vibration and consciousness.
Meditation and journeys
Honing intuitive skills
Light body activations/meditations
Using frameworks/exercises that challenge biases/constructs
Drumming, shaking, dancing
In conclusion, ascension refers to the process, and awakening are the realizations one has during this process. Enlightenment is the ultimate result or state that can be achieved through this journey. While it is amazing to have personal breakthroughs and ‘AHa’ moments, and these are truly important. We must also remember that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. And on some level - WE ARE ONE. Give thanks for all discoveries you have and know that as you awaken so does the Universe.
If you are new to awakening, you can find a variety of introductory articles on spiritual development, awakening, energetics, and tools for navigating your spiritual path at chaosandlight.com
If you would like to have some assistance on your journey, I have a variety of sessions designed to help you on your path of spiritual growth and self-discovery.