Hi Mary-

I am quite confused and am hoping you can clarify some things for me. All over I see the terms Awakening, Awake, Ascension, Enlightenment and talks about Shifting? What do these mean? Are they all the same thing? Can you explain in some clear way so I actually get it?

– Thanks!

Hi Thanks!

Yes, I agree the terminology can be a bit confusing. I will try to explain the best I can what each term (from my understanding) means.

Awake and Awakening– Awakening is a term that means that someone is becoming more conscious. We have a lot of layers of personal trauma that color our worldview and create our belief systems. We also have layers of conditioning– from family, ancestry, past lives, society, religion, the world placed on us. Most of us are unconscious to the fact that we operate with a sense of sleep in this world, meaning that we accept this conditioning without understanding that it is there, or if we do we feel trapped or victimized by it, unable to transcend it. Awakening simply means that we are working through these layers, are noticing them, and may be in the process of transcending them.

Awake means we have transcended them. We know all of the layers, understand who we truly and vitally are without them. We are able to see them in ourselves and others. Interestingly enough, most “awake” people still have conditioning, patterns, and trauma left. They are just able to recognize it and consciously work through them.

Enlightenment- In some circles enlightenment and being awake are the same thing. And really it is. En-light-enment refers to the process of getting lighter– both meaning removing baggage (trauma) and the conditioned layers of reality which weigh heavily on our physical bodies, as well as the fact that when we remove these layers/baggage/belief systems who we truly are can come through. Who we truly are is divinity, it is light. When someone is fully enlightened you can see light around their heads as well as light in their eyes specifically, but there will be light around and flowing through them because they are connected intimately with the divine, and they do not have anything blocking that from emanating from them.

Ascension- Ascension is a funny one. There are whole communities focused on “ascending” and I have worked with countless people who believed that they were “ascending”. Quite frankly, as long as we are in physical bodies we are not going anywhere. Ascension is an illusion (a helpful one, but still an illusion). We need this sort of mythology to explain our awakening. A lot of people have difficult lives and the thought that they are going somewhere and a dis-identification with their physical bodies provides them exactly the sort of illusion that they need to get by and get through what might be a difficult awakening. Either that or they have heard of “ascension” and decide to say that they have done so because it sounds cool.

That being said, there are a lot of things that happen as you are getting lighter, as you are casting off the layers of conditioned reality. Some of these can be quite incredible, such as the seeing of geometric forms comprising the world, the viewing of yourself and your reality from a much wider scope, and even the development of energetic wings. It is easy when some of this is happening to be caught in your own trauma and to believe that you are “ascending” or going somewhere else, or create an illusion that in a certain amount of days you are going to “ascend”. But most people who actually have worked through their layers of stuff (become awake or enlightened) recognize that everything is right here. Even other times, dimensions, universes, etc can all be accessed through and by us… even death states, the Void, divinity, etc. are all right here. But this is one of those hard illusions to shatter. People really want to believe that they are going to ascend, or are ascending.

It has now been part of our “awakening” mythology and Judeo-Christian spiritual paths for such a length of time that it is not going to be dispelled. For people who believe they are ascending I always ask them two questions: What would happen if you ascended and didn’t go anywhere (ie remained in your physical body and in your current external life of picking up groceries and going to work)? Are you willing to let go of the belief of ascension to understand something greater and deeper? Most people understandably want to maintain the illusion that they are going somewhere, and there are a lot of cults and organizations and spiritual circles catered to this illusion. But most people when they have “ascended” find that they have created an illusion to help them through some difficulties, and that they still are human and have a human body, and simply get on with their lives.

Shifting- We are all shifting. Every one of us. Sometimes we go through bigger shifts, sometimes larger. Sometimes personal shifts and sometimes shifts that the whole planet, the whole cosmos is participating in. Typically “shifting” refers to the more global shifts. It is the idea that the whole planet is becoming more evolved, more awakened, more conscious, and it does so through shifts that cause a wide variety of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual symptoms.

Again, there are whole groups catered to “surviving” the shifts where people get together and talk about how horrible they feel because of what the cosmos is doing. Often the self-appointed “gurus” of the groups focused on this will maintain and even create this energy because they don’t know any better either. It gets to the point in many of these circles for “sensitives” or “awakened” sorts that every full moon, every Mercury Retrograde, every earthquake on the other side of the world is cause for long discussions and identification with how sensitive one is, and how it is such a struggle to be so.

While I certainly have compassion for people who are plugged in and feeling the energies from societal, global, and cosmic grids (for more on the grid system you can read this) much of this is an illusion or can actually be transcended. I have had interesting discussions with many well versed astrologers about how Mercury Retrograde is a sort of fad, and that the emphasis that has been placed on it is a current illusion that in fact creates many of the issues. Basically, if you think Mercury Retrograde is going to be awful, it is. Do not blame Mercury Retrograde– it may not even be affecting you based on your individual horoscope.

Similarly, I have read many, many self-help and spiritual books by this point going back decades if not hundreds or thousands of years. For the last hundred years or so (I will say eighty, probably) most of these books end with talking about what a great shift we are undergoing and how it is the “great shift” resulting in the turning point for humanity. Every single year for the last eighty years there has been a book that has said this. Guaranteed. And while there certainly have been turning points in our history, in our nation, this idea that there is going to be one huge shift (ahem 2012) that we, as alive people in current human bodies, are going to be part of, is a huge illusion. The truth is that we are always shifting in big and small ways. The world is always shifting in big and small ways. We are not the people to bring us into a new age. When we recognize this we can see that the world is always shifting, as are we (as long as we are open to it), and that we are not that special… that every generation thought that they were the ones.

We also have the ability to “transcend our horoscope”. I used to be affected by every single shift, events happening in other places of the world, the weather, Mercury Retrograde, every full moon (you get the picture). While this is a work in progress (yes, I definitely do have some natural up and down energy levels with the moon especially), I have worked at transcending my horoscope– basically meaning that I have gone from a space of reaction and participating in the levels of conditioned reality (the grid system) that create such events and the contents of my individual horoscope saying what I am going to react to and when… and am no longer affected by them the same way I was. I simply notice shifts and larger energies now instead of being overwhelmed by them (well, most of the time). I also do not participate in the mythologies, in the illusions, that the cosmos is one huge source of pain for anyone who is sensitive. I recognize that it certainly can be, but I have opened up, and have taught many others to open up, beyond this idea.

Hope that helps! If you want to send me a question to answer in a future column, you can contact me with “Spiritual Advice Column” in the headline.  Please note that I am not a physician and do not give personal health info online, and only pick questions I feel that I can answer and ones that would make for a good blog.