The Disappointment of Awakening

By Matt Licata


Much is being said these days about healing and spiritual awakening, and the causeless joy, clarity, and peace that are the inevitable fruits of the inner journey. Not all that much is mentioned, however, about the disappointment of awakening – or of the ways it can break our hearts – cracking us open to the reality of the crucifixion, the resurrection, and the transfiguration we are likely to encounter along the way.

In the rush to convert the negative to the positive, to manifest everything we (have been conditioned to believe we) want, and to wiggle into some permanent state of “happy,” we forget that there is no transfiguration without a radical embodiment to the cross of the movement of the darkness within.

In the full embrace of life – right inside the messy, shadowy, nether regions of the psyche – we are invited to meet the wholeness of what we are, which includes the dark and the light, the activity of separation and union, and the entirety of what it means to be an embodied human being.

As we look carefully, beyond the veil just a bit, we may sense something longing to emerge, out of the mess, from the chaos itself surging up from the dark, rich soil of the body. But will you provide a home for it, warm space in which it can unfold and illuminate the path ahead?

As Jung so poignantly reminds us, we do not become enlightened by “imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” He went on to say that the integrating, non-negotiable journey of the dark and the light is one that is often “disagreeable” and thus would never be popular.

The ancient path of the heart may never conform to our hopes, fears, and dreams, for it is emerging in the here and now as an emissary of the unknown itself. Yes, awakening may always be a disappointment, from the perspective of the way we thought it would all turn out. In this sense, the journey is eternally hopeless, but it is in the creation of a spacious sanctuary for our hopelessness that we will enter the sacred world that is always, already here. In this sense, the disappointment is sacred, the deflation is a benediction, and a harbinger of wholeness.

As we journey together as fellow travelers, let us find a way to embrace both the joy and the heartbreak of spiritual awakening, and bear witness to the wisdom shining out of our immediate experience, whether it appears as sadness, bliss, despair, or great joy. It is true that grace will appear in both sweet and fierce forms, but regardless of its particular manifestation, it is still grace, sent from beyond to open us to the radiant fullness of being.

Do whatever you can to help others along the way – for you can do so much. Never underestimate the transformative power of your words, the way you touch others and hold them, and the most precious gift you have to offer to them and to a weary world – the fire of your very own presence.


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