Awakening True Spirituality – What Is It and How Do You Avoid Stalling Out?

By Penny Kelly

Guest Writer for Wake Up World

A client came to see me the other day. He had come through a rough divorce and was finally celebrating life in a wonderful way. I listened as he shared the details and excitement of his recent successes in business, the astonishing developments in I.T. that he had pioneered, what the technology could do, how he was navigating sophisticated contracts, partnering with other companies across the United States, and discovering that bigger companies were watching him to see if he would continue or fizzle. It was inspiring and gratifying to see him unfold as such a master… and then he asked the fatal question, “But what about my spiritual development?”

There it was again – the split between man and spirituality. Perhaps it is a legacy of the separation between church and state. Maybe it is the result of the Western education system and the deep wedge it drives between the self and the true spirit of that self. Whatever the cause, no one seems to know what spirituality is or be able to recognise it in the flesh.

They talk about it as if it were some mysterious condition that takes over lives and is demonstrably different in some unpredictable way. They think it has something to do with reading the right books or having strange powers. We think of it as something that descends upon us, or that we ascend to. It is often seen as a mysterious ability to know things or make miracles. It is thought of as something outside the body that has to do with the mind or consciousness. Or, it is viewed as being intellectually erudite regarding spiritual things. But we never think of it as the unique spirit of the self that is hiding within and waiting to be invited out.

     The development of true spirituality is the development of the spirit of yourself.

There are stages of development and we can stall out at any point along the way. The biggest reason for stalling out is not only lack of understanding, it is ignorance of the stages of development we go through as we unfold into wisdom, power, and grace.

Over more than 36 years of spiritual counselling and direction, it has been my observation that spiritual awakening begins the instant you begin to listen to yourself. It is that moment when you ‘go with your gut’ or insist on something you can neither explain nor justify to family or friends.

That first attempt to do what you want, say what you feel, go with what you think is important – regardless of how shaky and uncertain you might be – is a critical first step in spiritual development. As you move along, your real self begins to take shape and the old you begins to dissolve. There will be some exploring as you search for the pieces and parts you let go of earlier in life. There will be some free-floating anxiety, and lots of tears that help to clear and wash away the past. The period of tears can last up to two years, especially when there is the need to completely rebuild your life. The process of awakening can start and stop, but the instant you give it a chance to reconstitute itself and roll forward, it will take off, taking you with it.

What sustains you throughout this stage? In the aftermath of those few moments when you first speak your truth and discover the world does not implode on you, a new vista is discovered! Like the 10-month-old who stands alone and wobbly for a few seconds before abruptly sitting down again, you are never again content to sit or crawl, ignoring what is going on inside of you. You are on the path of awakening, the path of your truth – your real self.

Are there pitfalls on the path? Yes. When people begin to awaken spiritually, one of the first things they say is, “I want to be a healer.” What they are really saying is, “I want to heal,” and seldom do they realise they are talking about healing the self. We are so conditioned to project our thoughts, feelings, and needs onto others that we automatically project our need to be healed onto those around us.

Another pitfall? Many of us have been taught that to focus on our self is selfish, weak, or needy. All of the major religions of the world have perpetuated the myth that the self is an ego to be ignored and that the body is bad or, at best, unnecessary, none of which has been helpful in developing true spirituality.

I know this flies in the face of all the current spiritual advice floating around out there, but it has been my experience that the ego is necessary for full spiritual development. And in my opinion, the body is the elephant in the spiritual room. It is your temple, your tool, your teacher… and should be celebrated as a key part of your development, not shuffled off as irrelevant or sinful. To heal, you must honour and obey the needs of the body. This means keeping it in good shape, having a good working relationship with all of its parts. It means paying attention to things like nutrition, exercise, detox, water, and real foods that do not trigger allergies, inflammations, or other reactions that indicate your body can’t use that particular food. It is extremely difficult to hold higher consciousness consistently when you are not healthy.

To heal someone is to make them whole again. In addition to the nutrition, exercise, and other things mentioned above, all the parts of the self that were lopped off in the process of growing up and trying to ‘fit in’ must be recovered and re-integrated. It means that we must begin to know, acknowledge, and honour the whole self, including the parts that have been previously black-balled or stuffed in the closet. Do not get stuck on being a healer for others while failing to heal the self. Recognise that the desire to heal others is often an early stage of spiritual awakening. Once healed – physically, mentally, or emotionally – it will be time to move on.

The second thing heard frequently from the newly awakened is, “I want to help the world… to make the world a better place.” Making the world a better place is only a reasonable goal if it makes your world a better place, i.e. you have enough money, food, shelter, clothing, warmth/cooling, safety, education, experience, all the physical/mental needs met… and you are doing something you love. It does not make the world a better place if you are doing something you think is helpful but you do not have what you need for yourself. This is the blind leading the blind and eventually you will become a burden to others.

Be aware that it does not help the world if you are contributing feelings of anger, frustration, hatred, arrogance, or resentment to the emotional pool. Trying to make the world a better place by doing good work while you carry these awful feelings inside you is like robbing Peter to pay Paul. No one is better off. You will stall out spiritually when you get stuck on doing something that benefits others but not yourself. Pay attention to yourself first. No one can live your life for you and no one can do your perception for you. Once your needs are met and your life is full, you can begin to extend some of that to others.

The third thing people say when awakening is, “I want to be a teacher/healer/speaker/creative/preacher in the field of spirituality.” What they are really saying is they want everything they say and do to embody the great traditions of love, compassion, truth, gentleness, honesty, etc., and for all of their interactions to demonstrate these great ethics. Driven by the desire to ‘do spiritual work’, people often leave their current work in the world to pursue work in the field of spirituality… and then they struggle.

The true self lives in a body, has deeply rooted perceptions and feelings, a reason for being, and a set of passions that provide the energy capital we use to navigate through life. Quite often, the true self has been replaced by a veneer. We do things to the body that we think will make us beautiful or more acceptable. Our perceptions are trained away from the relationship we have with the Earth. Our feelings are squashed in an effort to be loved. Our reason for being is set aside when we go after the education and career that we think will make the most money. Our passion is directed into romantic relationships and nice illusions of the way life is ‘supposed’ to be, and we die when we are only 60 or 70 years old because we are out of energy and just can’t care anymore.

You can be a teacher/healer/speaker/creative/preacher in the world of construction, biology, politics, medicine, education, farming, manufacturing, and every other field of work that exists! We stall out spiritually when we leave what we’re doing and go in search of a perfect world elsewhere instead of creating a perfect world right where we’re at.

This brings us back to the client I was working with at the start of this story. Here was a very successful man who had been working on himself for several years. He was listening to himself, honouring his heart, and pursing the work he loved – all without realising that this was his spirituality unfolding. He was developing the unique spirit of himself, which is the essence of true spirituality. In his mind, though, he was still thinking of spirituality as the development of something outside of himself that would suddenly and inexplicably be brought in and made to work somehow. When I explained all of this to him, he asked, “But what about opening my third eye?”

The term ‘opening the third eye’ is a term that also implies the opening of the third ear, the third nose, third tongue, third skin, and a whole assortment of additional senses that come with the expansion of consciousness. It had not occurred to him that his third eye was already open, focused on his small business, and working beautifully. It was the third eye that allowed him to see the technology he was working with from a whole new angle and bring that into reality. He hadn’t given a thought to his ability to recognise the key people involved, hear their contributions and ideas, develop the team he needed, sense the tripping points in the contracts presented to him and avoid their pitfalls, or attract the attention of much larger organisations who were looking for people who were awake and aware, people with enough power to make bigger things happen. His third eye was open and deeply focused on developing his gift to the world – the technology he was creating – and he brought a spirit of love, good humour, exploration, honesty, and possibility to all of his dealings. Those qualities were the essence of himself, his true spirit – and thus his unique spirituality… for the fact is, there is no standard spirituality except in the churches of illusion.

In summing up, we have all heard the ancient maxim: Know Thyself. When we hear this, most of us quickly assess how comfortable we are with things like our name, gender, personal preferences, emotional capacities, social skills, financial standing, secrets, etc. We instantly feel we should be comfortable and familiar with these details about the self. However, these are all outer details, and the dictum to know thyself actually starts with the body and the inner self. These are what you must come to know deeply and honour.

In the beginning, the knowing frequently involves figuring out how to heal yourself at every level – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. You must know your body completely, master your thoughts, align with your feelings, and work with the spirit of who you really are. Healing the self is the first task of every would-be shaman or spiritual master. If you can’t heal yourself, you will barely last long enough to learn anything useful and are likely to be dead before you can give your gift to the world. Giving your gift is your purpose, which can and will change over time as you develop.

As your spirituality unfolds and you become more willing to look yourself in the eye, the more clarity you will have about who you really are and what you are doing with your life, your time, and your energy. People engaged in dangerous occupations are suddenly aware of the dangers. People involved in boring, hated work can barely face showing up every day. People who work in high stress environments can no longer tolerate the stress. Those in terrible marriages are suddenly aware of how empty and meaningless that relationship is. Death is only feared by those who have not done the work they came here to do. Part of healing is figuring out what you would be doing if you could do anything in the world, money was not an issue, family was not an obstacle, and you had the time to educate yourself or learn the needed skills.

Sometimes the life, relationships, and lifestyle must be completely rebuilt, which requires courage. Other times, people have to admit that they love their life and are comfortable with what they do. They’ve been worrying about the spiritual side of life because they believed in some form of standard spirituality described in books by people who sometimes haven’t had much real experience with it. Too often people are worrying for nothing. They are already on the path and just need to continue developing. We are designed to unfold.

The world will only be really changed when each of us finds our true niche of passion and presence and contributes to our reality system from that place while demonstrating love, joy, compassion, honesty, gentleness – only a few of the great qualities. True spirituality is developing the spirit of the unique, individual self… which absolutely needs your attention to be centred within you. You cannot know thyself without fulfilling this requirement.

It doesn’t matter if you are baking bread, making seat-covers for tractors, teaching children, working for an insurance company, or doing surgery – true spirituality is doing what you love with the intent to bring the best of yourself to that task. If you can’t do that, you need to find other work, work that you at least like doing. Better yet is work that has your whole heart. Be willing to stand for your own truth while being open to the truth of others. Learn to use words, tones of voice, and body language to communicate in a way that sends a higher birdcall to those around you without confrontation. Allow yourself to feel gratitude toward others when they respond to your efforts to make the world a better place. This gratitude toward others becomes a fountain of love flowing from you into the world. This is full spiritual development… the development that tilts the world in the direction we all wish for.

This exclusive article first appeared in New Dawn 157 and is reproduced here by permission of the publisher. Ancient Wisdom, New Thinking – check us out at

About the author:

Penny Kelly, N.D., is a writer, teacher, publisher, consultant, and Naturopathic physician. A former Tool and Process Engineer for Chrysler Corporation, she left there in 1979 to study the brain, consciousness, intelligence, intuition, and cognition. This led to 15 years’ work as an educational consultant specialising in Accelerated and Brain-Compatible Teaching and Learning. Penny is the owner of Lily Hill Farm and Learning Center in southwest Michigan, USA. She holds a degree in Humanistic Studies from Wayne State University, is the mother of four children and the author of seven books on consciousness. Penny’s blog is where you can also find a list of her books.

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