Moments of awakening: breakdowns or breakthroughs?

The world is full of guides

Over the years, I have spoken to many people whom I would consider to be self-actualised, awakened, enlightened, wise… there are many different names for it. In my experience, they all had something in common.

The wisdom they shared seemed to come from a place much bigger than ego. In fact, while they all had the most astonishing presence in some respects, there was a tremendous humility about them. There was an absence of ego. All I ever sensed from them was a commitment to a higher purpose; to offer love, support and guidance.

Source: Commons Wikipedia

The teaching of no-self

Whatever faith you practice – or not, as the case might be – there is usually some kind of teaching that we are not who we think we are, and that egotism is not the way.


In Buddhism, there are “Four Noble Truths”. The first is that we all suffer. The second noble truth states that suffering is caused by “self-cherishing”; that is, by focusing our energy on trying to be happy, we selfishly cling to things that are not permanent, which means disappointment is inevitable.

The law of impermanence refers to how everything in our world is constantly changing. The time of day, the seasons, our own health, our mood, the people around us, and even our existence as we know it. Everything is in a state of flux, and whatever we try to cling to will eventually slip through our fingers, including our lives.

The Buddhist answer to suffering is “external consideration”, and we are encouraged to cherish others, and to have compassion for all living beings. By letting go of a sense of self and accepting our impermanence, peace is to be found through cherishing others instead of ourselves.


Within Christianity, there is a similar concept. Christ told his followers to love their neighbours as themselves. Likewise, He said, “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me.” And I also think the teaching of turning the other cheek is relevant here:

“If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”


From the non-Christian perspective looking in, one might even interpret the whole concept of life after death as realising that life cannot be fully experienced until we release ourselves from our selfish, egotistical sense of identity. Certainly, the ceremony of baptism was based upon the idea of being reborn in Christ. One must die before one can be reborn.

I could go on, but to do so would make this into a religious post, which it is not meant to be. But I do want to emphasise that teachers throughout the ages have all pointed towards finding new life and empowerment through a sense of following a higher, spiritual purpose.

The black hole concept: a gateway to a more meaningful existence

Letting go of our beliefs and assumptions – the personal desire to live forever, to be happy twenty-four hours a day and have the kind of security that is impossible to attain – and to truly surrender to whatever existence is going to throw at us, can feel like a kind of death.

Source: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)

It can feel as though we are being sucked into a black hole; however, whereas entering the black hole means the end of everything we know about this universe, it opens a door to another; a universe where anything is possible, where we are constantly attuned to our inner world and our outer world, where we are able to grow, adapt and gravitate towards places, people and activities that allow us to shine at our brightest. We enter a new world where we have a place, a purpose and a much more cosmic outlook.

Does awakening have to be so dramatic?

Many people are a long way off from the centre of the black hole. They might not even feel its pull. You know whom I am talking about. It might even be you: golden childhood, a loving family, wealthy parents, academic success, a lucrative career, the perfect relationship and living the dream.

Even those people find their way to the black hole in the end, even if it is not until they are on their deathbed. For some of them, the pull of the black hole might happen later in life, perhaps if their marriage loses its magic, their health deteriorates, or they suffer a family bereavement. Let’s not forget that sometimes things aren’t as rosy as they seem, and an apparently privileged person may be living the life their parents want them to live instead of one that would lead to a greater sense of fulfilment.

Things happen to all of us that make us question what it is all about. You could call these “black hole moments”. They are glimpses of the truth of impermanence and opportunities to embrace the abyss.

Others have it tough from the beginning, be it through poverty, violence, abuse, ill health or other forms of adversity. Believe it or not, life is making it easier for them to reach that point of realisation where they can decide that it is their life to live; to take the perspective that if misfortune is going to happen anyway, including their eventual death, then they may as well live the life they want to live as authentically as possible.

We can choose the black hole

Perhaps we don’t have to be dragged through the black hole, kicking and screaming, as I certainly felt I was. Whether it is through meditation, listening deeply to the teachings of the masters, practising one’s religion sincerely or gaining insights through intuition and being open to life’s experiences, maybe we can reach the other side of the black hole without feeling totally destroyed first.

Notice that I said, “without feeling totally destroyed first”. In my opinion, in order to become our true selves, to become genuinely authentic and live a life of purpose, we do need to let go of all those beliefs and assumptions. It is a complete transformation. When the acorn becomes the tree, it is as though the acorn never existed, and it no longer does.

We have to decide, or life decides for us

When all is said and done, the story of the black hole is like any keynote I ever heard, any inspirational story I ever read or any journey of transformation I’ve ever heard about.

Before the black hole, our story is written for us; by circumstance, by force majeure, by our childhood experiences, the beliefs and assumptions that are passed to us and those that we create for ourselves.

After the black hole, in the new world of wisdom, self-knowledge and awakening, we write the script of our lives. Once we start doing that, whatever situations we find ourselves in, we are there because we chose them.

Make the decision to live your life, or let life decide for you.

It’s your choice.

Have you figured out where the moment of transformation happened in your life? Do you want help writing your story? Or do you need help with the process of transformation?